Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria, to include the Brian Ritchie Collection (Part III) (23 September 2005)

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Date of Auction: 23rd September 2005

Sold for £5,000

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

The Second Mahratta War medal to Lieutenant Henry Harvey, 12th Madras N.I., wounded at the battle of Assye

Army of India 1799-1826, 1 clasp, Assye (Lieut. H. Harvey, 12th N.I.) short hyphen reverse, officially impressed naming, good very fine £3000-3500

Footnote

Ex Phillips 1925 and Hamilton-Smith 1927.

Approximately 87 clasps for Assye were issued to European recipients but only 11 as single clasp medals, of which this is unique to the Indian army.

Henry Harvey, the son of Robert and Mary Harvey of Holt, Wiltshire, was born on 4 July 1783 and was educated at Winchester, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He became a Lieutenant in the Madras Army on 20 July 1801. On 23 September 1803, at the celebrated Battle of Assye - where, outnumbered by three to one in infantry, Major-General the Hon. Arthur Wellesley won the first of his great victories in India - Harvey’s battalion, the 2/12th Madras N.I., was posted in the centre of the second line of infantry 800 paces behind the first, which faced the massed regular Mahratta battalions commanded by Pohlman, a former Sergeant in a British Hanoverian regiment, whose forces were positioned across the limited space between the converging Kaitna and Juah rivers. On the left of the enemy line was the village of Assye, packed with Mahratta guns and infantry behind mud walls. A direct assault on the village was pointless without artillery preparation and so Wellesley devised his ‘Hammer Plan’ whereby a series of piquets from 1/8th and 1/2nd Madras N.I. forming the handle of the hammer would wheel on, and keep clear of, the village, which could be dealt with later, while the hammer’s head consisting of his strongest battalions, H.M’s 78th Highlanders and the 10th Madras N.I., would smash a hole through the right of the enemy’s line.

Unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned. The line of picquets diverged to the right, going too near to Assye. Harvey’s battalion and H.M’s 74th followed them, moving directly on the tornado of fire emanating from the village. The fire halted the advance on the right, decimating the piquets and reducing H.M’s 74th from battalion to company strength. Harvey’s battalion lost 228 men, and Harvey himself was wounded, but they continued to move as a compact body. The Mahrattas then loosed a charge of cavalry at the shattered infantry near Assye. Wellesley acted with decision to save the handle of his hammer and ordered his own cavalry to charge straight at the oncoming Mahratta horse. Meanwhile on the left the kilted 78th and the 1/10th Madrassis had made good their part of the plan and drove the Mahratta infantry from their guns. The fierce cavalry struggle restored the situation in the centre and a great victory was achieved. Wellesley, a man not given to the free use of superlatives, described the enemy artillery fire as the ‘hottest that has been known in this country’ and later said the battle was, ‘the bloodiest for the numbers I ever saw.’ Harvey was promoted Captain in the 20th Madras N.I. on 13 July 1811. He married the widow of Sir William De Lancey, Wellington’s Quarter-Master-General at the Battle of Waterloo. Harvey died on 7 March 1853.

Ref: Hodson Index (NAM).