John Smith (British Army officer, born 1754)
22 February 1754|
Brighton, Sussex, England
|Died||2 July 1837
Charlton, Kent, England
|Buried||Saint Luke's Church, Charlton, Kent, England|
|Years of service||1768 - 1837|
Sir John Smith (22 February 1754 – 2 July 1837) was a British army general. In his early career as a Royal Artillery officer he fought in the American War of Independence, and was twice captured and imprisoned by the Americans. In his later career he was involved in expanding the British Empire in the West Indies, helped keep control of the island of Gibraltar and commanded various artillery battalions.
Early and family life
He was born in Brighton, Sussex, England, on 22 February 1754. There is no record of who his parents were. He married Grace Weatherall at Chatham, Kent on 17 April 1782. They had five children in total.
He entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich on 1 March 1768 and was commissioned a second lieutenant into the Royal Artillery on 15 March 1771. He was posted to Canada in 1773. After the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War he was involved in the Siege of Fort St. Jean. He and the other defenders surrendered on 2 November 1775 and were captured. He was held by the Americans for four years and released in January 1777.
He rejoined the British forces at Rhode Island and saw further action during the American Revolutionary War. He fought with Sir William Howe during the Philadelphia campaign at the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of Germantown and during the Battle of Mud Island. In 1778 he served under General Sir Henry Clinton during the withdrawal to New York and saw further combat at the Battle of Monmouth.
He was promoted to first lieutenant on 7 July 1779. He was involved in the capture of Charles Town on 12 May 1780. In 1781 he served in Virginia before being forced to surrender at Yorktown on 20 October with Lord Cornwallis' army. After being released he returned to England and was promoted to captain-lieutenant on 28 February 1782. In 1785, he was posted to Gibraltar for five years. Here he was promoted to captain on 21 May 1790. He was then appointed the Officer Commanding Number 6 Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Artillery.
With the start of the French Revolutionary Wars, Smith was appointed second in command of the artillery intended to accompany Lord Moira's expedition to France. However, in October 1795 he was ordered instead to the West Indies with Sir Ralph Abercromby. He was present at the British occupation of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent in 1796, and commanded the artillery at the capture of Trinidad from the Spanish in February 1797. Command of all thirteen companies of the Royal Artillery serving in the West Indies then fell to him, and on 27 August 1797 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. Unfortunately, he became sick soon after, and had to return to England.
In September and October 1799 Smith commanded the artillery during the Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany's expedition to Holland. He fought at the battles of Alkmaar on 2 October and Castricum on 6 October. He returned to England with the rest of the army at the beginning of November. On 20 July 1804 he was promoted to colonel and given command of the artillery at Gibraltar. He remained there for ten years. He was promoted to major-general on 25 July 1810 and twice placed in temporary command of the fortress. On 3 July 1815 he was appointed Colonel-commandant of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Artillery, was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1819, and made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order and knighted on 10 August 1831. He transferred to the Royal Horse Artillery as colonel-commandant in 1833 and was promoted full general on 10 January 1837.
Death and burial
- R. H. Vetch, Alastair W. Massie (January 2008). "Smith, Sir John (1754–1837)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 December 2010.