Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ballard, John Archibald

BALLARD, JOHN ARCHIBALD (1829–1880), general, distinguished for his services at the defence of Silistria and in Omar Pasha's campaign in Mingrelia, was an officer of the Bombay engineers, which corps he joined in 1850. After having been employed in India for four years in the ordinary duties of a subaltern of engineers, Lieutenant Ballard was ordered to Europe on medical certificate in the spring of 1864. Attracted by intelligence of the events then going on in the Danubian provinces, he turned aside to Constantinople, and, proceeding to Omar Pasha's camp at Shumla, was invested by that general with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Turkish army, and deputed to Silistria as a member of the council of war in that fortress, which was then besieged by the Russians. Previous to Ballard's arrival, on 13 June, two other British officers, Captain Butler of the Ceylon rifles and Lieutenant Nasmyth of the Bombay artillery, had been aiding the garrison in the defence of the place; but Butler had received a wound which proved fatal shortly afterwards, and Nasmyth was called away to Omar Pasha's camp a few days after Ballard's arrival. During the remainder of the siege, which was raised by the Russians on 28 June, Ballard was the only British officer in the fortress, and it was mainly owing to his exertions, and the influence which he exercised over the garrison, that the defence was successfully maintained. Kinglake, in his brief sketch of the siege, refers to Ballard's services in these terms: 'Lieutenant Ballard of the Indian army, coming thither of his own free will, had thrown himself into the besieged town, and whenever the enemy stirred there was always at least one English lad in the Arab Tabia, directing the counsels of the garrison, repressing the thought of surrender, and keeping the men in good heart.'

At the subsequent attack and capture of the Russian position at Giurgevo, Ballard commanded the skirmishers, and kept back the enemy until the Turks could entrench themselves. He received the thanks of her majesty's government for his services at Silistria, and from the Turkish government a gold medal and a sword of honour.

After serving with the Turkish troops at Eupatoria and in the expedition to Kertch, Ballard commanded a brigade in Omar Pasha's Transcaucasian campaign, undertaken for the relief of Kars. The chief event in this campaign was the battle of the Ingour river, at which Ballard and his brigade were for several hours hotly engaged with the Russians, the former conspicuous, as he had been at Silistria and at Giurgevo, for his coolness under fire. It was related of him by an eyewitness of this battle that when he saw a man firing wildly or unsteadily he would, in the gentlest way, say to him: 'My friend, don't be in a hurry. You will fire better with a rest: take aim over my shoulder.' He was also remarkable for his watchful care over the comfort and wellbeing of his men.

Returning to India in 1856, still a subaltern of engineers, but in virtue of his rank and services in the Turkish army decorated with the order of companion of the Bath, and also with that of the Medjidie, Ballard was appointed to proceed with Captain (now Sir Henry) Green on a mission to Herat; but the mission having been abandoned, he served as assistant-quartermaster-general in the Persian campaign, and afterwards in the same capacity in the Indian mutiny with the Rajputana field force, taking part in the pursuit and rout of Tantia Topee's forces. This was his last military service. He was subsequently mint-master at Bombay; the extraordinary demand for Indian cotton in consequence of the civil war in America made the office an onerous one, but he discharged it with marked ability and success. He retired from the army and from the public service in 1879, having then attained the rank of lieutenant-general. His promotion after his return to India in 1856 had been singularly rapid, advancing in a single year (1858) from the rank of lieutenant to that of lieutenant-colonel. He received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the university of Edinburgh in 1868. He died suddenly in Greece, when visiting the Pass of Thermopylæ, on 1 April 1880.

[Hart's Army List; Records of War Office and India Office; Kinglake's History of the War in the Crimea, vol. i.; Journal of the Royal Engineers; Household Words, 27 Dec. 1856.]

A. J. A.