George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Dalhousie
Governor of Nova Scotia
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by George Stracey Smith
Succeeded by Sir James Kempt
Governor General of British North America
In office
Monarch George IV
Preceded by The Duke of Richmond
Succeeded by Sir James Kempt
Commander-in-Chief of India
In office
Monarch William IV
Preceded by The Viscount Combermere
Succeeded by Sir Edward Barnes
Personal details
Born 23 October 1770 (1770-10-23)
Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian, Scotland
Died 21 March 1838(1838-03-21) (aged 67)
Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian, Scotland
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Christian Ramsay
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Religion Church of Scotland

General George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie GCB (23 October 1770 21 March 1838), styled Lord Ramsay until 1787, was a Scottish soldier and colonial administrator. He was Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820, Governor General of British North America from 1820 to 1828 and later Commander-in-Chief in India.

Background and education

Dalhousie was born at Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian, the son of George Ramsay, 8th Earl of Dalhousie, and Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew Glen. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh.

Military career

After his father's death in 1787, Dalhousie joined the British Army in July 1788 by purchasing a cornetcy in the 3rd Dragoons, and was later appointed to the captaincy of an independent company he himself had raised. He joined the 2nd battalion of the 1st Foot in January 1791, and purchased the rank of major in the 2nd Foot in June 1792. He travelled with the regiment to Martinique, as its commander, and succeeded to the lieutenant-colonelcy in August 1794. He was severely wounded in 1795 and returned to Britain. In 1798 he served in the Irish Rebellion, and in 1799 throughout the Flanders campaign. He received the brevet rank of colonel in January 1800, and fought in the later stages of the Egyptian campaign under Ralph Abercromby, capturing Rosetta without a fight and successfully investing the nearby Fort Julien in April 1801. In 1803 he served as a brigadier-general on the staff in Scotland, and was appointed Major-General in April 1805.

During the later stages of the Peninsular War Dalhousie commanded the 7th Division under the Duke of Wellington. Wellington was sometimes critical of his performance, as during the retreat from Burgos, because of his tardy arrival at Vitoria, and for his misinformation about French intentions shortly before the battle of Roncesvalles.[1]

With Clinton (or Oswald) and William Stewart he displayed insubordination during the retreat from Burgos. Wellington ordered them down a certain road, but they decided it “was too long and too wet and chose another. This brought them to a bridge which was blocked so that they could not cross. Here, eventually, Wellington found them, waiting. What, Wellington was asked, did he say to them? ‘Oh by God, it was too serious to say anything.’ ‘What a situation is mine!’ he complained to London later. ‘It is impossible to prevent incapable men from being sent to the army.’”.[2]

At Vitoria he was delayed because he “had found difficulty in marching through the broken country”, though Picton arrived early enough and attacked in his stead when the 7th Division failed to appear [3]

He was nevertheless voted the thanks of Parliament for his services at Vitoria where he commanded the Left Center Column, consisting of the 3rd and 7th Divisions. He was appointed lieutenant-general, and colonel of the 13th Foot in 1813. He led his division in the Battle of the Pyrenees where it was lightly engaged, then went home to England in October. After the previous commander was wounded at the Battle of Orthez in February 1814, Dalhousie briefly led the 7th Division again. He occupied the city of Bordeaux and thus missed the final Battle of Toulouse.

William Kemley was said to have saved the life of Ramsay in battle, by holding a flag over his body. In doing so he suffered a wound from a musket ball that left him with a permanent hole in the palm of his hand. His grandson, Peter Gordon Kemley, used to tell how he could put his finger through the palm of his grandfather's hand. For his actions, William Kemley was given a house on the Dalhousie Estate at Brechin Castle, rent-free for life. His daughter, Caroline Kemley, was born under a gun carriage the evening before the Battle of Quatre Bras. Her mother was one of six wives per regiment permitted to accompany their husbands.

Later career

In 1815 he was created Baron Dalhousie, of Dalhousie Castle in the County of Edinburgh, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, to allow him to sit in the House of Lords by right (until that point he had sat as a Scottish representative peer).

He was Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820, Governor General of British North America from 1820 to 1828 and later Commander-in-Chief in India.


Lord Dalhousie married Christian, daughter of Charles Broun, of Coalstoun in East Lothian, Scotland, a lady of gentle extraction and distinguished gifts, in 1805. They had three sons, the two elder of whom died early. He died at Dalhousie Castle in March 1838, aged 67, and was succeeded by his youngest son, James, who was later created Marquess of Dalhousie. Lady Dalhousie died in January 1839.


While serving as Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia he founded Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The town of Dalhousie, New Brunswick was named after him when he visited there in 1826, although his diary entry for the day stated that he disapproved of changing the original French and Mi'kmaq location names. The villages of East and West Dalhousie in Nova Scotia are named after him, as are Earltown and Port Dalhousie, a community in St. Catharines, Ontario, Dalhousie Station and an adjacent square in Montreal.[4]

See also


  1. Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1979. ISBN 0-02-523670-9 p.113
  2. Chandler p.203
  3. Parkinson The Peninsular War p.179
  4. "Square Dalhousie". Vieux-Montréal (in French). City of Montreal. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

External links

Masonic offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Aboyne
Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland

Succeeded by
The Duke of Rothesay
Government offices
Preceded by
George Stracey Smith
Governor of Nova Scotia
Succeeded by
Sir James Kempt
Preceded by
The Duke of Richmond
Governor General of British North America
Succeeded by
Sir James Kempt
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Elphinstone
Colonel of the 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir John Colborne
Preceded by
The Viscount Combermere
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Barnes
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
George Ramsay
Earl of Dalhousie
Succeeded by
James Broun-Ramsay
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