ARMSTRONG, Sir RICHARD, army officer; b. c. 1782 in Lincoln, England, only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Armstrong; m. 3 Nov. 1803 Elizabeth Champion in Edgbaston (Birmingham), England, and they had at least two daughters; d. 3 March 1854 at sea en route from India to England.
Richard Armstrong entered the British army as an ensign on 23 June 1796 and was made captain in the 9th Battalion of Reserve on 9 July 1803. On 31 Jan. 1805 he was appointed to the 8th Veteran Battalion and on 7 July 1808 he joined the 97th Foot. He served on the Iberian Peninsula from August 1808 to the end of the campaign in 1814, during which period he attained the brevet rank of major (30 May 1811) and then the rank of lieutenant-colonel (26 Aug. 1813). He saw service in many battle areas, and while commanding Portuguese regiments in the Pyrenees in 1813 was severely wounded in the arm. He continued in the service of Portugal for six years after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars and was remembered with affection by many friends in that country. Armstrong served as a brigadier in the first Burmese War, in the campaigns of 1825–26. He stormed and carried the stockades near Prome (Pye) on 1–5 Dec. 1825. He was promoted colonel on 22 July 1830 and knighted a year later for his military services.
Armstrong was appointed to the army’s general staff in Canada in 1841 with the rank of major-general. In July 1842 he succeeded Lieutenant-General John Clitherow as commander of the forces in Canada West, with headquarters in Kingston, then the provincial capital. The forces stationed there under Armstrong included royal engineers, companies of artillery, infantry regiments, officials of the commissariat, and detachments of the medical department, ranging in total strength from about 900 to 1,000. As commander, Armstrong was also responsible for a host of routine administrative matters: transmitting reports on accidental deaths, arguing with Ordnance officers about moth-eaten greatcoats, negotiating deals with deserters, making good the debts of officers, issuing promotions, and responding to officers’ requests for ensigncies for their sons.
During his six years in Kingston, Armstrong made a very favourable impression on the populace through his involvement in the community. On 27 Feb. 1844, for instance, he took personal command of the fire-fighting efforts when the Globe Hotel burned, and on 21 November of that year he sat beside Mayor Thomas Weeks Robison at the opening of the new town hall and market building [see George Browne*]. Between 300 and 400 people were present at the ceremonies, with music provided by the 14th Foot. In 1846 the Philharmonic Society was founded under the presidency of Armstrong and it flourished until 1849, the year following his departure.
In late September 1848 he left Kingston for New York, where he boarded the Europa and sailed back to England. On 16 September Edward John Barker*, the editor of the British Whig, had written: “His unostentatious manners, his urbanity and kindness of disposition, the willingness with which he lent his name in aid of all kinds of public undertakings and amusements, his charity and good feeling, have all conspired to render him most extremely popular, and to cause his departure from Kingston to be regretted as a severe loss, a feeling assuaged only by the recollection that the illness from which the gallant soldier has suffered recently, will be entirely removed by the change in air and clime.” He was followed as commander at Kingston by Major-General William Rowan*.
In 1849 Armstrong was gazetted colonel of the 95th Foot and a year later he became colonel of the 32nd Foot. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Madras presidency in 1851 and that November was promoted lieutenant-general. A knight commander of the Portuguese orders of St Benedict of Avis and of the Tower and Sword, he was made a kcb in 1852. His continued ill health forced him to resign his command in Madras in early 1854. He died on his homeward voyage on board the Barham on 3 March at the age of 72. Under the terms of his will he left sums of money to various relatives as well as a number of leasehold houses in London to his daughter Emma Champion Roberts.
Birmingham Reference Library (Birmingham, Eng.), Reg. of marriages for the parish of St Bartholomew, Edgbaston [Birmingham], 3 Nov. 1803. PAC, RG 8, I (C ser.). PRO, PROB 11/2189/27. Annual Reg. (London), 1854: 273–74. Gentleman’s Magazine, 1803: 1085; July–December 1833: 380; July–December 1854: 191. British Whig, 30 Jan. 1844; 9, 16 Sept. 1848. Chronicle & Gazette, 23 Nov. 1844. Times (London), 13 April 1854. G.B., WO, Army list, 1805–6. Hart’s army list, 1853. Peter Kemp, The British sailor: a social history of the lower deck (London, 1970). A. M. Machar, The story of old Kingston (Toronto, 1908). J. A. Roy, Kingston: the king’s town (Toronto, 1952). J. [W.] Spurr, “The Kingston Garrison, 1815–1870,” Historic Kingston, no.20 (1972): 14–34.