A. C. Anderson’s cousin General Sir James Outram, Bayard of India

Outram Lake, named by Alexander Caulfield Anderson for his cousin, General Sir James Outram

This is the lake that Alexander Caulfield Anderson labelled Outram Lake on his 1867 Map of the Colony of British Columbia. On the other side of the lake, hidden by the trees, is the Hope Slide. Hundreds of feet under the rubble of this massive slide lies the little lake at the headwaters of Nicolum Creek, that currently bears the name of “Outram Lake.”

This is the story of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s first cousin, General Sir James Outram, the “Bayard of India.” Today James Outram is the most famous Anderson-Seton cousin of all of this family, but he was not the most heroic of them, by any means. He came nowhere close to matching the heroism of his first cousin Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Seton, who drowned in the sinking of the iron troopship Birkenhead. Nevertheless, there is a common thread between these two cousins. Both men had their names given to lakes that another cousin, Alexander Caulfield Anderson, explored in 1846.

For more information on Alexander Seton, see: nancymargueriteanderson.com/alexander-seton/ 

This is General Sir James Outram’s story, in brief: James was one of two sons of Benjamin Outram of Alfreton and later of Butterley Hall, and his eccentric wife, Margaret Anderson. For more information on Margaret Anderson, see: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/first-cousins/

James Outram was born in 1803 and was therefore much older than his many Anderson cousins. With the large difference in age, A.C. Anderson would not have known his cousin personally, but he knew who he was. In 1845, when Anderson mentioned his cousin’s exploits in a letter to the HBC’s Governor George Simpson, Outram was already famous in London and India.

James Outram’s childhood was probably unhappy, and most likely toxic. His father died young leaving the family in poverty: his mother accused both her Outram brother-in-law and her own brother, Alexander Seton, of not supporting her family after her husband’s death. The accusations appear to be false, as both men supported her through the many difficult years, and Seton paid for the boys’ education in good schools. Francis recognized his uncles’ support and thanked them: James believed his mother and did not. He cut himself off from the rest of the Anderson-Seton family, a few of whom he would have met in India.

In 1819 James joined the East India Company’s Bengal Army as ensign in the 4th Native Infantry, and sailed for India on the ship York. By 1820 he was the acting adjutant of the 12th Native Infantry at Poona. In December 1821 he fell ill; in February 1822 he rejoined his regiment but had a narrow escape when the native boat in which he traveled was blown up by the fireworks that Outram carried with him.

In 1824 Outram was in Khandesh where he was sent to command an army corps to be raised in Bhil. The Bhils were wandering hill people who defied British authority and who easily escaped by hiding in the mountain passes of their region. The British considered them bandits, and Outram began his operations with a show of power. He attached a Bhil encampment, killing some and capturing a great number, but he treated his prisoners so well that they came to trust him and joined the corps. By 1828, Outram had attracted some 600 sepoys to his corps, and had trained them to become good soldiers. The Bhils respected him for his courage and sportsmanship, and fearlessness in the face of danger. What appears that have impressed everyone most during these years: James Outram killed 199 tigers, 25 bears, 12 buffaloes, and 15 leopards.

In December 1835 Outram left Khandesh for Bombay, where he married his cousin Margaret Anderson, sister of James Anderson (B) of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s service. From 1835 to 1838 Outram was political agent at Gujarat. When the Afghan War began in 1835, Outram was appointed aide-de-camp to Sir John Keane’s staff and served with distinction in the disturbed districts between Kandahar and Kabul (Afghanistan). In order to deliver important dispatches to Bombay, Outram traveled on horseback  355 miles through warn-torn Afghanistan and dangerous Bolan Pass, disguised as an Afghan and accompanied by only one servant and a guide.

Outram was promoted to Major in 1830, and became political agent in the Sind or Sindh, a province lying on both banks of the Indus River between the Punjab and the sea in Northwestern India close to Afghanistan.

The Honorable East India Company (HEIC), which had started its life as a trading company similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company, had long been unable to control its appetite for conquest. The Sindh was divided into territories controlled by Amirs who stubbornly resisted British control. The HEIC considered the province’s annexation advantageous, and Sir Charles Napier declared war and wrested control of the Sindh from its Amirs. James Outram objected to Napier’s heavy-handed treatment of the Amirs, and even the directors of the East India Company considered the war unjust. But Napier celebrated his victory with a pun, “I have Sindhed.” (Another source indicated this came from a Punch magazine cartoon, and read “I have sinned.”)

It is from Napier that Outram earned his nickname, “Bayard of India,” which means “Friend” of India. He and Napier were not friends, and it was unlikely the name was meant to be flattering. As a result of Napier’s actions, no political position existed for Outram after the Sindh’s annexation, and he returned to England on furlough. The newspaper wars between Napier and Outram raged for years afterwards.

Once back in India with the rank of brevet lieutenent-colonel, Outram took charge of the Mahratta country, becoming Resident at Satara in 1847, and later Resident at Baroda. Residents were an important part of the system of indirect rule forced on India by the Honorable East India Company, and Residents were posted in the capital cities of all major Indian provinces. At Baroda, Outram incurred the wrath of the Bombay government with his fearless exposure of the corruption of the government in India, and his attempts to make the British government take action almost cost him his job.

Nevertheless, in 1854 Outram was promoted to Resident at Lucknow, capital of the immensely important northeastern province of Oudh. He carried out the annexation of that province, becoming its first Chief Commissioner. In 1857 he commanded the expedition against Persia during the Anglo-Persian War, and speedily defeated the enemy at Khushab. Peace was declared, and his services were rewarded with the Grand Cross of the Bath (G.C.B.). Almost immediately Outram was called back to India with the words: “We want all our best men here.” The great mutiny of 1857 had begun.

At this time there were two kinds of armies in India — the British or Queen’s troops who did regular tours of duty in India, and the East India Company’s Armies made up of British officers with native soldiers called sepoys. This war was begun by the native soldiers of East India Company’s armies, and spread quickly to civilians. Many native troops turned on their British officers and fought against the few Queen’s troops in the area.

Some native troops remained faithful to the Queen, however, and Outram was appointed commander of two divisions of the Bengal Army occupying the country between Calcutta and Cawnpore, in the province of Oudh south of Lucknow. He started immediately for the besieged city of Lucknow to aid General Havelock in its rescue. But the mutiny had already assumed such proportions that Havelock had fallen back to Cawnpore, where Outram joined him. Though more senior, Outram placed himself under Havelock’s orders, saying that after all the trouble Havelock had in securing Lucknow, he should have the honor of relieving the besieged garrison.

Outram and Havelock fought their way to Lucknow, arriving in mid-September with 1,500 men — too few to do more than reinforce the city. (This is the first relief of Lucknow). The city of Lucknow occupied an area of twelve square miles, and the Residency stood in the northern part of the city, with its buildings occupying the highest elevation and dominating the city. Earthworks of mud, wood and iron connected the buildings to form a perimeter, and  the southern and western perimeters had buildings of great strength serving as protection against artillery fire. Three sides of the Residency were surrounded by native housing, which kept the Residency safe from assault, but which exposed everyone inside to snipers and sharpshooters.

The relieving Army extended the position of the defenders, but all were still surrounded by an enemy army of five thousand men and remained under siege. Outram and Havelock managed to hold both the Residency and Fort Alumbagh, four miles distant from the Residency, against overwhelming odds, but the fact that the sepoy armies had no good leadership contributed greatly to the ability of the British defenders to repel them.

The conditions that existed inside the Residency were horrific, with dysentery and other diseases killing the men and women trapped inside, and snipers outside the walls picking off anyone who ventured outdoors. By the time Outram arrived there, his first cousin, John Cumming Anderson, was in charge of the Engineers — all his superiors having been killed or sickened by disease. We have no record of Outram’s behaviour toward his heroic first cousin.

In October, the besieged soldiers heard that Sir Colin Campbell was approaching Lucknow, and on November 10th, Campbell relieved Fort Alumbagh. This is the second relief of Lucknow, and Campbell’s troops reinforced the Residency until Outram was able to evacuate the long trapped civilians and soldiers to the safety of the fort, sneaking them out in the middle of the night and completely fooling the enemy. Havelock died of dysentery November 25th, and Outram took over his command — which in truth he had never really relinquished. In March 1858, Campbell recaptured Lucknow and overcame the stranglehold the enemy had on the city, ending the long siege. For his services, Outram was made lieutenant general; the British Parliament made him a baronet.

Outram was not a nice man. He disrespected his wife as much as he disrespected his Anderson cousins, and traveled India with a Native woman while his wife remained in England. When his cousins, half native children of Captain William Anderson (now deceased), came to him for help, he turned them away so cruelly that one committed suicide. And although Outram claimed he was not in command of the expedition to Lucknow, he fought every decision that General Havelock made. He was, perhaps, a bully — a natural consequence of his insecure and toxic childhood.

To finish Outram’s story, and that of British Columbia’s Outram Lake, we again introduce explorer Alexander Caulfield Anderson into the story. In Anderson’s second exploration of 1846, he paddled up the Fraser River east of Fort Langley, and followed Que-que-alla [Coquihalla] River east. The party rested on the banks of the Coquihalla River where it turned sharply north and another river — the Nicolum — flowed in from the east. They followed the Nicolum up its narrow valley, and Anderson saw that the river banks offered a soft surface for the brigade horses’ hooves. At that day’s end, he expressed his optimism that this trail might become the new route into the interior that he was looking for.

The explorers reached the lake at the head of Nicolum Creek. The following day they climbed over a ridge and arrived on the shore of a second lake nestled in the mountain valley. Here the country was fine and clear, with groves of large cedars and soft, mossy ground. The lakes were unnamed in Anderson’s journal of that time, nor do they appear on his 1858 map. But by the time he drew his 1867 map, Anderson had heard of his cousin’s death in France, and he named the little lake on the Sumallo River system for General Sir James Outram.

The Outram name that Anderson gave the lake in 1867 was later transferred to the first lake that Anderson found on the Nicolum River [also called Beaver Lake], and the mountain that loomed over the lake was called Outram Mountain. But Mount Outram proved as treacherous as its namesake. In the early morning of Saturday, January 9th, 1965, a small earthquake in the valley jiggled seismographs throughout the Pacific Northwest. At 7 o’clock a second tremor hit, and a slab of rock tumbled off the northern peak and rumbled its way into the valley below, bringing 100 million tons of debris and snow with it. It slashed across the highway burying four vehicles with passengers, and pushed hundreds of feet up the side of Mount Coulter on the valley’s south side. A gigantic wave of broken trees, mud and rocks fell down Mount Coulter into the valley, and fanning out again, buried one more vehicle.

This is the another post in a series of posts following Alexander Caulfield Anderson around British Columbia (which could be a book all by itself). Find the next post here http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/rhododendron-flats/ Rhododendron Flats is a magical place to visit; if you do plan to see it, go right at the end of May, or very early June, to see the flowers in bloom!

This story is a part of my first book, The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West, which is available here: http://www.heritagehouse.ca/author_details.php?contributor_id_1=2447 I also have some copies available.

My next book, (Working Title: “The York Factory Express”) is now in the hands of my editor. This story will also be told in my third book, which I have begun writing. Its working title is “Brigades.” Exciting times! Thanks for your interest.

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014 [Updated July 26, 2015]. All rights reserved.