1734 – Born on October 7, 1734, he was the eldest son of George Abercromby of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire.
1754 – Educated at Rugby and the University of Edinburgh, he was sent to Leipzig to study civil law, with a view to his proceeding to the Scottish bar.
1756 – On returning from the continent he expressed a strong preference for the military profession, and a cornet’s commission was accordingly obtained for him (March 1756) in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He served with his regiment in the Seven Years’ War, and the opportunity thus afforded him of studying the methods of Frederick the Great moulded his military character and formed his tactical ideas.
1773-1781 – He rose through the intermediate grades to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the regiment (1773) and brevet colonel in 1780, and in 1781 he became colonel of the King’s Irish infantry.
1793 – When France declared war against Great Britain in 1793, he hastened to resume his professional duties. Being esteemed one of the ablest and most intrepid officers in the whole British forces, he was appointed to the command of a brigade under the Duke of York, for service in the Netherlands. He commanded the advanced guard in the action at Le Cateau, and was wounded at Nijmegen.
1794-1795 – The duty fell to him of protecting the British army in its disastrous retreat out of Holland, in the winter of 1794-1795. In 1795, he received the honour of a Knighthood of the Bath, in acknowledgment of his services. The same year he was appointed to succeed Sir Charles Grey, as commander-in-chief of the British forces in the West Indies.
1796 – Grenada was suddenly attacked and taken by a detachment of the army under his orders. Abercromby afterwards obtained possession of the settlements of Demerara and Essequibo, in South America, and of the islands of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Trinidad.
1797-1798 – On April 17, 1797, Abercromby, with a force of 7,000-13,000 men, which included German mercenary soldiers and Royal Marines and a 60 to 64 ship armada, invaded the island of Puerto Rico. Captain General Don Ramón de Castro and his forces consisting, among other, of the Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico and the Milicias Disciplinadas, mostly Puerto Rican born, repelled the attack. On April 30, after two weeks of fierce combat, which included prolonged artillery exchanges and even hand to hand combat, unable to overcome San Juan’s first line of defense, Abercromby withdrew. This was to be one of the largest invasions to Spanish territories in the Americas. He held the chief command of the forces in Ireland. There he laboured to maintain the discipline of the army, to suppress the rising rebellion, and to protect the people from military oppression, with the care worthy of a great general and an enlightened and beneficent statesman. When he was appointed to the command in Ireland, an invasion of that country by the French was confidently anticipated by the British government.
1799 – After holding for a short period the office of commander-in-chief in Scotland, Sir Ralph, when the enterprise against the Dutch Batavian Republic was resolved upon in 1799, was again called to command under the duke of York. The campaign of 1799 ended in disaster, but friend and foe alike confessed that the most decisive victory could not have more conspicuously proved the talents of this distinguished officer.
1801 – His country applauded the choice when he was sent with an army to dispossess the French of Egypt. His experience in the Netherlands and the West Indies particularly fitted him for this new command, as was proved by his carrying his army in health, in spirits and with the requisite supplies, in spite of very great difficulties, to the destined scene of action. The debarkation of the troops at Abukir, in the face of strenuous opposition, is justly ranked among the most daring and brilliant exploits of the British army. On March 28, 1801, he was struck by a spent ball, which could not be extracted, and died seven days after the battle, aboard HMS Foudroyant, which was moored in the harbour.