Rowan, William (DNB00)

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ROWAN, Sir WILLIAM (1789–1879), field-marshal, son of Robert Rowan of Mullans, co. Antrim, was born in the Isle of Man on 18 June 1789. He received a commission as ensign in the 52nd light infantry 4 Nov. 1803, a regiment in which his uncle, Charles Rowan, and his brothers, Sir Charles Rowan [q. v.] and Robert Rowan, also served. He became lieutenant on 15 June 1804, and served with the 52nd regiment in Sicily in 1806–7, and in Sweden in 1808, and on 19 Oct. 1808 got his company in the second battalion of the regiment, which formed part of the force led by Craufurd to Vigo. In 1809 he served at the capture of Flushing, and returned to the Peninsula in 1811, and on 2 April fought with both battalions of the 52nd in the battle of Sabugal, described by Wellington as one of the most glorious actions British troops ever engaged in. From January 1813 to the end of the war he served in the Peninsula and in France, and fought at Vittoria on 21 June 1813, at the battles of the Pyrenees in July 1813, in the attack on the camp at Vera, in the battles at the Bidassoa on 31 Aug. 1813, of Nivelle on 10 Nov. 1813, and Nive on 9 Dec. 1813, and at Arcanguez on 10 Dec. 1813, and was in the hard fighting in the marsh which decided the battle of Orthez on 27 Feb. 1814, and in the battle of Toulouse on 10 April 1814, besides several intermediate combats. He was made brevet major for his conduct at Orthez. In the affair with General Reille at San Millan in the valley of Boreda he had been in battle for the second time on his birthday, and two years later at Waterloo, as he used to relate in his old age, he was for the third time in a general action on that anniversary. He was with the 52nd regiment and took part in Sir John Colborne's famous charge against the imperial guard [see Colborne, Sir John]. When the army occupied Paris, he was given charge of the first arrondissement. He was gazetted lieutenant-colonel 21 Jan. 1819. From 1823 to 1829 he was civil and military secretary in Canada, and commanded the forces there from 1849 to 1855. He became colonel 10 Jan. 1837, major-general 9 Nov. 1846, lieutenant-general 20 June 1854, general 13 Aug. 1862, and field-marshal 2 June 1877. He was colonel of the 19th foot from 1854 to 1861. He was created G.C.B. in 1856, and had the war medal with six clasps. During the latter part of his life he resided at Bath, and there died 26 Sept. 1879. He was reticent on the subject of his own services, and marked some memoranda which he left on the subject of his campaigns ‘strictly private;’ but he always spoke with admiration of Sir John Moore (1761–1809) [q. v.] and of Sir John Colborne [q. v.], to whom he was at one time military secretary, and who was one of his greatest friends. His field-marshal's bâton is at Mount Davys, co. Antrim, the seat of his great-nephew, Colonel Rowan.

[Army Lists; information from Devonshire Rowan, esq., and from Colonel Peninsula, ed. 1860; Siborne's Waterloo Letters, 1891; Crauford's General Craufurd and his Light Division; Moore's Narrative of Moore's Campaigns in Spain, 2nd ed. 1809.]

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