Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, James Willoughby

GORDON, Sir JAMES WILLOUGHBY (1773–1851), baronet, general, born in 1773, was son of Captain Francis Grant, royal navy, who took the name of Gordon in 1768 (pursuant to the will of his maternal uncle, James Gordon, of Moor Place, Hertfordshire), by his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas, and sister of Sir Willoughby Aston, baronet. On 17 Oct. 1783 he was appointed to an ensigncy in the 66th foot, in which he became lieutenant in 1789, captain in 1795, and major in 1797. He served with his regiment in Ireland, the West Indies, and at Gibraltar; was present as a volunteer on board Lord Hood's fleet at Toulon in 1793, and witnessed the surrender of the French in Bantry Bay in 1796; and afterwards was with his regiment in San Domingo, in Jamaica, and North America. On 21 May 1801 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the 85th foot, and commanded the first battalion of that regiment at the first British occupation of Madeira in that year. In 1802 he was appointed an assistant quartermaster-general in the southern district, head-quarters Chatham. In 1804 he was brought into the 92nd foot as lieutenant-colonel, and appointed military secretary to the Duke of York, then commander-in-chief, in which capacity he was an important witness before the parliamentary committee of inquiry into military expenditure (Parl. Papers, Accounts and Papers, 1806–9), and in the Wardle inquiry [see Frederick Augustus, Duke of York]. He retained the post until the resignation of the Duke of York. While so employed he was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant of the royal African corps in 1808, and became colonel in 1810. In 1811 Gordon, who, as he stated before a parliamentary committee, had held every staff appointment it was possible for him to hold, was appointed quartermaster-general of the army in the Peninsula, with which he served till he resigned the following year through ill-health (Gurwood, vi. 4, 6, 44, 258). On his return home he was appointed quartermaster-general at the Horse Guards, a post which he retained up to his death, after which it was abolished for a time, in accordance with the recommendation of a parliamentary committee. Gordon became a major-general in 1813; was transferred to the colonelcy of the 85th light infantry in 1816; was created a baronet in 1818; transferred to the colonelcy of the 23rd royal Welsh fusiliers in 1823; was made a lieutenant-general and G.C.H. in 1825; sworn in a privy councillor in 1830; G.C.B. in 1831; general in 1841. He was a F.R.S. and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society from its formation. He died at Chelsea on 4 Jan. 1851. Gordon married in 1805 Julia Lavinia, daughter of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet of Beckenham, Kent, and by her had a son and daughter. Gordon was author of ‘Military Transactions of the British Empire,’ 1803–7 (London, 1809, 4to), and a supplementary volume thereto, containing tables of the strength, distribution, &c. of the army during that period.

[Burke's Baronetage; Gurwood's Well. Desp. vol. vi.; Wellington's Suppl. Desp. vol. xi.; Gent. Mag. new ser. xxxv. 198.]

H. M. C.