Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (9 & 10 May 2018)

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Date of Auction: 9th & 10th May 2018

Sold for £85,000

Estimate: £40,000 - £50,000

The rare General Officers’ Gold Medal awarded to General Sir Thomas Hislop, Bt., G.C.B., a veteran of the Siege of Gibraltar 1780-83, who, after a long and distinguished career in the West Indies, including command of the First Division at the capture of Guadaloupe in 1810, whilst en-route to India in the frigate H.M.S. Java in 1812, was captured by the U.S.S. Constitution after an action lasting nearly four hours; he was subsequently Commander-in-Chief at Madras and led the Army of the Deccan to the great victory at Maheidpore in 1817

General Officer’s Gold Medal 1808-14, for Guadaloupe (Major Genl. Thomas Hisslop) note spelling of surname, complete with gold swivel-ring bar suspension, gold ribbon buckle, and gold oak wreath neck cravat fitment, extremely fine and rare £40000-50000


Provenance: Sotheby, June 1952; Purchased from Baldwin 1960.

Thomas Hislop was the third and youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel William Hislop, R.A., who had served in India in 1758-59 and who died at Woolwich in 1779. His elder two brothers were killed in India, James at the battle of Pollilore in 1781, when serving as A.D.C. to Sir Eyre Coote, and William, a Captain R.A., at Cundapore in 1783.

Thomas entered the army in March 1778, on obtaining a Warrant as a Cadet R.A., and was under training at Woolwich until December 1779. In December 1778 he had been appointed to an Ensigncy in the 39th Foot, which regiment he joined in July 1780 at Gibraltar. He served with the regiment during the siege and bombardment of Gibraltar and made a series of sketches. He was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1783 and returned with the regiment to England the following November. In January 1785, Hislop purchased a Company in the 100th Foot and exchanged back into the 39th Foot in the following month. In December 1792 he was appointed A.D.C. to Sir David Dundas, serving with him in Ireland and at the siege of Toulon, including the sortie made against the French posts on the heights of Arennes on 30 November 1793, on which occasion Lieutenant-General O’Hara the Commander-in-Chief was taken prisoner. Upon command of the troops devolving on Dundas, Hislop was appointed Deputy Adjutant-General. After the evacuation of Toulon, an expedition was undertaken to Corsica in January 1794, and on the reduction of the fortress of St Fiorenza, Hislop was sent home with Sir David’s despatches, for which he received promotion to Major.

Hislop was appointed A.D.C. to Lord Amherst, the Commander-in-Chief, in May 1794 but was granted special leave to be employed in Germany in the service of the Prince of Wales. On his final return from Germany in April 1795, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the 115th Foot (Prince William of Gloucester’s Hanovarians) and in September he transferred again to the 39th Foot. The 39th Foot sailed for the West Indies in February 1796 arriving at Barbados in April. The regiment was employed under the command of Hislop on a secret expedition which resulted in the capture of the Dutch colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice. Hislop remained in military command of these settlements until their restoration to the Dutch at the Peace of Amiens in 1802. During this period he raised a corps of Negroes, known as the 11th West India Regiment, and he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant.

In April 1802, Hislop was appointed Colonel of the 8th West India Regiment and he returned to England in February 1803. He was then appointed to the Staff of the Windward and Leeward Islands, and was in May ordered to proceed to Trinidad to take command of the troops in that island and to be Lieutenant-Governor. He arrived in Trinidad in July 1803 and served there as a Brigadier-General until promoted to the rank of Major-General in October 1809. In 1806, as Spain was then at war with Britain, Hislop agreed with Admiral Alexander Cochrane to provide some support to General Francisco de Miranda for a second attempt to invade Venezuela under Spanish rule. In the aftermath of the failed expedition, Miranda spent the next year in Port of Spain as host of Hislop waiting for reinforcements that never came and return to London.

The capture of Guadaloupe

Hislop left Trinidad in January 1810 to join Lieutenant-General Sir George Beckwith at Martinique for the attack on Guadaloupe. He was appointed to command the First Division of the army, and to act as Second-in-Command of the Expedition. The Second Division was commanded by Major-General George Harcourt and the Reserve Division by Brigadier-General Charles Wale. The expedition sailed from Barbados on 22 January 1810, and from the 24th to 26th was at anchor in Rupert’s Bay, Dominica. On the 27th the fleet anchored in the Islet du Goper, off Guadaloupe, and the next day the First Division proceeded across the bay in flat-bottomed boats to land unopposed at Port Sainte Marie. Sir George Beckwith accompanied the First Division, whilst the Second Division landed on the other side of the island.

Having halted to obtain supplies, the Division proceeded south and reached the town of Trois Rivières practically unmolested on 30 January. On the same day, enemy batteries were driven from the coast in order to allow the fleet to anchor in the Bay of Trois Rivières and thus shorten the lines of supply. The ridge of Petrizel was reconnoitred that day and on the following day was found to have been evacuated. The advance continued, and on the 2nd February, the village of Palmiste was entered. The River Galion was crossed on the following day and on 4 February the French, under General Ernout, surrendered and the island of Guadaloupe was won. Total British casualties amounted to 52 men killed and 250 wounded.

The capture having been successfully completed, Hislop returned to Trinidad, arriving in March, and continued as Lieutenant-Governor until forced by ill-health to ask for a relief. He finally left Trinidad in April 1811, after an almost uninterrupted residence in the then unhealthy climate of the West Indies of fifteen years. Upon his return to England, Hislop reported himself ready and desirous of being employed and, in March 1812, he was appointed to the Staff of Bombay, with the rank of Lieutenant-General, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army. He sailed for India on 15 November in the 38-gun frigate H.M.S. Java, Captain Henry Lambert, which ship had been captured from the French off Tamatave on 20 May 1811. She was, in November 1812, newly commissioned with a crew of 397, of whom the greater number were recruits, pressed men and Marine Society Boys.

The Java captured by the U.S.S. Constitution

On 29 December, whilst off the coast of Brazil, the Java fell in with the United States frigate Constitution, 44 guns, Commodore W. Bainbridge. Although his ship was not properly worked up, Captain Lambert made no attempt to avoid action with his well tried antagonist. In fact on sighting the Constitution, he altered course towards her. However, after three hours and forty minutes of hard fighting, Java, with her captain mortally wounded, and of her ship’s company 24 killed and 124 wounded, was forced to strike. The ship was so badly damaged that her American captors were forced to destroy her. Hislop, whose bravery was conspicuous throughout the action, and whose A.D.C. was killed at his side, was taken, along with the mortally wounded Lambert and the rest of the surviving crew, on board the Constitution.

Shortly after the action, Commodore Bainbridge restored to Hislop a chest with a considerable set of silver plate, which had initially been seized as the Java was abandoned, and which Hislop valued more for sentimental reasons than for its monetary value. Hislop was particularly grateful for this as well as for the generally “handsome and kind treatment” the Americans had shown toward their British prisoners. In turn, Hislop presented Commodore Bainbridge with a “splendid gold-mounted sword” which Commodore Bainbridge treasured for the rest of his life. In addition, for many years, he remained a relatively frequent correspondent with his one-time captor which lasted until Bainbridge’s death in 1833. The Java’s surviving crew were landed at São Salvador on 3 January where, on the following day, Captain Lambert died from the gunshot wound to his chest.

Command of the Madras Army and victory at Maheidpore

Hislop, together with his personal staff, returned to England under a Cartel, landing at Portsmouth on 17 April 1813. His exchange was effected very soon afterwards, and he was about to embark once more for Bombay, when the command of the Madras Army fell vacant on the resignation of Lieutenant-General Abercromby. Hislop was appointed to it, and was created a Baronet in November 1813. He sailed once more for India on 1 January 1814 in the frigate H.M.S. Revolutionnaire, arriving at Madras on 27 May and was duly sworn in as senior member of the Council and as Commander-in-Chief. He was promoted in June to the rank of Lieutenant-General and was made a K.C.B. In 1815, he commanded the force known as ‘The Army of Reserve’ which was collected on the Madras frontier.

Although Hislop’s health again broke down, he was fully recovered in time to take command, on 17 November 1817, of the Army of the Deccan at Hyderabad. Now commenced the series of actions known as the Pindaree, or Third Mahratta War. On 21 December 1817, the British, led by Sir Thomas Hislop, attacked the Holkar army led by 11-year-old Maharaja Malhar Rao Holkar II, 22-year-old Hari Rao Holkar and 20-year-old Bhima Bai Holkar. The Holkar artillery, led by Roshan Beg, attacked them with a long line of 63 cannons. At one point, the British were on the verge of losing the battle. However, they were helped by Gafur Khan, a traitor in the Holkar's camp. Khan deserted the battlefield with the force under his command after which the Holkars were decisively defeated. The losses to the British army was 174 killed and 604 wounded, although over 200 of the latter subsequently died. The vast majority of the Company troops were from the Madras Army.

Following this and other battles, the Mahrattas submitted and surrendered certain border fortresses. The Division under Hislop’s personal command arrived before the Fort of Talneir to accept its surrender, but the Killedar, or officer in charge, refused to do so. By the order of Sir Thomas, he was hanged as a rebel, and when the fort was captured on 27 February 1818, the garrison of 300 were put to the sword. Hislop was called up to explain these severities by Lord Moira, the Governor-General, and by Parliament in London. An amendment to the ‘Vote of Thanks to the Armies in India’, censuring Sir Thomas, was not secured because of a statement made by the Duke of Wellington in his defence. An enquiry was, however, started but its findings were never made public and the subject was dropped.

The distribution of the immense Prize Money from this campaign, known as the Deccan Prize, involved a celebrated dispute between Hislop’s Army of the Deccan and the Bengal Army under the Marquis of Hastings. It was eventually decided by the Privy Council that, although the greater part of the Prize had been captured by Hislop’s army, the Bengal Army had assisted owing to its presence on the field and that they were therefore entitled to a share. The Duke of Wellington remarked that the sole satisfaction he felt at the decision was that had the sum thus put into into the pockets of the army fallen to Sir Thomas Hislop’s share, it would have vanished in Mexican bonds or Colombian securities like Hislop’s private fortune.

The Army of the Deccan was broken up in March 1818 and Sir Thomas returned to his command at Fort St George, which he held until 1820. In April 1818 he was appointed Colonel of the 95th Foot, and when this regiment was disbanded later in the year, of the 48th Foot. In October 1818, in recognition of his leadership in the Mahratta campaign, he was advanced to G.C.B., and, in 1822, he received an honourable augmentation to his arms in recognition of his distinguished services in India. For many years after his return to England he served as an equerry to Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. He married in October 1823, Emma, daughter of the Rt. Hon. Hugh Elliot, Governor of Madras, and by her had one daughter, Emma Eleanor Elizabeth, who married William Hugh Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 3rd Earl of Minto, in 1844. General Sir Thomas Hislop died at Charlton, Kent, on 3 May 1843, aged 78.