James Skinner

James Skinner

b: 27 SEP 1803
d: 12 JAN 1842
A detailed account of his life is given in "Sketch of the Military Services of Lieutenant-General Skinner and his sons" by A M Skinner, printed Stafford, 1863 - a copy of which is held in the British Library - Shelfmark 10826.g.9

On page 61 of the book is given the following account, reproduced from the Indian News, of June 14th, 1842.

"In our obituary to-day we record, on sure information, the death of Captain Skinner, late of the 61st Regiment Native Infantry, and of the Commissariat (and very latterly the political) department in Affghanistan. He was highly regarded in his regiment. His gentlemanly manners and feelings, and his thorough kindness of heart, won for him the warm esteem of all his brother officers, and they have the satisfaction of now knowing that, much as his loss is to be lamented, he had earned for himself a name which must cause his memory to be preserved with honour, and reflect credit on the corps of which he had been for so many years a member, and in which his professional character may be said to have been formed. In the trying scenes of the memorable and awful retreat from Cabool to Jugdulluk, his noble conduct had gained not only the admiration of his friends merely, but the respect of his enemies; and we are assured, upon unquestionable authority, that even Akbar Khan grieved when he heard of Skinner's death, and thus showed himself not wholly destitute of the feelings of humanity; and we also know it to be a fact that he had search made for the body, was successful in finding it-unmutilated too-and had it decently interred,-a solitary instance of real respect for a fallen enemy, by that man, which was extorted from him by his involuntary admiration of the courage, integrity, and wisdom of Captain Skinner, of which the Khan still speaks whenever the name is mentioned.

We have now details, from a good source, which differ somewhat from those furnished by a late number of the Bombay Times, on the subject of poor Skinner, and we believe the reader may rely upon them as being perfectly correct. When his house was attacked on
the 2nd November last, and his life clamourously sought for by the ruffians of the city, he narrowly escaped into the house of an Affghan neighbour (opposite to his own) who saved him, in consideration of his former disinterested kindness to several members of the family, and whose aged mother, in defiance of great personal danger, and the prejudices of a Mussulman female, came forth in the midst of the affray, and seizing him by his hand, called him her son, and drew him into her house; and to the great risk of his protectors (whom we are sure Government will duly honour, if they are discovered when we get to Cabool-indeed it would be well if General Pollock named that family in a proclamation on arriving at the capital, as one that should be protected for that deed,) he remained there - the sanctity of the harem being violated for his sake, in the recesses of which he lay concealed for upwards of a month.

But Ameen Oolah, who was then all powerful in Cabool, forced him at last from his sanctuary, but treated him well, and after a few days transferred him to Akbar Khan, who soon conceived a regard for him, and over whom he obtained so great an influence that, the prisoners have said, if mortal man could have saved our doomed army in the course of its retreat, poor Skinner could have done so; and it is felt by the ladies and other prisoners that they owed their lives, in that dreadful hour of danger, mainly to his efforts; for through great personal risk (as may easily be conceived) and difficulty, he obtained frequent interviews with Akbar Khan, who, under Skinner's influence, at last agreed to save them. He endeavoured also, out of his pure personal regard, to save Skinner himself, urging him always to remain with him where alone was at that time safety, when the cry to murder every Feringhee - man, woman and child - was all over the hills; but Skinner firmly resisted these persuasions, and after the interview rejoined his post; and at last when Elphinstone and Shelton were prisoners, in the afternoon of the 12th January, on an interview which the gallant and devoted young officer had with Akbar Khan, the latter actually laid hands on him to detain him (in a friendly motive) when Skinner exclaimed,-' what, Sirdar, do you violate your faith with me ?'-to which Akbar answered,-' if you put that construction on my actions, go ; but I implore you to stay.' But Skinner would not, though then there was but a miserable remnant of the force remaining, and those who now survive think he might, without dereliction of duty, have constituted himself a prisoner.

But he thought otherwise - and we think he decided rightly and nobly, however fatally for himself, poor fellow - and refused to abandon his duty while any of the men still held together; and while riding from Akbar's tent towards the handful of soldiers still remaining, he was shot - the deed having been perpetrated by a Ghilzie Chief who followed him, and who is said to have been jealous of his influence over Akbar Khan, and fearful lest it might be the means of obtaining the liberation of the prisoners, and the escape of the other survivors. Surely this chief is known, and will be marked accordingly. Thus fell Captain James Skinner of the 61st, an officer whose really great value to the service was only thoroughly known when Government was about to be deprived of his services ; for one who knew him well, in Affghanistan, and who is most competent to appreciate the qualifications that render an officer pre-eminently serviceable to the state, thus speaks of what we may call his local professional character:-' Had James Skinner lived, his perfect knowledge of the language, habits, and modes of thinking of the people of the country, and of their real social and political state, combined with his influence among all with whom he came in contact, from his acknowledged integrity, persuasive and gentlemanly manners (for he had more tact in his intercourse with Affghans than almost any man I have ever seen) and his various other qualifications as a servant of the Government, .............
  • 27 SEP 1803 - Birth - ; Kinsale, Ireland
  • 12 JAN 1842 - Death - ; Afghanistan
  • 8 JAN 1825 - Fact -
  • FEB 1826 - Fact -
  • 1833 - Fact -
  • 26 JUL 1838 - Fact -
  • 1840 - Fact -
  • NOV 1841 - Fact -
  • 29 DEC 1841 - Fact -
  • 12 JAN 1842 - Fact -
Thomas Skinner
1716 - 30 MAR 1775
John Major Skinner , Lieut General
16 FEB 1752 - 10 OCT 1827
Ann Moore
1724 - 7 MAR 1784
James Skinner
27 SEP 1803 - 12 JAN 1842
Ann Maclean
12 DEC 1773 - 16 JAN 1864
Florance Maclean
ABT 1744 - 17 JUL 1815
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) John Major Skinner , Lieut General
Birth16 FEB 1752(Date of baptism at Bishopsgate Church). His father was curate there, as well as evening lecturer there and at the chur
Death10 OCT 1827 Richmond, Surrey. His brother-in-law Donald Maclean of 37 Brunswick Sq London was joint executor with Ann, to whom he l
Marriage18 DEC 1797to Ann Maclean at St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Scotland by the Rev Dr Mudie (additional source: IGI)
FatherThomas Skinner
MotherAnn Moore
PARENT (F) Ann Maclean
Birth12 DEC 1773Ardgour House (Cooil House), Kilmallie, Argyleshire, Scotland (IGI gives date as 1 December)
Death16 JAN 1864 8 Stratton Street, Picadilly, London, of bronchitis
Marriage18 DEC 1797to John Major Skinner , Lieut General at St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Scotland by the Rev Dr Mudie (additional source: IGI)
FatherJohn Maclean
MotherFlorance Maclean
FAnne Skinner
Birth14 NOV 1798Edinburgh
Death27 MAR 1855Bath
Marriage20 SEP 1832to Henry Vere Huntley , RN at Bolney Church, Sussex
MThomas Skinner , CB
Birth22 FEB 1800Edinburgh
Death5 MAY 1843Mussoorie, in Himalayas, of dysentry
Marriageto Sophia Raikes
MJohn Skinner
Birth23 AUG 1802
Death28 NOV 1821Jamaica, of yellow fever
MJames Skinner
Birth27 SEP 1803Kinsale, Ireland
Death12 JAN 1842Afghanistan
MAllan Maclean Skinner , Q.C.
Birth14 JUL 18099 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London, christened there 22 August 1809 (Parish of St Luke)
Death23 MAY 1885Reading, Berkshire
Marriage20 DEC 1837to Caroline Emily Harding at Nolton Chapel, Bridgend, Glamorganshire
FMarianne Skinner
Birth1 AUG 1801
Death20 DEC 18855 Ashley Place, buried in Brompton Cemetary
[S16279] 'Sketch of the Military Services of Lieutenant-General Skinner and his sons'