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Frederick Adam
Frederick Adam as painted by William Salter, 1848 or after
Born 1781
Died 1853 (aged 71–72)
Place of birth Scotland
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch  British Army, Artillery
Years of service 1795-?
Rank General
Commands held 3rd (Light) Brigade
Battles/wars Peninsular War: Battles of Castalla, Alicante, Biar, Ordal
War of the Seventh Coalition: Waterloo
Relations father: William Adam (MP)
Other work Lord High Commissioner, Ionian Islands
Governor of Madras

General Sir Frederick Adam GCB GCMG (1781–1853) was a Scottish major-general at the Battle of Waterloo, in command of the 3rd (Light) Brigade. He was the fourth son of William Adam of Blair Adam and his wife Eleanora, the daughter of Charles Elphinstone, 10th Lord Elphinstone.

Military career

At the age of fourteen in 1795, Frederick Adam entered the British Army. He trained at the artillery school at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. In the same year he was commissioned as a first lieutenant and in 1796 he was promoted to second lieutenant.

He took part in the campaigns in the Netherlands and Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby, he was promoted to the rank of major in 1803 and a lieutenant colonel in 1804. From 1806 to 1811 he was stationed on Sicily. Between 1812 and 1813 he was in Spain fighting in the Peninsular War, where he was severely wounded at Alicante. On 12 April 1813, while commanding the Light Brigade in John Murray's expeditionary force, Adam led a brilliant rearguard action against the corps of Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet at Biar. The following day, his 2/27th Foot battalion inflicted 350 casualties on Suchet's 121st Line Regiment during the Battle of Castalla. He was wounded again in an action at Ordal on 13 September 1813.


On 18 June 1815, Adam commanded the 3rd British Brigade in Henry Clinton's 2nd Division at the Battle of Waterloo. At the crisis of the battle, Adam's 1/52nd (Light) Foot performed a left-wheel to enfilade the flank of the French Imperial Guard's main attack while the British Guards engaged the head of the column. Under fire from two directions, the French Guardsmen put up a brief resistance then fled. After their unsuccessful attack on the British centre, the Guard rallied to their reserves of three (some sources say four) regiments, just south of La Haye Sainte for a last stand against the British. But a charge from Adam's Brigade threw them into a state of confusion and those which were left retreated towards La Belle Alliance. It was during this stand that Colonel Hugh Halkett took the surrender of General Cambronne.

The French Imperial Guard made a last stand in squares on either side of the La Belle Alliance. General Adam's Brigade charged the square which was formed on rising ground to the (British) right of La Belle Alliance and again threw them into a state of confusion. The other square was attacked by the Prussians. The French retreated away from the battle field towards France. The French artillery, and everything else belonging to them, fell into the hands of the British and Prussians.

Battle Order of the 3rd Light Brigade at The Battle of Waterloo
Unit Commander Strength Casualties
3rd (Light) British Brigade Major General Frederick Adam 2,937 men 698
1/52nd Regiment of Foot (Oxfordshire Light Infantry) Lt-Colonel Sir John Colborne 1,130 199
1/71st Regiment of Foot (Highland Light Infantry) Lt-Colonel Reyner 936 202
2/95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles) Major Norcott 666 247
3/95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles) . 205 50

Later life

From 1817 to 1824, Adam continued his career in the army. Between 1824 and 1832 he was a popular Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. His commissioning of the construction of public buildings on Corfu were much appreciated by the local population. From 25 October 1832 to 4 March 1837 he was Governor of Madras and in 1846 he was promoted to general.

Incomplete list of military commands:

  • 1813 - commanded Anglo-Allied Light Brigade at Biar and Castalla.
  • 1813 - commanded Anglo-Allied Advanced Guard at Ordal.
  • 1815 - commanded 3rd (Light) British Brigade at Waterloo.
  • 1829 - 1835 Colonel of 73rd Perthshire Regiment of Foot.
  • 1835 - Colonel of 57th Foot who were stationed in India.
  • 1843 - Colonel 21st Fusiliers.


Military offices
Preceded by
The 1st Lord Harris
Colonel of the 73rd Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
The 2nd Lord Harris
Preceded by
Sir William Inglis
Colonel of the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Hardinge
Preceded by
The Lord Forbes
Colonel of the 21st Regiment of Foot (Royal North British Fuzileers)
Succeeded by
Sir De Lacy Evans

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