WELSFORD, AUGUSTUS FREDERICK, army officer; b. 7 March 1811 in Windsor, N.S., son of John Welsford and Mary Marchinton; d. 8 Sept. 1855 near Sevastopol (U.S.S.R.).
Augustus Frederick Welsford was named after, and was the godson of, the sixth son of George III, Augustus Frederick, under whom his father, an officer in the 101st Foot, had served. After his father’s death on active service in 1813, his mother, the daughter of wealthy Halifax merchant Philip Marchinton*, took the child for a prolonged stay in England, where he may have gone to preparatory school. The two returned to Halifax to live in 1820 and Welsford probably attended the Halifax Grammar School before entering King’s College, Windsor, in September 1828.
At King’s, Welsford is usually portrayed as a lover of the classics wandering the halls reciting “the stirring lines of Greek and Latin Poets.” One dimension of his life there, however, has hitherto gone unnoticed. In July 1829 he was one of five students who, though they were not proved guilty, refused to sign a pledge swearing their innocence of charges arising from a series of incidents at the college which included an explosion of gunpowder under the principal’s porch. Welsford’s punishment for this refusal was to be deprived of four terms (one school year), and to be expelled for four more. He probably returned to the college in September 1830 and stayed until the next July, thus completing one year.
After leaving King’s, Welsford followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the British army. His first commission, dated 24 Feb. 1832, was in the 97th Foot, in which regiment he remained, attaining the rank of major in June 1850. All his promotions were purchased, with at least some of the money coming from the sale of properties in Nova Scotia which had belonged to his grandfather, of whose estate Welsford, through his mother, was a legatee.
Welsford went through the usual round of postings in the United Kingdom and in the colonies, including a stint in Halifax from 1848 to 1853. While stationed there, he pursued his hobby as an amateur painter. In November 1854, after the Crimean War had broken out between Great Britain and Russia, he and his regiment were sent to join the forces besieging the city of Sevastopol. Welsford was mentioned in dispatches that December for resisting, with 200 men, a determined Russian sortie. On 8 Sept. 1855 he commanded a ladder party in the initial wave of an unsuccessful assault on the Great Redan, a large projecting fortification of the eastern defences of the city. He crossed a broad open space and a ditch in front of the work and proceeded to climb one of the ladders which had been placed against the counterscarp; but, as he rose above the lip of an embrasure at the top, a gun was fired from within which blew his head off. Judging from a number of accounts written then and later, Welsford was highly regarded in his regiment, and his death was much regretted. Another Nova Scotian officer, William Buck Carthew Augustus Parker, the great grandson of Benjamin Green*, successfully scaled the counterscarp, got inside the work, and made a vain attempt to stem the mounting British retreat before a hail of bullets swept him into the ditch.
On 17 July 1860 these two Nova Scotian officers, seen as imperial heroes, were commemorated by the unveiling of the Welsford Parker Monument in St Paul’s Cemetery, Halifax. Built by George Lang* of free-stone in the form of a triumphal arch, surmounted by the British lion, this monument was financed partly through private subscription and partly by a grant from the Nova Scotia legislature.
Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), Estate papers, nos.1–40 (mfm. at PANS). PANS, MG 100, 24, no.28. Univ. of King’s College Arch. (Halifax), Minutes of the Board of Governors, 2 (1815–35): 126–48 (mfm. at PANS). Gentleman’s Magazine, July–December 1855: 554. G. W. Hill, [Oration at the] inauguration of the Welsford and Parker monument at Halifax, on Tuesday, 17th July, 1860 (Halifax, 1860). Catherine Marsh, Memorials of Captain Hedley Vicars, Ninety-Seventh Regiment (London, 1856). W. H. Russell, The war (2v., London, 1856), 2. British Colonist (Halifax), 19 July 1860. Daily Sun (Halifax), 22–23 Oct. 1855. Illustrated London News, 3 Nov. 1855. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 3 Nov. 1855. Novascotian, 24 Dec. 1855. Times (London), 3, 30 Oct. 1855. Harper, Early painters and engravers. Hart’s army list, 1855. E. P. Wainwright, “Augustus Frederick Welsford, 1811–1855” (typescript, [Halifax, 1968); copy at PANS). “The ‘Welsford–Parker’ monument in Halifax, Nova Scotia,” Soc. for Army Hist. Research, Journal (London), 8 (1929): 129–31.