Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley

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Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley
Caricature Wolseleys as Men of the Day after the Ashanti War in Vanity Fair , 1874
Wolseley awards the Victoria Cross to John Chard
Caricature of Wolseley in Punch on the occasion of his dispatch to Egypt
Portrait of Wolseley after the Gordon Relief Expedition

Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley , KP , OM , GCB , GCMG , VD, PC (born June 4, 1833 in Golden Bridge House near Dublin , † March 25, 1913 in Menton , France ) was a British Field Marshal and Commander in Chief of the British Army . He fought in various British colonial wars (including in India , Burma , on the Gold Coast , South Africa , Egypt and Sudan ).


First missions

Wolseley was born near Dublin , the eldest son of Major Garnet Joseph Wolseley . His father died when he was seven years old. Wolseley originally joined the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot as Ensign in 1852 , but soon switched to the 80th Regiment of Foot (Staffordshire Volunteers) . Shortly afterwards, after the end of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, he took part in the suppression of the last resistance. There he was wounded and promoted to lieutenant. In the Crimean War he took part in the siege of Sevastopol , where he was wounded and lost his right eye in August 1855.

After his return from Crimea and his move to the 90th Light Infantry (Perthshire Volunteers) , he was sent with the regiment to China in early 1857 , where it was to be used in the Second Opium War . During the crossing, however, the Sepoy Rebellion broke out in British India and the regiment was diverted to Bengal, where it became part of General Colin Campbell's troops , who set out to relieve Kanpur and Lucknow . In March 1858 Wolseley also took part in the final reconquest of Lucknow. He then became deputy-assistant quartermaster-general on the staff of the new British commander in Oudh , General Hope Grant , took part in the fighting that followed and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1859 . After the end of the uprising he remained in Grant's staff, even when he was in 1860 commander of the British contingent in the Anglo-French expedition after the flare-up of the Second Opium War.

In North America

In November 1861, Wolseley was assigned to the staff of British troops in Canada as sub-quartermaster general . Here he made preparations for a possible entry into war on the part of the Confederate in the American Civil War in the wake of the Trent Affair .

In 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam , he took leave to analyze the civil war. With a blockade breaker he crossed the Potomac River and met the Southern Generals Robert E. Lee , James Longstreet and "Stonewall" Jackson . In the period from 1865 to 1867 he commanded as Brevet - Colonel British troops to the US border at the time of the raids of the Fenians and was then deputy quartermaster-general at the Canadian High Command. During this time he wrote " The Soldier's hand Book in War ".

From May to October 1870 Wolseley commanded the Red River Expedition in Canada to suppress the Red River Rebellion of the rebel Louis Riel . From Toronto he marched with 1,400 men to Georgian Bay and on by ship over Lake Huron and Lake Superior to Fort William. From there Wolseley drove with small boats to Lake Shebandewon and further west over Fort Frances until finally Fort Garry was reached. The provisional government of the rebels then disbanded.

In 1871 Wolseley was appointed Assistant General Adjutant of the Army Richard Airey in the London War Office and was involved in the implementation of the Cardwell reforms in this capacity , as well as later as Quartermaster General in the Childers reforms .

Colonial wars

In 1873 Wolseley was sent to West Africa to fight the Ashanti ( 3rd Ashanti War ). He reached Africa with 35 officers. Wolseley had chosen this group, consisting of men like Evelyn Wood and Redvers Buller , himself. They were later referred to as the Ashanti ring or Wolseley ring and were considered particularly talented. Even after the Crimean War, Wolseley had begun to assemble the best officers he met in a network of loyal, capable men. He met the rest of the men on the Red River Expedition. The group gained significant influence on the Victorian British Army through mutual support and assumed leadership positions by the end of the century.

Wolseley used the time until his troops arrived in January 1874 to prepare for the campaign. He raised an army of 2500 soldiers from the British Army, with auxiliaries from the West Indies and with soldiers from the Fanti . With this army Wolseley was able to conquer the capital of the Ashanti, Kumasi , in a two-month campaign after successful battles in Amoaful and Ordahsu . He managed to force the Asantehene to sign the Treaty of Fomena in July 1874. For this, in addition to numerous other honors, he was honored as Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George and Knight Commander of the Order of Bath and made Major General.

In 1875 he was sent there to suppress a rebellion in the colony of Natal as governor and commander-in-chief. In 1876 he became a member of the Council of India , which advised the State Secretary for India (at that time the later Foreign and Prime Minister Lord Salisbury ).

From July 1878 he was the first British High Commissioner of Cyprus . He had the alleged US Vice Consul Alessandro Palma di Cesnola arrested, who was carrying out robbery excavations on antiquities in Cyprus . His difficult relationship with the young Horatio Herbert Kitchener arose during his tenure in Cyprus . At the time , he was in charge of surveying Cyprus.

The following year he returned to southern Africa as Governor of Natal and Transvaal and Commander- in -Chief in the Zulu War . There he was to replace the previous Commander-in-Chief Lord Chelmsford . This won the decisive battle at Ulundi but before Wolseley reached the combat area. Wolseley was able to put down the subsequent revolt of the chief of the Pedi Sekukuni and take this prisoner. After he returned in 1880 back to England, where he became Quartermaster General ( Quartermaster-General to the Forces for his services in South Africa of the Bath was elevated appointed) and Knight Grand Cross. Here he found himself caricatured as the modern major-general in Gilbert and Sullivan's play The Pirates of Penzance .

In 1882 Wolseley had protested violently in the British Parliament against the plan to dig a tunnel to France . At the request of Great Britain, all work on the tunnel project started in 1880 was then stopped.

Tel-el-Kebir - Occupation of Egypt

In 1882 Wolseley was appointed adjutant general of the army, at that time the second highest post after the commander in chief. In August of that year, he was appointed commander of the expedition sent to Egypt to suppress the Urabi movement . He instructed General Edward Bruce Hamley to work out a plan of attack on Abukir , near Alexandria . After he had led Ahmed Urabi Pasha , the leader of the Urabi movement, to believe that he was landing at Abukir, Wolseley dropped Hamley's division there and sailed with the rest of the army to Ismailia , on the Suez Canal . On September 10, Wolseley began to march westward through the desert towards Cairo . Halfway there, he met Urabi's army. On September 13th he defeated them in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir . This ended the Anglo-Egyptian War and British rule in Egypt began . Wolseley was appointed full general and on November 20, 1882 as Baron Wolseley , of Cairo and of Wolseley in the County of Stafford, raised to hereditary nobility .

Gordon Relief Expedition

In Sudan , which came under the rule of the Ottoman viceroys ( Khedives ) of Egypt from 1821, the Mahdi uprising began in 1881 . The British government therefore instructed Charles George Gordon to go to Khartoum to organize the evacuation of Egyptian troops from there before the Mahdists enclosed the city on March 18, 1884 and began the ten-month siege of Khartoum . Wolseley was given the task of drawing up plans for a campaign to save Gordon. On August 26th he was given command of a rescue expedition called the Gordon Relief Expedition . In December 1884 his troops reached Korti . Wolseley divided his troops into two columns. The main force ( River Column ), under Major General William Earle (after his death Henry Brackenbury ), advanced from Korti with steamers and boats on the Nile . At the same time, the other force, under Sir Herbert Stewart , marched straight across the desert. For this desert force, Wolseley formed what is possibly the first special unit in British military history, the so-called Camel Corps . Camel Corps troops arrived in Khartoum on January 28, 1885, two days after the city fell and Gordon was killed. Despite Wolseley's protests, Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone had British troops withdrawn from Sudan. Wolseley could never fully recover from this failure. On July 13th, he returned to London with diarrhea . For the campaign he was raised on September 25, 1885 to Viscount Wolseley , of Wolseley in the County of Stafford.

Commander in Chief of the British Army

Wolseley was Commander-in-Chief, Ireland from 1890 to 1894 . In 1894 he was made Field Marshal and in 1895 Colonel of Honor of the Royal Horse Guards . On November 1, 1895 he became the penultimate Commander ( Commander-in-Chief ) of the British Army (with Lord Roberts was abolished this feature). He held this position until 1900 and played a major role in mobilizing British troops for the Boer War .

Towards the end of the 19th century there were two strong rival groups in the British Army with different ideas about defense policy: Wolseley's Ashanti ring stood for reinforcing British troops in the motherland in order to be prepared for a war against France or Russia in Europe. In contrast, Lord Roberts' group was in favor of strengthening British troops in India and seeking a decision against Russia there ( Great Game ).

Wolseley suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the last few years of his life . He died of flu on March 26, 1913. He was buried on March 31 in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London.


Wolseley wrote his memoir The Story of a Soldier's Life in 1903 . Published in German in two volumes in 1905 by Karl Siegismund, Berlin under the title The story of a soldier's life . He also wrote The American Civil War. An English View .

During the colonial wars, Wolseley gained the reputation of being the fire service of the British Empire . For Prime Minister Disraeli he was Our Only General . He is considered the most brilliant general in Victorian Great Britain.

The term all Sir Garnet means that everything is in order.

Gilbert and Sullivan designed the character of Major-General Stanley in their opera The Pirates of Penzance based on Garnet Wolseley.

Garnet Wolseley was gold stick-in-waiting for Queen Victoria and attended the 1901 funeral in this position. He also held this position for King Edward VII .



  • Garnet Wolseley: The story of a soldier's life Verlag der Hofbuchhandlung Karl Siegismund, Berlin 1905
  • Donald Featherstone: Victorian Colonial Warfare. Africa. From the Campaigns against the Kaffirs to the South African War. Cassell, London 1992, ISBN 0-304-34174-6 .
  • Ian Knight: Zulu War. Osprey, Oxford 2004, ISBN 1-84176-858-8 .
  • Trevor N. Dupuy , Curt Johnson, David L. Bongard: The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. HarperCollins, New York 1992, ISBN 0-06-270015-4 .
  • David G. Chandler: Omdurman 1898 - Kitchener's Victory in the Sudan. Osprey, London 1993, ISBN 1-85532-368-0 ( Osprey Military Campaign Series. 29).
  • Leigh Maxwell: The Ashanti Ring. Sir Garnet Wolseley's Campaigns 1870–1882. Cooper, London 1985, ISBN 0-436-27447-7 .
  • Adrian Preston: In Relief of Gordon. Lord Wolseley's Campaign Journal of the Khartoum Relief Expedition 1884–1885. Hutchinson, London 1967.
  • Wolseley, Garnet Joseph Wolseley, Viscount . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 28 : Vetch - Zymotic Diseases . London 1911, p. 777 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ George Hill: A History of Cyprus . Volume 4, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 607.
  2. No. 25170, p. 5195. The London Gazette , November 21, 1882.
  3. No. 25514, p. 4515. The London Gazette , September 25, 1885.
predecessor Office successor
Robert William Harley Governor of Ghana
James Maxwell
Alexander Bravo Governor of Sierra Leone
George Berkeley
Office newly created High Commissioner of Cyprus
Sir Robert Biddulph
Eduard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Commander in Chief in Ireland
Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge Commander in Chief of the British Army
Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
New title created Baron Wolseley
Title expired
New title created Viscount Wolseley
Frances Wolseley