Open main menu


OWEN, HUGH (1784–1861), colonel, was born at Denbigh on 23 May 1784, and educated at the grammar school at Audlem, Cheshire. Through the influence of Sir Corbet Corbet, bart., of Adderley, a kinsman of Stapleton Cotton (afterwards first Viscount Combermere) [q. v.], Owen was appointed captain in the Shropshire volunteers on 24 Nov. 1803. In December 1805, with the aid of a recruiting party of the 16th light dragoons stationed at Market Drayton, Shropshire, Owen raised thirty men, which entitled him to a cornetcy. He was appointed cornet in the regiment, which was then commanded by Sir Stapleton Cotton, on 31 July 1806, became lieutenant on 9 July 1807, and embarked with it for Portugal in 1809. Speaking French, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently, he was much employed in outpost duties and scouting. He commanded the united skirmishers of the cavalry brigade at Talavera. In 1810 he was appointed captain of cavalry in the Portuguese army, under Marshal Beresford, and was aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Fane [q. v.], in command of the rear-guard of General Hill's division in the retreat to Torres Vedras. He was afterwards brigade-major to Sir Loftus Otway, commanding a brigade of the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th regiments of Portuguese cavalry; and then aide-de-camp and brigade-major to Sir Benjamin D'Urban, commanding a brigade of the 1st, 6th, 11th, and 12th Portuguese cavalry. At the battle of Vittoria on 21 June 1813, when leading the brigade into action, in the temporary absence of General D'Urban, who had been sent on to reconnoitre, his name was noted down by Wellington, who next morning directed him to memorialise for a troop in the 18th hussars, to which he was duly gazetted from 22 June 1813, subsequently receiving Portuguese rank as major and lieutenant-colonel. At the peace he returned with the Portuguese army to Portugal, in 1815 was ordered to organise the 6th regiment of cavalry, which in the subsequent civil wars, as ‘Os Dragones de Chaves,’ became famous for its high discipline and superiority in the field. Electing to remain in the Portuguese army, Owen, after obtaining a majority in the 7th hussars, sold out of the British service on 4 Sept. 1817. In 1820 he accompanied Lord Beresford to Brazil, and was sent home to Lisbon with despatches and the brevet rank of colonel in the 4th cavalry. On arrival he found that the king's government had been superseded, and Lord Beresford and all other foreign officers summarily dismissed. Owen retired into private life, and resided on his estate at Villa Nova de Paraisa, near Oporto. During the subsequent civil wars Dom Pedro offered to appoint Owen his personal aide-de-camp, with the rank of general; but, not having the permission of his own sovereign, Owen declined the honour.

Owen was a knight commander of San Bento d'Aviz and knight of the Tower and Sword, and had the Peninsular gold cross, the Peninsular medal with clasps for Talavera, Albuera, Vittoria, and Pyrenees. He died at Garratt's Hall, Banstead, Surrey, 16 Dec. 1861, aged 76. Sir John Rennie, who met him in Oporto in 1855, described him as over six feet in height, with a determined countenance, and still full of fire and energy. At Rennie's request he wrote a memoir of Major the Hon. Somers Cocks (a relative of Rennie, killed at Burgos in 1812), which was printed for private circulation by Rennie. Owen published ‘The Civil War in Portugal and the Siege of Oporto’ (London, 1836, 8vo), being an English translation of his Portuguese work, ‘A Guerra Civil em Portugal, o Sitio do Porto e a Morte de Don Pedro. Por hum Estrangeiro’ (1836, 12mo).

[Information furnished by Hugh Owen, esq., F.S.A.; Army Lists; Autobiography of Sir John Rennie, F.R.S. (London, 1875), p. 332.]

H. M. C.