Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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call all ^^^ Eegulars cowards. We jjersonaUy know
many brave men who ran at Purwandurrah. That
story also has yet to be told. The leaders were brave
men, but they were not good Native cavalry officers.
No man can manage well or lead successfully men tohom he

We would not convert a man of Begular Cavalry
into Irregulars, but we would have three regiments of
Company's dragoons in lieu of six of Eegular Cavalry.
All others should stand, but they should be dealt with
much as we have proposed for the infantry. The Native
officers should be collected in three or four out of the
twenty-one regiments, with bondfde power and pay, as
troop officers ; but to those corps four selected officers
should be attached. Every trooper should be permitted
to fit his own saddle, and adapt his bit to his own horse.
Lancers should be abolished, and the tulwar, the weapon
of the Indian horseman, should be allowed, as also a
carbine and one pistol, to each trooper. It must be
borne in mind that they are light horsemen, not heavy

Most of the Irregulars arc i>'ood of tlieir kind. Some
very good, some bad. Some of the officers cannot ride ;
some cannot talk to their men, others do so only to


abuse them. Some of the regiments are overwhelmed with
debt ; and yet burdened with bankers, and with all sorts
of tomfoolery in dress. In short, there is little system,
and no uniformity in the service. One regiment wear
kettles on their heads, others wear cocked hats. Few^
wear their own sensible turbans that will stop a sword-
-cut and keep their faces cool. An inspector is wanted ;
not an old Eoyal dragoon officer, but a first-rate Irregular
officer — a Jacob, a Chamberlain, an Anderson, a Daly,
or a Malcolm. A man, in short, who will go on com-
liion sense principles, keep the men out of debt, insist
on rational uniform and rational treatment. Such as
the Irregulars are, there are very few instances of their
misconduct, and then only when greatly over-matched ;
indeed, unfairly tried. They are a most valuable arm
and deserve every consideration. With such an arrange-
ment as above proposed, and fixe rupees added to the
pay of the men, a noble body of horsemen might be
secured to the Government, and fitting employment
ofiered to the numerous broken-down families, now mut-
tering curses against us, in the streets of every large
city in Upper India. Lord Gough, Sir Charles Napier,
and almost all Irregular Cavalry officers, recommend the
increase, even on the terms of reduction of strength of
regiments. If thirty rupees is necessary for the Scinde
Horse and for the Hyderabad (in the Deccan*) Cavalry,
twenty-five is surely so for the whole body. In scarce
times the Irregulars have not bread. In war time they
mtcst plunder for subsistence. Sir Charles Napier
thought they must do so in peace. What more need
be said ? If more be required, let us add that each of
these horsemen is a soldier gained from the enemy's

* Until lately the Hyderabad Ca- pany's rupees a month. — H; M. L,
valry received thirty-threo Com-


[written in 1856.]

Our last essay abruptly closed with some meagre
mention of tlie cavalry. We propose now to con-
tinue our rough notes on the most urgent wants of
the army, especially on those which most easily admit
of remedy : to tell of all its wants would require a
goodly volume. It is, however, consolatory to think
that the most glaring defects are not only on the sur-
face, but can be removed without difficulty. Their
remedy only requires the exercise of ordinary common
sense, in the appliance of materials ready at hand, and a
very slight pull at the purse-strings; voA^d^^ proportion-
ately a less pull than would be required to insure the
Hfe of a healthy soldier. An expenditure of three or
four per cent, on the present eleven millions, and plac-
ing the right man in the right place, would do all that
is required — would convert a discontented into a con-
tented army ; an immoveable into a moveable one ;
would put it beyond the power of any section of the
military community to beard the Grovernment ; perhaps
to destroy it.

We pretend to no panacea for all military evils, to
chalk out no military Utopia, but simply to bring before
the public, in very brief form, the experience of all ages
in all departments; to show that men of hke creeds,
influenced b y like m otives, and movin g ^fi j-er jj^*^. ^^Z .


ditions, toill combine ; that tliey liave always done so in
^ every clime. Purtlier, that creed and colour are to be
greatly nullified .by slightly-varied conditions. Above
aU, that every man, whatever be his country, creed, or
colour, has his particular ambition, and that such am-
bition varies, not only with general creed, colour, and
country, but with individual temperament, constitu-
tion, and circumstances. That the ambition of very few
lEuropean soldiers is limited, in their old age, to abund-
ance of cheap grog at Chunar, Cuddalore, or Dapoulee.
That, though many sepoys would delight to retire and
smoke their hubble-bubbles under the shade of their
village trees, yet that their ranks contain many fit for
higher destinies, panting for them, and sullen at their
non-obtainmenfc. Such are the objects of our past and
present essays. To help the Government by helping
its servants; to induce the former to effect the usual
insurance on its property, and prepare the fire-engines
before the house is on fire ; to urge on each individual
his own particular duty. Some of our readers will
doubtless remark, that we are propounding mere truisms
which everybody knows. Everybody does know; but
what authority does act on the knowledge of the forego-
ing facts ? Are the right men everywhere in the right
places ? Is the army as efiicient as it might be ? Is it
in any rank contented ? A dozen more such questions
might be answered by all honest men, in the negative.
If such be the case, we request attention to what we have
said in the preceding essay, as also to the following
remarks. We are quite aware that they are loosely,
perhaps illogically arranged. Our facts, however, are
beyond question; and we feel that our inferences are
not strained. We accordingly propose to hammer both
facts and inferences into the public, in our own rough
way, until they have at least a trial.


In military matters the Government of India starts
on wrong principles. Strict seniority never secured
efficiency in any department, in any country. It has
only been by superseding the seniors, after the first
bungling campaign of each war, that the British army
has escaped great disaster. To a less extent the
example has been followed in India, where the remedy
was much more wanted. Why not prevent war by
preparations? Si vis pacem ^ara belltim. Muskets and
accoutrements, cannon and munitions are all prepared
during peace. It v/ould be considered a crying shame
for arms to be kept unpolished, belts uncleaned, lines,
barracks, and magazines to be slovenly and dirty ; but
v/hat is all this to having at the heads of armies, divi-
sions, brigades, and regiments, men less efficient than
nine-tenths of those under them ? To have age and com-
parative inefficiency in all posts of authority. To drive
the Cromwells and Washingtons from our ranks, and in
lieu of them, to place the Whitelockes, Englands, and
Elphinstones in command!

That this parallel is not exaggerated, every man with
an eye to see and an ear to hear can ascertain for him-
self. He may discover, as we have done, a corps of
Li^Jd liorse in which nearly every trooper is close on
fifty years of age. The old gentlemen paint and dye to
such an extent, and are so well set up, that casual ob-
servers might easily mistake a '' hoodhd' for a '' j)uckha
juwany He may talk to subadars and jemadars, sixty
and even seventy years old. He may perhaps, have
served under a commander-in-chief who could not
mount or sit upon a horse ; perhaps his own command-
ing officer can do neither. When he has thus cast his
eye around, he may contemplate the Jacobs, Chamber-
laines, Maynes, Malcolms, Taylors, Edwardeses, Lums-
dens, Cokes, Nicholsons, and others, who, however,


favoured above those of their own standing, still chafe at
their positions, still feel that they have not their fitting
places, and that a seniority service is not the service for
them. With regard to the many Singhs and Khans,
Syuds, Begs and Tewaries, who, with even more reason,
— because their attainable position is much more sub-
ordinate — pine in the ranks of the army, such men, one
after another, leave its service. A lieutenant- colonelcy
would have retained Washington in the British service.
An accident detained Cromwell in England. Men of
kindred spirit are not so easily obtained that, when
found, they should be scorned, or lightly set aside.
Chve conquered and saved India. Individuals have,
probably several times since preserved the country.*
An individual may also, any day, bring it to the verge
of ruin; nevertheless scores of individuals, not one of
whom would have been intrusted in his youth, health,
and strength with the charge of a mill, by a sensible
cotton- spinner, during a disturbance, are now placed in
commands, where their incompetence may any day blow
a spark into a flame that may cost hundreds of lives and
millions of money. We might go even further, and
show that some of these men have, at every stage of
their career, ^proved their incom/petence. That as young
or middle-aged men, they have been set aside or super-
seded, to have, in their old age, commands thrust upon
them, and to be pushed into authority, even on the
frontier, to the hinderance of distinguished officers.
Such men also are frequently supported by comman-
dants of regiments of kindred spirit and physique. The
latter, of course, recommend, for promotion to commis-
sions, the oldest Native soldiers, the grounds of election

* Forty years ago Metcalfe wrote, again may the fate of a great part
" Often has the fate of India de- of India depend on a single army."
pended on a single army ; often He lived to verify his words.


being that old men are the most inoffensive, the least
dangerous. What would the cotton-spinner, or the
mill-master, say to such a system ? Why, that the
Indian Grovernment deserve to have an inefficient army.

But to return to details. The closing remarks of our
last essay referred to the Cavalry, We have since made
minute calculations, and find that the cost of Irregulars
and Eegulars is about three to seven against the latter.
We have not the means of estimating the proportion of
pensions, but are satisfied that the difierences would
make the ratio fully equal to three to one. That is,
fifteen hundred more efficient horsemen, for light horse
duty, could be obtained for what now maintains five
hundred. What possible reason then is there for de-
laying a day, to commence modifying the cavaby to
the extent recommended in our last essay? No in-
dividual, black or white, need be injured; whilst the
Government and the army, and many individuals, would
greatly benefit. A few words of warning, however.
Let not half our scheme be taken. Let not a mongrel
system be introduced, or rather continued. Every man,
high or low, cognizant of the whole system, allows that
the pay of the majority of Irregulars is now too low.
Lord Dalhousie allowed it. Sir Charles Napier not
only recorded the fact, but fixed thirty, instead of
twenty, rupees a month for the troopers he himself
raised. He paid Native officers proportionally. Let
then twenty-five, or at the least twenty-four, rupees be
the horseman's pay ; and, what is equally important, let
pensions be raised to the footing of the line. With
such increases, the expenses of reformed Irregulars will
hardly exceed half that of the present Eegulars.

We beg those who object to our proposition, to con-
sider what it costs themselves, throughout the year, to
keep a horse with gear, accoutrements, &c. Let them



then bear in mind, that the sowar has to provide for had
as well as for good seasons, and for dear as well as for
cheap localities ; for Candahar, with grain at a seer the
rupee ; as well as for grain countries where thirty and
forty seers may be obtained. Government allow mounted
officers thirty rupees a month for each horse ; few gain
materially by such contract; and yet twenty is given
to the trooper, who ought not to be materially worse
mounted ! Of this twenty, after deductions for the
remount-fund, clothing, gear, washing, watermen, bar-
ber, &c., there is not, we firmly believe, a sowar in the
service who receives more than seventeen, to feed him-
self, his family, and his horse, and to provide arms, a
tent, and a hut ! Fix, then, twenty as the sum to he
actually paid to each man, every month. Let the balance,
whether four or five rupees, be retained in the com-
mandant's hands for remounts, clothing, &c., and be
accounted for every six months. If commanding
officers are fit for their berths, they should be able to
arm, mount, and equip their regiments better than
individuals can. One hundred and fifty rupees is now
the usual price of a remount. Where such sum is
insufficient — which in some parts of the country is
occasionally the case — the unfortunate sowar, already
perhaps burdened with debt, has to give the difference,
possibly thirty or fifty rupees, from his seventeen rupees
monthly pay. He is thus swamped for life. The pro-
posed scheme would prevent the necessity of debt, and
would enable every sowar to ride a three-hundred-rupee

"Bargeers," as now constituted, should be entirely
abolished. No respectable man will take service as a
bargeer, who, when away from head- quarters, is little
better than a servant to the owner of the horse. Nine
bargeers out of ten, of this class, are disreputable


fellows. Let the head of a respectable family have
as " bargeers " whatever number, within moderation, of
his relations he may wish to bring with him. There
is no danger of their being made servants of, or
of their chief making money out of them. He will
neither be willing nor able to do so. Each man will
receive his full Government pay ; the chief being con-
tented that they, being his assamees, are dependent on
and look up to him as their head. He is thus able
to control his young relations, to keep them from being
extravagant and to restrain their debaucheries, &c. If
it be objected that we advocate the old system of
brotherhoods, and throw undue power into the hands of
Native officers, we deny the imputation. Limit the
number of " bargeers " as at present, but encourage good
men to introduce their kinsmen into the ranks. Go-
vernment is thus strengthened ; the enemy weakened.

No Native banker should on any account be allowed.
Many regiments do without them ; there is no reason
why all should not : they only encourage extravagance
and debt.

Our scheme, then, for the mounted branch of the
army, is, for Bengal, two regiments of European dra-
goons, and six of regular cavalry, all fully officered ; with
similar proportions for the other Presidencies. The rest
of the cavalry, under whatever names, irregular, con-
tingents, legionaries, &c., to be designated " Hindustani
Horse," on not less than twenty-four rupees a month ;
three-fourths of the regiments to have each three or
four European officers ; the others to be commanded by
natives, and to have a brigadier* over every two or three
regiments. An inspector is part, and not the least im-
portant part, of this scheme. He should be an officer
of experience, temper, and discretion, answering, as far

* The brigadier to be paymaster : that is, huJcshee and deputy inspector.

E E 2


as possible, the description given by Lieutenant Jervis,
of an efficient cavaby commander. Indeed, sucb men
only sbould command cavalry regiments, and from the
best of them brigadiers (bukshees) should be selected.
A Wellington makes an army; one man can make' or
mar a regiment or a brigade.

If there have been repetitions in the above remarks,
the importance of the subject demands them all. The
question involved is, whether by reforms, consonant not
only to the spirit of the age but to the genius of the
Hindustani horseman, increased contentment and in-
creased efficiency are to be given to the whole mounted
branch of the Indian army ; the expense demanded to
meet the required change being only about twelve lakhs,
or £120,000 a-vear.

We are quite aware of the financial necessities of the
State, and therefore would not throw away a rupee.
But bad cavalry are worse than none. If, then, there
be not means to meet reforms, let the strength of regi-
ments be reduced sufficiently to provide the necessary
fiinds. Four hundred efficient and contented troopers
would, in war or in peace, be very preferable to five
hundred discontented, badly-equipped, and badly-horsed

Eegiments, though weak in numbers, would be
efficient and safe. Hundreds of expectants, all pre-
pared for Jacob's ordeal of "a stiff leap on a bare-
backed horse," would always be ready for the ranks of
a popular service. In a month, under the proposed sys-
tem, the Hindustani horse might be increased by a
sixth, and in three months be doubled. Such a service
would give bread in comfort to the poor soIdTeFof R)r-
"ttUieJ ^a3~would afford a chance of honour and compe-
tence to the IN^ative gentleman. The system would, at
least, not drive them firom our ranks to Cabul, or to any


native service ; there to introduce our discipline, and, as
has often been the case, to turn our own weapons against

Let it not be said that the writer of these remarks
has a personal interest in Eegulars or Irregulars. He
has just the interest, and no more, in the cavalry ques-
tion, and in army reform generally, that has every loyal
British subject in India. It is his interest that the
army, in all its branches, should be both safe and effi- . ^^
cient. Every man is not born a soldier, much less a j ]
trooper, nor are horses to be had for the asking. Care, ''
selection, and timely arrangement are scarcely less re-
quisite for organizing cavalry than artillery. We lift
our voice loudly in the calm ; that it may not be needed in
the storm.

One word more on this point. The Calcutta Beview
has furnished during the last thirteen years, ample
facts and ample theories. Let Government make se-
lections and lay them before three of their best and
least-prejudiced cavalry officers, with orders to carry out
details. To fix the arms and accoutrements, for both
regular and irregular cavalry, and once for all, to set
at rest all controverted questions. We are quite con-
vinced that this scheme carried out, in its full spirit^
would give the Indian Government the best light horse
iyi the world for Indian purposes ; we might indeed add
for Asiatic purposes.

Eegarding both cavalry and infantry, we have an-
other suggestion to offer, viz., that the recruiting-field
should be extended. Oude should no longer supply the
mass of our infantry and regular cavalry; indeed,
twenty years hence, it will be unable to do so. The
Punjab, Nepaul, and the Delhi territory should be more
largely indented on ; as should the whole North- West
Provinces, and the military classes of Bombay and.



Madras, Hardy men, of fair average height, not
giants, are wanted for light horsemen. The Zouaves
and Gfoorkhas prove that the biggest light infantry are
not the bravest. We have too long tilled the same

If proof were wanted that abundance of Sikhs are
ready to enter the ranks, Captain Eattray has settled
"the point. When Sikhs volunteer for Bengal on police-
pay, they will assuredly accept better service in better
climes. Already have they fought on the Irrawaddy,
and volunteered for the Crimea. But assuredly the
right plan has not yet been followed, for getting the
best Sikhs. As usual, extremes have been tried. On
annexation, of the 40,000 or 50,000 Sikhs thrown out
of employ, scarcely a tenth were taken into British pay.
The Punjab Irregular Corps were even restricted to ten
Sikhs a company. All of a sudden, within two years
of the issue of the above restriction, the enlistment of
two hundred Sikhs in every regiment of the line was
authorized. This was, indeed, going to the other ex-
treme. Fortunately, the measure failed, or the Sikh
puncliayut system would probably have been introduced
into the British ranks. Some few Native infantry regi-
ments, stationed in the Punjab, did boast of having
enlisted " a hundred or more " fine Sikhs, " who had
fought against us in every battle of both campaigns."
This was just what might have been expected, but what
ought to have been avoided. The older Sikh soldiers
should have been sent to their homes, and encouraged
to expend their energies at the plough. Their youngs
kinsmen should have been enrolled in irregular regi-
ments throughout Indicia and should thus have been
gradually introduced to British discipline. There was
too much of the leaven of insubordination in the Sikh
army, to make the sepoy ranks fitting places for the jold


khalsa, or even for their sons. Time, new scenes, and
strict discipline, under officers acquainted with their
virtues and their vices, were wanted. The ship has,
however, righted itself. The Hindoo prejudices of
commanding officers have kept the Sikhs aloof from
many regular corps, and driven them out of others.
Some gentlemen wished to cut their hair, forgetting that ^

" the very essence of Sikhism lies in its locks. Other
officers found Sikhs dirty and troublesome; others, pro-
bably, unable to get young recruits, hesitated to enlist
the veterans of Sher Singh's army. The result is, that \
the Bombay army has ceased_ to enlist Sikhs, and that \
^in the seventy-four Bengal infantry regiments, there |
are scarcely three thousand of that faith. We believe '
we shoilld be nearer the mark, were we to say half that
number, for some Sikhs have abjured Sikhism, others
have been driven out of it, and not a shadow of

" encouragement has been given to counteract the quiet,

"" but persistent opposition of the Oude and Behar men.
That such opposition is no small obstacle to the in- k^
troduction of new classes into the army, all experienced

l officers know full well. Even the determination of the
present Commander-in-Chief at Madras, when com-
manding the Hurriana, Light Infantry, eighteen years
ago, did not enable him to carry such a measure. He
tried to introduce into its ranks the hardy " Aheer s "
and " EanghnrsILof the Province, but failed; we have I
it from his own lips ; the Bajpoots and Brahmins
buUi ed the new lev ies ou t of the corp s. .'

We are tempted to give another anecdote. A corps ?
of the line, within our observation, that has about four- I
score Sikhs in its ranks, possesses only one Sikh non- t
commissioned officer, and him of the lowest rank. We !
asked the reason why the Sikhs had not their propor- i
tion of officers. The reply was, " Why, the naick is the f


luckiest soldier in the Bengal army." Be it remembered,
that this luckiest fellow in the Bengal army has served
the period which entitles a civilian to a seat in council.
This is luck indeed ; to be a corporal on about a pound
sterling a month, after ten years' service. He is a
remarhahle man, has attracted the special attention of
his officers ; otherwise he would to this day have been a
sentinel. Had he similarly outstripped all his compeers
in the Punjab service, or in any Native service, he
would now have been, at least, a commandant, perhaps
a colonel, possibly a sirdar, or even a rajah. In the
Eussian, Austrian, or French service, he would most
likely be a decorated captain or field officer. In the
sepoy army, he is a corporal ! To complete the story,
the officer commanding the company, in which 'was one
of the batch of Sikhs to which we refer, begged that
this one too might be made a naick. The reply was,
''What has he done that he should be put over the
heads of the whole Bengal army?" If that man be
lucky, he will be a corporal ten years hence ! Such is
the inducement, to the finest infantry soldier in India,
to enter the British ranks.

^ The whole system is wrong. In a few years the
/ survivors of those Sikhs will be simply low-caste

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 34 of 39)