Welsh, James (DNB00)

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WELSH, JAMES (1775–1861), general, Madras infantry, son of John Welsh, a Scotsman, was born on 12 March 1775. He obtained a commission as ensign in the army of the East India Company on 22 May 1790, and arrived at Madras on 23 Jan. 1791. He joined the 3rd European regiment at Velur, and in November ascended the ghats with Colonel Floyd's detachment to serve in the grand army under Lord Cornwallis.

Welsh was promoted to be lieutenant in the 24th native infantry on 1 Nov. 1792, and took part with it in the siege of Pondicherry in July and August 1793. Transferred in 1795 to the 9th native infantry at Mandura, he served at the capture of Colombo and Ceylon in February 1796, and remained at Point-de-Galle as fort-adjutant until the end of 1798, when he was transferred in the same capacity to Machlipatnam.

On 10 Dec. 1799 Welsh was promoted to be captain, and appointed adjutant and quartermaster of the 3rd native infantry, which in 1803 formed part of a force under Major-general Arthur Wellesley to operate against the Marathas. He marched with it across India to Puna, and in June took part in the siege of Ahmadnagar, which was successfully stormed on 12 Aug.

Welsh served on the staff at the battle of Argaum (29 Nov.), in the siege and assault (15 Dec.) of Gawilgarh, and led a body of 250 men, after a forced march of fifty-four miles, to the capture of Mankarsir on 6 Feb. 1804. He was appointed judge-advocate and assistant surveyor to the Puna subsidiary force, and, marching with it, in August took part in the assault and capture of Chandur on the 10th and the occupation of Dhurp on 14 Oct. He commanded a party of three hundred men at the capture of Galnah on 26 Oct., and on 13 Nov. proceeded with a small force to open communication through a difficult country, with Surat, where he arrived on the 25th. In December Welsh was sent on a mission to a Bhil chief by an unexplored pass to the northward, and caught a malignant fever which clung to him for many years.

On 15 May 1805 Welsh succeeded to the command of his battalion at Puna, continuing to hold his staff appointment until the end of the year, when he marched with his regiment to Palamkotta in the Karnatak, arriving on 27 March. He was in command there on 19 Nov., when, as the garrison were assembling under arms, he discovered a plot among the native troops to murder all the Europeans at the station. Acting with the greatest promptitude, he seized the ringleaders, disarmed the native soldiers, and expelled the Muhammadans from the fort. He was tried by court-martial for precipitate conduct in having disarmed the native garrison with insufficient cause, but was honourably acquitted on 20 March 1807, and congratulated by government on this vindication of his reputation. Welsh was promoted to be major on 22 May 1807, and went home on furlough.

Rejoining his regiment on 5 Feb. 1809 before the lines of Travancore, where it formed part of a force under Colonel St. Leger, Welsh led the storming party in the successful assault of those formidable defences on the night of 10 Feb. He was mentioned in despatches, and the court of directors of the East India Company bore high testimony to his services on the occasion, observing that the achievement reflected the utmost credit on Welsh, ‘who led the storming party in a manner that does singular honour to his intrepidity and perseverance’ (Political Despatch, 29 Sept. 1809). On 19 Feb. 1809 he led the advance from the south, and was successful in capturing several hill forts, arriving at Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore, on 2 March.

In April 1812 he commanded a small force sent to quell a rising in the Wainad, which he accomplished after a month of heavy marching and desultory fighting. He was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel on 25 Jan. 1813, and was appointed deputy judge-advocate-general, residing at Bengalur.

On 6 Feb. 1821 Welsh was appointed to command the troops in the provinces of Malaba and Canara; on 6 May 1823 to command at Velur; on 23 Jan. 1824 to command in Travancore and Cochin; and on 1 Aug. 1826 to command the Doab field force. He arrived at Belgaum in September, and was immediately engaged with the resident in measures which were successful in preventing a threatened rising at Kolapur.

Early in 1829 Welsh went to England on furlough. He was promoted to be colonel on 5 June. In the following year he published ‘Military Reminiscences, from a Journal of nearly forty years' Active Service in the East Indies,’ with over ninety illustrations (2 vols. 8vo, two editions). The work remains useful for its descriptions of places and military incidents in southern India.

Welsh did not return to India until his promotion to major-general on 10 Jan. 1837. He was appointed on 1 June to the command of the northern division, Madras presidency, to which was added, in November 1838, the command in Katak. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 9 Nov. 1846, and relinquished his command on 16 Feb. following. On leaving India the governor in council expressed the high sense entertained of the gallantry and zeal which had marked his service of fifty-eight years. He was promoted to be general on 20 June 1854. He died at North Parade, Bath, on 24 Jan. 1861. Welsh married at Calcutta, in 1794, a daughter of Francis Light, first governor of Prince of Wales's Island, Penang, by whom he had a numerous family.

[India Office Records; Royal Military Calendar, 1820; Allibone's Dictionary of English Literature; Annual Register, 1861; Welsh's Military Reminiscences; Literary Gazette, Spectator, Scotsman, and London Monthly Review of 1830.]

R. H. V.