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COTTON, Sir Sydney.

Nine Years on the North-West Frontier of India,

from 1854 to 1863.

Published: London: Richard Bentley, 1868

Stock code: 103939

Price: £650

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First edition. Cotton (1792-1874) arrived in India as a cornet without purchase in the 22nd Light Dragoons, becoming lieutenant in 1812. On the disbandment of the regiment he was placed on half-pay but continued to serve in India as a-d-c to Major-General Hare at Bangalore. In 1822 he purchased a company in the Buffs and served as a-d-c to Lord Combermere, Commander-in-Chief in India. Subsequently he was appointed major in the 41st in Burma, later transferring to the 28th in New South Wales. He returned to Bombay with his regiment in time to hear of the disasters in the Khyber Pass, but they were unable to take the field due to an outbreak of cholera. When the 28th was ordered home in 1848 Cotton effected an exchange with Colonel Pennefeather of the 22nd in order to remain in India. In 1853 he commanded a combined force raised in the aftermath of the murder of Colonel Mackesay at Peshawar, proceeding to the Kohat Pass and successfully suppressing the rising. In the same year he commanded the 22nd in a force under Boileau against the Boree Afridis and in 1854 commanded a force of 4,500 against the Mohmands. Exchanging again in 1854, this time to the 10th, he was commanding as brigadier in the Peshawar Valley at the time of the outbreak of the Mutiny. Presented with the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities at a higher level of command he rose to the occasion, forcefully disarming the native infantry, securing the passage of the Indus, and blowing several traitorous sepoys from cannons. Lord Lawrence described him as “the right man for the place.” After the worst of the disturbances were over Cotton lead the expedition against the fanatical colony at Sittana. He became major-general in 1858, colonel of the 10th in 1863, lieutenant-general in 1866, and succeeded Sir John Pennefeather as governor of Chelsea Hospital in 1872 two years before his death. DNB describes him as an officer “whose knowledge of India was exceptionally great, and who possessed in a remarkable degree the confidence of his soldiers”, commending the present work for its insight and Cotton for his efforts in pointing out abuses and “in every possible way [working] to ameliorate the condition of the British soldier in India.” Riddick, however, remarks that “Cotton was cynical, cantankerous, and narrow in vision. His memoirs crustily crab at civilian officials who failed to give the army total military and political control of the frontier and denied the wisdom of his thinking.” before conceding that Nine Years reflects the “courage and defiance required during the Indian Mutiny” and reveals “tactical and military thought of brilliance which later proved valid.”

Octavo. Original purple sand-grained cloth, title gilt to spine, blind panelling to the boards, endpapers renewed with brown surface-paper. Armorial bookplate of David Carnegie of Stronvar. Binding skilfully refurbished, spine darkened, a few marks to covers. A very good copy.

Bibliography: Not in Bruce, Ladendorf or Taylor; Riddick 203.

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