Rawdon-Hastings, Francis

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Rawdon-Hastings, Francis

RAWDON-HASTINGS, FRANCIS. (1754–1826). British officer, later the first Marquess of Hastings and the second Earl of Moira. He was a distinguished soldier in the War for America, serving seven years with only one short furlough, and was still in his twenties when he went home, in 1781. Of noble ancestry, he was the son of John, Baron Rawdon, later the first Earl of Moira, and Lady Elizabeth Hastings, daughter of the ninth Earl of Huntingdon. In America, he was known by the courtesy title of Lord Rawdon. A tall, stately, grave man, he loved the profession of arms and exuded a soldierly air. He was educated at Harrow, and on 7 August 1771 entered the army as an ensign in the Fifteenth Regiment. On 23 October he also entered University College, Oxford, where he studied for two years. In 1773, he toured the continent in the company of his uncle, Lord Huntingdon. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Fifth Regiment on 20 October 1773, and on 7 May 1774 he accompanied his regiment to Boston, Massachusetts.


Lord Rawdon reached Boston in July, when tensions between the colonies and Britain were escalating. General Thomas Gage commanded there. He joined the grenadier company of the Fifth Regiment, commanded by Captain George Harris, to replace a wounded lieutenant. In the battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June, he came under fire for the first time. Although he survived without a scratch, he received a bullet through his hat. When Captain Harris was wounded, Rawdon took command of the grenadiers and performed gallantly under fire. General John Burgoyne declared that Rawdon made his military reputation for life on that day. He was promoted captain in the Sixty-third Regiment on 12 July, and during the following winter performed in amateur theatricals. On 13 January he was appointed aide-de-camp to General Henry Clinton, and also deputy adjutant general. He served with Clinton during operations against North Carolina in May 1776, and in June observed abortive assaults by Clinton and Rear Admiral Sir Peter Parker on Charleston.

Rawdon returned with Clinton to New York in July 1776, arriving just in time to join General William Howe, the new British commander in chief, in opening his campaign. He was with Clinton at the battles of Long Island on 27 August, Kips Bay on 15 September, and White Plains on 28 October. During this time Clinton and his staff, Rawdon included, achieved a reputation for military excellence among British officers. In early December he joined Clinton in successful operations against Rhode Island, after which the two officers went home to Britain for the winter. Returning to New York on 5 July 1777, they remained there when Howe sailed southward with the main army to attack Philadelphia. Rawdon was with Clinton during successful attacks on America's highlands forts in early October, and on 7 October was dispatched to Howe's headquarters in Philadelphia with the news. After a few weeks' stay there, he returned to New York, where he spent the winter of 1777–1778. On 1 May 1778 he accompanied Clinton to Philadelphia, when Clinton assumed command of British armies in America.

With Clinton's encouragement, Lord Rawdon began raising a provincial regiment of Loyalists on 25 May. Recruiting this corps, the Volunteers of Ireland, from Irish deserters from the American army, Rawdon assumed most of the expenses involved. He was appointed its commander with the provincial rank of colonel. The Volunteers of Ireland proved to be one of the most effective provincial corps in British service. On 15 June Rawdon also was promoted permanent lieutenant colonel and appointed adjutant general. In the battle of Monmouth on 28 June, during the British retreat across New Jersey, Rawdon formed the British line of battle for Clinton, and performed other services. In July, after reaching New York City, he served temporarily on board the flagship of Admiral Lord Richard Howe. He accompanied Clinton and General Charles Grey a month later, when they went to the relief of the British garrison at Rhode Island.

During the next few months, Rawdon and Clinton gradually became estranged. On one occasion Clinton even publicly chastised Rawdon for supposed gaucheries in protocol. On 3 September 1779 Rawdon angrily resigned as adjutant general. He was left behind on 26 December when Clinton embarked with 7,600 men for his second expedition to Charleston. But in March 1780, Rawdon was ordered southward with a reinforcement of 2,500 soldiers. He joined Lord Charles Cornwallis's forces, and on 25 April assisted in capturing rebel works on Lempriere's and Haddrell's Points.

After Charleston's surrender on 12 May Rawdon was given command of a British garrison of 2,500 men at Camden. There he battled partisans, and in August he maneuvered against an American army led by Horatio Gates as it approached Camden. On 14 August, General Charles Cornwallis, who assumed command in the South after Clinton returned to New York, took charge of Rawdon's forces. Two days later, in the battle of Camden, Rawdon commanded the British left wing, acquitting himself well against Gates's regulars. He accompanied Cornwallis's army as it advanced to Charlotte in October, and as it fell back to Winnsboro after Patrick Ferguson was defeated at Kings Mountain on 7 October. Because Cornwallis was ill with a fever during the withdrawal, Rawdon was given temporary command. In the winter of 1780–1781 he commanded once more at Camden.


On 1 January 1781 Cornwallis invaded North Carolina, leaving Rawdon in command of the 8,000 British troops in South Carolina and Georgia. Promoted brigadier general in America at this time, Rawdon did not receive his commission before he departed America in August 1781. In South Carolina during the next few months, Rawdon came into his own as a soldier, demonstrating outstanding generalship against his able opponent, Nathanael Greene. After Cornwallis and Greene fought the battle of Guilford Courthouse on 15 March 1781, Cornwallis remained in North Carolina while Greene marched against Rawdon at Camden. Rawdon was gradually isolated there as Greene, Thomas Sumter, Francis Marion, and Henry Lee attacked his supply lines to Charleston. On 25 April, Rawdon and Greene fought the battle of Hobkirk's Hill, just north of Camden. Although Rawdon defeated Greene in a brilliantly conducted battle, he was compelled to abandon Camden on 10 May.

Retreating to Monck's Corner, thirty miles above Charleston, Rawdon gradually abandoned or lost most of his posts in South Carolina and Georgia. He contracted his defensive lines to protect Charleston and Savannah, and awaited expected reinforcements from Ireland. In late May he learned that Greene had besieged Ninety Six, and that its garrison of 550 New York Loyalists refused to surrender. On 3 June he received the reinforcements, 1,800 troops from Ireland, and marched to the relief of Ninety Six. Arriving on 21 June, he learned that Greene had retired northward the day before. On 3 July he abandoned Ninety Six and marched to Orangeburg. His health having been destroyed by a virulent fever, he turned over his command to Colonel Alexander Stewart on 20 July, and sailed for England on 21 August. His ship was seized by a French privateer, and he spent the next four months in captivity before his release was secuerd. In 1782 he successfully defended himself in Parliament against charges that he had acted with excessive cruelty in executing an American prisoner, Isaac Hayne, without trial. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 105th Regiment (formerly the Volunteers of Ireland) on 21 March 1782. On 20 November he was promoted permanent colonel and appointed aide-de-camp to the king.


Upon his return to England, Rawdon began a thirty-two year career as a politician by being elected to the Irish House of Commons. After his elevation to a barony on 5 March 1783, he became a member of the British House of Lords. At first a supporter of the Whigs, he later represented the interests of the Prince of Wales. He was master general of the ordnance in the Grenville ministry from 1806 to 1807, and attempted without success to form his own ministry in 1812. He succeeded as Earl of Moira on 20 June 1793, and on 12 October was promoted major general. In 1794 he served with distinction in the Duke of York's army in Flanders, battling the French. He was promoted lieutenant general on 1 January 1798, and general on 25 September 1803. He commanded in Scotland from February 1803 to February 1805. He was appointed colonel of the Twenty-seventh Regiment on 21 May 1804, and made constable of the Tower on 1 March 1806. He married Flora, Countess of Loudoun in 1804; they had six children. He was invested with the Order of the Garter on 12 June 1812.

Rawdon (now Lord Moira) was exceedingly extravagant with money. During his lifetime he squandered a huge estate and ran up debts of almost £1,000,000 in early nineteenth-century currency. By 1812 he was compelled to seek employment as governor-general of India. During his service in India, from 1813 to 1823, he prosecuted two successful wars: the Nepal War, 1814–1816, and the Third Maratha War, 1817–1819. In February 1817 he was created Marquess of Hastings, and twice received unanimous votes of thanks from Parliament. He implemented reforms in education, the press, and the judiciary. Additionally, he increased the annual profits of the East India Company. Coming under suspicion of giving special favors to his friends, although not guilty, he was removed from office. In 1824 he was given a sinecure, the governorship of Malta, and there ended his career of public service.

During his long and active life, Rawdon's first love was the military, and he developed into a sound strategist, tactician, and leader of men. In both America and India, he manifested the highest levels of military ability, organizing and directing armies to triumphs on the battlefield. He deserves his high reputation as a soldier.


McCrady, Edward. The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1780–1783. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1902.

Nelson, Paul David. Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquess of Hastings: Soldier, Peer of The Realm, Governor-General of India. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005.

Pancake, John S. This Destructive War: The British Campaign in the Carolinas, 1780–1782. University: University of Alabama Press, 1985.

Tarleton, Banastre. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America. London: T. Cadell, 1787.

Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution. Edited by John R. Alden. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1952.

Wickwire, Franklin, and Mary Wickwire. Cornwallis: The American Adventure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970.

                            revised by Paul David Nelson