George Wade – an example of a loyal military man, wholly anti Catholic, particularly anti Jacobite. When Wade was commissioned the British monarch was Protestant Dutch William and Mary (of Orange).
You get a feel for the kind of military experience a dedicated soldier would be proud of to climb the ranks as Wade did. It is apparent how appreciated he was in a climate of Protestant fever of superiority with a belief ‘God was on their side’.
Wade’s family were ‘Williamites’ who mostly lived in the north of Ireland but Wade’s family must have fled Ireland to England, since they lived in a predominantly Catholic area.
1690 He was commissioned into the Earl of Bath’s Regiment.
1692 served in Flanders, Battle of Steenkerke (during the Nine Years War)
1693 promoted to lieutenant
1694 Transferred to Sir Bevil Granville’s Regiment
1695 Promoted to Captain
1702 During the War of the Spanish Succession he first served under Marlborough, seeing action in Flanders at the Battle of Kaiserwerth in April 1702, the Battle of Venlo in September 1702, the Battle of Roermond in October 1702 and Battle of Liège also in October 1702.
1703 He was promoted to major on 20 March 1703 and to lieutenant colonel in October 1703.
1704 he joined the staff of Henri de Massue, Earl of Galway as adjutant-general in Portugal, and distinguished himself as colonel of the Huntingdon’s Regiment during the Battle of Alcántara during which he was wounded in April 1706.
1707 He repelled a large force of cavalry at Vila Nova and then commanded the 3rd infantry brigade during the Battle of Almansa in April 1707.
1708 – 1714 He won promotion to brigadier general on 1 January 1708. He served as second-in-command to James Stanhope in Minorca in 1708, leading one of the storming parties on Fort St. Philip, before returning to Spain in 1710, where he fought at the Battle of Saragossa in August 1710. He was promoted to major-general on 3 October 1714 and became commander of the British forces in Ireland in November 1714.
1715 Wade returned home to join in the suppression of the Jacobite rising of 1715 and undertook security duties in Bath, where he unearthed a haul of Jacobite weapons. He entered politics as MP for Hindon in 1715. On 19 March 1717 he became colonel of the Earl of Plymouth’s Regiment of Horse.
1719 he served as second in command to Viscount Cobham during the War of the Quadruple Alliance when Cobham led a force of 4,000 troops on a raid on the Spanish coastline which captured Vigo and occupied it for ten days before withdrawing.
He became MP for Bath in 1722, retaining the seat for 25 years. His house there is now a Grade I listed building.
By now Wade (born 1690) was 32 years of age and Adam Smith was being born in Kircaldy, his father having died before he was born. Smith’s mother’s family were military people and they helped support Adam as he grew up.
1724 The government of George I sent Wade to inspect Scotland . He recommended the construction of barracks, bridges and proper roads to assist in the control of the country.
1725 he was appointed Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s forces, castles, forts and barracks in North Britain, tasked with carrying out his own recommendations. Over the next twelve years Wade directed the construction of some 240 miles (390 km) of roads, plus 30 bridges (including the Tay Bridge at Aberfeldy). General Wade’s military roads linked the garrisons at Ruthven, Fort George, Fort Augustus, and Fort William. This was the route (via boat up the linking lochs, which Columba had used to bring Christianity to the Picts in Northern Scotland).
The Military Roads were built to allow Government forces to deploy rapidly to key locations in the Highlands if there was a Jacobite uprising. More than 250 miles of these roads were built under the command of General Wade linking forts in the Great Glen between Fort William and Inverness and with the road network in the south of Scotland at Dunkeld and Crieff.
Wade also organised a militia named “Highland Watches”, calling on members of the landed gentry to sign up and raising the first six companies in 1725 (three of Campbellsand one each of Frasers, Grants, and Munros). Also in 1725, Wade put down an insurrection after the Government attempted to extend the “Malt tax” to Scotland and enraged citizens in Glasgow drove out the military and destroyed the home of their representative in parliament. He was promoted to lieutenant general on 15 April 1727.
1732 he became Governor of Berwick upon Tweed and on 19 June 1733 he became Governor of Fort William, Fort George and Fort Augustus. He was promoted to general of horse on 17 July 1739.
He raised four more “Highland Watch” companies in 1739; these were subsequently reorganized as the Black Watchregiment. He still had the time to sign his support to the Foundling Hospital which was established in 1739 in London.
1742 he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance and on 24 June 1742 he was appointed a member of the Privy Council.
War of the Austrian Succession (see Part XI)
1743 he became a field marshal with his appointment to the joint command of the Anglo-Austrian force in Flanders against the French in the War of the Austrian Succession. Wade organised an advance towards Lille in July 1744 but the action became stalled in the face of logistical problems.He resigned from his command in March 1745, returning home to become Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.
In October 1745 during the Jacobite rising Wade concentrated his troops in Newcastle upon Tyne on the east coast of England; however, the Jacobite forces advanced from Scotland down the west coast of England via Carlisle into Lancashire and the speed of their advance left Wade scrambling. In freezing conditions and with his men starving, he failed to counter their march into England or their subsequent retreat back from Derby to Scotland; Wade was replaced as Commander-in-Chief by Prince William, Duke of Cumberland who led the army to success at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.
It was because of the difficulties Wade encountered marching his troops cross-country from Newcastle to Carlisle, that he built his Military Road west of Newcastle in 1746, entailing much destruction of Hadrian’s Wall. Wade helped plan the road, but had died before construction began in 1751. His Military Road is still in use today as the B6318; it should not be confused with the Military Way built by the Romans immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall.
Wade received mention in a verse sung as part of God Save the King around 1745:
Lord, grant that Marshal Wade ,
May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring.
May he sedition hush
And, like a torrent, rush
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the King.
3 years after the verse was written, on 14 March 1748 Wade died, unmarried. This verse gradually faded from use after his death.
He is buried at Westminster Abbey where his life is recognised by a monument created by Louis-François Roubiliac.
Adam Smith was 35 when Wade died. Among other military achievements, Wade and his strategic road building finally symbolised victory over the Jacobites by the Protestant Monarchy. Wade had left his mark on Scotland by then. Adam Smith would be aware of the military roads north of the Central Belt, but there is no evidence he ever used those roads, rather turning south, out of Scotland more often than not. No doubt his upbringing would reinforce pride in men like Wade, he was unlikely to harbour romantic notions of Bonnie Prince Charlie.