Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/88

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

and he lost his left arm on the following day. The Chasseurs Britanniques were disbanded at the peace of 1814, and Napier was placed on half-pay. He received a brevet majority 26 Dec. 1813, and became brevet lieutenant-colonel 21 June 1817, and colonel 16 Jan. 1837. He was for some years assistant adjutant-general at Belfast. He became a major-general in 1846, and was general officer commanding the troops in Scotland and governor of Edinburgh Castle from May 1852 until his promotion to lieutenant-general 20 June 1854. He became a full general 20 Sept. 1861. He was appointed colonel 16th foot in 1854, and transferred to the 71st highland light infantry on the death of Sir James Macdonell [q. v.] in 1857. He was made a C.B. in 1838, K.C.B. in 1860, and had the Peninsular silver medal, with clasps for Corunna, Fuentes d'Onoro, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrénées, Nivelle, and Nive.

Napier married Margaret, daughter and coheiress of Mr. Falconer of Woodcot, Oxfordshire, and by her had one daughter, who, with her mother, predeceased him. He died at Polton House, Lasswade, near Edinburgh, 5 July 1863, aged 73.

[Burke's and Foster's Peerages, under ‘Napier of Merchistoun;’ Hart's Army Lists; Gent. Mag. 1863, pt. ii. p. 240. Incidental notices of Napier will be found in the Life and Correspondence of Admiral Sir Charles Napier, London, 1862, and in the published letters of his cousins, Charles James, George Thomas, and William F. P. Napier.]

H. M. C.

NAPIER, Sir WILLIAM FRANCIS PATRICK (1785–1860), general and historian of the Peninsular war, born at Celbridge, co. Kildare, on 17 Dec. 1785, was third son of Colonel the Hon. George Napier [q. v.] and of Lady Sarah Bunbury, seventh daughter of the second Duke of Richmond. His father was sixth son of Francis, fifth lord Napier. His brothers, Charles James [q. v.], George Thomas [q. v.], and Henry Edward [q. v.], are noticed separately. Admiral Sir Charles Napier [q. v.] was his first-cousin. William received some education at a grammar school at Celbridge, but mainly spent his youth in field sports and manly exercises. When the insurrection of 1798 broke out, Colonel Napier armed his five sons and put his house in a state of defence. At the early age of fourteen William received his first commission as ensign in the Royal Irish artillery, on 14 June 1800. He was soon after transferred to the 62nd regiment. He was promoted lieutenant on 18 April 1801, and reduced to half-pay at the treaty of Amiens in March 1802. A few months later his uncle, the Duke of Richmond, brought him into the ‘Blues,’ and Napier joined the troop, then stationed at Canterbury, of Captain Robert Hill, brother of Lord Hill.

In 1803 Sir John Moore (1761–1809) [q. v.], who was forming his celebrated experimental brigade at Shorncliffe, proposed that Napier should take a lieutenancy in the 52nd regiment, at which young Napier caught eagerly. Moore was pleased by his readiness to learn his profession in earnest, and, on 2 June 1804, obtained for him a company in a West India regiment, whence he caused him to be removed into a battalion of the army of reserve, and finally secured for him, on 11 Aug., the post of ninth captain of the 43rd regiment, belonging to Moore's own brigade. Napier threw himself into his duties with ardour, and his company was soon second to none.

At this time Napier was exceptionally handsome, high-spirited, and robust. Six feet high, and of athletic build, he excelled in outdoor exercises, while his memory was unusually retentive, and he had a rare facility for rapid reading. In 1804 he made the acquaintance of Pitt, on the introduction of the latter's nephew, Charles Stanhope, an officer of Napier's regiment. He spent some time at Pitt's house at Putney, where he was treated with great kindness by Lady Hester Stanhope, and the great man was wont to unbend and engage in practical jokes with the two young officers. In 1806 Napier was selected to procure volunteers from the Irish militia to serve in the line. In 1807 he accompanied his regiment in the expedition against Copenhagen, was present at the siege, and afterwards marched under Sir Arthur Wellesley to attack the Danish levies assembled in the rear of the besieging force. He took part in the battle of Kioge, and in the subsequent pursuit of the enemy. On the return of the 43rd from Denmark in November, Napier accompanied the regiment to Maldon, and in the summer of 1808 moved to Colchester.

On 13 Sept. 1808 he embarked with his regiment at Harwich for Spain, and arrived at Coruña on 13 Oct. He reached Villa Franca on 9 Nov., and took part in the campaign of Sir John Moore. Napier's company and that of his friend Captain Lloyd were employed in the rear-guard to delay the French pursuit by destroying the communications. Napier spent two days and nights without relief at the bridge of Castro Gonzalo on the Esla river, half his men working at the demolition, and the other half protecting the workmen from the enemy's cavalry. Then he retired to Benavente, and to regain the army had to make a forced march of thirty miles. During the subsequent retreat to Vigo, Napier was charged