Bridget Teresa McCrory
Sir Alexander Tulloch (1803 - 1864):
General Sir Alexander Murray Tulloch was one of the principal figures involved in tackling the considerable problems of the organisation of the British army so clearly if not ruthlessly exposed by the Crimean War (as it is now called) of 1854-1856.
Tulloch was born in Newry, County Down, to a military father (and a mother who was also a Scot), Captain John Tulloch who was of a family who could trace themselves back to the thirteenth century and had taken part in the Jacobite rebellions of the earlier eighteenth, suffering some punitive consequences, though they later accepted the Hanoverian settlement. Captain John Tulloch, Alexander’s father, was a veteran of the successful campaign of General Ralph Abercrombie in 1801, against the French army in Egypt (Abercrombie had previously served in Ireland including one year in command of the army there).
Alexander Tulloch was originally intended for the Law, but his strong preference was for a military career and on 9 April 1826 he purchased a commission as ensign in the 45th Foot. He joined the regiment after the close of the First Anglo-Burmese War at Rangoon, and was promoted Lieutenant on 30 November 1827. From the first he was critical of many conditions for serving soldiers; his principal target was the East India Company, whom he criticised for below-standard food, grossly overpriced alcohol (it was sold for five times its real value) and payment in debased coinage: coins the East India Company claimed were worth two shillings and sixpence were in fact worth just two shillings. He was a campaigner, contributing articles detailing these abuses to various Indian newspapers, writing under a nom de guerre, Dugald Dalgetty. The East India Company was quite unrepentant, but Tulloch was not to be turned away and on his return to the United Kingdom in 1831 he continued his moves against their practices. In 1836, prompted by Tulloch, Secretary at War Viscount Howick, initiated further wide-ranging inquiries which uncovered wide-ranging fraud on the part of the East India Company, which was forced to agree to supply coffee, tea, sugar, and rice to army units in reparation.
Another interest he took was in sickness and mortality rates in the army. The detailed thorough figures, produced after careful and thorough investigation, he brought to public attention, publishing his findings in a series of statistical tables in Colburn's United Service Magazine in 1835. These findings attracted the attention of Lord Grey, Secretary of State for War who appointed him to a commission, along with Dr Henry Marshall and Dr Balfour, to investigate Indian mortality rates and report to Parliament. Tulloch and his colleagues later produced a four-volume statistical report.
Tulloch also attended the Royal Military College, at Sandhurst, where he achieved a first-class certificate. Promotions followed, to Captain in March 1838, to Major, in March 1838 and to Lieutenant-colonel in May 1844. During this time, he carried out investigations on the sanitary conditions in colonial barracks and also took steps to stamp out pension fraud in his capacity as military superintendent of pensioners. For periods he was on part-time pay only, though his military skills were called upon during the Chartist crisis of 1848; he was one of the army personnel chosen to direct armed opposition to this political movement, which had wide support for its demands for secret ballots, universal suffrage, and other political reforms, all of which were granted in subsequent decades but were viewed by some as dangerously subversive, this in a year when there were violent revolutions all across Europe, and the government were anxious that no such outcome arise in England.
Tulloch was promoted to colonel in June 1854, and appointed with Sir John McNeill to a special commission in 1855, sent to the Crimea to investigate the serious shortcomings, amounting to near-collapse, of the army supply system. This was probably his best-known assignment, finding both a shortage of supplies as well also no effective supply system. Their report, published in 1855 as “Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Supplies of the British Army in the Crimea”, was especially condemnatory of the failure of the commanders in the field to provide for the welfare of their men and singled out a number of senior army commanders including the Earl of Lucan, Lord Airey and the Earl of Cardigan. The Army reacted by jumping to the defence of their comrades, forming a Board of General Officers, convened at Chelsea Hospital “to allow the officers adverted to in the report to have an opportunity of defending themselves”. The Board lacked general credibility, given that its obvious purpose was to exculpate the officers seemingly at any cost; it was generally known as the “Whitewashing Board”. Lucan and Cardigan also carried out a defence of their position in the column of the press, denouncing Tulloch and McNeill. Blame was instead laid at the door of the Treasury. In 1857 Tulloch published a detailed justification of his actions in “The Crimean Commission and the Chelsea Board”, which drew further criticism from Filer but secured parliamentary approval and he he was appointed KCB (knighted) in April 1857.
In 1857 Tulloch gave evidence to a commission inquiring into the state of the army medical department and in 1860–61 chaired a committee examining payments made in England on account of troops stationed in India. He also compiled a report comparing losses through action and sickness among those troops prior to the Mutiny of 1857 with those who arrived for service during the Mutiny. On 9 September 1859 he was promoted to major-general but he was now plagued by ill health and he resigned in 1862. He died in Winchester on 16 May 1864, survived by his wife; he had no children.
Dictionary of National Biography, 1900; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Dictionary of Irish Biography; Christopher Hibbert: The Destruction of Lord Raglan: A Tragedy of the Crimean War, 1854-55 (London, 1961); Cecil Woodham-Smith: The Reason Why, (London 1953); John Sweetman: War and Administration, Edinburgh, 1994.
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