A civil servant under the East India Company (1822-1848)
He was the son of Lt-Col Patrick Vans Agnew, an East India Company director. Agnew joined the Bengal civil service in March 1841. In 1842, he became assistant to the commissioner of Delhi division. In December 1845, he was appointed assistant to Major George Broadfoot, the superintendent of the cis-Sutlej states. He was present at the battle of Sabhraon in 1846. In April 1848, he was sent by the British resident at Lahore, the capital of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab, to Multan to take over the government of that province from Diwan Mul Raj who had resigned. He was accompanied by Lt William Anderson, of the Bengal army, the new governor-designate Kahn Singh, and an escort of Sikh troops from Lahore. The party reached Multan on 17 April 1848. Diwan Mill Raj called on them the following day, but a dispute arose as Agnew demanded that accounts for the preceding six years be produced. On 19 April, the two English officers were taken round the fort and the various establishments. As they were returning to their camp both Agnew and Anderson were attacked and wounded by a retainer of Diwan Mul Raj . Soon afterwards, Mul Raj's troops rose in arms and took him prisoner, thus preventing him from visiting the wounded officers in the British camp at the Idgah.
The Multan troops called a council of war on 20 April and issued proclamations in the name of Mul Raj, inviting the people to rise against the British. The same day, the Sikh escort from Lahore rebelled. Kahn Singh made terms for himself. In the evening both Agnew and Anderson were killed at the Idgah.