Military Mishaps

12806225_242346899440733_8850088551663408320_nMajor-General Sir William Erskine was born in 1748, becoming 2nd Baronet on the death of his father, Lieutenant-General Sir William Erskine, in 1795. He twice represented Fife in Parliament, in 1796 and then from 1802-1805. Erskine was appointed one of the senior commanders in the Peninsular War, despite having twice been detained in an insane asylum. The Duke of Wellington, upon querying Erskine’s sanity, was reassured that ‘no doubt he is a little mad at times, but he is lucid at intervals’ although this was soon called into question. Left in charge of both the light infantry and the cavalry at the Battle of Sabugal in 1811, Erskine somehow managed to send each in the direction the other should have taken, to the advantage of the opposing French. At the Siege of Almeida, the French garrison was able to escape because Erskine had failed to guard the Barba de Puerca bridge – Wellington’s order to do so had arrived while Erskine was dining with a colleague. Erskine was declared insane and discharged from service in 1812. Erskine died unmarried and with no children (causing the extinction of his baronetcy) by his own hand in 1813, jumping out of a Lisbon window. Erskine’s last words were ‘Now, why on earth did I do that?’

JJ