Sir Ralph Abercromby

In November 1795 Abercromby was appointed to lead an expedition against the French possessions in the West Indies. Having arrived at Jamaica early in 1796 he first took St Lucia, entrusting it to his ablest subordinate, Colonel (later General Sir) John Moore, and then Demerara. He also relieved St Vincent and reorganized the defences of both that island and of Grenada. Sir Charles Grey's operations in 1794 had highlighted the perils that the Caribbean climate held for European troops, and Abercromby did his best to improve and maintain his soldiers' health; he established sanatoria, forbade parades and exercises during the hottest times of the day, and modified the troops' uniforms to make them more appropriate to the prevailing atmospheric and topographical conditions. He also strove to bolster the morale of officers and men alike. Even when not recommended by the authorities some of the former were given staff and governmental positions, while the latter occasionally enjoyed pecuniary rewards--which were presumably similar to the prize money distributions made to Royal Navy crews during this period--and were even entrusted with some minor civil offices. Abercromby went home for the summer but returned at the end of 1796, captured Trinidad, and appointed Colonel (later Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas) Picton its governor.

Image courtesy of National Museum Wales

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