Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Prideaux, John (1718-1759)

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PRIDEAUX, JOHN (1718–1759), brigadier-general, born in Devonshire in 1718, was second son of Sir John Prideaux, sixth baronet, of Netherton Hall, near Honiton, Devonshire, by his wife Anne, eldest daughter of John Vaughan, first viscount Lisburne. On 17 July 1739 he was appointed ensign in the 3rd foot-guards (now Scots guards); he was adjutant of his battalion at Dettingen (27 July 1743), and became lieutenant-colonel of his regiment on 24 Feb. 1748. On 20 Oct. 1758 he was appointed colonel 55th foot, in succession to George Augustus, third viscount Howe [see under Howe, William, fifth Viscount Howe], killed at Ticonderoga. Pitt's instructions to General Amherst, commander in America [see Amherst, Jeffrey, Lord Amherst], were that, while Wolfe attacked Quebec, attempts should be made to penetrate into Canada by way of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and that at the same time he should pursue any other enterprises that would weaken the enemy without detriment to the main object of the expedition (see Pitt to Amherst, 10 March 1759, Parkman, ii. 235). Amherst decided to attempt the reduction of Fort Niagara, and entrusted the task to Prideaux, who had just arrived, appointing Sir William Johnson [q. v.] his second in command. Prideaux was to ascend the Mohawk river with five thousand troops, regulars and provincials, accompanied by Indians under Johnson, to leave a strong garrison at Fort Stanwix, the great portage, descend the Onondega, leaving part of his force under Colonel Haldimand [see Haldimand, Sir Frederick] at Oswego, and to attack Niagara with the rest. Fort Niagara, standing on the site of a former post, was a strong fort, recently rebuilt by the French in modern style, and garrisoned by part of the French regiment of Béarn. Prideaux landed before it on 7 July 1759, and commenced the attack in force. The British engineers proved so incompetent that, to Prideaux's intense disgust, the first approaches were completely swept by the French fire, and had to be constructed afresh (Prideaux to Haldimand, 15 July 1759, Parkman, ii. 245). On 19 July 1759 the batteries were ready. Prideaux beat off a French vessel which attempted to land reinforcements in the morning, but in the afternoon was struck on the head by a fragment of shell, which burst prematurely at the mouth of one of our cohorns, and killed him on the spot. He is described by some writers as an unpopular officer. Colonel Massey, 46th regiment [see Massey, Eyre,, Lord Clarina], the next senior officer of the regulars, waived any claim to command in favour of Sir William Johnson, to whom the fort surrendered on 24 July 1759.

Prideaux married Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel Edward Rolt and sister of Sir Edward Bayham-Rolt, baronet, of Spy Park, Wiltshire, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. His elder brother, Sanderson Prideaux, a lieutenant in Colonel Moreton's marines (see Home Office Mil. Entry Book, vol. xv.), having died at Cartagena in 1741, Prideaux's elder son, John Wilmot Prideaux, became heir to the baronetcy, to which he succeeded, as seventh baronet, on the death of his grandfather in August 1766; he was father (by his third wife) of the last two holders of the baronetcy, which became extinct in 1875. One of Prideaux's daughters became an actress, playing chiefly at Bath. She appeared at the Haymarket once at least, in 1789 (Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ix. 85).

[Burke's Baronetage; Foster's Peerage, s.v. ‘Lisburne;’ Home Office Military Entry Book, vol. xv. et seq.; Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe (1884), vol. ii. In some army lists Prideaux's christian name is wrongly given ‘James.’ Two letters to Haldimand during the Niagara expedition are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 21728, ff. 25, 27.]

H. M. C.