Smith, Joseph (1733?-1790) (DNB01)

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SMITH, JOSEPH (1733?–1790), soldier, born in 1732 or 1733, was the son of an engineer officer in the East India Company's service. In 1752 he served with rank of ensign under Clive in the Carnatic, and on 4 Sept. he discovered a large body of European and native troops hastening to relieve Chengalpat. By his prompt warning he largely assisted in their defeat. On 21 April 1753 he was detached with forty Europeans and two hundred sipahis from Arcot to act with the Nabob's forces against the French. Being deserted by the Nabob's troops in an action which took place between Arcot and Vellore, he was made prisoner and carried to Vellore.

After his release he attained the rank of captain, and in September 1754 commanded a strong detachment stationed at Koiladi to protect the coolies who were repairing the watercourses there. In 1755 he accompanied the expedition under Lieutenant-colonel Heron to Madura, and was in command of the rearguard when it was attacked in the pass of Natam. Much of the baggage was lost, but Smith succeeded in preserving the guns and ammunition of the force from capture. In May 1 757, during the absence of Captain Calliaud, he was in command of the garrison at Trichinopoli while it was unsuccessfully besieged by the French. He remained in that as second in command until the departure of Calliaud on 15 Sept. 1758, when he was again left in charge. The post was one of some responsibility owing to the number of French prisoners confined in the town, who frequently outnumbered the European garrison by more than five to one. In March 1760 he was ordered to reinforce the troops under Major George Monson [q.v.] besieging Karikal, and arrived on 3 April in time to assist in the reduction of the place. In September he was appointed to the rank of major, and placed in command of a brigade during the siege of Pondicherry by Monson and (Sir) Eyre Coote (1726-1783) [q. v.]

Smith proceeded to England on leave about 1763, returning with the rank of colonel in September 1766. He was selected to proceed to Haidarabad to concert operations against Haidar All with Nizam Ali. On the commencement of hostilities he warned the Madras government of the bad faith of the Nizam, but failed to convince them that the Nizam was secretly concerting measures with Haidar against Madras. He was in command of the forces intended to co-operate with the Nizam, and, assured of his treachery, moved towards the Madras frontier. At the end of August the combined forces of Haidar and the Nizam burst into the province, but Smith opposed their advance at the pass of Cbengama on 3 Sept. He was worsted and compelled to retreat, but defeated the confederates in the neighbourhood of Trinomalai on 26 Sept., when the confederates lost four thousand men and sixty-four guns. Having thus cleared the province of the enemy, Smith placed his army in cantonments. The failure of the invasion and of some later operations induced the Nizam to open negotiations with Smith, and a treaty was concluded on 23 Feb. 1768. His subsequent operations were hampered by the injudicious plan of campaign forced upon him by the Madras council, by their neglect of the commissariat, and by the incompetence of one or two of the English officers ; but it is probable that his skill and courage saved Madras from serious disaster, and even from conquest. Haidar had the highest respect for his military talents, and, on the conclusion of peace in 1769, desired an interview with him and requested his portrait. His reputation was so great in Southern India that on 4 Oct. 1768 a considerable detachment of the companies under Colonel Wood was saved from defeat by Haidar by the happy stratagem of raising shouts of 'Smith,' as if that commander had arrived with reinforcements.

Shortly after the conclusion of peace he attained the rank of major-general, and in August 1773 he undertook the siege of Tanjore, which was carried by assault on 17 Sept.

This was his last action of importance, and shortly afterwards he retired to England. He died at his house in the Circus at Bath on 1 Sept. 1790.

[Orme's Hist. of Military Transactions in Indostan, 1861; Wilks's Hist. Sketches of the South of India, Madras, 1869; Mill's Hist. of India, ed. Wilson, iii. 473-8; Gent. Mag. 1790, ii. 861.]

E. I. C.