Cameron, John (1773-1844) (DNB00)

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CAMERON, Sir JOHN (1773–1844), general, was the second son of John Cameron of Calchenna, and nephew of John Cameron of Caltort, the head of a branch of the great clan Cameron, and a descendant of Lochiel. He was born on 3 Jan. 1773; was educated at Eton, and on 25 April 1787 received his first commission as an ensign in the 43rd regiment. On 30 Sept. 1790 he was promoted lieutenant, and on 11 July 1794 captain in the same regiment. In 1793 his regiment was one of those which formed Sir Charles Grey's expedition to the West Indies; he was present at the capture of the islands of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe, and was especially distinguished at the storming of Fort Fleur d'épée in the latter island, where he won his captaincy. In 1794 Sir Charles Grey returned to England, in the belief that his West Indian conquests were safe, and the 43rd regiment, which had been so reduced by sickness that Cameron, though only & junior captain, commanded it, formed part of the garrison of the Berville camp under Brigadier-general Graham, who had been left in charge of the island of Guadeloupe. Victor Hugues, the commissioner of the French republic in the West Indies, then organised an army out of the beaten French soldiers, the negro slaves, and the Caribs, reconquered St. Lucia, and in the autumn of 1794 attacked Guadeloupe. His first assault upon the Berville Camp on 30 Sept. was unsuccessful, but, on 4 Oct. the camp was carried, and Cameron was wounded and made prisoner. He remained in France as a prisoner of war for more than two years, but in 1797 was exchanged, and immediately rejoined his regiment in the West Indies. There he remained till 1800, when he was promoted major, and brought his regiment home, after it, had suffered terrible losses from the West Indian climate. On 28 May 1807 Cameron was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 7th West India regiment, and on 5 Sept, of the same year exchanged into the 9th regiment. In July 1808 he set sail for Portugal with the expedition under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and the 9th and 29th regiments were on disembarking brigaded together as the 3rd brigade under Brigadier-general Catlin Craufurd. This brigade bore the brunt, of the battle of Roliça, for it had to charge and carry the strong position of Laborde in front, and in so doing Colonel Stewart, of the 2nd battalion of the 9th, was killed, and Cameron succeeded to the command of the regiment. With it he served at the battle of Vimeiro, in the advance to Salamanca, and the disastrous retreat to Corunna, and then returned to England at its head. From July to September 1809 he commanded the 1st battalion in the Walcheren expedition, and in March 1810 returned to Portugal at the head of the 2nd battalion of the 9th, which he commanded until the end of the Peninsular war. At the Battle of Busaco on 27 Sept. 1810 he was particularly distinguished; the picked regiments of Reynier'e corps d'armee had driven in the right of the 3rd division, and established themselves in the be very heart of the British position. General Leith ordered up his 1st brigade to drive off the enemy, but the ground was too rugged for them to advance. "Meanwhile," to quote the words of Sir William Napier, "Colonel Cameron, informed by a staff officer of the critical state of affairs, formed the 9th regiment in line under a violent fire, and, without returning a single shot, ran in upon and drove the grenadiers from the rocks with irresistible bravery, plying them with a destructive musketry as long as they could be reached, and yet with excellent discipline refraining from pursuit, lest the crest of the position should be again lost, for the mountain was so rugged that it was impossible to judge clearly of the general state of the action" (Napier, Peninsular War, book xi. chap. 7). Cameron afterwards commanded his regiment at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro, the siege of Badajoz, the battle of Salamanca, the affair with the French rear guard at Osma on 18 June 1813, and the battle of Vittoria, on all of which occasions it formed a part of the 2nd brigade of the 5th division under General Leith. At the siege o San Sebastian the 9th carried the convent of San Bartholomé on 17 July 1813, when Cameron was wounded; it was engaged in the attempt of 25 July to storm San Sebastian, and in the successful assault of 31 Aug., when Cameron was again wounded, and during the siege operations his regiment lost two-thirds of its officers and three-fourths of its soldiers, In the invasion of France, as in the advance upon Vittoria, the 5th division formed the extreme left of the army; the 9th regiment led the division across the Bidassoa and in the attack on the French position, in the battle of the Nivelle, and in the fiercely contested battles of 9, 10, and 11 Dec. before Bayonne, which are known as the bottle of the Nive. In these three days the 9th regiment lost 300 men; on 10 Dec. it was completely surrounded, but charged back to the main army, and took 400 prisoners, and on 11 Dec. Cameron had his horse killed under him when reconnoitring the village of Anglet. The loss of the regiment in 1813 exceeded that of any other regiment in the Peninsula, amounting to 41 officers and 646 men killed and wounded. Cameron was not present at Orthes or Toulouse but was engaged until the end of the war in Sir John Hope's operations before Bayonne. On the conclusion of peace he received many rewards. On 4 June 1814 he was promoted colonel, and on the extension of the order of the Bath in January 1815 he was made one of the first K.C.B.'s; he was also made a knight of the Tower and Sword of Portugal, and received a gold cross with three clasps in commemoration of the six battles and one siege at which he had commanded his regiment. In 1814 he commanded his regiment in Canada, where he acted as brigadier-general and commandant of the garrison of Kingston until 1815, when he received the command of a brigade in the army of occupation in France. On 19 July 1821 Cameron was promoted major-general, and commanded the western district from 1823 to 1883, in which year he was appointed colonel of the 9th regiment, which be had so long commanded. On 10 Jan. 1837 he was promoted lieutenant-general; and on 23 Nov. 1844 died at Guernsey. He married a Miss Brock, niece of the first Lord de Saumarez, when stationed in Guernsey in 1803, by whom he had a son, Sir Duncan Cameron, G.C.B., who commanded the Black Watch at the battle of Balaclava, and afterwards the highland brigade in the Crimea.

[Royal Military Calendar; Regimental Record of the 9th Regiment; Wellington Despatches; Napier's Peninsular War; information contributed by General Sir Duncan Cameron, G. C. B.]

H. M. S.