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Capt James Stewart/Stuart died 04 Jan 1779:Karla, Bombay Pre

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Capt James Stewart/Stuart died 04 Jan 1779:Karla, Bombay Pre

Postby jato37 » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:04 pm

I have been investigating one Capt James Stewart who died at Karla, India on 04 Jan 1779, for the last four years.

He belonged to an Advance Unit which was commanded by a Col. Charles Egerton against the Maharattas during the First Maharatta War. He was a very well liked soldier who earned the respect of not only the Indian sepoys who were with him but also his enemies who thought the world of him and, indeed, thought that they could never win when he was not around!! While reconnoitering for his advance party he was shot in the back by a mortar shell on the left shoulder on 04 Jan 1779 at about 1400 hrs. He died about 2 hours later and was buried at Vadegaon which site I visited in 2007. I found his grave there which was covered by a white grave cloth with a red embroidered border, four crosses and four candles one at each corner. Outside, the Indian Army [apparently the Bombay Engineering Group] had put up a small marble plaque which stated that he had been buried there and was the first commanding officer of the Guards [Indian Army] and the Grenadiers [Indian Army]. He was called “Ishtur Phakre” which in the local lingo means ”Stewart the Brave”. The tradition of honoring him seems to be carrying on to this day which would be 230 years after his death. An annual festival is held in the village in his honour.

I have made extensive enquiries with the Archives at the British Library, National Archives of India, Historical Division of the Indian Army and Black Watch Regiment and Alphabetical listing of the officers of the Bombay,Bengal and Madras Army from 1760 – 1837 by Dodwell and Miles [1838]. I have not been able to get any idea of the Captain’s antecedents. I have however, been trying to check the newspapers of the time and came across one reference in the London Gazette dated Aug 7, 1759 stemming from the Whitehall,London, where it states that the [i]“King was pleased to add four companies to the Regiment of Light Infantry or Royal Volunteers commanded by a Colonel Craufurd and to appoint the following gentlemen to command the same, viz. This statement is followed by the following:

St. John Jeffreys, Temple West, Charles Egerton, William Forrester “esqs “Captains”.

Then this statement is followed by the following:

“The King is also pleased to appoint the following Gentlemen to be officers in the said Regiment”: of the 18 names mentioned one is that of “James Stewart” and is marked in the list as “Gentlemen to be First Lieutenants.”

The commonality of the names “James Stewart” posed a difficulty and sorting out who is who, became a really big problem and had to take many other factors into account as I have done in this instance. My presumption that this is indeed the Captain concerned is by the fact of association of names of Col. Charles Egerton [ then Capt Charles Egerton] in the same army group as Lt. James Stewart [who about 20 years later had already become a Captain.]. A passing reference is made to his being ADC to the then Governor of Bombay ,William Hornby and having been instrumental in the raising of the [?8/5th Bombay Sepoy Regiment] and what now is the Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army and the Grenadiers and Brigade of the Guards also of the Indian Army which has been stated to have been the first Grenadier battalion in the British Armed Forces even before the British Grenadier Guards. He also did the reconnoitering for the British Forces before the campaign.

He also was associated with Patrick Craufurd Bruce who was either a banker or a slop seller who in 1776 noted that he had not received any payment from the Capt Stewart’s battalion. Bruce was later associated with Vere, Bruce and Co somewhat later in the 1800s.

The reasons I write this letter are:

1: The lack of any information on the captain appears to be peculiar. Apparently he belonged to the King’s Army, the Royal Volunteers[King's Light Infantry] which seems to have been disbanded in 1763.at the end of the 7years War in Europe.and reformed some 6years later as the 85th Bucks Volunteers I am unable to trace the passage of the Royal Volunteers apparently also known as the King’s Light Infantry which may perhaps provide a clue to the passage of Capt through the British Armed Services before he came to India.

2: I have come across three papers marked 01 Feb , 1779, 25 Feb. 1779 and 03 May 1779 marked Top Secret from the Governor of Bombay to the Select Committee at Calcutta announcing the movement of the Guards towards Poona, the death of Capt. James Stewart and the describing the manner of death of the Capt. While I understand that these communications were usually marked Top Secret for the time, why was there this secrecy about the Captain? Did he belong to the British Intelligence of that time or was the death recorded as Secret because he was a British Officer. ?

3: I have tried to contact either the various Commandants of the Guards, the Grenadiers and even the Rajputana Rifles. I have had no replies.

I would be grateful if I may have some input on these known facts which I have gleaned from the all available historical records that I could lay my hands on.

Thank you.

Prof Dr John A.Thomas
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Re: Capt James Stewart/Stuart died 04 Jan 1779:Karla, Bombay

Postby Sylcec » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:59 am

John
Fascinating story and research. I regret that I am not able to engage in providing practical assistance, as I write this from my hospital bed in Westmead, Sydney, where I have been for 2 weeks and likely to be 2 more! However, although you have no doubt tried the following sources I offer them anyway:
- have you made a diligent search for a will/inventory/administration/grant of probate or other related document. Should be checked in PCC, IOR Bombay, poss Scottish records if he was a Scot
- "Goldsmiths-Kress Library of Economic Literature" - now online as "The Making of the Modern World" has a wealth of documentary miscellany to do with India at the turn of the C18th
- Adam Matthew Publications also have a subscription set of newspapers which includes, umm, "The Bombay Courier" for the late 1700s up to 1815.

I look forward to reading more of your findings in due course
best wishes
Sylvia
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Re: Capt James Stewart/Stuart died 04 Jan 1779:Karla, Bombay

Postby jato37 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:11 pm

Dear Sylvia:
Many thanks for your reply. I am sorry to hear that you are in a hospital with a possible Orthopedic problem and have to spend some more time there.
Capt. James Stewart is proving a harder nut to crack than I have encountered till now. However, You have given me a lead with the suggestion of tracking information from" a will/inventory/administration/grant of probate or other related document."I do have a passing reference about a claim made by Patrick Crauford Bruce for money owed to him by Capt Stewart. Please do let me know what"PCC, IOR Bombay, poss Scottish records if he was a Scot" means. Whether Capt Stewart was a Scot or not or a Scot settled in Ireland is difficult to say. The particular Regiment of "The Royal Volunteers" which Lt James Stewart joined was probably raised in Newscastle and and other person who wanted to help found that there could be a connection between Capt James Stewart and a Lt Charles Stewart who was also in the army unit involved in the Vadgaon fracas. He apparently survived James and was used as a hostage to the Maharattas as surety when they signed the Convention with the British on 16 Jan 1779 and by the British.
I will endeavor to look up the references that you have given . I will also report back to you as I come across newer facts.
The first priority is getting back on the road!!
Sincerely
John
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Re: Capt James Stewart/Stuart died 04 Jan 1779:Karla, Bombay

Postby jato37 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:24 am

Dear Sylvia:

Many thanks for your reply, I had no idea of your problem. They always say that the worse it appears the easier it is to treat. Let us hope for the best.

Thanks for going over part of the reference area. 1805 being covered would cover 25 years from Capt Stewart's death and so the investigation in that direction can be closed to my mind , since possibly no one further may be interested in his estates. I will investigate the Scottish Estates at the Scotland People's Website.

I am not able to send this mail as Private as I am totally new to WDYTYA and so am sending this on the general posting. My email address is: jato37@gmail.com, if you care to use it.
Thanks and with regards.
Sincerely
John
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