Stewart, David (1772-1829) (DNB00)

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STEWART, DAVID (1772–1829), major-general, born in 1772, was second son of Robert Stewart of Garth, Perthshire, and was descended from James Stewart (grandson of Robert II) who built the castle of Garth at the end of the fourteenth century. He was given a commission as ensign in the 77th (Atholl highlanders) on 21 April 1783, but that regiment was disbanded soon afterwards. He joined the 42nd highlanders on 10 Aug. 1787, became lieutenant on 8 Aug. 1792, and captain-lieutenant on 24 June 1796. He served with the 42nd in Flanders in 1794, and went with it to the West Indies in October 1795. He took part in the capture of St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and in the prolonged bush-fighting with the Caribs. He was also in the unsuccessful expedition against Porto Rico in 1797.

Stewart returned to Europe with his regiment, was in garrison at Gibraltar, and embarked there with the expedition for the recovery of Minorca in November 1798. But he was taken prisoner at sea, and was detained five months in Spain before he was exchanged. He went to Egypt with Abercromby's expedition, and was severely wounded at the battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801. Three months before this, on 15 Dec. 1800, he had obtained a company in the 90th (Perthshire volunteers), but he returned to the 42nd on 23 July 1802.

He obtained a majority in the 78th highlanders, on 17 April 1804, by raising recruits for the second battalion which was then being formed, a thing which his popularity in the highlands made easy to him. His men were so much attached to him that, when he was at Shorncliffe in the following year, Sir J. Moore interposed to prevent his being sent to India to join the 1st battalion. He went with the 2nd battalion to the Mediterranean in September 1805, and shared in the descent on Calabria. At Maida, 4 July 1806, he commanded a battalion of light companies, and was again severely wounded. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the West India rangers on 21 April 1808, and took part in the capture of Guadaloupe in 1810. He received a medal with one clasp for this and Maida, and in 1815 he was made C.B. He was promoted colonel in the army on 4 June 1814, and in the following year he was placed on half-pay.

In 1817 the officer commanding the 42nd applied to him for information about the history of the regiment, as its records had been lost. The reminiscences and inquiries which were started by this application gradually developed into the ‘Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland; with details of the Military Service of the Highland Regiments,’ which was published in two volumes at Edinburgh in 1822. This book, ‘whose excellence shines forth on every page’ (J. S. Blackie), has been the foundation of all subsequent works on the clans. The first two parts of it, dealing with the country and the people, occupy about half to the first volume; the remainder is devoted the annals of Scottish regiments. ‘Remarks on Colonel Stewart's Sketches of the Highlanders’ were published at Edinburgh in 1823, admitting its merits, but objecting to its Jacobite sympathies. Stewart had thoughts of writing a history of the rebellion of 1745, but gave it up.

Soon after publishing his book he succeeded to the estate of Garth by the death of his elder brother. When George IV visited Edinburgh in August 1822, Stewart helped Sir Walter Scott in the reception arrangements, headed the Celtic club in the procession, adjusted the royal plaid for the levée, and pronounced the king ‘a vera pretty man’ (Lockhart). He was promoted major-general on 27 May 1825, and in 1829 he went out to St. Lucia as governor. The island was then very unhealthy, and on 18 Dec. he died there, widely regretted.

There are portraits of him by J. M. Scrymgeour and Sir J. Watson Gordon; both have been engraved, and the latter is reproduced by Chambers.

[Gent. Mag. 1830, i. 276; Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen.]

E. M. L.