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Joshua Pickersgill letters regarding the Third Anglo-Maratha War


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Joshua Pickersgill was a British lieutenant in the Bengal Army under the East India Company during the Third Anglo-Maratha War (known at the time as the Third Mahratta War). Although the full name of the author of these letters is never written, it is assumed that he is Joshua Pickersgill, born in 1780, the son of Joshua and Harriot Pickersgill. He had three sisters, Maria, Harriet, and Frances, and a brother William, who also served in the Bengal Army, as a captain.

Prior to his service in the East India Company, Joshua Pickersgill wrote a four-volume novel entitled, Three Brothers. In the service, he was a cadet in 1804 and was promoted to lieutenant on February 1, 1807. At the time of his death, on September 8, 1818, he was Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General to the Bengal Army.

According to Edward Thornton's A History of the British Empire, Lieutenant Pickersgill (first name never given in this text) was a very successful officer, making observations before issuing orders. He appears to have spent significant time "reconnoitering," and as a result, he was able to pass on valuable intelligence.

He died on September 18, 1818, probably of fever, at Sangar (the name is also spelled Sangor and Saugur in the material). He appears to have had a daughter, Mary Anne, who died in 1925, in Marylebone, in London.

Works referenced:

Messrs. Dodwell and Miles. Alphabetical List of the Officers of the Bengal Army … London: Longman, Orme, Brown, and Co., 1838.

Smith, Thomas. A Topical and Historical Account of the Paris of St. Mary-Le-Bone. London: John Smith, 1833.

Thornton, Edward. The History of the British Empire in India. London: W.H.Allen, 1859

This collection consists of ten letters written by Joshua Pickersgill, in his capacity as lieutenant in the Bengal Army from March 18 to August 7, 1818. At no time is the recipient identified, but it may be assumed that Pickersgill was reporting to a superior. The letters record in minute detail and at great length military actions as they occurred. These letters were written from Camp Dhamony, a camp near Mundella, Camp Jubbulpoor, a camp on the Narbudda, Camp Bummunee, and Camp Saugur. There is a detailed sketch of Chauragarh and its vicinity, documenting both landmarks and locations of British encampments.

The letters report locations, numbers, and movements of troops; routes and the quality of roads; communication difficulties; battles; trials; casualties; and responses to the indigenous population, in addition to their responses to the invading Army. There are numerous mentions of General Watson throughout the ten letters. In Pickergill's last letter, he mentions several individuals who recently died of "the fever;" and mentions of cholera can be found in the April 20 and May 8 letters.

There are two letters, written after Pickersgill's death, regarding his estate, one from his brother William written from Cawnpore, requesting "papers appertaining to my late poor Brother's Estate … as I conceive them valuable;" and a second letter from Edmund B. Craigie stating that he had sent the papers along.

The tone of these letters is highly imperialistic—Pickersgill acknowledges the horrors of the war and the violence, but at all times seems resigned to the necessity of it. At time, he seems both surprised and rather hurt by the resistance to the attacks on the garrisons, forts, women, and children.

Researchers interested in military maneuvers during the Third Anglo-Maratha War will find this collection to be valuable—further, the accounts of resistance and perceptions by the British military officers will provide an interesting glimpse into the imperialistic world that was the British Empire.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2021 March 19
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This collection is open for research use.

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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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1818 March 18.
Box 1 Folder 1
1818 March 26.
Box 1 Folder 2
1818 April 20.
Box 1 Folder 3
1818 April 29.
Box 1 Folder 4
1818 May 8.
Box 1 Folder 5
1818 May 11.
Box 1 Folder 6
1818 May 15.
Box 1 Folder 6
1818 May 19.
Box 1 Folder 7
1818 May 26.
Box 1 Folder 8
1818 August 7.
Box 1 Folder 8
Letters from William Pickersgill and E.B. Craigie regarding Joshua Pickersgill's estate, 1818 November 12 and 14.
Box 1 Folder 9

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