Major Samuel Philip Townsend (6B09)

Date of Birth: 29 Sept 1813
Date of Death: dsp ka 5 Nov 1854
Generation: 6th
Residence: Dover and Woolwich, London
Father: Reverend Doctor William Robinson Townsend [6B02]
Mother: Young, Isabella
  1. Campbell, Jane
Issue: None
See Also: Table VIB ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Major Samuel Philip Townsend

Married 4 December 1844. Jane Anne Fraser Campbell (b. 1814) third daughter of Colonel Campbell and niece to General Sir John Campbell KCB. The wedding was announced in the Kerry Evening Post, item 2236.

In October 2022 several personal letters, commission scrolls and other documents relating to Samuel came to light through an extraordinary set of circumstances. The documents were sent to a 'Mr Weatherseed' in July 1911 by an auctioneer (Alfred Ginner) who found them in a chest of drawers that he was due to auction in Hastings. The chest of drawers came from one of the properties Mr Weatherseed let in Hastings and the documents were left by a tenant; presumably a close relative of Samuel judging by the personal nature of the letters. They were sent to Colonel John Townsend by Mr Weatherseed's great grandson who lives in Australia and are an important source of information - the 'Ginner' papers. (1)

Samuel was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 26 July 1831 (2). He was promoted Lieutenant 15 months later, Second Captain on 22 August 1842 and Captain on 24 November 1847 (3).

The first mention of Samuel's career is to be found in a letter (4) dated 26 July 1854, to Lord Raglan, commander of British troops in the Crimea, Major General Campbell, Samuel's father-in-law, wrote - My Dear Lord Raglan, I take the opportunity of introducing to your Lordship the bearer of this, Major Townsend Royal Artillery (my son-in-law) who joins your force in Command of a 9 Pounder Battery. Major Townsend accompanied me as my Adjutant to Canada in 1838 and during the outbreak there acted as Brigade Major... Letters from H. Hotham in the Ginner Papers show that Samuel remained in Montreal until at least February 1846.

Further documents in the Ginner Papers show that Samuel was based in Dover between November 1851 and December 1853 and was living at 22 Folkstone Road, Dover. He was promoted Major in June 1854.(5)

Samuel deployed to the Crimea sometime after 26 July 1854 and before 29 September when, encamped with the 4th Division on the Heights above Sebastopol, he wrote on the day of his fortieth birthday a very personal note about his deep belief in God - I believe that His presence is with me and indeed I may say lovely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and I would add, I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.”. It is reproduced in his "Scrapbook'. Several of the tributes after his death mention his religious convictions.

Samuel first saw action at the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October; but it was during action at the Battle of Inkerman on 5 November 1854 that he was killed. A detailed and harrowing account of the circumstances of his death is contained in a letter written by Major Dixon Hoste addressed to Colonel Downes, which is reproduced in Samuel's 'Scrapbook'.(6) We soon found that we were in a very hot place, shot and shells never ceased to hiss past and over us. Soon after we came into action before indeed we had dismounted, I was standing immediately behind poor Townsend when a shot or shell whizzed past so close that we both felt the wind of it. He turned round to me and said “It very nearly took our heads off”. He was just as cool all the time as if we had been drilling on Woolwich Common. The day was so dark and foggy that we could scarcely see anything but the smoke from the Russian guns meant it was quite impossible to see the effect of our own shot. After we had been in this position about an hour and as far as I can remember about 9 o’clock or half past an officer of the 57th Regiment came to the front and told me that the regiment was in advance of us but that it would not be able to hold its ground much longer as the enemy were advancing down the opposite slopes with their guns. I referred him to Major Townsend who went a few yards to the rear to tell Col. Wood. He was walking to the front again when a piece of shell struck him on the head and he was killed instantly. I shall never forget what dismay fell on us all when his death became known. “Poor Major Townsend” was on every lip and each man seemed to show by his looks how sadly his loss was felt.

An extract from another letter written by Dixon Hoste on 4 January 1855 reads - I can assure you that the very great calmness displayed by Townsend both at Balaclava and Inkerman was the subject of remarks amongst all of us and we all felt the greatest confidence in his judgement. (7) Press reports about his death are reproduced in his 'Scrapbook'.

Samuel was Mentioned in Despatches by Field Marshal the Lord Raglan - "Major Townsend, of the Artillery, who was unfortunately killed. He was considered a most valuable officer.." (8). In addition the London Gazette of 10 July 1855 lists "Officers of the Army and Navy who would have been recommended for the honours of the First, Second, and Third Classes of the Order of the Bath, had they survived....For the THIRD CLASS...Brevet-Major S. P. Townsend, Royal Artillery." (9)

Samuel is buried on Cathcart's Hill and his memorial reads "Sacred to the memory of Major Samuel Philip Townsend Royal British Artillery who fell at Inkerman on the 5th of November 1854 in command of a battery of 9 pounders attached to the 4th Division under Major General Sir George Cathcart." Several press tributes to him are reproduced in his 'Scrapbook'

In a letter dated 24 July 1874 to his sister, Jane, Major John Tuckey, the husband of Samuel's sister, Mary (Minnie) Townsend, wrote "I must tell you that Minnie had a brother, a Major in the Royal Artillery, a fine good man who was killed at Inkerman. He was married to a daughter of General Campbell R.A. She is living at Woolwich with her brother Col. Campbell R.A. & C.B. who is Superintendent of the Gun department in the Royal Arsenal. They were passing kind to me when I was alone at Woolwich; inviting me to the house oftener than I could go and taking me in the carriage to see the curiosities of the place."

'An Officer of the Long Parliament' Ch XII p. 274.

(1) The Ginner papers - Alfred G Ginner. Auctioneer, Surveyor & Estate Agent. 37E, Robertson Street, Hastings.

(2) London Gazette 18832 page 1562 dated 1 August 1831.

(3) London Gazette 20804 page 4558 dated 10 December 1847.

(4) Ginner Papers 1

(5) London Gazette 21564 page 1938 dated 22 June 1854.

(6) Ginner Papers 2

(7) Ginner Papers 3

(8) London Gazette 21636 page 3952 dated 2 December 1854.

(9) London Gazette 21743 page 2655 dated 10 July 1855.