Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cavagnari, Pierre Louis Napoleon

CAVAGNARI, Sir PIERRE LOUIS NAPOLEON (1841–1879), soldier and diplomatist, son of General Adolphe Cavagnari, who served under the Emperor Napoleon, by his marriage with Caroline, third daughter of Hugh Lyons Montgomery of Laurencetown, county Down, was born at Stenay, department of the Meuse, France, on 4 July 1841, entered Christ's Hospital, London, in 1851, and, after studying there for six years, passed the necessary examinations at Addiscombe, and became a direct cadet of the East India Company on 9 April 1858, and was appointed an ensign in the 67th regiment of native infantry on 21 June. He had previously, on 7 Dec. 1857, been granted a certificate of naturalisation by the home secretary under the name of P. L. N. Cavagnaré, but does not seem to have adopted this method of writing his name. Arriving in India on 12 July, and joining the 1st Bengal European fusiliers, he served throughout the Oudh campaign (1858–9), and having taken part in the capture of five guns from the Nussirabad brigade on 30 Oct. 1858, was decorated with the Indian mutiny medal. Promoted to be a lieutenant on 17 March 1860, in July 1861 he was appointed to the staff corps, and gazetted an assistant-commissioner in the Punjab. Possessed of remarkable energy, indomitable courage, and a genial character, he soon acquired distinction in the frontier service, and was ultimately appointed deputy-commissioner of Kohat. He held political charge of the Kohat district from April 1866 to May 1877, when he was named deputy-commissioner of Pesháwar, and as chief political officer served in several hill expeditions between 1868 and 1878, the most important of which was the Afridi expedition, 1875–7. When the despatch of a British mission to the Ameer of Afghanistan, Shere Ali Khan, in September 1878, under Sir Neville Chamberlain, was decided upon, Cavagnari was attached to the staff, and was the officer who interviewed Faiz Mahomed Khan when that official of the ameer on 21 Sept. 1878 refused to allow the mission to proceed. After the death of the ameer, 21 Feb. 1879, and the succession of Yakub Khan to the government of Afghanistan, Cavagnari, in a personal interview with the new ruler, negotiated and signed the treaty of Gandamuck, 26 May 1879, for which service he was made a K.C.B. on 19 July; he had previously, on 1 June 1877, been named commander of the Star of India. He was then sent to Cabul as the British resident, and, entering that city on 24 July, took up his residence in the Bala Hissar. His reception by Yakub Khan was friendly, but on 3 Sept. 1879 several of the Afghan regiments mutinied, and, attacking the citadel where Cavagnari and the other members of the embassy were living, massacred all the Europeans. Cavagnari made a stout resistance, but at last his head was split open with a blow. He fell back against a wall, and just about the same time the burning roof fell in; his body must have been consumed in the flames. His age was only thirty-eight. No Englishman who survived was present on the occasion, so that the details have to be taken from native sources. He married on 23 Nov. 1871 Emma, second daughter of Henry Graves, M.D., of Cookstown, county Tyrone.

[Kālīprasanna's Life of Sir L. Cavagnari, with portrait, Calcutta, 1881; Annual Register, 1879, pp. 262–70; Illustrated London News, with portrait, 1879, lxxv. 229; Graphic, with portrait, 1879, xx. 4, 29, 261, 304.]

G. C. B.