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WILLIAM STEPHEN RAIKES HODSON (1821-1...

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 559 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WILLIAM STEPHEN RAIKES HODSON (1821-1858), known as " Hodson of Hodson's Horse," British leader of light cavalry during the Indian Mutiny, third son of the Rev. George Hodson, afterwards archdeacon of Stafford and canon of Lichfield, was born on the loth of March 1821 at Maisemore Court, near Gloucester. He was educated at Rugby and Cambridge, and . . . . (2). and had just reached Khurkhouda, a village near Delhi. Hodson thereupon took out a body of his sowars, attacked the village, and shot Bisharat All and several of his relatives. General Crawford Chamberlain states that this was Hodson's way of wiping out the debt. Again, after the fall of Delhi, Hodson obtained from General Wilson permission to ride out with fifty horsemen to Humayun's tomb, 6 m. out of Delhi, and bring in Bahadur Shah, the last of the Moguls. This he did with safety in the face of a large and threatening crowd, and thus dealt the mutineers a heavy blow. On the following day with too horsemen he went out to the same tomb and obtained the unconditional surrender of the three princes, who had been left behind on the previous occasion. A crowd of 6000 persons gathered, and Hodson with marvellous coolness ordered them to disarm, which they proceeded to do. He sent the princes on with an escort of ten men, while with the remaining ninety he collected the arms of the crowd. On galloping after the princes he found the crowd once more pressing on the escort and threatening an attack; and fearing that he would be unable to bring his prisoners into Delhi he shot them with his own hand. This is the most bitterly criticized action in his career, but no one but the man on the spot can judge how it is necessary to handle a crowd; and in addition one of the princes, Abu Bukt, heir-apparent to the throne, had made himself notorious for cutting off the arms and legs of English children and pouring the blood into their mothers' mouths. Considering the circumstances of the moment, Hodson's act at the worst was one of irregular justice. A more unpleasant side to the question is that he gave the king a safe conduct, which was afterwards seen by Sir Donald Stewart, before he left the palace, and presumably for a bribe; and he took an armlet and rings from the bodies of the princes. He was freely accused of looting at the time, and though this charge, like that of peculation, is matter for controversy, it is very strongly supported. General Pelham Burn said that he saw loot in Hodson's boxes when he accompanied him from Fatehgarh to take part in the siege of Lucknow, and Sir Henry Daly said that he found " loads of loot " in Hodson's boxes after his death, and also a file of documents relating to the Guides case, which had been stolen from him and of which Hodson denied all knowledge. On the other hand the Rev. G. Hodson states in his book that he obtained the inventory of his brother's possessions made by the Committee of Adjustment and it contained no articles of loot, and Sir Charles Gough, president of the committee, confirmed this evidence. This statement is totally incompatible with Sir Henry Daly's and is only one of many contradictions in the case. Sir Henry Norman stated that to his personal knowledge Hodson remitted several thousand pounds to Calcutta which could only have been obtained by looting. On the other hand, again, Hodson died a poor man, his effects were sold for £170, his widow was dependent on charity for her passage home, was given apartments by the queen at Hampton Court, and left only I400 at her death. Hodson was killed on the 11th of March 1858 in the attack on the Begum Kotee at Lucknow. He had just arrived on the spot and met a man going to fetch powder to blow in a door; instead Hodson, with his usual recklessness, rushed into the doorway and was shot. On the whole, it can hardly be doubted that he was somewhat unscrupulous in his private character, but he was a splendid soldier, and rendered inestimable services to the empire. The controversy relating to Hodson's moral character is very complicated and unpleasant. Upon Hodson's side see Rev. G. Hodson, Hodson of Hodson's Horse (1883), and L. J. Trotter, A Leader of Light Horse (1901) ; against him, R. Bosworth Smith, Li of Lord Lawrence, appendix to the 6th edition of 1885; T. R. Holmes, History of the Indian Mutiny, appendix N to the 5th edition of 1898, and Four Famous Soldiers by the same author, 1889; and General Sir Crawford Chamberlain, Remarks on Captain Trotter's Biography of Major IV. S. R. Hodson (1901).
End of Article: WILLIAM STEPHEN RAIKES HODSON (1821-1858)
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