Wilson, Wiltshire (DNB00)


WILSON, Sir WILTSHIRE (1762–1842), lieutenant-general, colonel-commandant royal artillery, born in 1762, was second son of Major Wiltshire Wilson of Wollock Grange, Northumberland, formerly of the 1st dragoons, by a daughter of Ralph Phillips of Colchester. After passing through the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich he received a commission as second lieutenant in the royal artillery on 9 July 1779. The dates of his further commissions were: lieutenant, 28 Feb. 1782; captain-lieutenant, 1 Nov. 1793; captain, 1 July 1796; brevet major, 29 Aug. 1802; regimental major, 20 July 1804; lieutenant-colonel, 10 March 1805; brevet colonel, 4 July 1813; regimental colonel, 20 Dec. 1814; major-general, 12 Aug. 1819; colonel-commandant of royal artillery, 21 Jan. 1828; lieutenant-general, 10 Jan. 1837.

Wilson went to the West Indies in 1780, whence in 1786 he took a detachment of artillery to Canada, and in 1790 returned to England. He served with the Duke of York's army in Flanders in 1793, and was for some time attached with two 6-pounder guns to the 53rd foot. He was employed in May, June, and July at the siege of Valenciennes, which place capitulated on 28 July. He was dangerously wounded at the attack on Dunkirk on 24 Aug. In October he was thrown into Nieuport with his two guns in company with the 53rd foot and two Hessian battalions, where they were attacked by the whole French army under General Vandamme. Vandamme met with an obstinate resistance, the sluices were opened, and his siege batteries inundated, and when, abandoning the regular attack, he attempted a night assault on 25 Oct., his front was so limited between the river and the inundation that Wilson, with his two guns placed to command the enemy's approach, was able, by firing rapidly into the advancing foe over one hundred rounds of grape and round shot, to create such fearful havoc that the French withdrew just at the critical time when enlarged gun-vents and distorted muzzles were rendering Wilson's guns useless. The arrival of British forces on the 29th caused Vandamme to raise the siege on the following day, leaving his battering guns behind. The successful defence was ascribed by all concerned to the artillery and the 53rd regiment. Wilson's services were rewarded by promotion to the rank of captain-lieutenant. In consequence of the gallantry displayed by the fishermen of Nieuport the Duke of York incorporated them into a company of artillery, and gave the command of it to Wilson in June 1794.

Wilson took part in the battle of Tournay on 23 May 1794. He commanded the artillery at the defence of Nieuport this year, when General Diepenbrook with 1,500 men held the French army of 40,000 men under General Moreau at bay for nineteen days. On the capitulation Wilson became a prisoner of war, and was not exchanged for nine months. He commanded the royal artillery in the expedition under Major-general Welbore Ellis Doyle to Quiberon Bay in 1795; shortly after the capture of Isle Dieu he returned to England. In 1796 he went to the Cape of Good Hope with a company of artillery, but returned home the following year. In May 1798 he went to Ostend in the expedition under Major-general Sir Eyre Coote, where he was again taken prisoner and sent to Lille. He was exchanged in 1799. In 1800 he was sent to the West Indies, where he remained for five years, in the last three of which he commanded the artillery. He commanded his arm at the capture of St. Lucia on 22 June 1803, of Tobago on 30 June 1803, and of Surinam on 5 May 1804.

On his return to England in 1806 Wilson commanded the royal artillery in the northern district until 1810, when he went to Ceylon to command his regiment there. He returned home in 1815, and two years afterwards went to Canada, where he commanded the royal artillery until 1820. His services were rewarded in 1836 by the distinction of a knight commandership of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic order. He died on 8 May 1842 at Cheltenham. Wilson was twice married: first, in 1789, to a daughter of John Lees; and, secondly, in 1825, to a daughter of Jacob Glen of Chambly, near Montreal. There was no issue of either marriage. There is a black-and-white portrait of Wilson in the Royal Artillery Institution at Woolwich.

[War Office Records; Royal Artillery Records; Despatches; Memoirs in the Royal Military Calendar, 1820, Gent. Mag. 1842, United Service Mag. 1843; Military Annual, 1844; Times, 11 May 1842; Cust's Wars of Eighteenth Cent.; Carmichael Smyth's Wars in the Low Countries; Journ. and Corresp. of Sir Harry Calvert; Cannon's Hist. Records of the 53rd Foot.]

R. H. V.