James Johnston (British Army officer, died 1797)

James Johnston (~1721 – 13 December 1797) was a general in the British Army.


He was the only surviving son of Captain George Johnston, an army agent[note 1] at Dublin descended from the Johnstons of Hilton in Berwickshire, by his wife Hester Bland, daughter of James Bland, Dean of Ardfert and great-aunt to Dorothea Jordan. His sister Mary married Francis Napier, 6th Lord Napier.[1] His paternal grandfather was Sir Patrick Johnston, three times Lord Provost of Edinburgh.[2]


Johnston[note 2] joined the army as a cornet in the 13th Regiment of Dragoons on 5 October 1736, and transferred to the Royal Dragoons in 1739, where he rose to the rank of major. On 2 December 1754 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 13th Dragoons,[3] then on 7 April 1759 went back to the Royal Dragoons as lieutenant-colonel,[4] commanding the regiment in Germany under Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick. He served with distinction at the Battle of Warburg on 31 July 1760 and was wounded at the Battle of Kloster Kampen on 15 October.[3] He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Nevis in April 1761[5] (and so was briefly responsible for the juveniles Alexander Hamilton and Frances Herbert Woolward 1761–1831) was promoted to colonel[6] on 19 February 1762[4] and granted local rank as a major-general, commanding a cavalry brigade in the campaign of 1762. As a mark of esteem he was given a gold snuff-box by Brunswick's nephew Hereditary Prince Charles.[3]

Johnston was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Minorca in 1763,[7] promoted major-general in April 1770,[8] and made colonel of the 9th Regiment of Dragoons on 2 January 1771.[3] He was retired from his responsibilities for Minorca and made governor of (the garrison at[9]) Quebec on 21 November 1774, though manifestly gazetted Governor of Quebec,[10] the lesser position he held until his death in 1797. He transferred as colonel to the 1st Irish Horse on 27 April 1775[11] and was promoted lieutenant-general in September 1777.[12] On 14 April 1778 he became colonel of the 6th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Dragoons.[13] 'Irish' Johnston was promoted full general in 1793.[14] On his death he was succeeded as Governor of Quebec by Staats Long Morris.[15]

James Johnston was one of the most celebrated swordsmen of his day.[3] On 5 May 1763, he married Lady Henrietta West, daughter of Lord De La Warr, leaving issue; his widow died in 1817.[1] General Johnston died at Hampton 13 September 1797 in his 77th year and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 21 December 1797.[3]


  1. For army officers their banker, broker for the purchase and sale of commissions, agents for transfers and for arrangement of clothing and equipment. Refer to Paymaster of the Forces.
  2. Confusion with namesake James Johnston, "Johnston of the Blues"
    He was known as 'Irish' Johnston because he was often confused with another James Johnston, army officer, of very much the same age, Johnston of the Blues. 'Irish' Johnston's father George was a third cousin of James Johnston son of James Johnston, they shared descent from Archibald Johnston (died 1619) and his wife Rachel Arnot.
    These appointments of the two James Johnstons: major general, lieutenant general and general, were identical and gazetted on the same day, one man listed above the other without distinction. In addition on 9 March 1762 they were gazetted respectively colonel of horse and colonel of dragoons (dragoons immediately above horse). Before he became a general officer, the other James Johnston's career and his colonelcies were with crack household regiments.
    Lady Henrietta Johnston with effect from 14 December 1797 received an Allowance as of His Majesty's Royal Bounty, &c. of £200 per annum "In consideration of her late husband's (General James Johnston, late Colonel 6th Dragoons) faithful and unremitted exertions in the Service, during a period of more than 60 years and of the high Rank which he had attained in the Army". Estimates and Accounts, Army returns &c, Session 7, January to 30 July 1812, Vol IX . Retrieved 22 December 2012.
    The letter of appointment dated 27 April 1775 of James Johnston to colonel of the 11th Regiment of Dragoons may rest among his archived papers with his other commissions but if that commission were for him then it would have been mentioned with his wife's pension and it is not.
  • Further resources:
Military commissions of James Johnston, 5 October 1736—12 October 1793. Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies DE/HL/15994-16003
Appointment as Governor of Quebec, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies DE/HL/16008


  1. James Johnston – Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  2. The Scots Magazine, vol 32, p.343
  3. Richard Cannon, Historical record of the Fourth or Royal Irish Regiment of Dragoon Guards (London, 1839) page 90-91
  4. A List of the general and field officers ... of the officers in the several regiments ... on the British and Irish establishment (London, 1767) page 29
  5. "No. 10095". The London Gazette. 14 April 1761. p. 1.
  6. "No. 10190". The London Gazette. 9 March 1762. p. 1.
  7. "No. 10306". The London Gazette. 23 April 1763. p. 2.
  8. "No. 11039". The London Gazette. 30 April 1770. p. 1.
  9. that he was 'Governor' of the garrison-town, not the Province
  10. "No. 11511". The London Gazette. 22 November 1774. p. 1.
  11. "No. 11557". The London Gazette. 2 May 1775. p. 1.
  12. "No. 11802". The London Gazette. 6 September 1777. p. 2.
  13. "No. 11865". The London Gazette. 11 April 1778. p. 1.
  14. "No. 13582". The London Gazette. 18 October 1793. p. 913.
  15. "No. 14074". The London Gazette. 19 December 1797. p. 1202.
Military offices
Preceded by
Captain of Major-General Hawley's
1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons

24 April 1742 – 1745
Succeeded by
John Mostyn
Preceded by
Major of Lieutenant-General Hawley's
1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons

27 May 1745 – 1754
Succeeded by
Preceded by
John Toovey
Lieutenant-Colonel of Colonel Mostyn's
13th Regiment of Dragoons

2 December 1754 – 1759
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Lieutenant-Colonel of Major-General Conway's
1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons

7 April 1759 – 1762
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Lieutenant Governor of Nevis
14 April 1761 – 1763
Succeeded by
Preceded by
French occupation
of Minorca
Lieutenant Governor of Minorca
deputy to Sir Richard Lyttelton

23 April 1763 – 1774
Succeeded by
James Murray
Preceded by
Henry Whitley
Colonel of the
9th Regiment of Dragoons

Succeeded by
Flower Mocher
Preceded by
James Murray
Governor of Quebec
Succeeded by
Staats Long Morris
Preceded by
James Johnston
Colonel of the
1st Irish Horse

Succeeded by
George Warde
Preceded by
Edward Harvey
Colonel of the
6th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Dragoons

Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
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