Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Stewart, Patrick (1832-1865)

STEWART, PATRICK (1832–1865), major royal (late Bengal) engineers and temporary lieutenant-colonel, second son of James Stewart (d. 19 Sept. 1877) of Cairnsmore, Kirkcudbrightshire, and of his wife Elizabeth (d. 18 April 1872), only daughter of Dr. Gilbert Macleod, East India Company's service, was born at Cairnsmore on 28 Jan. 1832. He was educated at Sunderland by Dr. Cowan and at Perry Hill, Sydenham, and entered the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe in August 1848. He obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal engineers on 14 June 1850, having passed out of Addiscombe at the head of his term and carried off the Pollock medal. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 1 Aug. 1854, second captain 27 Aug. 1858, brevet major 28 Aug. 1858.

After the usual course of professional instruction at Chatham Stewart arrived at Calcutta on 13 Oct. 1852. In May 1853 he was appointed acting superintendent of electric telegraphs during the absence of Dr. (afterwards Sir William Brooke) O'Shaughnessy [q. v.] in Europe. The establishment of electric telegraphs in India had just commenced, and Stewart's work was the construction of lines from Calcutta to Lahore and from Agra to Indore, some seventeen hundred miles in length. The energy and rapidity with which he carried it on won great praise. In November 1853 he took up the duty of aide-de-camp to the lieutenant-governor of the North-West Provinces. An ardent sportsman, he had ample opportunities of hunting, and experienced many accidents. Lady Canning observes on the occasion of one of his frequent visits to Calcutta: 'We have had Lady Selkirk's friend of the electric telegraph here Lieutenant P. Stewart. He has been mauled by a tiger, hugged by a bear, kicked off by wild asses, and lately had the cholera.'

From January 1854 to July 1856 Stewart was employed in the Punjab on public works. He then again officiated as head of the telegraph department, and was in Ceylon on telegraph business when the mutiny caused him to hasten back to Calcutta. Calling at Madras on 9 June 1857, he found that most important messages for the governor-general had arrived there from the Punjab and North-West Provinces, the line having been cut at Cawnpore. These he took with him by sea to Calcutta, and on his own responsibility ordered the immediate commencement of a coast telegraph line from Madras to Calcutta.

From Calcutta he went on 18 June to Benares and Allahabad, and lent invaluable assistance to Colonel John Neill [q. v.] With two hundred Sikhs and some irregular cavalry he crossed the Ganges and destroyed a rebel stronghold on 25 June, inspected the telegraph line accompanying Major Renaud's force, and returned to Calcutta on 9 July to hurry on the new coast line. A few weeks later he was again at Benares constructing, with the assistance of Lieutenant Limond, R.E., and many thousand native workmen, a fortified position at the Raighat, which he had himself suggested to Lord Canning. In six weeks' time a position was fortified capable of holding five thousand men if necessary, but easily defended by five hundred. Guns and stores were thrown into it, and Benares was made secure. This important work done, he was back in Calcutta in the middle of September on telegraph duty.

Stewart accompanied Windham's force in October for more than three hundred miles, and went on in advance to arrange for transport [see Windham, Sir Charles Ash]. On 2 Nov. he was with Sir Colin Campbell at Allahabad. He was attached to the headquarters staff during the relief of Lucknow, and was mentioned in despatches as having 'made himself particularly useful throughout.' He accompanied Sir Colin to Cawnpore, and took part in the battle of 6 Dec. 1857 and in the pursuit of the Gwalior contingent. On the 8th he returned to Calcutta on urgent telegraph duties, and gave the governor-general a detailed account of the relief of Lucknow. Lord Canning wrote to Campbell: 'I never spent two hours of greater interest. … I did not understand until I saw Stewart the full force of your expression that the garrison had been withdrawn in the face of the enemy.'

On 18 Jan. 1858 O'Shaughnessy, who had returned to India, recorded 'the admiration and gratitude' with which he regarded Stewart's services during his absence—'his indefatigable exertions, almost incessant movements, and the gallant and scientific performance of his duties under every difficulty' and recommended him for some substantial reward. In spite of bad health Stewart accompanied Canning to Allahabad at the end of January. He was then deputy superintendent of telegraphs, but was attached to the staff of the commander-in-chief in India and given charge of the 'Times' correspondent, Dr. (now Sir) W. H. Russell, who tells us Stewart's duty in a nutshell. It was to put the end of the telegraph wire into Sir Colin's hand wherever he went. No sooner were headquarters established at any spot than the post and the wire were established also. It was the first time that the telegraph had been made to keep pace with the advance of an army in the field, and Stewart had many a narrow escape from the enemy's horse. He was honourably mentioned in the governor-general's order of 5 April 1858 for his services at the siege and capture of Lucknow in the previous month. He received the mutiny medal with clasp and a brevet majority. Ill-health compelled him to return home. In 1859 he was employed in various scientific inquiries in connection with telegraph cables. He married in 1860, and returned to India at the end of the year. In the following year he was employed on a commission to ascertain the cause of the great mortality from cholera, and. visited many parts of the country. The report of the commission was rendered in January 1862.

In February 1862 he was sent to Persia in connection with the construction of a proposed telegraph through that country. In June sickness compelled him to leave Teheran, and he went home through Russia. In England he was entrusted with the completion of the arrangements for the Persian Gulf cable. In November 1863 he went to Bombay as director-general of the government Indo-European telegraph, laid the cable from Gwadar to Fao, returned to Bombay, and in August 1864 went to Constantinople and made successful arrangements with the Turkish government. For these services he was made a C.B. The details of his labours are set forth in Sir Frederick Goldsmid's 'Telegraph and Travel, 1874, which also contains a memoir of his life and an engraving of his portrait by C. H. Jeens, from a photograph. He died at Misseri's Hotel, Constantinople, on 16 Jan. 1865, and was buried the following day at the Scutari cemetery, where a monument has been raised to his memory. A memorial stained-glass window has been placed in the telegraph library at Karachi and another in the church at Minnigaff, near Newton.

Stewart married in August 1860 Jane (d. 28 Dec. 1895), daughter of Colonel McDonall of Logan, Wigtownshire. There was no issue of the marriage.

[India Office Records; Royal Engineer Records; Despatches; Goldsmid's Telegraph and Travel; Levant Herald, 18 Jan. 1865; Sir H. W. Russell's Diary in India, 1857-8; Times, 26 and 27 Jan. 1865; Augustus Hare's Story of Two Noble Lives; Kaye's History of the Sepoy War; Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny; Shadwell's Life of Lord Clyde; Vibart's Addiscombe, its Heroes and Men of Note; private sources.]

R. H. V.