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James Yorke Scarlett
1799 – 1871
James Yorke Scarlett (1799-1871), British soldier.jpg
General Sir James Yorke Scarlett
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank General
Commands held 5th Dragoon Guards
Aldershot Division
Battles/wars Crimean War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

General Sir James Yorke Scarlett, GCB, (1799-1871) was a British general and hero of the Crimean War.

Contents

Early life

The son of the 1st Baron Abinger, and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] Scarlett entered the army as a cornet in 1818 and in 1830 became a major in the 5th Dragoon Guards. From 1837 until 1841 he was a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Guildford.[2]

In 1840, he was appointed to command his regiment, a post he held for nearly fourteen years. In the Crimean War, the 5th Dragoon Guards formed part of the Heavy Cavalry Brigade (of which Scarlett was appointed Brigadier) and was sent to the Black Sea in 1854. There it suffered heavily from cholera in the camps of Varna.

Balaklava

During the Battle of Balaklava on October 25, 1854, the Heavy Brigade overwhelmed the Russian cavalry they faced. Though his attack was foolhardy, had Scarlett been allowed to advance further, the otherwise disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade might have been made a success.

Preceding this action, his brigade lay on the rolling country below the series of hills known as the Causeway Heights which the Russians has stormed that morning, and beyond which lay the "Valley of Death" down which Lord Cardigan would lead the Light Brigade in one of the great military blunders of the 19th century.

As the Heavy Brigade was crossing broken country (most sources point towards a vineyard or chopped down orchard), a numerically superior Russian cavalry force appeared at the top of the heights. They poured over the skyline, down the slope towards Scarlett's brigade, beyond which lay Balaklava, and the site of the action known as the Thin Red Line of the 93rd Highlanders, which had routed a previous Russian charge that morning.

Scarlett quickly and coolly assembled his men at the foot of the heights, organizing them into parade-perfect formation, and sounded the charge. This maneuver defied all military doctrine at the time, as the Russians were more numerous and, more importantly, the charge was made uphill against an oncoming force.

As astounded onlookers watched from the rear, Scarlett's red-clad Heavies, including members of the Inniskillings and Scots Greys (of Waterloo fame), drove into the centre of the grey mass of Russians, causing the enemy formation to collapse completely. With their charge broken, the Russians were routed and the British forces could claim another victory on the day.

Later life

For his services that day Scarlett was promoted Major-general and in 1855 was made KCB. After a brief period of leave in England, he returned to the Crimea with the local rank of Lieutenant-general to command the British cavalry. Following the Peace of Paris, Scarlett commanded the cavalry at Aldershot until 1860 and was Adjutant-General to the Forces from 1860 to 1865. He was then made commander of the Aldershot Division, a post he held until his retirement in 1870. He had been made a GCB in 1869. In retirement Scarlett became involved in politics, standing for election to Parliament in Burnley at the 1868 general election, but was beaten by the Liberal candidate.[3]

Scarlett died in 1871, aged 72. He is buried in the churchyard at Holme Chapel, Cliviger, in Lancashire. A memorial to Scarlett was installed in the Royal Garrison Church at Aldershot. It includes a bronze bust of Scarlett flanked by two full-size bronze cavalry troopers of his former regiments, the 18th Hussars and 5th Dragoon Guards, wearing VCs and four-bar Crimean War medals.[4]

References

  1. ^ Scarlett, James Yorke in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 139. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.  
  3. ^ Craig, op. cit., page 71
  4. ^ Aldershot Museum

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

  • Cecil Woodham-Smith, "The Reason Why," Penguin, 1965.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Mangles
Charles Baring Wall
Member of Parliament for Guildford
18371841
With: Charles Baring Wall
Succeeded by
Ross Donnelly Mangles
Charles Baring Wall
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir George Weatherall
Adjutant General
1860–1865
Succeeded by
Lord Paulet
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