Pearse, Thomas Deane (DNB00)

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PEARSE, THOMAS DEANE (1738?–1789), colonel, born about 1738, after serving as lieutenant in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, was appointed second lieutenant royal artillery on 24 Oct. 1761, first lieutenant on 3 Feb. 1766, and was transferred to the East India Company's service in February 1768. He was made major in the Bengal artillery on 2 Sept. 1768, lieutenant-colonel on 30 Oct. 1769, and colonel on 12 June 1779. In India he was high in the favour of Warren Hastings, the governor-general, and acted as Hastings's second in his duel with Sir Philip Francis [q. v.] on 17 Aug. 1779.

In 1781, on the formation of the Bengal sepoy corps, Warren Hastings resolved on sending a detachment of five regiments to the relief of the presidency of Fort St. George. This important force was assembled at Midnapoor, and the command of it was conferred on Pearse. Artillery officers of the East India Company's army, in the early wars in India, held general commands, and were not, as in the royal artillery, confined to their department of the army. The detachment consisted of the 12th, 13th, 24th, 25th, and 26th regiments. They proceeded on their march through Orissa and the northern circars; and, having reached the vicinity of Madras about the middle of 1781, the Bengal troops joined the other forces in the field, under the commander-in-chief, Sir Eyre Coote [q. v.]; and during the arduous warfare in which they were engaged from that period down to the cessation of hostilities before Cudalore in June 1783, the Bengal corps, under Pearse, established for themselves a lasting reputation. The attack on the French lines at Cudalore was one of the first occasions on which European troops and the disciplined natives of India had met at the point of the bayonet. Lieutenant (afterwards Sir) John Kennaway [q. v.] was Pearse's Persian secretary in the campaign. Some two thousand out of the five thousand troops, the veteran remains of those gallant corps, returned to Bengal early in 1785, when their encampment was visited by the governor-general in person, and his testimony of their services was recorded in the general orders issued at Fort William on 22 Jan. 1785, and three days later in the camp at Ghyretty. In the latter the governor-general desires that ‘the commanding officer, Colonel Pearse, whom he is proud to call his friend, will make [his thanks] known in public orders to the officers, his countrymen, and to the native officers and private sepoys of the detachment.’ For his services in the defence of the company's territories in the Carnatic Pearse received a sword of honour.

In May 1785 Pearse contributed a paper on ‘Two Hindu Festivals and the Indian Sphinx’ to the proceedings of the Asiatic Society at Calcutta, which was subsequently published in ‘Dissertations and Miscellaneous Pieces relating to the History and Antiquities … of Asia, by Sir W. Jones … and others, Dublin,’ 1793. Pearse died on the Ganges on 15 June 1789.

[India Office Records; Philippart's East India Military Calendar; Malleson's Decisive Battles of India, cf. Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 29147–193 (Warren Hastings Papers).]

B. H. S.