Memoirs of David Dinwiddie
memoirs, by my great-great-grandfather, David DINWIDDIE (1818-1883), were
originally written as a letter written to his brother Alexander, begun in 1864
and finished in 1878. They were then privately printed. I’m indebted to Ruth
Croft, who typed them in electronic form, enabling me to post them to my
website, where I hope they will be of interest. When editing and annotating
I’ve tried to leave the memoirs as close the original as possible, while
explaining relationships (for the benefit of family members), and some terms
that puzzled me when I first read them
Duncan, 5 October 2002).
4th February 1864.
Dear Brother Alexander,
The Dinwiddies are not exempt you see from the consequences of the
disobedience of our first parents; troubles in the flesh and spirit grow up with
us from our cradle; and as we pass on from youth to manhood, prime of life to
old age, we are hourly admonished that “time shall be no more”, that “the
longest life is but a span,” and all, even temporary joy, is vanity and
vexation of spirit in this transitory world.
On the 4th of August 1818, your humble servant was found
amongst the cabbages in the kitchen
garden, exactly in the centre of the renowned clachan
the Turnpike road to Glasgow and the Wee
Burnie ran together close by the west gable-end of the dwelling; the barn
and thrashing-mill, byre, stables, stack-yard, and cart-shed closed in the north
and east, and the high road to Galloway led past the front of the Auld
Biggin – a right pleasant place to live in, in youth, and to die in, in
old age. May this be the case with the “Soldier Laddie”.
You were born sometime in 1803,
at the Eccles-mains, when our father was acting steward over the estate of the
late Mr. Maitland; consequently you must be
about sixty-one years old, and saw the light fifteen years before I did. I think
you and brother James were both at home with our worthy parents on the farm in
Penpont just before we removed to Woodhead;
and you both left to join Uncle James,
in Manchester, about the year 1824. If I am wrong in my calculations, I will
thank you to put me right. It grieves me to have to record the death of so many
of my own flesh and blood in the prime of life, and at the time, too, when most
required to provide for their own offspring. I cannot feel sufficiently thankful
to Providence for His goodness to me from my youth. I have been an
“unprofitable servant,” and have done nothing for the kingdom of Christ; but
still I am enjoying the comforts of life, and have enjoyed them more, much more
than the majority of my fellowmen.
thankful I ought to be, and how earnest in prayer to God for forgiveness, for
the day will soon come when I will know the value of a Redeemer and the
consequence of having neglected His admonitions. It is a hard struggle to
overcome the evil one, but I know well, in spite of the doctrine of
Predestination, that we can all go to heaven if we only try (believe).
earnest prayer, is the only remedy to keep us from the “broad path;” “the
flesh is continually warring against the spirit, and the spirit against the
flesh.” This world and its cares
are always ready to step in and tempt us to offend our Creator. O! how
long-suffering God is to let sinners such as I am to live so long on the face of
this beautiful world; the longer I live the more I feel how unprofitable I have
been, how little I have done for God, myself, and my fellow creatures.
I believe it is nothing else but a cold, careless heart, in the interests
of others, that makes myself, for one, so backward in keeping up a constant
correspondence. It is not for want of time, but a something which I know will be
shewn to me some day, when my conscience lays bare all the sins of ‘omission
and commission’. Much good may be done by letter-writing. I have not forgotten
the kind and sisterly advice of sister Margaret
in her letters to me during the first few years of my exile in India, the good
effects of which are still fresh in my memory. This may be my last letter: what
a shame it is only my second, so I
shall begin at the beginning and give you an outline of my life.
Until I was about fifteen years old, I never was absent one day from
home. To Sanquhar for a cart load of coals, to the Mile end Dumfries with the
same for the use of grandmother,
and once as far as New Galloway, were the furthest points reached, but always at
home the same evening. Shortly before I left my home and “my country for my
country’s good,” I had a few narrow escapes. One winter morning at break of
day I was jogging along the road to Sanquhar in charge of father’s two cart
horses, when suddenly they took fright at something on the side of the road,
which led across the face of a mountain through a deep cutting in the hard rock,
which hung high overhead. In a few seconds the horses with the carts were
rolling and crashing, over and down, to the rocky, foaming river below. I had
just time to save myself. The story is a long one, the driver lived to go the
same road again another day, but not down the precipice.
About this time of “home life” I had occasion to cut daily a few
stones of hay from the bottom part of a stack, which rose high overhead; while
cutting away one day with a large two-handled hay-knife I heard a rustling, then
I saw the stack slowly move. Before I could run clear of the great, solid
mountain of hay above and on both sides of me I was caught and knocked down;
my head and hands only could be seen. Half a second later, in running for
my life, would have been fatal, as I would have been smothered. I could breathe;
that was enough. Providence saved me.
In 1834 (I was then about 16 years old), you had me with you as an
apprentice in the “Scotch Trade”, and you know best how I did my duty.
Previous to my leaving Penpont I saw some soldiers at one of the fairs on
recruiting service, and one of them seeing me rather interested about their gay
dress and ribbons, observed that I would be a soldier someday. This, with the
stories told by old John Ross, Mr. Maitland’s game-keeper, about the
Peninsular War, Waterloo, &c., became impressed on my mind, and from that
time I thought of doing mighty deeds some day in the “deadly breach,”
“playing Shaw, the Life Guardsman”
or bearing away the colors of some regiment, like Ewart
of the Scotch Greys at Waterloo.
From the above you can gather how likely I was to be successful in the
peaceful pursuits of trade. I did believe that if you had ventured to set me up
in business, after asking you to do so that morning at breakfast in the
in 1838, I should have carried all before me and made a fortune; but after a
second trial with Anderson at Stony-Stratford and Robert Fergusson
at Manchester again, I lost all hope of doing well as a tradesman, and I had
already proved my inability for handling the plough, scythe, or reaping-hook. On
looking at the fingers of my left hand this moment, I can see the cuts and scars
of the reaping-hook, which I must carry to my grave; with the scythe I could not
keep abreast with my brother Robert,
and it was always blunt; the pain in my back invariably being sharper than the
edge of my working tools, and a straight furrow with the plough was out of the
question. You must remember I was a weak, delicate boy. My mother told me I was
the genteelest of the family: and so I was, and am still. I measured five feet
ten and a quarter when I enlisted; I seldom weighed above eleven stone; and it
is only lately that I weigh thirteen stone.
If I had waited until you were able to set me up in business, it would
have been much more satisfactory to have had the power and pleasure of helping
those of my own kin who may have been in need from time to time; but such was
not to be, and many a heavy sigh has it cost me. There was, is, and shall be, a
mixture of good, bad, and indifferent qualities comprising my nature – a
something I cannot explain, a sort of willing spirit; but the flesh generally
got the upper hand. A strong resolution to do right in thought, word, and deed,
but a stronger one would have the mastery, and make me act contrary to my good
resolutions: when I would do good,
evil is ever present: a melancholy foreboding used to possess me of what was to
be gone through in this life and that which is to come, a peculiarity I have often heard more common
to the Scotch than any other nation. This I believe is the consequence of the
Scotch method of instilling into the minds of youth the awful punishment of sin;
even whistling a hymn on a Sunday was a “breaking of the Law,” and guilty of
one sin guilty of all.
You will remember when I left Manchester in 1838, you kindly filled my
box with all sorts of clothing for the use of our family at Woodhead. The box
arrived safe at home with its contents, but I sailed over to Dublin. You are
well aware how I returned to Manchester soon afterwards a Heavy Dragoon, instead
of going home to Woodhead.
How hardened must have been my heart then, and how obdurate it is still;
how little mercy I had for the feelings of others, even those near and dear to
me, then let me reflect how merciful God has been through a life of frequent
danger, by flood and field, in war and in peace.
From Manchester the 2nd Dragoon Guards or “Queen’s
Bays,” were ordered to Glasgow in the beginning of 1839. I enjoyed the march
very much, as I had always loved to see life (as I called it). Even to this day
I should like nothing better than to wander over the world, both by sea and
land. Mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, ravines, cascades, caves, dense
jungles, and sandy deserts, different tribes of the human race, beasts of the
earth, the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air (wild and tame); in fact the
wonderful and beautiful works of creation, in such an endless variety, have a
peculiar charm for me, a Scotch man, who, they say, “is never home, but when
abroad.” I love a storm when
“awfully grand” on sea or shore, but at sea I always felt that there was no
“back door” to run out of should the sails and masts be blown away, or the
ship be on fire or drifting towards a Lee Shore. These dangers I have been in my
day exposed to, but let me go back to Glasgow and continue my story from there.
One cold, wet morning found me walking “Sentry go” in Hamilton
Barracks, the depot for recruits and young horses of the head quarters of the
regiment which was then doing garrison duty near the Brooinlaw, Glasgow, eleven
miles distant. Here I was taking care of the Glasgow “Weaver bodies”. It was
on the 11th May 1839, and strange to say, a few inches of snow had
fallen a day or two previously, and was now melting away with the rain. Wet feet
and neglecting to change my shoes and socks, brought on a severe cold, followed
by rheumatic pains, which commenced at my thumb, and travelling through every
joint of my body, left me by making its exit at my extremities. For six weeks I
suffered with this complaint, and then went home to Penpont on sick furlough. I
had then been five long years away from the place of my nativity, and on the
first sight of the valley of the Nith my heart fainted within me, for instead of
the mountains of Queens-Berry, Tynrondoon, Galloway, Closeburn, and Keirhills
being high and steep, the rivers Nith and Scar being broad and deep, they all
seemed to my imagination just the reverse; mere pigmies of mountains and rivers
when compared with the Wicklow Hills in Ireland, and the mountains of
Westmoreland in England, the Liffey at Dublin, and the Mersey at Liverpool.
This, with the change of neighbours, my school-fellows grown up to be men and
women, and my old sweethearts married, took all the conceit out of me, and made
me feel as “a stranger in a strange land.”
However, a few weeks living on porridge and peas-brose
at Woodhead, and in the company of brother James
and sister Ann at Dumfries, brought me
round, and I returned to my Regiment well and hearty, with £30 sterling in my
pocket to purchase my discharge. This done, I returned on foot, (from Glasgow, via
Douglass-Mill, Crawford-John, and Sanquhar, paying my father’s relation,
a visit in Douglass-Dale) to Penpont.
I tried Farming again, for I was now in good humour for another change of
life, and had dreams of settling down, and being an honest “citizen of the
world.” When in hospital at
Hamilton I recollect making all sorts of good resolutions about this world and
the next, but all vanished in due course of time. Brother Robert, and sisters
and Nancy were at home on my
return. I think brother John
was then in Manchester, and all went well for about a year, when one evening,
while I was mowing (cutting) barley in the Eccles-Wood, with my brother Robert,
a letter came from Mr. Anderson, of Stony-Stratford, Buckinghamshire, offering
me another chance to “push my fortune” in Merry England. The sun was setting
when this letter came. I laid the scythe quietly on the ground, straightened my
aching back, looked south over the Portrack Hills like a true Scot, and said
“well, I will! I shall try my fortune again;” and in a few days I bid
my dear father farewell, the tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks as he
shook me by the hand saying, ‘Davy, I fear we shall never meet again in this
world.’ This was just after
dinner, 1P.M.; he then went off to the harvest field with his band of reapers,
while my dear mother accompanied me a little distance towards Burnhead, where I
was bound (as I purposed within myself) for a moral character, from the
Minister, (Mr. Smith.) My mother seemed to have better hopes of me than my
father, and left me pretty cheerful. Mr. Smith gave me a good character; he
could not do otherwise as far as my outward walk in life went, for no-one could
ever accuse me of being what we commonly call “ a wild scamp and a rake” in
Scotland. I walked to Uncle James that night, 11 miles; he was then, with his
wife Aunt Mary, at Kill-Craft, three or four miles north of Dumfries. Next day I
continued my journey southward, via Glencaple Quay, Liverpool, Birmingham, and
Peeping-Tom of Coventry. I found my way to Stony-Stratford, and commenced
After giving Mr. Anderson and the round of customers a fair trial, I saw
that I could not succeed because I had not the will. I could not, and would not
take the advice given by my father
many years previously, viz., “set a stout heart to a steep hill and you will
get to the top of it,” So down to
smoky Manchester I felt my way, where I was kindly invited to try my luck a
third time. After a turn or two to Runcorn on Robert Fergusson’s account,
melancholy forebodings, hypochondria, or some such thing worse took possession
of me not for the first time in my life, and giving way to the peculiar bent of
my nature, I quietly went down to Liverpool by the Railway on the 14th
December 1840, and the following day (after breakfast at a hotel, where I also
slept) I took the shilling as an Artilleryman in the
Honorable East Indian Company’s Service, perfectly sober, for I seldom went to
excess in liquor, and am a teetotaller for a number of years past. I soon found
myself under some control and in my proper element; but soon went a
“sight-seeing,” viz., to the docks, shipping, buildings, churches, theatres,
&c, the churches from without, and the theatres from within; in one of the
was then sporting his lions.
All these “past-times” were gone through with a wonderfully cheerful
heart which I cannot account for. After Christmas I found my self seated in a
Railway carriage with a free passage to London. It was a bitter cold day; the
second class carriages being open, every one of the passengers (I recollect we
had an assortment, viz., recruits and their wives, sailors, rogues and
vagabonds,) felt the cold in proportion to the rate the engine forced us along
over the iron rails and the depth of clothing which covered the body; some of
them were, in spite of the cold, in the highest glee, and others just the
reverse. Your brother David played his part between the two extremes. At
Stony-Stratford station, within a mile or two of Mr. Anderson’s house a few
minutes were spent in taking in coal, water &c., when I ventured from my
seat and spent a shilling in the purchase of a shallow plate of weak English
broth; it was hot enough, the skin came off the roof of my mouth, which, however
did not give me the least concern having felt so cold, although I had on a warm
suit of clothes, viz., a pair of thick Kersey trowsers,
drab waistcoat, a green swallow-tail coat, and a Four-and-nine hat.
The train arrived in London half an hour after dark. Under the guidance
of an experienced veteran Sergeant, who took charge of us, recruits from
Liverpool, we found our way to the “City-road Inn,” where we received our
billets for the night, my lot (with a Canny Cumberland lad) was at some distance
from the rendezvous, there not being sufficient accommodation for all the
recruits and their wives. So off we trudged, (but not before we had witnessed a
fight with half a dozen Lancashire men at the Inn in true Lancashire fashion) to
our billet, a public house, which was then undergoing repair. With all the spare
beds engaged, we had the choice of sleeping on the floor or of receiving a
shilling to go somewhere else for the night; this was no sooner said than a
handsome young girl jumped up and kindly offered me a part of her bed.
Very respectfully declining her kind offer, off went again myself and
comrades to look for another billet, and after several unsuccessful attempts at
several public houses, on account of Christmas, we had at last the good fortune
of an offer of a bed at a respectable hotel, provided
we agreed to sleep two in one bed, and pay half a crown for it. No sooner
said than the bargain was struck, as it was then about 11 o’clock and a cold,
frosty night. After giving our shoes to the “Boots”, we were led upstairs by
a handsome young Chambermaid, found the room and bed clean and neat, with
towels, wash-hand basin, &c., so bidding our guide a polite good night, we
were soon in the arms of Morpheous.
The next morning we were up early and paid the bill of fare, which
included more than the price of our bed, for we did not forget to nourish the
inner man the previous night; receiving a hot cup of coffee, we set off to join
the old Sergeant at the rendezvous where we were just in time to save ourselves
from being put in the “hue and cry” as deserters. On passing through the
streets on our way to the steamer below London Bridge, en
route to Gravesend, I continued to keep at a distance from my comrades by
taking the opposite side of the street, where I was making the best use of my
time, by staring about me at the wonders to be seen in the great city. We had
not gone far, when I had the pleasure of meeting a countryman with a pack
on his back and from which burden I had only a few days previously “cut
and run,” but was glad he did not know me. I also came in contact with a real
Cockney, who had a basket of bread under his arm, and who had the assurance to
lay hold of me by the arm, and with a smile on his countenance, pointed to my
comrades on the opposite side of the street saying, “I say young man look,
there goes a fine lot of cock sparrows to be shot at, eh!”
No doubt the baker suspected me to be a fresh import from some provincial
town, if not a recruit, for he would not have dared to take such liberty with a
true cockney; I smiled, answered in the affirmative and passed on, but thought
on the remark, wondering why the material composing the Army and Navy should be
so thought little of, and what would England be as the civilizer of the world
only for such brave men as that sickly-looking baker saw, made a jest on and
laughed at; some of whose number were destined to rise and rank in the society
of the aristocracy of the land, and be entitled to appear clad with honor in the
presence of the greatest sovereign on earth.
I hope you are not going to question me with reference to the being
entitled to appear before “The Sovereign Lord of all,” and whether the
soldier and sailor ever think of striving to deserve the same honor
before Him; if so, then I can cheerfully give you an answer, and say by
experience that there is as much hope for the soldier in the barrack-room or
sailor in the fore-castle as for those in civil ranks of life which contain such
Christians as a racing, poisoning Palmer,
a double-faced merchant prince Paul;
a murdering Townley,
whose neck was saved by his aristocratic friends making a madman of him and
themselves liars. But go no further than the circle of a gunshot from your door
in Manchester, and you will find enough of the works of the devil to deserve a
second deluge; crowd all the places of worship in Great Britain to the full, and
you will nearly have accounted for all regular church goers; and even the most
sincere dare not “throw the first stone” and say he is innocent.
How many never go to church, how many more spend their time from Sunday
morning until Saturday night in the haunts of the wicked one. But hold! The
above is enough; and I hope you will have some charity and allow the possibility
of soldiers and sailors being found true to other colors besides those they have sworn to defend while on earth.
Stepping on shore at Gravesend, we marched to Brompton Barracks, near
Chatham and Rochester, nine or ten miles; arriving in time to be told off to our
respective companies before it was dark. I soon felt quite at home in a room in
which there was a roaring coal fire and made acquaintance with the Artillerymen,
who had been there for a few weeks before me, some of whom are still alive, hale
and hearty, and doing well in different parts of India. Many have gone to their
“long home,” and a few have returned to their native land with a liberal
pension. A particular friend of mine, named Robert Knox, a Scotsman from
Edinburgh, is now Quarter-Master of a Brigade of Royal Horse Artillery at
Bangalore. He enlisted at Manchester; and his brother, a stone-mason, used to
attend your church under the Rev. Dr. Munro at the time I left Manchester; and
very likely he is still there.
Sister Marian was the first to astonish me by writing a very affectionate
letter soon after my arrival in Brompton. No doubt she remembers the
correspondence which took place between us.
During the time I remained at the Depot (as the barracks for the East
Indian Company’s Troops were called) I had a second attack of rheumatic fever:
being well taken care of by the Doctor, I was quite well when we embarked at
Gravesend for Madras, which was about the same time that brother Robert went to
America, viz., in the spring of 1841.
All the accidents and incidents common during a three month’s voyage to
India occurred on our way out, round the Cape of Good Hope, in the good ship Larkens,
of 900 tons burden; and on the 19th August we dashed through the
dangerous surf of Madras in country Masula-boats,
which said surf I have crossed many a time since in the service of my country.
By nine o’clock the same evening I found myself at Saint Thomas’s Mount,
eight miles distant and four miles from Pallavaram,
the pleasant and clean cantonment in which I now (1864) reside. After a few days
rest, and ruminating over the peculiarities of the people and things in India,
and having gone through the terrible ordeal of drinking a strong dose of salts
and senna every alternate day for six days, formed up in line in the presence of
the doctor. We marched to the Mount River, 2 miles distant, for a swim and a
bath on the days we did not face the
doctor and his gallipot:
thus we were informed that the salt junk
eaten on board ship for 3 months was washed clean out of us, and that we
were now fit for our exile in India for 21 years, when we would be entitled to a
pension and allowed to go back to our mother. At Madras, myself and about sixty
more men were picked out and sent to join the [Madras] Horse Artillery at
Bangalore, two hundred miles distant; where we arrived on the 2nd
November and commenced drill.
In the six months after our arrival at Bangalore, some of the recruits,
including myself, were on our way back to Madras with the ‘C’ Troop Horse
Artillery en route for China, where we
arrived safe and sound after a three month’s voyage. I shall not attempt to
describe what passed during the time spent in the Celestial
Empire, further than “we came, we saw, we conquered”.
The Angel of Death did his work during the war in many shapes and forms. We had
land marches and sea voyages; the fleet of seventy ships sailed 200 miles up to
the city of Nankeen
on the right bank of the river Yansekang,
when peace was proclaimed.
It was on this river, after the storming of Ching-Kiang-Foo,
I had occasion to go in a boat with other men of my Troop, to a large transport
vessel of 1200 tons, on duty. The sailors in charge of the boat had an extra
dram and could not manage it when at the ship’s side. The river was running at
the rate of 5 miles an hour, and before the sailor told off for the purpose,
could make proper use of the boat-hook, the boat left the ship’s side, and
myself, leaving me hanging by my hands with my feet nearly touching the strong
current below. I had got hold of the Mainstays below the broad foot-board, with
a view to keep the boat close to the side of the vessel, but was not strong
enough to do this even with the aid of 2 other men; so the boat left the side of
the vessel without me; the other two men threw themselves back into the boat. In
a few seconds I felt my hands and arms begin to tremble with the heavy weight of
my body; and looking down at the current below with certain knowledge of
drowning, I had to act while I had
strength sufficient to do so, and with a desperate spring from the side of the
ship, I had the good fortune to hook my heels in the Main-stay above my head. It
was an effort to save my life, and in another second I had a firmer grip with my
hands, and was quickly on the main deck, thanking God.
The boat with my companions went adrift, but they ultimately found their
way to their own vessel, and I joined them the same evening. They had given me
up for lost, for even a good swimmer would have been forced down with the
current of the mighty river, to rise no more alive.
It was at the storming of Ching-Kiang-Foo, where the wives and children
of the Tartar soldiers threw themselves into deep wells to be drowned rather
than run the risk of falling into the hands of the Barbarians as the Chinese
called us, it was also during the China war that I had to go sentry-duty fully
accoutred with sword, pistol and carbine bare-footed:
the mosquitoes having stung my feet to such a degree that I could not put on
During one of our marches in China a dozen of us Artillerymen had a
miraculous escape from being destroyed, several of the men with lighted pipes in
their mouths having quietly laid down to sleep on straw with the floor beneath
covered with powder.
We again sailed down the river, and on the 15th January 1843
were once more on terra firma in Madras, then on the 18th March went on to
our old station, Bangalore, where being finished off by the drill department as
a horseman, swordsman, gunner, &c., I was made acting corporal.
About the end of 1844 the C. Troop Horse Artillery (to which I had been
posted in 1840) was ordered to join an army then employed in quelling a
rebellion in the Kolapur district, between Bangalore and Bombay; but before the
troop reached the scene of the action, the rebellion was crushed; so we struck
out across country via Bellary and Sholapore, to Jaulnah, which is about seven hundred
miles north-west of Madras, arriving on the 6th January 1845. On the
march to Jaulnah I was made full corporal and drill corporal, and considered
myself a smart young fellow no doubt, drilling recruits and breaking-in young
Soldiers must go to church whether they like it or not, and it was here
in 1845 I first saw and loved the lassie, who in 1847 I took unto myself as a
wife. One of the conditions of the marriage contract was that I should go to
school first and fit myself for something higher in the army than drill
corporal; of course I was not going to lose the lass with the “bonny blue
e’en whose smiles were the sweetest as ever was seen &c.,” and the
chance of a little more learning to boot. So to school I went, and soon knew the
difference between the singular and plural number, thus fulfilling my promise to
those concerned. You will be able to judge from the orthography, etymology,
syntax, and prosody of this letter what progress I have made since I saw you
last in the classics; and whether I
would be able to take “the shine out of Dominie Kellock of Penpont or not in
“teaching the young idea how to shoot.”
On the 15th February 1847 I married Mary Mackenzie
aged nineteen. Her father, Hugh Mackenzie,
was from Glasgow, and died a warrant officer in the Ordnance department in
Bangalore in May 1832. Her mother’s name was Mary Pritchard,
whose father was from the county Mayo, Ireland, and whose mother was from
Dublin; her maiden names was Doyle. Thomas Pritchard senior
also died a warrant officer, viz., a rank below that of a Commission. He died at
Madras; date not known.
Thomas Pritchard Junior,
my late wife’s uncle by the mother’s side, is still alive in Madras, and
living twelve miles from where I am now writing. I believe you saw him when he
was in England in 1849 or 1850. He went to Edinburgh and passed his degrees for
Veterinary Surgeon there in two years, being well up as a judge in horse flesh.
Since his return to India he has held the situation of Veterinary Surgeon to the
Governor’s Body Guard, Madras.
I have no end of relations by marriage in India, some are in good
circumstances, some just the reverse, and similar to those of our own relatives
on your side of the world. With the powerful help of Mr. Thomas Pritchard and a
few other officers in India, (one of whom was the late Colonel Sheriff, an uncle
to Mrs. Lauderdale Maitland,) and a little exertion on my own part, I have got
pretty well up the ladder of promotion, and have no reason to complain; but I
live in hopes of getting higher up still. I might have been worth a little hard
cash, but somehow or other I never knew the knack, although from the North of
the Tweed to make hay even “while the sun did shine.”
Well, now to proceed. Six months after marriage I was promoted to the
rank of Sergeant. This, however, did not give me so much pay by about ten pence
or a shilling as drill corporal did; but it gave me a better position for
pension should I have risen no higher. Five months after I was made Sergeant, my
daughter Mary Jane
was born. I always call her Jane, and then commenced troubles in the flesh which
I am not going to tell you about. Six more followed the first in regular
succession; four are still alive and are with me now hearty and well. The mother
and three are gone to a better land I trust. Jane is now nineteen years of age,
a fine sprightly young queen, and as good as she is bonny. She can play the
piano, and has learned a good deal; but I have been too long living in he jungle
far from good schools; on long marches from place to place, or on sea voyages
from port to port, to have given her a first-rate education. Let us be thankful
for what we have received. Thomas David,
and Alexander are fine-looking,
healthy, strong, boys, good tempered, obedient and anxious to learn, and by the
blessing of God I will try to make them good scholars, the only fortune I expect
to leave them.
I lived in Jaulnah doing duty with my troop from the beginning of 1845
until the end of 1851 (which was the longest stay I ever made at one place since
I left Woodhead in 1834) when the troop was ordered to St. Thomas’s Mount, a
700 miles march over bad roads, and often no roads at all. I accompanied on
horseback the troop, which was composed of six guns, 165 horses and 115 men,
one-third of which I had charge as Serjeant of a division, under the command of
an European Officer. The troops were well trained to gallop over hill and dale,
when necessary, ford a river, march through bogs and mires, leap a fence or
ditch, when such obstacles came in the way en
route. Such must be the Horse Artillery in India, and such material saved
the country in the mutiny of 1857 and 1858.
Mrs. Dinwiddie and two children, viz., Jane and James
the first having died a short time previous to our leaving Jaulnah), with the
other families, about fifty, belonging to the troop, found their way in covered
carts in rear of the troop, picking out the best track across the country; each
cart being dragged by a pair of bullocks marched at a slow pace, always arriving
some hours after the troop at the encamping ground. The troop and families
invariably commenced the march from camp to camp about 2 or 3 o’clock in the
morning: the distance travelled over being from ten to twenty miles. Such was
our mode of travelling in days of yore, but now railways or good roads have, of
course supplanted these.
Arriving at Saint Thomas’s Mount on the 22nd February 1852,
we were settling ourselves down expecting a few years rest in our new station;
however, such was not to be. On the 31st August of the same year the
troop embarked at Madras in three vessels for Burmah, and arrived in Rangoon on
the 10th September, the strength of the troop having been increased
to 160 men and 204 horses. Except myself and thirteen men, the troop was never
engaged with the enemy during the war.
In the beginning of 1853 the troop was removed from Rangoon to Prome, a
large town about 200 miles up the river Irrawaddy, where it remained until the
beginning of 1854, when the Burmese came to terms. Garrisons were placed along
the frontiers of Burmah Proper and our newly acquired province, viz., Pegu
or Lower Burmah, which was formerly an independent kingdom rich in timber and
rice. The troop was then ordered down to Rangoon en route back to Madras. We accordingly embarked in July in one
vessel which was more than sufficient to carry back all that remained of the
troop after two years of service in Burmah. The climate did not agree with the
horses especially; and those alive, about thirty, when the men embarked were
left behind for the use of the Foot Artillery. These soon died also, besides
forty more sent over from Madras, which had joined the troop while at Prome.
Exposure to the heavy and constant rain, in the open night and day during the
monsoon was the principal cause of such heavy losses in horse flesh. About
thirty of the men also died of dysentery, fever, and cholera; many more were
sent home to Madras, being unable to do their duty suffering from various forms
During the two years in Burmah, the married men had to remit a part of
their pay to support their families who were left behind at Saint Thomas’s.
While at Prome I was sent in command of a detachment of about a dozen gunners of
the troop, to assist in manning the rockets, guns, mortars and act as cavalry,
or drive a couple of teams of gun horses in an expedition against a noted
in the Province of Donabew,
on the river Irrawaddy, between Rangoon and Prome. I gained much credit for the
manner I conducted the duties of my little band. The force had very hard
marching and severe fighting in the midst of dense jungles, losing about two
hundred officers and men killed, including those who fell victims to disease,
out of a small army of 1,500 Europeans and Sepoys of India, besides two hundred
camp followers who died of cholera and hardship. The ground was, in this
campaign, our bed, and the canopy of heaven our covering; hard biscuit and bad
water often our only food and drink for many a long day and weary night.
During this time I had excellent health, and although engaged a dozen
times with the enemy and in close quarters too, I escaped without being wounded,
being only once slightly touched on the leg, although the bullets of the enemy
flew thick and fast, often whizzing close past my head, between my legs, under
my arms, striking the ground at my feet, throwing the dust about in clouds,
smashing the timber and bruising the iron work of the guns while in action.
Imagine about 5,000 half-naked savages yelling and cheering in fancied security
behind their strong and high breastworks of felled trees, laid horizontal with
upright supports: frightened and wounded horses plunging and neighing in
harness, draft bullocks and buffaloes bellowing and running about, wild
uncontrolled, through the midst of the turmoil and uproar of battle; imagine a
dense jungle in the rear and left flanks of our position covered by marshes or
deep creeks of water, groans and shrieks of the wounded and dying men heard on
all sides, many of them unseen through the heavy smoke of powder between the
contending armies. Lastly, the British cheer on advancing to storm the position,
hand-to-hand fighting, death and victory, and the final retreat of a brave
enemy. Then picture to yourself the fun of all this kept up for several
consecutive hours, and so often repeated in a short campaign of a little less
than two months.
As I kept notes of this campaign, I may on some future day
send you a fuller account; but my exploits in China and during the mutiny will,
I fear, remain a dead letter, as I unfortunately kept no daily journal. If I had
done this since I left home I might have had enough of interesting matter to
make a book.
The vessel which carried the troop back to Madras made slow progress,
having stormy weather, with a head-wind all the way. We were obliged to make
repeated tacks to gain ground to windward. This had to be done night and day,
the soldiers of the troop assisting the sailors who were natives of India.
The distance, as the crow flies is about 1,000 miles from Madras, and
instead of being only a ten-days voyage, as it was when we sailed over with a
fair wind in 1852, we were just forty days crossing the Bay of Bengal on our
return in 1854, with a foul wind. The consequence was we were half starved
during the latter part of the voyage, being placed on short rations and water.
Sighting the light-house of Madras on the night of the 12th
August, we crossed the surf (in the usual country-boats without a tack in them)
the following day, where those dear to us were ready to give us a hearty
welcome. On stepping on shore the survivors of the troop had reason to be
thankful for their safe return to Madras once more. We marched up to the
original Saint Thomas’s Mount, a little hill, on which a Portuguese chapel has
stood (eight miles distant from Madras) for centuries, and where people, even
Bishop Heber, says St. Thomas the evangelist, died a martyr.
At the base of this Hill, the Barracks have been built, and the beautiful
bungalows, with gardens attached, of the officers, civil servants of Government
writers, pensioners &c., occupy the plain below in a half circle. At the
distance of ¾ of a mile beyond this is cultivated soil, and the open sea again
6 miles off. On the opposite side of the Hill an immense plain extends, and at
70 miles a lofty range of mountains meet the eye. In this direction, which is
nearly due north, you may reach Calais opposite the cliffs of Dover by land
(merely turning to the left of the Hymalian Mountains, the Northern boundary of
India 28,000 feet high), walking through a few shallow rivers, and swimming
through a few deep ones to effect this journey. Many other difficulties would
have to be encountered, and which I am not disposed to tell you of. You can
ascertain this for yourself by looking at the map.
Barring a few casualties amongst some of the families, we had a happy
meeting, and “Richard was himself again.”
I regret to say my little boy James died twenty days after I left him in
1852, about one year old; on the other hand, Thomas David was born during my
absence, about seven months after I left, so I lost one and gained another.
On account of my good conduct in Burmah I was promoted to Serjeant-Major
a few weeks before leaving Rangoon, and in about a month after our arrival in
Madras I was ordered to Bangalore with my family in two bullock carts, and
joined my new trop, viz., the ‘E’ Troop Horse Artillery (then under command
of Captain Grant) in the month of October 1854. This same Captain Grant was the
officer who had command of the Horse Artillery recruits, (of which I was one) on
the march from the Mount to Bangalore in 1841. He was then only a recruit
himself; a fine-looking, smooth faced, delicate lad, fresh from the highlands of
Scotland. At this time, viz., 1854, he had the appearance of a man of forty,
being much pitted with small-pox, which he had suffered from since I last met
him in 1841 his hair as grey as a badger.
On this march which I refer to, the recruits young and wild, like
unbroked colts, did as they chose; the consequence was a cart load of leg-irons
and hand-cuffs were sent down from Bangalore to meet us, under the charge of an
experienced officer, named MacIntyre, of the Horse Artillery, and a sergeant of
the same corps, with orders from the Officer Commanding the Horse Brigade to put
us all in fetters if necessary. When they arrived and enquired into our conduct,
they found that the recruits were more sinned against than sinning, and that it
was through the misconduct and mismanagement of half a dozen old soldiers of the
Foot Artillery returning from sick leave, and who had the management of the
young recruits under the young officer, who were the cause of all our mishaps.
The story of this march alone would fill a volume, relating the fun and
frolick, fighting singlehanded ourselves, and in pitched battles with the native
villagers on our route.
With my wife and two little ones, Jane and Thomas David, I found myself
very comfortable with the increased pay of Serjeant-Major in my new troop. On
the 5th August 1855 another son was born, whom I called Robert, after
my father, instead of Robert who died in Jaulnah, on the 28th August
The Crimean War had at this time been going on with heavy loss to the
British, and more help was called for from India. The 12th Lancers, a
fine body of men, then in Bangalore, were ordered to join Lord Raglan’s Army, via
the Red Sea, the desert, and Egypt, under the command of Colonel Pole. They
had to embark at Mangalore on the Western Coast, on the Peninsula of India, to
which Port they had to travel over hills and mountains, 230 miles from
I, having been used to lift horses in and out of ships and boats during
my term of service, was selected to assist in embarking the 600 and odd horses
of the Lancers. Within twenty-four hours notice, I once more bid my family
farewell. Off I went preceding the regiment 2 days’ march, with two men,
faithful and true, of my former ‘C’ Troop, which had been ordered to
garrison at Bangalore soon after I left the Mount the previous year.
This happened in January 1855, and after accomplishing my task with my
usual good luck, and all the skin off my hands, pulling and dragging the horses
with ropes, I returned with my two men the road I went, having had a narrow
escape falling a victim to cholera; and once more joined my family. I did duty,
as usual, with my new troop of Native Horse Artillery.
On the 2nd July 1857 Janet
was born, and at this period came the Indian mutiny. I was at this time acting
Regimental Serjeant-Major as well as Riding Master of the Horse Brigade. At this
time also half of my troop was ordered off on field service with other Forces to
watch the Rajah of Kurnool about 200 miles north of Bangalore, who was expected
to revolt; the other half of the troop was ordered to Bengal, via
Madras, where it embarked. A regiment of Native Cavalry of the Madras
Presidency was also ordered to embark at the same time, but refused to go on
foreign service by sea, and they were in consequence, unhorsed, disarmed, and
left to follow the bent of their inclinations, i.e.,
to rob, to work, or to beg; while my half-troop obeyed like Europeans,
disembarked at Calcutta, marched up the country close in the rear of Havelock
and Neil, with the 1st Madras Fusiliers and the 78th
Highlanders, gaining glory and renown, under Sir Colin Campbell at Lucknow and
Cawnpore, besides having many other engagements with the enemy.
Having the important duties of Serjeant-Major and Riding-Master to
perform, I was prevented from accompanying either detachment of my troop. In a
few weeks, however, I was relieved of my acting appointments, by those who were
legitimately entitled to hold them, and was ordered off to join my half-troop,
by this time encamped at Secunderabad in the Nizam’s Territories, and near the
great city of Hyderabad, crowded by Mussulmans watching an opportunity to break
out, murder the Europeans, and take possession, if possible, of the whole
Peninsula of India, between the river Krishna and Cape Comorin. Secunderabad is
350 miles north of Bangalore, and the half-troop was sent there as soon as the
danger was over at Kurnool.
Taking my family with me, I marched from Bangalore in company with the
Head-Quarters and Right Wing of Her Majesty’s 12th Royal Lancers,
which regiment had just returned from the Crimea via
the Cape of Good Hope. This was the same regiment I assisted in embarking at
Bangalore in 1855.
Marching in company with the Lancers, I had the command of about thirty
Europeans (Horse Artillerymen) and forty-six horses, with a corresponding number
of Native horse-keepers and grass-cutters destined to join the European A. Troop
of Horse Artillery at Secunderabad, where an army was being organized for a
campaign against the mutineers in Bengal. On the march from Bangalore with the
Lancers, and on arrival on the banks of the river Tumboodra, near Kurnool, a
telegraph message was received from the General commanding the troops at
Secunderabad, ordering Serjeant-Major Dinwiddie to quit company with the
Lancers, who were to follow by regular marches, and push on by forced marches to
Secunderabad with the detachment of European Horse Artillery, horses only.
I started the same night, leaving my family to follow in company with the
families of the Lancers, and by making four marches every twenty-four hours, I
reached Secunderabad (distance 150 miles) in four days, when I delivered over my
charge, and joined my own half-troop then commanded by Captain Nuttall at
Secunderabad. In nineteen days after this my family joined me, and we commenced
This was on
the 19th January 1858, having left Bangalore on the 25th
November 1857. On the 30th of the same month, viz., January 1858,
another telegraph message came from the Horse Artillery Head-Quarters,
Bangalore, ordering me to join another Native troop of Horse Artillery, the
‘F’ troop, under the command of Major Brice, then en
route to join Major-General Whitlock’s Army destined to quell the mutiny
in Central India and which was at this time assembling at Kampti [Kamthi].
So, leaving my family behind, I was off the next day having a good horse
to ride, a groom to look after him and my accoutrements, and who also acted as
cook and grass-cutter as we marched along, and a strong bullock with driver, to
carry my baggage, cooking utensils &c., all of which I was entitled to free
of expense from the Government; I had only to add a few rupees to my servant’s
wages for any extra help, and purchase my own food on the way from day to day.
Fortunately Mrs. Dinwiddie had provided me with a good stock of cooking
requisites, such as flour, ghee (melted butter), salt-fish, and dried meat,
commonly called Ding-Ding. Had this forethought and provision not been made, my
fare on the way would have been spare indeed, as I found the villagers near the
road had no poultry, or anything else convertible into food, which would be the
equivalent of a soldier’s rations to me, except their lean cattle, which they
had in abundance, and half-starved dogs and cats. Rice was the only article of
food I could procure. All other edibles had been used up by the different
regiments, which had recently passed through the same country on account of the
mutiny in Bengal.
For eight days and nights I pushed along three or four marches daily, all
alone through a dangerous country, when I overtook the ‘A’ Troop European
Horse Artillery, under the command of Major Maine, at a town called Unkree, on
the north side of the Neermul mountains, between Secunderabad and Kampti, one of
the ten thousand spots on the map of India infested by tigers, &c. I forget
the distance I travelled over in this fashion before joining the European troop,
but I well recollect myself, horse, pack-bullocks, and servants were all knocked
up with the over-marching and want of sleep; so much so, that the servants
begged earnestly for only one hour’s rest, and would have gladly laid down in
the middle of the road. We at this moment of distress from want of sleep and
rest, met a native villager, and on enquiry, learned that the camp was not far
distant. This villager had been sent out to look for a horse that had gone
astray, having broken loose from his picket the previous evening and disappeared
in the jungle. On topping the highest peak of the mountains in half an hour
after I met the native villager, I had the pleasure of beholding the watch-fires
of the encamping ground and reached the tents of my countrymen (some of whom I
knew) at about two o’clock in the morning. In consequence of the escape of the
horse above-mentioned, the European troop did not march till next morning, which
was fortunate for myself and my small party, as we had time to recoup our
strength, and started quite refreshed at three o’clock the following morning
with the ‘A’ Troop, Madras Horse Artillery.
Besides native villagers being sent out by the headman of the village of
Unkree, a party of Europeans had likewise gone out to look for the stray horse,
when one of the men was similarly lost in the jungle. Our anxiety was redoubled
now, and after a fruitless search during daylight and the firing of signal guns
with a view to let him know the direction of the camp, he was left to his fate
in the dense jungles. The lost horse, however, was found. The troop now marched
on, not daring to delay any longer, such was the importance of time during the
It was supposed the lost man, named Thomas had been devoured by tigers,
but fortunately he found his way to the town of Neermul, fifteen miles in our
rear, and in about a week he joined his comrades well and hearty, bringing his
horse which he rode from camp, with him. He stated that he merely lost his way
in the dense jungles and was now glad to see his friends again. Having no duty
to perform with this troop, I jogged along comfortably, arriving with it at
Kamptee in due course, where we halted for repairs &c., for about five days;
the rough uneven roads uphill and down-dale, crossing stony ravines and rocky
beds of rivers, shattered the wheels of the guns and wagons so much as to make
them almost unfit for field service. This was remedied by the assistance
received from the Arsenal of Nagpore [Nagpur], 10 miles from Kamptee. Our next
point towards the country of the mutineers was Jubbulpore [Jabalpur], about 170
miles north of Kamptee. Here we were joined by more troops, including a siege
train drawn by elephants. We could lose no time, so pushed on to join General
Whitlock’s army, waiting for us at Dumoh [Damoh], eighty miles to the westward
Here I first took up my proper appointment, as Serjeant-Major of the
‘F’ Troop, Native horse Artillery, on the 13th March 1858. I was
now 1,100 miles from Bangalore, my starting point, on the 25th
November of the previous year. This ‘F’ Troop had been doing duty as part of
the peaceful Garrison of Hyderabad, some years previously to the braking out of
the Mutiny, and had now been pushed on before other troops which had a long
march to perform from the coast, and arrived a few weeks previous to the other
divisions of the Force, which had now joined it, viz., Infantry and Cavalry, the
12th Lancers and Major Mackentyr’s Native Horse, or Hyderabad
Contingent, had also arrived at this place about a month previously to check the
mutineers in their depredations on the frontier of Bundelcund, adjoining Bengal.
Major Brice, now Major-General, was, as I mentioned above, in command of
the ‘F’ Troop of which I had now the honor to be Serjeant-Major. The Serjeant-Major of a
Regiment, Troop, or Company, of whatever branch of the Military Service, of a
Nation or Kingdom to which he may belong, is the mainstay of discipline and
order. He stands between his Commanding Officer and those under him as a guiding
agent in the matter of discipline; a good Sergeant-Major is therefore an
invaluable officer, and knowing Major Brice as Lieutenant and Adjutant of the
Horse Brigade at Bangalore in 1844, I felt quite at home in my new troop, and
exerted myself accordingly to conduct the duties of my station, in the office;
or the more important duties, on the march in the camp, or in the Field of
Battle, to the honor of all concerned and to my own credit.
To show you that all native troops during this time were not in open
mutiny, I may mention that this very ‘F’ Troop when under the Command of
Major Brice, in Secunderabad, was the means, under his well ordered plans, of
keeping the large city of Hyderabad in awe and order, and under Providence,
saved also the southern part of India from the fate of Bengal. For this
important service, I believe, Major Brice received his military honors, and now,
1864, holds a good situation as Inspector of Artillery. Just think of the
respect the native Musselmen
of this Troop must have held their Commanding Officer in, when they fired at and
killed a number of their own caste and countrymen at a moment when the whole
city of fanatics were ready to break out at the slightest success of their
leaders, and murder every man, woman, and child of European descent belonging to
the garrison of Secunderabad, which is situated a few miles from the Residence
of their King or Rajah, the Nizam. If the Sepoys in Hyderabad city had not been
held in check by this native troop at this critical moment, the entire people of
the country from Cape Comorin to the river Nurbuddah [Nerbudda], might have
committed themselves, under the example of the Madras Native Army, which had
been hourly expected to break out in open rebellion as had been the case in
Bengal, in May and June the preceding year, viz., 1857.
The abovementioned timely check kept the rebellious men within the city
walls, and Major Brice for his successful tact in due time received as I have
mentioned, his reward viz., a C.B.
I had at this time acquired a little knowledge of the Hindustanee
language, and was able to make myself understood, when coming in contact with
the Sepoys of my troop; hence I had no difficulty in doing my duty to the
satisfaction of the Commanding-Officer, the 115 men which composed the troop,
When the Army under General Whitlock was complete in men and material, it
moved forward on the 20th March, and, although a small army compared
to those of Napoleon and Wellington, yet we felt confident in our leader and
marched cheerfully on, sanguinely to meet the foe.
At Jubbulpore we first beheld the depredations of the mutineers, who had
burnt down and destroyed all that they thought useful to the Government and,
marching towards the centre of Bengal en
route to Delhi, had laid waste and burned down as much of Government
property as they had time to do to on their line of march. I have referred to
one Bengal Regiment only, the one which garrisoned Jubbulpore a few months
previous to our arrival there. We passed through villages en
route, but no living soul was to be seen in the villages near our line of
march; except a few old men and women who were unable to leave their houses, all
others who could shift for themselves unaided had, together with their cattle
&c., hid themselves in the distant jungles, and hills in the neighbourhood,
in the same way as did the Covenanters in the days of Charles the First, and
in persecuted Scotland. These poor innocent inhabitants not knowing whether we
were marching through their country as friends or foes.
General Whitlock left Dumoh on the 20th March 1858, and after
harassing and long marches day and night, we arrived at the scene of the action,
engaged with, and defeated the enemy three times by the 19th of the
following month, in spite of our hardships and fatigue, having travelled over
about 200 miles of rough roads, through extensive plains, and over rocky
mountains in Bundelcund.
The Battle of Bandah was fought on the 19th April, one only of
the hundreds fought during the Indian Mutiny, by the different divisions of the
British Forces, separated from each other at varying distances from 20 to 1500
miles, and located at all points of the compass, from Barrackpore, near Calcutta
where the mutiny first commenced, to Lucknow, Delhi, Guylore, and the frontiers
of the Punjab.
The enemy, at the battle of Bandah numbered about 12,000, having numerous
guns, well manned by old Artillerymen of the late E.I. Company’s army, also
mutineer Sepoys acting as Infantry and Cavalry, well mounted, armed with swords
and fusils, taken from the magazines and barracks, without the lawful permission
of their owners, viz., “John Company” as the Europeans and Natives
irreverently called our first Governing Constitution in India. General
Whitlock’s force numbered under 4,000, half of whom were Natives of the Madras
Presidency, and the other half Europeans. Expecting a night attack on the 18th,
we were under arms at sun-set, and moved a few miles out of Camp, where we
formed up in “battle array” and remained so till near daylight the following
morning, when we advanced upon, and engaged with the enemy, completely routing
them by noon of the same day.
You must excuse for obvious reasons, my not going into the details of the
carnage. Suffice it to say, I escaped unhurt, and right or wrong, laid seven
mutineers low in the dust that day with my sword and pistol alone. Major Brice,
early in the morning had given me the command of a Brigade of guns, hence how
many more I had been instrumental in killing at long range that day with shot
and shell I cannot tell. God forgive me if I did more than my duty. It must be
recollected the foe we engaged with here, were many of them the same who spared
not the men, women, and children of the Europeans who fell into their hands at
the massacre at Cawnpore. No doubt you have heard of the circumstances connected
with the death of so many helpless men, women, and children I allude to. We were
now within a short distance of that town, (40 miles) as the crow flies.
The day after the battle we entered the city of Bandah, took possession
of the palace of the Rajah, who had made his escape the previous day. The
British colours were hoisted in due form, and the usual search for treasure made
by the prize agents. A great quantity of money, jewels and valuable property was
found, a small portion of which I hope to receive as prize-money, perhaps some
Our army encamped in the open country round the city, and were obliged to
wait for some weeks to allow reinforcements to join us from the low country, as
much work in the destruction of human life had to be done. In the meanwhile,
prisoners and suspected persons from the surrounding country were brought into
camp, tried, and if found guilty, hanged at once.
I have seen nine native officers and Sepoys (rebels) hanging by the neck
at the same time from the branches of a single tree in the centre of our camp,
who on their trial had apparently felt little concern about their fate. Those
blown away from guns and shot by musketry by hundreds, after due trial by the
Military authorities in different parts of India, met their death, as seemed to
us, as true Musselmans or Brahmins, and considered their fate, no doubt, as the
fate of true martyrs. So sanguine were they in this matter that even the women
have been known to volunteer to share the same fate as their husbands, their
fathers, or brothers.
The hot season of the year had now set in, and many of our men, Europeans
and Natives, died in camp from the effects of sun-stroke. Cholera, Dysentry and
Fever also did their work. Strange to say our sufferings should be enhanced now,
while during the excitement on the line of march and hard work, comparatively
few casualties from the same cause occurred.
Bandah (when the Mutiny broke out) had a garrison, composed principally
of Native troops, commanded by European officers. It also contained civil
residents comprising Government employees, who lived in peace and comfort
previous to the mutiny in Bandah. Now all was desolation, the withering blast of
the Mutiny was stamped on every thing; officers’ bungalows, once like little
palaces with their neat inclosures and gardens, were now a mass of burnt ruins,
the ghostly walls alone standing, to denote the place where so and so, with his
wife and little ones once lived in peace and comfort; believing the Sepoys
“true to their allegiance.” They
only proved, however, faithful in every point to-day; and treacherous demons the
next, who took delight in imbruing their hands in the blood of the infidel dogs
or Fringhees, as the natives call the Europeans. The church of Bandah,
once a beautiful building had not a door or window left, all had been destroyed
or carried away; and the grave-stones and monuments in the burial ground were
broken to pieced, or turned upside down.
On the 13th March, the same day I joined the army
at Domah, I had been unexpectedly and without previous knowledge (at the time
being above 1,000 miles distant) appointed Adjutant of a Native Regiment, to be
formed at Palavarum, near Madras: and which was to be called the “1st
Pegu Police Battalion” after the name of the province annexed from Burmah in
1853, and to number 1,227 bayonets, viz., 64 havildars, 63 naigues [naiks],
1,100 privates, besides 10 Europeans, non-commissioned officers
(Sergeant-Majors) one for each company, the same number of native officers, 22
buglers, 22 water-carriers, 10 lascars, 3 artificers, and 2 chucklers; besides,
recruit and pension boys, to be added as casualties occurred, that is, when the
father of a family having a son, died while in the service, his eldest son
received as pay Rs. 3-8. The whole force to be commanded by an officer of the
Line, he having only two subordinate officers to assist him, viz., an Adjutant
and a Quarter-Master, who were to be taken from the non-commissioned or Warrant
Grade of the European portion of the Madras Army, and on whom would fall all the
official and heavy duties, drill, &c., of the regiment.
The news of this “good fortune” came to me while I lay stretched at
full length one hot day in the beginning of May (I forget the exact date) on my
narrow, hard bed in my tent, covered over with at least one-sixteenth of an inch
of hot sand. The wind had been blowing hot and strong, as usual, in this part of
India at this time of year, and the tents were hot and not sand-proof. When we
found that a little rest was necessary, we laid down shutting our eyes, and
letting the dust fall where it thought proper, (for some part of the tent must
be kept open for light and air) which had no respect of persons, officers and
men being served alike. As soon as the sun declined daily, all this misery
ceased also, and we slept sound at night if we had nothing else to attend to.
The above appointment, I may mention, had been conferred on me as a
reward for my previous good conduct and services in China in 1842-43, in Burmah
1852-53, and in performing my duties properly in peaceful Garrison routine in
India during 17 years. For my being brought to the notice of the Government, in
the first instance, I have to thank our dear late father, through Colonel
Sheriff, whose wife was related to Lauderdale Maitland, our father’s landlord,
secondly, my good friend Mr. Pritchard (uncle to my late wife), backed by my
former recommendations from several officers, and last but not least, Colonel F.
Burgoyne, at this time (1865) in command of the Madras Horse Artillery, of which
splendid corps (equal to any Horse Artillery in the world) I was then one of the
six troop Sergeant-Majors, the Madras Horse Brigade of Artillery being then
composed of four European and two Native troops, forming a regiment of about 800
officers and men and 1,000 horses.
Mrs. Dinwiddie, being at this time in Secunderabad, was the first to
write and tell me of the good tidings of my appointment as Adjutant, which at
once placed me on an equality with the officers of the Commissioned ranks. The
following mail brought the Government Gazette,
and then I saw my appointment in print. In a day or two, subsequent to the
arrival of the Gazette in camp, I was put in orders to proceed
forthwith and take up my appointment at Pallavaram, marching via
Futtypore [Fatehpur], Allahabad, Benares, Calcutta, and by the mail steamer from
the latter city to Madras.
Previous to finally quitting my troop; it was ordered out one morning,
with a few of the 12th Lancers to reconnoitre the surrounding
country, and to let the villagers know that they would be protected from the
rebels, provided they would stay at home and cultivate the soil as heretofore.
This being done, after a few hours fast riding, with the guns and Cavalry across
country, we were on our way home, when an accident occurred, which proved more
dangerous than the field of battle, viz., the blowing up of a gun-limber full of
shot, shell and powder.
On the leading gun-limber two unfortunate natives sat, whom we had taken
with us from Bandah as guides to show the way from village to village. The
ground was rough over which we passed at a quick pace, this shook the limber
boxes in which was packed the ammunition, which ignited through friction, a
rather uncommon occurrence, but it should be remembered the weather was very
hot. The ammunition had been carefully packed a few days previously. First a
single loud report was heard, when we looked over our shoulders to see what was
the cause; quick as thought three shells burst in succession. The next moment,
the guides before-mentioned were blown up in the air, torn into pieces, their
clothing on fire, portions of their bodies, being afterwards found half-roasted;
the guns and cavalry, which were all in the rear had timely seen the danger, and
halted. The six horses, yoked to the doomed limber, two of them within a yard of
it, on the first report rushed to the front in terror, the drivers having no
control over them, and they were only brought to a stand, when the pole horses
sank exhausted, having been burnt by the explosion and wounded by the splinters
of the carriage and limber, which were blown to a thousand pieces.
Major Brice who commanded the party, and who was selected for this duty,
on account of his knowledge of the language, Lieutenant Sewel, one of the
subalterns of the Native troops, the Quarter-Master Sergeant and myself were
riding close in front of the leading horses. On the report of the explosion, our
horses also stretched out at a full gallop in terror, but were closely followed
by the exploding limber. We expected to have our bodies riddled by balls or
splinters of wood and iron. In this case the strongest resistance to the force
of the powder was from below, viz., from the strong frame of the carriage and
axle-tree-bed on which the two ammunition boxes were fixed, the consequence was,
all the missiles of danger flew, sloping upwards over our heads, so we in front
escaped uninjured: but the leading driver at the moment he was looking over his
shoulder was struck on the mouth by a stray foot of one of the unfortunate
guides, his lips were swollen for a few days; the centre driver, next in the
rear, died of wounds received in his skull and neck; the pole driver, recovered
of his wounds, which were (wonderful to say) very slight, he being next to the
guides at a distance of two yards. One pole horse was shot to put him out of
misery, the other five were soon fit for duty, a new limber was supplied from
the large Park of Artillery, packed as its predecessor with ammunition, and the
gun was again ready for action in a few hours after the accident. I shall always
remember the blowing up of the limber, and thank God I escape. The families of
the guides were paid a certain sum of money as compensation, and the widow of
the unfortunate driver pensioned for life.
Major Brice had, previous to the accident of the limber, been
suffering from his chest and the extreme heat; he was now unable to do effective
duty, so his Medical man recommended a change of climate. Doctor Ford doing duty
with the force, was also seriously ill at the same time, thus they both left the
Army a few days after the limber affair on sick leave to Madras, to enjoy the
cool and bracing breeze of the Neilgherry [Nilgiri] Hills; I was likewise
ordered to accompany the two sick officers, and have an eye to their wants as
far as Madras, and then join my new appointment at Palavaram. Accordingly I bid
farewell to camp life for a time, and made the best of my way down the valley of
the Ganges to Calcutta.
On the 13th May 1858, I mounted my horse, which was kindly
lent me from the troop, till I reached the railway station at Futtypore, 50
miles distant from Bandah. The officers were too weak to ride, and had to be
carried by bearers in hospital doolies, in which they could lie down at full
stretch and go to sleep when so inclined. The country we had to travel over was
far from being safe, so we were escorted by some Native Cavalry belonging to a
regiment in our camp. Of course they could be depended upon.
Marching at sun-set we arrived on the banks of the river Jumna by
daylight the following morning, hurrying on, during the darkness of the night,
and passing over 32 miles of good road. The officers crossed in boats kept ready
for the purpose; the escort returned to Bandah, and leading my horse on to a
raft, I was afloat on deep water. By the time we crossed the river the sun had
risen, and the officers must seek shelter during the heat of the day, and wait
till fresh dooly bearers could be sent from Futteypore, 18 miles further on. We
felt pretty safe on this side of the river, as detachments of our army, under
Lord Clyde, were not far off. Half of the ‘E’ Native Troop, Madras Horse
Artillery, of which I was Serjeant-Major when the mutiny broke out, was watching
one of the fords of the Jumna, only 8 miles from where I crossed it, but I had
no time to go and see my old comrades.
Major Brice and Doctor Ford waited close to a village, on the banks of
the river, till I joined them, my raft being slower in crossing than the boats.
On coming to the doolies Major Brice informed me that the dooly bearers were
knocked up and could proceed no further, and requested me to push on to
Futteypore, present his compliments to General Carthew, commanding the station,
and ask him to send fresh dooly bearers.
The Major gave me a bottle of ale from under his pillow and some
biscuits. This was very acceptable after a night’s ride of 32 miles. A good
drink of the Jumna water put metal in the heels of my Bay charger, and he
carried me 18 miles further with ease, the greater part of the distance at a
gallop. General Carthew gave me a smart trotting horse, and a light buggy or gig
instead of dooly bearers to bring the sick officers up from the river; so
leaving my hungry horse in car of the General’s grooms, I was in a few minutes
far away on my return to the river, and by noon found the two invalids cool and
comfortable in a Native bungalow in a small village, close on the side of the
high road, and about one mile from the river.
The arrangements now made were very satisfactory to all parties. Major
Brice and Doctor Ford would drive to the General’s quarters in the cool of the
afternoon in the buggy. I was to be carried there in a dooly, the bearers having
had a long rest during the heat of the day. By sunset on the evening of the 14th
we were all safe in General Carthew’s compound with a well-furnished table to
refresh the “inner man,” and from this day forth the convalescents I had
charge of on the way, gradually recovered. The following day the doolies, the
bearers, and my charger were sent back to camp at Bandah, and we prepared to
start by the lately finished Railway, for the great city of Allahabad, distant
88 miles from Futteypore, and which we reached on the afternoon of the 16th
May. The railway runs close to the Grand Trunk Road, leading all the way from
Calcutta to Delhi, but at this time it was incomplete in many parts, railways
and telegraph wires having only been commenced by the exertions of the
Governor-General, the great Dalhousie, a year or two before the mutiny broke
Arriving at Allahabad we took lodgings at a hotel for the night, and
early on the following morning, 17th, were on our way to Calcutta in
horse daks, 4-wheeled carriages drawn at a gallop by two screws
of half-horse, half-pony, which were changed every 5 or 6 miles. On leaving
Allahabad, we crossed the Ganges (at this time) by means of a bridge-of-boats.
Just below the bridge the Jumna adds its waters to that of the Ganges, the city
being built close to the junction of the two sacred rivers, which unitedly flow
on to the Bay of Bengal, a mighty stream, enriching an immense extent of soil,
and giving depth and breadth of water to float the hundreds of merchant vessels
then on the port of Calcutta waiting for cargo.
At Allahabad reports reached us that Maun Sing, a native rebel chief, had
crossed the Grand Trunk Road with a large force of our late faithful Sepoys, and
had taken up a position among the hills and jungles, about 40 miles from
Allahabad, or half way between that city and Benares. This news was not at all
pleasant, as we might be caught by some of his scouts, and then woe be to us.
“Fortune favours the brave,” however; so on we went, and on arrival at the
part of the road crossed by Maun Sing, we found he had burnt down the Government
travellers bungalow, carried off all the dak horses that he could lay hands on,
and made the best of his way out of danger, as a division of the British Army
who had witnessed his proceedings was on his track at no great distance.
Immediately after Maun Sing had left the district, no time was lost by
the authorities in fitting up a temporary shelter for travellers, and fresh
horses and ponies supplied for the dak carriages, so by the time we reached the
spot, we were able to get a hot meal, a couple of hours rest, and start off
again at a gallop to the sacred city of Benares, about 50 miles further on.
On our arrival at Benares, we had no time to stay and have a look at the
famed city, but pushed on night and day, 479 miles to Raneegunge, 120 miles from
Calcutta, where we again met the railway, and slept for the night near the
station. The log journey was over in a few hours the following morning, and glad
were we and thankful we had had such a prosperous time of it, threading our way
so far down the country, which was even then so much in the power of the
The only accident which happened to us on the way was the breaking of the
tyre of one of the wheels of the carriage in which the sick officers were
conveyed. This happened late in the evening the same day we left Benares, the 17th.
I happened to be close in rear with my conveyance, having one for my own use
paid for by the Government.
On the break down of their coach, seeing the desponding state of the
officers, my gallant heart soon thought of a remedy, and I gave up my own sound
coach for their use. The exchange of carriages enabled the officers to run off
at a high speed without 5 minutes loss of time, leaving me in the heart of the
jungle all night, keeping guard over the broken-down coach single-handed. The
driver and horse-keeper had to go back 5 miles with the broken wheel, before
they could get a blacksmith to weld the tyre on again, so it was long after
daylight on the following morning, the 18th, when I started to
overtake my sick charge; this, however, I could not manage to do, for although
we had fully 400 miles to travel over, they reached Raneegunge on the 20th,
some hours before I did after a 3-days hard chase.
I felt rather proud in having an opportunity of seeing Calcutta, the
far-famed “city of palaces,” and as the mail steamer had left the river a
day or two before we arrived, we had about 13 days to spare, as we must needs
remain in Calcutta till the next bi-monthly mail steamer was ready to start with
the English mail, calling at Madras on her way to Suez. Major Brice and Dr. Ford
during the time they remained in Calcutta put up at a 2nd class
hotel, and I at a 3rd class, where I had a clean bed, and two good
meals a day. For this accommodation £4.10 per mensem was charged. This I
considered a very low rate for so much comfort.
Being settled down at the hotel, I lost no time in going “to and fro”
sight-seeing. Fourteen miles to Barrackpore, where the Indian mutiny first
shewed itself in 1857 was the furthest point I reached by rail, and water; then
Dum-Dum, the headquarters of the Bengal Artillery. At this time, May 1858, the
barracks at Dum-Dum, 14 miles from Calcutta, were fully occupied by the wives
and children of the Artillerymen, who were then manning the guns at Delhi,
Lucknow, and other important places of attack and defence far up in the interior
of the North-Western Provinces. Hundreds of these poor women, alas!, were
destined to be widows, and the children orphans before the mutiny was put down.
I paid a visit to Serampore, the head-quarters of the Baptist
Missionaries; also Howrah, where the great E.I. Railway station is erected, both
on the opposite side of the river; then I must needs see the place where the
Black Hole of Calcutta was once upon a time. The numerous ships in the river
were a sight to see after I had been so long up-country. Many of the ships had
no cargo at this time, and hundreds of the sailors had left their vessels and
had proceeded hundreds of miles up the country, to fight against the murderous
Sepoys. They were allowed to volunteer their services, and were well paid by
Fort William and Garden Reach next had the honour of my presence, and
finally venturing up to the top of Ochtaloney’s pillar or monument, erected on
the spacious maiden, by a spiral staircase, I had the whole of the “city at my
feet” as it were, in one grand view. The palace of the Governor-General (then
Lord Canning) not far distant, was unoccupied at the time, so I walked through
the “ pictured and carpeted rooms and trod the marbled halls.”
European soldier and his wife had charge of the interior of this great
building, and a few faithful Sepoys walked “sentry-go” at the several gates,
armed with the ram-rod of their fusil,
which latter had been taken from them to save them from committing themselves,
as their comrades had done up the country. A few long walks through the
principal streets to see the churches, hospitals, colleges, schools, shops,
mosques, temples, &c., &c., and a few longer drives here and there, in a
two-pony carriage, also a few pleasant rides in a palanqueen, carried by 8
coolies on their shoulders, made the time of our stay pass quickly away, till
the mail steamer was ready to take us to Madras.
Having secured a Pass-ticket to Madras on the steamer Bentink
of the P. and O. Company, went on board on the evening of the 5th
June 1858, and on the 6th we were in charge of a pilot to take us
down the Hoogly [Hooghly] delta of the river Ganges, into the Bay of Bengal. Six
pleasant days’ voyage brought me once more within view of the horrid Surf,
which I had now to cross in the usual Muscular [Macula] boat, for the sixth time
during my service in India.
Safe on shore once more I made my way to the house of my wife’s cousin,
Quarter-Master Serjeant Dela Hoyde,
Governor’s bodyguard, paid a visit to my wife’s uncle Mr Pritchard,
Veterinary Surgeon of the bodyguard, who was preparing to embark for England,
and who in half an hour after my visit, left his house to go on board the same
steamer I had just left. I now found my way to a European shop on the Madras
“Pall Mall” to procure a suitable our-fit for myself to give me the
appearance of a gentleman and officer in the gallant Madras Army.
This done, in the company of Captain Jessie Mitchell of the Madras
Mounted Police, my former Serjeant-Major in the ‘C’ Troop, Horse Artillery,
I was ready to start on the following morning, the 13th June, to
drive up to Palavarum, 12 miles, and report myself to Major H. W. Blake of the
36th Regiment N.I., who had been appointed Commandant of the 1st.
Pegu Police Battalion, to be organized for service in British Burmah.
On the 13th at my final destination, I had the pleasure to
meet the Major, and I believe I made a good impression on him by my plain
soldier-like way of conversation, and we continued fast friends from that date.
I had now to forget my duties as an artilleryman, and study Infantry drill and
manoeuvres in real interest.
Previous to my commencing my duties as Adjutant I had to go and meet my
wife and family, then on their way to join me from Secunderabad, 360 miles
distant, where I had left them when I started for Bengal at the beginning of the
The leave I had asked for being cheerfully granted, back to Madras I came
again the same day, and by midnight I had the good fortune to greet my dear wife
and four children at a town called Nellore, 100 miles from madras, having
travelled that distance cramped up on the top of the Government mail cart.
Previous to my mounting the mail cart I had been well supplied with a stock of
provisions for the journey by Mrs. Dela Hoyde, destined to be my second wife as
time revealed, for in 1860 I became a widower, and she a widow, her husband
having died in Madras and my wife in Burmah. However, it was not until the 30th
of March 1864, we joined the two orphan families together, viz.,
1 daughter and 3 sons each, still alive at the time I am writing, 1878, and
doing well, thank God for all His mercies.
We remained at Nellore in the traveller’s bungalow till the 15th,
and made the best of our way in two bullock carts in 10 days to our new home in
a snug little dwelling in the Cantonment of Palavaram, a clean, healthy,
pleasant place, where we passed our time very comfortably till the month of
September of the same year, when our domestic happiness was again interrupted.
Having raised about 550 men by enlistment, and volunteers from 40
different regiments of the Madras Native Army, the Government thought our
regiment strong enough to take up the duties allotted to it in Burmah, and we
accordingly prepared to embark at Madras in three transport ships chartered for
the purpose, viz., the Blue Rock,
Statesman, and India, all sailing
The bugles sounded loud and long at 10 o’clock at night on the 15th
September 1858, and by midnight the first Pegu Police Battalion (afterwards
changed to the first Pegu Sapper Battalion) was on the march with knapsack on
back and haversack by the side of each sepoy. Major Blake led the van, and his
Adjutant brought up the rear, both mounted on horses lent to us by our friends
for the occasion, for we had to look for “horse flesh” on our arrival at our
destination in Burmah. Soon after the last of the long column of four deep
cleared the Cantonment of Saint Thomas’ Mount, 8 miles from Madras, a black
cloud broke over our heads, and rain poured down in torrents, our path became
dark as pitch, the thunder rolled and pealed over our devoted heads, and except
when the lightening flashed, we could not see an inch in front, all was
darkness, rain and tempest.
Fortunately Major Blake had a lantern to guide the leading Section, so we
found our way to Madras at break of day, cold, wet and hungry, much in want of a
strong “peg” or a cup of hot coffee. Having fortified the “inner man” on
our arrival here, we commenced to embark. Every man was safe on board in a few
hours, except one Native officer, whose carelessness to be present in time
forfeited him his commission and was dismissed the service. We set sail, and I
bid good-bye to Madras for 5 years. In ten days, the three transports arrived
safe at the Irrawaddy river, opposite Rangoon city, 25 miles from the sea. I
have to remark that for the first time, in this instance, Sepoys were allowed to
take their families with them when ordered on foreign service. This was done
with a view to encourage the men to remain in Burmah, after they were entitled
to pension, and settle there for life, colonizing the country as much as
possible, where there is so much spare rich soil to cultivate.
As soon as the ships had cast anchor on the 16th, a fleet of
Burmese boats was along side, into which the Sepoys, 550, with their wives,
sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and other
relations, too, more distantly connected, making 518 – in all 1,068, were in a
few minutes closely packed, and on the following day, the 17th, our
fleet of boats set sail for Shoaygheen,
a town on the banks of the Sittang river, about 200 miles from Rangoon.
During our short stay in Rangoon, the Commissariat Department had to
supply each boat (numbering over 100) with sea rations to last 20 days; on
arrival in Rangoon not one man, woman, or child was allowed to set foot on
shore. The boats were told off into three divisions, Major Blake had the first,
the Adjutant the second, and the Quarter-Master, (Mr Clarke) the third, and all
went on as “merry as a marriage bell” on our voyage; plenty to eat, fresh
water to drink, nothing to do but catch fish in the rivers and creeks of water
which led across the country, or shoot wild ducks and other waterfowls found in
abundance all the way up to our future home in the interior of the old kingdom
of Pegu, where we arrived on the 1st October 1858 during the heavy
The first important act on my arrival at Shoaygheen, which signifies
“the country of gold” was the purchase of a respectable dwelling-house which
cost me £150 or Rs. 1500. This was about the middle of October 1858, the first
and last time I ever could say I owned household property. Settling down with my
family very comfortably, I enjoyed my own house for about 3 years. Again I was
compelled to forego domestic bliss in my own little dwelling. The head-quarters
of the Regiment was ordered down the country to Moulmien to relieve the 32nd
Madras N.I., commanded by Colonel Gordon, which regiment had been ordered back
to the Coromandel Coast, Madras. So I had to abandon my beautiful dwelling. The
two companies of European Artillery and also the detachment of European
Artillery had also been withdrawn from garrisoning the station, so that I could
not obtain supervision, and my property went to the bad. I was lucky getting Rs.
500 for it in 1866; those who lived in it always managing to withhold the rent
to pay for repairs.
I had a great deal to contend with during my three years’ stay in
Shoaygheen; all the hard work and most of the responsibility fell on me as
Adjutant. The Regiment had to be drilled, clothed, and disciplined; pay had to
be drawn, muster rolls and acquittance books had to be kept, and all the
different records, just the same as a regular regiment with 24 officers. No less
than 7 detachments were stationed out in the jungles from head-quarters; all
these had to be fed, so much pay had to be recovered, for each man for extra
food, guards had to be sent out in all directions, escorting the pay and
rations; the sick had to be brought home, healthy men sent out to those numerous
to try prisoners, and a host of other duties to attend to; besides parades,
drills and guard-mounting every morning.
The Commanding Officer was seldom at home at the head-quarters, as his
time was taken up almost continually visiting his out-posts. The Quarter-Master
fell sick, went on leave, and only returned to die!
Poor fellow. Another Quarter-Master was ordered all the way from Madras,
but in the meantime I had to do all his duties and did them too “with a heart
and will”, month after month in succession. While, on the march in the dense
jungles many Sepoys died, some were carried away by tigers, even the Cantonment
was not safe; as one night soon after I had retired to bed, a favourite dog of
mine was carried off from the verandah. We heard the rush and noise, a yelp or
two from the poor creature: in a few seconds all was over; but we dared not open
the door that night. Tigers were
killed by the Burmese in the jungle and brought into Cantonments for exhibition,
stretched out on a bullock cart. I paid half a rupee one day to let the children
have a look at a dead tiger.
Then our Doctor, Munro, died, my Serjeant-Major, McDermot died, our
Quarter-Master’s wife and son died; and last, my own wife died, 13th
March 1860, and left me with five children, and to add to my embarrassment, a
baby 3 months old.
In about a year after this calamity, the station was ordered to be
abandoned altogether, leaving only a few companies of sepoys to garrison
Shoaygheen, so it fell to my task to dismantle the fort and drag the long, heavy
guns down the hill, a long mile to the river Sittang; and then from a low jetty
I managed with the assistance of the sepoys alone, and bales of sepoys’
clothing, to lower those heavy guns into the bottom of Burmese boats without any
accident. This work was done in July and August 1861. (I may here mention my
promotion to a Lieutenancy on the 28th June of this year 1861.) The
gun carriages were all taken to pieces, and packed with the guns for the arsenal
at Rangoon. The ammunition in barrels, shot, shells, canister, tents, and every
imaginable thing, loading 40 large sized boats. I had to make out indents on the
commissariat department for those boats, and an agent had been sent down from
Tonghoo to pay the boatmen and otherwise assist me. The above would have been
the work of the Quarter-Master, but the new one had also fallen sick soon after
he joined us from Madras, and had left on sick leave to Moulmein. Hence the task
fell upon me. They say, “the more duty the more honour,” and as I had health
and strength to do it, I felt proud of the thanks I received for doing my duty.
On the 20th August, the head-quarters and 7 companies embarked
in boats for Moulmein. In September I settled down in Moulmein, in a rented
bungalow, and sent my five children to a boarding school where they were
well-cared for. Moulmein is a pleasant spot to live in, 25 miles from the open
sea at Amherst. Here, there is beautiful scenery of wood, hill and dale,
approaching the town, and extending as far as the eye can reach.
The Salween river is here a broad, deep stream, and since the first
Burmese war in 1824, has been a British seaport, utilised for floating down Teak
timber from the forests in the interior, far away up among the Karrien [Karen]
and Shan mountains. Through these rivers force their way with the timber rafts
for the numerous shipping waiting for it at Moulmein.
In former years, there were one European regiment of Infantry, two of
Native Infantry, and two companies or batteries of Artillery. In 1861 the
garrison had been reduced to one regiment of Native Infantry, and this had now
been relieved by my regiment, the Sappers, which at once commenced to make
itself useful, not only as soldiers, but as brick and tile makers, road-makers,
well-diggers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors, gardeners, boat-men winnowers,
the women and children as servants; in fact, the regiment made itself generally
useful till 1863, when the Government thought fit to disband four Native
Regiments of the Madras Army and the Pegu Sapper Battalion in addition, as the 5th.
This was done in consequence of the mutiny still causing a heavy strain on the
Indian treasury; Bengal and Bombay had also to reduce their expenditure. When
retrenchment is thought to be necessary, the Army suffers first, the Civil
Service last. The men of the Sappers had the offer of a pension if entitled to
it, or the alternative of a gratuity or present, according to length of service.
Those fit for further duty, had the choice of transfer to the other Line
Regiments, and so the poor fellows were all disposed of in a few weeks: the
greater number we had to bring over to Palavaram near Madras again, in a steamer
and sailing vessel, before they were paid off and settled with. The steamer
towed the sailing vessel over the Bay of Bengal in 8 days, leaving Moulmein on
the 19th March 1868, and arriving at Madras on the 27th.
The whole of the hard work and responsibility in connection with
disbanding the 1,200 men devolved upon me as Adjutant, and it was not till 1866
that I could say I was clear of all demands my official position entailed on me,
between the Pay Department and the relatives of dead men claiming something or
other; for instance the Pay Examiner, Fort Saint George, Madras, repeatedly
called upon me to refund money that had been properly paid to the men. In one
instance I had to make a lengthy explanation on paper as to how I had disposed
of Rs. 80,000, and if I had not been able to prove from my books how the money
had been disbursed, I would have found myself in jail. At last, I satisfied the
Madras Government that the Pay Department had no further claims on the officers
of the late Pegu Sapper Battalion, so I returned all the books and records, (a
couple of cart loads) into the underground stores of Fort Saint George to wait
there the doom of all waste paper.
Before I bid farewell to Burmah and the Pegu Sapper Battalion, I wish to
say that after my wife gave birth to her seventh child Alexander, on the 28th
November 1859, she gradually sank. This melancholy event occurred when away from
me at the town of Sittang on the left bank of the river of the same name, 30
miles below Shoaygheen. She was under the kind care of Dr. John Alcock and his
wife, and departed in peace in the presence of her children on the 13th
It was impossible for me to be present when my wife died, as I could not
leave Shoaygheen, being the only officer present with the Regiment. In a few
days after her burial, my 5 children were brought home by a European nurse, Mrs
Jordan, whose husband was then doing duty with the detachment of artillery in
the Shoaygheen Fort.
A tomb was built over the grave to mark the spot, and on my way to
Moulmein the following year, I paid a visit to the last resting place
accompanied by my eldest child, now (1878), Mrs. Duncan, leaving the little
children in the boat till our return, when we set sail and hurried away to our
new home, resigning myself to the text “Thy will O Lord be done.”
In Moulmein, Church of England burial-ground I also buried my dear little
Janet, aged 5 years; she died of measles on the 2nd June 1862, and
over her grave I erected a respectable tomb with two marble slabs, one white and
the other black, with gold letters guarded with plate glass. Those two slabs of
marble shew my late wife’s name and three of her children, - Robert died in
Jaulnah, 28th August 1851, James died in St. Thomas’ Mount, 2nd
The last I heard of that tomb was from General Blake in 1872, who
informed me that he had been to Moulmein and had the tomb over his wife in the
same graveyard, repaired; and also had the same done to the one that I had
erected to the memory of my late wife and children. This was very kind of
General Blake, but he is always doing a good turn to somebody.
Having got relieved of the Pegu Sapper Battalion, I was given command of
the European Artillery Veteran Company at Palavaram. This, with my pay as
Lieutenant, made me quite easy as regards subsistence, although it was not such
high pay as when doing the duties as Adjutant in my late corps.
From 1863 till 1867 I continued to reside in Palavaram, and during that
time I had managed to send my daughter to a Ladies’ Seminary on the blue
Mountains, or as they are commonly called Neilgherry Hills, 8,000 feet high and
about 300 miles from madras, towards the Western Coast. The 3 boys had to be
schooled at Doveton College, Madras, and during the time my children were away
from me as above, I laid out my future plans and prepared for house keeping
again with a second wife, and just doubled the number of children, viz.,
from 4 to 8. This was a bold undertaking, but it was the best thing I could do
under present circumstances, and so it has turned out so far a good speculation
with the blessing of God. At the time I write, March 1878, these 8 children are
all alive and doing well; my second wife has had six children by me, her second
husband, but they all died in infancy, so we are since September 1877 left
childless. All are gone, some out into the world to seek a livelihood, or down
in the cold grave to which we who are alive now, are fast hastening.
Passing our time quietly and I hope profitably at Palavaram till 1866, a
chance for a change of life for me sprang up in the shape of four
Barrack-Masterships, vacant, viz., at Bangalore, Secunderabad, Kamptee, and Bellary. My past
services ain China, Burmah and the mutiny stood me in good stead, so after a
little consideration, I was offered Kamptee, provided I could pass an
examination in Hindustani. This being only a colloquial examination it was
merely a matter of form to me. On the 10th of April 1867, I was in
orders as 1st class Barrack-Master, Kamptee.
I had again to break up house for a short time and suffer all its
miseries and loss. For instance, I had to send all my furniture 12 miles to
Madras on carts, to be sold by a Furniture Agent there, which after paying 5 per
cent commission, realized Rs. 800, not one-fourth the value.
To Kamptee I must go by rail, by road, and by water; the travelling
expenses must be paid by myself, as the Government would not, or could not
assist me according to regulations – my appointment being a promotion with an
increase of pay.
On the 26th April 1867 with my “pockets well lined,” like
Will Watch the bold smuggler, I bid farewell to my Madras friends again, and was
soon out of sight on my way to Beypore on the Malabar Coast, 40 miles by the
“iron horse.” This required one night and the greater part of two days to
accomplish. On the 28th, we had to prepare for a sea voyage from
Beypore to Bombay, and from early morn we were on the watch for the smoke of the
steamer Sir John Lawrence, expected to
call at the port or open roadstead of Beypore for any passengers or merchandise
she could pick up on her way up the coast from Cochin to Bombay. After six days
and six nights of misery on the deck of this steamer, we landed safe in Bombay
on the 4th May 1867. A cabin passage was out of the question, as I
would have had to pay for 10 cabins at Rs. 100 each, to accommodate my large,
partially grown up family. Only one bed in each little crib of a hot cabin –
for all that Rs. 100 was the established charge. It so happened we had good
health, although exposed to the weather night and day all the way.
Once more on shore I hoped never to set my foot on board a ship again. I
have always been a good soldier, but very bad sailor. Gathering our baggage
together, we soon had it packed on carts, and hiring 5 buggies or gigs with
single horse and driver, we jumped into them two and two, the little baby making
three in the 5th buggy.
Formed in procession in single file with the baggage carts in the rear,
we made a very imposing appearance, going through the streets of the city for
fully two miles to the railway station at the Boree Bunder. Booking the heavy
baggage for Nagpore, 500 miles further on, we counter-marched the procession,
minus the carts, and made our way at a rapid pace to the English hotel, where we
had a good bath, drank, ate, and rested, till we felt fit for the next part of
Bombay is a very expensive place to live in, especially for travellers,
and as one meal (dinner) and the use of a couple of rooms for a few hours cost
me about Rs. 50 or £5, I thought the best thing we could do, would be to be off
by the first Bombay train, and leave sight-seeing for some future year. By 8
o’clock the same night, (viz., 4th
May,) we were seated in a railway carriage with one large compartment all to
ourselves and off we went right merrily in the dark night, glad to get clear of
the noisy, busy city, and the heavy charges made for every little trifle we
A safe journey of two nights and one day by rail brought us to the city
of Nagpore in the Central Provinces of India, and a further drive in bullock
carts brought us to Kamptee on the afternoon of the 6th May 1867,
where I am now writing on the 4th March 1878. The total cost of our
journey from Palavaram to Kamptee amounted to about Rs. 800 or £80, and the
distance travelled over by land and water was fully 1,500 miles.
On the 7th May 1867, I reported my arrival to the Assistant
Quarter-Master General, Nagpore Force, and on the 8th took charge of
my duties, with three European Barrack Serjeants to assist me in looking after
the Barracks and other Public buildings; they also do nearly all the office
work, so I have little more to do than sign my name and give rough drafts of
letters. The Government also allows me two natives, (orderlies, or peons) to
carry the letters to the Post Office, and officers commanding regiments, and
heads of departments, with all of whom I have dealings or correspondence from
time to time. This is a daily duty, and between looking after the buildings and
furniture for the soldiers and office work, my time is fairly occupied.
In a few days after our arrival, we settled down in a good sized
bungalow, at a rent of Rs. 35, and in this house we remained till 1870, when we
had the chance of a better dwelling for Rs. 30, and in this we still live, that
is, my wife and I only, for the eight children are all gone out into the
“wide, wide world” to fight their own battle of life.
On the 28th June 1873 I was promoted to the rank of Captain,
so all we have to do now is to watch over our children and continue to pray for
their welfare here and hereafter. They are all very good, sober, quiet children
and likely to do well.
For ten years I acted as secretary to the Kamptee Friend-in-Need Society,
and since 1875 I have been in charge of the European and Native Pensioners,
between five and six hundred of them. This keeps me well employed, and that is a
blessing. I shall leave the remainder of my story to be told by one of my
children after I am gone the way of all living. I have indeed great reason to be
grateful to my Creator for all He has done for me.
My very dear brother Alexander died on the 7th September 1872.
The above letter to his address, had not then been closed, the perusal of it may
be of interest to his surviving children and my numerous relatives.
8th March, 1878
Penpont, Dumfriesshire, in the Nith Valley, W of Thornhill.
Alexander DINWIDDIE (1803-1872) was born on 26 May 1803.
Lauderdale MAITLAND was a relative of the Earl of Lauderdale and owned large
estates near Penpont Parish.
A farm N of Penpont.
James Patterson DINWIDDIE (1791-1866).
Margaret DINWIDDIE (1808-1878).
DD’s paternal grandmother, Marion DINWIDDIE (nee THORBURN)
Corporal John SHAW, of Cossal, Notts., who killed 9-10 Frenchmen
single-handed at the Battle of Waterloo, and died of his wounds that night.
Sgt. Charles EWART (1769-1846) of the Royal North British Dragoons (The
Scots Greys), who at Waterloo single-handed captured the standard of the 45th
French Regiment (The Invincibles).
The pub still operates in St Paul’s Square.
 Robert FERGUSSON (? –1809) husband of DD’s sister Marion DINWIDDIE (1808-1873).
Robert DINWIDDIE (1812-aft.1874) who emigrated to the USA.
Porridge made from finely-ground roast peas.
James DINWIDDIE (1804-1859) who became a hosiery manufacturer.
Ann DINWIDDIE (1810-c.1850) who married Alexander LATTIMER.
DD’s father had married Marion THORBURN.
Jane DINWIDDIE (1816-1887) emigrated to the USA with her husband George
Agnes DINWIDDIE, known as ‘Nancy’, married Robert CRAWFORD.
 John DINWIDDIE (1823-1856) married Agnes HUTTON and took over the family farm.
“taking the shilling” meant taking the financial inducement for new
recruits to join the army.
Vanamburgh had a famous menagerie that included performing lions.
 Trousers specially worn by soldiers, made from 22 oz Kersey (twill weave).
William PALMER, a surgeon, hanged on 14 June 1856 for poisoning with
 Victor TOWNLEY, was convicted in 1863 for stabbing to death his former fiancée; he was reprieved but committed suicide in prison.
Non-rigid boats, up to 30 ft long, constructed with planks sewn together
with coir rope, with no frames or ribs, mainly used on the East coast of
Palaveram, about 11 miles SW of Madras.
 A small ceramic pot for medicine.
The so-called First Opium War (1839-1842).
 Yangtze Kiang.
Town at the junction of the Grand Canal and the Yangtze Kiang River, about
40 miles East of Nanking, now ‘Chin Kiang’.
Mary MACKENZIE (1828-1860) my 2nd great-grandmother.
Hugh MACKENZIE (c.1801-1832) my 3rd great-grandfather, came to
India in 1818.
Mary PRITCHARD (1806-1829) my 3rd great-grandmother, came to
England in 1808, aged 2 years.
Thomas PRITCHARD (1780-1818) my 4th great-grandfather, came to
India in 1808.
18 October 1818.
 Thomas PRITCHARD II (1814-aft.1878).
Mary Jane DINWIDDIE (1848-1918) my great-grandmother, married George Roan
Thomas David DINWIDDIE (1853-1904) married (1886) Margaret Alice NASH.
Robert DINWIDDIE (1855-1922) became Deputy Chief Auditor, Bengal Nagpur
Railway, and married (1898) Louisa RHIND.
 Alexander DINWIDDIE (1859-c.1900) died in India, unmarried, as far as I know.
James DINWIDDIE (1851-1852).
Robert DINWIDDIE (1849-1851).
Pegu was formally annexed to British India on 20 January 1853.
 Donabyu, near where Myat-Toon had his stronghold.
Janet DINWIDDIE (1857-1862).
 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
John Graham of Claverhouse, ‘Bonnie Dundee’ (1649-1689) was employed by
King Charles II to enforce episcopy in Scotland, and persecuted the
Christopher Read DE LA HOYDE (1828-1860) married (1850) Emily HONEY
(1835-1879), who in 1864 became David DINWIDDIE’s 2nd wife.
Shwegyin, possibly now called ‘Madauk’.
Local governing body.
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