Wilson, John (1780-1856) (DNB00)

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WILSON, Sir JOHN (1780–1856), general, born in 1780, was commissioned as ensign in the 28th foot on 26 March 1794, and became lieutenant on 12 Aug. 1795. He went with part of the regiment to the West Indies in 1796, and was present at the capture of St. Lucia in May and of St. Vincent in June. He was made prisoner and taken to Guadaloupe in July, and, after he had been exchanged, he was again made prisoner in the British Channel in 1797. He rejoined his regiment at Gibraltar, and took part in the capture of Minorca in November 1798. On 18 Jan. 1799 he was given a company in the newly formed Minorca (afterwards the 97th, or queen's German) regiment. He served with it in the expedition to Egypt in 1801, and was present at the battle of Alexandria on 21 March, where the regiment greatly distinguished itself. He was promoted major on 27 May 1802.

In 1808 the 97th was sent to Portugal. It landed on 19 Aug., and two days afterwards fought at Vimiero as part of Anstruther's brigade. Wilson was severely wounded. On 22 Dec. he obtained a lieutenant-colonelcy in the royal York rangers. In January 1809 he went back to the Peninsula and joined the Lusitanian legion raised by Sir Robert Thomas Wilson [q. v.] He was employed with it in the neighbourhood of Ciudad Rodrigo, harassing the French posts, one of which he surprised at Barbara de Puerco, at the end of March. In 1810 he was made chief of the staff of Silveira, who commanded the Portuguese troops in the northern provinces. In August he saved the rear-guard of the corps, ‘in circumstances of such trying difficulty that he received the public thanks’ of Beresford (Napier, bk. xi. chap. v). In October orders came out for him to rejoin his regiment (York rangers), but Wellington represented that ‘the loss of his services will be seriously felt’ (Despatches, vi. 543), and he remained with the Portuguese army. At this time he was harassing the rear of Masséna's army at Coimbra, in concert with Colonel (afterwards ‘Sir’ Nicholas) Trant [q. v.]

In 1811 he was made governor of the province of Minho. At the head of the Minho militia he had a successful affair at Celorico on 22 March, and was actively engaged on the frontier throughout that year and 1812. In June 1813 he joined Wellington's army, and commanded an independent Portuguese brigade at the siege of San Sebastian, the passage of the Bidassoa, and the battle of Nivelle. He was severely wounded on 18 Nov. during the establishment of the outposts before Bayonne. He was made knight-commander of the Portuguese order of the Tower and Sword, a distinction which, it seems, he would have received two years before but for a confusion between him and Sir Robert Wilson (ib. viii. 367, 435). He was made brevet colonel on 4 June 1814 and was knighted, and in 1815 he was made C.B. He received the gold medal for San Sebastian, and afterwards the silver medal with clasps for Vimiero and Nivelle.

He was placed on half-pay on 25 Dec. 1816, and promoted major-general on 27 March 1825. He commanded the troops in Ceylon from December 1830 till his promotion to lieutenant-general on 28 June 1838. He was made K.C.B. on 6 Feb. 1837, and colonel of the 82nd foot on 5 Dec. 1836, from which he was transferred to the 11th foot on 10 May 1841. He became general on 20 June 1854, and died at 67 Westbourne Terrace, London, on 22 June 1856, aged 76.

[Annual Register, 1856, p. 260; Times, 25 June 1856; Gent. Mag. 1856, ii. 257; Naval and Military Gazette, 28 June 1856; Narrative of the Campaigns of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion.]

E. M. L.