Mary Durnford.

Family recollections of Lieut. General Elias Walker Durnford online

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3 1833 03082 6496






Page 3, line 30, instead of " The missionary had not then gone forth," — read,
" The miBBionary was only then beginning to go forth,"

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€ompiltb anb Cbittb bg }}h ^sng^itr,

Ipnnltb for tbt JfsmilH onlj;.



CONTENTS, tl'il^is


Dedication y„

Section I. — Mr. Elias Durnford of Norwood. — Lieutenant Thomas Durnford
in the East Indies. — Letter of Mr. llelville. — Wounded at
Trichinopoly. — Mangalore. — Killed at tho attack on the

Fort of Onore 1

^Section IL — Mr, Elias Durnford at Belleisle, Ilavannah, Mobile, — Joins Sir

1^ C. Grey's Expedition. — Dies at Tobago 4

» Section IIL — Scenes in Early Life in Martinique, Guadaloupe, during the

rQ years 1794 and 1795, &c.

iX 4 Section IV. — Bristol. — Release from parole. — Meeting at the Norc. — Major

Wadman's Battery, and Corps of Volunteers 42

Section V. — Portsmouth, Ireland, Barracks built there. — Death of Mr. and
Mrs.Wadman.— Various anecdotes. — Family meeting. — Capt.

f Philip's Durnford's Diary kept at sea. — Col. Sheldrake 48

ly Section VI. — Corunna. — Newfoundland. — Miss Mary Manu. — Chiffinch. —
**; Batteries built and repaired. — Family stories. — Death of Mrs.

5|* Sheldrake C2

Section VII, — Second American war. — Cession of Florida to Spain. — Frag-
mentary notes. — Children's letters. — Citadel designed. — Col.

"Walkers letter 72

Section VIII. — Sir Charles Bagot's letter. — Journey to New Orleans. —
Grants, &c., found at Washington. — Return to Quebec. —
Correspondence. — Mrs. Fontenelle and her letters. — Mr.

Roberts 84

Section IX. — Excursions. — Citadel progressing. — Letters from Mr. Lodcr

and Mr. Graham . — Promotions. — Fossil recreations 1 .'lO

Section X.— Arrival of Commissioners. — Col. By. — Letters of Charles
Durnford. — Berbice. — Returns to Quebec, and then to Eng-
land with his family. — Portsmouth 1 IG

Section XI. — Colonel By's letters. — Vindication of him 129

Section XII. — Family correspondence. — Don Carlos. — Viney's letters and

illness. — Sarah's death 139

Section XIII. — Elias Durnford ICl

Sbctios XIV. — William the 4th. — Tunbridge Wells Anecdotes. — Mr. John

Day's letter. — Devenport. — Belvedere lets 1C7

Section XV.— Canterbury. — Ramsgate.— Jews' Synagogue.— Broadstairs.

Pegwell 175

Section XVI.— Dover.— Shakespeare's Cliff.— Castle.— Return to Belvedere. 18.3

Section XVII. — Hastings. — Arrival at Falkstone.— Boulogne 192

Section XVIII.— Paris.-St. Omer.— Passage to Dover.— Wcston-Hangcr. 211
Section XIX. — Grove House. — Clarence Villa. — Melancholy Events.—

Conclusion. — Letters « -^-^

Section XX. — Durnford Pedigree 252

To you, my Brothers aud Sisters, I dedicate this
little book. Its intention is to preserve in remem-
brance the services and virtues of those who are no
more, and who loved you. I do not think you will
condemn the intention : the execution is a different
consideration ; if you feel there is room for correction,
addition, or improvement, be sure your feelings will be
in unison with mine. Accept it with the true regards

Your affectionate sister,





Mr. Elias Durnford of Norwood. — Lieutenant Thomas Durnford in the East
Indies. — Letter of Mr. Melville. — Wounded at Trichinopoly. — Mangalore.
— Killed at the attack on the Fort of Onore.

Very little is remembered of Mr. Elias Durnford, gi-and-
father to Lieutenant-General Elias Walker Durnford, R. E.,
except that he lived at Norwood, Surrey, and frequently tra-
velled thence in his carriage, attended by his coachman and
footman, to London. The latter, while in town, frequented a
public house, where, drinking freely, he boasted of and des-
cribed his master's riches rather incautiously, since some of
his hearers took advantage of the unguarded state the mansion
was left in, to plunder it during the proprietor's absence of
plate valued at .£300, and some ladies' handsome dresses,
which probably proved attractive to a woman, an accomplice
in the burglary. He left four sons, — Elias, Thomas, Andrew,
and Clark.

Thomas, Mr. Elias Durnford's second son, went as volun-
teer to the East Indies, where he v^'as made a lieutenant in
the East India Company's Artillery, and also acted as assis-
tant-engineer. The mis-statements and difficulties that are
affixed to this period of Indian history, cling to the slight re-
cord remaining of this young man's earl}^ end. He appears to
have entered with ardor into the first dubious enterprises
undertaken against Hyder Ali ; and the following answer to
an enquiry made many years subsequently, by his nepliew,
Major Gen. E. W. Durnford, R. E., fixes with precision the year
of his death, and proves a family document incorrect, wherein
it is asserted to have taken place iu 17GG.

♦' Mr. Mi'lvillo prosentR his coniplinnMits to Gonrrnl Durn-
fonl, bi'us to ai'(|uuii)t him, in n'TtTi'iiftr to hJH eiKjuiry res-
|)«'Ctiiii; l\n' hit*' Lii'iit. Diirnlord, that his iiaiiu* in Ijoiiu'
on a Jloinhuy aijny li>t, datt'd thr lOlh .laiMjaiy, 17(J7, hut
oinitti'd in tlie (»no folhiwinii, <hitrtl loth NovrmhtT, 17G9.
His will, which is dated, loth Frhruary, ITOb, waw provfd at
Bombay on the 17th May following. The copy ot tiie will
may be seen on application at this house."

East India House, 4tb August, 1840.

In 17G-5, the transactions on the Hengal and Coromandel
coast are said to he involved in obscure conciseness. On the
Malabar side, in HCti, there ia etpial diiricnlty in tracing out
occiirrcrici's; and, but for the inforiiiation allordt'il hy the fore-
going letter, it would have been impossibh' to understand the
sole record the tViends of Lieut. Thomas Durnlord iiave
retaine<l of him. It certaiidy appears not to liave been prior
to 1767 that the war commenced between the Entflish Com-
pany and Hyder Ali, who, at tirst but a private soldier, be-
came, by his courage and talents, a powerful prince, able to
involve the company in diflicult wars and vast expenses. lie
had then possessed himself of great part of the Malabar coast,
and induced tlie Nizam of the Deccan to n'uounce his alliance
with th«' comj)any and unite in a war with himself against it.
On receiving intelligence of this league, the Council of ^la-
dras sent an army into the lield, under the connnand of Colo-
nel Smitii ; who, on September 2(3th, 1767, brought the united
forces to an engagement, near TrichiiK»poly, and there de-
feated them. This victory caused the Ni/.am to desert the
alliance ot Hyder, and conclude a treaty again with the com-

f»any, in which he gave up to them the Dewannee of the I3a-
aghaut Carnatic. This obliged Hyder to retire to the moun-
tainous country, and there support himself by the assistance
his admirable cavalry lent, in cultinu: olf supidies intended for
the English army. The historian, who stip[>lied this account,
does not mention any siege ; yet, as Mr. Durnford was present
at the siege of Trichinopoly, it must have taken phice at this

Seriod, when he was woimded, probably having performed
uty in his double capacity of assistant-engineer and artillery-
officer. General Smith is said to have penetrated far into
Hyder All's country, to have taken several of Ids fortresses,
and to liave a<lvanced towards his capital, but was prevented
by dissensions from approacliiiii: nearer to it. Hyder, in con-
sefpience of these mistimed disisiuns, tpiietly regained the
forts and strong posts he had taken.

From this statement it appears, that towards the close of
1767, although the victory of Trichinopoly had forced the
Nizam to renounce the tract of country denominated the Da-
wannee of the Balaghaut Carnatic, still Hydcr's power and
resources remained as Ibrmidable as ever, while he continued
to distress the English, and maintain himself in mountain fast-
nesses. It was at the commencement of 176S that an expe-
dition was made ready at Bombay against Mangalore, one of
Hyder's princi]i)al sea-ports, and ships were fitted out to con-
vey 400 European soldiers and about 800 Se[>oys. Historians
agree that the fort was taken with very little loss on the com-
pany's side, 25th February, 17GS ; and that of his shipping,
nine were brought off", of considerable size, besides several
smaller vessels. Through some strange error, as it is des-
cribed, a small garrison was left in the forts, who were made
prisoners by Hyder Ali.

The accounts of these years are difficult to understand clear-
ly ; still we learn from them that as Lieut. Dui-nford was
present at the siege of Trichinopoly about 26th September,
1767, the enterprise against Mangalore succeeded on 2oth
February the following year, only ten days after he had signed
his will. He was about five and twenty at the time of his
death ; and the account preserved of him is, that, after being
wounded at the siege of Trichinopoly, he was unfortunately
killed at an attack on the fort of Onore on the Bombay coast.
A deep impression of the uncertain tenure of life, increased
by witnessing the havoc of war, must have actuated him to
the arrangement of his sublunary aflairs. Thoughts tly di-
rected upwardly to God, while the earthly presence of those
dear and asunder is recalled. The missionary had not then
gone forth to cheer and to sustain, — but where does not the
invisible ever supporting spirit of Omnipresence shine !

G^oa,— the magnificent, the city of churches, whose piles of
noble architecture were rich with the wealth of provinces,— he
had just turned his back upon : it is pleasant, even in flnicy, to
prefer the picture of the hundred Christian churches, (his clos-
ing eyes were directed towards), whose existence was then un-
known to us.

Among the hills, aromatic with cinnamon and frankincense,
which divide the Carnatic from Malayala, and verdant vallies,
fed by mountain streams, the sound of bells had been sum-
moning the disciples of Him, ever since His name was first
affixed to them at Antioch, within the sacred buildmg ol Sara-

cvu'ic form. ]Tit«« \wr(» staiKliiicr rntluMlral clmrrlios, deco-
nitt'd choirs n\u\ altars ; lh«' woiiumi lli>ckt'<l ttt \vi)rslii|» within
them, anci thu sKlitlity of" their walls uttt-Mtt-d (lmal>iliiy und

Lieut. Durnford, in rouductiiiff the attack on the Fort
of Onore, nfter beincr Rovprcly wounded, was carried oft' the
field hv Lascars, on a hoard or cradle. While thus eonvevine,
a camion hall shot him to pieces, killini: at tiie same time
some otthe Lascars wiio carried him. His death was painful
but Inmotirable ; victory crowned his concluding effort, while
the breath of fame repeats of it no more than that the for ta
were taken with very little loss on the CoiM|tany's si(h'. Pre-
maturely thoutih he fell, yet was his end far happier than
had he survived to share in the plunder of the better remem-
bered sack, of Ouore, fifteen years afterwards.


Mr. Elias Durnford atBcUcisle, Ilavannab, Mobile,— Joins Sir C. Grey's Exj>edi-
lion. — Dies at Tobago.

Li 17G2, the accounts remaining of Elias, the eldest son of
Mr. Durnford of Norwood, tiie brother of" I>ieur. Thomas
Purnfonl, and father of Li('ur.-( Jeneral Elias Walker
l)urntord, commence. His historv beiiii; intimatelv woven
witli the military atliiirs of tlic day, recalling them to recollec-
tion will assist m tracing the particular events of his life, es-
iiecially as their past importance is now seldom dw«dt upon.
licUeisle, a nam(^ glorious in the naval atmals of Eniiland, was
then recollected by France as having, in tin; eonsecpu-nces of
its terrible conflict, weighed against the valour of le Man-chal
de Saxe at Fontenay, Kocours, Lanfeldt, and the mmh-vaunted
successes against IJergeu-op-zoom, Lanfeldt and Mae-^tricht.
The sea combats of" Helh'isle and Fmisterre had completely
destroyed the French navy, increased enormously the public
debt, and led in 174S to the peace of Ai.\-la-Chanelle. The
events of the seven years' war had again humbled the power
of Louis XV ; for his colonies in Atnerica, Asia and Africa were
lost, his navy was no more, while Kosbach, Crevell and Min-
den were fresh in view. Louis begged for peace at the be-
ginning of 1GG2, without obtaining it, though he strove to
bribe England by his ofl'ers. The pretences which led to most
of the wars underlaken at this pei-jod, are represented as fri-
volous and unsatisfactory — unjuolilubloness is stamped upon

them ; and their glory, like the field's fair flower, is withering
fast. The historian dwells most upon the court intrigues,
which embroiled all Europe, and the utter insignificance of
the little matters that will kindle a great fire. An expedition
against Belleisle, in the early part of this year was resolved
on, despite the pending negotiation for peace with its advan-
tages. This small island, having been kept in awe by the
proximity of hostile squadrons, was now consequently strong-
ly fortified and garrisoned. Mr. Elias Durnford embarked in
the fleet destined there ; and a journal of the siege of the cita-
del of Belleisle, — of which some doubt exists of his being the
author, though found among his family papers, — is a va-
luable record of human toil, and militaiy science. In its i)ro-
gress, his merits and talents as an engineer were so conspicu-
ous as to obtain commendation and notice, and lead to his
after advancement. The name of Durnford is omitted in the

This rocky and sterile island, strongly defended by nature
as well as art, baffled the skill of its invaders for more than
two months, leaving it finally undecided to which enemy the
palm of science, bravery, and discipline was most deservedly
due. The rocks of Belleisle refused footing to the first attempts
of the invaders to land. Port de Andro was silenced after an
hour's bombardment, but difficulties awaited those who
reached its rocky heights. Repeated were the efforts to dis-
embark their implements for offensive operations, strong gales
drove their ships and boats to sea, surfs and rocks around the
coast denied safety to the vessels, and provisions were damaged
by continued rains. On one occasion, the troops, after secur-
ing a landing, remained without food for more than four and
twenty hours. These heavy rains sometimes combined with
the tides to float their magazines and damage their powder.
It is curious to note the gradual progress of this siege, where,
resembling a mortal game of chess, in place of pawns and
mimic knights, the lives and bodies of men were exposed
and ventured to obtain possession of an admirably strong
and ably-defended fortress. From the first landing at Port
de Andro, to obtaining occupancy of the town of Palais,
and finally that of the citadel, the gradual and regular method
of operations carried on is minutely described with detail of
much interest. The Chevajier of St. Croix defended himself
for two months, while the 'batteries were slowly gainintr ap-
proach. The first guns, the journal notes as regularly planted,

vrcro lit the ilistonro of 2,200 vanls from the ritndol, tlic next
1,(>70, thei), 8iicot>8.siv.'ly.2,'JOo', l,ri70,9«H), 1,.0(H), l,3oO, 1.H30,
1.4*J0, MOO, — at which t'lu of" thf sit-t'*' Cn'ru'ral rriiwfMrd wna
uiitortmiatt'Iy iiia<l«' j)ris«)in'r, — thfn 1,1(»0; aiitl, on the (ith of
May, at tin; (Hstaiice of 1,100 yards, th«* iniiis roachfd within
the citadel, at first without doini; iniich ••xeriition, but Koon
with success. This (hiy it wns reported tliat 7,(K)(> <d the
cnmiv w«*re expecti'd t<» arrive, and that thev could .lohl
for aiiotlier niontli. At J.O'jO yards thi* enemy abandducd iheir
outposts, and retired witliin the cita<lel 400 yards. On the
14tli, at oOO yards, the parrison expected to h(dd out lonirenouffh
to <d)tain lionourable capituhition. OOO yards : at tliis time
tlie Ix'sirpers n'C(ivt're<l tlie prisoners they had lost, with a
eeasuiuible provision of corn, wine, oats, barley, and wheat.
600 yards: the chief luajristrate came blindfolded into the
camp, to 8t!ttle exchanire of money. On the 27 h they deter-
mined on niakinu a breach in the lirdans du Havre. The
enemy fired balls of wood, and tin? same nit'lit the miners be-
gan to sink a shaft. Tiie 2^tli, a reinforcement of 324 men
arrived from England ; they had now advanced to 3S0 yards
distance, when, on the 30th, another reinforcement arrived to
tliem. New shafts were sunk, but the tides obstructed the
progress of the workmen.

Bv the 1st June, the breach appeared considerable, and an-
other reinforcement, with stores, ike, arrived Ironi Knirland.
Now, at 230 yards, the enemy hoisted colours, and, on the 3rd,
beat a parley under pretence to take up a wounded man, who
liad fallen into the ditch, while it atlorded tliem the advantage
of looking at the breach in the licdans du Havre. The same
day nion* stores arrived from Knglantl, the breach was advan-
cing, and rockets were fired ott'by the enemy as signals to the
continent. The 4th, the enemy threw up an intrenchment
behind the breach, and our min<'rs and volunte(>rs ailvaiiced
over the ditch but retreated, oth. Miners advanced auain,
protected by musketry, «.tc. They attempted to pass the
ditch at midnigiit, were driven back, but finally succeeded.
Our intention was to carry the mine under the enemy's grand

Eowdrr magazine. We captured a spy, and have now ten
atterirs open. On the 7th the breach widened, and a secttnd
was attempti'd. The enemy were seen repairing tlu'ir end»ra-
zures at break of day, but at S o'clock hung out a white flag
and beat the charade ; this caused great stirprise. The capi-
tulating enemy were treated with res[»ect and admiration,

while terms the most honourable were conceded to them.
Throughout the siege, General Hodson denounced all irregu-
larities on the part of his soldiers ; any found trespassing were
sentenced to death, as also any discovered to be intoxicated
on duty. In no cases was drunkenness admitted as an excuse.
The awful sentence of hanging was deferred until the criminal
became sober.

The best and the bravest can give no more than their en-
tire energies to the work of their desired emprize ; and, for-
gotten though the stedfast toil and valour displayed at Belle-
isle may be by many, the children of the preserver, if not
author, of this journal should at least cl eri<h the recollection
of the active and upright services he perftrmed there. To
them, it is a minor point, whether the e*^' iprise in itself was
wisely undertaken or beneficirl in its result. Nay, whether,
as was sarcastically said of it, Belleisle could furnish nothing
better than sprats, and little cows : if it only did this, in a
literal consideration of the busi.iess, it would be difficult to
name staple products much more valuable. Eighteen hun-
dred men were killed or disabled in the undertaking, out of
the nine thousand who were sent against it. The following
October, disease ravaged Belleisle, and the fourteen hospi-
tals of Palais were insufficient to receive the sick. The re-
joicings in London, consequent on the capture of the island,
were great and sincere. The Belleisle march was long played
in the streets of London ; while, before the conclusion of the
same year, it was wantonly made .. subject of dispute, whether
or not to blow up the fortifications on which these gallant
efforts had been spent, and the reduction of which is said to
have cost half a million.

Soon after, a draft was made from the garrison to add to
the army preparing for the invasion of Martinique, under Ge-
neral Moncton ; and Mr. Durnford embarked with Lord Albe-
marle's expedition, as a Lieutenant of Engineers, to be em-
ployed with him in the siege of the magnificent and important
Havannah. Nothing can be added to'what he relates, as oc-
curring to himself in the course of, and at the close of that
memorable siege, since no journal or other notes relating to
it exist, except the letter which is subjoined. This letter
bears no date or address, but was evidently written in 170 J.

" I beg leave to state, that when a young man, during the
whole siege of Belleisle, I fortunately distinguished myself as
an engineer of abilities, and performed many dangerous ser-
vices, contributing greatly in my profession to the reduction


of tliat fortress. I nftt'rwanls embarkod for the 8i<»ge of the
Hnvantiah, without a single recoiiimemlatiou to any G»'iit'ral
Officer in the army, trijsting to my inclination and zral for my
kini; anil countr}-'s service na the surest and best |>ath lo iheir

'• On this expedition I was Lieutenant of Engineers, and
dnrinc: that siege my conduct and activity so much attracted
the notice of tlu' Karl of Alhemarh', Lord Ileathfield, and
other oflicera of the army, that the Commander-in-Chief sent
to me, as soon as the place was taken, and in the most flatter-
ing manner offenMl me the appointment of Aid-de-Camp, as-
suring me of further proofs of his esteem when»'ver it lay in
his power, saying that * he was happy to shew to his army
the good opinion he .entertained of n>y conduct during the
siege; and I was continued in that station until the staff was
landed in England. After his return, I remained at the Ila-
vannah until the troops evacuated the Island, h«'ing employed
constantly m taking a plan of the country s\irrt»unding the
Havannah to a considerable extent. The late Lord llarcourt
was so obliging as to select me to attend and explain to his
Majesty the progress of the siege and attack of the Moro,
when the Tnod(>l was shown tothe King; but, by an unfon'se«'n
mistake of the post, his lordship's letter did not reach me
until a few(hiys after I was desired to attend : from this cause
I lost the opportunity of being known to my Sovereign at
that time."

A portion of his artistic habours while there are still pre-
served by one of his grandsons : they consist of six vi<nvs of
the Moro and Havannah, with shipping, town, market-[dace,
aloe trees, and groups delineated with life and character.
They are masterly in execution.

The annoyance and consternation of S[>ain was great on
receiving intelligence of her loss. Tim ofhcers, to whom hail
been intrusted the defence of the Havannah, wi-re punished by
deprivation of their military employnu'nts, eonliscation of
their possessions, and banishment irom the presence of their
king, — some for ten and others for two years. The private
effi'cts of these genthMiuai were s(>ized on to make satisfaction
for the loss impul«'<l to their supposed negligence. The pri/.e-
raoney awanled to the conquerors of the Havannah must have
been considerable. It was given at four dilferent times, and
the first division was madi^ in April, 1704, when the sum of
JCIS 1-53. 7d. fell to the lieutenant-otUcer's share ; a later

division awarded him £9 7s. 9d. The striking and melancholy-
reflection again meets us respecting the futility and vvorthless-
ness of man's imagined best exertions, since lost, both Belle-
isle and the Havannah immediately became to all after-use
and advantage of the country, whose brave soldiers had subju-
gated them, only to be thrown as balance for the adjustment
of a scale, in the pending treaty of nations. Taken and given
up was the superb Havannah, like a castle on the chequered
chessboard. On the 10th of February, 1763, the Treaty of
Paris was signed, and Louis XV. gave up to England, Canada
and Senegal. In doing this, he deplored the destruction of
his navy, and confessed his new ally's supremacy over the
seas. At the same time, Spain recovered her trans-atlantic
stronghold ; giving to England, in return for the Havannah,
the two Floridas, and her possessions on the l^lississippi.
Honduras was partially ceded, as far as extended to England's
right of cutting her staple logwood, but she was crippled in
the defence of the last mentioned country by the prohibition
of throwing up forts in it. There were those who doubted if

Online LibraryMary DurnfordFamily recollections of Lieut. General Elias Walker Durnford → online text (page 1 of 32)