THE EUROPEAN MILITARY ADVENTURERS IN INDIA.* THE last few years
of the eighteenth century were so crowded with momentous events in Europe, that the student of history has scarcely realised the importance of contemporary Indian affairs. The return of Warren Hastings to England and his trial, brought India before the English public pro- minently in 1788; but little was known of its internal state, save that the native Princes were always fighting each other, and that it was a country of enormous wealth. A golden haze shrouded everything,—a haze from which the figure of a servant of the East India Company emerged occasionally with the plunder of a whole province, or perhaps a soldier who had marvellous tales to tell of fights with impossible distances and incredible numbers. Few, indeed, clearly understood the size of India, the proportion of it directly under British influence, and the immense masses of restless tribes continuously warring against each other. No one, we may be sure, knew the magni- tude of the events that transpired beyond the limits of British interference. The pen of Edmund Burke would barely have done justice to the rapidity with which 1Cingdoms changed hands, as Alarathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs fought now for one chief, and now for another. The area of conflict was that portion of India we speak of as Rajputana, the North-West Provinces, Central India, the Central Provinces, and Bengal; and the Hindustan of Mr. Compton's volume is that of Major James Rennell's, defined, in 1785, as bounded on the west by the Indus, on the north by the Himalaya Mountains, on the east by the Brahmaputra,, and on the south by the countries of the Deccan ; so that a line drawn from Broach, on the Nerbudda, to Balasore, near the mouth of the Hugh, separates the Hindustan of the military adventurers from the rest of the continent. This excludes Haidarabad and Mysore, the rulers of which had many battalions disciplined by foreigners.
When the hour is ripe, the man is ready ; and in the middle of the confusion that raged round the blind and impotent Shah Mara at Delhi, De Boigne appeared and entered the service of Madhoji Sindhia. This was in 1784, after the Peace of Salbye had guaranteed Sindhia his independence. Since the great defeat of the Mara,thas at Panfpat, he and Takuji Holkar had been trying to reassert Maratha, supremacy in what was left of the Mogul Empire. Shah Alam, the Great Mogul, was a name only ; the Peshwa, of Poonah, to whom the Marathas owed suzerainty, was more than a name; but Sindhia, who had been appealed to by the Great Mogul to reinstate him at Delhi, became the ruler of Hindustan when the blind old man re-entered his capital. Shah Alain appointed the Peshwa his deputy; and Madhoji, as his repre- sentative, controlled the army. De Boigne's previous history A Particular Account of the Europium Military Adventurors of Hindluitan, from 17844803. Compiled by Herbert Compton. London: T. Fisher Unwin. was that of a typical adventurer. Born in Savoy, he went to France, and first took service in the Irish Brigade, but after six years, he volunteered for the Russian service and remained in it long enough to be taken prisoner by the Turks at the siege of some town. How he spent the next two or three years is uncer- tain, but we know that about 1777 he made three unsuccessful attempts to reach India, eventually reaching Fort St. George in 1778. He accepted service in the Madras Native Infantry, but in 1784 resigned over some difficulty. Then he proposed to Warren Hastings to find his way back to Europe overland— an idea which delighted Hastings—and was furnished with credentials, and set about preparing himself for the task. Join- ing a mission to the Court of Delhi, which was stopped by the jealousy of the Mogul nobles, he had to interview the Wazir at Agra, as Shah Alam was not to be approached. To the Wazir, i.e., the Prime Minister, De Boigne's movements ap- peared most suspicious. Not far oft lay the camp of Sindhia, and De Boigne, at the invitation of the British Resident, entered the Maratha camp, having despaired of obtaining assistance from the Wazir. Sindhia, puzzled at the behaviour of this extraordinary traveller, robbed his baggage out of natural curiosity. De Boigne in a fury offered his sword to two enemies of Sindhia; but both, one from caution and the other in consequence of a treaty, refused his offer. Madhoji Sindhia, one of the greatest chiefs the Marathas ever had, now invited De Boigne to form two battalions of disciplined infantry, with a complement of artillery. De Boigne organised his battalions, and they had already shown their value in Bundelkund, when the farce of seating Shah Alam on his throne was gone through, as described above. The Mogul nobles, who rose in rebellion, were joined by the Ra,jput Princes, and Sindhia marched against the allies ; and in the memorable battle that followed, De Boigne's infantry received and repulsed the charge of the Rajput cavalry. Lalsot was a defeat in reality, owing to the defection of Sindhia's troops ; but De Boigne's fame was assured, for again at Chaksana, a repetition of the earlier battle, he withstood a cavalry charge. But the fortunes of Sindhia were almost ruined, when they turned at the last moment, and at Agra the hopes of the Mogul party were destroyed for ever, and Sindhia was once more master of Hindustan. At this point Sindhia, and De Boigne parted on a question of increased pay and numbers ; but only for a year, as Sindhia, for various reasons, decided to increase his infantry, and invited De Boigne to return and carry out his own plans. The great adventurer at once threw off the garb of the Luck- now merchant, and entered on the formation of a brigade of ten battalions. With this brigade—numbering, with its 500 irregulars for camp duties and 500 cavalry, 10,000 men—and 60 field. pieces, De Boigne once more administered two terrible lessons to the Raj puts. At Paten, the Rithor Rajputs, chiefly owing to Partab Sing, their ally, holding aloof, had again to leave the field after some heavy fighting, in which Ismail Beg, the Mogul noble, and his Pathans thrice charged through De Boigne's guns. At Merta, the Rajah of Jodhpur, mindful of the disgrace (such as it was) of Patan, determined to wipe it and De Boigne's brigade out at the same time. The French General attempted a surprise in the early dawn, and the Rathor chiefs were aroused from an opium slumber to find the camp in confusion and the infantry giving way. Twenty-two chiefs drank opium together, and called four thousand clansmen to arms. At that moment, one of De Boigne's subordinates in his eagerness broke the line, and the Chief of Alma instantly charged. After the first confusion, De Boigne rallied his men into a hollow square, but the Rathors charged and charged and charged again, till at the last but fifteen Rajputs remained who, dismounting, fought till all were killed. It was a great atonement, one worthy of the "descendants of kings" and heroic enough, despite its spasmodic nature, to be ranked among those memories that can never die. Sindhis, now desired the formation of two more brigades, and in a year or two De Boigne had thirty thousand men under him, and to make his power undisputed, it wanted but an appeal to arms, and the jealousy of Takuji Holkar which brought upon that chief a crushing defeat at the hands of Sindhia and De Boigne. Then Madhoji Sindhia, at the summit of his power, was carried off by a fever, and his inheritance of power passed to Dowlat Rao Sindhia. De Boigne had Hindustan under his thumb, and what possibilities were open to him, no one can say. Nevertheless, he remained true to young Sindhia. Whether we are to call this a fine renunciation in a proud ambitious man, but forty-three years of age, depends of course on the moral standpoint, Asiatic or European, from which we regard it. However, what De Boigne did was for the best, for he fought no more ; but after repairing the Taj and mitigating Shah Alam's lot by English request, resigned on account of bad health and returned to Europe. No ma,n has conferred more dignity on the pro- fession of military adventure than De Boigne; he left India with an untarnished character and at the summit of fame.
The command of De Boigne's brigades, a few months after the departure of their founder, was vested in Perron, the com- mander of the First Brigade, by virtue of his seniority and influence with Sindhia. Pierre Cuillier, who was to be known in future as Perron, had already undergone a checkered career before entering Madhoji Sindhia's service. Orphaned early, he began life by speculating in trade unsuccessfully, and then, deserting commerce, he entered a cannon-foundry at Nantes. Next be poses as a volunteer for the Isle of France. But it was as a sailor on a French frigate that he reached India in 1780. He and three others deserted on the Malabar coast, attracted by the success of military adventure in Southern India. Perron, find- ing his way to Upper India, entered the Rana of Gohad's corps, then under Sangster, in 1781. About 1784., says Mr. Compton, he entered Lestineau's battalion, and was present at Chakstina and Agra, when Ran* Sing, the Jit chief, assisted Madhoji Sindhia at the ebb of the Martithi chief's fortunes. At Agra, Lestineau decamped with the saddle-bags of Ghulan Ka.dir, the Afghan, containing jewels looted from the Palace at Delhi. Perron, as his battalion was disbanded by Sindhia, was given the command of a battalion by a Mar:ILIA, chief. Again he was turned adrift, and unsuccessfully applied to the Begum Somru. This was in 1790, and he had been nine years in India. And now fortune turned ; for De Boigne, just recalled from Lucknow and invited to raise the First Brigade, wanted officers, and, having a high opinion of Perron, engaged him. Perron, present at both Pitan and Pererta, rose rapidly, and obtained the command of the Second and then the First Brigade. He and the Marithi chiefs defeated the Nizam of Haidarabad and his infantry under Raymond at Karala in 1795. His fame grew, and in 1797 he became, as already stated, commander-in-chief of the disciplined in- f antry, thirty thousand in number, and undefeated since the early battles of Las& and Chaksina. Perron actually became more powerful than De Boigne, and could have acted the part of " king.maker " had he so chosen. How he fell through ambition, want of true character and self- control, developed by too much power, is very ably detailed by Mr. Compton. It only remains to be said that Perron, George Thomas being crushed, had the whole game in his hands in 1802, when Jasw tat Rio Haltom had defeated the Peshwi and Dowlat Rio Sindhia at Poonah. He kept his three brigades at his head-quarters, while far away to the south his superiors wanted his assistance to crush Holkar. For months did messages continue to reach him, but he stirred not, and finally the Peshwi, signed away Maratha inde- pendence. Perron, who in reality had been waiting for Decaen's expedition, together with which he was to found another French Empire—for he had patriotism—thus "o'er- leaped himself." It was the beginning of the end, for the Marithis, alarmed at the provisions of the Bassein Treaty, forgot their quarrels, and made common cause against the English. Perron, if he could have won the next move, would have altered Indian history, for he was eager to fight, and his plan of campaign, had the Maraitha hordes and his infantry worked in accordance with it, must have restored the Peshwit. But his recent policy recoiled on its author, and Perron, once the arbiter of Upper India, was deposed by his subordinates, and fled, clutching his two money-bags like any old woman.
The career of-' George Thomas, the Irishman, forms a brilliant episode, which Mr. Compton has placed between De Boigne and Perron, where, indeed, is its proper place in his- tory. He became known before De Boigne resigned, and he disappeared from history while Perron was at the height of his power. Perron simply took over De Boigne's brigades and the power that went with them ; and the continuous rule of the Savoyard and the Frenchman, some twenty years in duration, represents to the historian the golden age of European military adventure in India. George Thomas became an actually in- dependent chief ; his position is therefore distinct from the others, and his personality naturally of more interest. George Thomas, born in Tipperary, landed at Madras about 1782, as a common sailor. He spent five years with the Poligars in the Carnatic, and then, after a short period of service with the Nizam of Haidarabad, travelled to Delhi. The Mogul nobles were then in power, and Thomas took service with the Begum Somru, an ally of Shah Alam. With her he stayed five years, when the Begum's French officers plotted his ruin. He was warned, took flight, and having raised the standard of rebellion against the Begun), was taken, but his life was spared. This was in 1792. In the following year, he entered the service of Appa Khandi Rio, the Maratha chief who had first employed De Boigne. Thomas then began a career which is best described by the epithet "meteoric." He marched two nights and a day to res- cue his chief, and his astonishing dash and courage soon became the talk of the country. He continued to support his master, though bribed to take service with Sindhia, and even retained his loyalty to his chief after the ruffian had tried to assassinate him. Then his whilom enemy the Begum besought his help, and he instantly responded. Throughout Thomas's career, his generosity, chivalry, and the absolute sanctity of his word of honour, flash like precious stones from a quaint setting. In 1797, his master committed suicide, and Thomas, deprived of his " jaidad" or " upkeep " for troops, became, by force of circumstances, a freebooter, and conquered for himself the district of Harbina. Here, after defeating the Rajputs in the face of great odds, a feat which ranks him high as a soldier and General, and conducting a brilliant cam- paign against the Sikhs, he got ready for his great design, the conquest of the Panjab. In this brilliant campaign —a. campaign which had patriotism for a motive : he even invited the Marquis of Wellesley to assist in taking over the conquest—George Thomas displayed his generalship to per- fection; and, despite the combinations of his enemies and the treachery of his allies, returned to Hariana dictator of the Sikh States south of the Sutlej, Then came the struggle with Perron, whose jealousy was now thoroughly aroused. Perron, though needed by Dowlat Rho Sindhia, as Holkar had defeated that chief at Ujjain, held back till be had beaten Thomas, To Perron this was necessary; but from it dated his own fall, as we know. The last struggle of the splendid Irishman is one of the most striking scenes in all Indian history. He drank his chance away at the moment when he might have smashed up the dis- heartened brigades of Perron, then under the command of a subordinate, Bourguien, after the severest battle ever fought between the disciplined infantries of India. He made a list dash for his head-quarters, riding over a hundred miles on his horse, and finally, conquered by treachery, had to surrender. Invited to a banquet by the poltroon Bourguien, be seemed to forget his misfortunes, till the Frenchman, forgetting himself, proposed 'Success to Perron's arms." The company turned their glasses down, and Thomas, at first moved to tears by this mark of sympathy, shortly sprang to his feet, and after reproach- ing his host, cried, as he drew his sword : "One Irish sword is still sufficient for a hundred Frenchmen ;" and Bourguien tied. What a Beene indeed! Peace was eventually restored, and the banquet resumed. Such was the end of the Irishman's career.
We heartily recommend our readers to Mr. Compton's admir- able compilation, which never fails to rise to the dramatic events of the complicated course of Indian history. The twenty years of military adventure in Hindustan is surely one of the most thrilling by-ways of history ever presented in a col- lected form to the public. It relates, it is true, a forgotten period, now of no significance, because at Laswiri and Assaye Wellesley, once and for all, destroyed the hopes of French dominion. De Boigne, when he left, advised the Marithis to disband the brigades, rather than fight the English. Two battles only proved the wisdom of the man, and also of those sagacious chieftains who foretold that the infantry and guns would one day prove the ruin of those who depended on them. The great hordes of suddenly massed, quickly handled, and easily dispersed cavalry were far better adapted to the genius of the Marithit nations.