Thomas Fiott De Havilland court-martial

The details of De Havilland's court martial, resignation, and restoration in India. 'Lord Minto, in his general orders from Madras, respecting the late defection or quarrel, published a list of twenty-two officers who were to be tried by court martial, or optionally to resign the service; my name was among these, and therefore I now avail myself of this opportunity to explain the grounds upon which I was implicated; in the hope that such explanation, faithfully given, may reach my descendants.'

Extracted from complete Autobiography of Thomas Fiott De Havilland.

I was still there when the temporary quarrel of the Madras officers, with Sir George Barlow reached that garrison, and I was involved in it with the rest of the officers, although, as I now solemnly declare, unjustly implicated. This, however, is neither a fitting time or place to rehearse the details of these painful proceedings; suffer it here to say, that although implicated, the only overt act I was charged with, was of having, with Lieutenant-Colonel R. Munro, borne 'a mutinous and seditious message from Leiutenant-Colonel John Bell to Lieutenant-Colonel Davis,' signifying his determination 'not to deliver up the fort of Seringapatam to the proper authorities.' Strange to tell, however, the words of this alleged message were not given in the charge, whence to deduce or infer any mutinous or seditious import! But, in point of fact, I never did bear any such message; and I was quite prepared to defend myself on that charge, could I only have obtained an unobjectionable and legitimate court martial to be tried by.

Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, who commanded in camp before the place, had understood that the officers of the garrison wished to suggest or to communicate to him some circumstances relating to their position in the fort; and in that view, he sent word that he would direct two of his officers to proceed half-way to the fort the next day, to meet and confer with any two who might be sent from Colonel Bell, or the officers of the garrison to that rendez-vous; which was done accordingly, although Colonel Bell himself was decidedly against sending any deputies thither. The officers, however, as a matter of courtesy towards Colonel Davis, requested Lieutenant-Colonel Munro and myself to proceed thither the next morning; and there we met Colonels Gibbs and Adams, who most kindly received us. They had brought refreshments; we sat down and conversed in the most friendly terms.

I began the parley, at which I most solemnly declare, that all I did say to them, as a deputy, was in these words following: 'Gentlemen, Colonel Munro and myself have been sent here to say, that Colonel Bell and the officers of the garrison have no message to send, nor proposition to make!' We then partook of a comfortable lunch; social chat ensued in friendly terms, the news of the day and other common topics were the only subjects of our converse, in which the camp deputies joined, without reserve or formality; and freely observed that Lord Minto was expected to arrive at Madras from Bengal; upon which Colonel Munro casually said, and in as many words, 'I hope he may soon arrive, for I very much fear that Colonel Bell may not be induced to give up the fort till his arrival!' I, myself, made no remark whatever on that occasion; nothing more passed; and up to the present moment I have been, and am still, persuaded, that when we parted neither neither Colonel Gibbs nor Colonel Adams considered what had passed as having been of a mutinous or seditious character; or in a tone of defiance towards Colonel Davis, or other authorities. We separated, shaking hands together as friends, with mutual and sincere aspirations that his lordship might soon arrive to put an end to the then state of things, most irksome to all parties! not, for one moment, supposing or expecting that what had passed at that meeting could possibly be made the ground-work for so serious a charge against us. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact, as regards myself, that when the Seringapatam officers were first placed in arrest, I was not of the number, but was brought in subsequently, as by an after-thought; and for which thought I was possibly indebted to the 'Acting Resident' and other civilians then residing at Mysore! who, I had reason to believe, raised unfounded reports to my prejudice.

But, be this as it may, I was perfectly innocent of the foul charge, and was quite prepared, and desirous to meet the accusation before an unbiased court, in a legitimate course of proceedings, which those of Bangalore could not be deemed as to myself; that court martial having already tried and condemned three Seringapatam officers on the same charges as now exhibited against me at the eleventh hour, and to be deposed to by the same witnesses; although I had not been present at any of those trials to bear and cross examine them on their depositions! Nevertheless, I attended the Bangalore court when called up, and there and then officially protested against such irregular proceedings, as well as against the constitution of that court, as objectionable in many respects, even to the unwarranted length that two of its members, Colonels Gibbs and Adams, had, on all those trials, been heard as principal witnesses to the pretended mutinous and seditous message; they themselves having been the deputies sent from camp to the aforesaid rendez-vous; and having afterwards, with other members, judged of the matter so deposed to, by themselves!! I likewise applied to the officer commanding the army in chief, to be tried by any other court martial than that at Bangalore, which ahd thus already prejudged my case, in the trial and condemnation of my senoir officers; but all this proved ineffectual, although aother courts martial were sitting at the time, which might have tried me!*

Finding, therefore, that in the then temper of the times, I could expect no measure of justice in India, I determined to accept the alternative offered by Lord Minto, of relinquishing the service. Captain Cadell, late town-major of Seringapatam, who also remained to be tried, followed the same course. We had taken advice of our friends, and in unison with the wishes of the army, and to put an end to the long protracted excitement in the country, we left India, and on our arrival in England, threw ourselves entirely on the liberality and justice of the Honourable Court of Directors, for our ulterior restoration to the service; which, in due course, was obtained, being both replaced in our relative positions in the army, without penalty or loss of rank!