India History, Military History, Waterford history

George Sheaffe Montizambert: From Canada to Lismore and Pakistan

George Sheaffe Montizambert:

From Canada to Lismore and Pakistan


Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


On 4th July 1846 George Sheaffe Montizambert, a major in the army, married Jane Vaughan Cotton, daughter of Rev. Henry Cotton, dean of Lismore Cathedral.[1] Two years later Major Montizambert was killed in the assault of the city of Multan, in modern-day Pakistan and a memorial was erected in Lismore cathedral to his memory. This article follows the long journey of this British soldier from the heights of Quebec to India, Afghanistan, Ireland and Pakistan.



Montizambert memorial in Lismore Cathedral

Birth and family

George Sheaffe Montizambert was born on 7th December 1812 in Quebec City in Lower Canada.[2] He was the son of Louis Montizambert (born 8th October 1775 at Chambly, Quebec and died 18th August 1834 at Quebec) and Sarah Minot Taylor Montizambert (1777 – 1862).[3] Louis Montizambert was Acting Clerk of His Majesty’s Executive Council.[4]

George Sheaffe Montizambert had two older brothers, Charles Nathaniel Montizambert (1810 – 1885) and Edward Lewis Montizambert (1811 – 1882).[5] Charles Montizambert married Helen Bell and was the father of two daughters and five sons.[6] Edward Montizambert married Lucy Bowen and was the father of one daughter and four sons.[7]

In was interesting times in 1812 for a French Canadian to be born. Canada was then part of the British Empire which in 1812 was fighting a long war against the France of Napoleon Bonaparte. The British were at the same time fighting a war with the new United States of America in what is known as the War of 1812. This war saw a number of battles in Canada.

After growing up in Quebec, George Sheaffe Montizambert moved to Montreal.[8]

Army career in the 1830s

At the age of nineteen George Sheaffe Montizambert left civilian life and joined the British army. On 11th April 1831 George Sheaffe Montizambert joined the 41st (Welsh) Regiment of Foot as an ensign. The 41st Regiment was the only British regiment in Canada at the start of the War of 1812. A good number of members of the Regiment retired to Canada after the War and their stories may have influence young George Montizambert to join that particular regiment.[9] At the start of the 1830s the 41st Regiment was based in India and it was in that country of a thousand languages that George Sheaffe Montizambert spent the most eventful years of his military career. On 11th January 1833 he was promoted to Lieutenant. In 1840 Lt. George Sheaffe Montizambert was serving with the 41st (Welsh) Regiment of Foot, under the command of Colonel Sir Ralph Darling, in the East Indies with nine years of full pay service completed.[10]

Anglo-Afghan War 1839-42

In 1839 the British invaded Afghanistan to prevent Russian expansion into central Asia. The action generated a violent reaction from Afghan tribes and began the First Anglo-Afghan War. The British had early victories and on 7th August 1839 Sir John Keane of Cappoquin led the successful capture of Cabul (in 1840 created Baron Keane of Ghuznee and Cappoquin). The popular leader of Afghanistan (Dost Mohammad) was removed and a rival (Shah Shuja) put in his place. In 1840 and 1841 the country was still unsettled with engagements by both sides. In November 1841 the Afghans launch a series of major attacks on the scattered British positions across the country in support of Dost Mohammad.[11] By January 1842 the situation in Cabul was untenable and a force of 26,000 soldiers, camp-followers, women and children left Cabul for India. Along the way they were incessantly attacked with the end result of a total defeat of a British army in the Khyber Pass and the death of men, women and children.[12] To reclaim military honour and not to be seen to be bettered by native soldiers, in March 1842 the British launched a large scale invasion of Afghanistan. The five companies of the 41st Regiment of Foot was part of this force.

Invasion of Afghanistan 1842

Early in the advance, about the 28th March 1842, Lieutenant George Sheaffe Montizambert saw action the village of Hykulzye beyond the Bolan Pass when the British were suddenly attacked and had to retreat with Captain May of the 41st among the dead. The British halted their retreat at Quettah where on 26th April Brigadier England (Lt. Colonel of the 41st) went on the attack and reached Kandahar by 10th May. But at that stage Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General, fearful of another slaughter like on the retreat from Cabul, ordered a retreat.[13]



The Khyber Pass

By early July Lord Ellenborough had changed his mind again and now ordered an advance into Afghanistan under General Nott. At the start of August Brigadier Edwards of the 41st was sent forward with five regiments and twelve cannon to secure the Bolan Pass. Lieutenant Montizambert was with this force. By 30th August the army was at Ghoaine where General Nott gave battle. The confident Afghans were defeated and their leader, Shumshoodeen fled to Ghuznee. On 5th September Lt. Montizambert and General Nott were before Ghuznee. As engineers of the 16th Bengal Infantry reconnoitred the fortress the Afghans attacked but were eventually driven back inside Ghuznee. During nightfall the Afghans fired shot into the British camp. On the morning of 6th September as the British prepared to attack Ghuznee, it was found that during the night the Afghans had left. Lt. Montizambert and others occupied the famous fortress which was destroyed after removing the gate of Somnauth.[14]

On 7th September General Nott left Ghuznee to advance on Cabul which was taken on 15th September 1842. Lt. Montizambert was part of the advance and was involved in the occupation and destruction of that fortress. But the war was not over, as the Afghans regrouped in Kohistan. A force under General McCaskill was sent towards Kohistan with Lt. Montizambert. The fortress of Istaliff was home to the treasure and families of the Afghan forces. On 29th September the British stormed the fortress which was later destroyed.[15] On that same day of 29th September Lt. George Sheaffe Montizambert was made a Captain.[16] The promotion was possibly because of George’s abilities or the death of other officers in the attack – bit of both reasons maybe.

With the taking of Istaliff and Charikur the Afghans surrendered and the war was over apart from a few minor engagements between the Bolan Pass and the Khyber Pass in which Captain George Sheaffe Montizambert was involved.[17] A puppet king was installed in Cabul and the British withdrew back across the Indus River to India.

41st Regiment back in Britain

After the slaughter and killings of the Afghan War the 41st Regiment took leave of India and returned to England in 1843. In 1844 the Regiment was stationed in Canterbury. Yet the battle honours of Kandahar Ghuznee and Cahool were added to the Regimental battle flag.[18] By the start of 1845 the 41st Regiment had returned to Wales and was stationed in Brecon.[19] On 23rd September 1845 he was promoted to the rank of Major in the 41st Regiment of Foot.

41st Regiment in Ireland and marriage

In 1846 the 41st Regiment was stationed in Dublin with Colonel Sir Ralph Darling in command.[20] It was while in Ireland that George Sheaffe Montizambert met Jane Vaughan Cotton, daughter of Rev. Henry Cotton, dean of Lismore Cathedral. On 4th July 1846 George Sheaffe Montizambert got married to Jane Cotton.[21] Rev. Henry Cotton came from Buckinghamshire and was a noted cleric in the Church of Ireland and wrote a number of books on the church and religion. He was sub-librarian at the Bodleian from 1814 to 1822. Rev. Cotton died in 1879 and was buried at Lismore. His book collection now forms the core of the Cotton library in Lismore Cathedral.[22]



Lismore cathedral

Change of regiment and return to India

Yet the beauty of Jane Cotton and the River Blackwater about Lismore, so famed by poets and artists had no lasting attraction upon Major Montizambert. Instead the lure of the magic of India drew him back. By the start of 1847 Major George Sheaffe Montizambert left the 41st Regiment and had joined the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot as it journeyed to India. The 62nd Regiment was under the command of Colonel Sir John Foster Fitzgerald and was based in Bengal.[23]

At the beginning of 1848 Major George Sheaffe Montizambert had changed regiments again and was serving with the 10th (North Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot at Lahore under Colonel Sir Thomas McMahon. By then he had served seventeen years in the army on full pay.[24]

The Multan revolt and the Second Sikh War

By 1848 the city of Multan, in modern-day Pakistan, was part of the Sikh kingdom, for nearly thirty years was governed by a Hindu viceroy, Dewan Moolraj, who operated a very independent administration. The First Sikh War had taken much territory from the Sikh kingdom and led to the imposition of taxes by the British. When Dewan Moolraj was required by the British in Lahore to pay an increased tax assessment and along with revenues that were in arrears, Moolraj offered his son, so as to keep control over Multan. This was rejected and the British imposed a Sikh governor, Sardar Kahan Singh, with a British Political Agent called Lieutenant Patrick Vans Agnew.

On 18th April 1848, Vans Agnew arrived at Multan with another officer, Lieutenant William Anderson, and a small escort. At first Moolraj appeared to be cooperative by handing over the keys of the fortress, but Vans Agnew’s party was set upon by a mob and both officers were wounded, and were rescued by Sardar Kahan Singh. While they were recovering in a mosque outside the city, they were again set upon by a mob on 19th and both were murdered.

Moolraj presented Vans Agnew’s head to Sardar Kahan Singh, and told him to take it back to Lahore. The news of the killings spread over the Punjab, and large numbers of Sikh soldiers deserted the regiments and joined the rebels under of Moolraj.

Lieutenant Herbert Edwards possessed the only British force in the area and responded to the revolt at Multan even though the Commander-in-Chief of the British East India Company, Lord Gough, wanted to wait until the cold season when the ground was dry to transport the artillery and the hot summer weather was gone. In May and June Lt. Edwards achieved victories and defeats before settling in camp some distance from Multan.



Multan – city of the saints

The British attack on Multan and the death of Montizambert

On 24th July Major-General Whish started for Multan with over 8,000 troops, 32 cannon and 12 horse artillery guns. The Major George Sheaffe Montizambert and members of the 10th Regiment of Foot were amongst these troops. On 4th September 1848 General Whish came before Multan and ordered its surrender. But instead he was greeted by a single cannon shot. The siege of Multan began on the 7th September with firing a 1,000 yards. On the night of the 9th a British advance on the trenches before the city met with defeat. For the next two days both sides strengthen their defences. On 12th September General Whish launched an attack with two columns of British troops in the centre and native soldiers on the left flank. The attack was met with strong resistance. By the end of the day the British had advanced to within 800 yards of the city walls at a cost of 500 dead including Major George Sheaffe Montizambert.[25]

General Whish now had his artillery within range and expected a quick victory but on 14th September Shere Sing threw off his neutral approach and joined the Multan garrison. General Whish was now heavily outnumbered and lifted the siege. The siege was not renewed until 17th December 1848 with reinforcements under Brigadier Henry Dundas. On 30th December a chance shot blew up the garrison’s magazine but still the siege when on. The British targeted key areas of the city and on 2nd January 1849 breached the city walls. The British advanced into the city against fierce resistance but by 4th January had encircled the main Sikh forces of Dewan Moolraj in the citadel. On 12th January the Sikhs made a furious sortie but the encirclement remained. On the 8th and 21st sappers blew mines under the citadel walls and preparations were in place for a general assault but Dewan Moolraj saw the end result and surrendered and was banished overseas.[26] But by the time of the surrender of Multan the entire Sikh kingdom has risen up against the British. Fierce battles raged across the Punjab before the British colours were raised over Lahore on 29th March 1849 and the Punjab was annexed into the territory of the East India Company.[27]

The widow of Montizambert

It is not known if Jane Vaughan Cotton was with her husband in India at the time of his death. Certainly the brief marriage was cut short after just two years in a very foreign land to the greenery of the Blackwater valley. After six years of widowhood Jane Vaughan Cotton got married again in November 1854 to John William Gaisford of Dolly’s Grove, Co. Meath. John Gaisford was the second son of Rev. Thomas Gaisford, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, by Helen, second daughter of Rev. Robert Douglas, rector of Salwarpe, Worcestershire. Rev. Thomas Gaisford was Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford. The Gaisford family came from Bulkington in Wiltshire.[28] The clerical connections of her father, Rev. Henry Cotton, possibly arranged the marriage or the meeting of Jane and John.

Rev. Thomas Gaisford married secondly in 1832 to Jane Katherine Jenkyns and their first son was Thomas Gaisford married in 1859, as his second wife, Lady Emily St. Lawrence, eldest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Howth. In 1909 the eldest son of Thomas and Emily Gaisford, Julian Charles Gaisford, inherited Howth Castle on the death of the 4th and last Earl of Howth.[29]

The children of Jane Cotton

Meanwhile John William Gaisford died in 1889 while Jane Vaughan Cotton spent nearly fourteen years in her second widowhood before dying on 18th October 1903.[30] John Gaisford and Jane Cotton had five children of whom the eldest was Cecil Henry Gaisford. He joined the army and was 2nd Lieutenant in the 72nd Highlanders Regiment. In 1870 he got killed in another Afghanistan War.

Jane’s second son, Douglas John Gaisford, also joined the army and was a Captain in the South Wales Borders before became a Lt-Col in the Essex Imperial Yeomanry. In June 1892, Douglas married Elizabeth Glencairn (d 27 April 1926), daughter of General Sir Archibald Alison. Douglas Gaisford died in June 1940, leaving three children one of whom, John William Gaisford fought at Gallipoli in World War One where he was wounded.[31]

Jane Cotton’s third son, Algernon Richard Gaisford, also joined the army becoming a Lieutenant in Seaforth Highlanders and died in 1953.

Jane Cotton had two daughters by John Gaisford. The eldest, Helen Gaisford, married in 1882, to Robert Groves Sandeman who was the second son of Major-Gen Robert TurnbulI Sandeman of the Bengal Army. It was common for the second or subsequent children in Victorian England to join the army but for four of Jane’s five children to join the army or marry army people may be inspired by her brief marriage to George Sheaffe Montizambert whose life was the army.




End of post




[1] Lismore Cathedral Registers marriages 1838-1869’, in The Irish Genealogist, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 248; Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1008

[2] accessed on 6 November 2016

[3] accessed on 6 November 2016

[4] accessed on 6 November 2016

[5] accessed on 6 November 2016

[6] accessed on 6 November 2016

[7] accessed on 6 November 2016

[8] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1008

[9] accessed on 20th August 2017

[10] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1840, p. 192

[11] Trevelyan, G.M., British History in the 19th Century and After, 1782-1919 (London, 1946), p. 317

[12] Anon, ‘Afghanistan’, in The National Encyclopaedia (London, 1870), Vol. 1, p. 246

[13] Grant, J., Cassell’s Illustrated History of India (London, 1880), vol. II, pp. 124, 125

[14] Grant, Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, vol. II, pp. 128, 129

[15] Grant, Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, vol. II, pp. 130, 131, 34

[16] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1848, p. 161

[17] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1848, p. 161

[18] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1844, p. 192

[19] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1845, p. 192

[20] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1846, pp. 108, 192

[21] Lismore Cathedral Registers marriages 1838-1869’, in The Irish Genealogist, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 248

[22],_Henry_(DNB00) accessed on 20th August 2017

[23] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1847, pp. 102, 214

[24] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1848, pp. 102, 161

[25] Grant, Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, vol. II, pp. 166, 167, 168

[26] Grant, Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, vol. II, pp. 170, 171

[27] Grant, Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, vol. II, pp. 172, 173, 178179

[28] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1008

[29] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1009

[30] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1008

[31] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 1008


3 thoughts on “George Sheaffe Montizambert: From Canada to Lismore and Pakistan

  1. John Falvey says:

    From WO 42 – War Office: Officers’ Birth Certificates, Wills and Personal Papers:

    This probably refers to his 1842 campaign.

    “This officer was in Canada when the 41st was ordered to Sinde and gave up the leave of absence which he had received, to join his regiment. He then performed a most extraordinary march from Kurrachee across the desert, through the Bolan Pass and during the last 80 miles through the country occupied by the enemy, to join the Head Quarters at Candahar.

    The day after his arrival his leg was broken by a lose horse but he insisted on being carried forward with his corps, which marched for Cabul within the week, instead of returning with the invalids, ordered to India, under the command of Sir Richard England, and in fourteen days afterwards, was lifted on his horse that he might be present in an affair with the enemy outside the walls of Gluznee (Gluznee/ Ghazni?).

    In conclusion I beg to say that I entertained the highest possible opinionof the excellence of the late Majot Montizabert’s character and the value of his services both as an officer and a gentleman”

    Buttevant, 15th January 1849

    He had a second marriage ceremony at the Catholic cathedral in Lismore on 11th July 1846. His daughter Caroline Eliza born in Lahore on 27th September 1847.

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