Lt General Sir Neil Douglas



Sir Neil Douglas, (1779/80–1853), army officer, born in Glasgow, was the fifth son of John Douglas, a Glasgow merchant, and descendant of the Douglases, earls of Angus, through the Douglases of Cruxton and Stobbs. He entered the army as second lieutenant in the 95th regiment (later the Rifle brigade) on 28 January 1801. He was promoted lieutenant on 16 July 1802, and captain into the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) on 19 April 1804. This was the regiment with which he served most of the rest of his military career.

He commanded 1/79th (Highland) Rgmt of Foot, in the 5th Anglo-German Division at the Battle of Waterloo.
 

There follows extracts of his actions in the Peninsular war.

Shortly after landing at Lisbon, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Spain to assist in the defence of Cadiz, where it remained till the middle of August 1810, having had Lts. Patrick M’Crummen, Donald Cameron, and 25 rank and file wounded in performing a small service against the enemy. After its return to Lisbon, the 79th was equipped for the field, and joined the army under Lord Wellington at Busaco on the 25th of September. The 79th was here brigaded with the 7th and 61st Regiments, under the command of Major-General Alan Cameron.

 

The regiment had not long to wait before taking part in the active operations carried on against the French by England’s great general Wellington had taken up a strong position along the Sierra de Busaco, to prevent the further advance of Marshal Massena; and the division of which the 79th formed part was posted at the extreme right of the British line. At daybreak on the 27th of Sept. the French columns, preceded by a swarm of skirmishers, who had nearly surrounded and cut off the picket of the 79th, advanced against the British right, when Captain Neil Douglas gallantly volunteered his company to its support, and opening fire from a favourable position, checked the enemy’s advance, and enabled the picket to retire in good order. As the enemy’s attack was changed to the centre and left, the 79th had no other opportunity that day of distinguishing itself in action. It, however, lost Captain Alexander Cameron ["This gallant officer commanded the picket of the 79th, and could not be induced to withdraw, he was last seen by Captain (afterwards the late Lieut.-General Sir Neil) Douglas, fighting hand to hand with several French soldiers, to whom he refused to deliver up his sword.] 

 

His body was found pierced with seven bayonet wounds. "—Jameson’s Records, p. 24.] and 7 rank and file killed, Captain Neil Douglas, and 41 rank and file wounded.

 

At the siege of Burgos,  the 79th had two officers, one sergeant and 27 rank and file killed; Captain William Marshall, Lt. Hugh Grant, Kewan J. Leslie, and Angus Macdonald, 5 sergeants, 1 drummer, and 79 rank and file wounded.

 

The regiment, with the rest of the army, remained in cantonments till the middle of May 1813; and in February of that year Lt.-Colonel Fulton retired from the command of the regiment, which was assumed by Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas, from the 2nd battalion.

 

At the battle of the Pyrenees,; on the 28th of July, the 6th division, to which the 79th belonged, was assigned a position across the valley of the Lanz, which it had scarcely assumed when it was attacked by a superior French force, which it gallantly repulsed with severe loss; a similar result occurred at all points, nearly every regiment charging with the bayonet. The loss of the 79th was 1 sergeant and 16 rank and file killed; Lieutenant J. Kynock, 2 sergeants, and 38 rank and file wounded. 

 

Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas had a horse shot under him, and in consequence of his services he was awarded a gold medal; and Major Andrew Brown was promoted to the brevet rank of Lt.-Colonel for his gallantry.

 

At this critical juncture, Lt.-Colonel Douglas having succeeded in rallying the 79th, the regiment again advanced, and in a few minutes succeeded in retaking, not only its own former position, but also the redoubt from which the 42nd had been driven. For this service, Lt.-Colonel Douglas received on the field the thanks of Generals Clinton and Pack, commanding the division and brigade; and the regiments in reserve having by this time come up, the brigade was moved to the right, for the purpose of carrying, in conjunction with the Spaniards, the two remaining redoubts on the left of the position. 

 

Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas received the decoration of a gold cross for this action, in substitution of all his former distinctions.

 

He married (1816) Barbara, daughter of George Robertson, banker, of Greenock.

 

He was knighted in 1831 and created KCB in 1837. He was appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle on 29th April 1842 as a Major General.

 

Their son, Sir John married 1843, Lady Elizabeth, daughter of 3rd earl of Cathcart.  Their daughter, Barbara, died in poverty in Norway.

 

Douglas died in Brussels on 1 September 1853 and was buried that month.

 

Lt Gen Neil Douglas is, apparently, the great grandfather of Peter Heneage, who married Jean ne Douglas, a grand daughter of the 19th Earl of Morton

 

Autograph Signature and subscription as Lieutenant-Colonel, 79th Regiment, cut from the end of an autograph letter to Major-General Sir Thomas Brisbane.

 

 

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