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Lieutenant William John Dumaresq of the Royal Staff Corps, 1811-14
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Lieutenant William John Dumaresq of the Royal Staff Corps, 1811-14

Measurements: Overall: 42.5cm (16.5in) x 59.5cm (23.5in)

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Provenance: The Dumaresq family and by descent.

Watercolour on paper. An English School Peninsular War depiction an officer mounted on a grey charger, traditionally recalled as a member of the Dumaresq family, with a soldier and a pack donkey in a mountainous landscape further populated by Basque guerrilla or guide, lower right. Contained in a period gilt wood glazed frame.

The principal actor in this watercolour can confidently identified as Lieutenant William John Dumaresq (1793-1868) rather than his brother Henry (1792-1838). William is distinguishable by his Royal Staff Corps uniform feathered bicorne and scarlet coatee, rather than the line infantry uniform with the yellow facings of the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment worn by Henry in the Peninsula. Henry Dumaresq was later celebrated for his gallantry at Waterloo by Sir Walter Scott.

William’s unit The Royal Staff Corps was a new innovation, created in 1809 to bypass obstructiveness of the Master-General of Ordnance who tended to run the Army’s engineers as a personal fiefdom. The Royal Staff Corps numbered only ten companies and was scattered widely in separate locations. Lacking sufficient manpower to undertake major engineering work on its own account, officers such as Dumaresq acted as supervisors of civilians or the infantry, seen here plodding along a mountain traverse. A major achievement of the Royal Staff Corps during Wellington’s invasion of southern France was the construction of the famous bridge of boats across the mouth of the Adour in 1813.

Henry and William John were sons of Colonel John Dumaresq of Bushel Hall, Shropshire, and his wife Anne, née Jones. Both went to the Royal Military College, Great Marlow. William was commissioned Ensign in the Royal staff Corps in June 1809, and served in the Peninsula from July 1811, seeing action at Ciudad Rodrigo, Capture of Badajoz, Pyrenees, Nivelle and Bayonne. William Dumaresq later served in Canada where he oversaw the construction of the Rideau canal in the early 1830s to provide a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston, avoiding the vulnerable St. Lawrence River route, in advent hostilities with the United States. William Dumaresq outlived his brother to successfully claim in 1848 the Military General Service medal with clasps for Ciudad Rodrigo, Capture of Badajoz, Pyrenees and Nivelle.

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