Stewart, Donald Martin (DNB01)

STEWART, Sir DONALD MARTIN (1824–1900), first baronet, field-marshal, governor of Chelsea Hospital, son of Robert Stewart of Forres and his wife, a daughter of the Rev. Donald Martin, minister of Abernethy in Strathspey, N.B., was born at Mount Pleasant, near Forres, in 1824. Educated at schools at Findhom, Dufftown, and Elgin, and at Aberdeen University, where he distinguished himself in classics, he entered the East India Company's military service as ensign in the 9th Bengal native infantry on 12 Oct. 1840. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 5 March 1841, captain 1 June 1854, brevet major 19 Jan. 1858, brevet lieutenant-colonel 20 July 1858, major (Bengal staff corps) 18 Feb. 1861, brevet colonel 20 July 1863, lieutenant-colonel (Bengal staff corps) 12 Oct. 1866, major-general 24 Dec. 1868, lieutenant-general 1 Oct. 1877, general 1 July 1881, and field-marshal 26 May 1894.

He served in the expeditions against the tribes on the Afghan frontier the Mohmands in 1854 and the Aka-Khel and Basi-Khel in 1855 was mentioned in despatches and received the medal with clasp. In 1857 he was quartered at Aligarh, where his regiment, the 9th Bengal native infantry, mutinied on 20 May. He then took command of a small body of volunteers sent from Agra to aid in restoring order, and eventually went to Agra, whence he was sent by John Russell Colvin [q. v.] on the perilous duty of carrying despatches to Delhi, for which he had volunteered. He started on 18 June on his famous ride, which forms 'one of the romantic episodes of that heroic year.' On reaching Delhi he was appointed deputy-assistant adjutant-general to the Delhi field force, and served with distinction to the end of the siege and in the capture of the city. He was then appointed assistant adjutant-general to the Bengal army and took part in the siege and capture of Lucknow and in the campaign in Rohilkhand. For his services in the Indian mutiny he was twice mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 15 Dec. 1857 and 28 July 1858) and received the medal with two clasps, and brevet majority and lieutenant-colonelcy.

Stewart continued in the appointment of assistant adjutant-general of the Bengal army until 1862, when he was made deputy adjutant-general and took a prominent part in the reorganisation of the Indian army. In 1867 and 1868 he commanded the Bengal brigade in the expedition to Abyssinia under Sir Robert Napier (afterwards Lord Napier of Magdala [q. v.]) with the rank of brigadier-general. He showed considerable ability in organising the force and in making transport arrangements. He commanded at Senafe throughout the campaign, was mentioned in despatches (ib. 30 June 1868), received the medal, and was made a companion of the Bath. On his return to India he was appointed to the frontier divisional command of Peshawar with the rank of brigadier-general. In July 1869 he was sent by Lord Mayo to the Andaman Islands to reorganise the convict settlement there, a charge which afforded ample scope for his abilities, and which the governor-general hoped would result in the Andaman, Nicobar, and dependencies becoming self-supporting. He was made sole commandant with autocratic powers. The results were so encouraging that Lord Mayo visited the settlements on his return from Burma in 1872, when he was assassinated by a convict. The investigation which ensued showed that Stewart had taken every reasonable precaution to safeguard the governor-general during his visit; nevertheless, Stewart felt the shock of the tragedy so severely that he was obliged to go to Europe on sick leave. On his return to India in 1875 he was present at the camp of exercise at Delhi in honour of the visit of King Edward VII, then prince of Wales, and in April 1876 was appointed to the command of the Lahore division. In the Afghan war of 1878–80 he was selected to command the Quetta army in October 1878, marched through the Bolan and Khojak passes, dispersed the enemy in a cavalry action at Saif-ud-din, entered Kandahar, and also occupied Kalat-i-Ghilzai and Girishk in January 1879. During the fifteen months he remained at Kandahar the surrounding districts became fairly settled and quiet. For his services he received the thanks of parliament and was made a K.C.B. On 30 March 1880 he set out on his celebrated march to Kabul through a country deserted and without resources, defeated the Afghans at Ahmed Khel on 19 April and at Urzu on 23 April, and reached Kabul on 2 May, taking over the command from Sir Frederick (now Earl) Roberts. His combined force was now styled the Northern Afghanistan field force. Having seen the new amir, Abdur Rahman, formally recognised, Stewart was preparing to leave the country when intelligence reached him at the end of July of the disaster at Maiwand, and he sent Sir Frederick Roberts with a picked force of ten thousand men to march to Kandahar to retrieve the position of affairs. He himself returned to India in August with the rest of the troops by the Khaibar route. For his services he received the medal with clasp, the thanks of parliament, the grand cross of the Bath, and was created a baronet. He was appointed military member of the viceroy's council on 18 Oct. 1880, but, on 7 April in the following year, succeeded Sir Frederick Haines as commander-in-chief in India, and occupied the post until the end of 1885, when he returned home. He accepted a seat on the council of India on 16 Dec. 1885, which he held until his death. He was made a companion of the Indian Empire on 24 May 1881, decorated with the grand cross of the star of India on 7 Dec. 1885, and appointed governor of Chelsea Hospital on 9 March 1895. In 1889 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Oxford, and of LL.D. from Aberdeen University. He was a member of the royal commission on Indian civil and military expenditure. He died at Algiers on 26 March 1900. To simplicity of manner and extreme modesty he added the power of plain speaking without giving offence. He was a keen genealogist and an enthusiastic fisherman, and visited Canada frequently for salmon-fishing in the waters of his old schoolfellow, Lord Mount Stephen.

He married, in 1847, Marina, daughter of Commander Thomas Dymock Dabine, R.N., and niece of General Carpenter, who survived him with two sons and three daughters of the marriage. The eldest son, Norman Robert, the present baronet, born on 27 Sept. 1851, colonel in the Indian staff corps, served with distinction under his father; the second, Donald William, became British resident at Kumasi and was made C.M.G. in 1896.

[India Office Records; Despatches; Army Lists; Burke's Peerage &c.; Times, 27 March 1900; Lord Roberts's Forty-one Years in India; Kaye's Sepoy War; Malleson's Indian Mutiny; Holland and Hozier's Expedition to Abyssinia; Anglo-Afghan War, 1879-80, official account; Forbes's Afghan Wars; Ashe's Kandahar Campaign; Le Mesurier's Kandahar in 1879; Shadbolt's Afghan Campaigns of 1878–80; Men and Women of the Time.]

R. H. V.