Abbott, Augustus (DNB01)

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ABBOTT, AUGUSTUS (1804–1867), major-general royal (late Bengal) artillery, eldest of five sons of Henry Alexius Abbott of Blackheath, Kent, a retired Calcutta merchant, and of his wife Margaret, daughter of William Welsh of Edinburgh, N.B., writer to the signet, and granddaughter of Captain Gascoyne, a direct descendant of Sir William Gascoigne (1350–1419) [q.v.], was born in London on 7 Jan. 1804. He was elder brother of Sir Frederick Abbott [q. v. Suppl.] and of Sir James Abbott [q.v. Suppl.]

The fourth brother, Saunders Alexius Abbott (d. 1894), was a major-general in the Bengal army. He received the medal and clasp for the battles of Mudki and Firozshah, where he distinguished himself and was severely wounded. He served with distinction in civil government appointments in the Punjab and Oude, and after his retirement in 1863 was agent at Lahore for the Sind, Punjab, and Delhi railway, and afterwards on the board of direction at home. He died at Brighton on 7 Feb. 1894.

The youngest brother, Keith Edward Abbott (d. 1873), was consul-general at Tabriz in Persia, and afterwards at Odessa, where he died in 1873. He had received the order of the Lion and the Sun from the shah of Persia.

Educated at Warfield, Berkshire, under Dr. Faithfull, and at Winchester College, Augustus passed through the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, and went to India, receiving a commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery on 16 April 1819. His further commissions were dated: first lieutenant 7 Aug. 1821, brevet captain 16 April 1834, captain 10 May 1835, brevet major 4 Oct. 1842, major 3 July 1845, lieutenant-colonel 16 June 1848, colonel 14 Nov. 1858, colonel-commandant Bengal artillery 18 June 1858, and major-general 30 Dec. 1859.

Abbott’s first service in the field was at the fort of Bakhara in Malwa, in December 1822. In the siege of Bhartpur in December 1825 and January 1826 he commanded a battery of two eighteen-pounder guns, built on the counterscarp of the ditch at the north angle, which he held for three weeks without relief. He was commended by Lord Combermere, and received the medal and prize money. On 11 Oct. 1827 he was appointed adjutant of the Karnal division of artillery. In 1833–4 he served against the forts of Shekawati, returning to Karnal.

On 6 Aug. 1838 Abbott was given the command of a camel battery, and joined the army of the Indus under Sir John (afterwards Lord) Keane for the invasion of Afghanistan. He commanded his battery throughout the march by the Bolan pass to Kandahar, at the assault and capture of Ghazni on 23 July 1839, and at the occupation of Kabul on 7 Aug. He was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 30 Oct. 1839), and received the medal for Ghazni, and, from the shah Shuja, the third class of the order of the Durani empire. The camels of his battery having given out were replaced by galloways of the country, and he accompanied Lieutenant-colonel Orchard, C.B., to the attack of Pashut, fifty miles to the north-east of Jalalabad. The fort was captured on 18 Jan. 1840, and Abbott was Highly commended in Orchard’s despatch (Calcutta Gazette, 15 Feb. 1840). He took part in the expedition into Kohlstan under Brigadier-general (afterwards Sir) Robert Henry Sale [q.v.] who attributed his success in the assault and capture, on 29 Sept., of the fort and town of Tutamdara, at the entrance of the Ghoraband pass, to the excellent practice made by Abbott’s guns. On 3 Oct. Abbott distinguished himself at the unsuccessful atack on Jalgah, and was mentioned in despatches as meriting Sale’s warmest approbation (London Gazette, 9 Jan. 1841). On 2 Nov. 1840 Dost Muhammad was brought to bay at Parwandara, and Sale’s despatch relates that a force of infantry, supported by Abbott’s battery, cleared the pass and valley of Parwan, crowded with Afghans, in brillant style (ib. 12 Feb. 1841).

In September 1841 Abbott was employed in an expedition into Zurmat under Colonel Oliver. He crossed a pass 9,600 feet above the sea, and, after the forts were blown up, returned to Kabul on 19 Oct., in time to join Sale in his march to Jalalabad. Abbott commanded the artillery in the actions at Tezin and in the Jagdalak pass, where he led the advanced guard (ib. 11 Feb. 1842). Sale occupied Jalalabad on 13 Nov., and Abbott commanded the artillery during the siege. He took part in the sally under Colonel Dennie on 1 Dec, when he pushed his guns at a gallop to a point which commanded the stream, and completed the defeat of the enemy. He drove off the enemy on 22 Feb. and again on 11 March 1842, when he was slightly wounded. He commanded the artillery in the battle of Jalalabad on 7 April, when Akbar Khan was defeated and the siege raised. He was most favourably mentioned in Sale’s despatches, and recommended for some mark of honour and for brevet rank (ib. 7 and 10 June, and 9 Aug. 1842).

After the arrival at Jalalabad of Sir George Pollock [q.v.], to whose force Abbott had already been appointed commandant of artillery, Abbott accompanied Brigadier-general Monteath’s column against the Shinwaris. The column destroyed the forts and villages, and on 26 July, by the accurate fire of Abbott’s guns, was enabled to gain the action of Mazina. Abbott was thanked in despatches (ib. 11 Oct. 1842). He again distinguished himself in the actions of Mamu Khel and Kuchli Khel on 24 Aug., at the forcing of the Jagdalak pass on 8 Sept., and at the battles of Tezin and the Haft Kotal on 12 and 13 Sept., when he was hotly engaged and Akbar Khan was finally defeated. Kabul was occupied two days later. For these services he was mentioned in despatches (ib. 8 and 24 Nov. 1842). Abbott returned to India with the army, and as one of the ‘illustrious’ garrison of Jalalabad was welcomed by the governor-general, Lord Ellenborough, at Firozpur on 17 Dec. He received the medals for Jalalabad and Kabul, was made a C.B. on 4 Oct. 1842, and was appointed honorary aide-de-camp to the governor-general, a distinction which was conferred on him by three succeeding governors-general. An order was issued that the guns of his battery should be inscribed with the name ‘Jalalabad,’ and that they should be always retained in the same battery.

In 1865 Abbott succeeded to the office of inspector-general of ordnance, and in 1858 to the command of the Bengal artillery. He was a member of the committee which reported on the defences of Firozpur. Ill-health compelled him to return home in 1859. He died at Cheltenham on 25 Feb. 1867.

Abbott married, in 1843, Sophia Frances, daughter of Captain John Garstin of the 66th and 88th regiments, by whom he had, with four daughters, three sons, all of whom followed military careers. The eldest, Augustus Keith (b. 1844), was major Indian staff corps; the second, William Henry (b. 1845), major-general, commanded Munster fusiliers; and the youngest, Henry Alexius (b. 1849), is colonel Indian staff corps and C.B., commanding Malakand brigade.

Abbott was considered by Sir George Pollock to be the finest artilleryman in India, and Lord Ellenborough caused his name to be inscribed on the monument erected in the garden of Southam House to commemorate the services of those to whom he was especially indebted for the success of his Indian administration.

On Abbott’s journal and correspondence Mr. C. R. Low based the history of ‘The Afghan War, 1838–42,’ which was published in 1879.

[The Afghan War, 1838–42, from the Journal and Correspondence of Major-general Augustus Abbott, by C. R. Low, 1879; India Office Records; Royal Engineers Journal, 1893; Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, 1879; Stubbs’s History of the Bengal Artillery; Vibart’s Addiscombe, its Heroes and Men of Note; Stocqueler’s Memorials of Afghanistan; Kaye’s History of the War in Afghanistan; The Career of Major G. Broadfoot; Havelock’s Narrative of the War in Afghanistan; Gleig’s Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan, with an Account of the Seizure and Defence of Jalalabad; Geographical Journal, 1894; private sources.]

R. H. V.