John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton
|The Lord Seaton|
John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton portrait by George Theodore Berthon
Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England
|Died||1863 (aged 84–85)
|Years of service||1794 - 1860|
|Battles/wars||French Revolutionary Wars
Lower Canada Rebellion
Birth and Early service
Colborne was born at Lyndhurst, Hampshire and educated at Christ's Hospital, London from 1785 to 1789 and at Winchester College from 1789 to 1794. He entered the 20th (East Devonshire Regiment) in 1794 as an Ensign, winning thereafter every step in his regimental promotion without purchase.
He first saw service in the Helder expedition of 1799. He was promoted to captain in January 1800 and took part in Sir Ralph Abercromby's expedition to Egypt in 1801. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Maida, and soon afterwards was brought under the notice of Sir John Moore, who obtained a majority for him in January 1808 and made him his military secretary. In this capacity he served through the Battle of Corunna campaign, and Sir John Moore's dying request that he should be given a lieutenant-colonelcy was at once complied with. In the summer of 1809 Lieut-Colonel Colborne was again in the Peninsula, and before taking command of the 2nd battalion of the 66th Foot Regiment, he witnessed the defeat of the Spaniards at the Battle of Ocaña.
With the 66th he was present at Busaco and shared in the defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras, and in July 1811, after temporarily commanding a brigade with distinction at the Battle of Albuera, (his brigade was slaughtered by Polish Vistula Uhlans) he was appointed to command the famous 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot with which corps he is most closely identified. He led it and was severely wounded at Ciudad Rodrigo (1812). During his recuperation he married Elizabeth Yonge of Puslinch, Devon. Colborne was appointed to the order of the Tower and the Sword of Portugal in March 1813.
In late 1813, Colborne was placed in temporary charge of the 2nd brigade of the Light Division which he commanded in the battles of the Nivelle in November 1813 and the Nive the following month. He returned to the 52nd and commanded the regiment at the battle of Orthez in February 1814 and later at the siege of Toulouse. For his services, he was awarded the Army Gold Cross with three clasps.
At the peace he was made colonel, aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent and appointed K.C.B. in January 1815. Following Napoleon's escape from Elba Colborne resumed command of the 52nd. On 18 June 1815, Colborne and the 52nd at Waterloo took part in the repulse of the Middle Guard. On the evening of 18 June, between approximately 19.00hrs and 20.00hrs, Colborne on his own initiative took the 52nd forward and wheeled it to the right so that it was at right angles to the French Army. The 52nd then fired repeated volleys into the left flank of the French Imperial Guard and drove it back in disorder. The ensuing charge of the 52nd and the rest of Adam's Brigade, led to the rout of the Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard which broke up and fled. Colborne was with the 52nd in Paris, as part of the army of occupation, until January 1816. Colborne was made a knight of the Habsburg order of Maria Theresa and the Russian order of St George in August 1815.
Colborne was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey in July 1821. He was promoted to Major-General in May 1825. He served as Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1828 to 1836. He was appointed GCH in October 1836.
As Lieutenant Governor, Colborne more than doubled the population of the province by initiating an organised system of immigration to bring in settlers from Britain. He also aided settlement by expanding the communication and transportation infrastructure through a campaign to build roads and bridges. He brought changes to the structure of the legislative council, increased fiscal autonomy and encouraged greater independence in the judiciary. In 1829, Colborne founded Upper Canada College as a school based on the elite English public school Elizabeth College, Guernsey model to educate boys in preparation for becoming leaders of the colonies.
Port Colborne, at the south (upstream, Erie) end of the Welland Canal, was named after him when in 1833 it was made the entrance to the First Welland Canal. The town of Colborne, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, also carries his name, as does Colborne Street, one of the main streets in the city of Brantford. Toronto has Colborne Street named after him, within the original townsite of York, Upper Canada. Colborne Street in Kingston runs parallel to Princess near Division. Lakeshore Road, in Oakville was formerly named Colborne Street in his honour.
Being a member of the Family Compact, Colborne was a strong supporter of the Church of England and British traditions. Colborne considered that the province was unready for responsible government. The conflict between the assembly and the executive over fiscal matters combined with the difficult economic situation contributed to the Rebellions of 1837 during which he was made commander-in-chief of the armed forces and acting Governor General of British North America.
Colborne raised a local militia to join the same contingent of British regulars to suppress a rebel force in December 1837. He personally led the offensive at St-Eustache in Lower Canada. In Canada the actions of some of his irregular forces were to result in him being nicknamed le vieux brûlot.
Colborne was promoted to Lieutenant-General in June 1838. He was appointed GCB in October 1839. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Seaton of Seaton in Devonshire in December 1839. He was appointed GCMG in July 1843. He was high commissioner of the Ionian Islands from 1843 to 1849. He was promoted to full general in June 1854 and from 1855 to 1860 he was Commander-in-Chief, Ireland. Colborne was promoted to Field Marshal in April 1860. He had purchased the house and grounds of Beechwood, by Sparkwell, Devon in 1856 and lived there in retirement. Colborne was appointed honorary colonel of the 2nd Life Guards and bearer of the gold stick in March 1854. He was appointed honorary colonel of the Rifle Brigade (95th) in February 1862, in succession to Prince Albert, at the express wish of Queen Victoria. He died at Valletta House, Torquay, Devon on 17 April 1863. He is buried in the churchyard of Newton Ferrers, Devon. He was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son, James Colborne.
A cairn was built in 1844 by the Glengarry Highlanders on an island in Lake St Francis, Ontario, in honour of Colborne. In November 1866, a bronze statue, by George Adams, raised by public donations was placed at Mount Wise, Devonport, Devon - for further information see www.DevonportOnline.co.uk/. There is also a statue of Colborne at Peninsula Barracks, Winchester, Hampshire.
- "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- "John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2005.
- Sir John Colborne - Quebec History
- Statue of Field Marshal Lord Seaton. Devonportonline.co.uk (2011-10-25). Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
- DNBC on 1st Baron Seaton
- Life by GC Moore Smith (1906).
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- The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Philip Booth (1971).
- The Story of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The old 43rd and 52nd Regiments) Sir Henry Newbolt (1915)
- Waterloo Andrew Roberts (2005).