Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill

Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill
The Viscount Hill
General Hill in later life.
Born 11 August 1772
Hawkstone, Shropshire
Died 10 December 1842
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1790 - 1842
Rank General
Battles/wars Napoleonic Wars
Peninsular War
Awards GCB, GCH, Military Order of William

General Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill of Almaraz GCB, GCH (11 August 1772 – 10 December 1842) served in the Napoleonic Wars as a trusted brigade, division and corps commander under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1829.


Early career

Educated at a school in Chester, Hill was commissioned into 38th Foot in 1790.[1] He went on to serve at the siege of Toulon in 1793[1] and also in Egypt.[1] He became a brigadier in 1803 and a major-general in 1805.[1]

The Peninsula

Hill commanded a brigade at the Battle of Roliça and also at the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808.[1] He participated in Sir John Moore's 1808-1809 campaign in Spain, commanding a brigade at the Battle of Corunna.[1] While serving under Wellington at the Second Battle of Porto, units of Hill's brigade launched an impromptu assault across the Douro River that ultimately routed Marshal Nicolas Soult's French corps from Oporto.[1]

Hill commanded the 2nd Infantry Division at the Battle of Talavera. The night before the battle, Marshal Claude Victor mounted a surprise attack, swept aside two battalions of the King's German Legion and seized a key elevation. As Hill later recounted, "I was sure it was the old Buffs, as usual, making some blunder."[2] Nevertheless, he led a reserve brigade forward in the dark. In the short clash that followed, Hill was briefly grabbed and nearly captured by a Frenchman, but his troops recovered the summit. This is the first occasion on which Hill supposedly swore.[3]

Still leading the 2nd Division during Marshal André Masséna's 1810 invasion of Portugal, Hill fought at the Battle of Bussaco.[1] In autumn 1811, Wellington placed Hill in independent command of 16,000 men watching Badajoz. On 28 October he led a successful raid on the French at the Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos. In May 1812, after the capture of Badajoz, Hill led a second raid that destroyed a key bridge in the Battle of Almaraz.[1] While Wellington won the Battle of Salamanca, Hill protected Badajoz with an independent 18,000-man corps, including the British 2nd Division, John Hamilton's Portuguese division and William Erskine's 2nd Cavalry Division.

After the British capture of Madrid, Hill had responsibility for an army of 31,000 Anglo-Portuguese and 12,000 Spanish troops during the campaign that centered on the Siege of Burgos. When the French massed superior forces against the British in the fall of 1812, Hill safely brought his army back from Madrid to join the main army under Wellington near Alba de Tormes.

Hill commanded the Right Column during the campaign and decisive British victory at the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June 1813.[1] Still in corps command, he fought in the Battle of the Pyrenees. At Vitoria and in Wellington's invasion of southern France, Hill corps usually consisted of William Stewart's 2nd Division, the Portuguese Division (under John Hamilton, Francisco Silveira or Carlos Le Cor)[4] and Pablo Morillo's Spanish Division. He led the Right Corps at the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November.

On 13 December 1813, during the Battle of the Nive, Hill performed what may have been his finest work in his defence of St-Pierre d'Irube. With his 14,000 men and 10 guns isolated on the east bank of the Nive by a broken bridge, Hill held off the attacks of Marshal Nicolas Soult's 30,000 soldiers and 22 guns. He fought the battle with great skill and "was seen at every point of danger, and repeatedly led up rallied regiments in person to save what seemed like a lost battle ... He was even heard to swear."[3] Later, he fought at the Orthez and Toulouse. Wellington said, "The best of Hill is that I always know where to find him."[5]

Nicknamed "Daddy Hill", he looked after his troops and was adored by his men.[1] On one occasion, he provided a wounded officer who arrived at his headquarters with a lunch basket. Another time, a sergeant delivered a letter to Hill. Expecting nothing but a nod of thanks, the man was astonished when the general arranged for his supper and a place for him to stay for the night. The next day, Hill gave him food and a dollar for the rest of his journey.[6]

He was also Member of Parliament (MP) for Shrewsbury from 1812 to 1814.[7]

Waterloo and later career

Hill ready for the annual Waterloo anniversary banquet at Apsley House in 1836

At the Battle of Waterloo Hill commanded the II Corps.[1] He led the famous charge of Sir Frederick Adam's brigade against the Imperial Guard towards the end of the battle. For some time it was thought that he had fallen in the melee. He escaped unwounded, however, and continued with the army in France until its withdrawal in 1818.

On 27 August 1815 the Dutch King William I made him a Commander of the exclusive Military Order of William. At the Coronation of George IV in 1821, Lord Hill bore the Standard of England in the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.[8] From 1828 to 1839, he succeeded the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.

A keen foxhunter, Rowland Hill was master of the North Shropshire Foxhounds until 1823.[9] The pack exists to this day and hunts the north of the County, including the grounds of his birth place, Hawkstone Hall.[9] He later shared the Mastership with Sir Bellingham-Graham and Sir Edward Smythe, the hounds at this time being kennelled two miles south-east of Hawkstone Hall.[9] Rowland Hill also formed the Hawkstone Otter Hunt around 1800, which was maintained and hunted by successive Lords.[9]

He died at Hardwicke Grange, Hadnall, Shropshire on 10 December 1842. He is buried in the graveyard at Hadnall, Shropshire.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Rowland Hill at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Glover, p 108
  3. ^ a b Oman, p 118
  4. ^ Oman, p 370-1
  5. ^ Glover, p 349
  6. ^ Oman, p 115
  7. ^ "Historical list of MPs: constituencies beginning with S, part 3". Leigh Rayment's House of Commons pages. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  8. ^ London Gazette, 3 August 1821
  9. ^ a b c d North Shropshire Hunt - Masters Roll


Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Forbes
Colonel of the 3rd Garrison Battalion
Succeeded by
Baldwin Leighton
Preceded by
Francis Dundas
Colonel of the 94th Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir James Henry Craig
Governor of Blackness Castle
Succeeded by
The Earl of Lindsey
Preceded by
The Duke of Richmond
Governor of Kingston-upon-Hull
Succeeded by
The Earl Cathcart
Preceded by
James Stuart
Colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir George Murray
Preceded by
Sir John Abercromby
Colonel of the 53rd (the Shropshire) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Lord FitzRoy Somerset
Preceded by
The Duke of Wellington
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by
The Duke of Cumberland
Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Blues)
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Anglesey
Preceded by
The Earl Harcourt
Governor of Plymouth
Office abolished?
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Hill
Henry Grey Bennet
Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury
With: Henry Grey Bennet
Succeeded by
Richard Lyster
Henry Grey Bennet
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Hill
Succeeded by
Rowland Hill, 2nd Viscount Hill
Baron Hill
Baron Hill

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