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Taken from Sir Lesley Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee (eds.), Dictionary of National Biography: from the earliest times to 1900 (London, Oxford University Press, 1949).
General Charles Napier. Bronze statue on a granite base. This memorial, which is located 100 metres from the front entrance of the Athenaeum, Pall Mall, stands at the left of the staircase down to St. James's Park, which Napier surveys.
This image has been taken from the Victorian Web and is the copyright of Prof. George Landow.
Sir Charles Napier was the conqueror of Sind. He was the eldest son of Colonel the Hon. George Napier and his second wife, Lady Sarah Bunbury. Napier was born at Whitehall, London, on 10 August 1782. George Thomas Napier, Henry Edward Napier, and William Francis Patrick Napier were his brothers. When he was only three, the family moved to Celbridge, on the Liffey ten miles from Dublin. His father was a very handsome man, with a fine figure and great strength, both of body and of mind. His mother was, says Horace Walpole, ‘more beautiful than you can conceive - she shone, besides, with all the graces of unaffected but animate nature.’ Charles Napier, owing to an accident, was sickly as a child, and never attained the fine proportions for which the family were remarkable. He was also short-sighted; but he had an admirable constitution and a high spirit.
On 31 January 1794 he obtained a commission as ensign in the 33rd regiment, from which he was promoted to be lieutenant in the 89th regiment on 8 May the same year. He joined the regiment at Netley Camp, where it formed part of an army assembling under Lord Moira. His father was assistant quartermaster-general to the force, and when it sailed for Ostend Napier was sent back to Ireland, having exchanged into the 4th regiment; but, instead of joining his regiment, was placed with his brother William as a day-scholar at a large grammar school in Celbridge. When the rebellion took place in 1798, Colonel Napier fortified his house, armed his five boys, and offered an asylum to all who were willing to resist the insurgents. The elder Napier, with Charles at his side, used to scour the country on horseback, keeping a sharp look-out. In 1799 Charles became aide-de-camp to Sir James Duff, commanding the Limerick district. In 1800 he resigned his staff appointment to join the 95th regiment, or rifle corps, which was being formed at Blatchington, Sussex, by a selection of men and officers from other regiments. He was quartered for the next two years at Weymouth, Hythe, and Shorncliffe. In June 1803 he was appointed aide-de-camp to his cousin, General Henry Edward Fox, commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland, and served against the insurgents. He accompanied General Fox to London when he was transferred to the command of the home district. While serving on the London staff he saw much of his cousin, Charles James Fox and the cheerful society at St. Anne's Hill was a pleasant interlude in his life.
On 22 December 1803 he was promoted captain in the staff corps, a newly organised body of artificers to assist the royal engineers and the quartermaster-general. In 1804 he was quartered at Chelmsford and Chatham. In October his father died; the family were left in straitened circumstances, but Pitt bestowed pensions on the widow and daughters. In the middle of 1805 Napier went with his corps to Hythe, where he was employed in the construction of the Military Canal, and came under the personal supervision of Sir John Moore, who was at that time training the 43rd, 52nd, and rifle regiments, to fit them for the distinguished part they were to play as the light division in the Peninsula. Napier's brothers William (in the 43rd) and George (in the 52nd) were thus in the same command.
On 29 May 1806, on the accession of Fox to power, Napier was promoted to a majority in a Cape Colonial corps, from which he exchanged into the 50th regiment, then quartered at Bognor, Sussex. During the next two years and a half he was moved about with the regiment to Guernsey, Deal, Hythe, and Ashford, and was frequently in command of the battalion. After the battle of Vimiera (August 1808) Napier was ordered to join the first battalion of the 50th at Lisbon, and, as the colonel had obtained leave of absence, Napier found himself on arrival at Lisbon in command of the battalion. Sir John Moore at once incorporated the regiment in the army going to Spain. Napier's battalion was in Lord William Bentinck's brigade, and distinguished itself throughout the famous retreat. On 16 January 1809, at Coruña, it behaved splendidly, with Napier leading it. Napier was five times wounded: his leg was broken by a musket shot, he received a sabre cut on the head, a bayonet wound in the back, severe contusions from the butt end of a musket, and his ribs were broken by a gunshot. Eventually he was taken prisoner; his name was returned among the killed, but his life was saved by a French drummer. He was taken to Marshal Soult's quarters, where he received every attention. Marshal Ney, who succeeded Soult in command at Coruña, was particularly kind, and on 20 March set him at liberty, on parole not to serve again until exchanged, it having been represented to Ney that Napier's mother was a widow, old and blind. It was not until January 1810 that an exchange was effected, and Napier was able to rejoin his regiment.
Finding it in quarters in Portugal, he obtained leave of absence and permission to join, as a volunteer, the light brigade in which his brothers were serving. He acted as aide-de camp to Robert Craufurd at the battle on the Coa (24 July 1810), and had two horses killed under him. On the fall of Almeida the army retreated, and Napier was attached to Lord Wellington's staff; at the battle of Busaco (27 September 1810) he was shot through the face, his jaw broken, and his eye injured. He was sent to Lisbon, where he was laid up for some months. On 6 March 1811 he started to rejoin the army, his wound still bandaged. On the 13th he rode ninety miles on one horse and in one course, including a three hours' halt, and reached the army between Redinha and Condeixa. The light division was in advance, and in constant contact with Massena's rear guard under Ney. On the 14th, advancing with his regiment, Napier met his brothers William (of the 43rd regiment) and George being carried to the rear; both were wounded, the former, it was supposed, mortally. He was engaged at the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro (5 May 1811). At the second siege of Badajos he was employed on particular service near Medellin.
On 27 June 1811 he was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 102nd regiment, which had just arrived at Guernsey from Botany Bay. He embarked for England on 25 August, and spent some months with his mother before joining his regiment in Guernsey. Lord Liverpool conferred on Napier the small non-resident and sinecure government of the Virgin Isles, in consideration of his wounds and services, and he held it for a year or two; but when pensions for wounds were granted he resigned it. Napier went to Guernsey in January 1812. In July he embarked with his regiment for Bermuda, where he arrived in September. In May 1813 he was appointed to command a brigade, composed of his own regiment, a body of royal marines, and a corps of Frenchmen enlisted from the war prisoners, to take part in the expedition under General Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith, which engaged in desultory operations against the United States of America. The expedition went with the fleet to Hampton Roads, when Craney Island, at the mouth of the Elizabeth river, was seized, and the town of Little Hampton, at the attack on which Napier was in command, taken and plundered. In August Napier was detached, with Admiral Sir George Cockburn, to the coast of Carolina, where various minor operations took place. Thence he proceeded with the regiment to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Anxious to serve again in the Peninsula, he exchanged back into the 50th regiment, and on leaving the 102nd regiment the officers presented him with a sword of honour. He sailed for England in September 1813, and arrived to find the war with France concluded. He served with the 50th regiment until December 1814, when he was placed by reduction on half-pay. Napier at once entered the military college at Farnham, where he was joined by his brother William. When in March 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, Napier went as a volunteer to Ghent. He took part in the storming of Cambrai, and marched into Paris with the allied armies. He was mentioned in despatches from the Peninsula and North America. For his services in the Peninsula he received the gold medal for Coruña, where he commanded a regiment, and the silver war medal with two clasps for Busaco and Fuentes d'Onoro. When the order of the Bath was reconstituted he was made a C.B. While on his way home from Ostend in 1815 the ship sank at the mouth of the harbour, and Napier was nearly drowned. He rejoined the military college at Farnham, and remained until the end of 1817, reading diligently, not only military and political history, but also general literature, and studying agriculture, building construction, and political economy. In May 1819 he was appointed an inspecting field officer in the Ionian Islands, and in 1820 he was sent on a confidential mission to Ali Pasha at Joannina. In 1821 he went on leave of absence to Greece, to study the military advantages of the position of the Isthmus of Corinth, as he had thoughts of throwing in his lot with the Greeks, and hoped to lead their army. He returned to Corfu in the beginning of 1822, and in March was appointed resident of Cephalonia. This office, created by Sir Thomas Maitland, the high commissioner, conferred almost absolute power on the holder, and was designed to protect the people against feudal oppression. This was probably the happiest period of Napier's life.
He threw himself with all his determination and energy into the reform of abuses of all kinds, and into the development of everything that could conduce to the welfare of the Cephalonians. He carried out a number of public works and covered the island with a network of good roads. He was ably seconded by Captain (afterwards Major) John Pitt Kennedy, who remained through life his attached friend. He did not lose sight of the Greek question, and received constant demands for advice from Prince Mavrocordato. Napier sent the Greek government a masterly memorandum on the military situation, including a plan of operations and a strong recommendation to appoint Mavrocordato dictator. In the summer and autumn of 1823 he saw a good deal of Byron, who in January 1824, when Napier was going to England on leave, gave him a letter to the Greek committee in London, recommending him as ‘our man to lead a regular force or to organise a national one for the Greeks.' He made a deep impression on Byron, who spoke of him on his deathbed.
Napier returned to England in the beginning of 1824, and put himself in communication with the Greek committee. His services were, however, declined. He wrote a pamphlet on the Greek question, and a memoir on the roads of Cephalonia. In May 1825 he was back again in Cephalonia. Maitland was dead, and Sir Frederick Adam had taken his place as high commissioner. Napier was promoted colonel in the army on 27 May 1825. He made the acquaintance of the missionary Joseph Wolff, who was wrecked off Cephalonia; for Wolff he had a great admiration. In September 1825 Ibrahim Pasha was ravaging the Morea, and the Greeks turned to Napier for help. Napier sent his conditions; but the Greek government were persuaded by the London committee to spend on ships of war the money which would have furnished Napier with an army. They still desired to secure his services, and offered a larger remuneration than he had asked for; but he was not inclined to be dependent on the mismanagement and intrigues of the Greek government, and, failing to obtain complete power, he declined the offer, and tried to forget his disappointment in renewed efforts for the prosperity of his government. In 1826 he was suddenly called to England by the death of his mother. In April 1827 he married, and in July returned to Cephalonia. He could not brook the interference of the new high commissioner, and a coldness arose between them, which soon grew into hostility. The roads and public works in which he delighted were taken out of Napier's hands; and the feudal proprietors, from whom Napier had exacted the duties of their position while curtailing some of their privileges, aggravated the ill-feeling by laying many complaints before the high commissioner.
Early in 1830 Napier was obliged to take his wife to England on account of her health. Some months after his departure Adam sent home charges against Napier, seized his official papers, and publicly declared he would not allow him to return. Lord Goderich, who thought there were, no doubt, faults on both sides, offered Napier the residency of Zante, a higher post than that of Cephalonia. But Napier declined the offer; he considered his character was not vindicated unless he returned to Cephalonia. He lived with his family at one time in Berkshire, and at another in Hampshire, and then settled at Bath. During this interval of retirement he took an interest in politics, and occupied himself in writing a book on his government of Cephalonia. In 1833 he had a severe attack of cholera, and on 31 July of that year was completely prostrated by the death of his wife. He removed to Caen in Normandy, and devoted himself to the education of his daughters.
In August 1834 a company received a charter to settle in South Australia, and the colonists petitioned for the appointment of Napier as governor. Many months of suspense ensued, during which Napier wrote a work on colonisation. In May 1835 he was informed that the terms which he proposed on behalf of the colonists were not acceptable to the company, and he declined the appointment at the end of 1836. He married a second time in 1835, and again settled at Bath, where he entered eagerly into politics. He had a bitter controversy with O'Connell, which led to his publishing a dialogue on the poor laws. He also published a book on military law, and edited Lights and Shadows of Military Life, from the French of Count Alfred de Vigny and Elzèar Blase. But his principal literary work at this time was an historical romance entitled Harold, the manuscript of which strangely disappeared. On 10 January 1837 he was promoted major-general. In March 1838 he moved to Pater, Milford Haven. In July he was made a K.C.B. He applied for the command and lieutenant-governorship of Jersey, and, after considerable suspense, was refused. He then made a short tour in Ireland, visiting his old friend Kennedy, and the model farm at Glasnevin. A pamphlet on the state of Ireland was the result of his visit.
In April 1839 Lord Hill appointed Napier to the command of the troops in the northern district, comprising the eleven northern counties of England. Chartism was rife at the time; outrages were not infrequent, and Napier's political opinions were on the side of the people. He felt the responsibility, and, while sympathising with the distress that prevailed, determined to uphold law and order with a firm hand. He had excellent subordinates in Hew Ross, afterwards field-marshal, and Colin Campbell, afterwards Lord Clyde. Napier's well-organised measures judiciously maintained the law in a time of considerable disaffection, and the crisis passed.
In April 1841 he accepted an Indian command offered to him by Lord Hill, and in October left for India. He assumed command at Poona at the end of December. On the arrival in India of Lord Ellenborough as governor-general in 1842, he applied to Napier for a statement of his view on the military situation. Napier sent him a memorandum on 4 March, recommending as the first step the prompt relief of Sale, who was holding Jalalabad, and the formation of two strong columns to move on Kabul - one from Peshawar, the other from Kandahar by Ghazni.
In August he was ordered to take command in Upper and Lower Sind. He sailed from Bombay on 3 September. Cholera broke out on the voyage, and fifty-four lives were lost before Karachi was reached. A few days after landing, at a review of the troops, he was severely injured in the leg by the bursting of a rocket. On his recovery he sailed up the Indus to Hyderabad and Sakhar. Here he found himself chief agent in Sind of the governor-general, as well as general officer commanding the troops. Sind was divided under three distinct sets of rulers - the amirs of Khairpur or Upper Sind, the amirs of Hyderabad or Lower Sind, and the amir of Mirpur. The British occupied Shikarpur, Bakhar, and Karachi by treaty. The amirs were in a state of excitement, due to the recent British reverses in Afghanistan, while the return to India of General England's force through the Bolan pass, when both advanced on Kandahar, was interpreted as a retreat. The situation was critical. The governor-general had instructed Captain (afterwards General Sir) James Outram, who was chief political officer before the arrival of Napier, in case any of the amirs proved faithless, to confiscate their dominions; and Napier, after reading Lord Ellenborough's instructions, and receiving reports from Outram and others of the disaffection of the amirs, made up his mind that the practical annexation of Sind was inevitable, and could not be long delayed. The chief complaint against the amirs was the continued levying of tolls in violation of the treaty, notwithstanding frequent protests. Then came the discovery that negotiations were going on with neighbouring tribes for an offensive alliance against the British. Napier was impressed with the natural wealth of the country, and the oppression of the Pindis and Hindus by the governing class. ‘They’ (the poor people), he says, ‘live in a larder and yet starve - The ameers rob by taxes, the hill-tribes by matchlocks.’
Napier moved at the end of November to Shikarpur. A fresh treaty, based on Napier's reports, was ordered by the governor-general to be offered as an ultimatum. The proposal produced strong remonstrances from both Khairpur and Hyderabad. On 15 December the British troops commenced the passage of the Indus, in order to occupy the territories mentioned in the treaty. Napier fixed his headquarters at Rohri, where, with his right resting on the river and his left on the desert, he barred the amirs from Szbzalkot and Bhang-Bara, which were taken possession of by Bengal troops. On 31 December 1842 Napier determined to seize the fortress of Imamghar, the impregnable refuge of the amirs, in the midst of the great desert in the east of Sind. He mounted 350 men of the Queen's 22nd regiment on camels, two soldiers on each, and, taking two 24-pound howitzers and two hundred Sind horse, started on 5 January 1843. On arriving on 12 January at Imamghar, it was found to have been evacuated only a few hours by a garrison of two thousand men. After three days' rest the fortress was blown up, and Napier made for the Indus at Pir Abu Bakar, where he halted on 21 January for the main body of his troops, and whence he could fall, if necessary, either upon the amirs of Hyderabad or those of Khairpur. The masterly stroke by which Napier seized Imamghar before hostilities had actually commenced, and deprived the amirs of their last retreat in case of danger, elicited the warm praise of the Duke of Wellington.
Napier at this time had the governor-general's authority to compel the amirs to accept the new treaty. Outram thought that its acceptance could be obtained by negotiations, while Napier knew that every day's delay would bring him nearer to the hot weather, when operations in the field would be difficult. He nevertheless was so far influenced by Outram that he decided to try what peaceable measures would do, and sent Outram to Khairpur as his commissioner to issue a proclamation calling on the amirs of both provinces to appear on 20 January to complete the treaty. The time was extended to 25 January and then to 1 February, and again to 6 February Meanwhile Napier sent Outram, at his own request, to Hyderabad, and himself moved with his army slowly southward. He reached Nowshera on 30 January Outram was still sanguine of a peaceful issue, and, reporting that not a man in arms was at Hyderabad, suggested that the only thing wanting was that Napier should leave his army and go in person to Hyderabad. But Napier had intelligence that some twenty-five thousand men were collected within six miles of Hyderabad, that ten thousand of the Khandesh tribe were coming down the left bank of the Indus, that seven thousand men under Rustam were in rear of his left flank at Khunhera, that ten thousand under Shir Muhammad were marching from Mirpur, while in the mountains on the right bank of the Indus thousands were ready at a signal to pour down upon the plains. He therefore ridiculed Outram's proposal. On 12 February 1843 Outram met the amirs, who, with the exception of Nasir Khan, signed the draft treaties; but the excitement in the city was so great that Outram and his staff were threatened and insulted on their way back to their quarters. Next day the amirs represented that they could not restrain their followers, and on the 15th the residency was attacked, and Outram and his gallant band, after some hours' siege, fought their way to the steamers, which carried them off to rejoin the main force.
Napier had waited at Nowshera until 6 February He then marched to Sakarand, where he halted on 11 February. After three days he reached Sindabad, and on 16 February he was at Matari. Towards evening he heard that the enemy were ten miles off, entrenched in the bed of the Falaili river near Miani (Meanee). The lowest estimate of the enemy's strength was twenty-two thousand. Napier's force was less than 2,800, and this number was further reduced by six hundred men, of whom two hundred were sent with Outram to fire the forests on the enemy's flank, while four hundred men were in charge of baggage. Of the 2,200 men remaining, fewer than five hundred were Europeans.
The enemy was discovered at daybreak of the 17th, and at nine o'clock in the morning the British line of battle was formed. The baggage, the animals, and the large body of camp followers were formed up in the British rear, and surrounded with a ring of camels facing inwards, with bales between them for the armed followers to fire over. This improvised defence was guarded by 250 Poona horse and four companies of infantry. Napier's order of battle was - artillery with twelve guns and fifty sappers on the right, 22nd Queen's regiment next, and on the left the 25th, 12th, and 1st grenadier native regiments in succession, the whole in echelon; on the left of the line were the 9th Bengal cavalry and the Sind or Jacob's horse. The enemy had eighteen guns, and were strongly posted on a curve of the river, convex to the British, with a skikargah on each side flanking their front. The skikargah, or woody enclosure, on the left was covered towards the plain by a stone wall; behind the wall six thousand Baluchis were posted.
Giving the order to advance, Napier rode forward, and noting an opening in the wall on his right flank, with an inspiration of genius thrust a company of the 22nd regiment and a gun into the space, telling Captain Tew to block the gap, and if necessary die there, thus paralysing the six thousand Baluchis within with a force of eighty men. Tew died at his post, but his diminished company held the gap to the end. The main body of the British, advancing in columns of regiments in echelon under heavy fire, formed into line successively as each regiment approached the river Falaili, and charged up the bank, but staggered back on seeing the sea of turbans and of waving swords that filled all the broad, deep bed of the river, now dry. For over two hours the British line remained a few yards from the top of the bank, advancing to deliver their fire into the masses of the enemy in the river-bed, and returning to load. The Baluchis, driven desperate by the increasing volleys of the British, pressed upon from behind, and unable to retreat, made frequent charges; but, as these were not executed in concert along their line, the British troops were able to overlap round their flanks and push them back over the edge. The Baluchis fought stubbornly. No fire of musketry, discharge of grape, or push of bayonet could drive them back. Leaping at the guns, they were blown away by scores at a time, their gaps being continually filled from the rear. Napier could not leave this desperate conflict. He saw the struggle could not last much longer, and, judging that the supreme moment had come, he sent orders to his cavalry on the left to charge on the enemy's right. He himself rode up and down his infantry line, holding, as it seemed, a charmed life, while urging his men to sustain the increasing fury of the enemy. The British cavalry swept down on the enemy's right, dashed through their guns, rode over the high bank of the river, crossed its bed, gained the plain beyond, and charged into the enemy's rear with irresistible fury. Then the Baluchis in front looked behind, and the British infantry, seizing the opportunity, charged with a shout, pushed the Baluchis into the ravine, and closed in hand-to-hand fight. The battle was won. The Baluchis slowly moved off, as if half inclined to renew the conflict. With a British loss of twenty officers and 250 men out of 2,200, no less than 6,000 Baluchis were killed or wounded, and more than three times as many were in retreat. Napier was content. Quarter was neither asked nor given, but there was no desire to follow up the beaten foe. Hyderabad surrendered, and six amirs gave up their swords.
Shir Muhammad, the Lion of Mirpur, confident in the defeat of the British, and unwilling to swell the triumph of his rivals, was a few miles off, with ten thousand men. He now retreated on Mirpur, where he soon found himself at the head of twenty-five thousand men. The position was one that called forth all Napier's powers. His force was greatly reduced, the thermometer was 110° in the shade, he had no transport, and Hyderabad, in which he was obliged to place a garrison of five hundred men, was too far from the Indus to serve as a base or depôt. Knowing that Shir Muhammad was a good soldier, but deficient in wealth, he resolved to give him time, hoping that a large army and no money would compel him to attack. Napier sent to Sakhar for all available troops to join him by river. These reinforcements, consisting of a regiment of Bengal cavalry, a regiment of native infantry, and a troop of horse artillery, duly arrived; while Major Stack's brigade of fifteen hundred men and five guns joined him from the north on 22 March. Napier had entrenched a camp close to the Indus, with a strong work on the other side of the river to protect his steamers. In the camp he placed his stores and hospital, with every appearance of the greatest caution, in February, and sat down to wait. During this time of suspense he, in the words of his hero, the Duke of Wellington, ‘manifested all the discretion and ability of an officer familiar with the most difficult operations of war.’ On 23 March reinforcements reached him from Bombay and from Sakhar. The Lion was slowly approaching, and sent envoys to summon Napier to surrender. On the morning of the 24th Napier marched to attack the enemy. He crossed diagonally the front of Hyderabad towards Dubba, eight miles to the north-west of the city. He found the Lion posted at Dubba with fifteen guns and twenty-six thousand men. Two lines of infantry were entrenched. The right rested on a curve of the river Falaili and could not be turned by reason of soft mud in the bed of the river, while the bank was covered with dense wood; in front of the position was a scarped nullah, behind which the first line of infantry extended for two miles to another wood, and then bent back behind a second nullah. The cavalry were massed in advance of the left, under cover of the wood. Behind the right, where it rested in the Falaili, was the village of Dubba, filled with men.
Napier's force numbered five thousand men, of which eleven hundred were cavalry, with nineteen guns, of which five were horse artillery. The battle began about 9 a.m. Napier brought his horse artillery to his left flank and advanced by echelon of battalions from the left, the horse artillery leading, with two cavalry regiments in support resting on the Falaili. The 22nd Queen's regiment formed the left of the infantry, then came four native regiments, and on the right were the 3rd cavalry and Sind horse. The horse artillery opened a raking fire, and the infantry pushed on for the village. The Baluchis closed at a run to their right. It was soon discovered that neither the village nor the nullah in front had been neglected. The 22nd, who led the way, were met by a destructive fire, and the existence of the enemy's second line became known. Napier had undervalued the skill of the Lion, and there was nothing for it but to make up for the mistake by persistent courage. He himself led the charge, and, by dint of hard fighting and indomitable resolution, Dubba was at length carried. The Baluchis lounged off, as at Miani, slowly, and with apparent indifference to the volleys of musketry which, at only a few yards' range, continually rolled them in the dust. Five thousand of the enemy were killed, while Napier's loss amounted to 270, of whom 147 were of the 22nd regiment. Napier's escape was marvellous, considering that he led the regiment in person. His orderly's horse was struck and his own sword-hilt. Towards the end of the battle a field magazine of the enemy, close to Napier, blew up and killed all around him; but, although his sword was broken in his hand, he was not hurt. Sending his wounded to Hyderabad, Napier pursued Shir Muhammad with forced marches in spite of the heat. He reached Mirpur on 27 March, to find that the Lion had abandoned his capital and fled, with his family and treasure, to Omerkot. Napier remained at Mirpur, and sent the Sind horse and a camel battery to follow up the Lion. On 4 April the troops entered Omerkot, a hundred miles from Dubba, and in the heart of the desert. The Lion had fled northwards with a few followers. On 8 April Napier was back at Hyderabad. So long as the Lion was at large in the country Napier felt that the settlement of Sind could not be effected, and all through the hot weather his troops were on his track. Napier surrounded him gradually by forces under Colonel Roberts and Major John Jacob. Many men were lost, and Napier was himself knocked over with sunstroke, when Jacob, on 14 June at Shah-dal-pur, finally defeated Shir Muhammad, who escaped to his family across the Indus into the Kachi hills.
The war was now at an end, and the task of annexing and settling the country was to begin. A great controversy took place as to the necessity for the conquest of Sind, in which Outram and Napier took opposite sides. On the one side it was alleged that Lord Ellenborough and Napier had made up their minds that Sind should be annexed, but that the amirs might have been safely left to rule their country; and that, had they been differently treated, there need have been no war. On the other side it was stated that the disaffection of Sind could not be allayed by pacific measures; that it was ‘the tail of the Afghan storm,’ to use Napier's expression, and that it was necessary to act with promptitude, decision, and firmness. Napier found a state of things bordering on war. For a short time he listened to his political adviser, then he acted for himself, and in the course of a few months Sind was conquered. His comment to his brother was "Peccavi" (I have sinned - Sind)The conquered country had now to be organised. Napier had a great talent for administration. His administrative staff was composed principally of military men, who were naturally unfavourably criticised by their civilian brethren; but Napier knew he had the support of the governor-general, and he energetically pushed forward the work of settlement. He lost no time in receiving the submission of the chiefs, and he conciliated more than four hundred of them. He organised the military occupation of the country. He established a civil government in all its branches, social, financial, and judicial, and organised an effective police force. He examined in person the principal mouths of the Indus, with a view to commerce, and entered enthusiastically into a scheme to make Karachi the second port of the Indian empire. He was a prolific writer, and, though twice struck down with disease, he maintained a large private correspondence, carried on a considerable public one, and entered into all the schemes for the government of the new state with an energy that never sank under labour. On 24 May 1844 he celebrated the queen's birthday by holding a durbar at Hyderabad, and summoned all the Sindian Baluchi chiefs to do homage. Some three thousand chiefs, with twenty thousand men, attended, and expressed their contentment with the new order of things.
The hot contention on the question of the annexation of Sind had delayed the
vote of the thanks of parliament for the success of the military operation,
and the vote was not taken until February 1844. The Duke of Wellington had already
written to Napier, congratulating him warmly on ‘the two glorious battles
of Meanee and Hyderabad;’ and in his place in the House of Lords he stated
that he had ‘never known any instance of an officer who had shown in a
higher degree that he possesses all the qualities and qualifications necessary
to enable him to conduct great operations. He has maintained the utmost discretion
and prudence in the formation of his plans, the utmost activity in all the preparations
to insure his success, and, finally, the utmost zeal and gallantry and science
in carrying them into execution.’ Sir
Robert Peel was enthusiastic in his admiration not only for Napier's character
and military achievements, but for the matter and form of his despatches. ‘No
one,’ he said, ‘ever doubted Sir Charles Napier's military powers;
but in his other character he does surprise me - he is possessed of extraordinary
talent for civil administration.’ To Edward Coleridge, Peel said that
as a writer he was much inclined to rank Charles Napier above his brother William;
that not only he, but all the members of the government who had read his letters
and despatches from Sind, had been immensely struck by their masterly clearness
of mind and vigour of expression. Napier was made a G.C.B., and on 21 November
1843 was given the colonelcy of the 22nd regiment. He was quite content, and,
speaking of Wellington's praise of him, said: ‘The hundred-gun ship has
taken the little cock-boat in tow, and it will follow for ever over the ocean
At the end of 1844 Napier began his campaign against the hill tribes on the northern frontier, who had been raiding into Sind. He reached Sakhar the week before Christmas 1844. He made Sakhar his base for his operations against Beja Khan Dumki, the leading hill chief, and his eight thousand followers. Napier's men were attacked by fever, and the greater part of the 78th highlanders perished. Beja heard of the sickness, and, presuming that it would stop Napier's operations, the hillmen remained with their flocks and herds on the level and comparatively fertile land at the foot of the Kachi hills. Napier then suddenly sallied forth in three columns, moved by forced marches, surprised the tribes, captured thousands of cattle, most of their grain supply, forced the enemy into the hills, and waited at the entrances to the passes for his guns and commissariat. It was early in January 1845 when the advance began. His energetic operations and the indefatigable exertions of Jacob and Fitzgerald with the irregular horse soon put him in possession of Pulaji, Shahpur, and Ooch, with small loss. But Beja Khan was not easily caught, and it was not until after many weary marches, with little water to be had, and many sharp fights, that Beja and his men were driven into Traki, a curious fastness, of a basin-like form, with sides of perpendicular rock six hundred feet high all round it with only two openings, north and south. Beja and his followers were captured on 9 March 1845. Lord Ellenborough had been recalled, much to Napier's grief; but Sir Henry Hardinge, the new governor-general, was lavish with his praise. No word of recognition of his arduous campaign reached him, however, from home. By the end of March Napier had returned to his administrative duties in Sind.
The first Sikh war broke out on 13 December 1845, and on 24 December Napier received orders to assemble with all speed an army of fifteen thousand men, with a siege train, at Rohri. By 6 February 1846 he was at Rohri with fifteen thousand men, many of whom had been brought from Bombay, eighty-six pieces of cannon, and three hundred yards of bridge, ‘the whole ready to march, carriage and everything complete, and such a spirit in the troops as cannot be surpassed.’ While he was in the midst of his preparations the battle of Ferozeshah was fought. Hardinge ordered Napier to direct his forces upon Bhawalpur, and to come himself to headquarters. Leaving his army on 10 February, he reached Lahore on 3 March, to find Sobraon had been fought and the war was over. Early in April Napier was back at Karachi. Cholera broke out, and seven thousand persons died in Karachi, of whom eight hundred were soldiers. He lost his favourite nephew, John Napier (an able soldier), and also a favourite little grandniece. This affliction, with the harassing work and great responsibility, began to tell on his health, and as time went on he had many worries with the court of directors of the East India Company, for whom he had no affection, and who treated him with little consideration. On 9 November 1846 he was promoted lieutenant-general. In July 1847 he resigned the government of Sind, and on 1 October left India for Europe, staying some time at Nice with his brother George. On his way to England, in May 1848, he paid a visit to Marshal Soult in Paris, and recalled Coruña. The marshal paid him the highest compliment, telling him he had studied all his operations in China (!) and entirely approved them. He met with a cordial reception, on arriving in London, from Wellington and Peel, and Lord Ellenborough, whom, strange to say, he had never before met, though they had worked so loyally together in India.
After a short visit to Ireland, where he received an enthusiastic welcome, he settled down at Cheltenham, and occupied himself in writing a pamphlet advocating the organisation of a baggage corps for the Indian army. Early in 1849 the Sikh troubles produced a general demand in England for a change in the command. The court of directors applied to the Duke of Wellington to recommend to them a general for the crisis, and he named Napier. The suggestion was ill received, and the duke was asked to name some one else; he then named Sir George Napier, who declined. Sir William Maynard Gomm was eventually selected, and sailed from Mauritius. Late in February came the news of the battle of Chillianwallah. A most unjust outcry arose against Lord Gough, and there was a popular call for Charles Napier. The directors yielded, but tried to arrange that he should not have a seat in the supreme council. Napier declined to go unless he were given the seat, and this was at last conceded. After the usual banquet at the India House, Napier left England on 24 March, reached Calcutta on 6 May, and assumed the command; the war was, however, over, and Napier unstintedly praised Lord Gough's conduct of it.
In November 1849 a mutinous spirit exhibited itself in the native army, which Napier was determined to put down. The 66th regiment, on its way from Lucknow into the Punjab in January 1850, halted at Gorindghur, where they refused their pay, and tried to shut the gates of the fortress, and were only prevented by the accidental presence of a cavalry regiment on its way back from the Punjab. Napier ordered that the native officers, non-commissioned officers, and private sepoys of the 66th regiment should be marched to Ambala, and there struck off the rolls, and that the colours should be delivered to the loyal men of the Nasiri Ghurkha battalion, who should in future be called the 66th or Ghurka regiment. About the same time the regulation by which an allowance was made to the sepoys for purchasing their food was called in question. Hearsey, the brigadier-general in command at Wazirabad, where the regulation was unknown, deemed it unsafe to enforce it until it had been carefully explained to the sepoys on parade. Hearsey's opinion was endorsed by the divisional commander, Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert, and was laid before Napier by the adjutant-general of the Indian army, with a recommendation that the regulation should not be enforced. Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general, was on a sea voyage, and the members of the supreme council separated from the scene by journeys of weeks. Napier therefore took upon himself the responsibility of suspending the regulation pending a reference to the supreme council. Greatly to his surprise, three months later he received a severe reprimand from the governor-general for exercising powers which belonged to the supreme council. Napier resigned. He left Simla on 16 November 1850, and went down the Indus. At Hyderabad the sirdars collected for many miles round, and presented him with a sword of honour. At Bombay a public banquet was given to him.
In March 1851 he was back in England. He took a small property at Oaklands
on the Hampshire Downs, a few miles from Portsmouth. The disease which had settled
on his liver ever since his ride to Lahore in 1846 was making rapid strides;
but he was not a man to remain idle, and he commenced a work entitled Defects,
Civil and Military, of the Indian Government, which he did not live to complete,
but which was eventually edited and published by his brother William. In February
1852 he published a Letter on the Defence of England by Corps of Volunteers
and Militia, which did something to prepare the way for the great volunteer
movement of 1859. In spite of illness, he took his place as one of the pall-bearers
at the Duke of Wellington's funeral, where he caught a severe cold, which could
not be shaken off. He never recovered his health, and died on 29 August 1853.
He was buried in the small churchyard of the garrison chapel at Portsmouth.
His funeral was a private one, but Lords Ellenborough and Hardinge and many
distinguished officers attended it, and the whole garrison crowded to the grave.
On the north side of the entrance to the north transept of St. Paul's Cathedral is a marble statue of Napier by G. G. Adams, with the simple inscription of his name and the words: ‘A prescient general, a beneficent governor, a just man.’ In Trafalgar Square, London, is a colossal statue of Napier in bronze, by the same sculptor, which was erected by public subscription. By far the larger number of subscribers were private soldiers. A portrait of Napier, painted in 1853 by E. Williams, is in the possession of Lady McMurdo; another, sketched in oils by George Jones, R.A., is in the National Portrait Gallery, London, having been presented by Napier's widow.
Napier was essentially a hero. With his keen, hawklike eye, aquiline nose, and impressive features, his appearance exercised a powerful fascination; while his disregard of luxury, simplicity of manner, careful attention to the wants of the soldiers under his command, and enthusiasm for duty and right won him the love and admiration of his men. His journals testify to his religious convictions, while his life was one long protest against oppression, injustice, and wrongdoing. Generous to a fault, a radical in politics yet an autocrat in government, hot-tempered and impetuous, he was a man to inspire strong affection or the reverse, and his enemies were as numerous as his friends.
Napier was twice married: first, in 1827, to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Oakeley, and widow of Francis John Kelly; she died on 31 July 1833. Secondly, in 1835, to Frances, daughter of William Philips, esq., of Court Henry, Carmarthenshire, and widow of Richard Alcock, esq., royal navy. She survived him, and died on 22 June 1872.
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