|MAJOR-GENERAL SIR HERBERT TAYLOR
MACPHERSON, VC, GCB, KCSI
A cdv photo of Major-General Sir Herbert Taylor MacPherson, V.C., K.C.
B., K.C.S.I. by the noted London photographers Elliott & Fry taken
between 1872 and 1876.
Herbert Taylor MacPherson was born on the 27th of February, 1827, at
Ardersier, Invernessshire, the youngest son of Lt.-Colonel Duncan
MacPherson, then late of the 78th Highlanders. He was commissioned as
an Ensign in the 78th Highlanders (after 1881 known as the Seaforth
Highlanders [Ross-shire Buffs]) in 1845 and promoted Lieutenant in
Lieutenant MacPherson first saw active service with 78th Highlanders in
the Persian campaign. He participated in the expedition to Barazoom,
the night attack on, and the battle of, Kooshab where the Persian army
was put to flight, and the bombardment of Mohummorah.
Upon the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, the 78th Highlanders joined
General Havelock’s column marching from Allahabad to the relief of
Cawnpore and the Residency at Lucknow. As a Lieutenant and Adjutant,
Herbert MacPherson was present at all of the battles, which were
fought with the Oude mutineers under the rebel leader Nana Sahib. By
the time the column had traveled the 126 miles from Allahabad to
Cawnpore they had fought and won four separate victories over the
Lieutenant MacPherson was wounded at the battle of Onao, but
continued with the column and saw service in the engagements at
Buscorutgungo, Boorbeakechowkee and Bithoor.
On the 25th of September, 1857, in the actions before Lucknow,
Lieutenant MacPherson set an example of heroic gallantry to the men of
his regiment at the period of the action in which they captured two
brass 9-pounders at the point of the bayonet. For this act of gallantry,
Lieutenant MacPherson was awarded the Victoria Cross. (London Gazette
18 June 1858.) He was promoted Captain on the 6th of October, 1857,
following the first relief of the besieged Residency at Lucknow.
As the first relief of the Residency was in reality no more than a badly
needed reinforcement column, Captain MacPherson remained with
General Outram’s forces in the defense of the building known as the
Alumbagh in Lucknow, taking part in several defensive actions, until the
second relief of Residency in November of 1857 by the troops under
the command of Sir Colin Campbell. Captain MacPherson was made a
Brevet Major on the 20th of February, 1858, and served as Brigade
Major during the final capture of the city of Lucknow. During the
suppression of the Mutiny, Brevet Major MacPherson was wounded three
times on three separate occasions. For his service in the Indian Mutiny
MacPherson received the medal with clasp, was awarded the Victoria
Cross, promoted to Brevet Major and was entitled to count one
additional year service.
Following the cessation of hostilities in India, Brevet Major MacPherson
returned with his regiment to England. In 1859, he married the
daughter of Major-General James Eckford, C.B.
Herbert MacPherson was promoted to Major on the 28th of February, 1865. He transferred to the Bengal Staff Corps in the
same year. He was made a Brevet Lt. Colonel in March of 1867, and in 1868 he served in the Hazara or Black Mountain
campaign for which he received the India General Service medal with clasp. He was made a Commander of the Order of the
Bath in August of 1869.
In 1871, having been promoted to Lt. Colonel in February of that year, he again saw service on the frontier, this time in the
Looshi campaign. For his services he received a clasp to his India General Service medal and was given a promotion to Brevet
In 1876, Colonel MacPherson was given command of the Lahore Division in India with the local rank of Brigadier-General. In
1877 he was given a command in the Jowaki campaign, taking a prominent part in the forcing of the Bori Pass, which was the
principal incident in that campaign against the Afridis for which he received an third clasp to his IGS medal. During these
military operations his reputation as a brave officer and a competent commander of troops continued to grow.
MacPherson, holding the local rank of Brigadier-General, was appointed to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the
Khyber Column upon the outbreak of the 2nd Afghan War in 1878. He was present at the capture of Ali Musjid and the
subsequent expeditions into the Lughman and Kama valleys. After the renewal of hostilities following the Kabul massacre in
1879, MacPherson was appointed by Lord Roberts to command the 1st Brigade of the Kabul and Kabul-Kandahr Field Forces
with the temporary rank of Major-General. The 1st Brigade participated in the British victory over the Afghan forces at the
battle of Charasiab which opened the road for the army’s advance seven days later to the Afghan capital of Kabul and in the
subsequent occupation of Kabul.
In December of 1879, MacPherson commanded variously constituted forces in the operations around Kabul, including the defeat
of the Kohistanis at Karez Mir and the assault of the Takhi-I-Shah. In April of 1889, the troops under MacPherson came to
the aid of Colonel Jenkins, winning a decisive final victory over the forces of Mohammed Jan at the second battle of Charasiab.
In August of 1880, Major-General MacPherson again commanded the 1st Division, this time in Lord Robert’s famous march from
Kabul to the relief of the British forces at Kandahar and the subsequent battle of Kandahar, where the 1st Brigade lead the
As a reward for his distinguished services in the Afghan campaign, Herbert MacPherson was five times mentioned in dispatches,
made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) and received a four clasp medal and the Kabul to Kandahar Star.
On the 1st of July, 1882, Herbert MacPherson was promoted to Major-General in the Army. On the 10th of July, 1882, he
was ordered to command the Indian Division ordered to Egypt as result of the Arabi’s revolt. General Sir MacPherson
commanded the Indian Division in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, the stronghold of Arabi Pasha. The Indian Division participated
in the nighttime advance against the entrenched position of rebel forces and the surprise attack launched at first light. After
the fall of Tel-el-Kebir, the Indian Division by a forced march of thirty miles quickly occupied the nearby important
commercial town of Zagazig.
For his services in the Egypt campaign, Major-General MacPherson was twice mentioned in dispatches, received the thanks of
both Houses of Parliament, was made a Knight Commander of the Star of India (K.C.S.I.) and a member of the 2nd Class Order
of the Medjidie and received the Egypt medal with clasp and the Khedive’s Star.
Following his return to India, in 1885 Major-General MacPherson was given command of the Madras Army as the successor to
In August of 1886 Major-General MacPherson personally led an expedition to Burma to pacify the insurgents in Upper Burma,
an area which had only recently been annexed. In October, his physicians suggested a short sea cruise in order to help cure the
fever General MacPherson was suffering from. On the 20th of October, while on board the steamer Irrawandi which had left
Prone, Major-General Macpherson died of fever. His body was taken by a special train from Prone to Rangoon where he was
buried the following day in the Military Cantonment Cemetery.
Herbert Taylor MacPherson’s Victoria Cross is on display at the Highlander Museum at Fort George, Ardersier, Scotland.
His nephew, Colonel James Duncan MacPherson's medals are in Tim's collection