Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/107

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Cunningham
Cunningham
95

promise of brevet rank. During the next two years (1844 and 1845) he acted as executive engineer at Gwalior, where he left as a memorial a stone bridge of ten arches over the river Morar. In February 1846 he was summoned to join the army of the Sutlej, just before the decisive battle of Sobraon. His special work was to throw two bridges of boats across the river Bias for the passage of the troops, by which he established his reputation as a field engineer. As one of the results of the first Sikh war the entire tract between the Sutlej and Bias rivers was annexed and placed under the charge of John Lawrence, who nominated Cunningham to the responsible task of occupying the hill tracts of Kangra and Kulu. In reward for his successful conduct of this business, and probably also because of his previous acquaintance with the country, he was chosen to demarcate the frontier between the Kashmir province of Ladakh and independent Tibet, far amid the Himalayan ranges. At first he had to return, but ultimately he accomplished the task, in company with Sir Richard Strachey. In the meantime he had also settled the boundary between the Rajput state of Bikanir and the Muhammadan state of Bahawalpur, which meet in the Indian desert. The second Sikh war (1848-9) saw Cunningham again serving as field engineer, in command of the pontoon train. He was present at the two battles of Chilianwala and Gujerat, was mentioned in despatches, and received a brevet majority. On the restoration of peace he returned to Gwalior, and it was during this period that he explored the Buddhist monuments of Central India. In 1853 he was transferred to Multan, where he designed the monument to Patrick Alexander Vans Agnew [q. v.] and W. A. Anderson, whose treacherous murder formed the prelude to the second Sikh war. In 1856, now lieutenant-colonel, he was appointed to the higher post of chief engineer in Burma, which province was then freshly annexed. He had to extricate the accounts from confusion and organise a public works department. This he did within two years, finding time also to visit every out-station in the province from Toungoo to Tavoy. It was thus his fate to be absent from India during the mutiny. After its suppression he was appointed (November 1858) chief engineer in the North- Western Provinces, where similar work of reorganisation had to be performed. He retired from the army with the rank of major-general on 30 June 1861, after a continuous Indian service of twenty-eight years.

In the very year of his retirement Cunningham commenced a new career of activity, by which he is better known than as a soldier or administrator. Lord Canning, having resolved to create the new post of archaeological surveyor to the government of India, found Cunningham ready to fill it. In his early days Cunningham had formed the acquaintance of James Prinsep [q. v.], the founder of the scientific study of Indian coins and inscriptions. The first of his many contributions to the 'Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society' consists of an appendix to Prinsep's paper in 1834, on the relics discovered in the Manikyala Tope, in the Punjab, then and long afterwards Sikh territory. In 1837 he excavated on his own responsibility as was the fashion of the time the group of Buddhist ruins near Benares, known as Sarnath, and made careful drawings of the sculptures. His visits to Kashmir and work on the boundary commission bore fruit in two monographs—'Essay on the Arian Order of Architecture as exhibited in the Temples of Kashmir' (Calcutta, 1848), and 'Ladakh: Physical, Statistical, and Historical' (1854), the latter of which, published at the expense of the court of directors, won the commendation of the French- Geographical Society. The results of his exploration in Central India with his friend Colonel Maisey, 'The Bhilsa Topes' (also 1854), forms the first serious attempt to reconstruct the history of Buddhism from its architectural remains. On his appointment to his new post of archaeological surveyor, Cunningham was therefore equipped not only with knowledge but also with a store of accumulated materials, which enabled him to produce four valuable reports within as many years. In 1865, in a cold fit of parsimony, his department was abolished, and he came home to England. His leisure was occupied in writing 'The Ancient Geography of India,' Part i. 'The Buddhist Period' (1871), which he intended to follow up with another volume (never written) on the Muhammadan period. This book, which deals mainly with the campaigns of Alexander and the itineraries of the Chinese pilgrims, is absolutely indispensable to the historian. In 1870 Lord Mayo re-established the archaeological survey, and called Cunningham back to India with the title of director-general. For fifteen years more Cunningham energetically carried out the duties of his office. Every cold season he minutely explored some portion of the immense ruin-strewn plain of Northern India, from Taxila on the west to Gaur on the east. Of twenty-four annual reports, thirteen