Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowley, John

ROWLEY, JOHN (1768?–1824), deputy inspector-general of fortifications, was born about 1768. He joined the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich as a cadet on 7 Oct. 1782, entered the royal artillery as second lieutenant on 28 Jan. 1786, and was stationed at Woolwich. He was transferred to the royal engineers on 23 Aug. 1787 and went to Gosport, where he was employed on the fortifications for the next two years. He went to Jersey in the summer of 1789, was promoted first lieutenant on 2 May 1792, and in December 1793 accompanied the expedition under the Earl of Moira to assist the Vendeans. The complete annihilation of the Vendean army rendered the expedition abortive. After its return to England Rowley accompanied Lord Moira with ten thousand men to reinforce the Duke of York in Flanders. Landing at Ostend on 26 June 1794 they marched through Bruges to Alost, and after a severe contest with the French retreated to Malines, fell back behind the Neethe, and joined the Duke of York. Rowley was engaged in an affair with the French near Rosendael on 16 July, the fight at Boxtel in September, and the siege at Nimeguen in October and November. In January 1795 he retreated with the British army across the dreary waste of the Weluwe district of Holland to Bremen, where, after some fighting with the French in February and March, he embarked in April and arrived in England on 8 May.

On 15 May 1795 Rowley was appointed adjutant of the corps of engineers and military artificers at Woolwich, and continued to hold the appointment until September 1799, having been promoted captain-lieutenant on 18 June 1796. On 1 Oct. 1799 he became aide-de-camp to the chief engineer of the kingdom at the office of the board of ordnance. He was promoted captain on 2 May 1800; brigade-major of royal engineers at headquarters on 1 May 1802; regimental lieutenant-colonel and assistant inspector-general of fortifications on 1 July 1806; deputy inspector-general of fortifications on 6 Dec. 1811; colonel in the army on 4 June 1814; regimental colonel on 20 Dec. of the same year, and major-general on 15 March 1821. He served on various committees, and distinguished himself by his administrative ability in all the staff appointments which he held. He was a fellow of the Royal Society. He died at Spencer Farm, Essex, the residence of the Rev. Lewis Way, on 1 Dec. 1824, while still deputy inspector-general of fortifications.

The Duke of Wellington, on hearing of his death, expressed, in a minute, his ‘utmost concern’ at the loss of so zealous and able an officer, while the board of ordnance recorded his services and the general regret felt at his death.

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers' Records; Royal Military Calendar, 1820; Gent. Mag. 1824, ii. 643.]

R. H. V.