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The Scottish Nation

BEATSON, -- under this surname, mention is made of Major-general Beatson, who distinguished himself in India. The second son of Robert Beatson, Esq. of Kilrie, Fifeshire, he was born at Dundee, Oct. 24, 1759. As a cadet in the East India Company’s service, he arrived at Madras in June 1776, and served for more than two years with the corps of engineers there. He was then appointed quarter-master of brigade to a detachment in the field, but previous to joining it, was permitted to do duty with a European regiment at the siege of Pondicherry in 1778. His next appointment was superintending engineer at Masuliipatam, with the rank of acting lieutenant of engineers. At the end of 1782 he was superseded, when, quitting that corps, he proceeded to Madras, to join the army in the field, and became aide-de-camp to Major General Stuart, the commander-in-chief. After the siege of Cudalore, he was appointed quarter-master of brigade to a portion of the army that remained in the field in the vicinity of Madras, until the peace of 1784, with Tippoo Sultaun. Soon after he was nominated to the command of a Revenue battalion at Tanjore, and in 1785 was attached to a grenadier battalion. In 1787 he became senior captain in a corps of Guides formed that year, and was employed in surveying and exploring the whole face of the Carnatic. The campaigns of the war with Tippoo Sultaun, which commenced in 1790, enabled him to extend his trigonometrical survey over a great portion of the Mysore. In consequence of these surveys, and the extra-official assistance rendered by him in the attack of Bangalore, Severndroog, and other forts, he was, by order of the Court of Directors, placed upon the same footing, in respect to allowances, as a major of the Guides. His intimate knowledge of the Pass of Muglee enabled him to lead Lord Cornwallis through it in Feb. 1791, and during the siege of Bangalore, as commandant of the Guides, he was employed in conducting all reconnoitering parties. His recommendation that the tower of the gateway should be breached, instead of the curtain on its left, was adopted by Lord Cornwallis, who ordered an immediate change in the point of attack, and the fortress was taken by storm in 24 hours, in presence of the whole of the Sultaun’s army.

Captain Beatson next assisted at the siege of Nandedurgum, which was also taken by storm. He also planned the attack on Severndroog, and superintended and directed the siege of that place, and in 14 days this formidable hill-fort was also taken. On the night of Feb. 1792, when Tippoo Sultaun’s entrenched camp was attacked in three columns by Lord Cornwallis, Capt. Beatson led the right column, commanded by Sir W. Medows, but an unfortunate mistake occurred, in spite of his remonstrances, in the column turning to the right instead of the left, and attacking a redoubt, which prevented the British from experiencing all the success anticipated.

After the peace with Tippoo Sultaun in 1792, Capt. Beatson was appointed Town Major of Fort-George, and aide-de-camp to the governor. In 1793, by command of the Marquis Cornwallis, he prepared a plan for the attack of Pondicherry. In 1794, he was appointed chief engineer to the expedition, under Col. James Stuart, against the Isle of France, and after the operations of the war he returned to England in 1795. In 1797 he was again in India, having been appointed by the Court of Directors to complete an investigation and survey relating to a scheme for watering the Circars from the two great rivers, Kistnah and Godavery. He commenced his survey on 14th March, 1798, but in July following he was ordered to Calcutta, where he was named aide-de-camp to the earl of Mornington, afterwards Marquis Wellesley, governor-General of India. On the voyage he had prepared ‘A Sketch of a Plan of Operation against Tippoo Sultaun,’ in which he recommended the reduction of Seringapatam, as the first and immediate object of the campaign. It obtained the approval of the Governor-General, and in January 1799 Major Beatson accompanied his lordship to Madras. When the army was about to invade the territories of Tippoo Sultaun, Major Beatson was appointed Surveyor-General to the army in the field. In the siege of Seringapatam, his plan of attack was preferred to that by the engineer officers. After its capture, he was sent to England with dispatches, and was rewarded, by the Court of Directors, by an addition to his half-pay, as lieutenant-colonel, of £150 per annum. At the siege he had received a sun-stroke, the effects of which he felt for many years.

In 1800, he published ‘A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun, comprising a Narrative of the Operations of the Army under the Command of Lieutenant-General George (afterwards Lord) Harris, and of the Siege of Seringapatam,’ which embodies a full account of the campaign in Mysore.

After his arrival in England, he purchased the small estates of Knowle Farm, Henly, Little Henly, and Delvidiere, in the county of Sussex, and devoted his attention to agriculture. In October 1807 he was appointed by the Court of Directors Governor of St. Helena, and such was the success of his administration, that in five years he reduced the expenses of the island to £52,476 per annum, introduced the plough and Chinese labourers, and effectually abolished intemperance amongst the soldiers and others, by totally prohibiting the import of Indian spirits, and the establishment of breweries. This last measure, however, and other circumstances, occasioned a serious mutiny in the garrison in Dec. 1811, which lasted four days, but was at length suppressed, without the loss of a single innocent life. His letter to the Court of Directors, giving the details of the event, dated January 4, 1812, was afterwards published, with the title of ‘Tracts Relative to the Island of St. Helena, written during a Residence of Five Years, by Major-General Beatson.’ For his conduct on that occasion he received the thanks of the Court of Directors, and the most flattering commendations from Sir John Cradock, governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and the earl of Minto, governor-general of India.

He returned to England in Nov. 1813, and in August 1814, by a recommendation to his R.H. the commander-in-chief, the Court of Directors, who had granted him the same rank, obtained for him the brevet commission of major-general in the king’s service, at St. Helena only, and dated in Aug. 1813, previously to his relinquishing the government of that island. He also received a pension from the East India Company. Resuming his agricultural pursuits, in 1820, he published a work entitled ‘A New System of Cultivation,’ and in 1821, a supplement to the same. He died at Henly, Oct. 15, 1830, and was buried in the churchyard of the parish of Frant.

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