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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

38.8.1 Elias Durnford - Military Service

Elias had 35 years service with the Royal Engineers.

During that time, he rose from and Ensign in 1759 to Colonel in 1794.  He was twice a prisoner of war, and for a time was the Acting Governor of British Wes Florida.

Elias Durnford  Military Timelines

1759       Joined Royal Engineers made a Practitioner Engineer with rank of Ensign on
                   17 March 1759
                  Worked at Seaford on the south coast construction of defences.

1761       Seven Year Wars - Capture of Belle Ile France

The Capture of Belle Île was a British amphibious expedition to capture the French island of Belle Île off the Brittany Coast in 1761, during the Seven Years' War. After an initial British attack was repulsed, a second attempt under General Studholme Hodgson forced a beachhead.

 A second landing was made, and after a six-week siege the island's main citadel at Le Palais was stormed, consolidating British control of the island. A French relief effort from the nearby mainland was unable to succeed because of British control of the sea. The British occupied the island for two years before returning it in 1763 following the Treaty of Paris.                               

1762       Promoted Sub-Engineer and Lieutenant 28 January 1762

1762       Battle of Havana

The Battle of Havana (1762) was a military action from March to August 1762, as part of the Seven Years' War. British forces besieged and captured the city of Havana, which at the time was an important Spanish naval base in the Caribbean, and dealt a serious blow to the Spanish navy. Havana was subsequently returned to Spain under the 1763 Treaty of Paris that formally ended the war. 

 On 13 June a British detachment landed at Torreón de la Chorrera, on the west side of the harbour. Meanwhile, Colonel Patrick Mackellar, an engineer, was overseeing the construction of the siege works against the Morro. Since digging trenches was impossible, he resolved to erect breastworks instead. He planned to mine towards a bastion of the Morro once his siege works would have reached the ditch and to create a runway across this ditch with the rubble produced by his mining activities.

On June 22, four British batteries totaing 12 heavy guns and 38 mortars opened fire on the Morro from La Cabana.  Mackeller gradually advanced his breastworks owards the ditch under cover of these batteires.

Surrender by the Spanish 14th August 1762.  The British had 2764 killed, wounded, captured or deserted but within another month another 4700 died of 'sickness'.

1763       Expedition with Earl of Albermale to Havana to fight Spaniards West Indies Colonies.

The force landed at Havana and attacked a fort called El Moro. This fort was strongly defended by a gigantic ditch and scarp, which could only be overcome by mining. The Engineers dug two mines.   A breach was made and the fort surrendered after being besieged for 42 days.   Shortly afterwards the whole island capitulated
Surrender of the Spanish

 Afterwards in London he produced a series of six engravings with views of the city of Havana, which - together with the series of 12 engravings of the siege operations by Canot and Mason, after Dominic Serres, from drawings by Orsbridge - form the earliest in situ representations of the Island of Cuba

1764       Aide de camp - Lord Albermale

1764       Commanding Engineer and Surveyor-general of West Florida

1764       Laid out the city plan for Pensacola
Following Great Britain's victory over France in the Seven Years War (known in America as the French and Indian War), in 1763 the British took control of Pensacola under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763).

 During the British occupation, the area began to prosper following establishment of the Panton, Leslie Company in 1785, which had a trading post attracting Creek people from southern Alabama and Georgia. 

The British designated Pensacola as the capital of British West Florida and developed the mainland area of fort San Carlos de Barrancas, building the Royal Navy Redoubt. Surveyor and engineer Elias Durnford laid out the town in its current form, creating the Seville Square district. Working with Dunford was George Gauld, a British Navy surveyor. He also painted several views of Pensacola during the British colonial period.

1769       Appointed Lieut Governor of West Florida after Gov John                    Eliot hung himself.
1770       promoted Engineer-Extraordinary and Captain-Lieutenant

1769       London                 Marriage to Rebecca Walker at Westminster

1769       Returned to British West Florida with Rebecca as Acting Gov until new Gov Peter Chester                 arrived 10 August 1770

1769       Remained as  Lieut Governor of British West Florida 1769 - 1778, member of West Florida                Council.

After the Seven Years' War Durnford was posted to the newly established British colony of West Florida, where he was appointed chief engineer and surveyor general. To supplement his small salary he was paid for land surveying and as the colony was being divided into land grants he profited greatly from this arrangement.

Between 1769 and 1778 he was Lieutenant Governor of British West Florida and by 1794 Colonel Durnford was Chief Royal Engineer of the West Indies.

1779       American Revolutinary War. Spanish and French and American colonial rebels moved to               capture British West Florida
1779       Promoted Engineer in Ordinary and Captain 26 March 1779
1780       Command at Fort Charlotte in Mobile, (Fort Conde) 10 March 1780 forced to surrender to                  Spaniards, his estate having been burnt

The outnumbered British garrison resisted stubbornly until Spanish bombardment breached the walls. The garrison commander, Captain Elias Durnford, had waited in vain for relief from Pensacola, but was forced to surrender. Their capitulation secured the western shore of Mobile Bay and opened the way for Spanish operations against Pensacola.

On February 6, a storm scattered the fleet. In spite of this, all ships arrived outside Mobile Bay by February 9. The fleet encountered significant problems actually getting into the bay. Several ships ran aground on sand bars, and at least one, the Volante, was wrecked as a result. Gálvez salvaged guns from the wreck and set them up on Mobile Point to guard the bay entrance.

On February 20, reinforcements arrived from Havana, bringing the force to about 1,200 men. By February 25, the Spanish had landed their army on the shores of the Dog River, about 10 miles (16 km) from Fort Charlotte. They were informed by a deserter that the fort was garrisoned by 300 men.
Fort Charlotte was built in 1717 by the French as Fort Condé when Mobile was part of the French province of Louisiana (New France)

While the Spanish engaged in siege operations to move their guns nearer the fort, Gálvez and Durnford engaged in a courteous written dialogue. For example, Gálvez politely criticized Durnford for burning some houses in order to deny the cover they provided to the Spaniards. Durnford responded by pointing out that the other side of the fort (away from most of the town) offered a better vantage point for attack.

 All the while, the Spanish continued to dig trenches and bombard the fort. On March 13, the walls of Fort Charlotte were breached, and Durnford capitulated the next day, surrendering his garrison.

1780       Prisoner of War returned to England, with family

1781       Worked on "Maker Heights" defences of Plymouth Dockyard

1784       Commanding Engineer at Newcastle       (not known but the photos are of old Fort)

1793       Commanded RMA company at Plymouth

Cornwall’s defences were strengthened by the Duke of Richmond in the 1770s and 1780s as a precaution against the rise of the American Navy during the American War of Independence. He built redoubts and barracks at Maker Heights in East Cornwall, and these were further strengthened during the Napoleonic wars. Maker Heights were considered a vulnerable point in the defence of Plymouth because their raised position could be utilised by an attacking force to bombard the docks.

1793       Promotion to Colonel
1793       CRE with Grey's force to Ostend 

The Flanders Campaign (or Campaign in the Low Countries) was conducted from 1793 to 1795 during the first years of the French Revolutionary War. A coalition of states mobilised military forces along all the French frontiers, with the intention to invade Revolutionary France and end the French First Republic.

After arriving at Ostend, in Belgium the troops retreated and left the fortress to the Allies.  2 non-commissioned officers and 28 artifleers were under the control of Col Elias Durnford.

With winter approaching operations were suspended and the company returned to England, and sailed for service in West Indies.

1794       Expedition to French West Indies under General Charles Grey, appointed to command engineers in the force.  Campaigns against French at Martinique, Guadaloupe and St Lucia

 In early 1794, he and Admiral Sir John Jervis led a British force to capture Martinique. The campaign lasted about six weeks with the British capturing Fort Royal and Fort Saint Louis on 22 March, and Fort Bourbon two days later. The British then occupied Martinique until the Treaty of Amiens returned the island to the French in 1802. Next Grey was involved in the invasion of Guadeloupe.
Battle of Martinique
1794       Captured by French at Guadeloupe

In an effort to take advantage of the chaos ensuing from the French Revolution, Britain seized Guadeloupe in 1794, holding control from 21 April until December 1794, when Victor Hugues obliged the British general to surrender. Hugues succeeded in freeing the slaves, who then turned on the slave owners who controlled the sugar plantations

1794       Dies of yellow fever at Tobago West Indies 21st June 1794

He served for 35 years in the Royal Engineers.

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