Gough, Sir Hugh (1779–1869), 1st Viscount Gough , field marshal, was born 3 November 1779 at Woodstown, Co. Limerick, fourth son of Lt-col. George Gough and his wife Letitia (née Bunbury) of Moyle, Co. Carlow. Educated by private tutors, he joined the Limerick Militia, his father's regiment, as an ensign in 1793. After service in two other militia regiments, he transferred into the 78th Highlanders in June 1795 with the rank of lieutenant. He served with this regiment at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. Transferring to the 87th Foot (Royal Irish Fusiliers), he campaigned in the West Indies and was present at the attack on Porto Rico and the capture of Trinidad (1797). Returning to England in 1803, he was appointed commander of a new company of the 87th formed of men from Galway and Tipperary, and became a major in 1805. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel in July 1809, he campaigned with Arthur Wellesley (qv) in the Peninsular war, commanding the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the battles of Talavera, Barrosa, and Vittoria. His regiment succeeded in capturing both a French eagle standard and a marshal's baton in the campaign. When Marshal Laval attacked Tarifa (October 1811), Gough and his men prevented the French exploiting a breach in the town's defences. At the battle of Nivelle (November 1813) he was badly wounded. Knighted in June 1815, he was later given the freedom of the city of Dublin and presented with a commemorative sword.
After a period on half pay Gough was given command of the 22nd Foot (1819) and posted with his regiment to Ireland. He also served as a magistrate in Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary. Promoted to major-general in July 1830, he was made a KCB in the following year. In 1837 he was appointed to command the Mysore division of the Madras army, but travelled to China in March 1841 to command the British and Indian forces engaged in the first opium war (1839–42), becoming lieutenant-general; his capture of Chinkang-Foo led to the treaty of Nanking. He was made a GCB and a baronet and received the thanks of parliament for his services in China. In August 1843 he was appointed commander-in-chief in India, and in this capacity defeated a Mahratta army at Maharajpore in December. He remained in command during the first (1845–6) and second (1848–9) Sikh wars, defeating the Sikh army at Moodkee, Ferozeshah, and Sobraon. While his reputation suffered after the bloody and inconclusive battle of Chillianwallah in January 1849, his victory at Gujarat (21 February 1849) resulted in the successful conclusion of the these wars and led to the annexation of the Punjab.
Gough returned to England in May 1849 and was created viscount in June and awarded a pension of £2,000 a year. Numerous other honours were showered on him, including an East India Company pension and the freedom of the city of London. He became full general (1854) and colonel of the Royal Horse Guards (1855). Travelling to the Crimea in the following year to represent Queen Victoria, he invested Marshal Pelissier and some British officers with the insignia of the Order of the Bath. In 1857 he was created a Knight of the Order of St Patrick, the first knight of the order not to hold an Irish peerage. He became a privy counsellor (1859) and a field-marshal (1862). Towards the end of his life he edited his letters and dispatches for publication, spending his last years quietly at his Dublin residence, St Helen's, Booterstown, Co. Dublin. He died 2 March 1869 and was buried at Stillorgan churchyard in the family vault. At the time of his death Gough was the most senior field-marshal and had commanded the army at more general actions than any other officer, with the exception of Wellington. During his career he was often criticised for his ‘Tipperary tactics’: a reliance on costly frontal assaults, such as at Chillianwallah. However, later commentators recognised that the Sikh army was the most formidable and disciplined on the sub-continent, and that such casualties were probably inevitable. Despite his tactics, Gough was much admired by his men and fellow officers for his courage and bluff geniality: Wellington praised him as ‘affording the brightest example of the highest qualities of the British soldier’ (Fortescue, xii, 473).
Gough married (1807) Frances Maria Stephens (d. 1863); they had four daughters, and their eldest surviving son, Capt. George Stephens Gough (1815–95), Grenadier Guards, succeeded as 2nd Viscount Gough of Gujerat. There are Gough papers in the NLI. A Sikh cannon, presented by Gough to the Dargan collection, is on display at the NMI, Collins Barracks, Dublin. An equestrian statue of Field-marshal Gough was unveiled in the Phoenix Park in February 1880; it was defaced on several occasions and finally destroyed in July 1957.