India's most famous cavalryman recounts his career. James Skinner had a colourful career. He began his military exploits as a mercenary for Indian princes and became a legend as the leader of the ‘Yellow Boys’ - his renowned irregular cavalry. In the early years of the British domination of the sub-continent Skinner at some time fought almost every martial race India had to offer. These adventures (originally written in Persian) are clear and directly recounted and are supported by text by J. Baily Fraser who gives context to Skinners world.
At dawn of day, on the 3rd December, the signal of attack was given. Mackenzie was opposed to Captain Hearsey: my brother to a native, Ellias Beg; and I had to contend with Captain Birch. Both Mackenzie and my brother made good their way in, after some resistance; but Birch, who defended his post well, beat me back twice with great loss. Burning choppers, powder-pots, and everything he could get hold of, were showered upon us; but our greatest loss was from the powder-pots, which greatly disheartened the men: however, after a desperate struggle, I drove them from the breach. Just as I had got up, I saw Birch about twenty yards from me taking aim at me with a double-barrelled gun, the contents of which, both barrels, he fired at me; but "the sweet little cherub" saved me from them. I immediately levelled my javelin, and, putting my shield to my breast, darted it at him, and took off his hat,--on which he set off and joined his men, who were now leaving the wall, and retreated about 200 yards behind houses.
All my storming party had now got in, and we moved towards the chowk or centre of the bazaar, where we saw our columns. The fight now became desperate. Thomas had come down from the fort with 1,000 of his chosen men, and, attacking the column commanded by Lieutenant Skinner, drove it back to the walls of the town. I immediately hastened to my brothers assistance, and beat Thomas back to the gate of the fort.
All our columns having now joined in the chowk, Thomas made another attempt, bringing up a 6-pounder, and, after great resistance, drove us out of the chowk. We were then joined by our reserve of a battalion, with a couple of 6-pounders, and, in spite of a very obstinate resistance by Thomas, drove him back to the fort. About noon we had complete possession of the town; but it cost us dear, as the slaughter on our side was very great, for several times we had come to the sword (that is, hand to hand with the sword). My brother got a cut at Thomas, but his armour had saved him. We lost, in killed and wounded, 1,600 men. Lieutenant Mackenzie was wounded, and several of our native officers were killed and wounded.