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For the similarly named Admiral, his contemporary in the Peninsular Campaign, see Charles John Napier
Charles James Napier

General Sir Charles James Napier
Born 10 August 1782(1782-08-10)
Whitehall
Died 29 August 1853 (aged 71)
Portsmouth
Cause of death Wounds in the Peninsular campaign
Nationality British
Education Celbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland
Occupation General
Title Commander-in-Chief in India
Parents George Napier, Lady Sarah Lennox

General Sir Charles James Napier GCB (10 August 1782 – 29 August 1853) was a British general and Commander-in-Chief in India, famous for conquering Sindh province in present-day Pakistan.

Contents

Early life

He was the eldest son of Colonel the Honourable George Napier and his second wife, Lady Sarah Lennox, he being her second husband. Lady Sarah was a great grand-daughter of King Charles II. Born at Whitehall and educated at Celbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland, he entered the 33rd Regiment in 1794 and subsequently became a career soldier.

Peninsular War

Napier commanded the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Foot during Napoleon's Campaign in the Peninsular War, terminating in the Battle of Corunna, an action for which he won an Army Gold Medal. He had been left for dead on the fields at the battle of Corunna, where he was saved by a French drummer named Guibert, and taken prisoner. He recovered from wounds received at Corunna while being held at the headquarters of Marshall Soult, but volunteered to return to the Peninsula in 1810 to fight in Portugal, notably at the Battle of the Côa, where he had two horses shot out from under him, and at Bussaco, Fuentes de Oñoro, and the Second Siege of Badajoz in Castile, where he was lieutenant-colonel of the 102nd regiment. For his actions at Bussaco and Fuentes de Oñoro he received the silver medal with two clasps. In 1838 he returned to England to take up his appointment as General Officer Commanding Northern District.

India

In 1842, at the age of 60, he was appointed as Major-General to the command of the Indian army within the Bombay Presidency. Here Lord Ellenborough's policy led Napier to Sindh, for the purpose of quelling the Muslim rulers of the region, who had made various hostile demonstrations against the British government after the termination of the First Anglo-Afghan War. His campaign against these chieftains resulted, after the victories of Meanee (Miani) and Hyderabad, in the complete subjugation of the province of Sindh, and its annexation to eastern dominions. In doing so, he contrravened direct orders; he was sent only to put down the rebels, not conquer. Napier is supposed to have despatched to headquarters a short, famous message, "Peccavi"Latin for "I have sinned" (a pun for "I have Sindh"). The pun later appeared in a cartoon in Punch magazine in 1844 under a caricature of Sir Charles. Later proponents of British rule over the East Indians justified the conquest thus: "If this was a piece of rascality, it was a noble piece of rascality!"[1]

On 4 July 1843 he was appointed a Knight Grand Commander of the military division of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in recognition of the victories at Miani and Hyderabad.[2]

He was appointed governor of the Bombay Presidency by Lord Ellenborough. His administration did not please the directors of the British East India Company, and he accordingly returned home in disgust, but was sent out again by the acclamatory voice of the nation, in the spring of 1849, to reduce the Sikhs to submission. On arriving once more in India, he found that the object of his mission had already been accomplished by Lord Gough.

A story for which Napier is famous involves a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of Sati, often referred to at the time as suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The exact wording of his response varies somewhat in different reports, but the following version captures its essence:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."[3]

He remained for a time as commander-in-chief (C-in-C); quarrelled with Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general; then, throwing up his post, he returned home for the last time. Broken down with infirmities, the result of his former wounds in the Peninsular campaign, he died about two years later at his seat of Oaklands, near Portsmouth, in August 1853, at the age of 71. His house is now part of Oaklands Catholic School, Waterlooville. He is buried in the Royal Garrison Church in Portsmouth.

Views on subduing insurgencies

General Napier put down several insurgencies in India during his reign as Commander-in-Chief in India, and once said of his philosophy about how to do so effectively:

"The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed"[4]

He also once said that "the human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear"[4]

An implementation of this theory would be after the Battle of Miani, where most of the Mirs surrendered. One leader held back and was told by Napier:

"Come here instantly. Come here at once and make your submission, or I will in a week tear you from the midst of your village and hang you""[4]

The reason he felt brutality was necessary for the proper conquest of rebellions may have been his opinion that "so perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another".[4] Whatever the reason for his views on fighting insurgencies, the fact remains that he was one of Great Britain's most effective generals at doing this in India, often facing well-armed fighters.

Memorials

In 1903, the 25th Bombay Rifles (which as the 25th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry had formed part of Napier's force in the conquest of Sindh) was renamed the 125th Napier's Rifles. Since amalgamated, it is now the 5th Battalion (Napier's) of the Rajputana Rifles.[5][6]

A statue in honour of Sir Charles Napier by George Gamon Adams (1821-1898) is on a pedestal in Trafalgar Square, London.

The city of Napier in the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand is named after Sir Charles Napier. The suburb of Meannee commemorates his victory in the Battle of Miani.

The city of Karachi in Sindh (Pakistan) earlier had a Napier Road (now Shahrah-e-Altaf Hussain), Napier Street (now Mir Karamali Talpur Road) and Napier Barracks (now Liaquat Barracks) on Sharah-e-Faisal. In the port area, there is also a Napier Mole. Also Napier is one of the four houses in Karachi Grammar School.

The Napier Gardens in Argostoli on the Greek island of Kefalonia are named after him.

The Sir Charles Napier pubs in Warrington and Blackburn are named after him. Also a pub and restaurant in Spriggs Alley near Chinnor, Bucks, England, is also named after him - the Sir Charles Napier Inn

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ General Charles Napier and the Conquest of Sind
  2. ^ "Appointment GCB" (pdf). London Gazette (London: Stationery Office) (20239): 2246. 1843-7-4. http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ViewPDF.aspx?pdf=20239&geotype=London&gpn=2246&type=ArchivedIssuePage. Retrieved 2008-09-14. "The Queen has been please to nominate and appoint Major-General Sir Charles James Napier, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, to be a Knight Grand Cross of the said Order.".  
  3. ^ Steyn, Mark. America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Page 193.
  4. ^ a b c d Farwell, Byron: Queen Victoria's Little Wars, p. 27-31
  5. ^ Sharma, Gautam, Valour and Sacrifice: Famous Regiments of the Indian Army (Allied Publishers, 1990, ISBN 978-8170231400) page 99 at books.google.co.uk, accessed 4 August 2008
  6. ^ 125th Napier's Rifles at britishempire.co.uk, accessed 3 August 2008
Government offices
Preceded by
New office
Governor of Bombay Presidency
1843–1847
Succeeded by
abolished
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Gough
Commander-in-Chief, India
1849–1851
Succeeded by
Sir William Maynard Gomm
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Charles James Napier (10 August 178229 August 1853) was a British general and Commander-in-Chief in India. The city of Napier, New Zealand, is named after him. He is famous for conquering the Sindh province now in present-day Pakistan.

Unsourced

  • You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed"

"the human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear"

"Come here instantly. Come here at once and make your submission, or I will in a week tear you from the midst of your village and hang you

Misattributed

  • Peccavi
    • Latin for "I have sinned", a pun on "I have (captured) Scinde".
    • Brilliant as the victories had been, Napier had to face criticism from enemies and friends alike. The new English humor magazine, Punch, barely a year old, published a cartoon of Napier striding through the carnage of the battlefield with the caption "Peccavi" — "I have sinned", as indeed he had. [1]

External links

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Simple English

Charles James Napier
File:Charles James
General Sir Charles James Napier
Born September 10, 1782(1782-09-10)
Whitehall
Died August 29, 1853 (aged 70)
Portsmouth
Cause of death Wounds in the Peninsular campaign
Nationality British
Education Celbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland
Title Commander-in-Chief in India
Parents George Napier, Lady Sarah Lennox
General Sir Charles James Napier, GCB (August 10, 1782August 29, 1853) was a British general and Commander-in-Chief in India, famous for conquering Sindh province in present-day Pakistan.

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