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№ 79


17 September 2004

Hammer Price:

The Gwalior and Indian Mutiny campaign pair to Captain Fletcher Hayes, 62nd Bengal N.I., Military Secretary to Sir Henry Lawrence, murdered by mutineers on 1st June 1857

Maharajpoor Star 1843 (Lieutt. Hayes, Late A.D.C. to Sir Hugh Gough, G.C.B.) the central silver star hand tooled, the reverse with replacement suspension and fitted with small eyelets at four points, one eyelet now mostly lacking

Indian Mutiny 1857-59, no clasp (Captn. F. C. C. Hayes, 62nd Bengal Native Infy.) very fine and better

Fletcher Fulton Compton Hayes, the only son of Captain Sir John Hayes, Indian Navy, was born at Calcutta on 9 January 1818, and nominated for a Cadetship by J. Loch, Esq., on the recommendation of his mother, Lady Hayes. He entered Addiscombe in February 1834, and was commissioned Ensign on 11 December 1835. He quickly mastered the native languages, and was ‘exempted from further examination except by the Examiners of the College of Fort William’. In 1838 he was appointed to officiate as Interpreter and Quartermaster, and at the Major-General’s inspection that year was found to be ‘a very intelligent and promising young man’.

In January 1840 his special talents attracted the attention of Major (later Major-General Sir) William Sleeman who selected him for employment as one of his dozen or so youthful assistants. Sleeman was the General Superintendent for the Suppression of Thuggee, and it was the task of ‘Thuggee’ Sleeman’s young men to build up a list of the members of each Thug gang and construct an accurate narrative of the incidents in which that gang had been involved each hunting season for the last ten to fifteen years. Sleeman, in recommending Hayes for a permanent appointment in the Thuggee Department, agreed that he was ‘a very promising officer who will always give satisfaction’.

In September 1840, Hayes left Sleeman’s department and was appointed a Junior Assistant to the Commissioner of the Saugor Division. He became Lieutenant on 30 March 1841, and following a spell of regimental duty was appointed acting Adjutant to the Cavalry of the Bundelkhund Legion in early 1843. In December of that year, he took part in the Gwalior Campaign and, with ‘Captain Sir R. Shakespeare of the Artillery, Captain Curtis [qv] of the 37th N.I. and Lieutenant Macdonald of the 2nd Madras Light Cavalry’, he earned the ‘best thanks’ of Sir Hugh Gough, to whom they all acted as Aides-de-Camp at the battle of Maharajpoor (
London Gazette 8 March 1844). Hayes married Frances Henrietta, the only daughter of Robert Torrens C.B., the Adjutant General of H.M’s Forces in India, while on furlough in 1847. Unusually, Hayes then, at the somewhat advanced age of twenty-nine, matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford.

Promoted while still on furlough in 1848, he returned to India as a Captain and by the early 1850’s, had established a reputation in the world of letters as a respected Orientalist and author. During the painful and ill-judged annexation of Oudh in 1856, Hayes proved himself ‘an able and skilful diplomatist’. Hayes was subsequently appointed Military Secretary to the new Chief Commissioner, Sir Henry Lawrence. Late on the night of 20 May 1857, Lawrence received an urgent request for troops from Sir Hugh Wheeler at Cawnpore. By dawn fifty-four men of the 32nd Light Infantry, 240 men of the 2nd Oudh Irregular Cavalry, under Lieutenant Barbor, together with Mr Fayrer, a volunteer, and two guns of the Oudh Artillery, under Lieutenant Ashe, were assembled. Lawrence instructed Hayes to accompany the force and to report back to him after talking to Wheeler and establishing what course events were taking at Cawnpore, and to see if it were still possible to communicate with Delhi. It was originally Hayes’s intention to travel in his carriage but he and other owners gave up their conveyances to the soldiers of the 32nd who, as Hayes himself put it, ‘represented 300 rounds of balled ammunition, ready at any moment for anybody, [and] I thought that they were of far greater importance than any number of military secretaries’.

On arrival at Cawnpore Hayes was horrified by the scenes of fear and panic amongst the European population. Having been welcomed into the Main Guard, he was shocked to see how Wheeler was hectored by those about him. For the next few nights gunners stood by their guns lest the entrenchment was taken by surprise. But when Hayes joined Wheeler one evening on his tour of inspection he was appalled by their lack of discipline: ‘We came upon one half battery without any challenge or least exhibition of any alarm on the part of the gunners,’ Hayes reported, ‘I walked up and put my hand on one of the guns, and could have spiked all three with the greatest of ease ... Some little time afterwards the officer in charge was found asleep and was immediately put under arrest ... Dempster, the Adjutant of the Artillery, was so worn out with watching at night and performing other duties, that, seeing he was so done up and could not look after both batteries, I said I would take one, and accordingly remained in charge till daybreak.’

On 27 May Hayes left Cawnpore to investigate the state of communications to the north, taking with him 240 troopers of the 2nd Oudh Irregular Cavalry. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Barbor, Mr Fayrer, a volunteer, and Captain Carey, 17th N.I., an old acquaintance who, continuing his journey north, accepted Hayes’s invitation to join him. On the 31st, about one hundred miles from Cawnpore, Hayes learnt that a local Rajah had thrown aside British rule and left the body of Irregular Cavalry under Barbor and Fayrer and went off with Carey to consult with the civil authorities eight miles away at Mynpoorie concerning an attack against the rebel Rajah. Carey’s own account of the subsequent events was penned at Mynpoorie on Tuesday the 2nd of June 1857:

‘I thank God that I am at this moment alive and well, and that I am able to write and tell you so; for last night we buried in the churchyard here my three poor companions, who were ruthlessly murdered by the sowars we were taking with us to assist in suppressing the mutinous spirit rising in these districts. I wrote to you from camp Gosanjunje three or four days ago. On arrival at Bowgous about half past 7 p.m. on Saturday, Hayes determined upon cantering into Mynpoorie, about eight miles, to consult with the magistrate about attacking the Etah rajah, who had set himself up as king, and set our rule in defiance. All Sunday we remained at Mynpoorie, sending poor Barbor, the adjutant of the 2nd irregular cavalry, directions to proceed up to Kurrowlee, and that there we would join him on Monday morning. The
thanadar came in from Bowgous saying our men were mutinying, and begged us not to trust them; but when Hayes’s escort came in the evening, and said their men had been complaining about the long marches etc, we thought it was nothing. Well, we cantered along, all merrily, in the morning, talking of how we would open the road to Allygurh, and carry all before us; and after riding about eleven miles we came up in sight of the men apparently going along the road and quite orderly. They were on one road we the other. I said “Lets cross the plain and meet them.” As we approached they faced towards us and halted, and when we had cantered up to within fifty yards, one or two native officers rode out to meet us, and said in a low voice, “Fly, Sahibs, fly.”’

‘Upon this poor Hayes said to me as we wheeled round our horses, “Well, we must now fly for our lives,” and away we went with the two troops after us like demons, yelling and sending bullets from their carbines flying all round us. Thank God neither my horse nor I was hit. Hayes was riding on the side nearest the troopers, and before we had gone many yards, I saw a native officer go alongside of him, and with one blow cut him from his saddle. It was the work of an instant, and took much less time than I have to relate. On they all came shouting after me, and every now and then “ping” came a ball near me. Indeed, I thought my moments were numbered; but as I neared the road at the end of the maidan a ditch presented itself. It was but a moment I thought, dug my spurs hard in, and the mare flew over it, though she nearly fell on the other side; fortunately I recovered her, and in another moment I was leaving all behind but two sowars, who followed me and poor Hayes’s horse tearing on after me. On seeing this I put my pistol into my holster, having reserved my fire until a man was actually upon me, and took a pull at the mare, as I had still a long ride for it, and knew my riding must stand me a good turn; so I raised the mare as much as I could, keeping those friends about 100 yards in the rear; and the sowars, I suppose, seeing I was taking it easy, and not urging my horse, but merely turning round every now and again to watch them, pulled up, after chasing me two good miles. Never did I know a happier moment, and most fervently did I thank God for saving my life. Hayes’s Arab came dashing along, and passed me; I still continued to ride along at a fast pace, fearful of being taken and murdered by some who had taken a short cut unknown to me.’

It was afterwards ascertained that Fayrer had been murdered earlier in the day, when, drinking at a well, a mutineer had crept up behind him and practically cut off his head. Barbor, seeing what had happened, leapt into his saddle and galloped off down the road, but the way was blocked by a knot of sowars who hacked him to peices. The murder of Captain Hayes on the Trunk Road on 1 June 1857 was officially reported to the Company’s Directors in letter No. 182, of 19 June 1857. The widowed Mrs Hayes at Lucknow moved into a house inside the Residency compound for the duration of the siege with the generous French merchant Monsieur Deprat, who had accepted responsibility for Hayes’s library; ‘these items [however] were subsequently put to purposes that the owner could never in his wildest dreams have imagined. The splendid library of Captain Hayes, consisting of priceless Oriental MSS and the standard literary and scientific works of every nation in Europe, and dictionaries of every language spoken on earth from the patois of Bretagne down to Cingalese, Malay and ancient Egyptian, were for the nonce converted into barricades, together with mahogany furniture of all kinds ... ’

Refs: IOL L/MIL/10/30 & 60; IOL L/MIL/5/515; Hodson Index (NAM); The Yellow Scarf, The Story of the Life of Thuggee Sleeman (Tuker); Forty One Years in India (Roberts); The Siege of Lucknow (Rees); The History of the Indian Mutiny (Forrest); The History of the Indian Mutiny (Kaye and Malleson); Our Bones Are Scattered (Ward); A Companion to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 (Taylor).