Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williamson, Adam

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1048814Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Williamson, Adam1900Robert Hamilton Vetch

WILLIAMSON, Sir ADAM (1736–1798), lieutenant-general, governor of Jamaica and St. Domingo, born in 1736, was son of Lieutenant-general George Williamson (1707?–1781), who commanded the royal artillery at the siege and capture of Louisburg in 1758 and during the operations in North America terminating in the capture of Montreal in 1760. He became a cadet gunner on 1 Jan. 1748, entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1750, and was appointed practitioner-engineer on 1 Jan. 1753. He went to North America in the following year, was engineer in Braddock's ill-fated expedition to Virginia in 1755, and was wounded at the battle of Du Quesne on 9 July. On 14 Oct. he received a commission as ensign in the 6th foot, was placed upon the staff of the expedition to North America, and served throughout the war. On 25 Sept. 1757 he was promoted to be lieutenant in the 5th foot, and on 4 Jan. 1758 to be engineer-extraordinary and captain-lieutenant. In August 1759 he was wounded at Montmorency at the siege of Quebec (London Gazette, 19 Oct. 1759). On 21 April 1760 he was promoted to be captain in the 40th foot; in August he distinguished himself in the repulse of the French, who were besieging Quebec, at Fort Levis, L'Isle Royale, and at the end of the year he accompanied his father to England on leave of absence.

Williamson returned to North America in 1761, and went with the expedition to the West Indies, where he took a gallant part in the capture of Martinique and Guadeloupe in February 1762. He returned to England in 1763. On 16 Aug. 1770 he was promoted to be major in the 16th foot, and on 4 Dec. to be engineer in ordinary. He was transferred to the 61st foot as major, and on 12 Sept. 1775 was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel in the army. Brought into the 18th royal Irish regiment of foot as a regimental lieutenant-colonel on 9 Dec., he ceased to perform engineer duties, and joined his regiment, which was on active service in North America, taking part with it in the battle of Bunker's Hill, and returning with it to England in July 1776, when he was quartered at Dover.

On 23 Dec. 1778 Williamson was appointed deputy adjutant-general of the forces in South Britain, on 15 Feb. 1782 was promoted to be colonel in the army, and on 28 April 1790 to be major-general, on 16 July was appointed colonel of the 47th foot, and in the same year was made lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief at Jamaica. In 1791 some of the inhabitants of St. Domingo made overtures to Williamson, proposing to place the colony under the protection of Great Britain. The proposals were warmly advocated by Williamson, who received discretionary powers from the home government in 1793 to take over those parts of the island of which the inhabitants might desire British protection, detaching from Jamaica a force sufficient to maintain and defend them. Williamson made a descent on St. Domingo in Sept. with all the troops which could be spared, and established a protectorate. On 19 March 1794 he was transferred to the colonelcy of the 72nd highlanders, and on 24 Oct. of the same year he relinquished the government of Jamaica, and was appointed governor of St. Domingo, Port au Prince, the capital, having capitulated to the British conjoint expedition under Commodore Ford and Colonel John Whitelocke [q. v.] on the previous 5 June. Williamson was made a knight of the order of the Bath on 18 Nov. He was promoted to be lieutenant-general on 26 Jan. 1797. Yellow fever and much desultory fighting made such terrible havoc among the British troops that, in spite of all Williamson's enthusiasm and energy, the island had to be evacuated in 1798, and Williamson, who had sacrificed his private fortune and health in this enterprise, returned to England. He died from the immediate effects of a fall at Avesbury House, Wiltshire, on 21 Oct. 1798.

[Royal Engineers' Records; Conolly Papers; Despatches; British Military Library, 1798; Bryan Edwards's Hist. of the British Colonies in the West Indies; Gent. Mag. 1798; Knox's Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America, 1757–60, 2 vols. 4to, 1769.]

R. H. V.