Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Ewart, John Alexander

EWART, Sir JOHN ALEXANDER (1821–1904), general and colonel Gordon Highlanders, born at Sholapore, Bombay, 1 June 1821, was third son in a family of four sons and a daughter of Lieutenant-general John Frederick Ewart, C.B., colonel of the 67th foot (d. 1854), by Lavinia, daughter of Sir Charles Brisbane [q. v.]. His younger brother, Charles Brisbane, is noticed above. Joseph Ewart [q. v.] was his grandfather. Educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst (1835-8), where he obtained special distinction, he entered the army on 27 July 1838 as ensign in the 35th (royal Sussex) regiment, and was promoted lieutenant on 15 April 1842. He was a good cricketer and captain of the regimental eleven. After doing garrison duty at Cape Town and Mauritius, Ewart exchanged into the 93rd Sutherland highlanders in 1846, and became captain on 12 May 1848, brevet-major on 12 May 1854, major on 29 Dec. 1854, and brevet lieutenant-colonel on 2 Nov. 1855.

Ewart served with his regiment throughout the Crimean war from the first landing at Gallipoli in April 1854 until the final evacuation of the Crimea in June 1856. He was present at the battle of the Alma (20 Sept.) and at the occupation of Balaklava (25 Sept.), being appointed a deputy-assistant-quartermaster-general next day. At the battle of Balaklava (25 Oct.) he commanded the sixth company of 'the thin red line.' On 6 Nov. at Inkerman he was the first to apprise Lord Raglan of the Russian advance (Kinglake, Invasion of the Crimea, vi. 36-38). He took part in the early siege operations before Sevastopol, but in May accompanied the expedition to the Sea of Azoff, and was at the capture of Kertch and Yenikale. He returned to the besieging force before Sevastopol and engaged in the assaults on 18 June and 5 Sept. He received the Piedmontese medal for valour, the British medal with five clasps, and French and Turkish decorations.

Ewart served with his regiment in India during the mutiny. He took part in an engagement near Bunnee, holding for a short time a command consisting of three squadrons of cavalry, five guns, and 500 infantry, and being specially named in despatches. On 16 Nov. 1857 Ewart commanded the leading party of stormers at the assault of the Secunderabagh; he personally captured a colour, and received two sabre wounds in an encounter with the - two native officers who were defending it (G. B. Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, ii. 186). He was recommended for the Victoria Cross without result. When in action against the rebel Gwalior contingent at Cawnpore on 1 Dec. 1857 he was again very severely wounded by a cannon shot, his left arm being carried away. He received the mutiny medal with clasp, and was made C.B. on 24 March 1858. Promoted lieutenant-colonel on 16 April 1858, colonel on 26 April 1859, and aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria the same year, he commanded from 1859 to 1864 the 78th Rossshire Buffs. Major-general on 6 March 1869, and lieutenant-general on 1 Oct. 1877, he commanded from 1877 to 1879 the Allahabad division of the Indian army. He was made a general on 13 Jan. 1884. In 1883-4 he was honorary colonel of 1st battalion Town and Mauritius, Ewart exchanged duke of Edinburgh's regiment, from 1884 to 1895 of 92nd Gordon highlanders, and from 1895 to 1904 of the Argyll and Sutherland highlanders. In 1887 he was created K.C.B., and received the reward for distinguished service. He was promoted G.C.B. two days before his death, which took place on 18 June 1904 at his residence, Craigcleuch, Langholm, Dumfriesshire. He was buried in the cemetery of Stirling Castle. He was J.P. for Dumfriesshire and Staffordshire.

He married 16 Nov. 1858 Frances (d. 1873), daughter of Spencer Stone of Callingwood Hall, Stafford. He had issue four sons and a daughter. Three of his sons became officers in the army.

He published:

  1. 'A Few Remarks about the British Army.'
  2. 'The Story of a Soldier's Life,' 2 vols. 1881.

[Ewart's Story of a Soldier's Life, 2 vols. 1881; The Thin Red Line, regimental paper of the Sutherland Highlanders, June, July (portrait), 1904; P. Groves, History of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, 1895; Indian Mutiny, 1857-8, Selections from State Papers in the Military Department, ed. G. W. Forrest, 1902, ii. 340 seq.; Burke's Landed Gentry; Hart's and Official Army Lists.]

H. M. V.