DeLAUNE, WILLIAM, army officer; place and date of birth unknown; apparently unmarried; d. 18 Feb. 1761 in England.
William DeLaune may have been a son or connection of Henry DeLaune, a captain in Harrison’s Regiment of Foot according to the 1740 army list. William became a lieutenant in the 20th Foot as of 24 July 1754 and a captain 1 Sept. 1756. At this time James Wolfe was lieutenant-colonel in the regiment. When in 1758 the 2nd battalion was converted into a new regiment, the 67th Foot, with Wolfe as its colonel, DeLaune became a captain in it.
Wolfe evidently thought highly of him as a potential commander of light infantry. On 11 Feb. 1758, when about to sail for Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), Wolfe wrote that DeLaune was “formed by nature for the American war”; after the fall of Louisbourg he wrote again, “If his Majesty had thought proper to let [Guy Carleton*] come with us as engineer and DeLaune and 2 or 3 more for the light Foot, it would have cut the matter much shorter. . . .” Wolfe was allowed to take DeLaune with him in the expedition against Quebec in 1759. During the passage to Quebec DeLaune witnessed Wolfe’s will. He was one of six officers to whom the general left “each a hundred guineas, to buy swords & rings in remembrance of their Friend.”
DeLaune was apparently appointed to the provisional battalion of light infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Howe. He was presumably a company commander; there is at least one casual reference to him as a major, but if he was given this local rank it is not reflected in the army list. When Wolfe was planning the landing that took place at the Anse au Foulon (Wolfe’s Cove) on 13 Sept. 1759, he selected DeLaune to command the detachment of 24 light infantry volunteers, carried in the leading boat, which was to rush the famous path up the cliff. The ebbing tide took the boats below the spot planned for the landing, and the most vital role was apparently played by Howe. According to Brigadier George Townshend*’s notes, Howe ordered DeLaune to move along the beach and assault the path as planned, while he himself and the leading companies of his battalion “very gallantly scrambled up the rocky height in his front” – an action which seems to have been no part of Wolfe’s plan. Howe’s attack took the defenders of the path in rear and “most happily facilitated ye success” of DeLaune’s party.
After the battle DeLaune, along with Captain Thomas Bell, one of Wolfe’s aides-de-camp, took Wolfe’s body back to England and, in Bell’s words, “accompanyed our noble master to the Grave.” He then presumably returned to regimental duty with the 67th in England, and died little more than a year later, still a captain. His will, dated 1755, left all his possessions to his mother Lucy.
PAC, MG 18, M3, 24 (Thomas Bell’s journals). PRO, Prob. 11/864, f.99. Army list, 1740; 1756; 1757; 1759; 1761. C. T. Atkinson and D. S. Daniell, Regimental history: the Royal Hampshire Regiment . . . (3v., Glasgow and Aldershot, Eng., 1950–55), I. Stacey, Quebec, 1759. Beckles Willson, The life and letters of James Wolfe . . . (London, 1909).