Return to Spain in 1813
Following Wellington's defeat of the French under Marshal Soult in August 1813, the Caledonian Mercury of 11 September reported that Wellington had appointed Sir John Downie to command the advanced guard of General O'Donnell's division, and the Ipswich Journal of 16 October reported that Sir John was in Madrid on his way to Seville to join Wellington. He fought with his Spanish troops alongside Wellington as he pushed north into France; the Caledonian Mercury of 4 December 1813 reporting that he had two horses shot under him but he himself was uninjured.
The Morning Post of 3 November 1813 published a report by Brigadier-General Sir John Downie from the Spanish Camp to the Spanish General of Division, dated 8 October 1813. The report described the taking of a French fortification in the Pyrenees, overrunning the position and pushing the French into the mountains before being ordered to withdraw to the fortifications they had taken. Another report in the same newspaper noted that Sir John Downie's beautiful grey charger Favourite was shot under him, but it was believed that the horse would recover.
The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle of 14 October 1813 published a letter from 'Lieut.-Colonel Downie' dated from Bordas on the French frontier:
I am just returned from an expedition into France. The Regiment of Leon, and the Legion of Estremadura, were ordered to make a reconnaissance of the French force in this quarter. We crossed the Pyrennees in the middle of the night, over mountains and rocks the most stupendous and awful:— At six in the morning we descended into the plain, the inhabitants flying before us, and passed to the right of St. Juan Pic de Port, and arrived at some villages near St. Miguel. The French shewed no troops ; but after we had collected about 3000 head of cattle and sheep, with a number of horses, mules, asses, goats &c. the peasantry, who are all armed, collected in considerable force, and made an attack upon us. We succeeed in securing the whole of our forced requisition, without having a single man killed or wounded ; and besides partaking of some fare which we had long been unaccustomed to, every one of our soldiers contrived to carry off something portable. Pampelona still holds out. Gen. Mina Espoz, with his division, arrives to-morrow for Arragon, to relive us from our duty here. Meantime you may safely say, that our division (Gen. Murillo's) draws their rations from France.
Another report by the Brigadier-General, dated 11 November 1813, appeared in the Morning Post of 30 November and detailed the taking of the village of Zara. This report included the first mention so far seen of John Downie's immediate elder brother Charles, then a Lieutenant-Colonel, who brought Sir John the order of the General in Chief to await further orders at the rear of the church in the village. Charles had been appointed Lieutenant in the 1st Paisley Volunteer Infantry in the London Gazette of 23 September 1803.
The Morning Chronicle of 11 March 1814 reported that he was commanding a Spanish division of considerable numerical strength at the siege of Bayonne, in South West France.
On 16 June 1814, the Prime Minister of Spain, the Duke de Leon Carlos, wrote to John Downie:
Excellent Sir—With particular satisfaction I have the honour to acquaint your Excellency (and of which I will presently send you the official documents) that our Lord the King is graciously pleased to appoint your Excellency to be Governor of the Royal Palaces, and of his Majesty's possesions at or near Seville (lately held by the Duke of Alva), in testimony of his esteem, and as a reward for your distinguished services, which have been such as to merit his Majesty's particular approbation and thanks...
[Caledonian Mercury 14 July 1814]
This was to bring to an end his active military career, though he came out of retirement some years later to organise militia in Andalusia.
Further honours were bestowed on John Downie in 1815:
The King of Spain has promoted Sir John Downie to the rank of Mareschal de Campo; and as his Majesty was sensible that Sir John's promotion had been kept back by invidious representations of the manly exertions which he made in behalf of many of the imprisoned members of the Cortes, his Majesty, desirous to make his promotion at the same time an act of justice, was pleased, by the degree in his own hand-writing, to date the commission for his present promotion from the re-conquest of Seville, upon the 27th August 1812. His Majesty was pleased at the same time to bestow upon Sir John the farther honour of creating him Knight of the highly distinguished military order of San Fernanda, with the Cross, for his conduct at the battles of Seville and Espartinas.
The King of France has also been pleased to send Sir John Downie, by the hands of the Prince Laval de Montmorency, French Ambassador at Madrid, the Consideration and Order of the Fleur de Lis de la Vendee.
[Caledonian Mercury 24 August 1815]
By 1816, Sir John Downie was installed as the Governor of the Royal Palace of Seville, where he hosted the Queen of Spain and her sister from 13 - 16 September. The Queen personally thanked Sir John for his repairing and elegantly furnishing the Palace so quickly after it had been completely stripped by the French.
[Morning Chronicle 15 October 1816]