Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (2 July 2003)

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Date of Auction: 2nd July 2003

Sold for £7,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

Army of India 1799-1826, 2 clasps, Seetabuldee & Nagpore, Bhurtpoor (Captn. L. H. Smith, 6th Cavy.) short hyphen reverse, officially engraved naming, some minor marks, otherwise extremely fine and very rare £4000-5000

Footnote

Just 21 clasps for Seetabuldee & Nagpore issued to European recipients.

Lucius Horton Smith was born at Fatehgarh on 28 September 1793, son of Lewis Ferdinand Smith, Major in the service of Daulat Rao Sindhia, and grandson of Major Lewis Lucius Smith, of the Bengal Infantry. After an education in England, the young Lucius entered the Bengal Army in 1807 as a Cadet of Infantry at the age of 14 years. He arrived in India in October 1809 and was sent in the usual course to the Cadet College at Barasat, where he was transferred from the Infantry to the Cavalry branch of the service. However, on passing out of Barasat in January 1811, there were no suitable vacancies in the cavalry and he was directed to do duty with the 1st Battalion 12th N.I. at Barrackpore. In July 1811 he was sent up to Partabgarh, in Oudh, to duty with the 3rd Native Cavalry, and at the end of the following October, on the 3rd marching for Bundelkhand, he was directed to remain at Partabgarh and do duty with the 8th Native Cavalry, with whom he continued doing duty for the next two years. In March 1813 he was finally brought on the strength of the army as a Cornet, and on the 3rd July following he was posted to the 7th Native Cavalry, then stationed at Meerut. In October 1813 he requested a transfer to the 6th Native Cavalry at Sultanpore, Benares, and accompanied that regiment to Kaita, in Bundelkhand, where he served for more than two years.

On the outbreak of the Third Mahratta War in May 1817 Cornet Smith accompanied three troops of his regiment under Colonel Gahan, as part of the Nagpur Subsidiary Force, to the temporary cantonment at Telingkeri, about four miles from the British Residency at Nagpore, where they joined an infantry brigade from Madras, under Colonel Hopetoun Scott, and a small detachment of Madras Artillery. Soon after their arrival the monsoon began and fever became rife. At the end of September Gahan was ordered to take command of a brigade at Hoshangabad, leaving Captain Charles Fitzgerald in command of the 6th Light Cavalry. The men by this time were in such a poor state of health that Scott ordered a change of ground to a new camp near the gardens of the Bhonsla. At the end of October orders were received that the garrison would move out and encamp at different places on the Nagpore frontier to prevent further Pindarry incursions. But when Scott’s force returned to Telingkeri with this intention, the British Resident, Richard Jenkins, became aware of the anti-British intrigues being carried on between the Bhonsla and the Peshwa of Poona. The latter attacked Mounstuart Elphinstone at Poona, but was defeated at Kirkee, and on 25 November Jenkins deemed it necessary for the infantry and guns to take post on the Seetabuldee hills over looking the Residency. The 6th Light Cavalry meanwhile relieved the Resident’s Escort under Captain William Lloyd and took post at the gateway of the Residency. That night and the next day passed quietly, but then at sunset on the 26th the Bhonsla’s army of 20,000 came on and attacked Scott.

The evening of the 26th found Scott’s forces confronted by the Bhonsla’s army of 12,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry of whom nearly half were formidable Arabs. At sunset the action commenced. Initially Lloyd was posted with the Escort on the western side of the smaller of the two hills, but it soon became apparent that this position was unlikely to be attacked, and he detached a party to the other side. Here, ‘he witnessed considerable confusion at different times; the sepoys would not keep their ranks, but crowded together many deep; some were running for refuge amongst the tombs in the rear, the fire of the Arabs was incessant, and to complete the disorder, a 6-pounder limber blew up at half-past 9 o’clock.’

At midnight, Scott ordered the withdrawal of the 1/24th M.N.I. who had sustained heavy casualties from the northern from slopes of the small hill and sent Lloyd with 100 of the Escort and 50 men of the 1/20th to relieve them. The Arab infantry was now well ensconced in the huts which covered the lower slopes, and Lloyd was obliged to conduct the defence from a hastily constructed breastwork of grain bags barely sufficient to hold 100 men. Shortly before day break Lloyd prevailed on Cornet Lucius Smith of the 6th Light Cavalry to charge the Arabs, but at his approach the enemy took cover in the huts and refused to move until he had gone away. A number of troop horses were shot down and Cornet Smith reluctantly retired. The Arabs grew bolder, their fire becoming more intense than at any previous period in the battle. Between 8:00 and 9:00 am, nine Mahratta guns, two of which were with the Arabs not more than 80 or 100 yards from the summit, played on Lloyd’s position and had it not been for the elevation the ‘British must have been swept away in a quarter of an hour.’

Lloyd ordered his small reserve to make a dash for the two nearest guns, but found that in the earlier confusion thirty of his sepoys had retired to the main position, and that the remainder were unequal to the task. He sent word to Scott informing him that the position was untenable, and, agreeing with the Madras Artillery officer that one of his two guns was in danger of being dismounted, he gave orders for it to be shifted to the rear. On seeing the gun being removed, the Arabs assumed the position was being abandoned and made a rapid charge on the front and both flanks: ‘Captain Lloyd had only time to order the men to fire, and expecting to be followed, jumped over the parapet to meet the Arabs: not a man came out of the work to support him, although almost in contact with the enemy; a matchlock ball grazed his left arm, and, to complete the disaster, the reserve instead of charging the enemy, fired a few scattered shot, and retreated very precipitately towards the [big] hill ... The game was up: officers and men rushed out of the work together, closely pursued by the Arabs who used both sword and dagger. The British twice attempted to make a stand: it was useless; a few of the bravest men turned, but the panic was too general to be remedied, except by a prompt advance of fresh troops, and the escort were fairly forced to the right.’

The remnants of Scott’s infantry crowded together on the crown of Seetabuldee’s main hill, which itself had been attacked with increasing vigour since midnight from the south and east. The Mahratta cavalry then advanced from the west intending to complete the night’s work. They were however checked by brilliant charges of the 6th Light Cavalry led by Captain Charles FitzGerald and Lieutenant John Hearsey and scattered across the plain.

Having witnessed the effect of the cavalry’s exploits, the infantry redoubled their fire and the Escort mustered for a counter-attack on the smaller hill. Hearsey’s account of the action states that at this point: ‘Mr Jenkins, the Resident, addressed his escort, and told them that he expected success from them’. Fortuitously a limber exploded on the small hill in the midst of the Arabs, and at that moment the Escort, joined by an equal number of the 20th and 24th, charged over the 400 yards of open ground to retake the summit of the small hill. When within a few paces of the Arab standards atop the small hill, ‘Capt. Lloyd was shot through the right shoulder and Lieut. Grant of the 24th was killed; fortunately the former was not struck down, and the men being greatly animated, they pressed rapidly over the breastwork and burning ammunition barrels, charging the enemy, and resolved to terminate the battle by driving him out of the village.’ While clearing the huts in the village, Lloyd was again wounded being ‘shot through the body’.

Hearsey wrote of the counter-attack on the small hill, ‘Lloyd, in this affair, received four bullet wounds. Both his shoulders were grazed where the epaulets were placed; while waving his sword and cheering on his men a bullet struck him on the elbow, running along the arm and coming out of the shoulder; the fourth bullet had struck him at the waistband of his trousers, had glanced over a button, and entering the skin, ran round the abdomen and out at the opposite button. Lloyd had on doeskin leathers. His last wound was thought to be a fatal one, as it was supposed that the bullet had entered the abdomen, but it proved otherwise, a mere skin wound.’

Command of the Escort now devolved on Captain Moxon, who quickly needed to consolidate the small hill and village in its front which were now left nearly without troops. The Arabs, observing this, began to re-assemble and occupy the huts again but, before they had time to re-establish themselves firmly, Cornet Smith came up with his troop of cavalry, charged through the village, pistolled between twenty and thirty of the enemy, and forced them to abandon this stronghold

completely. By noon the Arabs were completely beaten and the Mahratta cavalry had retired to a respectable distance. Thus ended the Battle of Seetabuldee - ‘which was, perhaps, one of the most important in its consequences, of any fought in India for many years.’

Cornet Smith thereafter served with the regiment throughout the Mahratta-Pindari Campaign of 1817-18, part of the time as Acting Adjutant to the right wing, and took part in the battle of Sukandarra, or Nagpore, the storm and capture of Chanda, and in many other affairs. On the conclusion of the campaign he was quartered with the regiment at Nagpore, and in April 1819 he was appointed Interpreter and Quarter-Master of the corps. In the spring of 1825 he marched with the regiment to Muttra, and in the winter of 1825-26 he served with it at the siege and capture of Bhurtpoor.

From June to October 1830, he held the temporary command of the 4th Light Cavalry at Meerut, rejoining his regiment for its march to Cawnpore. In November 1833 he was appointed acting A.D.C. to Brigadier-General Robert Stevenson, whom he accompanied on field service on the occasion of the demonstration against Jodhpur in the winter of 1834-35. In November 1838 he rejoined his regiment and was engaged in the movement on Jhansi, then in a state of open rebellion.

In February 1842 he was appointed Commandant of the 1st Irregular Cavalry (Skinner’s Horse), in succession to the celebrated Colonel Skinner himself, who had died the preceding December. He held the command of Skinner’s Horse until November 1849, when he resigned the command at his own request and rejoined his regiment at Meerut. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1853, he continued in command of the 6th Light Cavalry until the following October, when he was transferred to the 5th Light Cavalry. In April 1854 he was transferred to the Invalid Establishment, and in the following July he received permission to reside at Ambala. Lieutenant-Colonel Lucius Smith died at Kasauli on 29 September 1858.