James Abbott (Indian Army officer)

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Sir James Abbott
Sir James Abbott von B Baldwin.jpg
James Abbott in Afghan dress. (B. Baldwin, 1841)
Born (1807-03-12)12 March 1807
Kent, England
Died 6 October 1896(1896-10-06) (aged 89)
Isle of Wight, England
Buried at Guildford Cemetery, Guildford, Surrey, England
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Indian Army
Rank General
Unit Bengal Artillery
Battles/wars First Anglo-Sikh War
Second Anglo-Sikh War
Awards KCB
Relations Major General Augustus Abbott
Major General Sir Frederick Abbott
Major General Saunders Alexius Abbott
Keith Edward Abbott
Other work Colonial administrator

General Sir James Abbott, KCB (12 March 1807 – 6 October 1896), was a British army officer and administrator in colonial India.The Pakistani city of Abbottabad was founded by and named after him.

Family background[edit]

James Abbott was the 3rd son of Henry Alexius Abbott, a retired Calcutta merchant of Blackheath, then in Kent,[1] and his wife Margaret Welsh, the daughter of William Welsh of Edinburgh. He had the following siblings:


He joined the Bengal Artillery at the age of sixteen.[2] He made a name for himself in the northwest frontier region of India in the middle part of the 19th century. In 1839, he undertook a mission to the Khanate of Khiva as part of the Great Game, the contest for influence in Central Asia between the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire. His objective was to obtain the release of Russian slaves in the Khanate to deny the Russians a pretext for invading it. Abbott was probably the first Briton to reach Khiva. The Khivans knew little of the British Empire and suspected him of being a Russian spy. He was welcomed however because they thought he might be able to do something about the impending Russian invasion. When the invasion was called off Abbott was sent west to the Russian post at Fort Alexandrovsk. On his way he was captured by raiders, but was released when they learned that he was carrying letters from the Emir. Shortly afterwards Richmond Shakespear was successful in the same task.

He was one of Sir Henry Lawrence's "Young Men", "advisers" to the Sikhs, after the First Sikh War (1846),[3] who did sterling work in pacifying the Frontier and Northern Punjab; and he was later to remain the first Deputy Commissioner of Hazara (1849–1853).

As part of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore signed after the defeat of the Sikhs in the First Sikh War, Hazara and Kashmir were to be transferred to Raja Gulab Singh, Dogra; Hazara, however, proved an intractable charge and was returned to the Lahore government by Gulab Singh in January 1847, in exchange for Jammu.[4] Thereafter, the Lahore government appointed Sardar Chatar Singh as 'Nazim' (Administrator) for Hazara and deputed Abbott along with him as his assistant to try to restore law and order and make an 'honest assessment'of the revenues of the area and he did a very good job of it. Subsequently, after the Second Sikh War of 1848-49, when the Punjab was formally annexed by the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), this area also came under its writ and Abbott was duly appointed as its first Deputy Commissioner.[5] Abbott's original seat of government in the Hazara was at Haripur but he eventually decided to shift this up into the hills for climatic and strategic reasons.[6] Thus, a site was selected and acquired in late 1852, and Abbott thereafter shifted his headquarters there in January 1853, founding a small town and military cantonment which was to grow over time. Unfortunately, Abbott himself could not long witness the growth of his town, which was later named after him, as he was posted away from this charge in April 1853.

Abbott died on the Isle of Wight in 1896,[7] preceded by his wife Anna Matilda Abbott (1839–1870), and is buried with his wife in Guildford Cemetery.[8]

Honours and legacy[edit]

James Abbott was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath in 1894.[2]

The Pakistani city of Abbottabad[3] as well as the district is named after him.[9]

A portrait of James Abbott dressed as an Afghan noble and relating to his Central Asian journey, was painted in watercolour in 1841 by B. Baldwin (see illustration), now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, though it is not currently on display.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biog. Of Henry Alexius Abbot per the obituaries of his prominent sons
  2. ^ a b Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 2
  3. ^ a b Isobel Shaw, Pakistan Handbook, Hong Kong, Local Colour Limited, (1998) p.519
  4. ^ The Hazara District Gazetteer, 1883-84, Pub. by the Government of the Punjab, Lahore, 1884, pp.41-47
  5. ^ Hazara India : Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition Article
  6. ^ Omer Tarin and SD Najmuddin, "Five Early Military Graves at the Old Christian Cemetery, Abbottabad, c 1853-1888", in the 'Kipling Journal', December 2010, Vol 84 No 339, p.37 ISSN 0023-1738
  7. ^ http://history1800s.about.com/b/
  8. ^ "Sir James Abbott". findagrave.com. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  9. ^ About Abbottabad - Abbottabad District website

External links[edit]