17 September 2004
The highly important group to General Sir James Hope Grant, G.C.B., 9th Lancers, who had command of the Cavalry Division at Delhi and of a whole Division at Lucknow, and was Commander of the British Forces in the China campaign of 1860
(a) Order of the Bath (Military) G.C.B., Grand Commander’s set, comprising sash badge in 18 carat gold and enamels, hallmarked London 1866; and silver breast star with appliqué centre in gold and enamels, the reverse centre inscribed ‘R. & S. Garrard & Co., Goldsmiths & Jewellers to the Crown, 25 Haymarket, London’, and with maker’s mark ‘JS’, the star with some damage to green enamel stalks and blue enamel of ‘Ich Dien’ motto, the set otherwise nearly extremely fine
(b) Sutlej 1845-46, for Sobraon 1846 (Major Jas. Hope Grant, C.B. 9th Lancers)
(c) Punjab 1848-49, 2 clasps, Chilianwala, Goojerat (Major J. H. Grant, C.B. 9th Lancers)
(d) Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 2 clasps, Delhi, Lucknow (Brigr. Genl. Sir J. H. Grant, K.C.B.)
(e) China 1857-60, 3 clasps, China 1842, Taku Forts 1860, Pekin 1860 (Lt. Genl. Sir J. H. Grant, G.C.B. Comr. of the Forces) officially impressed naming
(f) France, Legion of Honour (2nd Empire), Grand Officer’s set, comprising breast badge in gold and enamels, severe enamel damage to this, with original rosette; and silver breast star by Ouizille Lemoine of Paris, the reverse with maker’s plaque, the medals with edge bruising and contact wear but generally nearly very fine or better, an exceptionally rare group to a highly important early Victorian military commander
This lot was sold as part of a special collection, The Brian Ritchie Collection of H.E.I.C. and British India Medals.
James Hope Grant was the youngest son of Francis Grant of Kilgraston House, Perthshire, and was born on 22 July 1808. He was educated in Edinburgh and at Howfyl, Switzerland, under the educational experimentalist Freiherr von Fellenberg. He was commissioned Cornet into the 9th Lancers on 29 August 1826, at Glasgow, and was promoted Lieutenant on 26 February 1828. In 1831 his career came close to an ignominious and early conclusion when visiting his brother-in-law, James Lindsay, M.P., at the House of Commons. While engrossed in conversation with Lindsay, he accidentally took part in a division and had his vote recorded. Fortunately no one noticed at time, as the penalty was imprisonment and a £500 fine. Off duty, Hope Grant was a talented player of the cello, and an enthusiastic golfer.
In 1835 he was advanced to the rank of Captain, and two years later was appointed temporary Aide-de-Camp to Lord Greenock, the commander of the troops at Edinburgh. In 1841 Lord Saltoun, who was going out to China to assist Sir Hugh Gough, appointed him his Brigade-Major. Unkind rumour, however, said that he only obtained this post because Saltoun, who was a great music lover, was in need of the services of a cellist. In July 1842 he was present at the hardest fought action of the First China War, the capture of Chinkiang, and next took part in the landing before Nanking, which induced the Chinese to sue for peace. In October Saltoun assumed command of all the troops in China and made Hope Grant Assistant-Adjutant-General. Meanwhile, the 9th Lancers were augmented and he received his Majority without purchase. The following year he was made a Companion of the Bath for his services in China, and in 1844 rejoined his regiment at Cawnpore.
In October 1845, Hope Grant proceeded with the regiment to Meerut, and in December went with it when it was ordered to join the the Army of the Sutlej, under Sir Hugh Gough. A junction was effected with Gough’s army at a point fifteen miles from Ferozepore and on 10 February 1846, Hope Grant was present at the battle of Sobroan, the final encounter of the war, but it being an attack on an entrenched position there were few opportunities for the cavalry. However, having talked to officers of the 3rd Light Dragoons who had fought at Moodkee, Ferozeshuhur and Aliwal, Hope Grant and his brother officers took the precaution of substituting their leather bridles for chain ones, on learning that a number of bridles had been cut through by tulwars in the earlier engagements. The 9th Lancers on this occasion formed part of the cavalry brigade under Brigadier Campbell and was posted behind the hamlet of Chota Sobroan and 500 yards in front of the Sikh left, ready to support the infantry divisions of either Gilbert or Smith. At the start of the action, Hope Grant was given the dangerous task of going forward with one squadron to make the enemy reveal his guns, ‘which duty was most effectively carried out’.
At Sobraon, Hope Grant became involved in yet another affair which again might have ended his career. While waiting with the regiment to move against the enemy he noticed that Alexander Campbell, the senior Lieutenant-Colonel of the 9th Lancers, was completely drunk, and after the battle asked the second Lieutenant-Colonel to place Campbell in arrest. This he refused to do and so next day, Hope Grant, putting into practice his favourite maxim, ‘Act according to your conscience and defy the consequences’, went to Campbell and said, “You know you were very drunk yesterday, sir, when you led us into action. I have come to tell you that if you do not at once undertake to leave the regiment, I shall now put you in arrest and report your conduct.”
“Will you, indeed,” said the Colonel in great anger. “Very well, I will be beforehand with you, and I now place you in arrest for bringing a false and insulting accusation against your commanding officer.” For the next six weeks Hope Grant was detained while a court of inquiry was assembled and the case tried. At length an open verdict was returned, saving both the accuser and the accused. Hope Grant was later induced to apologise, not for telling Campbell that he was drunk, which no one doubted, but for telling him he should leave the regiment. Hope Grant was a comparatively poor man, one of the few who had received his commission without purchase. The risk he took in acting the way he did was a very real one, for he might have been turned out of the army and lost the value of his commission - perhaps £5,000. It is significant that Campbell’s name, despite an inordinately long list of specially mentioned officers, does not appear in Lord Gough’s Sobraon despatch.
At the conclusion of hostilities, Hope Grant accompanied the regiment to Lahore where, with the Body Guard and a troop of Horse Artillery, it formed the escort to the Governor-General, Lord Hardinge, whose negotiations with the Sikh Durbar resulted in the Treaty of Lahore, signed on 11 March 1846. In 1847, Hope Grant was very nearly shot on a court martial parade. An artilleryman had been sentenced to death for striking a superior officer, and was tied to a post for the purpose of execution by firing squad, rather dangerously, one would assume, within a flank of the 9th Lancers. The firing party delivered a volley, but the Provost-Sergeant believed the Gunner was still alive. He went forward, pistol in hand, and fired a shot to finish him off. The bullet passed through the prisoner’s head, and, narrowly missing Hope Grant, went through the cap of a soldier standing behind him.
On the outbreak of the Second Sikh War in 1848, the 9th Lancers moved up from Meerut to join Gough’s Army of the Punjab, and on 4 December crossed the Chenab with the 14th Light Dragoons and horse artillery to pursue the Sikhs falling back before a force under Major-General Thackwell. On the 5th, Hope Grant led a patrol forward but, finding the enemy was still retreating, returned to Heylah where the cavalry remained until 11 January 1849. On the 13th, Gough encountered the Sikhs at Chilianwala, and two squadrons of the 9th Lancers under Hope Grant were brigaded with four squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons, and one and a half squadrons from each of the 1st and 6th Bengal Light Cavalry, under the elderly Brigadier Pope, on the right of the British line. The brigade was supported by a battery of horse artillery under Major Christie. Pope, who had no experience of handling large bodies of cavalry, formed his brigade in a long single line with no supports or reserves. The 14th were on the left, the 1st and 6th in the centre and the 9th on the right. Anxious for his cavalry to keep in touch with the infantry, Pope ordered the brigade to advance at a trot into the jungle but soon found it heavy going, and the trot was soon reduced to a walk. Gradually the advance began to veer to the left masking Christie’s guns. By this time the whole line had come to a halt, and in order to rectify the situation the command “Threes Right!” was about to be issued, when a body of Sikh horse was sighted ahead. The commanding officer of the 14th urged Pope to charge, but then Pope was wounded. Some officers of the native cavalry, having galloped ahead of the line and having come up against the Sikh horse unsupported, came galloping back and the order “Threes About!” was shouted. No one has ever established exactly who gave this order, but it appears to have emanated from the Light Cavalry. Whatever its origin, the Brigade conformed, turning its back on the enemy who then charged. Within a moment the whole British line was galloping towards the rear, with some men riding over Christie’s guns which fell into the hands of the Sikhs. Christie was mortally wounded and although the European element of the brigade rallied in the administrative area, the native cavalry were not seen for the rest of the day. Gough’s Chaplain held up a number of the returning troopers at pistol point, and at length several officers managed to rally their men and drive off the Sikhs. Though Hope Grant appears ‘to have pulled his squadrons together pretty quickly’, the only man to emerge from the disaster with any credit at all was the Chaplain, whom Gough wanted to make ‘a Brevet Bishop’.
Haunted by the fear that his career was finished, Hope Grant saw the only way to report the debacle to the Assistant-Adjutant-General was by telling ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as well as I could’. At Camp Chilianwala on the 15th he wrote: ‘Sir, I have the honour to report ... The two squadrons which I took command of, on the right of the 2nd brigade, were proceeding on steadily, and changing their direction a little to the left, when the native cavalry began to cheer and charge. I confess at the time I could see no enemy except a party of about fifty horsemen a good deal to our right flank, which, from having red coats on, in the distance I took to be some of our own Irregular Horse, as they were apparently going in the same direction as ourselves. The 9th Lancers were dressing upon the 6th Light Cavalry I think, and they of course increased their pace, and brought their lances down to the guard. There were some few of the enemy now seen in our front, but nothing in the force to stop any body of Europeans. I had an encounter with one of them, and received two blows with the sword, but not sufficient to go through more than the murzir which I wore. The two squadrons were going along steadily, and no hesitation was evinced; on the contrary, the flank men were engaged with some of the enemy, and doing their duty, when the whole line checked and went about from the left, and my squadron, certainly without a word from me, turned round too; but the jungle and dust might make some excuse for the men, as it was difficult to hear, and in many cases to see. The dust from this movement became very great, and the men of my regiment got mixed up with the other regiments; and though I did all in my power to stop them, ordering them to halt and front, and many of the officers in the regiments did the same, it was useless: they would not turn round. They appeared after having gone about to have got panic-struck. I grieve greatly to make this report of my regiment, as I did consider them, and even do so still, as fine a set of soldiers as there are in the army; but it was one of those wonderful coincidences which there is no accounting for. I grieve too for myself, as it must ruin my prospects in life.’
Unlike the commanding officer of the 14th Light Dragoons, who was driven to suicide some months later by slurs on his personal courage, Hope Grant survived the affair at Chilianwala with his reputation intact. He next served at the battle of Goojerat on 21 February 1849, this time in command of the regiment which was brigaded with the 3rd Light Dragoons, the 8th Bengal Light Cavalry and the Scinde Horse, on the British left. Large bodies of Sikh cavalry threatened this flank, and General Thackwell ordered the Scinde Horse and a squadron of the 9th Lancers, supported by another under Hope Grant, to charge them. The charge crashed into a mass of mostly Afghan horse, and for about two minutes there was a fierce melee before the enemy broke and fled through the Sikh camp. The Scinde Horse pursued and captured two standards, as did the 9th Lancers, who also had the added satisfaction of recapturing a gun lost at Chilianwala. For his services in the Second Sikh War, Hope Grant was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel by Brevet, and on 29 April 1850, he succeeded to the command of the regiment. In 1853 the regiment went into quarters at Ambala, and was still there four years later when the Mutiny broke out. On this campaign, as on nearly all others, he was to be accompanied by his ‘enormous violincello’ the very sight of which made the natives run away, crying “Shaitan” (Satan). Towards the end of May 1857, Hope Grant was appointed Cavalry Brigadier of the Delhi Field Force forming at Ambala, which moved out in four divisions between the 17th and 25th of May, the last accompanied by General Anson (qv), the Commander-in-Chief, who died of cholera at Karnul on the 27th.
On 7 June, at Alipore, about twelve miles north of Delhi, a junction was effected with the Meerut Brigade, and it was discovered that a large force of mutineers and rebels had taken up a strong position at Badli-ki-Serai. At one o’clock on the 8th the force moved out to meet them. Brigadier Showers attacked with the 1st Brigade on the right; Brigadier Graves with the 2nd Brigade on the left; and Hope Grant with three squadrons of the 9th Lancers and fifty Jind horsemen, under Lieutenant W. S. R. Hodson, and ten guns, succeeded in getting in the enemy’s rear. Despite a determined front and a surprisingly accurate and furious fire from the rebel gunners, all went well and once shaken by the European artillery, the enemy began to retire, in an orderly fashion at first, before being put to rout by the cavalry. General Barnard, Anson’s successor, then decided to drive the rebels right back to Delhi and by a judicious advance secured the Ridge on which the British were to camp for the next three months.
Hope Grant now took as his Aide-de-Camp the Hon. Augustus Anson, a nephew of the the former C-in-C. Late on 19 June, just as dark began to fall, one of the many desperate hand-to-hand conflicts took place, with the mutineers and rebels issuing from the city and attacking the rear of the British camp. Hope Grant turned out with a squadron of the 9th Lancers and six guns to counter the threat. ‘As long as daylight lasted the rebels were driven back, but when darkness set in they got round our flanks; and two of our guns were in jeopardy. Grant collected a few men and charged the rebels; a Sepoy five yards from him shot his horse, and he was left dismounted in the middle of the enemy. Three men stuck to him - his native orderly, of the 4th Irregulars, Rooper Khan; Privates Thomas Hancock and James Purcell ... Purcell had his horse killed the same time as Hope Grant. Hancock and Rooper Khan both tried to induce Hope Grant to take their horses, but he eventually took hold of Rooper Khan’s horse’s tail and was dragged out of the crowd.
Purcell and Hancock were awarded the Victoria Cross [Hancock was subsequently appointed a gate-keeper in Windsor Park, whilst Purcell was killed in action on 14 September 1857]. Rooper Khan was promoted by his commanding officer, Major Martin, and Sir H. Barnard awarded him the second class of the Order of Merit.’
At 3.30 a.m. next day, Hope Grant returned to the scene of the fight trying to pick up any guns and ammunition left by the enemy. He was rewarded with a 9-pounder and three ammunition wagons. Rooper Khan’s regiment was subsequently disarmed, and he with Hope Grant’s other orderly, Peer Khan, who belonged to the same corps, ‘begged not to have to lay down their swords on the general heap’. Hope Grant took them personally and returned them next day. Both men served devotedly throughout the Mutiny and in 1859 Hope Grant presented them with new swords.
At the assault of Delhi on 14 September, Hope Grant commanded the Cavalry Brigade which was obliged to stand in an exposed position for two hours in order to prevent some 5000 rebels with guns from turning the flank of the storming parties. ‘Nothing daunted’, wrote Hope Grant afterwards ‘those gallant soldiers held their trying position with patient endurance; and on my praising them for their good behaviour, they declared their readiness to stand the fire as long as I chose. The behaviour of the Native Cavalry was admirable. Nothing could be steadier; nothing could be more soldierlike than their bearing.’ Much to his annoyance, Hope Grant was detained at Delhi, when the 9th Lancers and native cavalry marched out with Greathed’s flying column, ostensibly to the relief of Lucknow. Most officers had a particular low opinion of Colonel Edward Greathed (qv,) whose leadership in the street fighting in Delhi had been ‘most wretched’. In early October his poor qualities induced the despairing Secretary to the Government of the N.W. Provinces at Agra, to send Hope Grant the following: ‘You are to come on as sharp as you can; You are to come at once, by the mail if possible.’
On 18 October he caught up with the column at Firozabad, and on 23rd commanded it in the capture of four guns on the banks of the Kallee Nudee. Cawnpore was reached on the 26th, and on the 30th Hope Grant’s force crossed the Ganges en-route to Lucknow, and halted at Bunteerah, which had to be fought for, and awaited the arrival of Sir Colin Campbell, the new Commander-in-Chief. At the 2nd Relief of Lucknow on 17 November, while the fierce fighting still raged on around him, Hope Grant went forward with the leading troops to meet the besieged garrison commander, Major-General Henry Havelock. ‘His breast heaved,’ wrote Hope Grant, ‘and his eyes filled with tears. He turned to the men and said, “Soldiers, I am happy to see you. Soldiers, I am happy to think you have got into this place with smaller loss than I had.” Hearing this I asked what he supposed our loss amounted to. He answered he had heard it estimated at 80, and was much surprised and grieved when I told him we had lost about 43 officers and 450 men killed and wounded.’ Hope Grant then led Generals Havelock and Outram and their staffs across the dusty broken ground to Campbell’s headquarters, set up in the Khoorsheyd Munzil. A number of officers were hit along the way. On seeing Hope Grant, Campbell said “How do you do so, Sir James?” and then turning to Havelock said “How do you Sir Henry?” thereby conveying the news of an honour which was received with obvious delight by the exhausted garrison commander. Or so the story goes, for Hope Grant was not appointed a K.C.B. until early 1858.
Hope Grant acted as second-in-command to Sir Colin Campbell at the third Battle of Cawnpore, where the Gwalior rebels under Tantia Topi were defeated and put to flight on 6 December. The cavalry however had taken a wrong turn, and for the first two miles the pursuit was carried out by Bourchier’s battery, Hope Grant and his Staff alone. No doubt this was one of the occasions on which Hope Grant asked his orderly, Trooper Caine, to hand him the bamboo lance he always carried for the Colonel’s use. The cavalry eventually caught up and joined in, pursuing the enemy for fourteen miles and not returning to camp until after midnight. On the 8th Hope Grant, who was rapidly becoming one of Sir Colin’s most trusted lieutenants, set off after the Gwalior men and found them preparing to cross the Ganges near Sheorajpur on the 9th. A sharp engagement followed in which Hope Grant was struck by grape shot on the foot, but without being injured. The rebels were absolutely routed and fifteen guns were captured. On the 11th Hope Grant was directed to Bithoor to destroy the town and residence of Nana Sahib. Finding the place deserted he blew up the temple and burnt the palace.
On 8 February 1858, Hope Grant was appointed to the command of the whole force between Cawnpore and Bunnee during the temporary absence of the Commander-in-Chief, and, on the 20th, he was promoted Major-General, though this meant the loss of the £12,000 value of his commission, and a distinguished service pension which he had been granted of £200 per annum.
On the 23rd, the force under his command was engaged at the capture of the fort at Meangunge, and in early March he was rejoined by Sir Colin for the final storm and capture of Lucknow. On the 2nd a skirmish near the Dilkusha nearly resulted in an expensive loss to the army by way of senior commanders. Sir Colin Campbell, Hope Grant, and Colonel Little of the 9th Lancers went forward to inspect two apparently deserted ammunition wagons, when all of a sudden they were fired on. Sir Colin and Hope Grant escaped unhurt, but Little was hit in the elbow and obliged to relinquish the command of his brigade. In the ensuing Lucknow operations, Hope Grant acted as second-in-command to Sir James Outram who commanded the division sent across the Gumti to assist the main effort by taking in reverse the enemy’s first and second line defences. With the completion of the capture of the city there followed the long period of mopping up operations as tens of thousands of rebels dispersed into the country. In these operations in Oudh, Hope Grant again showed himself to be a patient and conscientious commander, and one who was prepared to have his own soldiers and native camp followers flogged for plundering villages.
Hope Grant was next appointed to the command of the Lucknow Division, and in 1860 was selected to command the Anglo-Indian army in the expedition to China which sought to redress the Imperial government’s refusal to receive ambassadors in Peking, as agreed under the terms the Treaty of Tientsin of 1858, and also to punish the Chinese for the serious reverse they had inflicted on Admiral Hope at the Taku Forts in June 1859. The expedition was to be carried out in conjunction with the French, whose 7500-strong contingent was commanded by Napoleon III’s flamboyant and temperamental cousin, General Montauban.
Hope Grant sailed from Calcutta to Hong Kong, where his force gatherered before proceeding up the China coast with the French. The landing of the two armies took place in early August at Pei-t’ang, a few miles north of the entrance to the Peiho, amidst a heavy downpour. The fort which defended Pei-t’ang was found to be empty and the town was entered and given over to rape and pillage. The French blamed the British who blamed the Sikhs, who in turn blamed the Coolie Corps - a specially raised force recruited from the dregs of Hong Kong’s criminal classes. Hope Grant was forced to admit his coolies were ‘for the most part atrocious villains’ and ‘the robberies they committed in the town were fearful’. He was further appalled to discover that many were opium addicts. He was keen to deny them the drug, but this, his interpreter informed him, would cause habitual users to pine away, and eventually die.
On 12 August the Allied force moved against the village of Sinho, which was connected to Pei-t’ang by a narrow causeway nine yards wide. The surrounding marsh lands were impassable after the recent rains and to attack along such a narrow front might well have handed the Chinese a major victory. Having sent out patrols to the north, Hope Grant discovered that there was a second route, outflanking the Chinese entrenchments and firm enough for horses and men. Thus he ordered his 2nd Division, under Sir Robert Napier, and all his cavalry to advance by the alternative route, while the main body of the French and British armies set off along the causeway. When about a mile from Sinho, a large body of some several thousand Chinese cavalry, under Prince Seng, appeared in order to oppose the advance.
Hope Grant now brought into play an experimental weapon, the new breach-loading Armstrong gun. This piece of ordnance, a rifled 25-pounder, was particularly intended for use against massed troops in the field, and at once proved its effectiveness, tearing gaps in the impassive Chinese line. Eventually the surprisingly disciplined Chinese moved off at a trot to the right and left as if to outflank the whole Allied force. The advanced infantry units formed squares to receive the cavalry, but the latter’s progress was completely checked at 450 yards by the Armstrongs. The enemy entrenchment was then given a twenty-five minute bombardment, and the Chinese reserve cavalry was also driven off. The Allies advanced and occupied Sinho.
Montauban was all for pressing on and attacking the walled town of Tangku, a few miles further along the causeway to the south, but Hope Grant felt that his men had done enough for one day. Montauban confidently charged off with an exclusively French force, hoping to gain a success independent of the British but after a brief artillery exchange he re-appeared at Sinho, and, unabashed, unveiled his plan to capture the four Taku Forts. The two Generals were supposed to command the Allied force on alternate days, but this arrangement soon proved impossible. Montauban’s proposal was to cross the river, march down to the coast and tackle the most southerly of the forts first and then, advancing inland, take the rest in succession with the help of gunboats operating on the river. Hope Grant was violently opposed to this plan. The march to the coast across flooded country had several pitfalls, he argued, not least of which was that the armies’ flanks would be exposed to gunfire and open to attack by cavalry. Besides it had been pointed out to him by the able commander of his 2nd Division, Sir Robert Napier, a Sapper by training, that the uppermost fort on their (north) side of the river commanded, by a fault of Chinese military engineering, all the others. Hope Grant therefore put forward a simple plan to attack and occupy this one fort after which, he believed, the other forts downstream, seeing the weakness of their position, would be obliged to surrender.
Montauban considered Hope Grant’s plan riskily unorthodox, but Hope Grant stuck to his guns and by 20 August had won the debate, though in doing so Hope Grant carried a great responsibilty. There was already considerable political pressure to reach Pekin and return to the coast before the onset of winter. A second reverse at Taku would not only finish his own career, but probably break up the Anglo-French alliance, and more than likely bring down the British Government.
At first light on 21 August, the British heavy artillery, comprising 8-inch mortars and howitzers, two 32-pounders, supported by field guns and four 24-pounders, commenced a bombardment of the 130-square-yard, mud-walled fort. Downstream, French and Royal Navy gunboats engaged the lower south forts, while French and other British artillery units opened up on the lower north fort and the upper south fort, on the other side of the river, both to reduce flanking fire on the heavy artillery and to create a diversion. One by one the guns in the upper north fort were silenced and at half past six a tremendous explosion marked a direct hit on the Chinese magazine. The fort was stormed and captured after some hand-to-hand fighting. The others, as Hope Grant had predicted, capitulated by mid-afternoon. Of the 6900 defenders of the Taku Forts, 1800 were killed and 3600 were taken prisoner. The remainder fled to the north where Prince Seng’s cavalry remained intact.
Once the initial military obstacles had been overcome, the British and French ambassadors, Lord Elgin and Baron Gros, proceeded ahead of the army by gunboat up to Tientsin to meet the Imperial Commissioners. However, in early September, it was found that the Imperial Commissioners lacked sufficient power to sign a binding agreement. Annoying though this characteristic Chinese prevarification was, Elgin observed in his diary with some satisfaction that, ‘The blockheads have gone on negotiating with me just long enough to enable Grant to bring all his army up to this point’. Elgin was well-known to Hope Grant as his sister, Lady Mary Bruce, was married to the General’s eldest brother, but in spite of their kinship, there was still some tension between the two. Elgin was eager to apply pressure on the Chinese by moving closer to Pekin but Hope Grant, burdened with the responsibility of maintaining a line of communication with the coast, would not be rushed. Elgin now announced that he wanted to come to terms with any properly empowered Chinese representatives at T’ungchow, only fifteen miles from the seat of the Manchu Court.
By 14 September the procedure agreed between the parties was that the two Allied armies were to halt a little short of T’ungchow. Elgin and Gros were to enter the town with escorts limited to a thousand men each and sign the convention recently agreed at Tientsin, and then proceed to Pekin and exchange ratifications of the long-outstanding Treaty of Tientsin. The two armies meanwhile would wait at a camping ground designated by the Chinese at Chang-chia-wan, three miles from T’ungchow.
On 17 September, Harry Parkes, the British Consul at Canton, and Elgin’s interpreter rode forward from the Allied camp to settle a few last minute details. Although of comparatively low diplomatic rank, twenty-nine year-old Parkes was an old China hand well known to the Chinese as the British official with whom they most often had to deal. Indeed the Cantonese rated him above ‘the barbarian commander’, placing a price on his head six times greater than that offered for Hope Grant’s. Parkes was accompanied by Elgin’s secretary, Harry Loch, Bowlby of The Times, two British officers, and an escort of half a dozen Dragoons and about twenty Sikhs from Fane’s Horse. Likewise, a party of French officers and others went forwards on behalf of Baron Gros.
The two parties spent the night inside Chinese lines, and next morning Parkes observed that Prince Seng had sent a large body of cavalry to occupy the camping ground at Chang-chia-wan. Parkes with characteristic bravura protested in his fluent Chinese to the Commissioners. He then despatched Elgin’s secretary, Harry Loch, with a message for Hope Grant advising him of the unscheduled development, before being taken by a mandarin to Prince Seng, who immediately made him a prisoner. All the other British, French and Sikhs remaining inside Chinese lines were likewise detained.
Meanwhile, back at Allied headquarters there was another major difference of opinion. The Gallic reaction was one in favour of immediate attack, while that of Hope Grant was predictably more cautious. Another interpreter, Wade, was sent forward under a flag of truce to tell the Chinese that unless the prisoners were returned unharmed Pekin would be attacked. Wade was fired on and so Montauban had his way and the joint Allied force, now numbering only 3500 men, moved against some 20,000 cavalry lining a three mile front, and backed by over seventy guns. But despite this seemingly formidable array a swift victory was secured. The Armstrongs were brought into action, silencing the Chinese firelocks and gingalls. A charge by the ‘heavies’ of the King’s Dragoon Guards cut a swath through the lightly armed Chinese horsemen, while the French infantry attacked the town of Chgang-chia-wan, with the result that the enemy was put to flight leaving 1500 dead on the field.
The Allied forces now advanced to the walls of Pekin and threatened to bombard the city unless the prisoners were released. Both Hope Grant and Montauban still had a healthy respect for Prince Seng and his cavalry which was thought to be hovering to the north west of the city. Having waited for two weeks, during which time the reserve division and the heavy guns had come up, the two Generals agreed to march their armies around the city and to rendezvous at the Summer Palace. The British column, however, soon encountered a Tartar picket and lost contact with the French, who crossed in their rear and raced on to the Summer Palace, purposely leaving Hope Grant, as he afterwards believed, in the lurch.
The sacking of the Summer Palace - the fabulous park of eighty square miles containing thirty Imperial Residences crammed with all manner of treasures - then commenced. When Hope Grant arrived next day he found it ‘pitiful to see the way in which everything was being robbed’. Nevertheless, he did manage to secure a small part of the booty for his own army. At the risk of making himself extremely unpopular, he ordered all British officers to hand over anything that they had managed to scavenge after twenty-four hours of rapacious plundering by the French, and appointed two NCO’s to sell off the booty by auction. He then distributed the proceeds in cash among the officers and men. This unorthodox action put Hope Grant’s career at risk once again, as all prizes made in war were the property of the Sovereign. Given the circumstances the Queen, however, later saved him by condoning what he had done. Having given up his own claim to any share, his officers presented him with a solid gold ewer used for pouring rose-water over the Emperor’s hands. Hope Grant thought it would come in useful as claret jug.
Pekin yielded soon after, and nineteen of the thirty-nine prisoners taken at Chang-chia-wan were eventually released. The remainder, including Bowlby of The Times, had meantime died of maltreatment, justifying, in the eyes of many, the subsequent burning of the Summer Palace. The China campaign of 1860 has been regarded as ‘the most successful and the best carried out of England’s little wars’, and Hope Grant was subsequently rewarded by his K.C.B. being converted to a G.C.B. After a brief stay in England and a visit to the links at St Andrews, Hope Grant returned to India as Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army. In 1865, he was appointed Colonel of the 9th Lancers, and in the same year became Quartermaster General at the Horse Guards, and consequently he and his wife said a last farewell to India.
In 1870 he was appointed to the command of the Aldershot Division, where in the teeth of considerable opposition he established the practice of annual autumn manoeurvres, and with his wife was a strong supporter of every institution for the social and religious well-being of those under his command. It is interesting that Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, the most intellectual and brilliant of late 19th century commanders, maintained, “If I have attained any measure of military prosperity, my gratitude is due to one man, and that man is Sir Hope Grant.”
In 1872, Hope Grant attained the rank of full General. Three years later he contracted an ‘internal malady’ said to have been aggravated if not caused by many years active service in tropical climates. He died aged sixty-six on 7 March 1875 and was buried in the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh, under a tombstone bearing the simple epitaph: ‘A good soldier of Christ’.
Refs: Dictionary of National Biography; A Military History of Perthshire (Marchioness of Tullibardine); A History of the British Cavalry 1816-1850 (Anglesey); Incidents in the Sepoy War (Hope Grant & Knollys); Incidents in the China War (Hope Grant & Knollys); The Ninth Queen’s Royal Lancers 1715-1904 (Reynard); Forty-One Years in India (Roberts).