General Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, GCB

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David Dundas

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Dundas and Margaret Dundas
Brother of James Dundas; Robert Dundas, Min. of Humbie; John Dundas; Alexander Dundas and Mary Dundas

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Immediate Family

About General Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, GCB,_1st_Baronet

Colonel Dundas laid the foundation of his system of military tactics, which was published in 1788, under the title of ‘Principles of Military Movements, chiefly applicable to Infantry.’ This work was dedicated to George the Third, who directed it to be arranged and adopted for the use of the army, in June 1792. He soon after planned the ‘Rules and Regulations for the Cavalry,’ which also became a standard work regarding the discipline of the army.

From Memorials of His Time, Henry Cockburn: The mother of the first Sir David Dundas, the introducer of our German system of military manoeuvres and at one time commander in chief of the British Army. We used to go to her house in Bunker's Hill when boys, on Sundays between the morning and afternoon sermons, were we were cherished with Scotch broth and cakes and many a joke from the old lady. Age had made her incapable of walking even across the room; so, clad in a plain black silk gown and a pure muslin cap, she sat, half encircled by a high backed leather chair, reading; with silver spectacles stuck on her thin nose; and interspersing her studies and her days with much laughter and not a little sarcasm. What a spirit! There was more fun round that chair than in the theatre or the church. I remember one of her granddaughters stumbling, in the course of reading the newspapers to her, on a paragraph which stated that a lady's reputation had suffered from some indiscreet talk on the part of the Prince of Wales. Up she of fourscore sat, and said with an indignant shake of her shrivelled fist and a keen voice- "The dammed villain! does he kiss and tell!"



General Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, GCB (1735 – 18 February 1820) was a British general who fought in the Seven Years' War and French Revolutionary Wars, wrote important texts on the Principles of Military Movements and then served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1809 to 1811.

Military service

Born the son of Robert Dundas, a Scottish merchant, and Margaret Dundas (née Watson), Dundas graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich as a "lieutenant fireworker" in the Royal Artillery on 1 March 1755. He exchanged to the 56th Foot as a lieutenant on 24 January 1756, serving with this regiment during the Seven Years' War taking part in combined operations against the French ports of St. Malo and Cherbourg and fighting at the Battle of Saint Cast in September 1758. Promoted to captain on 21 March 1759, he transferred to the 15th Dragoons and fought at the Battle of Warburg in July 1760, the Battle of Kloster Kampen in October 1760 and the Battle of Villinghausen in July 1761. Dundas was also present at the fall of Havana in August 1762. He was promoted to major on 28 May 1770 and lieutenant colonel on 12 December 1775. On 31 December 1777 he was appointed Quartermaster-General in Ireland, in which post he was promoted to brevet colonel on 12 February 1782.

Army improvements

On 31 August 1783 Dundas left regimental service and became an advocate of officer training in the British Army writing many manuals on the subject, the first being Principles of Military Movements published in 1788. He chose to ignore the light infantry tactics that generals such as Lord Cornwallis or Willam Howe used in the American War of Independence. Instead Dundas, after witnessing Prussian army manouvres in Silesia in 1784, favoured the army model that Frederick the Great had created. Its use of drilled battalions of line infantry marching in formation was a stark contrast to the light brigades that fought in small independent groups and with cover.

Later career

On 23 June 1789 he became Adjutant-General in Ireland where he was able deploy his ideas for military training. He was promoted to major-general on 1 May 1790 and, as Britain became involved in the French Revolutionary Wars, he was appointed second in command at the siege of Toulon under O’Hara and Lord Mulgrave from September 1793, where he commanded an abortive attack on the Arenes Heights on 30 November 1793. Dundas became commanding officer under Lord Hood after O’Hara’s capture in this action. He lost Fort Mulgrave and Mount Faron after a 3-day bombardment on 17 December 1793. Dundas commanded the initial expedition to Corsica in 1794, landing 7 February 1794 and capturing the Mortella Tower. He captured the Port of San Fiorenzo and Bastia, an important first step ultimately leading to the capture of the island and establishment of a short-lived Anglo-Corsican Kingdom by forces under Hood and Admiral Lord Nelson.

Dundas was forced to resign by Hood on 10 March 1794 and transferred to serve in the Flanders Campaign under the Duke of York. Appointed commander of the 2nd Cavalry brigade after the death of John Mansel at Beaumont on 26 April 1794, he distinguished himself at Willems on 10 May 1794, and was attached to Otto's column at Tourcoing later that month. Dundas replaced Sir Robert Laurie at the head of his brigade during the retreat to Antwerp, where he saw more action at Tuil. He commanded the Right wing under Harcourt in December 1794, and led the defence at the action at Geldermalsen on 5 January 1795. He was made commander of the British forces (mainly cavalry) left behind at Bremen in April 1795 and given the local rank of brevet lieutenant general while remaining in Europe on 2 May 1795.

On 26 December 1795 Dundas became Colonel of the 7th Light Dragoons and on 8 November 1796 he became Quartermaster-General to the Forces in which role he implemented the army's official drill book for Cavalry officers. He was promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant-general on 4 February 1797.

Dundas commanded the 3rd Division under the Duke of York in the Helder Campaign 1799, seeing action at Den Helder on 27 August, Zype on 10 September, Bergen on 19 September, Alkmaar on 2 October and Castricum on 6 October. On 15 February 1800 he was given the honorary appointment of Governor of Landguard Fort.

He was made Colonel of 2nd Dragoons on 9 May 1801, promoted to general on 24 April 1802 and made commander in Kent and Sussex from 1803. Dundas was appointed Knight of the Order of the Bath on 28 April 1803 and went into semi-retirement in 1805. He chaired the hearing against Le Marchant in charges of calumny from 23 January 1807, was a member of the Court Martial that tried Whitelocke for the failure of the Buenos Aires expedition on 28 January 1808 and was a member of the Board of Enquiry of the Convention of Cintra in 1808. He was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the 95th Foot on 31 August 1809.

Dundas was Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1809 to 1811, during the Duke of York’s period of disgrace following a scandal caused by the activities of his latest mistress, Mary Anne Clarke. Dundas was also a Privy councillor from 22 March 1809 and Colonel of the 1st Dragoon Guards from 27 January 1813.

Dundas was Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 3 April 1804 until his death. He died there on 18 February 1820 and is buried in the grounds.


In the army Dundas was nicknamed "Old Pivot" for his Prussian-style drill books. Burne describes him as "A level-headed officer", but "cautious", while Bunbury writes "He...was an aged man...a brave, careful, and well-skilled soldier...Dundas was a tall, spare man, crabbed and austere, dry in his looks and demeanour...there were peculiarities in his habits and style which excited some ridicule amongst young officers. But though it appeared a little out of fashion, there was 'much care and valour in that Scotchman'". Thoumine writes that "Dundas was perhaps not as graceful nor as polished as some of his contemporaries, but he was as sound as oak and utterly reliable".


In 1807 he married Charlotte De Lancey, daughter of General Oliver De Lancey; they had no children.

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General Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, GCB's Timeline

May 26, 1736
February 18, 1820
Age 83