Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gardner, William Linnæus

GARDNER, WILLIAM LINNÆUS (1771–1835), Indian officer, was eldest son of Major Valentine Gardner, 16th foot. The father was elder brother of Alan, first lord Gardner [q. v.], and was with the 16th foot during its service in America from 1767 to 1782. Gardner's mother was his father's first wife, Alicia, third daughter of Colonel Livingstone of Livingstone Manor, New York. He was brought up in France, and when a boy was gazetted ensign in the old 89th foot, 7 March 1783, and placed on half-pay of the regiment on its disbandment some weeks later. He was brought on full-pay as ensign in the 74th highlanders in India, 6 March 1789, and promoted to a lieutenancy in the 52nd foot in India in October the same year. The regimental muster-rolls, which are incomplete, show him on the strength of the depôt-company at home in 1791–3. He became captain 30th foot in 1794, and at once exchanged to half-pay of a disbanded independent company. Of the circumstances under which he retired various stories were told. All that is known is that he appeared afterwards as a military adventurer in the chaotic field of central Indian discord. For some time he was in the service of Jeswunt Rao Holkar, the famous Mahratta ruler of Indore. Holkar sent him on a mission to the independent princes of Cambay, where he married his only wife, a native princess, on whose ancestors the emperors of Delhi, in days gone by, had conferred the highest hereditary honours. Holkar afterwards sent Gardner to treat with Lord Lake, and, suspecting treachery, grossly insulted him on his return. Gardner replied by attempting to cut down the maharajah. Failing, he escaped in the confusion, and went through a succession of the wildest adventures. At one time, when a prisoner of Emurt Rao, he was strapped to a gun under threat of death unless he promised to fight against the English. At another he jumped down a precipice fifty feet deep into a stream to escape his guards. Eventually he made his way into Lake's camp in the guise of a grass-cutter (1804). His wife and her attendants were allowed to depart unmolested from Holkar's camp through her family influence. Gardner served as a leader of irregular horse (captain) under Lake, and in the same capacity (lieutenant-colonel) performed important services under Sir David Ochterlony in Kamaun in 1814–15. In the latter connection Gardner (whose name, like that of his father, is spelt ‘Gardiner’ in many army lists) has been confounded by some writers with the first British resident in Nepaul, the Hon. Edward Gardiner, Bengal civil service (for whom see Debrett, Peerage, 1825, under ‘Blessington,’ and Dodwell and Miles, Lists of Bengal Civil Servants). He also rendered valuable service under Ochterlony in the settlement of Rajpootana in 1817–18. He was rewarded in 1822 with an unattached majority in the king's service antedated to 25 Sept. 1803.

The name of William Linnæus Gardner first appears in the East India Company army lists in January 1819, as a local lieutenant-colonel commanding a corps of irregular cavalry, afterwards described as Gardner's corps, as Gardner's local horse, and as the 2nd local horse, with which he was stationed at Khassgunge in 1819, at Saugor in 1821, at Bareilly in 1821–3, in Arracan in 1825, and at Khassgunge again in 1826–7. In January 1828, when the 2nd local horse was again at Bareilly, Gardner is described as on leave, and his name does not again appear in either the British or Indian army list. No further record of him exists at the India Office. He resided at Khassgunge, now the chief town of the Etah district, North West Provinces, which was his private property (Hunter, Gazetteer of India, under ‘Kásganj’), and there died on 29 July 1835, aged 65. His begum died a month after him (Parkes, vol. i.)

Gardner, a skilled rider and swordsman in his prime, is described in his latter years as a tall, soldierlike old man, of very courteous and dignified manners, and very kind to his ailing wife.

Gardner's or the 2nd local horse became the 2nd irregular cavalry, and since the Bengal mutiny, during which it was conspicuous by its loyalty, has become the 2nd Bengal cavalry.

[Foster's Peerage, under ‘Gardner;’ British and Indian army lists; information supplied by the India office; the incidental notices of Gardner in Mill's Hist. of India, vols. vii. and viii., and in Hunter's Gazetteer of India are inaccurate. Much information respecting Gardner will be found in Mrs. Fanny Parkes's Pilgrimage in Search of the Picturesque (London, 1850, 2 vols.). Mrs. Parkes, the wife of a Bengal civilian of rank, was personally acquainted with Gardner, and her book contains an account of him reprinted from the Asiatic Journal, Oct. 1834, and a letter from Gardner correcting misstatements therein.]

H. M. C.