Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Orr, John

ORR, JOHN (1760?–1835), lieutenant-general of the Madras army, was born about 1760, and, becoming a cadet in the Madras army, arrived in India in 1777. On 18 Aug. in that year he was appointed ensign in the 21st battalion Madras native infantry. In the following year he served with that regiment at the siege of Pondicherry, during which the adjutant of the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Madras European regiment having been killed, Ensign Orr was transferred to that corps to fill the vacancy. After the close of the siege he served for some time as brigade-major to a detachment under Colonel Hopkins. Towards the end of 1780 he was appointed by Lord Macartney governor and commander-in-chief, with the approval of Sir Eyre Coote, to command a flying column composed of one troop of cavalry, two companies of infantry, three hundred Poligars, and two galloper-guns. The task of this corps was to escort treasure, stores, and ammunition coming up to Sir Eyre Coote's army or the different forts, many of which were blockaded. The duty was very trying, for, as it was impossible to carry tents, there was much exposure as well as fatigue, and Orr suffered considerably in health. He was constantly engaged, and on one occasion was repeatedly charged by between two and three thousand of the enemy's cavalry. He was ten miles distant from the army, and for several hours was in continual danger of being cut off. He, however, succeeded in extricating himself eventually. At the close of the war in 1784 the corps was broken up. Orr, who had received high commendation from his superiors for his services during the war, was rewarded by being transferred to the cavalry, and appointed to the command of the governor's bodyguard. This appointment he held till 1787, when the state of his health compelled him to take sick-leave to England, having become lieutenant 12 Aug. 1781, and captain 20 May 1785. Returning to India in 1789, and joining the 1st native cavalry as second in command, he took an active part in the second Mysore war of 1790–2. His regiment in March 1791 formed part of the force which, under Colonel Floyd, when close to Bangalore, was lured by the enemy into an unfavourable position. A sudden attack by a superior force of the three arms followed, and nearly resulted in their destruction. Eventually Floyd was disengaged by a supporting brigade of native infantry which came up to his support and made good his retreat. His command consisted of the 19th light dragoons and five corps of native cavalry, and the loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 71 men, and 271 horses lost, Floyd himself being among the wounded. In April 1791 he became major, and at the head of the 1st native cavalry took part in Colonel Floyd's charge on the Mysore army when retreating, on the occasion of the battle before Seringapatam, in May 1791. In this charge Major Orr captured two standards with his own hand. In July of the same year Major Orr was transferred to the 5th native cavalry. In November 1798 he became lieutenant-colonel, and in January 1799 proceeded to England on leave. In April 1802 he became full colonel, and in December 1802, being still in England, was transferred to the command of the 7th native cavalry. In 1805 he obtained his regiment—i.e. received colonel's allowances or off-reckonings—became major-general in October 1809, lieutenant-general in June 1814, and died in London on 26 Nov. 1835.

[East Indian Ann. Register; East Indian Army and Civil Service Lists; India Office Records.]

W. W. K.