The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - Appendices. 'Detailed Report on the Naga Hills Expedition of 1878-80', Capt. P.J. Maitland

caption: notes on troops in Manipur State
medium: reports
person: Johnstone/ Col.
person: Maitland/ Capt. P.J.
date: 1880
person: India Office Library, London
refnum: IOR L/MIL/17/18/24
text: Note on the Troops of the Manipur State.
text: The present Manipur army had its origin in the old Manipur levy, a body of 500 men raised by Rajah Gambir Singh in 1824, during the Burmese War. This body was armed and paid by the British Government and served under its directions. The original force of 500 was shortly increased to 1,000, and afterwards to 2,000, and two British officers were attached to it to superintend drill and discipline. These troops did good service in 1825. They cleared Manipur of the Burmese, and in the following year took the valley of Kubo.
text: In 1835 the one British officer which remained with the force was withdrawn, and since that date the efficiency of the Manipur troops has considerably deteriorated.
text: The soldiers of Manipur receive no pay, but have land assigned them according to rank, the value of a private sepoy's holding being about Rs.7 per annum. Nominally, every man serves 10 days out of each 40, but were this rule strictly adhered to, the garrisoning of the more distant posts would be practically impossible. At such places, therefore, it is usual for the men to serve several months consecutively.
text: Service may be said to be hereditary, the land with its obligations descending from father to son, so that the army increases with the population, ( So says Lieutenant Colonel Johnstone, but it is evident that if this is the case, either one holding must support several sepoys, or the number of holding must be added to.) and now numbers about 7,000, including 700 irregulars.
text: The troops are supposed to be organised in regiments ( battalions?). They are all infantry, except about 500 artillery men, who have charge of eight old 3-pr. brass field guns, which are quite useless. The once celebrated Manipur cavalry, who performed brilliantly in the Burmese war, has practically disappeared, though a body of 400 still nominally exists. The reason for this extinction of the cavalry arm is that the breed of native ponies has very greatly deteriorated, while the import of ponies from Burmah has been stopped since 1871 by the Burmese Government, without any apparent reason, so that to mount a force efficiently is now impossible. This is the more unfortunate as Manipur was originally formidable principally on account of the number of mounted troops it could put into the field, and in a war with Burmah the old pony cavalry would still be of immense service.
text: According, however, to the Assam trade report for 1879-80, the Rajah has stopped the export of ponies from his dominions, with the view of resuscitating the old breed. There is, therefore, some hope of the Manipur cavalry being in time re-established.
text: The men of the infantry are of good physique, capable of bearing great fatigue, patient, willing, and obedient. They are always ready to march, carrying their own provisions, building their own huts, and if, necessary, intrenching themselves. Their independence, says Lieutenant Colonel Johnstone, the Political Agent, is in striking contrast to the requirements of our own troops, who cannot move without a great number of coolies. The British officers who served with the Manipuris in the Burmese war thought well of their fighting qualities. If organised, and again placed under British leaders, the Manipur troops would soon become a serviceable body. Their own officers are very incompetent, and the present drill and training of the men is at the lowest ebb.
text: About half the infantry are armed with smooth-bore-muskets.
text: In addition to the regular State troops, some 700 Kuki irregulars are kept up. These act as scouts, &c., during expeditions. They are naturally more courageous and better soldiers than the Manipuris. Their arms are old muskets of various descriptions.