- Wolseley, Garnet Wolseley, Field Marshal Viscount
- (1833–1913)Among the most successful British soldiers of the nineteenth century, Garnet Wolseley was the son of an impecunious Anglo-Irish army officer. Unable to afford a commission, he was granted one by the Duke of Wellington on the strength of his father’s service. True to his own dictum that it was the duty of an ambitious young officer to try to get himself killed, Wolseley transferred to a regiment going out to Burma, where he both distinguished himself and acquired a leg wound that bothered him for the rest of his life. He served in the Crimean War, again with distinction, and then in India during and after the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and in China during the Opium War of 1859–1860. In Canada during American Civil War, he took the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the Confederate army. Remaining in Canada after the war, he commanded the 1870 Red River expedition against Metis rebels in what became the Canadian province of Manitoba.In 1869, Wolseley published the Soldier ’ s Pocket Book, a manual of military skills that went through many editions and did much to establish Wolseley’s reputation as a scientific and reforming officer. Wolseley commanded the British expedition of 1873–1874 against the Ashanti, a quick and victorious operation in which British losses—from either enemy action or disease—were few, in stark contrast to many contemporary African expeditions. Following the Ashanti War the expression “all Sir Garnet” indicated something well done; Wolseley also became Gilbert and Sullivan’s “very model of a modern major-general.” Wolseley was the first governor-general of Cyprus after the British annexation of 1878, and then commanded the forces that defeated Colonel Arabi’s nationalist rebellion in Egypt in 1882. The September 13, 1882, victory at Tel el-Kebir gave an enormous fillip to his reputation. He commanded the unsuccessful relief expedition to the Sudan in 1884–1885. Although Wolseley was closely associated with the Liberals, having served at the War Office under the reforming Secretary Edward Cardwell, he was privately scathing about both liberalism and democracy, and never ceased to blame William Gladstone for the death of his friend General Charles Gordon in Khartoum. Wolseley became commander-in-chief of the British army in 1895, but he was sidelined by illness and old age in 1897. A skillful self-promoter, Wolseley gathered about himself a group of officers known as the “Wolseley ring,” who simultaneously promoted both army reform and each others’ careers. Wolseley’s significance to the theme of imperialism lies in his service as a normally successful local commander in colonial wars from the 1850s to the 1880s.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Kochanski, Halik. Sir Garnet Wolseley: Victorian Hero . London: Hambledon, 1999;Lehmann, Joseph H. The Model Major General: A Biography of Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley . Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 1964.MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.