DESPARD, JOHN. (1743/4–1829). British army officer and colonial governor. The elder brother of Edward Marcus Despard, he entered the Twelfth Foot as an ensign in 1760. He saw action in Germany, and was promoted to lieutenant on 12 July 1762. Placed on half pay in 1763, he accepted a lieutenancy in the Seventh Foot (Royal Fusiliers) in 1767 and went with his regiment to Quebec in 1773. Taken prisoner at the surrender of St. Johns (on the Richelieu River) on 2 November 1775, he was exchanged in December 1776 and joined William Howe's army at New York. Promoted to captain on 25 March, Despard took part in the capture of Fort Montgomery in New York during October. Subsequently promoted to major, in 1778 he organized Rawdon's new corps, the Volunteers of Ireland. He then served as deputy adjutant general on Clinton's Charleston expedition of 1780 and with Cornwallis's army until Yorktown in 1781. Promoted to colonel in August 1795 and major general in 1798, he was governor of Cape Breton from 1800 to 1807 and rose to full general in 1814. Altogether he served in twenty-four engagements and suffered three shipwrecks.
SEE ALSO Volunteers of Ireland.
revised by John Oliphant