Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

. (page 38 of 39)
Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 38 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

brandy. Such things, at least, are managed better in
the Eoyal army. There a surgeon enjoys the reason-
able confidence due to his position and profession. The
East India Company's doctor is treated as a quasi-pecu-
lator. All this must, in a great measure, be imputed to
the fact of the service having few influential friends.
The boards have no proper influence ; they can retard
or prevent ameliorations, but can seldom further good
measures. How can a board of the oldest of the old


surgeons be otherwise? Age is tlie practical, thongh
not the ostensible, qualification. A change in names,
and nothing more, has been recently effected. Senior
and junior members of an effete board were converted
into a physician-general, a surgeon-general, and an
inspector-general of the same board, with identically
the same duties. The inspector-general inspects no
one ! In the Eoyal army the titles and duties are
more appropriate ; one director-general supervises all :
and a right good supervisor Dr. Andrew Smith seems
to have been, notwithstanding the abuse heaped on him
last year. If others had evinced half his forethought,
and had done their duty as he did his, many of the
dreadful tales of 1854-55 would have been spared. In-
spectors-general are as Indian superintending surgeons.
Deputy-inspectors are superintending surgeons of divi-
sions — a rank and oflB.ce much wanted in India in the
field, if not in quarters. All these appointments go by
age; indeed, almost by incompetency. The form of
selection has, in two cases only, been gone through.
Men like Kennedy, Dempster, and James McEae are
selected for war service. They evince indomitable
energy, cool courage, and great skill. Their operations
are carried on under fire. They stand fast when crowds
of fighting men break through their doolies and over
their amputating tables. They endeavour to make up
for the misconduct of others. What is their reward ?
A bare mention in the Gazette with the crowd who
have, as above hinted, roughly interfered with their
duties ; no honours, no rewards, await them on return
of peace ; they sink to regimental charges. We are
wrong. Jemmy Thompson was, in his old age,
knighted, and three or four surgeons, for past services,
were made Companions of the Bath. These inaugura-
tions were somewhat akin to the recent creation of field-


marshals in honour of Sebastopol. All this is very bad.
The man who works, who hazards his own life to pre-
serve others, whatever be his position or department,
should be honoured, and otherwise rewarded, and that
promptly. There ought to be special professional re-
wards. Men like McEae and Dempster ought to be
Knights of the Bath, and be placed in positions putting
them above pecuniary care. The former good man and
good surgeon has several sons, and cannot get one of
them into the service in which he has behaved so well
and ably ! True, he was specially thanked after the
second Punjab campaign, and told that no man in the
whole army of twenty-five thousand men had done the
State better or more useful service ; but for years he
remained unrewarded. The fact is, that, as in the
Eoyal service, there is little, if any, professional stimu-
lus or reward for the practical surgeon. Lord Dal-
housie, just previous to departure, as far as lay in his
power, did McEae tardy justice in placing him at the
head of the Calcutta Medical College.

We might name many surgeons, far down in the list,
who merit special reward, and yet are unrewarded. Dr.
John Murray, of Agra, can hardly be said to be un-
rewarded ; but his reward and position are the private
fruits of his public and private ability and energy.
The late cholera crisis at Agra bears witness to all.
His case at Aliwal so peculiarly exemplifies our argu-
ment that we must narrate the circumstances. Murray
was then assistant-surgeon attached to the troop of
horse artillery. Heaps of wounded lay around, but
there was no field surgeon ; neither were there sufiicient
amputating instruments. Several large boxes, however,
full of all requisites, were lying at the post-office, ad-
dressed to the superintending surgeon at Ferozepore,
eighty miles distant. No one dared to open them. The



postmaster probably objected to such felony. Murray,
unable to inspirit his seniors, went at the boxes like a
man ; no, like a woman, like Miss Nightingale at the
Balaklava store-room. Hatchet in hand, he got out
saws, knives, plasters, lint, and tourniquets ; told his
brethren to help themselves, each giving a receipt for
what he took (the canny Scot here peeps out). He
then went to Sir Harry Smith, and got him to name a
field surgeon; but the nominee refused the responsi-
bility. Murray then accepted it himself, worked hard,
got the wounded under cover, and doubtless saved many
lives. What was his reward ? Why, that the Auditor-
General deducted his horse artillery pay, and refused to
pass his field surgeoncy allowance on account of some
informality — perhaps, because he was an assistant-sur-
geon. The essential part of the story we know to be
correct. He did the work, and was thereby out of

We have also a story of a difierent sort to tell.
About that same period an old surgeon arrived within
a few miles of where lay nearly a thousand sick and
wounded soldiers, belonging to a brigade to which only
a single surgeon, or assistant, was present for each regi-
ment. He came to be superintending surgeon, but
could not take up his new office, pending some arrange-
ment. How did he pass the interval ? Why, in entire
idleness, a march or more from the sufferers, although
he was urged to lend a hand ! We can vouch for this
fact. It occurred under our own eyes. Yet Murray
lost his pay by his exertions, and is now simply a civil
surgeon ; while his senior who thus acted never suffered
in pocket, more than in feeling, by his cruel apathy, and
is now comfortably out of the service.

The medical staff* of the army is altogether insuf-
ficient, and hitherto it has not been well supported by


the recently-appointed class of sub-assistant-surgeons.
The move in their favour was a good one, but has not
yet ripened to good fruit. We are well pleased that
assistant-surgeoncies are now open to natives of India ;
but for some years it will be moral, not mental, capa-
bility that will be found most deficient. In no profes-
sion are conscientiousness and high moral worth more
required than in the physician and surgeon. More
Native doctors are greatly wanted, and those in the
service have insufficient motives for exertion. Some of
them are most deserving men. A few can operate for
cataract, extract calculi, &c. We strongly recommend
grades being established, rising on strict examination,
from present rates, 25 and 30 rupees, to 50, 70, and 80
rupees a month. Also, that schools for the professional
education of such persons be established at Bangalore,
Poonah, and Lahore, as already exist at Agra and

Pay should also be proportioned to work and respon-
sibility with the higher classes. Every assistant-surgeon
has, on arrival, to do duty on subaltern's pay with an
European regiment, or at the Presidency General Hos-
pital. His aim is accordingly to move as soon as pos-
sible. Some stay hardly a month, and are then com-
fortably settled in civil stations, or in the hills. Others
are knocked about from regiment to regiment. We
have known an instance of a young assistant-surgeon
being eighteen times moved within as many months,
ending with having to take a wing of an European
regiment two hundred miles in the month of May and
June, after having just brought a similar detachment a
similar march in April. We recollect another young
medico d3dng of heat and exposure when similarly
employed. The assistant- surgeon with an European
regiment has exactly the same duty to perform as the

H H 2


surgeon — tlie same responsility for Ms portion of tlie
corps. He is not, like a subaltern, under minute orders.
He acts every hour, in matters of life and death, on liis
own responsibility. He should receive, at least, the
same staff pay as if in charge of a Native corps, and
thus have a motive for remaining at his more respon-
sible post. At an apparent first expense money would
thus be saved, inasmuch as valuable lives, now sacrificed
by changes and by inexperience, would be preserved.
Constant changes do no one good ; they damp all zeal,
and vitally hinder all efficiency.

Medical of&cers in charge of corps should have full
authority, however, to draw for all necessaries for the
sick. Thus trusted and sufficiently supplied with Eu-
ropean medicines, which is not always the case at
present, they would endeavour to keep down expense by
using indigenous drugs, many of which are valuable,
and all of which are cheap, and procurable in every
bazaar. Surgeons should be assisted by efficient well-
paid stewards, as is the case in the Bombay army.
They should not be teased with mere business details
about bread, sago, saucepans, and flannel gowns. It
should be quite sufiicient in such matters for them to
satisfy the superintending surgeon, that they have not
wasted the public money. Dooly-bearers and other
hospital servants should all be enrolled, well-paid, and
eligible for pensions ; their not being so has cost many
a wounded man his life. The scum of the earth will
go under fire when there is a pension for heirs. Non-
combatants can hardly be expected to expose themselves
without such provision. Mule-litters, horse ambulances
are much required on service. Every corps should have
two educated medical officers ; European corps four. We
remember an officer proposing to prosecute Grovernment
for putting his precious limbs into the charge of a very


worthy and deserving man, who, however, was only an
apothecary. On the other hand, we knew another who
preferred the apothecary to the doctor.

Our remarks on this division of our subject have been
somewhat full, because we deeply feel its importance
both to humanity and to the Government's good name.
Every European, and Anglicized native, in India is a
missionary. Each individual has the opportunity,
within his sphere, of doing great good or great evil ; of
setting a good or a bad example. He is a light on a
hiU. Surgeons are specially so. The subaltern deals
with a hundred men, the doctor with a thousand, and if
he have a spark of philanthropy, will minister extra-
officially to hundred of others. Some do to thousands.
Such men are ministers of mercy to the most wretched ;
give light to the blind ; relieve the leper, heal the sick,
and greatly smooth the path of the aged to the grave.
They should be cordially assisted by Government.
Every medical man should have a carte-hlanclie to open
dispensaries for the poor, under check, as to medicines,
only of their immediate professional superiors.

The truth of our sentiments as to the prospects of
Indian army doctors is demonstrated by the fact that
the candidates for employ, at all the recent examinations
in London, have been hardly as numerous as the
vacancies awaiting them. The well-educated young
doctors of England have discovered the East India
Company's service not to be the best field for talent
and energy.

Did space permit, we should have much to say on the
morality of the Indian army. The Native portion gives
no trouble. No soldier ever existed more patient, more
sober, more obedient than the Hindoo sepoy.

The Hindustani Mahommedan has more energy, but
is scarcely less tractable under a firm but considerate


commandant ; both classes offer examples for any army.
A petty theft, an occasional religious brawl, and a less-
frequent murder, originating in revenge, form the full
catalogue of serious crime. In some regiments years
glide by without a necessity for severe punishment.

The European soldier is a different creature, and re-
quires a stricter discipline. The day of great severity
has happily passed away ; the day when the remedy for
every error was the lash. The law of kindness has
however yet to be tried. Let British soldiers be dealt
with as reasonable beings. Relieve them from espionage,
keep them strictly to their duty, but let them have
all reasonable indulgence when off duty. Let Jacob's
scheme be tried with European soldiers, as with Native
horsemen, with rifles, and with cannon. We are glad
again to quote Jacob's words : —

" The attempt to govern English soldiers by fear of bodily pain is as
wise as is the cramping of our men's bodies by absurd clothing and
accoutrements. * -x- * * Appeal to the highest and noblest
faculties of man."

Jacob thinks that fifty thousand elite English peasantry
and yeomen in the ranks, treated, and trained, and armed
on rational principles, " would be a match for a world in
arms." Again we go very far with Colonel Jacob, and
heartily wish he were "the Lord Panmure" of India.*

♦ Since tbe first part of this article on Monday morning last one of each
was in type, we have fallen upon the of these was taken to the target
following extract from the Times, practice ground. To the tumbril
relative to the efficiency of the En- were attached six horses with riders
field rifle and its advantages over made of framework, covered with
artillery. This experiment goes far canvas, and stuffed with straw ; the
to support Colonel Jacob's views on whole the size of life. About the
this subject, more especially when gun-carriage were stuffed figures re-
it is considered that Jacob's rifle is presenting men unlimbering and
a more deadly and larger-ranging bringing the gun into action. At a
piece than the Enfield rifle: — distance somewhat beyond 600 yards

" An interesting experiment took from them, about sixty of the men

place lately at the School of Mus- under instruction at the School of

ketry at Hythe. Some condemned Musketry were drawn up in two

tumbrils and gun limbers having divisions, the one extending in skir-

been lately procured from Woolwich, mishing order, the other supporting.


Barrack married life is one of the greatest military
difficulties. The expense of keeping and moving large
numbers of women must always be a bar to the positive
encouragement of matrimony. On the other hand, the
improved health and steadiness of married men, should
be considered in all calculations of expense, and should
at least modify its discouragement. We agree cordially
with a recent Bombay reviewer,* that " the percentage
system of indecency, and the rejection of all beyond
the percentage (six, on embarkation), should at once be
knocked on the head."

With him we urge that, whatever be the number of
women allowed, they should be cared for and dealt with
as Christian females. At present, they are hardly allowed
to be respectable ; they are not treated as if they were.
A shawl, a bit of cloth, separates families. Obscene
language ever rings in their ears, obscene sights are
constantly before their eyes. The result is too often
what might be expected, and then the cry is, " the nasty
creatures, the hypocrites, the liars." That some respect-
able women do live and die in the barracks is a standing
miracle. Great should be their reward !

On board ship and at depots, where most attention is
required, least is often given. We have known women

One round was first fired by the at the supposed artillery, first by

front rank only of the skirmishing sections, then by sub-divisions, and

party, which may have consisted of finally by divisions, the whole with

about twenty men, and the result an accuracy perfectly wonderful,

was that a bullet had passed through The experiment clearly proved that,

almost every horse, as also through in the hands of well-skilled soldiers

many of the riders and men em- — men who, having been taught the

ployed at the gun. The support principles of rifle-shooting theoreti-

was then ordered up to reinforce cally and practically, have obtained

skirmishers, and the whole fired a perfect confidence in their weapon

three or four rounds in skirmishing — the Enfield rifle must prove more

order, which completely riddled than a match for any field guns of

horses, riders, axid footmen. The the present day." — Times.

party was then closed on its centre, * Bombay Quarterly, No. VI. ; ar-

and retired to a distance of above tide, "Military men and their dress."
800 yards, when volleys were fired


sent in open pattemars, from Scinde to Bombay, in
company with, bachelor soldiers, without the slightest
arrangements for privacy. The hourly scenes at most
depots are too disgusting for description.

The principle of the Fatcherry, or cottage system, for
married soldiers, obtaining in the Bombay Presidency, is
good, but is badly carried out. Many of the buildings
are altogether unfit to be occupied by Europeans, when
the thermometer is 100° and even 110°, as is often the
case during several months of the year. But the prin-
ciple is good. Indeed we see not why the Patcherri/
system should not be extended to bachelors of good
characters. Let two, four, ten, or more friends, under
joint responsibility for good conduct, mess and live to-
gether, whether in detached cottages, or in partitioned-
oif apartments of present barracks. The sober and
the pious man might then, at least, live unmolested by
the jeers and ribaldry of his dissipated comrades. We
throw out the hint to the authorities. A distinguished
officer, who advocates the measure, has told us that in
Scinde he has often, in his rides in the jungle, come
upon threes and fours of the 78th Highlanders at
prayers, or reading their bibles.

Considering their circumstances and temptations, the
early age at which they leave home, and the little check
on irregularities by regimental authorities, the morality
of the officers of the Indian army is good. It is at least
on a par with that of corresponding classes in England.
It is superior to that of the Colonies. In many quarters
there is much earnestness of purpose, much that is
thoroughly good. Gross and open immorality is now
most rare : as rare, as forty years ago it was common.
While, however, in many corps there is an excellent
tone, while in such the commandant considers and treats
the subalterns as his wards, and while the elder officers


set an example of sobriety and gentlemanly conduct to
the younger ; in others, the whole atmosphere of the re-
giment is clouded by opposite influences. The proceed-
ings of courts-martial, as occasionally published, let the
public behind the scenes in such matters. And what
more uncertain and even whimsical, than the fiats of
such courts? A Lieutenant Barnes at Bombay is
acquitted of blame for virtually declining to do duty.
A Major O'Grrady at Madras, is " severely reprimanded "
for denouncing his commanding officer before the young
officers of the mess, as " an old fool " and " a d — d jack-
ass." Within a few weeks of these two awards. Lieu-
tenant Patterson, a young officer of previously-unstained
reputation, is dismissed the service for an act of gross
violence certainly, but perpetrated on the impulse of the
moment, under gross provocation. We are of opinion
that two of these sentences might, with advantage, have
been reversed, and that the award on Lieutenant Barnes
was erroneous. He was undoubtedly guilty of the crime
of which he was charged, however he may have been
provoked to it, and doubtless he was grievously pro-

Although then the army is not so bad as Sir Charles
Napier and some recent writers depict it, there is, in
many quarters, much that needs reform. H. M.'s
46th Eegiment prove that full messes are neither the
most moral, nor the most gentlemanly; but in India,
as a rule, the largest messes are the most respectable.
Major O'Grrady set a bad example to his younger
brethren, but it is where a number of idle young fellows
get together, without the restraining voice of their
seniors, that vulgar quarrels and immoralities mostly

The remedy, again^ is efficient commanders to regi-


ments. At whatever cost to the State, and at whatever
pain to individuals, let there be a soldierly man, of good
sense, at the head of every corps, and let his authority be
supported. Better that his authority be in excess, than
that he should lack power. For the rest, and from the
higher authorities, a medium course between that of Sir
William Gromm and Sir Charles Napier is needed. The
violent tirades, the hollow and insincere compliments,
the biting and damning invectives of Sir Charles are not
wanted. Neither Europeans nor Natives require severity;
they do rQqymQ Jinnness. The soft showers, the kindly
and well-meant platitudes of Sir William are therefore
as little to the purpose as were the thunder torrents of
Sir Charles.*

Judicious, without afflictive, discipline is required.
Such as, while reminding officers that they must always
be gentlemen, will equally impress on gentlemen, that
they are and must be soldiers. In Bengal the latter
reminder is most necessary. We will not assume the
invidious task of deciding where the other is most
wanted; in what quarter Mr. Arnold's and Mrs.
Mackenzie's caps best fit.

Such discipline and such surveillance as we advocate,
will be approved by most good officers. Throughout
the services the materials are excellent. Some of the
best working blood of England is in India. The sons
of the middle classes, that have won and raised England's
Oriental empire, will maintain it against all comers and
all odds. The task may be easy or hard, according as
each individual performs his part.

As one example is at all times more efiective than
many homilies, we commend to our readers the " Me-

* Each general, in his parting ministration. Each evidently rote
address, well epitomized his own ad- his own farewell greeting. — H. M. L.


morials of Captain Hedley Vicars, H. M. 97th Eegi-
ment," * who, after a short but brilliant career, died a
hero's death in the trenches before Sebastopol. Stern
soldiers wept at his death : many recorded their lamen-
tations. One sentinel wrote, " as our adjutant, he was
loved by every one in the regiment, and as captain of
No. 4 Company, he was more so by his company."

Officers of all grades and arms, from Lords Panmure
and Eaglan downwards, lamented his fall. One, a
kindred soul,f who at the age of twenty was adjutant
of the 97th Eegiment, and twice fought his way into
the Eedan, on the fatal 8th of September, and was there
found, "far advanced on that red ground lying by a
cannon, in the sleep of death," thus wrote of Vicars
the day after the death of the latter in a private letter
to his own mother : —

" Such, a death became such a life, — and such a soldier. The most gal-
lant, the most cheerful, the happiest, the most universally respected officer,
and the most consistent Christian soldier, has been taken from us by that
bullet. * * * I had fondly hoped that we should Hve to go home, and that
I might bring my dear departed friend to you, and proudly show him as a
specimen of what a model soldier should be. * * * Noble fellow !
he rushed in front of his men, and his powerful arm made more than one
Eussian fall. * * * How he fearlessly visited and spoke to the men
in the worst times of the cholera ! but, as he told me, he got his reward ;
for the soldiers' dying lips besought blessings on his head. * * * Qq^
men got great praise for the fight last night, but who would not go anywhere
with such a leader ?"

Yes, we can vouch to all who will " go and do like-
vrise," that such a man, the soldier's friend, the brave
in battle, the gentle in peace, will be followed to the
death by every British soldier and by every sepoy.
Sympathy, kindness, and gallantry are nowhere more
appreciated than in the Indian army.

We are happy to perceive that, for once, peace has
not thrown the home authorities off their guard. There

* James Nisbett and Co., Berner's 97th Eegiment, nephew of General

Street, London, 1856. Paul MacGregor, and cousin of Lieut.-

t Lieut. Douglas Macgregor, H. M. Col. George MacGregor, Bengal army.


can be no lasting peace. The time has not come. The
war of principles has yet to be fought. Eussia imist
have her revenge, and America must try her strength,
her gigantic frigates, and her ten-inch guns : we are

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 38 of 39)