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Field Marshal Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere GCB GCH KSI PC (14 November 1773 – 21 February 1865), was a British Army officer, diplomat and politician.
As a junior officer he took part in the Flanders Campaign, in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and in the suppression of Robert Emmet's insurrection in 1803. He commanded a cavalry brigade in Sir Arthur Wellesley's Army before being given overall command of the cavalry in the latter stages of the Peninsular War. He went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Ireland and then Commander-in-Chief, India. In the latter role he stormed Bharatpur—a fort which previously had been deemed impregnable. Peninsular War Cotton was elected Member of Parliament for Newark in 1806.
He was deployed to Portugal in April 1809 and commanded a cavalry brigade in Sir Arthur Wellesley's Army. Cotton was both courageous and also splendidly dressed in battle throughout the Peninsular War and was nicknamed the "Lion d' Or" ("Lion of Gold"). He took part in the Second Battle of Porto in May 1809 and the Battle of Talavera in July 1809 and, having succeeded to his father's baronetcy in August 1809, returned home to view his estate.
He returned to Portugal in May 1810 and, having been promoted to the local rank of lieutenant general and given overall command of the cavalry, fought at the Battle of Bussaco in September 1810 and then covered the withdrawal to the Lines of Torres Vedras later that year. After fighting at the Battle of Sabugal in April 1811 and the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro in May 1811, Cotton was promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant general on 1 January 1812.
He took part in the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, where he was second-in command of the Army. During the engagement he successfully led a cavalry charge against Maucune's division, leading Wellington to exclaim, "By God, Cotton, I never saw anything so beautiful in my life; the day is yours." According to Wellington's subsequent despatch, "Cotton made a most gallant and successful charge against a body of the enemy's infantry which they overthrew and cut to pieces."
No good deed goes unpunished. At the end of the battle he was accidentally shot by a Portuguese sentry. This fellow:
In recognition of his gallantry he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Bath on 21 August 1812 and an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and Sword on 11 March 1813 (Stapleton, not the Portuguese sentry)
Cotton went on to fight at the Battle of the Pyrenees in July 1813, the Battle of Orthez in February 1814 and the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814. For these services he was raised to the peerage as Baron Combermere in the county palatine of Chester on 3 May 1814 and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 4 January 1815.