Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/De Lancey, William Howe

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DE LANCEY, Sir WILLIAM HOWE (1781?–1815), colonel, quartermaster-general's staff, belonged to a family of New York loyalists of Huguenot descent. He was son of Stephen De Lancey, who was clerk of the city and county of Albany in 1785, lieutenant-colonel of the 1st New Jersey loyal volunteers in 1782, afterwards chief justice of the Bahamas, and in 1796 governor of Tobago; and who married Cornelia, daughter of the Rev. H. Barclay of Trinity Church, New York. Young De Lancey obtained a cornetcy in the 16th light dragoons on 7 July 1792, and became lieutenant on 26 Feb. 1793. His name appears in the returns for a short time as adjutant at Sheffield. He purchased an independent company on 25 March 1794, and was transferred to the newly raised 80th foot, which he accompanied to the East Indies in 1795. On 20 Oct. 1796 he was transferred to a troop in the 17th light dragoons, of which his uncle, General Oliver De Lancey [q. v.], was then colonel, but appears to have remained some time after in the East Indies. In 1799 he was in command of a detached troop of the 17th in Kent, and on 17 Oct. in that year was appointed major in the 45th foot, the headquarters of which were then in the West Indies. He appears to have been detained on service in Europe until the return home of the regiment, soon after which, in 1802, he was transferred to the permanent staff of the quartermaster-general's department as deputy-assistant quartermaster-general. No departmental record of his services is extant. He was stationed for some time at York and in Ireland, and afterwards proceeded to Spain, and as assistant quartermaster-general, and later as deputy quartermaster-general, with various divisions of the Peninsular army, rendered valuable service throughout the campaigns from 1809 to 1814. He was mentioned in despatches for his conduct at the passage of the Douro and capture of Oporto in 1809 (Gurwood, iii. 229); at the siege and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1811 (ib. v. 476); and at Vittoria in 1813, when he was deputy quartermaster-general with Sir Thomas Graham (ib. vi. 542). After the peace he was created K.C.B. On 4 April 1815 he married Magdalene, second daughter of Sir James Hall, fourth baronet of Dunglass, and sister of Captain Basil Hall [q. v.] On the return of Napoleon from Elba, De Lancey was appointed deputy quartermaster-general of the army in Belgium, and on 18 June 1815 received his mortal wound at Waterloo. The Duke of Wellington gave the following version of the occurrence to Samuel Rogers: ‘De Lancey was with me, and speaking to me when he was struck. We were on a point of land that overlooked the plain. I had just been warned off by some soldiers (but as I saw well from it, and two divisions were engaging below, I said “Never mind”), when a ball came bounding along en ricochet, as it is called, and, striking him on the back, sent him many yards over the head of his horse. He fell on his face, and bounded upwards and fell again. All the staff dismounted and ran to him, and when I came up he said, “Pray tell them to leave me and let me die in peace.” I had him conveyed to the rear, and two days after, on my return from Brussels, I saw him in a barn, and he spoke with such strength that I said (for I had reported him killed), “Why! De Lancey, you will have the advantage of Sir Condy in ‘Castle Rackrent’—you will know what your friends said of you after you were dead.” “I hope I shall,” he replied. Poor fellow! We knew each other ever since we were boys. But I had no time to be sorry. I went on with the army, and never saw him again’ (Recollections of Samuel Rogers, under ‘Waterloo’). A week later De Lancey succumbed to his injuries in a peasant's cottage in the village of Waterloo, where he was tenderly nursed by his young wife, who had joined him in Brussels a few days before the battle. Rogers, in a note, states that he was killed by ‘the wind of the shot,’ his skin not being broken. Lady de Lancey left a manuscript account of his last days, which was published in 1906 under the title of ‘A Week at Waterloo in June 1815.’ De Lancey was buried in the St. Josse Ten Noode cemetery, on the Louvain road, a mile from Brussels, and when that cemetery was destroyed in 1889 his remains were reinterred in the cemetery of Evere, three miles N.E. of Brussels. Lady de Lancey married again in 1817 Captain Henry Harvey, Madras infantry, who retired in 1821. She died in 1822, leaving issue (see Gent. Mag. vol. lxxxix. pt. i. p. 368, vol. cii. pt. ii. p. 168). A sister of De Lancey, widow of Colonel Johnston, 28th foot, married on 16 Dec. 1815 Lieutenant-general Sir Hudson Lowe, and was mother of Major-general E. W. De Lancey Lowe, C.B., one of the defenders of the Lucknow residency.

[For genealogy, see Drake's American Biography; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography; Gent. Mag. various, 1760–1815, under De Lancy and De Lancey; also idem, vol. lxxxvii. pt. i. p. 185. For services, see War Office Records; London Gazettes; Gurwood's Despatches of the Duke of Wellington, vols. iii. v. vi. viii.; Recollections of Samuel Rogers; and the privately printed Recollections of Col. Basil Jackson.]

H. M. C.