Open main menu


GRANT, JOHN (1782–1842), lieutenant 2nd royal veteran battalion, and lieutenant-colonel Portuguese service, a famous spy in the Peninsular war, began his military career as a subaltern in the Glamorganshire militia, with which he served in Ireland in 1799. In the same year he volunteered to the line from the embodied militia, and was appointed a lieutenant in the 4th foot, but was placed on half-pay at the peace of Amiens. On the renewal of the war he was brought on full pay as a lieutenant of foot, which rank he held throughout the war. He served under Sir Robert Thomas Wilson on the Portuguese frontier in 1808-9, with the irregular force known as the Lusitanian legion, and was wounded. When Wilson was defeated and left Portugal, Grant joined the Portuguese army under Marshal William Carr Beresford [q. v.], in which he became major, and afterwards lieutenant-colonel. Grant was much employed as a partisan leader and spy, in which capacity he assumed a variety of disguises, and underwent most extraordinary adventures. There is much confusion of his exploits with those of Major Colquhoun Grant (1780-1829) [q. v.], 11th foot, a scouting officer. Wellington wrote to Beresford, on 19 Feb. 1811, apparently in reference to John Grant: 'I wish he had sent us the examination of some of his prisoners. He appears to be going on capitally, and likely to save much valuable property in the Estrada. I shall be much obliged if you will tell him how much gratified I have been at reading the accounts of his operations' (Naval and Military Gazette, 1 July 1848, p. 429). At the end of the war Grant was appointed lieutenant in the late 2nd royal veteran battalion, and was retired on full pay when the veteran battalions were abolished. Grant acted as secretary to the committee formed in London by the Earl of Durham, Lord William Bentinck, and others in 1820, when Marshal Beresford was dismissed from his Portuguese command by the constitutional government• In 1823, at the time of the invasion of Spain by the French troops under the Duc d'Angoulême, Grant's committee despatched Sir Robert Thomas Wilson on a fruitless mission to the Peninsula. The promised volume of Wilson's memoirs dealing with the Lusitanian legion episode of 1808-9 and the Spanish mission of 1823 have not been published (see introduction to Life of Sir R. T. Wilson, 1793-1807, London, 1862), and Grant's share in these transactions has never been treated in detail.

Grant died, after a long and painful illness, broken in health and circumstances, at the age of sixty, at Kensington on 14 July 1842. His appeals and those of his widow for assistance were left unanswered (Naval and Military Gazette, 4 March 1843, p. 137). Sir Robert Peel, when prime minister, conferred a gift of 100l. and a lieutenant's widow's pension of 40l. a year on Grant's widow, Sophia Grant, who died at Chelsea on 26 May 1848 (ib. 3 Jan. 1848, and 1 July 1848, p. 429).

[Army and Militia Lists; Naval and Military Gazettes, 1842-3, 1848.]

H. M. C.