Abbott, James (DNB01)

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ABBOTT, Sir JAMES (1807–1896), general, colonel-commandant royal (late Bengal) artillery, third son of Henry Alexius Abbott, and brother of Augustus and Sir Frederick Abbott, both of whom are noticed above, was born on 12 March 1807. He was educated at Blackheath, where one of his schoolfellows was Benjamin Disraeli (afterwards Earl of Beaconsfield). After passing through the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, Abbott received a commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery on 6 June 1823. His further commissions were dated: first lieutenant 28 Sept. 1827, brevet captain 6 June 1838, captain 4 Aug. 1841, brevet major 7 June 1849, lieutenant-colonel 4 July 1857, brevet colonel 28 Nov. 1857, colonel 18 Feb. 1861, major-general 19 June 1866, lieutenant-general and colonel-commandant royal artillery 27 Feb. 1877, and general 1 Oct. 1877.

Abbott arrived in India on 29 Dec. 1823. His first active service was at the second siege of Bhartpur, under Lord Combermere, in December 1825 and January 1826, when he served in the second company (commanded by his brother Augustus) of the first battalion of foot artillery, and took part in the assault and capture of the fortress on 18 Jan., receiving the medal. He was appointed adjutant of the Sirhind division of artillery on 21 Sept. 1827. From October 1835 he was employed in the revenue survey of Gorakpur until 8 Aug. 1836, when he was placed in charge of the revenue survey of Bareli, and was highly commended by the deputy surveyor-general for his good work.

In November 1838 Abbott joined the army of the Indus, under Sir John (afterwards Lord) Keane [q. v.], for the invasion of Afghanistan, and marched with it through the Bolan pass to Kandahar, where he arrived in April 1839, and received from the amir the third class of the order of the Durani empire. In July he accompanied Major Elliott D'Arcy Todd [q. v.] as assistant political officer in his mission to Herat. On 29 Dec. 1839 he was sent by Todd to the court of Khiva, at a time when the Russian general Peroffski was advancing on Khiva for the ostensible purpose of negotiating with the khan, Hazrat of Khiva, for the release of Russian captives detained in slavery by him. Abbott, at the earnest entreaty of the khan, undertook to visit the Russian court, bearing the khan’s offer to liberate all Russian captives. He set out by the Mangh Kishlat route, under the escort of Hassan Mhatur, chief of the Chaodur Turkomans, but on reaching the Caspian Sea found that no boats had been provided. His small party was treacherously attacked on the night of 22 April 1840 by Kazaks. Abbott escaped with his life, but was severely beaten with clubs and his right hand injured by a sabre cut. His property was plundered, and he and his party remained for eighteen days prisoners in the tents of the Kazaks, until the Akhunzada arrived from Khiva to his relief with an escort, and conducted him to Novo Alexandroff. He then crossed the Caspian, and proceeded by Orenburg and Moscow to St. Petersburg, where he completed the negotiations, and arrived in England in August. He received the thanks of Lord Palmerston, secretary for foreign affairs, for his conduct of the mission, and in 1843 a pension for the injuries he had received at the Caspian. An account of his journey was published in the ‘Asiatic Journal’ of July 1843.

Abbott returned to India in September 1841, and was appointed second in command of the Mairwara local battalion and assistant to Captain Dixon, the superintendent of Mairwara. In 1842 he was appointed assistant to the resident at Indore, with charge of Nimar, and in 1845 commissioner of Hazara. During his rule Hazara rose from desolation to prosperity. When Chatar Singh, the Sikh chief of Hazara, declared for Mulraj of Multan in 1848 and the second Sikh war broke out, Abbott had ‘gained such an influence over the inhabitants of the province that he could do whatever he pleased with a race whom the Sikhs could never control’ (governor-general to secret committee, 7 Sept. 1848). He used his influence to raise the whole population, and after many small affairs remained master of the district and of nearly all the forts. He drilled the raw levies of the mountaineers, and though he was for several months cut off from all communications with British troops, he baffled the superior forces of the Chatar Singh, and occupied with fifteen hundred matchlockmen the Marquella pass, and held at bay sixteen thousand Sikh troops and two thousand Afghan horse who were preparing to cross. When the battle of Gujrat,on 11 Feb. 1849, terminated the war, Abbott was still in his position at Nara, which he had held while twenty thousand Sikhs and Afghans were encamped within sight. For his services Abbott received the thanks of the governor-general of India in council, and of both British houses of parliament, the medal with clasps, and a brevet majority.

Abbott continued to rule in Hazara. In December 1852 he commanded the centre column of the successful expedition into the Black Mountains, destined to punish the Hasanzais for the murder of Messrs. Carne and Tapp, collectors of the salt tax. For his services he received the medal. He left Hazara in 1853, after entertaining the inhabitants on the Nara hill for three days and three nights. He spent all his substance on them and left with a month's pay in his pocket. Abbottabad, named after him, is a permanent memorial of his work in that country. He was made a companion of the order of the Bath, military division, on 24 May 1873, and a knight commander on 26 May 1894. Abbott retired from the active list on 1 Oct. 1877, and died at Ellerslie, Hyde, Isle of Wight, on 6 Oct. 1896. He married: (1) at Calcutta, in February 1844, Margaret Anne Harriet (d. 1845), eldest daughter of John Hutchison Fergusson of Trochraigne, near Girvan, Ayrshire, by whom he had a daughter Margaret H. A. Fergusson-Abbott; (2) in May 1868, Anna Matilda (d. 1870), youngest daughter of Major Reymond de Montmorency of the Indian army, by whom he had a son, James Reymond de Montmorency Abbott.

Abbott had both poetical feeling and literary ability. He was the author of the following works: 1. 'The T'Hakoorine, a Tale of Maandoo,' London, 1841, 8vo. 2. 'Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, during the late Russian Invasion of Khiva, with some Account of the Court of Khiva and the Kingdom of Khaurism,' London, 1843, 2 vols. 8vo; 2nd edit., with considerable additions, 1856; 3rd edit. 1884. 3. 'Prometheus's Daughter: a Poem,' London, 1861, 8vo.

[India Office Records; Despatches; Times, 8 Oct. 1896; Vibart's Addiscombe, its Heroes and Men of Note; Stubbs's History of the Bengal Artillery; Kaye's History of the War in Afghanistan; Kaye's Lives of Indian Officers; Royal Engineers Journal, 1893; The Afghan War, 1838-42, from the Journal and Correspondence of Major-general Augustus Abbott, by C. R. Low, 1879; The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars, by Gough and Innes, 1897; private sources.]

R. H. V.