JOHN HAMILTON CORSAR
John Hamilton Corsar was born on the 22th of November, 1812 at Fort William,
Calcutta, son of John Corsar and his wife Anna Ludivina. His father is listed in the
1810 East India Register and Directory as being a member of the firm of Colvins,
Bazett & Co.
John received a classical and mathematical education at Edinburgh High School.
He was nominated as a Cadet for the East India Company's Madras Cavalry, for
the 1833/4 season, by his uncle, EIC Director Henry Alexander. His father was
then described as a merchant, residing in Edinburgh.
John passed the Military Committee at East India House, London, on the 19th of
February, 1834. He was commission as Cornet dated 1 March 1834, and embarked
for India on board the Amelia Thompson the same day.
Cornet Corsar arrived at Madras on the 11th of July 1834 after a four month
voyage. He was ordered to do duty with the 6th Madras Light Cavalry by GOCC 18
July 1834 and posted to the 3rd Madras Light Cavalry by GOCC 13 October 1834.
Cornet Corsar was granted leave to Trichinopoly on Sick Certificate on the 28th of January, 1835, till the 1st of March,
1835. This sick leave was ultimately extended one full year to 31 March 1836. Although the exact nature of Cornet
Corsar’s illness is unknown, this lengthy sick leave evidences the unhealthy nature of the climate of Southern India for
Europeans in the early 1800’s.
Cornet Corsar was appointed Acting Adjutant of the 3rd Madras Light Cavalry on the 14th of February, 1837. He was
promoted Lieutenant on the 25th of March, 1837.
An Inspection Report of the 3rd Light Cavalry reported:
“Captain Harrington, Lieutenants Hall and Corsar each put the corps through a manoeuvre in a very ready and correct
manner. Lieut Corsar has a tolerable knowledge of the Hindoostanee language” (Inspection Report of 3rd Lt. Cav. 8 Jan.
Lieutenant Corsar was appointed Acting Quarter Master and Interpreter for the 3rd Light Cavalry on 11 January 1840.
He was examined in the Hindoostanee language at Belgaum and reported to have made creditable progress and a “moonshee”
allowance (i.e., funds to pay a language tutor) was ordered to be disbursed to him by GOCC 17th April 1841. Appointed
Adjutant of the 3rd Light Cavalry 18 January 1848.
John Corsar was promoted to Captain the 1st of March, 1849. An Inspection Report near the time of his promotion stated
“Conduct and character unexceptionable, is an excellent officer, well acquainted with his duties and zealous in the
performance of them and well qualified for any appointment not in the Survey Department. (Inspection Report of 3rd Lt.
Cav. 11 Jan. 1849.)
Captain Corsar was granted leave to the Mahableshwar Hills on Sick Certificate the 6th of March, 1851 till the 30th of
June, 1851. He must not have recovered fully from his illness, as he was allowed to proceed on a sea voyage on Sick
Certificate until the 13th of March, 1853 by General Order on the 17th of June, 1851.
Captain Corsar was appointed to act as Paymaster in the Ceded Districts by General Order on the 18th of May, 1855.
The 3rd Madras Light Cavalry was one of only a few Madras cavalry regiment to serve in the suppression of the Indian
Mutiny following the outbreak of the Mutiny at Meerut in northern India on the 10th of May, 1857. Captain Corsar
commanded a detachment of approximately one hundred and twenty men of the 3rd Light Cavalry that formed part of the
Kumool Moveable Column from the 8th of December 1857, to the 22nd of April, 1858, and which was engaged in the
suppression of the mutiny at Sherapore (also spelt Shoorapore) on the 8th of February, 1858. (For a complete discussion
of the action at Sherapore in February of 1858, please see Colonel Arthur Wyndham, vide.)
Captain Corsar was one of only four European officers and 114 native other ranks of the 3rd Light Cavalry who received
the Indian Mutiny medal, all without clasp, for their services during the Mutiny. His medal is named to him as a Captain in
the 3rd Madras Light Cavalry and was his sole medal entitlement.
John Corsar was promoted Major and retired on the 31st of December, 1861. He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant-
Colonel while on the Retired List.
Lieutenant-Colonel Corsar is somewhat of an enigma following his retirement. He does not show up in the census for the
United Kingdom for any of the relevant years and his date of death cannot be traced. He is shown on the Retired List until
June of 1890, but does not subsequently appear in the “Casualties” section. The registers of the Madras Military Fund
do not provide a date of death as he appears to have never married and had no children. In all likelihood, he remained in
India following his retirement, living there until his death.
[India Office Records: L/MIL/9/180 ff.452-56 Cadet Papers; L/MIL/11/45 no.31 & no. 216 in L/MIL/11/50, 51, 53, 55,
59 & 60 Madras Service Army Lists; L/MIV5/97 /216 Mutiny Medal Rolls; L/AG/23/10/1-2 Madras Military Fund;
published Madras Army List]