The Life of Sir Henry Havelock - A Biographical Sketch
By: Rev. William Brock
Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, KCB (5 April 1795 – 24 November 1857) was a British general who is particularly associated with India and his recapture of Cawnpore from rebels during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Seeing no prospect of active service, he resolved to go to India, and at the end of 1822 transferred into the 13th Regiment (Light Infantry), then commanded by Major Robert Sale, and embarked on the General Kyd in January 1823 for India. Before embarkation he studied the Persian and Hindustani languages with success under John Borthwick Gilchrist. During the voyage a brother officer, Lieutenant James Gardner, awakened in Havelock religious convictions which had slumbered since his mother's death, but henceforth became the guiding principle of his life.
Havelock served with distinction in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826), after which he returned to England and married Hannah Shepherd Marshman, the daughter of eminent Christian missionaries Dr. and Mrs. Joshua Marshman. At about the same time he became a Baptist, being baptized by Mr. John Mack at Serampore. He introduced some of his new family's missionary ideas to the army and began the distribution of bibles to all soldiers. He also introduced all-rank bible study classes and established the first non-church services for military personnel.
By the time Havelock took part in the First Afghan War in 1839, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. He was present as aide-de-camp to Willoughby Cotton at the capture of Ghazni, on 23 May 1839, and at the occupation of Kabul. After a short period in Bengal to secure the publication of his Memoirs of the Afghan Campaign, he returned to Kabul in charge of recruits, and became interpreter to General Mountstuart Elphinstone.
In 1840, being attached to Sir Robert Henry Sale's force, he took part in the celebrated passage of the defiles of the Ghilzais and in the fighting from Tezeen to Jalalabad. Here, after many months siege, his column in a sortie en masse defeated Akbar Khan on 7 April 1842. He was now made Deputy Lieutenant-General of the infantry division in Kabul, and in September he assisted at Jagdalak, at Tezeen, and at the release the British prisoners at Kabul, besides taking a prominent part at Istalif. He next went through the Gwalior Campaign as Persian interpreter to Sir Hugh Gough, and distinguished himself at Maharajpur in 1843, and also in the Sikh Wars at the battles of Mudki, Ferozeshahand Sobraon in 1845.
He used his spare time to produce analytical reports about the skirmishes and battles in which he was involved. These writings were returned to Britain and were reported on in the press of the day. For his military services he was made Deputy Adjutant-General at Bombay. He transferred from the 13th Regiment of Foot to the 39th, then as second major into the 53rd at the beginning of 1849, and soon afterwards left for England, where he spent two years. He returned to India in 1852 with further promotion and in 1854 he was appointed Quartermaster-General, promoted to full colonel, and lastly appointed Adjutant-General to the British Army in India in 1857.
In that year, he was selected by Sir James Outram to command a division in the Anglo-Persian War, during which he was present at the action of Muhamra against the forces of Nasser al-Din Shah under command of Khanlar Mirza. Peace with Persia freed his troops just as the Indian Rebellion broke out; and he was chosen to command a column to quell disturbances in Allahabad, to support Sir Henry Lawrence at Lucknow and Wheeler at Cawnpore, and to pursue and utterly destroy all mutineers and insurgents. Throughout August Havelock led his soldiers northwards across Oudh (present day Uttar Pradesh), defeating all rebel forces in his path, despite being greatly outnumbered. His years of study of the theories of war and his experiences in earlier campaigns were put to good use. At this time Lady Canning wrote of him in her diary: "General Havelock is not in fashion, but all the same we believe that he will do well." But in spite of this lukewarm commendation Havelock proved himself the man for the occasion and won a reputation as a great military leader.