Sir Charles William Dunbar Staveley

Charles William Dunbar Staveley (1817-1896) and his family can be found residing in Stoke Damerel, Devon during the 1871 census.

The Dictionary of National Biography
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Picture of Sir Charles W. D. Staveley

Staveley, Sir Charles William Dunbar (1817-1896), general, was the eldest son of Lieutenant-general William Staveley [q.v.], by Sarah, daughter of Thomas Mather. He was born at Boulogne on 18 Dec. 1817, was educated at the Scottish military and naval academy, Edinburgh, and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the 87th (royal Irish fusiliers) on 6 March 1835. He became lieutenant on 4 Oct. 1839, and captain on 6 Sept. 1844.  From July 1840 till June 1843 he was side-de-camp to the governor of Mauritius, where his regiment was stationed, and where his father was acting-governor part of the time. On his return home he was quartered at Glasgow, and saved a boy from drowning in the Clyde at imminent risk of his own life, as he was not fully recovered from a severe attack of measles.

He exchanged to the 18th foot on 31 Jan. 1845, and to the 44th on 9 May. From 15 June to 11 May 1847 he was aid-de-camp to the governor-general of British North America. An admirable draughtsman, his sketches proved very useful during the settlement of the Oregon boundary question in 1846. He was assistant military secretary at Hong Kong, where his father was in command, from 20 March 1848 to 27 Feb. 1851.

He had become major in the 44th on 7 Dec. 1850, and went with it to Turkey in 1854. When the regiment embarked for the Crimea he was to have been left behind on account of illness, but he hid himself on board till the vessel sailed. He was present at Alma and at Balaclava, where he acted as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cambridge. On 12 Dec. 1854 he became lieutenant-colonel in his regiment. The 44th belonged to Sir William Eyre's brigade of the third division, and took part in the attempt on the dockyard creek on 18 June 1855, and in the capture of the cemetery- the sole success achieved. Staveley was mentioned in dispatches (London Gazette, 4 July) and was made C.B. He also received the Crimean medal with three clasps, the Sardinian and Turkish medals, and the Medjidia (fifth class).

He commanded the regiment from 30 June 1855. It returned to England in July 1856, embarked for Madras in August 1857, and went on to China in March 1860. He had become colonel in the army on 9 March 1858, and on 28 April 1860 he was made brigadier-general, and was given command of a brigade in Michel's division during the Anglo-French expedition to Peking. He was present at the capture of the Taku forts, was mentioned in dispatches (ib. 4 Nov. 1860), and received the medal with clasp. On 18 Jan. 1861 he was given one of the rewards for distinguished service.

He was left in command of the British troops remaining in China in 1862. The Taeping insurrection was then in full career. The rebels had broken their promise not to come within thirty miles of Shanghai, and were threatening that city itself. In April Staveley marched against them with a force of about two thousand men, of which about one-third consisted of French and English seamen and marines. He shelled them out of the entrenched camp at Wongkadze and stormed Tsipu, Kahding, Tsinpu, Nanjao and Cholin in the course of April and May. But the Chinese imperial troops were unable to hold all the towns recovered, and he had to withdraw the British garrison from Kahding (ib. 18 July and 5 Aug. 1862). In the autumn Kahding and Tsinpu were again taken, and the thirty-mile radius cleared of the rebels.

In December he was asked by Li Hung Chang to name a British officer to replace the American Burgevine as commander of the disciplined Chinese force which had been formed by Frederick Townsend Ward. Staveley named Charles George Gordon [q.v.], who had been chief engineer under him in the recent operations, and had surveyed all the country round Shanghai. They had served together before Sebastopol, and Staveley's sister was the wife of Gordon's brother. The appointment had to be approved from England, and was not taken up till the end of March 1863. At that time ill-health obliged Staveley to resign his command and go home.

In March 1865 he was made K.C.B. and was appointed to the command of the first division of the Bombay army. On 25 Sept. 1867 he was promoted major-general, and in November, by Sir Robert Napier's desire, he was given command of the first division of the force sent to Abyssinia. He showed his energy to good purpose in the organisation of the base at Annesley Bay, and he conducted the flight on the Arogye plain, which immediately preceded the capture of Magdala. Napier said in his dispatch that Staveley had afforded him most valuable support and assistance throughout the campaign (ib. 16 and 30 June 1868). He received the thanks of parliament and the medal.

Staveley commanded the troops in the western district for five years from 1 Jan. 1869, and in the autumn manoeuvres of 1871 round Aldershot one of the three divisions was under him. He was commander-in-chief at Bombay from 7 Oct. 1874 to 7 Oct. 1878, with the local rank of lieutenant-general, which became his substantive rank on 29 April 1875. On 1 Oct. 1877 he became general. He was given the colonelcy of the 36th foot on 2 Feb. 1876, and transferred to his old regiment, the 44th (which had become the first battalion of the Essex regiment), on 25 July 1883. He received the G.C.B. on 24 May 1884. He had been placed on the retired list on 8 Oct. in the previous year.

He died at Aban Court, Cheltenham, on 23 Nov. 1896, and was buried at Brompton cemetery on the 27th. In 1864 he married Susan Millicent, daughter of Charles William Minet of Baldwyns, Kent. She survived him with several children.

[Times, 24 Nov. 1896; Carter's Historical Record of 44th Regt.; Royal Engineers' Papers, new ser. xix. 109; Boulger's Life of Gordon; Markham's History of the Abyssinian Expedition.] E. M. L


Sir Charles Staveley's Force Attacking Sir Hope Grant's Position on the Hog's Back

The Autumn Campaign: Sir Charles Staveley's Force Attacking Sir Hope Grant's Position on the Hog's Back

 -- Illustrated London News, September 30, 1871.

The Times, Tuesday, November 24, 1896


Sir C. W. D. Staveley

Sir Charles William Dunbar Staveley, G.C.B., died yesterday morning at Dublin.  He wintered last year in Egypt, but, in spite of that, had since been in declining health.

Sir Charles Staveley was a son of Lieutenant-General William Staveley, C.B., who was commander-in-chief at Madras and a Peninsular and Waterloo officer, by Sarah, daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Mather.  He was born at Boulogne in 1817, and was educated at the then Scottish Military and Naval Academy in Edinburgh.  Here he distinguished himself as an admirable draughtsman.  Subsequently, at the time of the Oregon difficulty with the United States, his sketches were considered most valuable from a military point of view.  He entered the Army on March 6, 1835, and received his lieutenant's commission on October 4, 1839.  He was promoted to be captain on September 6, 1844, and major on December 7, 1850.  He served at first in Canada, Mauritius, and Hong Kong.  He also served in the Eastern Campaign of 1854-1855, including the battles of the Alma and Balaclava (volunteered his services as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cambridge), the siege of Sevastopol, and the attack and occupation of the cemetery and suburbs on June 18, when he succeeded to the command of the 44th Regiment, and commanded it at the fall of Sevastopol (medal with three clasps, C.B., Sardinian and Turkish medals, and 5th class of the Medjidie).  It is a curious fact that when the 44th finally embarked for the Crimea he was to have been left behind on account of illness, but he concealed himself on board, and when he appeared on deck Sir Augustus Spencer, commanding the regiment, said, laughing, "Why, Staveley, there you are, and so you must remain!"  He was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel on December 12, 1854, and colonel on March 9, 1858.  He commanded a brigade in the campaign of 1860 in North China (mentioned in despatches, medal with clasp).   He was brigadier-general and commander in China in 1862, commanding the force employed against the Taipings in the vicinity of Shanghai n that year, resulting in the attack and capture of the intrenched camp of Onkatz, of the walled cities of Kadin, Tsin-pu, and Cholin, and of the fortified towns of Na-ju and Tser-pu.  For these services he received from her Majesty's Government an expression of their "great satisfaction at his success."  Being left in command of the Chinese army of occupation, Staveley was called upon to name an officer to commande the Chinese army instead of the American Burgovine, and without hesitation he selected "Chinese" Gordon, who was a connexion of his by marriage.  He  was made a K.C.B. in 1864.  Sir Charles Staveley was appointed to the temporary command of a division of the Bombay army in 1865.  He was brevet colonel with the rank of brigadier-general (being second in command) in the expedition to Abyssinia, 1867-68, and commanded the first division in the action of Arroge and the capture of Magdala (received the thanks of Parliament for his services, and was promoted to be major-general for "distinguished services in the field": medal).  The late Lord Napier of Magdala accepted the Abyssinian command subject to Staveley's being his second in command.  Sir Charles Staveley was in command of the Western District from January, 1869, to 1874, when he was granted the local rank of lieutenant-general while commanding forces in Bombay, and was appointed a member of council of the Governor of Bombay.  On April 29, 1875, he was promoted to the full rank of lieutenant-general, and to the rank of general on October 1, 1877.  He was appointed colonel of the 36th Foot in February, 1876, and was placed on the retired list in 1883.  He was appointed colonel of the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment on July 25, 1883.  In the following year he received the G.C.B.

Sir Charles Staveley married in 1864, Susan Millicent, daughter of Mr. Charles William Minet, of Baldoyns, Kent.

A correspondent gives the following instance of the cool courage for which Sir Charles Staveley was distinguished:-"I recall that when in the 87th Regiment, in Glasgow barracks, he suffered, and as an adult suffered severely, from confluent measles.  In early convalescence, all muffled up, he was walking on Glasgow green, when suddenly a cry arose, 'A boy drowning in the Clyde!'  Staveley called out to the gathered crowd, 'It will be death to me; will no one go in?'  Receiving no response, he instantly plunged into the river, and, swimming to mid-stream, saved the lad."


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