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The Life of General The Hon. James Murray
Chapter III. Peace and War, 1744-57


In 1744, shortly after his return from the West Indies, we find Murray's first recorded connection with the town of Hastings, a connection which continued with intervals of absence during the rest of his life. Hastings, like most other towns on the English coast, was a centre of i preventive service. Smuggling then, and for many years afterwards, was carried on on a scale and with an audacity which we of the free-trade persuasion can scarcely imagine. Gangs of armed men frequently assisted at the unloading of contraband goods and conveyed them openly by road to London. The country people were in the know and assisted them, and the gentry were not always free from suspicion. Here is a description of a band, extracted from a letter of the period: "A gang of smugglers of twenty-one horses laden, and about fourteen or fifteen men openly armed with pistolls and blunderbusses (particularly one of them had a great brass blunderbuss slung over his shoulder) passed on the road to London." To deal with these bands, detachments of infantry and dragoons were stationed at various centres along the coast, and very frequently had active service of a dangerous and difficult nature to perform. It was to this service that James Murray was attached for his first soldiering in England.

The service was apparently one in which the officers were attached to the corporation, for I find from the town records that in July, 1744, James Murray, together with other gentlemen, and also one John Hide, master and commander of H.M sloop Swift, were severally sworn in and handed their certificates of—

"having received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the usage of the Church of England, and they severally took the oath of allegiance and supremacy and also the abjuration oath and subscribed the same and also made the Declaration concerning transubstantiation and subscribed it according to law."

All of which must have been somewhat of a mouthful to Captain Murray, even though his prelatic upbringing helped him, to say nothing of a certain broadmindedness in matters of religion which he had acquired as a visitor to foreign countries.

In this year, too, he first made acquaintance with Mr. John Collier and his family. Mr. Collier was at the time one of the jurats, that is, a justice, of Hastings, whose duties seem to have combined that of alderman with some more particular functions as magistrate. At all events, he was a power in the land, and his assistance was of immense benefit to my hero, as will be seen. Politically, Collier's influence was considerable. The Duke of Newcastle, who manipulated the parliamentary candidates from a number of boroughs, was firmly seated at Hastings, and had secured one of his relatives, Thomas Pelham, as one of the sitting members.-]" Henry Pelham, afterwards Prime Minister, had written to the Duke some years previously—

"As to Collyer, you can't do too much, for I judge that town (Hastings) absolutely depends on him, and perhaps if he were cool, would leave you. I desire therefore you will, from me, tell Sir Robert Walpole, if he has a mind to have two Whigs chosen at Hastings, he must provide handsomely for Collyer."

Thus in attacking, or perhaps I should say attaching, a Whig stronghold, James Murray, with his Jacobite ancestry and personal leanings, performed no small feat, and, as I have said, laid the foundation of a friendship with the Colliers which soon ripened into something more. Of the Collier family I need only refer to two, James Collier, who was just Murray's age, and Cordelia, who was a year younger. The former evidently was warmly attracted to the young soldier, and the latter—well, it seems quite clear that the young soldier was very warmly attracted to her from the first, the first symptom of which may be divined from a letter of James Collier to his father in November, 1744, wherein he refers to some earrings being purchased for his sister, which "Captain Murray says should be blue!" And, again, a month or two later a certain Dr. Thorp gave vent to some malicious sneers and envious insinuations (evidently regarding Miss Cordelia) which were checked "by the just chastisement from Captain Murray," which indicates that our young Scot was developing not only a taste in ladies' trinkets, but was also prepared to whip any one who disagreed with him as to the merits of his lady!

The events of the year 1745 brought Murray face to face with a conflict between his duty to the King, whose uniform he wore, and that other king "over the water," to whom, in common with his house and his traditions, he felt his natural allegiance was due. His brothers were certainly Jacobites, and Horace Walpole has left on record that "if the Pretender had succeeded they would have produced many witnesses to testify their zeal for him." James himself at twenty-four years of age was probably neither more nor less romantic in the cause of Prince Charlie than were so many other young Scotsmen of quality, but whatever his feelings were he kept them to himself. Family tradition says that he was inclined at this period to place his sword at the Prince's disposal. I confess I am unable to find any confirmation of the story, nor any ground why the author of the article in the Sussex Archtrolosical Journal should describe him as "Captain Hon. James Murray, a suspected Jacobite." I think that he was at the moment more concerned with the welfare of the ladies of the Collier family, or at least of one of them, than with any question of Stuart or Hanover.

It was on July 23 that the French brig Doutelle conveying Prince Charles Edward arrived at the island of Eriskay, and the adventurous expedition began which ended in the following April on the bloody field of Drummossy Muir (Culloden). Whether James would have found the unfurling of the Prince's banner too great a demand on his allegiance was fortunately not put to the test. The victorious Marshal Saxe was carrying everything before him, and now threatened Ghent and Ostend. The Quadruple Alliance with the States-General of Holland, the King of Poland, and Maria Theresa, had been formed, and England agreed to send reinforcements to Ostend—four battalions were agreed upon, though I can only find that two were sent, and of these one was Harrison's (15th Foot) and Murray, of course, went with it, thus removing him, for the time at all events, from temptation. The battalion sailed for Ostend in July, 1745, and can only just have arrived when the town was invested—and surrendered after a short resistance on August 23.

In this operation, which shed little lustre on the British arms, Murray was severely wounded, from which circumstance we may at least infer that he was as usual in the front line.

War was, at least by comparison with our days, a gentlemanly occupation, and the French gave the usual terms to the garrison, viz. to march out with military honours, and in this case with the additional privilege of being conducted to Mons, which was still held by the Allies. Murray, whose wounds did not permit of active service, was left at Ghent.

The progress of the Scotch campaign began to alarm the Ministry at home, and in October eight battalions were recalled from Flanders, among them the 45th Foot, which arrived in the Thames on the 25th of that month.

In the following year (1746) Murray had an opportunity of forgetting his ambitions, if he had any, in the matter of Prince Charles Edward, though it must be confessed that the expedition on which he proceeded had no more of military glory than that of the preceding year, and did not add to the reputation of any of the senior officers concerned.

The plan was to capture and destroy the town of L'Orient, which formed the depot of the French East India Company, and contained merchandise believed to be of immense value. This episode, happily almost forgotten, ended without success. Six battalions, including the 15th Foot, commanded by General St. Clair, and convoyed by a squadron under Admiral Lestock, who, it is stated by Tindal (History, vol. ix.), "was by this time grown old and infirm for enterprise," landed unopposed at Quimperle Bay in Brittany.

It is interesting to note, as being a foreshadowing of coming events, that both Murray and Wolfe were members of the expedition, and that the original idea of assembling the troops was (according to Tindal) f in accordance with a plan of reducing Canada, which the capture of Louisburg in the previous year by Sir Wm. Pepperel had brought within the views of the British Ministry. Chiefly because peace was believed to be in prospect the expedition to Canada was postponed, and the troops which had assembled at Portsmouth in May, and been kept in idleness there, were diverted in September for the purpose above referred to.

The force landed on September 20, ten miles from the objective of Port L'Orient, and on the march thither there were ugly stories of pillage of the villages and want of discipline of the troops. On the 21st they arrived before L'Orient and summoned the place to surrender, which apparently the French commander was quite prepared to do, provided guarantee against plunder and for the safety of the East India Company's magazines and storehouses was given. Such a guarantee was obviously out of the power of the British commander to give, and the general demanded two million livres and a four-hours' pillage. Probably he calculated within that time his unruly crew would have been able to effect the object of the expedition!

However, in grasping at too much he lost all, for the French, who had gained considerable time during the parley, succeeded in obtaining a reinforcement and now refused to surrender at all. The English force had only been provided with ten pieces of light artillery, and finding it impossible to batter the walls, and being, moreover, in danger of being surrounded by the rapidly increasing French army, the general began to think discretion the better part of valour, in which decision he was much aided by the admiral, who threatened to sail for England if he did not re-embark at once, which he accordingly did, thus ending one of several very inglorious episodes of which I say, happily, very little is known.

Inglorious though it was, Murray found an opportunity to distinguish himself, and the following record appears in the regimental history of the 15th Foot—the incident occurred on the march to L'Orient:—

"The French militia fired on the troops from the woods and put the men of one or two corps into some confusion, when Captain Hon. James Murray led the Grenadiers of the 15th forward with great gallantry and dispersed the enemy."

It is said, too, with what truth I cannot say, that Murray was the last man to embark. One can imagine that he was not well pleased with the feeble display of which he had been a witness.

The year 1747, though it contained plenty of military movement, did not bring Murray any chance of active service, as his regiment remained in garrison in England. The nations were becoming exhausted, but were unable to agree on terms of peace, and in England the Commons voted the "enormous" grant of 9½ millions for the service of the country, which by the way included subsidies to the Queen of Hungary, the King of Sardinia, for the Hanoverian and Hessian auxiliaries and the electors of Cologne, Mainz, and Bavaria. The battle of Lauffeldt was fought on June 20, and the Marshal was successful as usual. Bergen-op-Zoom fell in July, notwithstanding the heroism of the "Scots-Dutch," and the fate of the United Provinces of Holland seemed to be about to follow that of the Austrian Netherlands already in French hands. But then, as now, the British sea power held the winning card.

Anson and Warren had destroyed a powerful French fleet off Finisterre. Hawke had done the same off Belleisle. The British cruisers in every sea harried the enemy merchant shipping so severely that ruin faced the trading section of the community, and the French monarch had the "mortification to see the commerce of Britain flourish in the midst of war" (Smollett, Hist. England). France was forced to treat for peace, not because they lacked victory on laud, but because want of victory at sea strangled the life of the nation. In England it is interesting to note that the heavy charges brought forth by the war were met in part by the imposition of "poundage exacted from all merchandise imported into Great Britain," and manufactures on which hitherto we had been dependent on enemy nations were encouraged within the British dominions. So does history repeat itself.

To return to my subject. If 1747 was not a year of war with James Murray, he managed to make it a year of importance to himself. His lady spent a good part of the year in London, staying with her Uncle William Cranston, and James was apparently in close attendance. Society does not seem to have been much affected by the war, and in her letters Miss Delia Collier describes what seems to be a fairly continuous succession of entertainments. The theatre absorbs a good deal of time, and we hear of Mrs. (Jibber as Polly Peaehum in the Beggar's Opera, and Garriek in the Provoked Wife. The hour for opening was five o'clock, with dinner at three ! The young lady and her sister were somewhat concerned about their "cloaths," which at first were apparently not quite up to the mode in London. " We will get our things as soon as possible, but do a sure you our stays was tried on but yesterday, and have not got a hoop yet which frets us very much, and am forced to go in our old cloaths to morrow."

Uncle William Cranston had apparently a soft corner in his heart for the young people, but not so the father of Miss Delia, for by the end of the year affairs had reached a climax, and John Collier requested his brother-in-law to signify to our gallant captain, in regard to a certain "tender affair," that "our correspondence must now cease"; and later he wrote: "I told him I could never think of marrying my daughter to the uncertain situation he was in." James was, however, too good a soldier to be discouraged by any single failure to carry the fortress, and in May following (1748) he visited Hastings again to make a personal application, which appears, either then or soon after, to have had some result. In August Cranston writes, "1 read him (Murray) your three querys—he proposes to take a house and furnish it; he says he has £2000 ..."

This modest fortune, which I suppose was inherited, was not considered enough "for the expenses of a married life in a manner suitable to a man of quality and his high notions of it"; but, as I have said, William Cranston was rather inclined to help. "I could heartily wish," he writes, "that matters had a more promising aspect, because I am persuaded within myself that there is such an attachment between 'em, that I doubt cannot be got the better of (at least by one of the parties)." John Collier apparently found himself in a dilemma. Miss Delia had been delicate from her youth and was obviously rather spoilt by her family, and I think the fear of the effect that would be caused by separation from the man of her choice must have been the deciding factor; at all events, James won his point, and writes on December 17, 1748:

"I have the pleasure to inform you " (Mr. Collier was in Bath) "that this day I had the happiness of being made your son at St. Bride's Church. Mr. Cranston is a great deal better, but was not able to go to church, so Mr. Cole acted for him as father. We dined with him afterwards and went to the play, so I have only time to beg you'll accept Mrs. Murray's and my duty, and be assured that, nothing can add more to our happiness than the news of your recovery."

The regiment was under orders for Ireland, and the young couple tried to get an exchange, as Cordelia was very "averst" to going; but when this fell through she made up her mind to be contented. "Certain it will be my own fault if I am not happy, for Mr. Murray has shown ye greatest regard and tenderness for me about this affair that was possable," and in another letter to her mother .

"You seem to think in your letter that I was low-spirited, but I am not, for I have myself a better opinion of Mr. Murray now than ever I had before, and am sure he would do anything in ye world to make me happy, and I am really so. I assure you he is not that fickel man you thought him."

Evidently Mrs. Collier was the leading member in the opposition!

In January, 1749, James informed his father-in-law that he was taking his majority in his own regiment for £1100, besides the price of his own company. And this, no doubt, was a serious haul out of his fortune. His wife had received £3000 on marriage, but this was to be settled on her in real estate. John Collier was evidently not disposed to trust too much in his son-in-law's economy.

It seems clear from the letters that Lord Elibank did not approve of his brother's marriage, and a considerable estrangement resulted. His lordship evidently was at no pains to conceal his disapproval; probably at the bottom of his feelings lay the fact that the Collier family were whole-hearted Whigs. But apart from the question of fortune, which by the way was far from being a small one, there is no doubt that by his marriage James Murray counteracted, in a great degree, the pernicious influence on his career of his brother's overt acts against the government. In many of her letters Mrs. Murray complains of the treatment of the Elibanks, but James was in no way influenced by it, though it is quite clear that he felt it more than a little. Mrs. Collier, too, having decided in her own mind that her son-in-law was extravagant and "fickel," was foolishly inclined to persuade her daughter to the same view, but Cordelia, to her credit, would have none of it.

"I am sorry you should still think Mr. Murray has no regard for me, when I have all ye reason in ye world to believe he loves me as well as I do him. You are sensible he is warm in his temper, and says a thing then that he is sorry for directly." And again, "As to Mr. Murray being thought an extravagant man, I know he was in ye countr ; but if I may be a judge of his temper, I think him quite the reverse "

In April (1719) Mrs. Murray fell ill of the small-pox, a disease which was then almost a constant spectre in the home life and very much feared. As a trait of Murray's character, without suggesting that he did more than he should, I quote Mrs. Murray's letter to her mother after her recovery. "Mr. Murray hardly ever stirred out of ye room from me ye whole time, so that I hail no use for a nurse." For her better recovery our young couple went into the country. "On Tuesday we go to Nightsbridge (sic) for air, asses milk (recommended for the invalid), and a view of the fireworks."

The "fireworks" were the outward and visible sign of the national rejoicings at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. All London went mad with rejoicings, as they had done before when the war commenced. But the "peace" was merely a truce of exhaustion, and except the King of Prussia, who retained Silesia, none of the belligerent powers gained anything. So far as England was concerned, the question of "right of search," which commenced her participation, was not mentioned, and, what is of more importance to this story, Cape Breton Island and Louis-burg, then in the hands of the New Englanders, were restored to France. The "fireworks" were, indeed, a failure, and were fairly symbolic of the peace itself. Our Murrays admired the rockets, but the grand set piece was spoilt, "one of ye wings taking fire preatty soon, which made great confusion."

In June (1749) they left for Ireland. Mrs. Murray mentions that she is told that the voyage, which she greatly dreaded, was "seldom more than forty-eight hours with ye wind tolerably fair," which gives one a little insight into travelling 170 years ago ! In July they arc settled at Waterford, where the regiment was first stationed. Living here was cheap, and it will interest housekeepers in this year of grace 1921 to know that beef was 2d. a pound, mutton Id., and chickens 2d. apiece; moreover, three bedrooms, a dining-room, and a kitchen were rented at £18 per year. Murray was constantly busy with his regimental duties, and found in Colonel John Jordan, who now commanded the 15th, a chief very much to his liking. The Colonel is thus described:

"A true soldier indeed, for the officers have not an hour to themselves. He ferets them out every morning at five, and so to continue till they are quite masters of ye Duke's exercise, for he is quite determined to make a good regiment at last."

Irish manner of life and Murray's, too, are described in a little word picture :

"Mr. Murray is grown quite the married man, and as drunkenness is ye chief delight of ye gentlemen in this country, he spends no time from home but in the field, and indeed has made all ye inconveniences of this country sit very light upon me by his kind behaviour."

Mistress Murray was evidently something of a social success, which no doubt made up in part for the "inconveniences." We are told that her "hoops and caps" were much in request as patterns by the Waterford ladies. There was plenty of society apparently, and a certain degree of decorum was insisted on, for at the balls no dancing was allowed "after tea, which is to be made at twelve o'clock, and nobody to dance in a night gown," as they have done all this summer at ye card rooms; "but with regard to this latter relaxation, it is fortunate that the letters tell us that Murray abstained from card playing, and we may therefore hope that dancing in night attire did not form part of the amusement of my hero and his wife!

The political notoriety which Alexander Murray attained by his action at the Westminster elections in the winter of 1749 has already been referred to, and though it cannot fail to have harmed James's prospects in the army, it is satisfactory to find that he had adopted, without reserve, the service of King George and his government, and I do not think any incident in his later life gives reason to suppose that the old leanings had, any longer, weight with him. He was, in truth, as he frequently expressed himself, thoroughly loyal to the government he served. Thus in December, 1749, writing to his father-in-law, he says :

"I am glad the Independents I have been worsted at Westminster, for tho' Sir George Vandeput is my particular acquaintance, the obligations I ly under to the Duke of Newcastle's family must always make me wish for success to them in everything they attempt."

It was, no doubt, fortunate too that in the Primate of Ireland, who was brother to Andrew Stone, member for Hastings and Rend of Mr. Collier, Murray bad a friend at Court, and this interest, combined with that of Lord George Sackville and the strong recommendation of Colonel John Jordan, led to his obtaining the lieut.-colonelcy of the 15th Foot in January, 1751. I think I am justified in saying that with the disabilities under which he suffered at a time when politics had a finger in every detail of life, it is a strong argument of Murray's worth as a soldier that he succeeded in getting on so quickly. Mr. Collier's influence and generosity were certainly greatly instrumental in this success, and Murray was thoroughly sensible of it and proportionately grateful. Writing in December, 1752, he says:

"I can't express how sensibly I am obliged by yr application to Mr. Pelham, and how I am vexed to the soul that you should be put to the blush on my account, for his objection to my family is plausible. I am sure time and opportunity, if fortune favours me with any, will convince all the world that I have no share in their guilt, tlio' I am likely to have the whole punishment of it unless protected by your influence. Hitherto I am very sensible it has been that alone that has procured my rank and good fortune, and if it pleases God to spare my life I am farr from dispairing of success in my profession, as I shall ever study to behave as your son ought to do; and should the blind goddess deprive me of her smiles, it will always be a consolation to have done my utmost to deserve them."

In 1753 the regiment is at Limerick, "a large populace (sic) place and governed quite by ye military," says Mrs. Murray. Here James is in the position of commanding officer, being "ye oldest (senior) colonel of ye three regiments." In 1755 the regiment is rumoured to be for foreign service, and this has brought about a crisis in Murray's affairs, for it appears that life in Ireland, "A country where law has lost its energy, magistracy all authority, and nothing but military force could restrain the subject within due obedience " (Bedford to Pitt, December, 1759.) cheap though it was, has not been accomplished without debts, and the probability of foreign service has brought out a number of creditors. Murray is faced with the possibility of having to sell his commission and enter the Queen of Hungary's serviee. His own family, says Mr Cranston, "so far from giving him any help, would be a matter of triumph to them to see him undone." However, Mr. Collier stepped into the breach and advanced the money.

In April (1755) the regiment landed at Bideford, and the Irish exile was over. A little later Murray is in great hopes of being made Lieut.-Governor of Stirling Castle, but is informed that his brother's conduct is too recent to admit of this. If this was a disappointment at the time it was no doubt ultimately a benefit, as he would probably have missed the active service which was now coming.

On May 17, 1756, the inconclusive peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was formally broken, and England declared war. There is perhaps nothing more extraordinary than the state of belligerency which existed for several years previously, and whieh constituted a kind of recognised piracy on both sides. In America war of the most overt kind had been in progress for at least two years. Armies were on the move, posts had been captured ; at sea Boscawen had scattered the French supply squadron which sailed from Brest in May, 1755, and captured two of their ships. Hawke was at sea with orders to take what he could find, and by the end of the year 300 vessels had been taken to England. A French squadron with 15,000 troops had left Toulon, and in May, 1756, had captured Minorca. It was not until this culminating act was in progress that war was declared, and the Seven Years' War, which was indeed two years old already, was textually announced—a war which left England mistress of the seas and of an empire.

The first acts in the drama with which we are immediately concerned was the so-called secret expedition to Rochefort: but. unfortunately, as in so many other cases, lone before the expedition left to execute its purpose, all question of secrecy was at an end. Pitt had planned the expedition, and had set a high importance on its success; but even Pitt was unable to control the deliberate movements of the navy.

The orders were issued in July, 1757, for the assembly of ten battalions 3 and a train of artillery in the Isle of Wight. Murray was in command of his battalion, the 15th Foot, and he wrote on August 16, 1757:

"For my own part I am in great health and vigour, and never knew myself fitter to undergo the fatigues and hardships my profession is liable to in time of service. I have the honour to command a glorious regiment of my own training, and am confident of acquiring a little reputation, at least, which in due time may procure preferment."

James Wolfe was quartermaster-general of the troops. The general in command was Sir John Mordaunt, appointed on August 3, and the instructions issued to him were brief—to make a descent on the French coast near Rochefort; to destroy the docks, arsenals, and shipping, and after this to consider the possibility of attacking Port L'Orient and Bordeaux. There were two brigadiers— Major-Generals Conway and Cornwallis.

The fleet did not, however, get under way until September 8, the troops having embarked on the 6th, and appeared off the French coast on the 20th. It was ob\ ions to Mordaunt that surprise would be no longer possible, for undoubtedly the French would have received ample waming, and he wrote to Pitt asking for instructions as to what course he should take if he should find it impossible to effect an early landing. The minister, who was evidently not pleased with the general conduct of the affair, replied by snubbing the general, telling him it was no part of his business to tell him how to carry out his orders.

The wind being infavourable, the fleet was unable to make the passage between the islands of Rhe and Oleron, and it was not until September 23 that the island of Aix was attacked and easily captured; but here the success of the venture ended. The ships could not. approach within two miles [of the shore—observations of the enemy's dispositions were difficult. The general was diffident about venturing an attack, estimating that possibly 40,000 regular troops besides militia could have been assembled to dispute the landing. The coast was obviously alarmed, and smoke from signals observed. A council of war was held on board the Neptune on September 25. On the 26th the admiral, as so often happened, announced his intention of leaving if action was not taken. On the 29th it was decided to return to England. Nothing more feeble than the whole affair can well be imagined, and Pitt was furious. Grab Street excelled itself, and pamphlets purporting to detail the true causes of the failures with "replies" and "answers" abounded, written by armchair critics, who knew nothing of the difficulties encountered.

So far as this work is concerned we should probably have known little of Murray's part in the affair but for the fact that Pitt resolved on bringing Sir John Mordaunt before al court martial, and two of the principal witnesses called were James Wolfe and James Murray, the former for the prosecution, the latter for the defence. Perhaps Wolfe was an unwilling witness, for he had received much kindness from Mordaunt, and had been a frequent visitor at hi"; house; but reading the evidence, one derives the opinion that a full statement of his observations was not brought out in his replies. Murray's evidence, on the other hand, though his information was gained under the same conditions as was Wolfe's, brought out many details in Mordaunt's favour, and in the end the general was acquitted.

But greater matters were now afoot, and we will pass from what may be called Murray's minor experiences to a consideration of the greater parts that he played on the world's stage. Yet it will be proper to note here the promise which the young soldier had shown, though his opportunities had so far not been great, and his lot had been cast in affairs for which the promoters had good reason to desire oblivion, yet he had managed to obtain distinction in all of them and to show that he was a stout soldier, worthy of the name he bore.


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