(73) Letters from Colonel Nugent [[518-526]]
[] And now I cannot satisfy myself to conclude this
miscellaneous, yet, I trust, not uninteresting, volume, without
once more to its principal object; the communication of knowledge the
important for a young adventurer to British India. Further to promote
essential object of such a work as the present, I refer to a variety of
regulations enforced by the orders of the Directors, or of the Indian
Nor can I withold from the cadet, ardent and inexperienced, the
counsels of Colonel Nugent, the result of long and accurate
I quote the following letters from the life of that distinguished
in the "East India Military Calendar."
No person can bear a better character than the Captain you are going out with; but gentlemen in his situation are apt to require more respect and consideration than people are in general disposed to yield to an individual to whom they pay a sum of money to be allowed to sit at his table. Put every consideration of that kind out of your mind, and treat Captain ------- with the same degree of respect as if he were Captain of a line-of-battle ship, and you had not paid him one farthing for your passage. You have been strongly recommended to him by two of his most particular friends; and I am certain, if on any occasion you ask his advice, he will readily afford it, and in every way in his power promote your accommodation on board his ship.
The captains of the regular ships are very often questioned by the governor of the settlement where they arrive, as to the conduct of their passengers. You see, therefore, how much will depend on his good report.
"You will have on board two or three of the Field Officers of
establishment, to whom I would
"To the officers of the ship, and your other fellow passengers, your own disposition is naturally so good, that I need offer you no remarks as to your conduct, except to avoid intimacies with individuals, until you have fully appreciated their characters.
"Personal cleanliness in so confined a space as a ship, is so essential to your health, as well as to your own comfort [] and that of your messmates, that it would scarcely be necessary to mention it, had I not so often seen the disgust a neglect of it has created on board ship. When you arrive in the warm latitudes, you will see many of your shipmates getting, early in the morning, buckets of water thrown over them.
"Never on any account venture, either at sea or in harbour, to trust yourself in the ocean; leave to the sharks their own dominion without dispute: nor from idle curiosity go from your ship to any other, nor be very fond of trusting yourself up the shrouds, as you might be seized with a giddiness which would at once put an end to your voyage.
"Avoid gaming and drinking while on board, and after you land in India, as you would a contagious disorder. You will see victims enough to the latter after your arrival, to make you avoid it. Malt liquor and spirits have killed more people in India than the climate. I never knew anyone addicted to them escape the liver complaint.
"You will readily get one of the recruits or soldiers on board, whom the Captain will permit to attend you as a servant; be sure to make him take your cot upon deck every morning that the weather will permit, and accustom yourself to early rising. You will find the mornings most delightful in the warm latitudes, and the middle of the day you can devote to study and reading. A knowledge of the different country languages is not only the certain road to an increase of pay and allowances, but to situations of the highest importance. You should also keep alive the knowledge you have acquired of the Latin and French.
"Observe the utmost moderation as to wine at the Captain's table. Your modesty on that score will not escape observation.
[] "Your education has been such as to render all observations as to religion superfluous, but I cannot help remarking that there is no situation in which religious ideas are excited more strongly than in a ship. The reflection that you are divided from eternity by only a few inches of plank, naturally disposes the mind to such thoughts, and whoever has attended divine service at sea, must have made the same observation.
"Do not forget when you go on the quarter-deck to move or pull off your hat: it is a ceremony always used on board ship, and considered as disrespectful if neglected. If you find the weather-side of the deck crowded, always go to the lee-side to walk up and down, and be sure to take as much exercise of that kind as you can.
"I would recommend to you, if you find a good drill sergeant on board, to put yourself under his tuition, as often as you can, when the weather will admit. It will improve your carriage, and make you well acquainted with the use of a musket.
"Having thus stated to you everything which occurs to me as necessary on board, I have only a few words to add as to your proceedings when you arrive at ------- . Should that happen late in the evening, I would recommend to you to stay on board until the next morning, and to be sure not to leave the ship without thanking the Captain and Officers for the kindness and attention which I hope you will experience from them, and to assure them of your grateful recollections.
"When you go on shore first, go to ------- , to whom you are
recommended, and after that deliver your other letters personally. I
not the smallest doubt of your being invited to take up your abode with
some of the persons to whom you are recommended You will then report
in person to the Adj.-Gen. [] and intreat his directions as to the
uniform you should make up, telling him that you were advised by your
in England not to make up any till your arrival. You will then get yonr
baggage, &c. from the ship. The moment you are properly equipped,
some friend to present you, first to the Commander-in-Chief, and then
the Governor, and if they have levees do not neglect to attend them."
"Having, I will hope, after a pleasant and speedy passage,
------- , and having been introduced
"I would recommend to you, from the moment you land, to keep a minute and exact account of your receipt and expenditure, which I consider as not only the first step, but the sure road, to obtain an independence. It will not occupy above two minutes of your time at breakfast. It will be a kind of journal of your life, for on reference you will always find where you were, and what you were about: and above all, it will alarm you to a sense of your own situation, for when you find the expenditure exceed the receipt, you will naturally enquire into the cause, and easily perceive the article wherein the excess has arisen, and reduce it accordingly.
If, unhappily, notwithstanding this caution, you should find yourself embarrassed, I would advise you to apply to a friend, and such, if your conduct is good, you will not find wanting to relieve you: then place yourself immediately under stoppages, and strictly observe to repay his kindness. This mode I should prefer to your being in debt to the natives (the consequences of which have often been ruinous).
[] "You will in eight and forty hours after your landing, be able to equip yourself like others on the same station with yourself. I would then recommend you, under the view, and with the advice, of some friend, to send for a broker and dispose of your coloured clothes, sea-bedding, and other articles which will be no longer useful to you.
"Having, as I will hope, on the passage, acquired a perfect knowledge of the use, construction, and mode of cleaning a soldier's arms and accoutrements, you will now devote your time and attention to a knowledge, both practically on the parade, and theoretically from books, of military tactics. Often on the tiller head, in the great cabin, did a brother officer and I, then on our return to India, with pieces of card, perform manoeuvres, that we supposed would not have disgraced a Potsdam Review. We both afterwards, having been appointed to commands, found in the service the advantage of having amused ourselves that way, instead of using the cards as instruments of mutual ruin and destruction.
"I have endeavoured, in my first letter, to impress upon your mind the utility of acquiring a knowledge of the country languages. With the Hindostanee you will readily get acquainted, as it is the language most commonly used. To become a good Persian scholar you will, when your income will justify the expense, which is not considerable, hire a moonshee, or teacher; and as our recent accessions of territory in the Mahratta country have been very great, and you will, I doubt not, be frequently stationed there, I strongly recommend acquiring a knowledge of that language.
"Never suffer a drop of spirits/1/ to enter your lips; the [] habit of drinking them steals imperceptibly on a man, until at last he becomes a complete beast and sot. Malt liquor is equally pernicious to the health. You will find when you join the mess of your corps, your pay and allowances will allow you to take your pint of wine every day, which is fully sufficient.
"Never enter the door of the tavern at ------- . It is the resort of all the mauvais sujets in the service, and of seafaring persons, whose time on shore is usually spent in drunkenness and dissipation: a more likely place to get into a quarrel I know not.
"Your letters, and above all, I hope, your own good conduct, will introduce you into the best society. There is a degree of jealousy existing between the civil and military services, but I never, during ------- years' residence in India, suffered such illiberal ideas to take possession of me; and in consequence, lived on the happiest terms with the most respectable of both services, as I trust you will do.
"Let me earnestly recommend to you never to form a permanent connection, that is to say, to bring under the same roof or tent with yourself a native woman. You will from that instant be held cheap, and in a manner degraded in society. You will have all the expense and inconveniences to a soldier of matrimony, without any of its comforts, and may become the parent of a family, [] the male part of which, by wise regulations now existing, cannot be admitted into the service, nor will you find it an easy matter in any way to provide for the female part. The same argument holds good against your marrying a native or half-cast woman, nor would I wish you to form a matrimonial connexion until you return to this country.
"At the expiration of ten years' service you will become entitled to a furlough for three years, of which, should you not then hold a Staff appointment, you would do well to avail yourself. It will renovate your constitution, keep alive your family attachments and early friendships, instruct you in the mode of living in this country, and cause you, instead of repining, to return with pleasure to so excellent a service, whence, after a lapse of twelve years' longer residence, you will be enabled to retire with a comfortable competency for the rest of your life.
"In the variety of society to which a military man is introduced, it is scarcely possible to escape through life without some dispute. If you feel yourself insulted, do not depend on your own judgment, but apply to some friend on whose discretion you can rely, and follow implicitly his advice. If the lie direct should be given to you, or a blow, do not return either, but do not lose an instant, with the advice of a friend, to seek satisfaction, or accept of any apology in case of a blow, but a stick being placed by the person who struck you, in your hands, in the presence of your brother officers, to return the insult if you choose so to do. The wisdom and prudence of seconds often prevent duels; but should you once reach the field, never make an apology there unless you may wish to do so, having previously received your adversary's fire.
"The next point for your consideration is your intercourse with the natives. Always preserve your temper, treat them with the utmost mildness; and above all things, [] never raise your hand to them. If in a civil capacity, they will as easily obtain redress from the law as an inhabitant of this country. If military, there is not one among them, except the very lowest, who does not consider himself of a higher caste than yourself: judge what such a man's feelings must be on receiving personal chastisement. There have been instances of their stepping out of the ranks, and, regardless of all consequences, inflicting immediate death on the person who struck them. Treat them with mildness, with firmness, and with justice, and they will follow you to the mouth of a cannon, or to the top of the best defended breach; and above all, never interfere with their religion. At the same time be on your guard against deceit, and a disposition to pilfering among the servants.
"Be extremely punctual in the hour of attendance on parade duties, and scrupulously exact as to the uniformity of your own dress there. Without such attention, how can you rebuke a poor soldier for neglect?
"Although you will never lose sight of your attachment to your native country, or of loyalty to its sovereign, you will now recollect that you have also other masters to whom you have sworn allegiance. Enter not rashly into associations for redress of alleged injuries, but remember your oath, and that whatever injuries you may conceive you suffer from the government abroad, those who feed, pay, and clothe you, are resident in this country, and until an appeal has reached them, and their decision been received, you cannot have any plea for resisting their authority; and even then, should their decision not answer your wishes, you have the option to resign their service; but never, in any instance whatever, have you the option to bear arms against them or your country.
"Wishing you now health, fame, and wealth acquired with honour, I remain," &c.
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/1/ "Too much commendation cannot be bestowed on the Hon. Court of Directors, for the establishment of station libraries for the use of the non-commissioned officers, and private European soldiers. as the want of some rational employment to beguile the tedium of barracks, often induces soldiers to indulge in spirituous liquors. Whatever tends to occupy the mind during the rains or hot winds, as well as improve the morals of the soldier, will also keep him from the dangerous habit of drinking spirits; and as it may be calculated that each European private, by the time he reaches the corps to which he is attached in India, costs the Company 100 £, it stands to reason that every rational avocation for the mind, tending to keep off disease and evil propensities, should be introduced into the service."