Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Littler, John Hunter

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LITTLER, Sir JOHN HUNTER (1783–1856), lieutenant-general, Indian army, eldest son of Thomas Littler and his wife, daughter of John Hunter, a director of the East India Company, was born on 6 Jan. 1783 at Tarvin, Cheshire, where his family had been established for many generations. He was educated, under the Rev. Dr. Devonport, at the grammar school at Acton, near Nantwich. On 19 Aug. 1800 he was appointed ensign in the 10th Bengal native infantry, and in that regiment became lieutenant on 29 Nov. the same year, captain on 16 Dec. 1812, and major on 22 Sept. 1824. He went out to India in the Kent Indiaman, which was taken by a French privateer in the Bay of Bengal. The passengers were sent adrift in a pinnace, but arrived safely at their destination. Littler served with his regiment in the campaigns under Lord Lake in 1804–5, and at the reduction of Java in 1811. He returned from Java to India in 1816, and served as sub-assistant commissary-general in the Marquis of Hastings's army, continuing in the post until 1824. He became lieutenant-colonel of the 14th Bengal native infantry in 1828, and colonel of the 36th Bengal native infantry in 1839, the colonelcy of which he retained until his death. In 1841 he was promoted to be major-general, and in 1843 was appointed to command the Agra division of the Bengal army. He commanded a division of Sir Hugh Gough's army at the defeat of the Mahrattas at Maharajpore on 29 Dec. 1843, where he was slightly wounded, and had two horses killed under him. He received for his services the thanks of parliament and star, and was made K.C.B. on 2 May 1844. At the outbreak of the first Sikh war in 1845 he was in command of the Ferozepore division, ten thousand strong. Leaving half his troops to protect the ill-fortified cantonment, he marched with the rest to meet the Sikhs, when they first crossed the Sutlej on 11 Dec., but they declined the challenge although they outnumbered Littler's force by ten to one, and turned aside to Ferozeshah. He skilfully effected a junction with Gough's army on 21 Dec. 1845, and at the battle of Ferozeshah on 21–2 Dec. following commanded a division, and again had a horse killed under him, receiving a second time the thanks of parliament and a medal. At the close of the campaign he was appointed to command at Lahore, and in 1849 was made G.C.B., and appointed a provisional member of council and deputy-governor of Bengal. While at Calcutta, Littler was presented by the inhabitants with a service of plate and an address, in recognition of his long and valuable services. He returned home, with the rank of lieutenant-general, in 1851. The remainder of his life was passed in retirement at his seat, Bigaden, Devonshire, where he died on 18 Feb. 1856. He was buried at Tarvin, Cheshire. He married in 1827 Helen Olympia, only daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Henry Stewart, a claimant of the Orkney peerage, and by her left four daughters.

[East India Registers and Army Lists; Marshman's Hist. of India, vol. iii.; Malleson's Decisive Battles of India—Ferozeshah (Firózshohah), and list of authorities in preface; Parl. Debates, 1846, Sikh War; Gent. Mag. 1856, pt. i. p. 423.]

H. M. C.