James Hennigan was born in Chorley, Lancashire in around 1852. At his enlistment in Preston on the 2nd of February 1872 he gives
his trade as labourer and his age as 19 years and 6 months, however soldiers in this era were always prone to overstate their age.
James joins the 59th Regiment of Foot (2nd Nottinghamshire), the service companies of which were serving in India at this time. It
would be normal for a regiment to leave a depot company to train and enlist recruits, however the 59th are reliant on the
administration and accommodation of the 47th Regiment of Foot (The Lancashire) to meet these needs.
Private Hennigan arrives at the barracks of the 47th Regiment at Fleetwood on the 6th of February where he is given the regimental
number of 1580. The army life would seem not to appeal to Private Hennigan as he goes absent from the 22nd to the 26th of June
1872, his punishment is to be placed in cells from the 29th to the 5th of July. On his release from the regimental cells he lasts only
until the 28th of July before he again goes absent at Fleetwood, this time being officially listed as a deserter.
Private Hennigan was to remain on the run for nearly 10 months. If he was captured or if he turned himself in is not known, what is
certain however is that he rejoins the depot of the 59th Regiment on the 7th of May 1873. At this time the 59th Regiment depot are
no longer attached to the 47th Regiment but are instead with the 15th Brigade depot at Burnley. Plainly the army were not going to
allow it’s soldiers to take such prolonged holidays without some punishment, so after being held in detention he is then sentenced to
a day in prison for each day he was AWOL, quite a long stretch.
Hennigan is finally freed from confinement on the 1st of March 1874, this meant that for his first 2 years in the army he has been
paid for less than 5 months. Having been confined for such a long period it was obvious that he may have wished to ‘spread his
wings’ which he did on the 14th of March 1874, again going absent from the depot at Burnley. Four days later he is reported by the
regimental depot as being in civil confinement, he has plainly crossed from military to civil disobedience. Hennigan remains in civil gaol
until the 6th of April, on his release he is immediately put into military confinement and remains there until the 3rd of July 1874. After
his release he joins a draft of men from the depot who are attached to the 30th Regiment (The Cambridgeshire) at Portsdown Hill
Forts, he was not to return to the depot.
James continues his brushes with authority by going absent on the 7th and 8th of August and the 15th and 16th of September
before he joins the draft in it’s passage to Portsmouth on the 24th of October 1874. Having embarked at Portsmouth the next entry
of the musters put the 85 man draft under Captain William John Frampton and Sergeant Frank Guest arriving at the Headquarters of
the 59th Regiment at Agra on the 5th of December 1874. The Indian service musters are of course less detailed than the home
stations, as such the details of the next few years are minimal. James Hennigan remains with the regiment at Agra for the next 22
months until he leaves in a party under Lieutenant W. Fulton in October of 1876, the destination of this party is shown as Dagshai
and would seem to be an advance party for the later regimental move. The remainder of the 59th Regiment left Agra in early
December of 1876 and are in Delhi by the end of that month, transiting to Dagshai (or Dugshai) by the end of January 1877.
We shall now turn from the musters to The Afghan Campaigns of 1878-1880, Compiled from Official and Private Sources, London :
Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1882, p. 216. By Shadbolt, Sydney H.
On the breaking out of hostilities with Afghanistan, the 59th Regiment, then quartered at Dagshai, was placed under immediate
orders for the front. It proceeded under command of Col. Lacy to Multam, where, forming part of General Sir D. Stewart’s Division, it
remained till the 8th of November 1878. Col. Lacy being at this time appointed to a brigade command in General Biddulph’s Division,
Lieut. Col. Lawson assumed command of the regiment.
Continuing its forward movement by rail to Rohri, and crossing the Indus at Sukkur after a halt of a few days, the 59th marched to
Jacobabad, arriving on the 25th of November. On the 3rd of December, one company, under command of Captain Lawlor, marched
for Quetta, escorting the Engineer Field Park, two other companies performing similar duty with the guns of Batteries G/4 and D/2, R.
A.. Head-quarters and four more companies followed on the 7th of December 1878, the remaining company, under command of
Captain Gordon, being left at Jacobabad for the purpose of escorting the Siege Train, which marched on the 13th of the same month.
Head-quarters arrived at Quetta on the 24th of December, and taking part, on the 27th, in the advance on Kandahar of Brigadier-
General Hughes’ Brigade, were present at the capture and occupation of that city on the 8th of January 1879. On the 14th of
January, Head-quarters and four companies, under command of Lieut.-Col. Lawson, marched with the Division for Kalat-i-Ghilzai, and
remained there for three months. On the return of the regi-mental Head-quarters to Kandahar, Colonel Lacy reassumed command,
his brigade being now broken up.
The 59th Regiment formed part of the garrison of Kandahar until the evacuation of that city was commenced in August, 1879, when
the left half-battalion, under command of Lt.-Col. Frampton, pro-ceeded to the Pishin Valley. On the 8th of September, the Right
half-battalion with Head-quarters, commanded by Col. Lacy, also quitted the city. They had not proceeded farther than Abdul
Rahman, however, before the news of the massacre of the Kabul Embassy gave rise to their immediate recall to Kandahar. On the
23rd of September, 1879, they started again for Kalat-i-Ghilzai, forming part of the flying column engaged in the operations
threatening Ghazni, which terminated in the action of Shah-Jui on the 24th of October, 1879. In this encounter with the enemy, two
companies were engaged, Head-quarters and two companies occu-pying the Fort of Kalat-i-Ghilzai. On the return of the column from
Shah-Jui, Head-quarters and two companies accompanied it to Kandahar, two companies being detailed to remain as part of the
garrison of Kalat-i-Ghilzai (The musters show Hennigan in this detachment under command of Major James Lawson). After the arrival
of Head-quarters at Kandahar, the regiment occupied the citadel and cantonments for a period of some five months.
As a constituent part of General Sir D. Stewart’s Division, the 59th took part in the advance from Kandahar—which was commenced
on the 31st of March, 1880—to Ghazni and Kabul. At Kalat-i-Ghilzai, which was reached on the 8th of April, 1880, the two
companies which had remained at that place forming part of the garrison (including Hennigan), were incorporated in the Division,
which continued its march. On the 19th of April, the regiment took an active part in the battle of Ahmad Khel, and was again
engaged with the enemy at Arzu on the 23rd of the same month. Marching from Ghazni on the 25th of April, 1880, the Division
entered the Wardak Valley, where communications were opened with the force under command of General Ross, which had been
detached from Kabul to meet it. Shortly afterwards, the Ghazni Field Force was absorbed into the Kabul command.
On the 29th of April, 1880, the 59th Regiment, as part of the force detailed to watch the movements of Muhammad Jan, marched
from Zaidabad for the Logar Valley. Two companies, under command of Capt. Stoyte, were employed in constructing a road for the
passage of the guns over the Yambroak Pass, the Head-quarters and remaining companies accompanying the main body of the
Division, at this time under command of Brigadier-General Hughes, to its destination by a different route which was imprac-ticable for
artillery. As part of General Hills’ Division, the regiment remained in and about the Logar Valley from the 3rd of May 1880 till the end
of July, when it proceeded to Kabul, and remained there encamped until the final evacuation of the city. It then returned to India,
arriving at Peshawar on the 4th of September, 1880.
The losses sustained by the 59th Regiment by death, from first to last during the war, were, two officers, and sixty-one non-
commissioned officers and men.
During the battle of Ahmed Khel on the 19th of April the 59th Foot lost but a single man killed (No. 1299 Private George
Rutherford), the official despatch of the battle being as follows:-
From Lt-Gen Sir D Stewart, KCB, Commanding the Ghazni Field Force dated Kabul, 5 May 1880.
I have the honor to report; for the information of His Excellency the Commander-in-Chicf in India, that on the 19th April the troops
under my command encountered and defeated an enemy holding a position at Ahmad Khel, some twenty-three miles south of
Ghazni. The enemy’s strength was estimated at 1000 horse and from 10,000 to 15,000 foot.
2. For several days previous a hostile gathering had been observed marching on our right flank, at a distance of about eight miles,
and it was supposed that the intention of the leaders was to take part in the resistance to be expected at Gbazni itself. Meanwhile,
the country from Khelat-i-Ghilzai forward was deserted by its entire population, so that not only was the supply of the troops
arranged for with difficulty, but it was scarcely possible to obtain intelligence of the character of the opposition that might be offered.
3. On the morning of the 19th April the Field Force marched at daylight from the halting-ground of Mushaki, in the following order :—
Leading Brigade under Brigadier General C.H. Palliser
19th Bengal Lancers, 300 sabres
A-B RHA, 6x 9pdr Guns
19th Punjab N.I., 470 rifles
Field Force HQ (1 Coy. 2/60th Rifles (63 Rifles), 1 Coy. 25th Punjab N.I. (85 Rifles), 1 Troop 19th B.L. (50 Sabres))
No’s 4 & 10 Companies Bengal Sappers & Miners (80 Rifles)
Brigade under Brigadier General R.J. Hughes
59th Foot, 436 rifles
3rd Gookha Regt., 289 rifles
2nd Sikh Infantry, 367 rifles
G-4th R.A., 6x 9pdr Guns
6-11th R.A., 2x 40pdr Guns & 2x 6.3in Howitzers
2nd Punjab Cavalry
Ordnance & Engineer Field Parks
Brigade under Brigadier General R. Barter
2-60th Rifles, 443 rifles
15th Sikhs, 570 rifles
25th Punjab N.I., 380 rifles
11-11th R.A. (Mountain Bty.), 6x 7pdr Guns
1st Punjab Cavalry, 316 sabres
the length of the entire column in order of march being about six miles.
4. About seven miles from camp the enemy was observed in position three miles in advance of the head of the column, when the two
leading- brigades were disposed as follows :—
The three batteries of artillery being in column of route upon the road, the infantry of Brigadier-General Hughes’ brigade was
advanced to the left, in line with the leading battery, one troop of the l9th Bengal Lancers being detached to scout on the left flank,
along a range of low hills terminating in tlie enemy’s position; the remainder of the cavalry was formed to tlie right of the guns in flat
country stretching for some three miles as far as the Ghazni river ; and tlie l9th Punjab Native Infantry, the two companies of
Sappers and .Miners, with the Lieutenant-General’s escort, were placed in reserve.
5. At 7-45 A.M. Orders were sent to Brigadier-General R. Bartcr to bring- forward one-half of the infantry of his brigade, and to
release two squadrons of tlie 1st Punjab Cavalry to join the Cavalry Brigade, then placed under the command of Brigadier-General
6. The advance was ordered at 8 o’clock, and when the column was within a mile and a half of tlie enemy’s line, A-B, Royal Horse
Artillery, and G-11th, Royal Artillery, moved out to positions immediately to the right of the road, No. 6-llth, Royal Artillery, coming
into action on a knoll 1500 yards in the rear, the infantry, under the command of Brigadier-General Hughes, being formed for attack
on the left of tlie field batteries, while the l9th Punjab Native Infantry furnished one company as escort to G-4th, Royal Artillery, and
tlie 19th Bengal Lancers detached a squadron as escort to A-B, Royal Horse Artillery. The equipment of the sapper companies,
entrenching tools of infantry regiments, &c., had, meanwhile, been placed under shelter and in rear of No. 6-llth, Royal Artillery.
7. At 9 o’clock, and before the intended attack of the position was developed, the crest of the range occupied by the enemy was
observed to be swarming with men along a front of nearly two miles, a body of horsemen that formed the enemy’s right outflanking
the left of our line.
8. The guns had scarcely opened fire when, in an incredibly short space of time, an enormous mass of men with standards formed
on the hill- top, a considerable number of horsemen riding along the ridge with the intention of sweeping to the rear of our line to
attack the baggage. From the central mass out rushed successive waves of swordsmen on foot, stretching out right and left, and
seeming to envelop the position. The horsemen turned the left, now strengthened by a squadron of the 19th Bengal Lancers, and,
pouring down two ravines which formed a V, struck the Lancers before they could charge, forcing the leading squadron to its right
and rear ; while the 3rd Goorkha regiment, the infantry of the left, formed rallying squares. The situation during this temporary
success of the enemy was rendered critical, as the squadron could not be rallied till it had passed to the right of the line of infantry,
then hotly pressed and giving way.
9. The onslaught of fanatic swordsmen was at this time so rapid, and was pushed with such desperation, that during the few
minutes which followed it became necessary to place every man of the reserve in the firing line,—the two sapper companies with half
a battalion of the 19th Punjab Native Infantry reinforcing the left, while a half battalion of the 19th Punjab Native Infantry, with the
two companies serving on the Lieutenant-General's escort, supported tlie guns on their left. The enemy, however, continued to push
on, and approached within a few yards of the guns, when, the whole of their case-shot being expended, both batteries were
withdrawn a distance of 200 yards. The gallantry with which the batteries maintained their ground till the last moment, and the
orderly manner in which the retirement was effected, reflect the greatest credit on. officers and men.
At this time the infantry of the right was forced back and a fresh position was taken up, two guns of G-4th, Royal Artillery, being
detached to the left centre, whither the remainder of the battery was subsequently moved.
The 2nd Punjab Cavalry relieved the escort with A-B, Royal Horse Artillery, and the remainder of the regiment moved to tlie left of
the line, the 19th Bengal Lancers and two squadrons of the 1st Punjab Cavalry being pushed to the right towards the river, while
some well-directed shell from the 40-poundcr guns with No. G-11th, Royal Artillery, checked the forward movement of the enemy's
horsemen round our left flank.
10. The fighting lasted for one hour, during which the troops under Brigadier-General Barter had come up and reinforced the right
11. At 10 o'clock I ordered the “cease fire” to be sounded, the enemy's attack having been effectually defeated, their entire body
spreading broadcast over the country. The necessity for protecting efficiently the large parks and baggage train formed in rear of the
column forced me to retain the cavalry to cover the right flank, and pursuit was checked. The regiments on the right had, however,
been closely engaged.
12. The troops halted two hours, during which time the dead were buried, and the wounded received necessary attention. At 12 o’
clock, however, the entire force, with its baggage in close formation, moved forward and passed over the enemy's position,
completing a march of seventeen miles to Nani, where camp was pitched. My advanced cavalry entered Ghazni next day.
13. The casualties during the engagement amounted to- killed, 17 ; wounded, 124, of whom nine are officers. More than a thousand
dead bodies of the enemy were counted on the field, and their loss is estimated at from 2,000 to 3,000.
14. Taking into consideration the character of the attack, led as it was by swarms of fanatics determined to sacrifice their own lives,
the conduct of the troops engaged was beyond praise.
The 59th Regiment were not to stay long in India after the return from Afghanistan. They were on board H.M.S. Orontes on passage
to England by the end of October 1880 and by the 25th of November 1880 they had landed at Portsmouth, marching to Gosport the
following day. With the arrival in England the battalion begins the process of discharging men who were no longer fit to serve, who
had reached pension or had finished the first part of their service and had no desire to re-enlist. No. 1580 James Hennigan was one
of the latter and is discharged to serve his period in the Army Reserve on the 22nd of January 1881 after just under 9 years in the
colours, the normal period was 7 years but Hennigan had spent nearly 2 years in jail or as a deserter!
On his discharge at Gosport he is paid 5 shillings discharge fee and a backpay of 15 pounds and 11 pence, he was also given a
pound, a shilling and a penny for travelling expenses to get him to his desired residence (Chorley in Lancashire). It would seem that
his medal for the Afghan Campaign with bar for ‘Ahmed Khel’ was sent on to him at a later date as the roll states he had been
discharged to the Army Reserve.
As a footnote it will hardly be a surprise to learn that in April of 1881 when the Census was taken our man was again a guest of Her
Majesty at the Cheetham prison in Lancashire, despite the difference in age, this is plainly our man. At this time, Hennigan was also
Institution: "HM Prison" Cheetham
Census Place: Cheetham, Lancashire, England
Source: FHL Film 1341961 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 4027 Folio 90 Page 20
James HENNEGAN M 25 M Chorley, Lancashire, England
Musters: WO 12/ 5943-5944 (47th Foot, 1871-73)
WO 12/ 10228-10229 (15th Bde. Depot, 1873-75)
WO 12/ 4637 (30th Foot, 1874-75)
WO 12/ 6862-6864 (59th Foot, 1874-77)
WO 16/ 1851-1852 & 1633 (59th Foot & 2nd Bn. E. Lancashire Regt., 1877-81)
The Afghan Campaigns of 1878-1880, Compiled from Official and Private Sources, London : Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and
Rivington, 1882, p. 216. By Shadbolt, Sydney H.
The Second Afghan War 1878-1880, Casualty Roll, A. Farrington, L.S.E. Ltd, 1986 (despatch of Ahmed Khel).
|James Hennigan – 59th Regiment of Foot – 1872-1880