Napier, Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 40
Napier, Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers

by Henry Manners Chichester

NAPIER, EDWARD DELAVAL HUNGERFORD ELERS (1808–1870), lieutenant-general and author, born in 1808, was elder son of Edward Elers, lieutenant in the royal navy, who was grandson of Paul Elers [see Elers, John Philip], and died in 1814. His mother, Frances Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant George Younghusband, R.N., married in 1815—after her first husband's death—Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir) Charles Napier [q. v.], who adopted her four children, the latter taking the name of Napier in addition to that of Elers.

Edward was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and on 11 Aug. 1825 was appointed ensign in the 46th foot, in which he became lieutenant on 11 Oct. 1826, and captain on 21 June 1831. He served with his regiment in India, and was present with the nizam's subsidiary force at the siege of Haidarabad in 1830. The regiment returned home in 1833, and in 1836 Napier entered the senior department of the Royal Military College, but left in 1837, before passing his examination, on the regiment being ordered to Gibraltar. He commanded the light company for several years. While at Gibraltar he made frequent excursions into Spain and Barbary in pursuit of field sports, and also took a cruise in his stepfather's ship, the Powerful, 84 guns, in which he visited Constantinople and Asia Minor, and acquired a knowledge of Levantine countries, which led to his subsequent employment on special service there. At this time he published some ‘Remarks on the Troad,’ which attracted attention, and presented a highly finished map of the locality, from his own surveys, to the Royal Geographical Society, London. He obtained his majority on 11 Oct. 1839. When the British fleet was engaged on the coast of Syria in 1840, Napier was sent out with the local rank of lieutenant-colonel and assistant adjutant-general, and was despatched to the Nablous Mountains to keep the Druse and Maronite chiefs firm in their allegiance to the sultan. In the depth of winter, which was very severe in the mountains, he collected a force of fifteen hundred irregular cavalry, whom he declared to be ‘as ruffianly a lot of cut-throats as ever a Christian gentleman had command of,’ with which he watched Ibrahim Pasha, the leader of the Egyptians, who had opened hostilities with the Turks, so closely that Ibrahim retreated through the desert east and south of Palestine instead of occupying Jerusalem and ravaging the settled country round about as he had intended; but Napier's cut-throats, coming suddenly upon an outpost of Ibrahim's cavalry, shortly afterwards decamped, leaving Napier and three other Europeans to themselves. Napier repaired to the Turkish headquarters, where he was appointed military commissioner, but the convention of Alexandria put an end to the war. In January 1841 Napier was despatched to bring back the chiefs of the Lebanon, whom Ibrahim Pasha had sent to work in the gold mines of Sennaars, a service he successfully completed. He had not long rejoined the 46th at Gibraltar when he was despatched to Egypt by the foreign office to demand the release of the Syrian troops detained by Mahomet Ali, and to conduct them to Beyrout. In this mission he was also successful. It occupied him from May to September 1841, during which time the plague was raging in Alexandria. He escaped the pestilence, but contracted the seeds of ophthalmia, which caused him much suffering in after years. For his services in Syria and Egypt he was made brevet lieutenant-colonel from 31 Dec. 1841, and received the Syrian medal and a gold medal from the Sultan. Being reported medically unfit to accompany his regiment to the West Indies, he retired on half-pay unattached in 1843, and afterwards resided some time in Portugal. In 1846 he was sent to the Cape with other special service field officers to organise the native levies, and commanded bodies of irregulars during the Kaffir war of 1846–7. He became brevet-colonel, while still on half-pay, on 20 June 1854. Admiral Sir Charles Napier, then in command of the Baltic fleet, applied to Lord Hardinge for the services of his stepson as British military commissioner with the French force in the Baltic under General Baraguay d'Hilliers, but the letter was never answered, and Napier's applications for employment in the Crimea were not accepted. With characteristic energy he did much good work during the first winter in the Crimea in collecting funds for warm clothing for the troops, and personally superintending its shipment. He became a major-general on 26 Oct. 1858, was appointed colonel of the 61st regiment in 1864, was promoted to lieutenant-general on 3 Oct. 1864, and transferred to the colonelcy of his old corps, the 46th, on 22 Feb. 1870.

Napier married in 1844 Ellen Louisa, heiress of Thomas Daniel, of the Madras civil service, by whom he had two children. He died at Westhill, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, on 19 June 1870, aged 63. Napier was a man of literary and artistic ability, and a frequent and very practical writer in the public press and elsewhere on professional topics. Besides contributing to the magazines, chiefly ‘Bailey's’ and the ‘United Service Magazine,’ for over twenty years, he was author of the following works: 1. ‘Scenes and Sports in Foreign Lands,’ 2 vols. 1840. 2. ‘Excursions on the Shores of the Mediterranean,’ 2 vols. 1842. 3. ‘Reminiscences of Syria,’ 1843. 4. ‘Wild Sports in Europe, Asia, and Africa,’ 1844. 5. ‘Excursions in South Africa, including a History of the Cape Colony’ (‘Book of the Cape’), 1849. 6. ‘Life and Correspondence of Admiral Sir Charles Napier,’ 1862.

[Hart's Army Lists; Life of Admiral Sir Charles Napier, London, 1862; Memoir in Colburn's United Service Mag., August 1870.]

H. M. C.