Field Marshall Stapleton-Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere of Bhurtpore
The outstanding Peninsula Gold Gross group to Field Marshall Stapleton-Cotton set up when has was promoted to a full General Officer circa 1826.
Born at Lleweni Hall in Denbighshire on 14th November 1773, the second surviving son of Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton, 5th Baronet and Francis Cotton ( nee Stapleton), when he was just eight he was sent to board at the grammar school in Audlem, some eight miles from the family estate. He continued his education at Westminster School and Norwood House , a private military academy in Bayswater,
On the 26th February 1790 his father obtained for him a Second Lieutenancy (without purchase) in the 23rd Regiment of Foot. He was then promoted to Lieutenant in the 77th Foot on 9th April 1791 and then transferred back to the 23rd Foot on 13th April 1791 to take up the rank of Captain. He subsequently transferred to 6th Dragoon Guards on 28th February 1793 to take up the rank of Captain. He served with his regiment at the siege of Dunkirk in August 1793 and at the battle of Beaumont in April 1794 under the Duke of York during the Flanders Campaign.
He became a Major in the 59th Regiment of Foot on 28th April 1794 and commanding officer of the 25th Light Dragoons (subsequently 22nd) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 27th September 1794 all before his twenty first birthday !!!!.
In 1796 Cotton went with his regiment to India and en route he took part in operations at Cape Colony during July and August 1796 and in India was present at the siege and storming of Seringapatam in May 1799 (silver gilt medal) during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War against Tippo Sultan and where he first met Colonel Arthur Wellesley.
He became commanding officer of the 16th Light Dragoons, then based in Brighton, on 18th February 1800 and was promoted to Colonel on 1st January 1801 and was posted with his regiment to Ireland in 1802 and took part in the suppression of Robert Emmet’s insurrection in 1803. Promoted to Major General on 2nd November 1805, he was subsequently given command of a cavalry brigade at Weymouth.
Cotton was elected member of Parliament for Newark in 1806 but did not take to civilian life and in April 1809 was deployed to Portugal and given command of a cavalry Brigade under Sir Arthur Wellesley. Cotton was both courageous and splendidly dressed in battle throughout the Peninsula War and earned the nickname “Lion d’ Or” or Lion of Gold. He took part in the second battle of Porto in May 1809 and the battle of Talevera in July 1809 and having succeeded to his father’s baronetcy in August 1809 returned home to view his estate. He returned to Portugal in May 1810 and having been promoted to the local rank of Lieutenant General was given overall command of the cavalry. Cotton fought at the battle of Bussaco in September 1810 and then covered the withdrawal to the lines of Torres Vedra later that year.
He fought at the battle of Sabugal in April 1811 and the battle of Fuentes de Onoro in May 1811 and was subsequently promoted to the substantive rank of Lieutenant General on 1st January 1812. He took part in the battle of Salamanca in July 1812 where he was second in command of the Army. During the engagement he successfully led a cavalry charge against Maucune’s division leading Wellington to exclaim “By god Cotton I never saw anything so beautiful in my life, the day is yours” According to Wellington’s subsequent dispatch ,Wellington wrote “Cotton made a most gallant and successful charge against a body of the enemy’s infantry which they overthrew and cut to pieces” Ironically at the end of the battle he was accidently shot and wounded by a Portuguese sentry who mistook him for a French officer.
In recognition of his gallantry Cotton was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Bath on 21st August 1812 and an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and Sword on 11th March 1813. Cotton went on to fight at the battle of the Pyrenees in July 1813, the battle of Orthez in February 1814 and the battle of Toulouse in April 1814. For these services he was raised to the peerage as Baron Combermere in the country palatine of Chester on 3rd May 1814 and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 4th January 1815.
Cotton was not present at the battle of Waterloo as the command of the cavalry had been given, at the insistence of the Prince Regent to Lord Uxbridge, a more senior General. When Uxbridge was wounded at waterloo Cotton took over his command and served with the Army of Occupation in France.
Following the cessation of hostilities against France Cotton took on numerous roles including Governor of Barbados in March 1817, Governor of Sheerness in January 1821 and Commander in Chief Ireland in 1822 but perhaps his greatest achievement was to command the army that successfully stormed the fortress of Bhurtpore in January 1826. Having been promoted to full General on 27th May 1825 Cotton became Commander in Chief India and was tasked with restoring the rightful raja to the throne which required that Cotton lay siege to the capital of the Princely state of Bharatpur with its fort , which had previously been deemed impregnable. For his success in India Cotton was raised in the peerage as Viscount Combermere on 8th February 1827. On his return to England he brought with him the 17.75 ton Bhurtpore gun which for many years stood outside the Royal Artillery barracks at Woolwich. Cotton retired from active service in 1830.
In later life he succeeded Wellington as Constable of the Tower and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets in October 1852, he was promoted to Field Marshall on 2nd October 1855 and was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Star of India on 19th August 1861.
Cotton served as honorary Colonel of 20th Regiment of Light Dragoons, 3rd Kings Own Light Dragoons and then as honorary Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Life Guards. Cotton died at Colchester House in Clifton on 21st February 1865 and was buried at St Margaret’s Church in Wrenbury and so ended one of the most illustrious military careers of any officer in the British Army.
Not For Sale