Major General Henry Sheehy Keating, C. B.

564. Major-General
Henry Sheehy Keating, C. B.

This officer was appointed Lieutenant in the 33d foot the 31st of January, 1794; and Captain in the same corps the 8th of September, 1796. He served as a Subaltern in the West Indies, was severely wounded and detained as a prisoner at Guadaloupe. The 3d of September, 1800, he was appointed to a Majority in the 56th foot. In 1800, he served on the Staff of Ireland as Major of Brigade; in 1803, as Inspecting and Recruiting officer of the Quota of the Army of Reserve, appointed to be raised in the county of Mayo; and received the thanks of the Governors and Deputy Governors for his zealous exertions in that service. The 1st of August, 1804, he received the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 56th foot. In 1809, he was appointed to the command of the Island of Roderigues, and, in conjunction with Commodore Rowley, planned and conducted the operations of a gallant and successful attack upon the town and harbour of St. Paul’s, in the Island of Bourbon, which was noticed in the following General Orders:–

“Bombay Castle, 2nd December, 1810.

“The official details which have been received by government of the operations of part of the garrison of Rodererigues, under the immediate command of Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, of His Majesty’s 56th regiment, in conjunction with the squadron under the orders of Commodore Rowley, in an attack made upon the town and harbour of St. Paul’s, in the Island of Bourbon, have afforded to government the highest gratification. The Honorable the Governor in council most fully approves of the whole of the arrangements made by Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, for carrying that brilliant enterprise into effect; but he has remarked with particular satisfaction, the judgment displayed by that officer, in the prompt and decided manner in which he availed himself of the information transmitted to him by Commodore Rowley, relative to the position and forces of the enemy, and admires the spirit and rapidity with which he advanced from the point of disembarkation to the town of St. Paul’s. To these measures, aided by the gallantry and undaunted courage of His Majesty’s and the Honorable Company’s naval and land forces employed on the expedition, he ascribes the honorable and completely successful termination of a service, from which the public have derived considerable advantage, and the British arms in this quarter of the Globe have acquired an additional lustre. The Governor in Council, in thus publicly declaring the high sense he entertains of the spirited and judicious conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, and of the valor displayed by the troops in general, feels the most lively pleasure in expressing his particular approbation of the conduct of Captains W. S. (now Major) Forbes and Hanna, of the 56th regiment, and Captain Imlack, of the 2nd battalion 2nd regiment native infantry, who commanded the columns of attack on that occasion, as well as of Lieutenant Remon, of the Bombay Engineers, Ensign Pearce, of the 56th regiment, and Lieutenant Watkins, of the Honorable Company’s cruizer the Wasp, for the personal assistance they afforded to Lieutenant-Colonel Keating; and of Doctor Davies, for his kindness and attention to the sick, of which Lieutenant-Colonel Keating speaks in terms of commendation in a separate dispatch to the Adjutant-General.”

Extract of a dispatch from Admiral Sir Josiah Rowley, to Vice Admiral Bertie.

“It is impossible for me to do justice to, or sufficiently express the high sense I entertain of the gallantry and skill of Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, which were equally conspicuous in planning and conducting this affair; and the bravery shown by the troops in successively carrying the batteries, was eminently distinguished.”

Extract of a letter under date Downing Street, 18th June, 1810, from Lord Liverpool, to Sir Samuel Auchmuty, at Madras.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, of the 56th regiment, who has been for a considerable time at Roderigues, will not only be able to give you every information regarding that Island and those parts of Bourbon, against which his late very gallant enterprize was directed, but will, doubtless, have had the means of acquiring much knowledge of the actual state of Mauritius, and will be able to afford you much useful assistance.”

The annexed extracts of a letter from Lord Minto, respecting the service on which this officer was next employed (the capture of the Isle of Bourbon) merit attention.

“I cannot refrain from adding to my public despatch, my personal acknowledgments in this form of the distinguished and important service which you rendered to the East India Company in your successful attack upon Port St. Paul’s, an enterprise which was not less marked by skill and judgement in the execution. I consider the expedition which is now destined against the Island of Bourbon, as arising immediately out of your successful operations at St. Paul, and in undertaking the reduction of the French Islands I act on the satisfactory authority of your opinion and Commodore Rowley’s, and in reality am following up on your measures.”

“The high sense I entertain of your peculiar qualifications for this service, and also of the claim which you have so honorably established to the favor, as well as the confidence, of government, has induced me to leave the command of the expedition against Bourbon in your hands, and I have from the beginning been particularly anxious to compose the force in a manner that should be compatible with that object.”

Extracts from General Orders after the conquest of the Isle de Bourbon.

“The diligence and activity manifested by Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, In obtaining the most accurate and detailed information, in relation to the condition and defences of this Island, the nature of the country, and the extent and distribution of the eemy’s force, the professional skill and jdgment displayed in the plan of attack, which that information enabled him to form, and the energy and ability of that meritorious and gallant officer, in directing and superintending the operations of the force under his orders, demand the expression of His Lordship in Council’s distinguished approbation and applause.”

Extract of a Letter to the Honorable Major-General Abercromby.

“You will, I am confident, unite with me in ascribing to Lieutenant-Colonel Keating the credit of extraordinary ability, zeal, and judgment in planning and executing the successful attack on the Isle of Bourbon; and I have no doubt that you will be disposed to avail your self of the accurate and extensive local knowledge of that meritorious officer, in the formation of your arrangements for the intended enterprise, and to assign him a distinguished situation in the operation connected with it.

(Signed) “N. B. Edmonstone,
Chief Secretary to Government.”

Extract of a despatch from Admiral Sir Josials Rowley, to “Vice Admiral Bertie.

“For a detail of the operations of the troops on shore, which led to the surrender of the Island, I beg leave to refer to Lieutenant-Colonel Keating’s despatches; his plan of attack was so ably concerted, and executed with so much decision, as to occasion the speedy termination of a contest, which, if protracted, must, from the nature of the country, have occasioned much loss.”

Extract of a letter from Lord Minto to this officer.

“You will easily conceive the satisfaction with which I received, on the 20th of August, the account brought by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, of your successful operations against the Island of Bourbon. My public despatch will convey to you the sense entertained by myself and colleagues of the judgment and ability with which your plans were formed, and of the spirit and energy with which they were carried into execution; but you must permit me to repeat in this form for myself, the acknowledgments which are due to your signal and important services. Those services are of high value in themselves, and they are to be estimated still higher, in what I trust we may consider as their certain consequences, the confidence which your skilful and spirited attack on the Port of St. Paul, inspired in any subsequent enterprise to be conducted by you, has been fully justified, both by the fall of Bourbon and by the manifest ability which led to the sudden and immediate reduction of that Island; and the corectness, both of the information you obtained and of the judgment you formed concerning that undertaking, naturally create a strong and sanguine reliance on the favorable opinion you entertain respecting the approaching attack on the Isle of France; to the success of which nothing will contribute more essentially than the aid which Major-General Abercromby cannot fail of deriving from your local knowledge and experience.”

For his services in the Mauritius, the Court of East India Directors voted him, in March, 1811, five hundred guineas for the purchase of a piece of plate. He continued at the Island of Bourbon, until it was returned to Louis XVIII.; and on his quitting the West Indies, the following letter was addressed by the Lieutenant-General commanding the forces to the Duke of York.

“Island of Mauritius, April 17th, 1816.

“Sir, — Colonel Keating, of the Bourbon regiment, being about to return to England, I feel it due to that officer to state to your Royal Highness, that during the period which Colonel Keating has served under my orders he has always evinced the utmost zeal for his His Majesty’s service; and I consider him to be a most active, diligent, and intelligent officer, whom I humbly presume to recommend to your Royal Highness’s most favorable consideration and protection.

(Signed) “A. Campbell.”

“His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief.”

The 25th of January, 1812, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the Bourbon regiment; Colonel in the army the 4th of June, 1813; and Major-General the 12th of August, 1819. The Major-General is a companion of the Order of the Bath.

Source: Philippart, John, The Royal Military Calendar, Or Army Service and Commission Book, published 1820, printed by A. J. Valpy, London, pp. 396-401. Available via

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