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Despard, John (DNB00)


DESPARD, JOHN (1745–1829), general, was an elder brother of Edward Marcus Despard, the conspirator [q. v.], and was born in Ireland in 1745. He was gazetted an ensign in the 12th regiment on 12 April 1760, and joined the army serving under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the following July. He first saw service in the battle of Warburg, in which the colours were shot from his hand, and then at the battle of Fellinghausein in the following year, and he was promoted lieutenant on 12 July 1762. In 1763, on the conclusion of the seven years' war, he was placed on half-pay, but re-entered the active army in 1767 as lieutenant in the 7th regiment, the royal fusiliers. In March 1773 he accompanied his regiment to Quebec, but in the following year returned to England on recruiting service. In May 1775 he reached Quebec with the recruits, and was at once ordered to St. John's, where he was besieged by a force of insurgent Americans until 5 Nov., when he was obliged to surrender. In December 1776 he was exchanged and joined Sir William Howe at New York, and he was promoted captain on 25 March 1777. He served the campaign of that year with the light infantry, and was present at the assault of Fort Montgomery, and in June 1778 he was made major of the corps of Loyal Americans, raised by Lord Moira, which he organised. In December 1779 he was appointed deputy adjutant-geneGeneral to the force sent to South Carolina, and after serving at the capture of Charleston, he acted in that capacity throughout the campaigns of Lord Cornwallis until the capitulation of York Town. In July 1782 he was released on parole, and in the following year rejoined the fusiliers as captain and brevet major. He was promoted major in the fusiliers in June 1788, lieutenant-colonel in July 1791, and colonel on 21 Aug. 1796, and commanded his regiment at Quebec from 1793 to 1798. In May 1798 he was made a brigadier-general on the staff of the Severn district, and on 18 June 1798 he was promoted major-general. He remained on the staff in England until August 1799, when he was appointed commandant of the troops in the island of Cape Breton, where he remained until August 1807, when he finally returned to England. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 30 Oct. 1806, made colonel of the 6th West India regiment on 29 Dec. 1809, and promoted general on 4 June 1814, and he died at Swan Hill, Oswestry, on 3 Sept. 1829. Despard was a distinguished soldier; he was present at twenty-four engagements, had two horses killed under him, was three times shipwrecked, and twice taken prisoner, but he never had any opportunity after the American war of showing whether he had any talents for command.

[Royal Military Calendar; Gent. Mag., October 1829.]

H. M. S.