Lieutenant-General William Staveley

The Dictionary of National Biography
Founded in 1882 by George Smith

From the Earliest Times to 1900
Volumes 1-22
Staveley, William (1784-1854), lieutenant-general, born at York on 29 July 1784, was the son of William Staveley of York, by Henrietta, born Henderson, a native of Caithness. He was commissioned as ensign in the Caithness legion in 1798, served with it in Ireland during the rebellion of that year, and when it was disbanded obtained a commission in the royal staff corps on 14 July 1804. He became lieutenant on 21 April 1808, and joined Wellesley's army at Oporto in May 1809. He served on the staff of the quartermaster-general throughout the Peninsular war, and was present at Talavera, Fuentes de Onoro, Vittoria, the battle of the Pyrenees, and Toulouse, besides the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos, and many minor actions.

At Ciudad Rodrigo he volunteered to act as guide to the stormers of the light division, and was one of the first men to reach the top of the smaller breach. He was stunned by the explosion which took place as the troops made their way along the ramparts, and he was picked up for dead. On 6 May 1813 he was given a company in the royal African corps, and on 15 Dec. 1814 a brevet majority.

He returned to the royal staff corps on 12 Jan. 1815, and went with a detachment of it to the Netherlands in April. He was on the headquarter staff at Waterloo. In a letter of 22 June he wrote: 'Blucher sent word at one o'clock that he would attack in half an hour. At four Lord Wellington sent me to him to see what he was about, and tell him how well were getting on. I rode all along our line at full gallop, and, after crossing the country about two miles to our left, found him. He told me to tell Lord Wellington that he would attack as soon as he could form his men, which would probably be in an hour or less, but he did not come up with the enemy until they were fairly driven from the field.' He was made brevet lieutenant-colonel and C.B., and subsequently received the Peninsular war medal with eight clasps, the Waterloo medal, and one of the rewards for distinguished service.

He was one of two officers sent into Paris to carry out the terms of the convention of 3 July, and was severely wounded by some French soldiers in the suburbs of the city. He remained in France during the occupation of the allies, returned to England in 1818, and was sent with his company to Mauritius in 1821. He remained there twenty-six years, being appointed deputy quartermaster- general and commandant of Port Louis on 29 Sept. 1825, and acting as governor for several months in 1842. When he left the colony he received an address from the inhabitants, to whom he had always shown himself 'juste, impartial, affiable, bienveillant envers chacun.'

Staveley was promoted colonel on 10 Jan. 1837, and major-general on 9 Nov. 1846. A year afterwards he left Mauritius for Hong Kong, where he commanded the troops for three years. In March 1851 he took up the command of a division of the Bombay army, and in the following year held the command-in-chief for several months. In August 1853 he was given the colonelcy of the 94th foot, and was appointed commander-in-chief at Madras with the local rank of lieutenant-general. He took up this command on 27 Oct. He died suddenly on 4 April 1854 on his way to the Nilgiri Hills, and was buried at Utakamand. He married, on 23 Jan. 1817, Sarah, daughter of Thomas Mather, and left, with other issue, Sir Charles William Dunbar Staveley [q.v.] The inhabitants of Mauritius put up a table to his memory in the protestant church at Port Louis, and a duplicate was erected in the cathedral at Madras. [Gent. Mag. 1854, ii. 390; Reminiscences of Lieutenant-general Staveley, printed for private circulation in 1866; private information] E. M. L.


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