Howard Douglas : biography
General Sir Howard Douglas, 3rd Baronet, GCB, GCMG, FRS (23 January 1776 – 9 November 1861) was a British military officer born in Gosport, England, the younger son of Admiral Sir Charles Douglas, and a descendant of the Earls of Morton. He was a British general and colonial administrator.
Later career in Europe
On his return to Europe he was employed in various missions, and he published about this time Naval Evolutions, a controversial work dealing with the question of breaking the line (London, 1832). From 1835 to 1840 Douglas, now a GCMG, was Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, where, amongst other reforms, he introduced a new code of laws. In 1837 he became a Lieutenant-General, in 1840 a KCB, in 1841 a civil GCB, and in 1851 a General. From 1842 to 1847 Douglas sat as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool, where he took a prominent part in debates on military and naval matters and on the corn laws. He was frequently consulted on important military questions. His later works included Observations on the Modern System of Fortification, (London, 1859), and Naval Warfare Under Steam (London, 1858 and 1860). He died in Tunbridge Wells. Sir Howard Douglas was an FRS, one of the founders of the RGS, and an honorary DCL of Oxford University. Shortly before his death he declined the offer of a military GCB.
Early writings and promotion to Major-General
In 1816 appeared his Essay on the Principles and Construction of Military Bridges (subsequent editions 1832, 1853); in 1819, Observations on the Motives, Errors and Tendency of M. Carnots System of Defence, and in the following year his Treatise on Naval Gunnery (of which numerous editions and translations appeared up to the general introduction of rifled ordnance). In 1821 he was promoted Major-General. Douglas’s criticisms of Carnot led to an important experiment being carried out at Woolwich in 1822, and his Naval Gunnery became a standard text-book, and indeed first drew attention to the subject of which it treated.
In 1795 he was shipwrecked while in charge of a draft for Canada, and lived with his men for a whole winter on the Labrador coast. Soon after his return to England in 1799 he was made a Captain-Lieutenant. In his regimental service during the next few years, he was attached to all branches of the artillery in succession, becoming Captain in 1804, after which he was placed on half-pay to serve at the Royal Military College, then located at High Wycombe. He taught military strategy and was an authority on military and naval engineering. He served intermittently as commandant of the senior department and as inspector general of instructions at the Royal Military College. In 1804, Douglas was appointed to a majority in the York Rangers, a corps immediately afterwards reduced. He remained on the roll of its officers until promoted Major-General. The senior department of the RMC at High Wycombe, of which he was in charge, was the forerunner of the Staff College. Douglas was promoted brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1806. He served in 1808-1809 in the Peninsular War. He was present at the Battle of Corunna, after which he took part in the Walcheren expedition.
On the death of his half-brother, Vice-Admiral Sir William Douglas in 1809, he succeeded to the baronetcy. In 1812 he was employed in special missions in the north of Spain, and took part in numerous minor operations in this region, but he was soon recalled, the Home Government deeming his services indispensable to the Royal Military College. He became brevet Colonel in 1814 and CB in 1815. He became a fellow of the Royal Society on 25 January 1816.
In 1797, while in Quebec City, Douglas fathered a daughter, Margaret (or Marguerite), but did not marry the mother, Catherine Normandeau. In 1799, he returned to England, and in July of that year he married Anne Dundas, daughter of James Dundas. They had ten children, Major Charles Douglas, James Dundas Douglas, Howard Douglas, General Sir Robert Percy Douglas, 4th Baronet of Carr, Reverend William Frederick Douglas, Ann Douglas, Christina Douglas, Lucy Douglas, Sarah Mary Harcourt Douglas, and Mary Douglas.
Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick
Sir Howard Douglas became Governor of New Brunswick (1823–31). He had to deal with the Maine boundary dispute with the United States of 1828. He also founded Fredericton College (King’s College), now known as the University of New Brunswick, of which he was the first Chancellor. He was governor during the Miramichi fire of 1825, and his actions during that crisis increased his popularity with the people of the province. He secured a charter for King’s College at Fredericton (later the University of New Brunswick).
Following the death of his mother, Sarah Wood Douglas, in 1779, Howard was raised by his aunt, Helena Baillie, near Edinburgh. As a boy, he wanted to join the Royal Navy and follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother. His father agreed to take him to sea when he was thirteen years of age, but Sir Charles died of apoplexy while in Edinburgh just after he arrived to collect Howard in 1789. Howard’s guardians thought it better that he serve in the Army instead, and he entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1790. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1794, becoming Lieutenant a few months later.