Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elphinstone, Howard

ELPHINSTONE, Sir HOWARD (1773–1846), major-general, sixth son of John Elphinstone, lieutenant-general and vice-admiral in the Russian service, who commanded the Russian fleet in the Baltic in 1769, was born on 4 March 1773. He entered the army as a second lieutenant in the royal engineers on 17 Oct. 1793, and first saw service in the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. He was promoted first lieutenant on 5 Feb. 1796, and proceeded to India, where he became captain-lieutenant on 1 July 1800. In the following year he accompanied the division sent from India to Egypt, under Sir David Baird, as commanding royal engineer. In 1806 he was attached to the special mission to Portugal of Lord Rosslyn and General Simcoe, to advise the Portuguese government on the defence of Lisbon, and in the latter part of the same year he accompanied Major-general Whitelocke to South America as commanding royal engineer. In 1808 he went in the same capacity to the Peninsula with the force under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and was severely wounded at the battle of Roliça, for his services at which battle he received the gold medal. He had been promoted captain on 1 March 1805, and he was further promoted major by brevet on 1 Jan. 1812, and in that year ordered to the Peninsula again. While Sir Richard Fletcher was the commanding royal engineer in the Peninsula, Major, or lieutenant-colonel, Elphinstone, as he became on 21 July 1813, remained in Portugal, but when that officer was killed before San Sebastian, Elphinstone, as senior officer of the royal engineers, asserted his right to be present at headquarters. Wellington would have preferred to keep Lieutenant-colonel (afterwards Field-marshal Sir) John Fox Burgoyne, who had long been with him, and knew his ways as commanding royal engineer, especially as he was in the army, though not in the corps of royal engineers, senior to Elphinstone, but he had to yield to the latter's demand and summon him to the front. Elphinstone therefore superintended the passage of the Adour as commanding royal engineer, and held that post at the battles of the Nivelle and the Nive, for which he received two clasps. He was then left by Wellington with Sir John Hope to form the siege of Bayonne, while Burgoyne accompanied the headquarters of the army in the pursuit after Soult. At the end of the war, when honours were freely bestowed on the leaders of the Peninsular army, Elphinstone was fortunate enough to be rewarded as commanding royal engineer with a baronetcy, and he was also made a C.B. Elphinstone did not again see service; he was promoted colonel on 2 Dec. 1824, and major-general on 10 Jan. 1837, and died at Ore Place, near Hastings, on 28 April 1846.

[Royal Military Calendar; Gent. Mag. July 1846.]

H. M. S.