Abbot, Sir James
British Resident’s assistant at Lahore (1807-1896)
British Resident’s assistant at Lahore, capital of the Sikh kingdom, after the first Anglo – Sikh war (1845 – 46), was born on 12 March 1807, the son of Henry Alexius Abbott. Passing out of the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, England, Abbott received commission as a second-lieutenant in the Bengal artillery in 1823. In November 1830, he joined the army of the Indus, under Sir John Keane, for the invasion of Afghanistan. In 1842, he was appointed assistant to the British Resident at Indore. In 1846, Abbott was designated commissioner for settlement of the Punjab boundaries. He became Resident’s assistant at Hazard in 1848. From Hazara, he sent reports to the British Resident at Lahore accusing Chatar Singh Atarivala, the governor of Hazara, of high treason and describing him as the leader of a conspiracy for a general uprising of the Sikhs against the British.
A minor disaffection in August 1848 in a Sikh brigade stationed at Hazara, so excited Abbott that, without any authority, he took upon himself to suppress what he described as “the national rising of the Sikhs.” He incited the Hazara chiefs and the armed Muslim peasantry to destroy the Sikh brigade. He then raised Muslim levies and marched on Hazara to expel Chatar Singh, the governor.:Abbott’s mercenary force surrounded the town. Commodore Canora, the Armenian artillery commander of the fortress, whom Abbott had won over, refused to move his batteries at Chatar Singh’s orders. At the orders of the Sikh governor, Canora was overpowered and killed. Abbott now demanded retribution, but Sir Frederick Currie, the Resident at Lahore, did not approve of the assumption of civil and military authority by his subordinate. Abbott, however, ignored the protestations from the Lahore residency and set up a jihad, crusade, against the Sikhs. His acts provoked the Hazara revolt which culminated in the second Anglo-Sikh war.
James Abbott wrote The Narrative: An Account of Personal Services at Hazara, an English manuscript referred to by Captain L. J. Trotter in his The Life of John Nicholson -Soldier and Administrator. The chronicle gives details from Abbott’s point of view of Chatar Singh Atarivala’s revolt against the British at Hazara and at Lahore.
James Abbott who retired as a general died on 6 October 1896.
His actions led to the outbreak of the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War. He trained at the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery in 1823. In 1830 he took part in Sir John Keane’s invasion of Afghanistan, and in 1842 was made assistant to the British Resident at Indore.
In 1846 he became commissioner for settlement of the Punjab boundaries, before becoming Resident’s assistant at Hazara in 1848. Soon after taking this post he accused Chatar Singh Atarivala, governor of Hazara, of plotting a Sikh uprising against the British. In August 1848, without any authority, he suppressed minor unrest in the Hazara Sikh Brigade, which he described as “the national rising of the Sikhs”, by inciting Muslim peasants to destroy the Sikh Brigade. He then led a Muslim force against Hazara to expel Chatar Singh. During this action Commodore Canora, the artillery commander of Hazara, was killed by the Sikhs for supporting the British, and Abbott demanded retribution.
Again acting without authority, he organized a jihad against the Sikhs, which provoked the Hazara revolt that led to the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War. He later published an account of his role in these events in “An Account of Personal Sandees at Hazara”, and the city of Abbottobad, Pakistan, was named after him.