Grant, James

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Grant, James

GRANT, JAMES. (1720–1806). British general. In his youth, James Grant studied law, but in September 1741 he abandoned his studies and enlisted in the First Royal Scots Regiment as an ensign. Promoted second lieutenant in May 1742, he was sent to Flanders in June 1744. During the summer he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and on 24 October he was made a captain. He fought at Fontenoy (Belgium) on 11 May 1745, emerging from the action without a scratch. Appointed aide-de-camp to General James St. Clair, he was in the raid on Quiberon Bay, off the coast of France, in October 1746. In 1747 and 1748, he accompanied General Arthur St. Clair on a mission to Vienna and Turin. From 1752 to 1755 he tutored St. Clair's nephew, a student at Göttingen, in Germany. In February 1757 he was promoted major in the First Highland Regiment (later the Seventy-seventh Highland Regiment), commanded by Archibald Montgomery. After garrison duty in South Carolina, he joined John Forbes's expedition in 1758 against Fort Duquesne. On 14 September, while leading a reconnaissance party against the French and Indians, he was defeated and captured.

Released in late 1759, Grant accompanied Montgomery as second in command, with the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel, on an expedition against the Cherokees in South Carolina. He campaigned with General Archibald Montgomery during the summer of 1760 against the Cherokee settlements known as the Lower Towns, and in July was promoted permanent lieutenant colonel. In 1761, he commanded his own expedition against the Cherokees, defeating them at the village of Etchoe on 10 June. He was promoted to brevet colonel of the Fortieth Regiment on 25 February 1762, and participated in the siege of Havana, Cuba. After short service as lieutenant governor of Havana, he returned to England in early 1763. Obtaining the governorship of East Florida, he spent the next seven years trying to improve that province. He promoted the cultivation of indigo, dealt fairly with the Indians, and strengthened East Florida's defenses. On 9 May 1771 he returned home to take possession of Ballindalloch, his family's estate in Scotland, which he had inherited the year before.

Fond of high living, the corpulent Grant lived in comfort at Ballindalloch and his London town house. In April 1773 he was elected to the House of Commons and became a firm supporter of the North ministry (the government of Prime Minister Frederick, Lord North). Taking a hard line against Americans who resisted British authority, he advocated coercion and proposed a naval blockade to bring the recalcitrants to heel. On 2 February 1775 he made a disparaging and inflammatory speech against Americans in the House of Commons, which he later attempted to moderate. In March he was promoted brigadier general for America, and on 30 July he joined the British army in Boston. There he advocated harsh, retributive warfare against the rebels and was disgusted when his superiors did not take his advice. He was made colonel of the Fifty-fifth Regiment on 11 December, and two days later was promoted to major general. In the battle of Long Island, on 26 August 1776, he commanded the British left, and on 16 November he assisted in the capture of Fort Washington on Manhattan.

In December 1776, Grant was placed in command of Hessian garrisons in New Jersey. He was surprised on 26 December, when American troops successfully assaulted the garrison at Trenton. Disgusted, he observed in 1777 that the rebels would neither fight nor surrender. They were, he declared, a bore. In April and June he skirmished against the Americans at Bound Brook and Woodbridge, and he fought well at Brandywine (11 September) and Germantown (4 October). On 20 May 1778 he was criticized for allowing rebel troops to escape an encirclement at Barren Hill, but he fought ably at Monmouth on 28 June. By that time he had become convinced that the war in America was unwinnable, and was happy in October to be ordered to the West Indies.

Grant seized St. Lucia from the French on 13 December, he but lost St. Vincent and Grenada to the enemy in the next few months. Sick and exhausted, he returned to England on 1 August 1779. He resumed his seat in the House of Commons, and served there until his retirement in 1802 at the age of eighty-one. In 1782 he was promoted lieutenant general and appointed governor of Dumbarton Castle. Because of his loyalty to the Pitt ministry, in 1789 he was given the governorship of Stirling Castle. In addition, he was appointed colonel of the Eleventh Regiment on 9 November 1791, given command of troops in northern England in 1793, and promoted to the rank of general in 1796. Only once did he defy Prime Minister William Pitt's wishes, voting against the Slave Trade Bill in 1791. He resigned from the army in 1796, and spent the remainder of his days in comfort and leisure at Ballindalloch.

Early in life, Grant had announced that his intention in life was to secure a good house in London, along with a good cook, good food, good wine—good everything. He succeeded. A bon vivant, he became corpulent and gouty in his old age. But he was also a loyal, competent, intelligent, brave, and idealistic soldier and politician.

SEE ALSO Colonial Wars.


Grant, Alastair Macpherson. General James Grant of Ballindalloch, 1720–1806. London: Alastair Macpherson Grant, 1930.

Nelson, Paul David. General James Grant: Scottish Soldier and Royal Governor of East Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993.

                               revised by Paul David Nelson

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