Illustrations: John Nicholson

John Nicholson of India

John Nicholson of India. Like the Corp of Guides, John Nicholson usually wore khaki forms of native dress with just some  Western touches. His batman and tailor were native which was typical.  His beard was Mughal cut which was also typical of the Corp of Guides fashion. He was known for his expertise behind the lines — both lines — either in logistics and commissariat and technology or else military police or the other side of the front lines in advance scouting, guerilla insurgency battles, or spying. His first skirmish in 1857 was called a police action. Like a lot of the civil war of 1857, the skirmish involved Sikhs against Sikhs. Nicholson pulled strings for amnesty considering the Sikhs accidental rebels but Nicholson hated the sepoys of the Bengal Army for deliberately violating their regimental izzat honor  and for massacres  of civilians. Nicholson had a mania for law and order.

John Nicholson of India drawn by a Mughal Artist

John Nicholson by a Mughal Artist. Another example of native Mughal Art. Probyn of the Corp of Guides introduced the fashion for wearing Indian dress for portraits among ‘Henry’s Boys’. Many British in India posed for portraits in Indian dress.

John Nicholson done by a Mughal Artist .Mughal artists were famous  and their stylized pictures were fashionable. After the war the artists were too ravished to recover  especially  as photography was coming into popularity.

John Nicholson of India and the Mobile Column

Elements of the Mobile Column led by John Nicholson. Nicholson helped sell the idea of a mobile column organized in the Northwest Punjab to march across the Punjab to attack the Rebel held Delhi. Chamberlain had original command but was wounded so Nicholson got the job. He was only a captain so he got a temporary promotion to brigadier general that was revoked the moment he reached Delhi.. Nicholson bulldozed Wilson like a sort of human tank and highjacked command so the Siege of Delhi became Nicholson’ s claim to fame instead of Chamberlain’s claim to fame. Nicholson called Wilson the weak wrist witless wingnut heoric scion of gerbils.  The Mobile Column was actually two columns, the second being a siege column of tons of gigantic artillery plus munitions.  Nicholson’s ‘eyes and ears’ net of scouts and the inability of the Rebels to plan large military attacks resulted in both columns reaching Delhi without any serious attacks other than an attempt at poisoning the entire officer mess which Nicholson solved courtesy of a monkey food taster. After dying in front of the cooks, Nicholson whirled the dead monkey around and around by it’s tail as his staff offered three options: eat their poisoned food and die with full ritual rites, confess and hang with minimum rites, stand trial and delay the march and if guilty (monkey whirling) be blown from cannon to ritually defile them (Mughal punishment). They chose option # 2.

John Nicholson of India mounted on his grey mare. John Nicholson was typical of the Northwest Frontier: part Corp of Guides, part political officer, fluent in all of the key languages, customs, and personalities of his patch, able to move an army of thousands across the Punjab or fight behind the lines, spy, string telegraphs, survey for the railroad, build hospitals or schools, do small pox drives, whatever and whenever. An officer like Nicholson would have a staff of 10-20  plus lawyers,  newswriter (spymaster), police, advance scouts, irregulars, and various companies from the Corp of Guides or EIC Army or HM’s Army as needed. Apparently he only had one white on his staff: the very young Freddy Roberts who late became a successful general.

John Nicholson and his aide de camp 'Brother # 2'

John Nicholson and his aide de camp (second in command) and newswriter (spymaster) ‘Brother # 2″. Other than the very young Freddy Roberts, Nicholson’s staff was native. . Like most of the Corp of Guides, Nicholson worked in tandem with a native pundit. This might have been adopted from Ludhiana (MI 1) practice of co-joining a British spy with a native counterpart. Note the Victorian newspaper illustration  of a ‘Brother in Arms’ saving his tandem’s life — a Sikh saving his British tandem.

John Nicholson wounded in battle

Nicholson was wounded the first day of the Battle of Delhi. and died some 10 days later. The bullet hit him in the back but he turned in such a way that the bullet actually hit him from the side and blew out both lungs. Usually old fashion bullets could not do that sort of damage. Enfield mimie balls could. Before the battle Nicholson angered many rank and file Loyalist soldiers by raving about his personal loathing for looting despite the fact that lawfully the Loyalists could sack and loot Delhi because it refused to surrender. Nicholson’s death could be ‘friendly fire’ and he told the officer at the scene ‘I will let you make it up to me Hay. I will let you take me back’. Nicholson tried to get Delhi to surrender promising his mania for law and order. The Rebels never entertained options for surrender. Chamberlain, badly wounded, took over the battle which lasted 7 days.

John Nicholson always had a premonition that he would die in Delhi. He was an Irish giant with   a vocanic temper, unexpected moments of kindness, weirdness he explained as being exactly 28 seconds off normality time, and a grotesqueness that counterbalanced an amazing work ethic.  In life was a black Irish clairvoyant with second sight that earned him the nickname Nikal Seyn . The saying ‘In the Nick of Time’ originated during this time and probably refers to Nicholson’s second sight. But for whatever reason, Nicholson could not or would not dwell on his sense of death in Delhi.

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