decorative initial 'C'

ir George Cathcart was born on 12 May 1794; he was the third surviving son of Sir William Schaw Cathcart, first Earl Cathcart.

George Cathcart was commissioned as a cornet in the Second Life Guards on 10 May 1810 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant into the 6th Dragoon Guards on 1 July 1811. In 1813 he succeeded his elder brother as aide-de-camp and private secretary to his father in Russia: Lord Cathcart was both ambassador to the Czar and military commissioner with the Russian army. As aide-de-camp Cathcart carried despatches from his father to the various English officers who were attached to different Russian armies. He was present at all the major battles in the campaigns against the French in 1813 and entered Paris with the allied armies on 31 March 1814.

He was aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington in 1815 at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo and was in Paris with Wellington until 1818. He was given a Company in the 1st West India Regiment and promptly exchanged it for a commission in the 7th Hussars. He became Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment in May 1826. In 1828 he moved to the 57th Regiment; in 1830 he went to the 8th Hussars, and in 1838 he relocated to the 1st Dragoon Guards. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 23 November 1841.

In 1846 he resigned his command and became deputy-lieutenant of the Tower of London; he lived there until he became a Major-General on 11 November 1851. In 1850 Cathcart published his Commentaries on the War in Russia and Germany in 1812 and 1813.

In January 1852 Cathcart was appointed by Wellington to succeed Major-General Sir Harry Smith as Governor and Commander-in-Chief at the Cape. His brief was to crush the Basutos and Kaffirs, establish a colonial parliament and revive the loyalty of the colonists. On his arrival he summoned the first Cape parliament, and granted them a constitution, and then marched against the Kaffir and Basuto chiefs. The Kaffirs were soon subdued, and in the autumn of 1852 he marched against the Basutoscompleting his mission by February 1853. In July 1853 Cathcart was made a K.C.B. and on 12 December he was appointed as an adjutant-general at the Horse Guards; in April he set off for Britain. When he arrived in London he discovered that some of the British army had already been sent to the Crimea; he was told that he had been given command of the 4th Division. Cathcart was instructed that he was to be to the Commander-in-Chief of the army in the campaign in the event of anything happening to Lord Raglan.

Cathcart's division was barely involved at the battle of the Alma, and his advice to storm Sebastopol at once was rejected by the allied generals. He became bitterly angry with Lord Raglan for ignoring his advice and on 4 October he complained of the influence of Sir George Brown and Major-General Airey. Shortly afterwards, his position of successor to Raglan was removed.

On 5 November 1854 Cathcart took the first Brigade into the battle of Inkerman where great confusion reigned. Cathcart attempted to charge up the hill with fifty men of the 20th regiment; he was shot through the heart. Many posthumous honours were paid to him and a tablet was erected to him in St. Paul's Cathedral. He was buried in the Crimea.


Kaffirs. Although this word is offensive in the modern world, Cathcart probably is referring to people from Kaffraria, which was the term used to designate what is now the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. He uses the term in apposition to "Basuto". This suggests the referent is perhaps not "Black person" at all, but that it designates a tribe, seeing that "Basuto" designates a tribe — and they come from the region adjacent to the Eastern Cape (aka Kaffraria in the nineteenth century). Then "Kaffir" might actually mean something like "Xhosa", the tribe resident in much of the Eastern Cape. [back]

[I am grateful to Dr. Johan Geertsema for this information — MB]

Last modified 25 April 2002