Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria, to include the Brian Ritchie Collection (Part I) (17 September 2004)

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Date of Auction: 17th September 2004

Sold for £6,200

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

The superb silver Seringapatam Medal worn by Major-General Sir David Foulis, K.C.B., Madras Cavalry

Honourable East India Company Medal for the Capture of Seringapatam 1799, silver, contained in a silver-rimmed glazed case, the edge inscribed ‘Lieutt. Colonel D. Foulis’, fitted with integral silver ball and swivelling bar suspension, the ribbon fitted with heavy silver four-pronged buckle inscribed ‘Seringapatam 4th May 1799’, together with seven original commission documents dated between 1800 and 1835, all but one on vellum, these in excellent condition, the medal extremely fine and a rare survival


David Foulis was born in 1768 and arrived in India in 1789 at a time when outside the main British preserve in Bengal, there was no such thing as a stable frontier and anarchy prevailed from Madras to Bombay. Commissioned Ensign in the 73rd Foot on 5 October 1790, Foulis was attached to the Flank Company of the 15th Battalion, Madras Native Infantry, and took part in the capture of the hill forts above the Mysore Ghats, which were attacked in retaliation to the invasion of Travancore by Tippoo Sahib. Foulis was then employed for the remainder Third Mysore War in the army under the Governor-General, Lord Cornwallis, and was first present at the siege of Bangalore, where on 6 March 1791 he took part in the ill-fated cavalry action under Colonel Floyd which attempted to cut off a substantial part of Tippoo’s rearguard. After the capture of Bangalore on 21 March, he participated in the siege of Savendroog and the Battle of the Carrygaut Hills where Tippoo was defeated on 15 May. But arriving before Tippoo’s inaccessible capital of Seringapatam shortly afterwards, Cornwallis and his army were forced to withdraw by a grave shortage of supplies coupled with heavy rains.

Having transferred to the Company’s service as a Cornet in the 3rd Madras Cavalry (then commanded by Colonel James Stevenson) on 3 September 1791, Foulis participated in Cornwallis’s second offensive into the heart of Mysore and was present at the storming of Tippoo’s lines before Seringapatam on 6 and 7 February 1792 which resulted in the capture of the stronghold. In March, Tippoo, the terror of the British commercial community of Madras, came to terms and a large part of his territory was ceded to British rule. In 1793, Foulis was employed with his regiment in a force commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell in subduing the southern Polygars. The next year he was present at the siege of Pondicherry as a volunteer, and took part in Stevenson’s forced march of 120 miles in forty-eight hours which utterly surprised the Rajah of Ramnad and resulted in the capture of his strong fortress and palace. Later the same year he made another notable march under Stevenson, whose regiment, this time dismounted, seized three principal Polygar Rajahs in their beds. On 1 November 1798 Foulis was promoted Lieutenant, and next joined the army under Lieutenant-General George Harris for service in the Fourth Mysore War.

By the turn of the year the Governor-General, Lord Mornington (Richard Wellesley), had learnt that Tippoo Sahib’s hopes of French aid from Egypt were at an end following Nelson’s decisive victory at the Battle of the Nile, and he ordered Harris to march on Seringapatam and finally crush the power of Tippoo. In early February Foulis crossed the frontier of Mysore and for the next seven weeks accompanied the ‘monstrous equipment’ of the army - ‘a huge preambulating oriental town of pavilions, huts and booths, covering an area of seven miles by three’ in its slow advance of about five miles a day, ‘with its 120,000 bullocks, vast trains of camels and elephants, 47 giant siege guns and a horde of camp followers’. Following Tippoo’s unsuccessful attempt to halt the lumbering column at Mallaveley on 27 March, Seringapatam was reached on 17 April and on completion of the formal siege works on 4 May, Foulis took part in the storm and capture of the city led by Major-General Baird, a former prisoner of Tippoo. In addition to the Seringapatam Medal, Foulis, as a Lieutenant, received a £430 share of the £1,140,000 Prize Money. Tippoo Sahib fell in the defence of his capital.

Foulis remained in Mysore after the withdrawal of Harris’s army, and was next employed in the pacification of the surrounding country under Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon Arthur Wellesley, who had been made Military Governor of the city over Baird’s head. Besides being plagued by Polygars in the south and east, Nairs in Malabar and tribal Arab Moplahs on the coast, Wellesley also had to deal with one of Tippoo’s former enemies, a notorious freebooter named Doondia Waugh, who had escaped from prison in Seringapatam during the siege. Under his preferred title of ‘King of the Two Worlds’, Doondia Waugh attracted an army of malcontents and disbanded soldiers and, seizing several abandoned fortresses, adopted the almost sole means of advancement at the time for any native of enterprise and spirit - the waging of constant war.

During cavalry operations in pursuit of the brigand and his followers in 1799, Foulis was wounded in one of the many skirmishes. In the winter of 1799-1800, Doondia Waugh sought refuge in Mahratta territory where he recruited a still larger army before returning in the spring of 1800 to harry the Carnatic and Mysore. Foulis became Brigade Major of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade in April 1800 and Aide-de-Camp to Colonel Stevenson, and once more joined the cavalry in the field under Wellesley. Having chased their quarry from one side of the Deccan to the other and having taken the strongholds of Ranny Bednore and Dummel, Doondia Waugh was finally cornered at Conaghull near the borders of Mysore and Hyderabad on 10 September 1800. Here Foulis took part in the ‘Iron Duke’s’ first victory in sole command. Charging at the head of two British and two native cavalry regiments, Wellesley routed a force of 5,000 men in a stoutly contested encounter in which Doondia Waugh was killed. “The troops behaved admirably,” the young Lieutenant-Colonel of the 33rd Foot reported, “if they had not done so not a man of us would have quitted the field.”

In September 1801 owing to a large number of deaths occasioned by the unhealthy conditions, Foulis was promoted Captain in the 1st Madras Cavalry. In July 1803, his own health broke down and he sailed for England. In July 1805 he made a remarkable overland return journey, travelling to India by way of Denmark, Prussia, Saxony, Prague, and Vienna to the Crimea, where he embarked across the Black Sea to Constantinople. Continuing across the Bosphorus to Sentara in Turkey, he travelled through Persia to Bagdad and from there sailed down the Tigris and the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf, finally taking ship across the Arabian Sea to Bombay. He was ‘twice cast on shore on the Persian side by a leaky Arab ship’.

In 1807, Foulis was appointed agent to purchase remounts for the Madras cavalry, but was compelled to visit England again on account of poor health two years later. This time he made the journey via China, Brazil, and North America. He was advanced to the rank of Major in the 1st Madras Light Cavalry on 26 June 1812, and returned to India in October 1813. The following year he commanded the escort furnished by the 1st Madras Light Cavalry which accompanied the Peshwa of Poona through the East India Company’s dominions. During the Third Mahratta War, Foulis was employed in command of the 1st Light Cavalry in operations under Colonel J. Doveton against the Pindarries in Berar and Candesh. In 1818, he was appointed to the command of the Ellore and Masulipatam districts where he was responsible for the protection of the frontiers of Palnaud against Pindarry bands. In September, he marched with the 1st Light Cavalry to the Carnatic to refit, and in early 1819 was given the command of the cavalry cantonment at Arcot. He was made Lieutenant-Colonel the following July, and appointed to the command of the 6th Madras Light Cavalry in 1821.

Following three years furlough in Europe between 1824-27, he was next appointed to the command of the Provinces of Malabar and Canara, where misplaced faith in his officers landed him in trouble following a local disturbance at Vaniacolum in 1833. The Governor in Council, in reviewing the cause of the trouble found that “Col. Foulis was not justified in characterorizing [sic] ‘as false, groundless and vexacious’, a complaint, the merits of which he does not seem to be acquainted [with], except from the statement of the parties accused.” In March 1834, following the Canara rising, Foulis was appointed to the command of the 3rd or Western Column of the Field Force which was assembled to enter Coorg territory. At the cessation of hostilities the Commander-in-Chief expressed ‘his entire satisfaction and approbation of the gallantry, perserverance and zeal of the troops composing the columns under the personal command of Brigadier Lindsay and Colonel Foulis; the judgement displayed by those Officers in conducting their respective services, and surmounting the formidable obstacles to which their exertions were opposed, reflects great credit on them and the officers and soldiers under their respective comands’ (London Gazette 17 September 1834). In May 1834 he attained the rank of Brigadier-General and was appointed ‘to the Staff of the Army’. The following year the Governor-General, Lord Ellenborough, announced ‘his nomination as C.B. for services in the Coorg War’ (London Gazette 8 March 1835). Three years later on 20 July 1838, Foulis, who had been promoted Major-General on 10 January 1837, was advanced to Knight Commander of the Bath. Sir David, who married Sussana, third daughter of Robert Low of Clatto, in 1814, retired to his native Scotland and died at Bruntisfield Lodge, Edinburgh, on 12 April 1843.

Refs: Hodson Index (NAM); East India Military Calendar; IOL L/MIL/11/38.

Sold with a photograph of a portrait of Foulis in General’s uniform wearing this medal and his ‘Coorg Rebellion’ C.B., circa 1835-38, the painting still retained by his family, and the following original commission documents:

1. Appointing Lieutenant Foulis as Major of Brigade with the rank of Captain, dated 24 April 1800, signed by The Right Honorable Edward Lord Clive.

2. Appointing Captain Foulis a Major in the Army in the East Indies only, dated 1 January 1812, signed by George Prince Regent.

3. Appointing Foulis as a Major in the First Regiment of Native Cavalry, dated 26 June 1812, signed by The Honorable Sir G. W. Barlow, K.B.

4. Appointing Senior Major Foulis to be Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry, dated 9 August 1819, signed by The Right Honorable Hugh Elliot.

5. Appointing Foulis to hold the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the King’s Army in the East Indies only, dated 23 June 1820, signed Francis, Marquess of Hastings, K.G., G.C.B. (on paper).

6. Appointing Foulis as Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of Cavalry, dated 1 June 1824, signed by The Honorable Major-General Sir Thomas Munro, K.C.B.

7. Appointing Foulis to hold the rank of Brigadier-General in the King’s Army in the East Indies only, dated 15 August 1834, signed by Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, G.C.B.