This biographical sketch appeared in the Celtic Monthly, a Magazine for Highlanders, in November 1895.


GENERAL SIR JOHN EWART, the present Colonel of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was born on 11th June, 1821, in H.M. 67th Regiment, of which his father, the late Lieutenant-General John Frederick Ewart, C.B., was at that time the Lieutenant-Colonel. He was educated at the Royal Military College of Sandhurst, and in May, 1838, passed out at the head of the list, obtaining at the same time the prize for general merit and good conduct, and also a special certificate signed by the Board of Examination.

General Sir George Murray, G.C.B., who was then the Colonel of the 42ud Royal Highlanders, applied for his appointment to that regiment, but there being no vacancy, he was on the 27th July, 1838, gazetted to an Ensigncy, without purchase, in the 35th Royal Sussex Regiment, the depot of which was stationed at Stirling Castle, where he joined. In 1840 he embarked for the Island of Mauritius, serving in that colony until 1843, and again from 1846 till 1848, in which year he became a Captain and exchanged to the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. Whilst in the 35th he for sometime commanded the light company, and was for several years captain of the cricket eleven.

On September 30th, 1848, he joined the 93rd Highlanders at Stirling Castle, the regiment which had just returned from Canada, being quartered at Stirling, Perth, and Dundee. After remaining for four years in Scotland it was moved to England, and in February, 1854, received sudden orders to embark for Malta, together with three battalions of the Guards and several other regiments. War with Russia having been declared, it proceeded on to Turkey, landing at Gallipoli on 11th April, 1854, and at Varna on the 15th June, for the purpose of assisting the Turks then besieged at Silistria by the Russians: the latter, however, on hearing of the arrival of the British and French troops, at once raised the siege and retired. The invasion of the Crimea was then decided on, and on the 7th September the combined expedition sailed, a sight which will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

The British infantry had been formed into five divisions, the 1st, which was commanded by H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, consisting of three battalions of Guards and the three Highland regiments (42nd, 79th, and 93rd). On the 14th September the landing of the troops was effected about eight miles south of Eupatoria, and on the 19th the allies consisting of 27,000 British, 23,000 French, and 8,000 Turks commenced their march towards Sebastopol.

The Battle of Abna took place on the 20th September, the Russians occupying a very strong position on the heights beyond the river, strengthened by two earth-works, both heavily armed. The light division under Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown, assisted by a portion of the 2nd division, endeavoured to storm the principal field-work, but were unfortunately driven back by the heavy fire. The Guards and Highlanders then advanced in line, the former capturing the field-work and the latter storming the heights to its right. At 5 o'clock the fighting was all over and the Russians in full retreat, the loss of the 93rd being 1 officer (Ensign Abercromby) killed and 52 non-commissioned officers and men killed or wounded. In this battle Sir John Ewart, who was at the time a captain, had the scabbard of his claymore broken by a rifle ball. He was subsequently present at the Battles of Balaclava and Inkerman, and throughout the Siege of Sabastopol, accompanying the 93rd on the expedition to Kertch and Yenikale, and being present with them at the two assaults upon Sebastopol, made 18th June and 8th September, 1855. The Highland regiments were not present at Inkerman, being at that date employed in the defence of Balaclava, but Sir John Ewart, who had passed through the Staff College, having been appointed a Deputy Assistant Quarter-Master General was present at that battle on horseback, and was riding with Lord Raglan and the staff when a shell burst in their midst, killing the horses of Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon, A.Q.M.G., and Captain Somerset, A.D.C , and mortally wounding General Strangways, who commanded the British artillery.

On the termination of the war Sir John Ewart, who had previously been promoted to the rank of Major, was made a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and was one of four officers of the 93rd who received the French Legion of Honour and Turkish Order of the Medjidie, and one of three officers of the 93rd who received the Piedmontese Silver Medal inscribed with the words " Al valore militare," he having served throughout the entire campaign without being absent from his duty for a single day. He was for some little time in command of the regiment during the siege, in consequence of the absence of the other three field-officers.

Whilst acting as a D.A.Q.M.G. he executed a survey of the whole of the country between Balaclava and the Russian defences, being repeatedly under fire whilst so employed, and was with the 93rd when they did duty for two months in the trenches after their return from Kertch.

Sir John remained in the Crimea until the very last, and on returning to England in July, 1856, after peace had been proclaimed, was stationed at Aldershot and Dover until June, 1857, when the regiment was placed under orders for China, forming part of an expedition sent for the purpose of attacking Canton. On arrival at the Cape of Good Hope the destination of the 93rd was suddenly changed to India, in consequence of the breaking out of the great mutiny of the native troops, and on reaching Calcutta the regiment was pushed on hurriedly to Cawnpore, with a view to the rescue of the ladies and children besieged in the residency of Lucknow, for although Havelock and Outram had fought their way with the 78th Highlanders and one or two other regiments into Lucknow in the month of September, they were unable to make the rescue complete and became themselves also besieged.

On November 2nd Sir John was engaged with two companies of the 93rd in an attack upon the fortified village of Bunterah, and on the 5th was second in command of a force sent to convey provisions and ammunition to the Alumbagh, where Haveloek had left his sick, and luggage under a strong guard; this was successfully accomplished after being again engaged with the enemy.

On the 14th Sir Colin Campbell having arrived, the relieving force consisting of about 4,000 men advanced from the Alumbagh and captured the Dilkusha and Martiniere, the Fort Julalabad having been taken possession of on the previous day, when Sir John Ewart commanded the brigade of infantry sent to attack it. He was also given command of the rearguard consisting of three squadrons of cavalry, a troop of horse artillery, and 500 infantry, detailed to protect the whole of the baggage and provisions during Sir Colin's advance on the 14th. This he effected without the loss of a single cart, after beating off the enemy.

The storming of the Secunderbagh took place on the 16th November, when Sir John Ewart (then Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel) commanded the seven companies of the 93rd which took part in it, the remaining three being engaged under Lieutenant-Colonel Leith-Hay in the capture of a village and the King's stables. There were no ladders, but a small breach having been made in the wall of the building by one of the heavy guns an entrance was effected, the hole, however, being only large enough to admit one at a time. The enemy were taken by surprise, but those who got in first had to fight for their lives, and Lieutenant-Colonel Ewart had his bonnet shot off his head by a volley fired at a distance of only ten yards, afterwards receiving two sword cuts in a personal encounter with two native officers who were defending a colour which he succeeded in capturing. The main entrance gate and a large window protected by iron bars having been at last forced, the rest of the stormers rushed in, and in a short time about 2,000 of the rebels lay dead, no quarter being given on account of the horrible barbarities perpetrated at Cawnpore, by order of the scoundrel, Nana Sahib.

The Shah Nujjeef and other buildings were then stormed and taken, and the relief of the Residency effected, the women, children, sick and wounded, being all withdrawn on the night of the 19th, and the troops under Haveloek and Outram, together with Sir Colin's force, retiring to the Martiniere on the night of the 22nd.

To the great grief of everyone Sir Henry Havelock died on the 24th November, and Sir Colin Campbell then decided to leave Outram with 4,000 men in front of Luckuow, whilst he himself escorted the women, children, sick, and wounded to Cawnpore. The 93rd accompanied him, starting on the 27th, the force of 3,000 men having to protect an enormous number of helpless creatures, whom it was necessary to carry and get across the Ganges as soon as possible.

General Wyndham had been left in command at Cawnpore, as that place was threatened by the mutineers of the Gwalior Contingent, who had effected a junction with some of the soldiers of Nana Sahib, and now endeavoured to gain possession of the bridge of boats so as to prevent the re crossing of Sir Colin ; and on the very day the latter marched from Lucknow made a fierce and determined attack upon Cawnpore, driving Wyndham into the small fort.

Campbell had halted for the night at Bunnee, but in consequence of the heavy firing heard in the direction of Cawnpore, he made a forced march of about forty miles on the 28th, and just managed to arrive in time to save the bridge, the 93rd being the first regiment sent across under cover of the heavy guns belonging to the Naval Brigade.

On the night of the 29th the women, children, and invalids were all got safely across the Ganges, and Sir Colin disposed his force the best way he could to protect them until reinforcements should arrive from Allahabad. It was in the performance of this duty that Sir John Ewart lost his left arm by a cannon shot on the 1st December, not far from the spot where his cousin. Colonel John Ewart, who commanded the 1st Bengal Native Infantry which mutinied, had been foully murdered, together with his wife and little girl, in the month of July.

When Ewart's left arm was shot away his right arm was in a sling from his wound at Lucknow, and he continued for some weeks in a very sad state, his life having at one time been given over. Possessing a strong constitution he eventually recovered, and after leaving Cawnpore was sent to England on sick leave. The death of poor Adrian Hope at the attack upon the fort of Rohya gave him his regimental Lieutenant Colonelcy, and the mutiny having been completely put down he exchanged with Colonel Stisted of the 78th Highlanders, then on its passage home from India. He had been appointed a Companion of the Bath, and in April, 1859, was further rewarded for his services by being made an Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, with the rank of Full-Colonel in the army, a promotion which put him over the heads of about a hundred Lieutenant-Colonels.

He continued in command of the Ross-shire Buff's until October, 1864, and in the year 1872 was promoted to the rank of Major-General, shortly afterwards receiving the reward of £100 per annum, granted for distinguished services.

After the Relief of Lucknow he was strongly recommended by Brigadier-General the Hon. Adrian Hope, who commanded the Highland Brigade, for the Victoria Cross, the names of three other officers of the 93rd being also sent in at the same time, but Sir Colin Campbell, who had become Full-Colonel of the regiment, declined to award more than one Cross, being probably afraid that he would be accused of favouring the Sutherland Highlanders. He therefore gave orders that the officers should assemble and select the recipient. A mess meeting was held with the following result:—

Captain W.D. Stewart, - 18 Votes.
Lieut-Colonel J.A. Ewart, - 16 Votes„
Captain W.A. Cooper, - 5 Votes

One of the medical officers who was unable to attend the meeting stated that he should have voted for Ewart, who therefore only lost the Victoria Cross by one vote. Had he represented the matter he would, doubtless, have been given the much-coveted decoration, but he has all along refused to do so, as he considers that he was no braver than the rest of his brother-officers, and merely did his duty.

In the month of March, 1877, Sir John Ewart was appointed to the command of the Allahabad division, extending from Cawnpore to Segowlie on the Nepaul frontier, a distance of about five hundred miles. This appointment he held until the 30th November, 1879, when in consequence of his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-General he had to leave India.

On the 12th January, 1884, he became a Full General on the active list, having previously been appointed Colonel of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment. The Colonelcy of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders falling vacant he was on the 12th March, 1884, transferred to that regiment, and on the 30th June, 1895, he was again transferred to the Colonelcy of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, which consists of the old 91st and 93rd. On the occasion of Her Majesty's Jubilee he was made a K.C.B. Sir John Ewart belongs to an old Border family, which in the 15th century moved into the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. His residence, Craigclouch, is situated in Eskdale, about two miles from Langholm, and he is a Justice of the Peace for the County of Dumfries. He married in the year 1858 Frances, eldest daughter of John Spencer Stone, of Callingwood Hall, and two of his sons are Captains in the 79th Cameron Highlanders, another having been for some time in the Black Watch. He has therefore been closely connected with the five old kilted regiments, 42nd, 78th, 79th, 92nd, and 93rd.

Hereford . . . . John MacKay

Internal Links

External Links