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For the similarly named Admiral, his contemporary in the Peninsular Campaign, see Charles John Napier
Sir Charles Napier
Governor of Scinde

In office
Monarch Victoria
Governor General The Lord Ellenborough
Sir Henry Hardinge
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Richard Keith Pringle
As Chief Commissioner of Scinde
Personal details
Born (1782-08-10)10 August 1782
Whitehall Palace, London, England
Died 29 August 1853(1853-08-29) (aged 71)
Portsmouth, England
Resting place Royal Garrison Church, Portsmouth
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Flag of the British East India Company (1707).svg East India Company
Service/branch British Army
Bombay Army
Years of service 1794-1851
Rank General
Commands Northern Command
Commander-in-Chief of India
Battles/wars Peninsular War
Conquest of Scinde
Awards Waterloo Medal BAR.svg Army Gold Medal
MilitaryGSM.png Military General Service Medal
Jellalabad and others BAR.svg Scinde Medal

General Sir Charles James Napier, GCB (10 August 1782 – 29 August 1853), was a general of the British Empire and the British Army's Commander-in-Chief in India, notable for conquering the Sindh Province in what is now Pakistan.

His genealogy

He was the eldest son of Colonel (the Honourable) George Napier and his second wife, Lady Sarah Lennox, with this being the second marriage for both parties. Lady Sarah was the great-granddaughter of King Charles II. Napier was born at the Whitehall Palace in London, and he received part of his education at boarding school in Celbridge, Ireland. Napier joined the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the British Army in 1794, and decided to become a career soldier.

The Peninsular War

Napier commanded the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Foot during Peninsular War in Iberia against Napoleon Bonaparte. Napier's activities there ended during the Battle of Corunna, in which he was wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. Napier was rescued, barely alive, by a French Army drummer named Guibert, and taken as a prisoner-of-war. Nevertheless, Napier was awarded an Army Gold Medal after he was returned to British hands.

Napier recuperated from his wounds while he was being held near the headquarters of the French Marshall Soult, and then somehow he was returned to the British Army.

Napier volunteered to return to the Iberian Peninsula in 1810 to fight again against Napoleon in Portugal - notably in the Battle of the Côa, where he had two horses shot out from under him, in the Battle of Bussaco, in the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, and in the Battle of Badajoz (1812) (the second siege of Badajoz) in Extremadura, Spain, in which he was a lieutenant colonel in the 102nd regiment. For his deeds at Bussaco and at Fuentes de Oñoro, Napier won the silver medal with two clasps.

In 1838, Napier returned to England to become the General Officer Commanding of the British Northern District.

Service in India

In 1842, at the age of 60, Napier was appointed Major General to the command of the Indian army within the Bombay Presidency. Here Lord Ellenborough's policy led Napier to Sindh Province (Scinde), for the purpose of quelling the insurrection of the Muslim rulers who had remained hostile to the British Empire following the First Anglo-Afghan War. Napier's campaign against these chieftains resulted in victories in the Battle of Miani (Meanee) against General Hoshu Sheedi and the Battle of Hyderabad, and then the subjugation of the Sindh Province, and its annexation by its eastern neighbours.

His orders had been only to put down the rebels, and by conquering the whole Sindh Province he greatly exceeded his mandate. Napier was supposed to have despatched to his superiors the short, notable message, "Peccavi", the Latin for "I have sinned" (which was a pun on I have Sindh). This pun appeared in a cartoon in Punch magazine in 1844 beneath a caricature of Charles Napier. The true author of the pun was, however, Catherine Winkworth, an English girl then in her teens, who submitted it to Punch, which then printed it as a factual report.[1] Later proponents of British rule over the East Indians justified the conquest thus: "If this was a piece of rascality, it was a noble piece of rascality!"[2]

On 4 July 1843, Napier was appointed Knight Grand Cross in the military division of the Order of the Bath, in recognition of his leading the victories at Miani and Hyderabad.[3]

Napier was appointed Governor of the Bombay Presidency by Lord Ellenborough. However, under his leadership the administration clashed with the policies of the directors of the British East India Company, and Napier was accordingly removed from office and returned home in disgust. Napier was again dispatched to India during the spring of 1849, in order to obtain the submission of the Sikhs. However upon arriving once again in India, Napier found that this had already been accomplished by Lord Gough and his army.

A story for which Napier is often noted involved Hindu priests complaining to him about the prohibition of Sati by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. As first recounted by his brother William, he replied:

"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." [4]

Napier remained for a while as the Commander-in-Chief in India. He also quarrelled repeatedlly with Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India. Finally, Napier resigned from his post in India, and returned home to England for the last time. Napier was still suffering with physical infirmities which were results of his wounds during the Peninsular War, and he died about two years later at Oaklands, near Portsmouth, England, on 29 August 1853, at the age of 71. Napier's former house is now part of Oaklands Catholic School of Waterlooville. His remains were buried in the Royal Garrison Church in Portsmouth.

Views on subduing insurgencies

General Napier put down several insurgencies in India during his reign as Commander-in-Chief in India, and once said of his philosophy about how to do so effectively:

The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.[5]

which may help explain why he felt rebellions should be suppressed with such brutality.

He also once said that:

"the human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear."[5]

An implementation of this theory would be after the Battle of Miani, where most of the Mirs surrendered. One leader held back and was told by Napier:

Come here instantly. Come here at once and make your submission, or I will in a week tear you from the midst of your village and hang you.[5]

He also mused that:

"so perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another"[5]


In 1903, the 25th Bombay Rifles (which as the 25th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry had formed part of Napier's force in the conquest of Sindh) was renamed the 125th Napier's Rifles. Since amalgamated, it is now the 5th Battalion (Napier's) of the Rajputana Rifles.[6][7]

A statue in honour of Sir Charles Napier by George Gamon Adams (1821–1898) is on the southwest plinth, of the four plinths in Trafalgar Square, London.

The city of Napier in the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand is named after Sir Charles Napier. The suburb of Meeanee commemorates his victory in the Battle of Miani.

The city of Karachi in Sindh (Pakistan) earlier had a Napier Road (now Shahrah-e-Altaf Hussain), Napier Street (now Mir Karamali Talpur Road) and Napier Barracks (now Liaquat Barracks) on Shara-e-Faisal. In the port area, there is also a Napier Mole. In Manora, the St. Paul's Church, erected in 1864, is a memorial to Napier.

The Napier Gardens in Argostoli on the Greek island of Kefalonia are named after him.

Some ten pubs in England are named after him, either as the Sir Charles Napier, or the General Napier.[8]

Karachi Grammar School named its second-oldest house "Napier" after Sir Charles Napier (the oldest House is named Frere after Sir Henry Bartle Frere).

The city of Ambala in Haryana (India) has a road named after him in the cantonment area. 54, Napier Road, the official residence of the Commissioner Of Police of Ambala is on this road.

See also

  • Colonel George Napier (1751–1804), his father;
  • Lady Sarah Lennox (1745–1826), his mother;

and his brothers:

Further reading


  1. 'Peccavi'
  2. General Charles Napier and the Conquest of Sind
  3. "Appointment GCB" (pdf). London: Stationery Office. 4 July 1843. pp. 2246. Retrieved 14 September 2008. "The Queen has been please to nominate and appoint Major-General Sir Charles James Napier, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, to be a Knight Grand Cross of the said Order." [dead link]
  4. Napier, William. (1851) History Of General Sir Charles Napier's Administration Of Scinde. (P. 35). London: Chapman and Hall [1] at Retrieved 10 July 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Farwell, Byron: Queen Victoria's Little Wars, p. 27-31
  6. Sharma, Gautam, Valour and Sacrifice: Famous Regiments of the Indian Army (Allied Publishers, 1990, ISBN 978-81-7023-140-0) page 99 at Retrieved 4 August 2008
  7. 125th Napier's Rifles at Retrieved 3 August 2008
  8. [2]. Retrieved 3 August 2008
Government offices
Preceded by
New office
Governor of Bombay Presidency
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Gough
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by
Sir William Gomm

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