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Lt General Robert Douglas, abt 1745 - 1827






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General Robert Douglas was the son of Major Robert Douglas.  He married Mary Kearsley in 1777 and had four children:



Major- Gen. Robert Douglas served with distinction in America during the Revolutionary War. Was appointed Commandant of the Corps. of Artillery Drivers on their establishment in 1795, and retained the appointment until the breaking up of the Corps. in 1817.


The following notes have been generously contributed:

1. Kemble White has a picture of General Douglas inscribed, "grandfather of S.L. Douglas Willan"

2. See Will (Citation 2) for relationships- children and others.

3. Career

A. The Royal Artillery Library and Archive at Woolwich provided the following material (scan in file) taken from Kane’s, "List of Officers' in the Royal Artillery," (available also at LOC).

Gunner, Matross or Cadet c. 2 August 1760
Fireworker 26 June 1762
2nd. Lt 1 Jan 1771
1st. Lt 25 Mar 1777
Capt. Lt. 7 Jul 1779
Capt. 20 Nov 1783
Major 14 Aug 1794 (1 Mar 94)
Lt. Col. 6 Mar 1795
Col 12 Sep 1803 (29 Apr 1802)
Major General 25 Oct 1809
Lt. General 4 June 1814
Col Commandant 4 Sep 1809
d. Woolwich 4 Apr 1827

Published listing (he was No. 424) saying
N. Am 1777; disting. at the Hudson 1779 under Sir H. Clinton.

On page 167
Succession of Directors General and Inspectors General of Artillery; ............
He is listed as Director General of Artillery 18 Nov 1823.

On page 232 there is a write-up of 424:
Major- Gen. Robert Douglas served with distinction in America during the Revolutionary War. Was appointed Commandant of the Corps. of Artillery Drivers on their establishment in 1795, and retained the appointment until the breaking up of the Corps. in 1817.

B. "British Army Lists 1740-1780," Special Editor Ivor F. Burton (available at the LOC Microfiche 2002/1):

1764 Lt. Fireworker Robert Douglas, date commission 26 June 1762, in RA on half pay
1765 No mention of Robert Douglas in RA
1767 Lt. Fireworker Robert Douglas, date commission 26 June 1762, in RA on half pay
1770 Lt. Fireworker Robert Douglas, date commission 26 June 1762, in RA
1774 2nd. Lt. (Regimental Rank) Robert Douglas, date commission 1 Jan 1771 in RA, 1st. Batt.

C. Army List for 1796 & 7 (FHL 0896658):

1796 Colonel (local rank, America) 17 Nov 1790
1797 Lt. Col. 6 Mar 1795

D. British Army Lists ("A List of all the Officers of the Army," issued by War Office- publication dates as indicated, below- (which are available in the U.Va. Special Collections call number U11.G7.A7 1780). These list him in the separate section covering officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (which appears after the regiments of foot of the regular army) and under the regimental rank given (with date in rank) as indicated:

W.O. 30 June 1780; Capt. Lt. and Capt. 21 July, 1779 [SIC]
W.O. 25 March 1785; Capt. 20 Nov. 1783 [SIC]
W.O. 10 Jan 1794; Capt. 7 July, 1779 [SIC]
W.O. Feb, 1800; Lt. Col. 6 Mar, 1795.

E. British Officers who served in the American Revolution 1775-1783, Baule & Gilbert, (available at DAR Library) provides following details for Douglas, Robert RA:

1st. Lt. 25 Apr 1777 [SIC]
Capt-Lt., 21 Jul 1779.
Married December 1777 [SIC]
Died Charleston, 1780 [SIC]- probably due to a misreading of Duncan page 339!

4. Literature:

A. "The History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery," by Capt. Francis Duncan, published by John Murray of Albemarle Street, London, 1872 Vol 1 indicates that he was the Captain commanding No. 5 Company, 3rd. Battalion in 1783 (the next in succession was Captain in 1794). There is also a write-up on page 338 reading:

"The reader will now be good enough to accompany the General up Broadway, towards Hester Street, in the Bowery, then one of the extreme streets yet built in New York, and near the spot where the British landed on the 16th. of September, 1776, to occupy the city. It was close to the place where St. Mark's Church now stands.... In Hester Street lived Mrs. Douglas, the wife of as brave a subaltern of Artillery as ever stepped. The General had just received a despatch from Sir Hillary Clinton, then engaged in operations up the Hudson, in which young Douglas's bravery, coolness, and skill had been mentioned in the highest terms. Before writing to his subaltern to express the satisfaction he derived from such a report, the General hastened to tell the good news to Mrs. Douglas; thus killing two birds with one stone."

It appears from the same source (page 354) that the action for which he was praised had to do with his directing artillery fire onto an American sloop:

"Fortunately, the wind was against the vessel on her return; and Lieutenant Douglas of the Artillery, who was in command of a detachment at Verplank's Point [DALB note: on the Hudson river] opened fire upon her with such success from an 18 pounder gun that, after being hulled several times she was run ashore to prevent her sinking and then set on fire. Lieutenant Douglas...and his detachment were honoured by the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief for their good behaviour."

B. Browne (p 43) reports the same incident in more detail- including the British deception of holding their fire so that the Americans believing that they were out of shells loaded their own cannon onto a sloop which Douglas fired upon once they were loaded. Browne indicates that he died aged 73- clearly an error since that would make him eight years old in 1762!

C. Duncan (page 405) indicates that on the 14th of August, 1794, an augmentation of the Royal Artillery of five companies was sanctioned, to be called after organization, the Fifth Batallion of which Robert Douglas was the Major.

D. Duke University has the Scots Magazine 1739-1826 97 vols in Special Collections Library- E15Bs434. It lists birth, marriage and death records and civil, military and ecclesiatical for Scots at home and abroad. Indices surname only in each volume. May be source for birth- ca. 1745.

E. May be worth looking at: Askwith, W.H., "List of officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery from 1716 to 1899 to which are added notes on officers' services," Royal Artillery Institution, 4th Ed. 1900.

F. UNC has a book Royal Artillery 1731- 1781 by Robert P. Davies Call # DA67.1 P47D38 1999.

G. The lost war: letters from British officers during the American Revolution edited and annotated by Mation Balderston and David Syrett (available at DAR Library) General History 1775-1783 F: England ?????.

H.Officers of four British regiments in America during the American Revolution 1779-1782, Sherman Lee Pompey, Call # E267.P64, Jefferson.

5. Communication from Steven Baule, PhD

I believe that this is the same Robert Douglas. I didn't mean to imply he was an officer in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot; only that he served in Illinois alongside that regiment with his modest detachment of Royal Artillery gunners and matrosses stationed at Ft. Chartres. Douglas was the only Royal Artillery officer stationed at Ft. Chartres, occasionally referred to as Ft. Cavendish by the British, in the 1771-1772 period. His signature is on several ordnance returns that are in the Gage papers (at the University of Michigan) and well as he is mentioned in several letters from/to officers of the 18th Foot. His detachment of gunners was responsible for supervising the artillery at Ft. Chartres. Ultimately, he was also responsible for the destruction of most of the guns when the post was ordered to be destroyed in the spring of 1772. At that time, Lt. Douglas, RA, left Illinois, most likely for Philadelphia. Only a gunner and two matrosses were left in the Illinois Country along with a small detachment of the Royal Irish.
Any additional information on his later career would be appreciated.

6. Obituary (Citation 2):

Provides honorary and army rank at death and approximate birthdate.

7. Records of Officers Services

A. FHL 950839 (W.O. 76) Items 5-8 Regimental Records of Officers' Services, Royal Regiment of Artillery (1771- 1881) does not mention him but does mention his sons General Robert Douglas and John Kearsley Douglas. There is a note saying that this series supplements returns of services of W.O. 25. Need to figure out how Item Nos. and officers dates interrelate. From recollection, it appeared that the later Items generally referred to later birthdates of the officers (probably related to dates of commissions). The earliest records of Officers' Services appear to be 1770.

B.. From internet book review, there are some additional service records for selected officers of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers in series WO 54 [for 1727-51?] and [WO 76 for 1771-1914?] and [SIC] service records of artillery officers are in WO 24/3913-20 for 1797-1922. Returns [of service records] were prepared for serving officers in 1809/10...(held in WO 25). Note: if these dates are those of commissions then they would not contain Robert's service record.

C. For further research at the National Archives, Kew:

Ordnance Office, Military Branch, and War Office: Royal Artillery Records of Services and papers

WO 69/1 1776- 1806
WO 69/2 1793- 1813
WO 69/3 1794- 1815
WO 69/4&5 1794- 1813
WO 69/6 1794- 1821
WO 69/7- 15 1803- 1863

General Officers statements of service 1807- 1876.

There is a note indicating that Item 8 may have an index.

D. Considered searching FHL 950840 (1810- 1902) and 950843 (1770- 1890) records of officer services for the 5th,. (invalid) Battalion of the Royal Artillery to see if his record of services is there. However, the following note taken from the National Archives website would appear to indicate that further search for his record of service is likely to be fruitless: "No original records of service of officers appointed before 1793 have survived. However, confirmation of a commission or an appointment can sometimes be found from documents or official publications of a later date."

7. From Douglas Community Network

At 10:56am on October 9, 2009, Claudine Douglas wrote:…
Hi William, many thanks for your message. I have the Douglas-Willan connection in my family tree. As you will already know John Kearsley Douglas married Isabella Maria Willan and they then changed their name to Douglas-Willan. They were my 4xGreat grandparents. I have very limited information going back another 4 generations prior to that....the father of John Kearsley Douglas, being Robert Douglas (Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1779, Colonel Commandant of the R.A and a Lieutenant General in the Army, died 1827. I have a copy of his Will dated 14 November 1826) and HIS father also being Robert Douglas (Major of Marines). (I have an abstract of his will dated 1780). HIS father was James Douglas (died young in Abermarle's [SIC] Regiment at Gibralter) and HIS father was John Douglas (a Colonel in the Army).
8. Miscellaneous:

A. Artillery officers were trained at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich; however, it appears that records of cadet papers are only available from 1775 onwards.

B. There was no mention of him in the one volume Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (LOC Call # DA28.095 2004).

C. The Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, was established in 1741 to produce officers for the artillery and the engineers. There is a film of Entry of Officer Cadets at the Royal Military Academy but the date ranges is 1775- 1940.

D. Apparently, in the Royal Artillery, promotions were based on seniority (i.e., officers did not buy their commissions).

E. It might be worth checking Index to pedigrees in Burke's Commoners 1785-1873 to see if he is included (Ormerod, George 942D22og).

F. Father not mentioned in sister Elizabeth's marriage record.

G. In the British Army, the Colonel-Commandant is the honorary commander of some corps, usually a member of the Royal Family or a senior or retired general.




Not to be confused with:

General Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge 1611-1661
Major-General Robert Douglas (of Garlston, NB) Born c1744, died 7th June 1798
Major General Robert Douglas Death: Aug. 20. 1828 At Great Baddow, Essex,
Major General Robert Douglas 1727-1809
General Robert Douglas, C.B. died at Claygate, Surrey on February 10, 1871
Major General Sir Robert Percy Douglas died on 30 September 1891 aged 87
Major General Robert Wilkins Douglass Jr. born in 1900 in Memphis, Tenneessee, USA



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