Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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doing the same work. Raise proportionally the pay of
jemadars. Jn all corps of the line let there be no
Native officers. Their position is anomalous and absurd.
In the Bombay army there are seldom sergeant-majors
or quartermaster-sergeants, because they clash with the
Native officers. The Bombay authorities are quite
right. It is absurd, and might prove worse than
absurd, giving twenty men, "all good drills" and all
"wearing tight pantaloons," commissions, and then
allowing them to be bullied by vulgar uneducated
Europeans, without commissions. The anomaly, and the
heart-burnings, will be removed by having the Euro-
pean officers and sergeants with the stricter discipline,
or rather with the more English practices, in one set of
regiments ; the Native officers with the looser, tlie French
system, in others. By removing Native officers from
corps professedly commanded, and officered by Euro-
peans, though too often really managed by havildar
majors, opportunity would be given to the European
officer to look into the interior economy of his regiment
or company. Seldom is anything of the kind done at
present. So long as all is smooth and quiet on the
surface, few inquiries are made. All may be rotten


below; the jog-trot is followed — a mine may be ready to
be sprung, for all that nine -tenths of the officers would
know. Many do not know the very names of the men of
their oivn company.

No great expense need be incurred in carrying out
the proposed arrangement. There are plenty of regi-
ments, an excess of men, scarcely a deficiency of officers.
We repeat that organization and adaptation^ mainly, are
wanted. Let the one hundred and five infantry corps
of the line be gradually converted into a hundred and
twenty five service, and thirty veteran corps. Let 18
of the present 24 officers be removed from each of the
30 veteran regiments, and be divided among the 125
service ones, leaving the three field officers with one
selected captain and two selected subalterns, in all six
European officers. Omitting two field officers as gene-
rally absent, four officers will thus remain, all being
selections. This would leave 540 officers available for
service corps, which number, increased by eighty-five,
would provide five additional officers for each^ and thus
increase their strength to twenty-nine. Allowing then
nine for field officers, and for absentees, on private and
medical leave, twenty officers, or two for each company,
would be present with each service regiment.

The scheme involves the disposal of all staff* officers
in a staff corps, also eighty-five additional officers, and
one hundred promotions to rank of captain. The pro-
portions of the relative ranks we would thus suggest
for the 125 regiments, would be three field officers, as
at present, eight captains, twelve lieutenants, and six
ensigns, instead of six, ten, and ^^^, as now. And
attached to each of the thirty veteran corps, three field
officers (only one to be present), one selected captain and
five selected subalterns.

To make this or any other scheme work, the service,


not individuals, must be considered. Incompetent field
and other senior officers must he rigorously set aside.
None incapable should be at the head of any corps,
regular or irregular, service or veteran. There is no
knowing where exigencies may arise. The Calcutta
militia and the Eamgurh battalion should have as good
officers and as good arms as the frontier regiments.
There is at least no excuse for their being badly armed.
It is very bad economy to send a soldier into action
with any but the very best muskets in his hand. Inca-
pables may be shelved as seconds in command, but they
had better be sent home, even with a brevet step. The
title of major or lieutenant-colonel will do no harm as
long as it be not accompanied by authority. Old men,
with their senses about them, and with the use of their
legs, may command veterans, but there should be a
limit to the age, even of such incumbents. The now
pending orders as to vacation of staff commands are
anomalous, and, if they be decided against brevet
officers, will be absurd. To replace a man of fifty by
one of sixty is indeed a novel mode of regenerating an
army, wanting, above all wants, new blood, life and
energy. Commands of all corps should be given to the
very best officers available. Their staff should be strictly
selections. These should be posts of liigJi lionour, and of
considerable emolument. The veterans should have all
the advantages of other corps of the line, the men being
older and the Company's officers being Natives. Such
corps will be available for all home service, that is,
service within the Provinces, and will be specially va-
luable, if treated with lioiiour and consideration, for
guards on forts, magazines, and treasuries. Majors
and captains should obtain brevet rank for three
years* command of regiments. Subalterns of ten
years' service and captains of twenty should receive


one-fourth increased pay. Half batta should be
abolished. It is an injustice and an inconvenience,
and costs on the one hand, as much as it saves on the

A large proportion of the expense thus suggested
may be covered by a reduction in the strength of com-
panies, throughout the service, and by departmental
clippings ; but supposing the balance of expense to be
half a million a-year, v^hich would be its utmost limit,
we hold that such a sum would be well expended in
making a more contented and a more efficient army.

^ It is not a verij nuinerous cuin/j, l3ut a really efficient and a
contented onCj that is wanted. Much of the duty still
performed at Bombay, and some that is done elsewhere,
by the army, might with advantage be made over to
the police so as greatly to relieve the ranks. Indeed,
the military might be entirely relieved of escorts, jail
guards, &c.

Officers should serve five years in the line before
being eligible for the staff, the examinations for which,
in every department, should be strict. Those for civil and
political employ should involve the tests in the lan-
guages required of interpreters. At Madras, Tamul
should be a requisite.* Exchanges should be permitted
between regiments, even of different Presidencies, also
between cavalry and infantry up to the rank of captain.
It is ridiculous to keep a man, who cannot ride in a
mounted corps. Good may be derived from exchanges,
harm cannot. The ar mies of the Presidencies should.
as at present, be kept separate with separate com-
manders of the forces, but with one Commander-in-

""Chief, reheved fi^om the V^^^^^^\ mTnTnand. for afT
Proper emulation, and some check, is caused by these

* Mr. p. Melvill shows that 2500 wants in Hindustani. — H. M. L.
Madras Sepoys cannot express their



separations, Eates of pay have already been almost
'"entirefy assimilated. For future incumbents there
should be no differences. The great question of sim-
plifying and making plain to all ranks, what is their
pay under all circumstances, has yet to be resolved.
Wlioever effects the measure will save much discontent,
if not some mutinies.

The arrangement for the supply of Native officers
will be the most difficult part of our proj)osed arrange-
ments. From the hundred and twenty-five service
corps of the line, let old havildars be transferred for pro-
motion to veteran battalions for home duties, and the
younger to service corps for frontier and Sonthal-lUkQi
work. The veterans, we repeat, should be corps of
honour, manned by sepoys of good character above
forty years of age, or of weak and worn constitutions,
from all other corps, and officered by subadars and
jemadars of similar stamp, from the same quarters.
The Native officers of irregular corps should be partly
from their own ranks, partly young picked men from
the line. Unless they are so selected, and unless they
are unmistakably good men, commanding officers of
irregulars will often pester their lives out. Their
berths will not be worth holding. The utmost honest
care will be required in making selections for transfer.
We repeat, that to all these corps, veteran and irregular,
first-rate European officers must be attached; four to
the first, ^YQ to the others. Their names to be borne
on the strength of the staff corps.
\ As a general rule we would require every sepoy to
I serve a certain period in the ranks. Consideration
\ should also be paid to seniority, to cleanliness, smart-
; ness, and soldierly bearing, rather than to literary ac-
\ quirements. Too much stress is now laid on reading
I and writing; we ought to remember that the military


class, as a body, despises stiid}^ Time, at least, slionld
^ISe given tlieni to get over tlieir prejudices. Eecent
orders on this subject are very unpalatable to many of
our best soldiers. Indeed, very few of our worthiest
old warriors would be now ressaldars and subadars if
they had had to pass present tests. Tliey should no t
be educated above their positions. To add literary
^attainment to Patlian and Brahmin pride of birth^^a^^
"^ still to keep Brahmins and Pathans under serjeant-
majors, is a grievous mistake. There are sepoj^s in the
Bombay army who translate treatises on drill and
tactics. This is hardly safe. Havildars, unqualified
for promotion to either of the above classes of corps
should, on retirement, after certain terms of good ser-
vice, receive a step of rank. The present system of
invaliding is defective. The Madras and Bombay
armies invalid eight and ten years earlier than is the
practice in Bengal. With them almost any man is
passed after fifty years of age, and so it generall}^
should be. Few Native soldiers are fit for Jieid service
after that age, though many are up to all garrison
duties at sixty. In Bengal the term for invaliding
should be shortened ; but at the same time there should
be more check on malingering for pension after fifteen
years. Veteran battalions would be a check. They
exist already in Madras and Bombay; but Bengal,
which most wants them, has none.

The higher prizes for the very select have now to be
considered. They should as of old, be commands of
Hill forts, and jaghirs. Also, as at present, titles of
honour and pensions, &;c., but on increased scales, com-
mensurate with the present British position, where we
gave hundreds when subordinate to the nabobs of
Arcot and Bengal, we should, now as successors of the
Mogul, give thousands. The practice, however, has

D 2


been rather reversed. Jaghirs, that were ouce perhaps
too freely dispensed, are now entirely withheld. An able
and deserving public servant, ambitious to possess what,
above all else, a Native desires, viz.: a bit of land of
his own, has now hardly a road to its obtainment but
by plotting to subvert our rule. At least, so it may
easily seem to him. Why oblige such conduct ? The
labourer is worthy of his hire, — the faithful servant of
his reward. Why make him, at least in heart, a rebel,
because he thinks Grovernment an ingrate? We, in-
tentionally, personify Government. Every Native does
so. The general, colonel, commissioner, or collector is,
to him the Grovernment. He perceives the great powers
for mischief in the hands of such an oflftcial ; he cannot
credit that he has no power to reward. He, accordingly,
thinks him ungrateful. Much good service is thus lost ;
much bad feeling engendered. It matters little in the
calm ; it might matter much in the storm. Are calms
so lasting, storms so rare? The objections to giving
estates appear to us of no weight. Under the present
settlement of estates there is protection to the culti-
vator. At worst the old soldier would not be harder
on the ryot, than are the Jotee Fer shads who are fast
buying up villages throughout the Provinces. Or, if
jaghirs be denied, let some of the zemindaries be pur-
chased by Government and reserved, either in fee-simple,
or as zemindaries, as the great rewards to the faithful
soldiers of the higher ranks. Such grants need not, as
a rule, be in perpetuity. Two or three lives will be a
long vista to the old trooper or sepoy. Five Jimidred
rupees in such form will go further than a thousand in
any other. We beg attention to the fact ; we write of
what we know.

In the same spirit we could name a hundred forts, or
other posts, which could, with perfect safety, be en-


trusted to Native officers, and would be prized by them
as honourable retiring berths. Titles and honours are
cheap; they cost nothing and are greatly valued.
Medals to the mass should be abolished. Decorations
are brought into contempt, when worn by individuals,
or by whole regiments known to have run away, or even
when largely distributed to those who were not under
fire. The "Order of Merit" and that of "British
India " should be largely extended, and should be open
to Europeans and ISTatives of all ranks. There should
be two branches of each, one civil and the other mili-
tary. Titles should be attached to the higher grades ;
pecuniary grants to, at least, all the lower. There
would be difficulties in the way. In what scheme are
there not difficulties ? The first Napoleon found no in-
superable difficulties in his selections for the Legion of
Honour. We doubt if either Napoleon ever decorated
a notorious coward; that is, one who had given proof
of cowardice. So it might be with us. The army
itself can sufficiently judge such questions. After
each action, let a hundred or thousand decorations be
adjudged. No difficulty will be found in ascertaining
who are best entitled to them. There may be heart-
burnings and dissatisfaction ; there cannot be more than
at present. Half the value of a decoration is lost to
A. B. and C, when it is also worn by D. E. and F.

"VVe have much to say on many other points, but
must reserve most of our remarks for another occasion.
The great, the vital question is the officering of the
army. We have roughly sketched our scheme — roughly,
but we hope sufficiently to explain our meaning. Sir
Charles Napier , a general of decided ability and of
large experience, who had led both Bengal and Bombay
troops into action, has declared that the present system
is canvassed in every guard-room. To a certain extent


this assertion is correct, and the fact bodes no good.
Sir Charles advocated the introduction of Natives into
the covenanted ranks of the army, but he vv^ould have
found it difficult to carry out his scheme ; caste, food,

"*^a hundred cuuse.-^, v/ill, for a half a century at least^
■""^present such amalgamation. The difficulties far exceed

"^hose of entrance into the civil and medical services,
and in them they are not small. But, if all that ought
to be done cannot be done, there is no reason why we
we should sit still and v,^ait until obvious rights are

""clamoured for ; until, in a voice somewhat louder than*
that of the European officers, in the days of Clive, the
*' excellent drills " and the " tight pantalooned " combine
to assert their claims. What the European officers have
repeatedly done, may surely be expected from Natives.
We shall be unwise to wait for such occasion. Come
it tvilly unless anticipated. A Clive may not be then at

Those who have watched events, or have studied
Indian Military History, can distinctly trace almost all
past murmurs and mutinies, we might indeed say everi/
oney to some error or omission, trivial or great, of
our own. Pay has been the great stumbling-block.
Whether in Bombay, Madras, or Bengal, doubts as
to the intentions of Government in regard to pay
have been at the bottom of most mutinies. In Bengal
such affairs have generally been exaggerated, while in
Madras and Bombay they are kept quiet, if not hushed
up. We confess to preferring the quiet system — wash-
ing dirty linen at home : the linen should, however,
always be washed, somewhere and somehow; quietly,
but fully.

This motive to mischief should be disposed of at
once. It should not be in the power of any stupid
commander or paymaster to refuse what Grovernment


had conceded. The Bombay rule of auditing all bills
before payment is good ; and preventing retrenchments,
shuts one door of dissatisfaction. But even at Bombay,
a plain unmistakable code is wanted in addition even
to " Jameson's." One has repeatedly been attempted,
but has always failed of accomplishment. Amusement
might be derived from the naiTative of the failures, if
the results were less grave. We look anxiously for the
very long promised Bengal Code, but fear disappoint-
ment. An officer who had scarcely done any regi-
mental duty, with a regular corps for twenty years, aided
by two young artillery officers, however clever, was
not the fitting president, and they were not the fitting
members, of a committee to prepare a code for all
branches of the Bengal army. We strongly recom-
mend that the new code, with all others extant, of
the three Presidencies, be made over to a committee
of mixed artillery, cavalr}^ and infantry officers, and
that a code for India be prepared, in which every
question, involving the rights of individuals, of all
branches of the three armies, should be distinctly and
unmistakably laid down in the briefest way consistent
with clearness. Such a code w^ould be more valuable
than three more European regiments, or than ^nq
hundred miles of rail.

The other chief cause of mutiny is religion — fanati-
cism^ Hitherto, it has beeiTreifficted to Jvl^
.Hindus are content to be let^^alona^ . Th e Jkithf ul no^
only desire to p' ', Lnit go out of their v:a y to

annoy their \\:' ' ^r:r with their cercraonies. On two
or three occa:>rj 'Vj have witnessed Mulmrrum proces-
sions ostentatiously drawm up opposite a Christian
church during Divine service, and there drumming
lustily. The late Bolarum affair, like most Indian
(juestions, has been taken up with party spirit. Briga-


dier Mackenzie possesses much of the Covenanter spirit,
and Mrs. Mackenzie's book is unpopular (we liope not
Mrs. Mackenzie, objectionable as are many parts of lier
work) ; therefore we fear the attack upon him was ac-
cepted, in some quarters, in a controversial spirit. But
having read much on the subject, we cannot discover
what legitimate offence was given, and fully approve
the order which sentences all directly connected with
the murderous attack on Mackenzie to condign punish-
ment, and all responsible to be dismissed the service.
The Hyderabad contingent, of all classes, is a distin-
guished body, but the Deccan Mahommedans, pretty
"generally, are fanatical and insubordinately disposed,
be3^ond anything to be found elsewliere in India, except,
perhaps, at Patna and on the Eeslmwur border. ^ Wit-
ness Colonel Davies's murder in 1827, and the more
recent mutiny of the 4th Madras Cavalry. Davies, like
Mackenzie, was a fearless chivalrous fellow. Their
cases were even more alike than their characters. On
the impulse of the moment, the comrades of the mur-
derers avenged Colonel Davies's death, but the murder
was approved of by the Mahommedans of that day and
neighbourhood, and the ringleader's grave shortly be-
came a place of pilgrimage and a resort for Mussulman
devotees , The attack on Mackenzie was also by fanatics,
and was, perhaps, more premeditated. Mackenzie is-
sued a perfectly legitimate order; it was disobeyed.
His mistake was in perso7ially interfering. The error
nearly cost his life, and may yet do so. His wounds
were frightful, few men could have survived them. His
dauntless spirit sustained him. However, this and
other matters of the kind should make us more than
ever cautious against real offence. A cap, a beard, a
moustache, a strap, all in their time liave given offence.
All 071 pretence of TeUgloiK But by a little management,


b y leadjp g iyifii.fia/l pf ^IrQAxnng, nlmn&f. anything may be
done^^ The man who wonld not touch leather a few
' years ago, is now, in TEe words of a fine old subadar,
** iiff jo the Chmlin it^ But the same old fellow begged
that the leather might stop there, and that leather caps
might not he tried. In the corps of which that old
gentleman was a worthy member, leather cap-straps had
been accepted gratis, in preference to paying an anna or
two for cloth ones. We mention the fact as showing
what may be done wdth men who have all but mutinied
because the Grenadiers w^ere told to occupy the Light
Company huts : and at another time because they thougJd
they had been prohibited taking their bedding to the
guard-room. Tact and management, not Brahvmiism, in
officers, are wanted. Hindus and Maliomraedans can
respect real Christianity. They certainly do not respect
An glo-Hindooisfj;^*"""""

Sir William Gomm's farewell order tells how much
has recently been done for the European portion of the
army. Barracks are improved; gardens, libraries, and
other sources of amusement will soon be as plentiful as
they used to be scarce. Little more is wanted than to
prevent individual commanding officers nullifying the
good intentions of Government, by keeping sickly men
in the plains, and sending bad characters in their places
to the Hills ; bullying the men, torturing them with
stocks, cloth coats, and hot weather drills — in short,
making what are called smart regiments at the expense
of the men's very lives. Eailroads, waggon trains, and
steamers should now prevent Europeans being moved
between April and November. Too much is heard of
the sun {not from thein) w^hen they are w^anted for field
service, but when there is no such necessity they are too
frequently exposed, even in April and May. Brigadiers
and generals of divisions, as well as regimental officers^


sliould be lield responsible for sucli cruel follies. The
European soldier is, after all, our stand-by. We are
delighted at every unattached commission that we ob-
serve given to a Company's European soldier. Like his
officer he has more average emolument than his comrade
in the Eoyal ranks, but like him is debarred great re-
ward. Until lately, commissions were not open to the
soldiers ; yearly, we hope, they will become more com-
mon. With such rewards, and with rational pursuits
open to the men, the tone of the barracks will rise.
Drunkenness, we trust, will yet be the exception rather
than the rule. Chunar should be^abolished ; it is a dis-
credit to us.

We will no further enter on the vexed question of
cavalry than to remark that we generally support
Captain Nolan's views. We mis-arm and mis- dress the
trooper, bit and saddle his horse as if the object were
not to hold and ride him, and then we wonder that the
same trooper is no match for a comparatively feeble and
ill-mounted Asiatic horseman. The complaint made in
India is equally rife in Africa and in the Caucasus. A
recent French writer observes that one Arab is good for
three French dragoons. We ourselves have witnessed
one Indian horseman dealing with three English dra-
goons. The annexed extract from Spencer's " Crimea"
shows that to repulse Circassian cavalry the Eussians
are obliged to bring guns to bear on them : — -

" In other situations, on the banks of rivers or open places, they are
equally dangerous, provided their inimitable cavalry can act ; for, should
they unexpectedly surprise a Eussian army, a charge from these terrible
horsemen is a most disastrous affair. They then sweep down upon them
like a living avalanche, and invariably throw the front and rear into con-
fusion, cut them in pieces, and disappear before the artillery can be
brought to play upon them." — Page 327.

There can be little doubt that the Eegulars have been
over abused and Irregulars unduly bespattered with
praise. The comrades of the men who rode at Laswaree^


Delhi, Setabiildee, and Meanee, only want good leading
and good management to ride through, any Indian
cavaby. The disappearance of " the small speck of
Prench grey " at Setahuldee, amid the host of Arabs,
rivals Unitt and the 3rd Dragoons at Chilianwalla,
Ouvrey at Sobraon, and the Light Brigade at Balaclava.
"Why is it that one British regiment, the 3rd Dragoons,
for instance, always covers itself with glory, while
others go through campaigns unheard of? The men,
materials, all but the leadinir, is the same ! To taTTc^oT
"all "the Irregular Cavalry as lierocs is as al^surd as to

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 33 of 39)