Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Haughton, John Colpoys

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HAUGHTON, JOHN COLPOYS (1817–1887), lieutenant-general, late Bengal staff corps, son of Richard H. and Susanna Haughton, belonged to a family of that name (spelt more correctly Hoghton), settled in Lancashire ever since the Norman conquest, of which a branch went to Ireland. His father and his father's elder brother, Sir Graves Champney Haughton, K.H., F.R.S. [q. v.], were well-known orientalists. His grandfather, Dr. Haughton, was a Dublin physician. John Colpoys Haughton, was born in Dublin on 25 Nov. 1817. He was educated at Shrewsbury, and on 30 March 1830 was entered on the books of H.M.S. Magnificent, receiving ship at Jamaica, as a first-class volunteer. His relative, Admiral Edward Griffiths Colpoys, was then commanding on the West India, North American, and Newfoundland station. On 11 May 1832 he was appointed midshipman to the Fly, 18 guns, commander McQuhae, and on 8 Dec. 1834 to the Belvidera, 42 guns, Captain Stone, both on the above station, and on 12 Jan. 1835 was invalided from the royal navy. On 15 Feb. 1837 he obtained a Bengal cadetship, and on 9 Dec. 1837 was appointed ensign in the late 31st Bengal native infantry. He served in the Afghan war of 1839–42, during which he was appointed adjutant of the 4th light or Ghoorka regiment, in the service of the Shah Sooja, commanded by Captain Christopher Codrington, 49th Bengal native infantry. In April and May 1841 the 4th Ghoorkas was sent to occupy Char-ee-kar, a town of about three thousand inhabitants, about forty miles north of Cabul. Major Eldred Pottinger, who had shortly before become famous by his defence of Herat, was stationed at Lughmanee, three miles off, as political agent. Char-ee-kar was in the worst condition for defence, and the authorities discouraged expenditure for its improvement. On 2 Nov. 1841, the day on which Sir Alexander Burnes [q. v.] was killed at Cabul, an attack by insurgents was made on Lughmanee. After a gallant defence Pottinger (see Eyre, Narrative) had to take refuge in Char-ee-kar. Char-ee-kar was besieged by the insurgents, and most gallantly defended from the 5th to 14th Nov. under difficulties of every kind. The insurgents, though little better than a mob, amounted for some days to over twenty thousand armed men (Haughton, p. 14), and had control of the water supply. Pottinger, to whom the credit of the defence has been erroneously ascribed, was present in a political capacity, and confined to his bed by a wound. Codrington was killed on 6 Nov., and the command then devolved on Haughton (ib. p. 15). When the number of the garrison, originally seven hundred to eight hundred men, had been reduced to one half, and the men had been some days without water, it was decided to attempt to reach Cabul. Before this was done a mutiny occurred among some of the Shah's gunners, in which Haughton was cut down and grievously wounded in the neck, shoulder, and arm. The same night, 14 Nov., the Ghoorkas evacuated the place, leaving their sick and wounded behind. Most of them were dispersed and cut off by the way. Pottinger and Haughton, with his right hand freshly amputated, with his head hanging on his breast from the severing of the muscles of the neck, and held in his saddle by a faithful Ghoorka orderly, got separated from their following, and, after incredible fatigues, succeeded in reaching Cabul on 16 Nov., where they ‘were received as men risen from the dead’ (Eyre, Narrative). When Elphinstone withdrew from Cabul at the end of December 1841, Haughton was unable to move, and stayed with a friendly chief until after the second advance of the British under General Pollock. He was released from captivity on 21 Sept. 1842, when he collected the remains of his late regiment, and returned with Pollock to India. The Indian government recorded that Haughton's conduct at Char-ee-kar ‘was very creditable and marked by great gallantry’ (information supplied by the India Office), but he received no other reward. On 15 Dec. 1842 he was appointed lieutenant in the late 54th Bengal native infantry, his army rank dating from 16 July previous. He became captain in the regiment in 1852, and major in 1861. Haughton was appointed second in command of the Bundelkund police battalion on 8 Jan. 1844, was made first-class assistant to the governor-general's agent on the south-west frontier on 23 Feb. 1847, and principal assistant on 24 Dec. 1851. He was appointed magistrate at Moulmein and superintendent of gaols 5 Sept. 1853; superintendent at Fort Blair and the Andaman Islands on 19 July 1859; deputy commissioner first class Sibsagur, 17 March, and while acting commissioner accompanied the expedition to the Cossyah and Jyntiah hills in 1862–3, and the Bhootan expedition of 1864–5. He was commissioner at Cooch Behar from 16 May 1865 until 1873, and also managed the large estates of the infant maharajah, who had been made his ward. During this period he accompanied the expedition against the Garrows in 1872–3. On Haughton's superannuation in 1873, the lieutenant-governor of Bengal recorded the highest opinion of the services which he had rendered, especially in securing friendly relations with the hill tribes.

Haughton became lieutenant-colonel in the Bengal staff corps in 1863, and colonel in 1868. In 1866 he was made C.S.I., the only public recognition of his long and valued services. He attained the retired rank of major-general in 1880, and lieutenant-general in 1882. In 1867 Haughton published his account of Char-ee-kar, a second edition of which was brought out, for reasons stated in the preface, London, 1879, 8vo. Haughton died at Ramsgate on 17 Sept. 1887.

In person Haughton was over six feet in height, with a spare wiry frame capable of great physical endurance, aquiline features, and a kindly, resolute face. He married, first, at Calcutta, 16 June 1845, Jessie Eleanor, daughter of Colonel Presgrove, H.E.I.C.S., by whom he had four children, of whom two sons and a daughter survived him; secondly, in January 1874, Barbara Emma, daughter of the Rev. Canon Pleydell Bouverie, by whom he had no issue.

[Information from the Admiralty, India Office, and family sources; East India Registers and Army Lists, 1837–60; Haughton's Char-ee-kar (2nd edit. London, 1879); Sir Vincent Eyre's Kabul Insurrection of 1841–2 (revised by Malleson, 1879). For Indian press notices, see Friend of India, 10 July 1865; Indian Statesman, 1873; Overland Mail and Homeward Mail, 24 Sept. 1 Oct. 1887.]

H. M. C.