Sir Edward Barnes joined the 47th Regiment in 1792, and quickly rose through the ranks with promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1807 and Colonel in 1810. Two years later, he served on Wellington’s staff in the Peninsular War and soon became Major-General. Barnes served in the campaign of 1815 as Adjutant-General, and was wounded at the Battle of Waterloo.
He became Governor of Ceylon in 1824 and commander in-chief in India, with the local rank of General. On his return home, he was appointed in 1834 Colonel of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment, a post he held until his death.
He was born in 1776 and joined the 47th Regiment as an Ensign in 1792. In the following year he transferred as Lieutenant to the 86th, served as Captain in the 99th, as Major in the 79th, and in 1800 became Lieutenant Colonel of the 46th, with which regiment he served in the West Indies.
He commanded the 3rd Brigade at the capture of Martinique in February 1808, and was then appointed Lieutenant Governor of Dominica where he remained until 1812 when he went to the Peninsula. There he was at first employed on the Staff, but later commanded a Brigade.
He particularly distinguished himself in the battles of the Pyrenees. At Maya on July 25, 1813, when between six and seven o’clock General William Stewart, his ammunition being exhausted, despaired of holding the stronghold of Mount Atchiola and sent orders for it to be abandoned, General Barnes came up with his brigade from Dalhousie’s Division, having hurried to the spot in response to Stewart’s urgent messages for help. Placing himself at the head of the 6th and Brunswick Regiments he charged Maransin’s troops with such audacity that he not only drove them back to the pass of Maya but struck alarm into d’Erlon himself.
A week later his Brigade on the 7th Division was the first to come into contact with the enemy. Though alone and unsupported, it was at once launched to the attack by its intrepid leader against the divisions of Conroux and Vandermaesen, which outnumbered it by four to one. A lively action followed, but the enemy soon gave way and retired. Other troops came up, and the highest ridge of the Pyrenees was won at the cost of 400 killed and wounded.
The Duke of Wellington wrote in his despatch:
‘In my life, I never saw such an attack as was made by Barnes’ Brigade upon the enemy at Echalar; it is impossible that I can extol too highly the conduct of General Barnes and those brave troops, which was the admiration of all who witnessed it.’
Fortescue, History of the British Army.
At St. Pierre on December 13 he was severely wounded. For these services he was promoted Major-General and received the cross with three clasps. In the Waterloo campaign he served as Adjutant-General. His gallantry was again conspicuous at Quatre-Bras, when he placed himself at the head of the 92nd, which charged the head of the French leading column and drove it back on to the garden of La Bergerie. The Highlanders then assaulted the building and drove the French out.
In 1819 he was appointed to the Staff in Ceylon, and was Governor from 1824 to 1831. In 1825 he was promoted Lieutenant-General and received the G.C.B. in 1831, when he went to India as Commander-in-Chief. He returned to England on retirement in 1833 and in 1834 he was elected to Parliament as Member for Sudbury.
An oil painting of Lieutenant General Sir Edward Barnes GCB by John Wood is displayed in the Club’s Dining Room. It may have been acquired by the Club after the death of Sir Edward in 1838, although the portrait does not appear in any club list until 1879. The donor is unknown.