James Skinner , Lieut Col

James Skinner , Lieut Col

b: 1778
d: 1841
From http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/indiancavalry/skinners.htm :

The son of Hercules Skinner, a Scotsman, and an Indian Rajputni. This couple had three sons and three daughters, James being the eldest. Hercules was determined to have his daughters educated even though he knew that his wife was immutably opposed to it on the grounds that it violated her Rajput honour. She felt so strongly about it that she killed herself. It is hardly surprising that such determined parents should have a son who grew up to be a famous and charismatic leader. James was educated first at a charity school then at a boarding school. His first employment was as an apprentice to a printers in Calcutta but he hated it and ran away, supporting himself with odd jobs in the bazaar. He was found and taken back home. His next job was with a law firm, copying papers which did not suit him either, so he was relieved when his godfather arrived in town. James told him of his wish to be an officer in the army and the impossibility of realising his dream because of his Indian blood. The godfather suggested that he serve in the Maratha army instead and wrote a letter of introduction for him to the French general, De Boigne, who commanded them.

He was taken on as an ensign, serving for 8 years until 1803. During this time he fought with great courage against various rival chiefs of central India and Rajasthan. The worst time of his life happened after a battle at Uniara in January 1800. They were fighting a rearguard action in which only a few of his men survived. Skinner was left for dead, having been shot in the groin. He lay unconcious from early afternoon until dawn the next day. He had no food or water and lay in terrible pain for two whole days, keeping jackals at bay and not being able to reach other wounded men crying out. His life was eventually saved by an untouchable woman who gave him bread and water. He was taken to the enemy camp where he was well treated and released as soon as he was well enough. He sent 1000 rupees to the old woman who saved him.

There were other campaigns to be fought when he returned to service, notably against a man called George Thomas who was an adventurer who had set himself up as a ruler at Hansi in the Punjab. They attacked him at a fort called Georgegarh but he made a desperate escape and was eventually forced to surrender at Hansi. When war broke out between the Marathas and the British, Skinner and other Anglo-Indian officers refused to fight and were dismissed. He was persuaded to work for the British although he nearly changed his mind at one point when he came up against the inevitable prejudices. But Lord Lake persevered and he agreed to a cavalry command on condition that he did not have to fight his old master, Sindia. After the defeat of Perron's army at Delhi, 800 horsemen deserted to the British and asked to serve them with 'Sikander Sahib' as their commander. Anyone who has seen the film The Man Who Would Be King will know that Sikander is the local name for Alexander (the Great) whose empire reached north-west India. And so was born the famous Irregular Cavalry Corps that became Skinner's Horse [or, "The Yellow Boys".


Regimental Durbar, c1830
Skinner's corps served the British well so it was a blow to him when, three years later, it was ordered to be disbanded for reasons of economy. He was allowed to retain a nucleus of the regiment and given a grant of land and an income of 20,000 rupees a year. Later it was decided that as a British subject he could not own land in India, so he was reduced to a colonel's pension of 300 rupees a month. Then in 1809 he was ordered to re-raise the corps.. This cycle of reduction and build up happened again in 1819 -1825 during which time Skinner spent a very quiet 2 years. In 1826 he was to be made a Companion of the Bath until it was realised that he was not of high enough rank. It had long been a source of bitterness to Skinner that he had reached a point where he was in command of at least 3000 men with only the rank of major. And now he was to be promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel not becuase he was one of the ablest commanders in the British army, but because King George IV had decided to confer an honour on him. Lt-Colonel was his British Army rank, he was to hold the rank of Brigadier locally. He had reached the limit of his promotion prospects. He once wrote: "I imagined myself to be serving a people who had no prejudices against caste or colour. But I find myself mistaken."

As a result of his birth and of a career spent partly with the Marathas and partly with the British, Skinner moved between two worlds. His childhood memories of an Indian mother as well as his early years of fighting in central India, tied him to the Indian world. His domestic habits were more Indian than British; and he had a large family by, it is said, 14 wives. His town house in Delhi was a fine mansion with high colonnades in the classical manner, but with zenana quarters and Indian marble baths. At Hansi and Belaspore, in his country houses, he lived like an Indian landlord, taking a great interest in the cultivation of his estates. Many of his friends recalled the delicious Indian food, good conversation and relaxation with the hookah. He spoke the local dialect fluently and to the end of his life wrote Persian more easily that English. He knew the name and village of origin of all his soldiers, inviting men of all ranks to his feasts. He always layed an old spoon next to his plate to remind him of his humble origins. During the latter part of his life, he developed the friendship of high ranking British officers and officials. One of these men was Sir John Malcolm who said in one of his letters to Skinner; "I do not mean to flatter when I say you are as good an Englishman as I know; but you are also a native irregular, half born and fully bred; you armed them, understand their characters, enter into their prejudices; can encourage them without spoiling them; know what they can and, what is more important, what they cannot do. The superiority of your corps rests upon a foundation that no others have."

James Skinner died in December 1841 at the age of 63. He was buried at Hansi with full military honours, his funeral cortege consisting of a long line of his beloved 'Yellow Boys'. Two months later his remains were moved to Delhi for a British style funeral. His final resting place is under the floor of St James' Church which was built with £20,000 of Skinner's money, the realisation of a dream and pledge he made as he lay in pain on the battlefield of Uniara. In 1857 the church was desecrated by the mutineers but they respected the tomb of 'Sikander Sahib'.



From RootsWeb:

SKINNER, James. (1778-1841) Bt.Colonel,
C.B,,Comdt.Skinners Horse. b.in India
1778.Local Capt.1803.Local Lt.Col.
1815.Lt.Col.Dec.1826.Bt.Col.18 June 1831
d.Hansi 4 Dec,1841.
Son of Hercules Skinner,q.v. by an Indian
woman.Brother of Robert Skinner q.v.
Father of James Skinner q.v. Hercules
Skinner q.v.and of the wives of Radclyffe
HALDON,q.v.,and Peregrine Powell
TURNER, q.v.
Services:Entered Sindhia's service May
1795,as Ensign in a Najib Bn.Comdd.by
Anthony Pohlman,q.v.and served under
Perron till outbreak of Mahratta War
in Aug.1803,when he joined Lake.Entered
the British service,with nominal rank of
Capt.,when elected in Sept.1803,by the men
themselves,to comd.of a body of 2000 of
Perron's Hindostani Horse which came over
to Lake after the Battle of Delhi.In comd.
of this Corp's.(Now Duke of Yorks Own
Skinner's Horse)he served during the remainder
of of the Second Mahratta War 1803-1805;
capture of Bhawani 1809;Nepal War
1814-1815;Third Mahratta War 1817-1818,
with Reserve Div.of Grand Army ; Siege and
capture of Bhurtpore 1825-1826.
In Dec.1826,in recognition of his services,
was granted rank of Lt.Col.in H.M.S.
in E.I.Apptd.in Nov.1838, with tempy.rank
of Bdr.,to comd. a Bde. of Irreg.Horse forming
part of the Army of the Indus.This Bde.,
which did not proceed to Afghanistan,was broken
up in Jan.1839.C.B.26 Dec.1826.
Refs: D.N.B. De Rhe-Phillipe.Compton.
Keene.D.I.B. M.I.in St James's,Delhi.
Portrait (? by W.Melville) in Council
ante-room in India Office.
Note: In Jan 1842 his remains were re-interred
in St.James's church Delhi, which he himself
built in 1836,in the discharge of a vow made 36
years befor.


There are numerous references to Skinner's Horse in the literature of the
Indian Army and India.
"Sikander Sahib" is one which traces the history of the Skinner family to
post Independence India
William Dalyrymple in "City of Djinns" which is a history of Delhi writes
extensively on the origins of Skinners.
"Skinner's father , The Scottish mercenary Hercules Skinner , was the son
of a former Provost of Montrose. when James Skinner raised his Cavalry
regiment he had the Skinner clan emblem - the bloody hand - tattooed on
the bellies of his Hindu recruits. But Skinner had Indian as well as
Scottish blood in his veins; his mother was a Rajput Princess (known to her
Scottish in-laws as Jeannie) and according to Fraser , in his looks Skinner
was "quite a Moor, not a negro but a Desdemona Moor , a Moor of Venice" It
was this mixed racial inheritance that determined Skinner's career." (As
in 1792 it had become impossible for mixed race people to receive a
commission in the East India Co).
Keith Adams in "Journey into India" has an account of the present day
regiment with photographs which include one of
his G-g-g grandson Col Michael Skinner who commanded the regiment at later
part of his career. He now lives alternately in India and England.
Philip Mason has also written a History of Skinner's Horse and James Fraser
has also written "Military Memoirs of Colonel James Skinner (2 vols) in
1851.

Douglas & Audrey Augier
Biography
From http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/indiancavalry/skinners.htm :

The son of Hercules Skinner, a Scotsman, and an Indian Rajputni. This couple had three sons and three daughters, James being the eldest. Hercules was determined to have his daughters educated even though he knew that his wife was immutably opposed to it on the grounds that it violated her Rajput honour. She felt so strongly about it that she killed herself. It is hardly surprising that such determined parents should have a son who grew up to be a famous and charismatic leader. James was educated first at a charity school then at a boarding school. His first employment was as an apprentice to a printers in Calcutta but he hated it and ran away, supporting himself with odd jobs in the bazaar. He was found and taken back home. His next job was with a law firm, copying papers which did not suit him either, so he was relieved when his godfather arrived in town. James told him of his wish to be an officer in the army and the impossibility of realising his dream because of his Indian blood. The godfather suggested that he serve in the Maratha army instead and wrote a letter of introduction for him to the French general, De Boigne, who commanded them.

He was taken on as an ensign, serving for 8 years until 1803. During this time he fought with great courage against various rival chiefs of central India and Rajasthan. The worst time of his life happened after a battle at Uniara in January 1800. They were fighting a rearguard action in which only a few of his men survived. Skinner was left for dead, having been shot in the groin. He lay unconcious from early afternoon until dawn the next day. He had no food or water and lay in terrible pain for two whole days, keeping jackals at bay and not being able to reach other wounded men crying out. His life was eventually saved by an untouchable woman who gave him bread and water. He was taken to the enemy camp where he was well treated and released as soon as he was well enough. He sent 1000 rupees to the old woman who saved him.

There were other campaigns to be fought when he returned to service, notably against a man called George Thomas who was an adventurer who had set himself up as a ruler at Hansi in the Punjab. They attacked him at a fort called Georgegarh but he made a desperate escape and was eventually forced to surrender at Hansi. When war broke out between the Marathas and the British, Skinner and other Anglo-Indian officers refused to fight and were dismissed. He was persuaded to work for the British although he nearly changed his mind at one point when he came up against the inevitable prejudices. But Lord Lake persevered and he agreed to a cavalry command on condition that he did not have to fight his old master, Sindia. After the defeat of Perron's army at Delhi, 800 horsemen deserted to the British and asked to serve them with 'Sikander Sahib' as their commander. Anyone who has seen the film The Man Who Would Be King will know that Sikander is the local name for Alexander (the Great) whose empire reached north-west India. And so was born the famous Irregular Cavalry Corps that became Skinner's Horse [or, "The Yellow Boys".


Regimental Durbar, c1830
Skinner's corps served the British well so it was a blow to him when, three years later, it was ordered to be disbanded for reasons of economy. He was allowed to retain a nucleus of the regiment and given a grant of land and an income of 20,000 rupees a year. Later it was decided that as a British subject he could not own land in India, so he was reduced to a colonel's pension of 300 rupees a month. Then in 1809 he was ordered to re-raise the corps.. This cycle of reduction and build up happened again in 1819 -1825 during which time Skinner spent a very quiet 2 years. In 1826 he was to be made a Companion of the Bath until it was realised that he was not of high enough rank. It had long been a source of bitterness to Skinner that he had reached a point where he was in command of at least 3000 men with only the rank of major. And now he was to be promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel not becuase he was one of the ablest commanders in the British army, but because King George IV had decided to confer an honour on him. Lt-Colonel was his British Army rank, he was to hold the rank of Brigadier locally. He had reached the limit of his promotion prospects. He once wrote: "I imagined myself to be serving a people who had no prejudices against caste or colour. But I find myself mistaken."

As a result of his birth and of a career spent partly with the Marathas and partly with the British, Skinner moved between two worlds. His childhood memories of an Indian mother as well as his early years of fighting in central India, tied him to the Indian world. His domestic habits were more Indian than British; and he had a large family by, it is said, 14 wives. His town house in Delhi was a fine mansion with high colonnades in the classical manner, but with zenana quarters and Indian marble baths. At Hansi and Belaspore, in his country houses, he lived like an Indian landlord, taking a great interest in the cultivation of his estates. Many of his friends recalled the delicious Indian food, good conversation and relaxation with the hookah. He spoke the local dialect fluently and to the end of his life wrote Persian more easily that English. He knew the name and village of origin of all his soldiers, inviting men of all ranks to his feasts. He always layed an old spoon next to his plate to remind him of his humble origins. During the latter part of his life, he developed the friendship of high ranking British officers and officials. One of these men was Sir John Malcolm who said in one of his letters to Skinner; "I do not mean to flatter when I say you are as good an Englishman as I know; but you are also a native irregular, half born and fully bred; you armed them, understand their characters, enter into their prejudices; can encourage them without spoiling them; know what they can and, what is more important, what they cannot do. The superiority of your corps rests upon a foundation that no others have."

James Skinner died in December 1841 at the age of 63. He was buried at Hansi with full military honours, his funeral cortege consisting of a long line of his beloved 'Yellow Boys'. Two months later his remains were moved to Delhi for a British style funeral. His final resting place is under the floor of St James' Church which was built with £20,000 of Skinner's money, the realisation of a dream and pledge he made as he lay in pain on the battlefield of Uniara. In 1857 the church was desecrated by the mutineers but they respected the tomb of 'Sikander Sahib'.



From RootsWeb:

SKINNER, James. (1778-1841) Bt.Colonel,
C.B,,Comdt.Skinners Horse. b.in India
1778.Local Capt.1803.Local Lt.Col.
1815.Lt.Col.Dec.1826.Bt.Col.18 June 1831
d.Hansi 4 Dec,1841.
Son of Hercules Skinner,q.v. by an Indian
woman.Brother of Robert Skinner q.v.
Father of James Skinner q.v. Hercules
Skinner q.v.and of the wives of Radclyffe
HALDON,q.v.,and Peregrine Powell
TURNER, q.v.
Services:Entered Sindhia's service May
1795,as Ensign in a Najib Bn.Comdd.by
Anthony Pohlman,q.v.and served under
Perron till outbreak of Mahratta War
in Aug.1803,when he joined Lake.Entered
the British service,with nominal rank of
Capt.,when elected in Sept.1803,by the men
themselves,to comd.of a body of 2000 of
Perron's Hindostani Horse which came over
to Lake after the Battle of Delhi.In comd.
of this Corp's.(Now Duke of Yorks Own
Skinner's Horse)he served during the remainder
of of the Second Mahratta War 1803-1805;
capture of Bhawani 1809;Nepal War
1814-1815;Third Mahratta War 1817-1818,
with Reserve Div.of Grand Army ; Siege and
capture of Bhurtpore 1825-1826.
In Dec.1826,in recognition of his services,
was granted rank of Lt.Col.in H.M.S.
in E.I.Apptd.in Nov.1838, with tempy.rank
of Bdr.,to comd. a Bde. of Irreg.Horse forming
part of the Army of the Indus.This Bde.,
which did not proceed to Afghanistan,was broken
up in Jan.1839.C.B.26 Dec.1826.
Refs: D.N.B. De Rhe-Phillipe.Compton.
Keene.D.I.B. M.I.in St James's,Delhi.
Portrait (? by W.Melville) in Council
ante-room in India Office.
Note: In Jan 1842 his remains were re-interred
in St.James's church Delhi, which he himself
built in 1836,in the discharge of a vow made 36
years befor.


There are numerous references to Skinner's Horse in the literature of the
Indian Army and India.
"Sikander Sahib" is one which traces the history of the Skinner family to
post Independence India
William Dalyrymple in "City of Djinns" which is a history of Delhi writes
extensively on the origins of Skinners.
"Skinner's father , The Scottish mercenary Hercules Skinner , was the son
of a former Provost of Montrose. when James Skinner raised his Cavalry
regiment he had the Skinner clan emblem - the bloody hand - tattooed on
the bellies of his Hindu recruits. But Skinner had Indian as well as
Scottish blood in his veins; his mother was a Rajput Princess (known to her
Scottish in-laws as Jeannie) and according to Fraser , in his looks Skinner
was "quite a Moor, not a negro but a Desdemona Moor , a Moor of Venice" It
was this mixed racial inheritance that determined Skinner's career." (As
in 1792 it had become impossible for mixed race people to receive a
commission in the East India Co).
Keith Adams in "Journey into India" has an account of the present day
regiment with photographs which include one of
his G-g-g grandson Col Michael Skinner who commanded the regiment at later
part of his career. He now lives alternately in India and England.
Philip Mason has also written a History of Skinner's Horse and James Fraser
has also written "Military Memoirs of Colonel James Skinner (2 vols) in
1851.

Douglas & Audrey Augier
Facts
  • 1778 - Birth - ; India
  • 1842 - Burial - ; St James's Church, Delhi "Here rest the remains of the late Colonel James Skinner, CB who departed this life at Hansi 4
  • 1841 - Death -
Ancestors
   
 
   
  
  
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Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Hercules Skinner
Birth
Death
Marriageto Daughter of a Rajput zamindar
FatherDavid Skinner
Mother?
PARENT (F) Daughter of a Rajput zamindar
Birth
Death
Marriageto Hercules Skinner
Father?
Mother?
CHILDREN
MJames Skinner , Lieut Col
Birth1778India
Death1841
Marriageto ?
MDavid Skinner
Birth
Death
MRobert Skinner
Birth1783
Death1821
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) James Skinner , Lieut Col
Birth1778India
Death1841
Marriageto ?
FatherHercules Skinner
MotherDaughter of a Rajput zamindar
PARENT (U) ?
Birth
Death
Father?
Mother?
CHILDREN
MHercules Skinner
Birth1814
Death1866
MJames Skinner
Birth1808
Death1861
Evidence
[S37078] Annabel Sutton annabelle@@sutton86.fsnet.co.uk on RootsWeb
Descendancy Chart
James Skinner , Lieut Col b: 1778 d: 1841
?
Hercules Skinner b: 1814 d: 1866
James Skinner b: 1808 d: 1861