Lawrence, Stringer (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


LAWRENCE, STRINGER (1697–1775), major-general, 'father of the Indian army,' son of John Lawrence of Hereford and Mary, his wife, was born on 6 March (24 Feb. O.S.) 1697. The register of All Saints' Church, Hereford, records his baptism on 27 Feb. (O.S.) in the same year. His family is not mentioned by Duncumb (Hereford Collections). His name cannot be traced in the public record offices of London and Dublin, but he appears to have been appointed ensign at Gibraltar on 22 Dec. 1727, in General Jasper Clayton's regiment (afterwards the 14th foot, and now the West York) (manuscript Army List in War Office Library). It is not unlikely that he had served in the ranks of some regiment during the previous siege (cf. Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 23643). Lawrence became lieutenant in Clayton's on 11 March 1736. His name appears on the roll as late as 1745, but not in 1748 (manuscript Army Lists in War Office Library). During his period of service in it, the regiment was long at Gibraltar, and was employed as marines in Sir Charles Wager's fleet on the coast of Italy during the war between the Spaniards and Imperialists. It went to Flanders after Fontenoy, but returned immediately, and fought at Culloden. In 'Quarters of the Army' (Dublin Castle), 1748–9, Stringer Lawrence appears as a major in Hougnton's (45th foot) by mistake for Charles Lawrence [q. v.], who died a brigadier-general and governor of Nova Scotia in 1760.

In January 1748, when Dupleix at Pondicherry was initiating his plans for establishing French supremacy in Southern India, Lawrence, a stout hale man of fifty, described as a soldier of great experience, arrived at Fort St. David from England with a commission as major to command all the company's troops in the East Indies, and a salary of 820l. a year, inclusive of his allowance as member of council (Wilson, Hist. Madras Army, i. 25). He received the king's brevet of 'major in the East Indies only' 9 Feb. the same year. One of his first acts was to form the independent companies of European foot, which the company had long maintained for the defence of their factories, into a battalion five hundred strong, the Madras European regiment, afterwards the famous Madras fusiliers (now the 1st Dublin fusiliers). In June 1748 Lawrence cleverly foiled an attempted French surprise of Cuddalore during the temporary absence of the British naval squadron under Admiral Thomas Griffin [q. v.] A feint of withdrawal led the French to try a midnight escalade, when an unexpected fire of artillery and small arms sent them back precipitately to Pondicherry. In August arrived Admiral Edward Boscawen [q. v.], with a fleet carrying a large force of marines, and a commission to command in chief by land as well as sea. Boscawen sent Lawrence to attack Ariancopang, a small French post close to Pondicherry, where he was made prisoner by a French cavalry patrol, was carried into Pondicherry, and there detained during the unsuccessful siege by Boscawen, and until the news of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle led to a cessation of hostilities and the restoration to the English of the city of Madras. In 1749 Lawrence commanded at the capture of Devicota, in Tanjore. Clive served under him as a lieutenant of foot on this occasion, and the friendship then commenced lasted through life. The year after Lawrence was sent with six hundred Europeans to the camp of Nazir Jung, successor of the great Nizam al Mulk as ruler of the Deccan, to treat with him in the interests of the company; but, disgusted with the treatment of his troops, he marched them back to Fort St. David, of which place he was made civil governor as well as military commandant. He appears to have had much trouble with his officers at this time (cf. Parl. Hist. xv. 260 et seq.) Lawrence returned to England on private affairs in October 1750.

Upon his return to Fort St. David, 13 March 1752, Lawrence found Olive at the head of a force destined for the relief of Prichinopoly, the last refuge of Mohammed Ali, the nabob of Arcot, who was there besieged by Chunda Sahib and his French allies. Lawrence, as senior officer, assumed the command, but with sound sense and in a manly spirit he wrote to the Madras government that Olive's successes were not due to luck but to good judgment (Malcolm, Life of Clive, i. 103). The English expedition was everywhere successful, and the operations concluded with the surrender of Chunda Sahib (who was treacherously put to death by the Mahrattas) and the surrender, on 3 June 1752, on the island of Seringham, opposite Trichinopoly, of the French beleaguering force under M. Law, when eight hundred Europeans, including thirty-five commissioned officers, and two thousand trained sepoys laid down their arms. It was one of the heaviest blows yet struck at Dupleix's policy. After the capture of Volconda and Trevadi, Lawrence placed garrisons in Trevadi and Trichinopoly, where he left Captain John Dalton (1726–1811) [q. v.] in command, and returned to Fort St. David. Next month the French, having received reinforcements, were again in the field, and on 26 Aug. 1752 were defeated by Lawrence, with an inferior force, at Bahur (Behoor). As usual, the brunt of the fighting fell to the Europeans on both sides, and the action is remembered as one of the few on record where bayonets were fairly crossed. The English grenadiers broke the ranks of the French, who in their heavy loss reckoned, it is said, over one hundred casualties from bayonet-thrusts alone (Hist. of the Madras European Regiment, pp. 77-8). Clive was afterwards employed by Lawrence in the reduction of Covelong and Chingleput, services he successfully accomplished [see Clive, Robert]. In January 1753 the French, undaunted by their reverses, were once more in the field with five hundred Europeans, sixty European cavalry, two thousand trained sepoys, and a fine body of four thousand Mahratta horse, under Morari Rao, who had previously fought on the side of the English, iawrence's whole available force had to be employed in convoying supplies to Trevadi, and the march was a continuous running fight with the Mahratta horsemen, who displayed great gallantry. Morari Rao was shot by an English grenadier, whose comrade he had just cut down. Out of respect to the memory of a brave man, Lawrence placed the body of the Mahratta chieftain in his own palankeen, and sent it in with a flag of truce, and a request that the palankeen be returned. The latter, however, was taken to Pondicherry and paraded through the streets to show the natives that the English were defeated and Lawrence killed. Finding the position taken up by the French close to Trevadi too strong for attack as intended, Lawrence was considering the advisability of carrying the war into other quarters, when, on 20 April, news reached him from Dalton at Trichinopoly of the straits to which he was reduced. Lawrence at once started for Trichinopoly, and entered that place after a most arduous march, during which he lost many men by the heat, on 6 May (N.S.) 1753. From that time until 11 Oct. 1754 he was constantly engaged in defending the place, his most important engagements during the period being the battles of Golden Rock, 26 Jan. 1753, and of Sugarloaf Rock, 21 Sept. 1753 (Mill, iii. 135). Lawrence appears to have advocated the cession of the place in accordance with treaty arrangements, but was overruled by the Madras authorities, who, like the French, attached an exaggerated importance to the possession. After successfully keeping his opponents at bay for over fifteen months, Lawrence, on the approach of the rains in 1754, withdrew his troops into cantonments, and on 11 Oct. that year arranged a three months' cessation of hostilities, which ended in a conditional treaty. 'A Narrative of Affairs on the Coast of Coromandel from 1730 to 1764.' written by Lawrence himself forms the first part of the 'History of the War in India.' London, 1759, 4to (2nd edition, 1761, 8vo), compiled by Richard Owen Cambridge [q. v.] Lawrence returned from Trichinopoly to Madras, where he was presented by the government with a diamond-hilted sword, valued at 750 guineas, in recognition of his distinguished services. He received the king's commission of 'lieutenant-colonel in the East Indies only' from 26 Feb. 1754. The first king's regiment which had served in India — the 89th foot (Primus in Indis) — arrived in 1754, under Colonel John Adlercron, who, by seniority, superseded Lawrence in the chief command. Lawrence regarded the supersession by an officer unversed in Indian affairs as an injustice, and he steadily refused to serve under Adlercron's orders. But during a period of alarm in 1757, when Clive was away in Bengal, Lawrence offered his services, and was welcomed in Adlercron's camp as a volunteer. In that capacity he served in the operations against Wandiwash, and afterwards, receiving the local rank of brigadier-general, commanded in various operations in 1757-9. The latter year saw the return of the 39th to England, and the first formation of the Madras native army by the union in battalions of the independent companies of sepoys, armed and drilled in European fashion on the plan originally adopted by the French at Pondicherry (Wilson, Hist. Madras Army, i. 142). Lawrence commanded in Fort St. George during the famous siege by the French under Lally, when between 17 Dec. 1758 and 17 Feb. 1759 over twenty-six thousand shot, eight thousand shells, and two hundred thousand rounds of small-arm ammunition were poured into the place. On the arrival of an English fleet under Admiral Focock, the French withdrew to Pondicherry. Lawrence afterwards successfully persuaded the Madras authorities against any reduction or withdrawal of the English force in the field.

Lawrence's health had suffered severely during his past campaigns, and in March 1759 he represented his inability to retain the command. He received the rank which he held at his death, that of 'major-general in the East Indies only,' on 9 Feb. 1759, and at the end of that year he left India, carrying with him the respect of both Europeans and natives. He was received with high honours at the India House, where his statue was placed in the sale-room, beside those of Clive and Pocock. His friend Clive supplemented his modest income by settling on him an annuity of 500l. (Malcolm, Life of Clive, ii. 187). Lawrence appears to have been consulted by the home government in 1763 respecting the transfer of king's officers to the company's ordnance (cf. Cal. State Papers, Home Office, 1760-6). In October 1760 he was president of a board ordered to advise on the reorganisation of the Madras army (see Wilson, Hist. Madras Army, i. 213) This appears to have been Lawrence s last recorded service. One of his monuments (that at Dunchideock) describes him as having held the chief command in India 'from 1747 to 1767.' Lawrence died at his residence in Bruton Street, London, on 10 Jan. 1775, within a few weeks after the death of Clive. He was buried on 22 Jan. 1775, in the little village church of Dunchideock, near Exeter, which contains his tomb, erected by the Palk family, with an epitaph by Hannah More (see Gent. Mag. lxiv. 730). Except an annuity of 800l. to a married nephew named Twine, and bequests to servants, he bequeathed all his effects to his friend, Robert Palk, governor of Madras in 1763, and afterwards the first baronet of Haldon (cf. Foster, Peerage, under 'Haldon'), whose son, Lawrence, afterwards the second baronet, was Lawrence's godson. A tall column, set up by the Pains on Haldon Hill, near Exeter, is known as the Lawrence monument. In after years the East India Company erected a monument to Lawrence in Westminster Abbey, surmounted by his bust by Taylor, and inscribed: 'For Discipline established, Fortresses protected, Settlements extended, French and Indian armies defeated, and Peace restored in the Carnatic.' Monuments exist at Madras and Calcutta. A portrait of Lawrence by Sir Joshua Reynolds is in the India office.

Sir John Malcolm says (Life of Clive, ii. 66) that Lawrence neither was nor pretended to be a statesman, but was an excellent officer. Though without the brilliancy of genius, he showed sound practical knowledge, good judgment, and a marked absence of jealousy. He was especially generous in recognising the merits of his subordinates, and to this quality we are not a little indebted for the early successes of Clive.

[Cambridge's Hist. of the War in India (2nd edit. 1761); Orme's Military Trans, in Indoostan (London, 1803), a narrative that was verified by comparison with the records at Fort St. George by Colonel Mark Wilks; Hist. Sketches S. India (London, 1869); Mills Hist, of India, vol. iii.; Wilson's Hist. Madras Army (Madras, 1881-3), vol. i.; Hist, of the Madras Fusiliers (London, 1843); Philippart's East India Mil. Calendar (London, 1823), vol. ii.; Malcolm and Wilson's Biographies of Clive, and Macaulay's Essay on Clive; Malleson's Dupleix, a biography (London, 1890). The Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. contain a few letters of Lawrence between 1754 and 1759.]

H. M. C.