Field Marshal Sir William Rowan, GCB (18th June 1789 – 26th September 1879) was a British Army officer. He served in the Peninsular War and then the Hundred Days, fighting at the Battle of Waterloo and taking part in an important charge led by Sir John Colborne against the Imperial Guard. He later assisted Colborne in Colborne’s new role as Acting Governor General of British North America during the rebellions by the Patriote movement in 1837. Rowan returned to Canada as Commander-in-Chief, North America in which role he made an important conciliatory speech in response to the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal by an angry mob in April 1849.
Born the son of Robert Rowan of County Antrim and Elizabeth Rowan (née Wilson), Rowan was the younger brother of Sir Charles Rowan (c.1782–1852), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London. Rowan was commissioned as an ensign in the 52nd Light Infantry on the 4th of November 1803 and promoted to lieutenant on the 15th of June 1804. He was deployed to Sicily in 1806 and to Sweden in 1808 before being promoted to captain and being given command of a company in the 2nd Battalion of his regiment on the 19th of October 1808.
During the Peninsular War he fought in Spain under General Robert Craufurd: although heavily engaged providing covering fire for Sir John Moore’s famous retreat, he was not present at the Battle of Corunna in January 1809, having been detached to Vigo, from where he returned to England. He was present at the capture of Flushing in August 1809 during the disastrous Walcheren Campaign. After returning to Spain, he was present at the Battle of Sabugal in the April of 1811, the Battle of Vitoria in June of 1813, the Battle of the Pyrenees in the July of 1813 and the Battle of the Bidassoa in October of 1813 as well as the Battle of Nivelle in the November of 1813, the Battle of the Nive in the December of 1813, the Battle of Orthez in February of 1814 and, having been promoted to brevet major on the 3rd of March 1814, he also fought at the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814.
During the Hundred Days Rowan fought at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 taking part in an important charge led by Sir John Colborne against the Imperial Guard. After the War he served in the Army of Occupation of France and was put in charge of the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
Promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel on the 21st of January 1819, Rowan was posted with his regiment to New Brunswick in 1823 before being promoted to the substantive rank of major on the 4th of May 1826. He transferred to the 58th Regiment of Foot on the 27th of July 1826 and, having been promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant colonel on the 22nd July in 1830, he became Military and Civil Secretary to Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, in 1832. He was promoted to colonel on the 10th of January 1837 and assisted Colborne in Colborne’s new role as Acting Governor General of British North America during the rebellions by the Patriote movement in 1837. Rowan was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on the 19th of July 1838 before returning to England in 1839.
Promoted to major-general on the 9th of November 1846, Rowan returned to Canada as Commander-in-Chief, North America in Spring 1849. In this role he made an important conciliatory speech in response to the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal by an angry mob in April 1849. Promoted to the local rank of lieutenant general on the 22nd of June 1849 and to substantive rank of lieutenant-general on the 20th of January 1854, he returned to England in 1855 and retired to a house in Gay Street, Bath. He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on the 5th of February 1856.
Rowan was also colonel of the 19th Regiment of Foot and later of the 52nd Light Infantry. He was promoted to full general on the 13th of August 1862 and, having been advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on the 28th of March 1865, he was promoted to field marshal on the 2nd of June in 1877. He died on the 26th o September 1879 and was buried at Lansdown Cemetery in Bath.
In the year of 1811, Rowan married Martha Spong; they had no children.
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