Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 & 20 September 2013)

Date of Auction: 19th & 20th September 2013

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

A rare Second Mahratta War medal awarded to Private James Ford, 94th Foot (Scotch Brigade)

Army of India 1799-1826, 3 clasps, Asseerghur, Argaum, Gawilghur (J. Ford, 94th Foot.) short hyphen reverse, officially impressed naming, edge bruise, otherwise nearly extremely fine £8000-10000

Footnote

This medal first recorded at Glendining’s in December 1901, and subsequently sold in May 1948 and May 1954.

Approximately 150 Army of India medals issued to Europeans with three clasps, including 38 with this combination, of which 33 went to the 94th Foot. A total of only 48 clasps were issued for Asseerghur.

Of the important part played by the 94th (Scotch Brigade) at Gawilghur, Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote: "The advance of the 94th was silent, deliberate and even solemn. Everybody expected the place to be well defended. As we got near we saw a number of people running on the rampart, near the breach. I was amazed they did not fire: our cannon fired over our heads. We got to the breach where we halted, and let the forlorn-hope, a sergeant's party, run up: then we followed, ran along and dashed up the second breach and huzzaed. Perhaps the enemy fired a little from some huts by the second breach: I did not see them do that. I saw some of them bayoneted there. We kept to the right after entering the second breach and soon after the troops poured in, so that there was no distinguishing forlorn-hope or anything. We huzzaed and dashed up the second breach and leaped down into the place. Such of the enemy as stood were put to the bayonet, but most of them ran off to the right and down a narrow valley which led to a gate. Here they met Colonel Chalmers coming on with half the 78th.

The 94th pressed behind, firing from above and a terrible slaughter took place. After this we endeavoured to push on, when to our astonishment we discovered that we had only gained a separate hill, and that the fort lay behind a deep valley, beyond which appeared a double wall and strong gates. I thought we should have to entrench ourselves and wait till guns could be brought up to breach the inner walls. The 94th followed the road down and crowded around the gate. The first wall was joined to a steep hill and the 94th began slowly and with difficulty to climb up one by one. Beyond the first wall was a narrow rocky road, overtopped by a steep rock, and another wall and gate, over which those who climbed the first wall would have to go, which the steepness and height of the wall made impossible. While the 94th were climbing over, the enemy kept up a fire from their works: in the meantime our people poured in at the breach and covered the hill opposite to the enemy. They fired on the enemy and the valley was filled with such a roar of musketry as can hardly be conceived. The sight cannot be described. At last our men got over and opened the first gate. Scaling ladders were brought, got up the hill and applied to the second wall. The enemy fled from their works: we rushed over the wall, and the fort was ours."

Lieutenant Blakiston adds other details. Immediately after the storming of the first breach, which he says "was taken in two minutes with little resistance. A column of troops were seen to issue from the inner fort. This was immediately charged by the grenadiers of the Scotch Brigade and repulsed with great slaughter." Then, when the lower fort had been taken, "two sepoy battalions were drawn up on a height fronting the wall of the inner fort, on which they commenced such an incessant and well-directed fire that none of the enemy durst show their noses above the parapet. Under cover of this fire the light company of the Scotch Brigade placed their ladders against the wall and we were soon master of the last defences of the fort. Captain Campbell placed the first ladder and was the first man on the inner ramparts. The light company then charged forward to the gate of the inner fort, opened it and admitted the rest of the battalion and the foremost of the sepoys."

There was one final fight after that for the 94th inside Gawilghar, as Lieutenant Blakiston thus records. "Scarcely had the gate been opened to admit the remainder of the storming party, when a body, looking more like furies than men, having their long hair cast loose over their shoulders and brandishing their swords, came rushing from behind some buildings and fell furiously upon the 94th. These, however, received them with that coolness and determination for which undisciplined valour however desperate, can never be a match. The contest was nevertheless sanguinary to both sides, for these desperadoes sold their lives dearly. One fellow in particular, it was told, having got his back to a wall killed and wounded several Europeans before he could be despatched. Among this party was the Killedar: also the Commander-in-Chief of the Berar Rajah's infantry."

In his General Order of December 15th Wellesley, after recording that "the gallantry with which the attack was made by the detachment has never been surpassed," went on to add his "special thanks to Captain Campbell of the 94th who led the light infantry of the Scotch Brigade to the escalade of the inner fort by which the capture was finally assured." Wellesley wrote that he "had seen several places taken by storm, but never any in which so little irregularity was committed or so little plundering. In an hour after the storm," added Wellesley, "the troops marched out with as much regularity as if only passing through." The defeat at Argaum, followed by the startling surprise and storming of Gawilghar, a fortress that all India had believed to be absolutely impregnable, ended the war. It was a knock-down blow to the enemy, coming as it did, as the sequel to the rout of Scindia's northern army in November. Within two days of the capture of Gawilghar, the Bhonsla Rajah of Berar sued for peace and accepted the British terms: a fortnight later Scindia did the same.

In the two principal actions of the Khandeish campaign in October 1804 - the taking of Holkar's fortresses of Chandore and Galnah, the centres of Holkar's power in Khandeish - the 94th took the leading part. The Chandore stronghold, 85 miles west of Aurungabad, comprised a walled pettah, or outer town, and towering above it, 1,600 feet above the plain, the main fort on a steeply scarped rock with high embattled walls all round. The pettah was stormed on October 8th with little opposition by the pickets of the 94th and 74th and the fort was bombarded during the next day, to occupy the enemy's attention while a place to attempt an escalade up the rock was being searched for. A likely point was found, and at 3 a.m. on October 10th the storming party, the flank companies of the 94th, 150 of the pickets and 300 Madras sepoys, started to climb up and escalade. They reached the walls at dawn, planted their ladders silently, and taking the Mahratta garrison by surprise carried the fort at the point of the bayonet within a quarter of an hour. The 94th had one drummer and six rank and file wounded - no other casualties.