Brigadier-General John Nicholson (1822-1857) was a British soldier who served in India.
He went to India in 1839 to join the 41st Bengal Native Infantry. He then transferred to the 27th Bengal Native Infantry and served in the 1st Afghan War when he was taken prisoner following the Siege of Ghazni. He also served in the 1st Sikh War and was a protegé of Sir Henry Lawrence who made him a political officer on the North West Frontier. He was revered by local tribesmen and inspired the famous cult of 'Nikal Seyn', or 'Nikal-Seynis' (followers of Nikal-Seyn/Nicholson).
The Indian Mutiny and later career
He commanded the Punjab Movable Column soon after the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny and carrid out numerous indiscriminate executions of suspected rebels. He was responsible for the destruction of the 46th Bengal Native Infantry at Trimmoo Ghat. He took part in the Recapture of Delhi where he led the 1st Column of the storming parties. He was mortally in the assault on the Kashmir Gate of old Dehli and died a few days later. He had close links to the famous Hayat Family of Wah, in northern Punjab, as a prominent member of this family, Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan, CSI (1833-1901), served under Nicholson's command until his demise.
A Memorial, called 'Nicholson's Memorial' or 'Nicholson's Monument', in the form of an obelisk, was erected in his honour by various friends and admirers later, in the Margalla Pass between Taxila and Rawalpindi in the Punjab. A drinking water fountain was also later on made at the base of this Pass, on the main Grand Trunk Road, to facilitate travellers.
- Charles Allen, Soldier-Sahibs:The Men who made the North-West Frontier, London, 2000, p.323 and pp.325-327
- Allen, pp. 307, 309, 321, 326 and 337-338
- John Nicholson Dictionary of Indian Biography (1906)
- John Nicholson Wikipedia
- Nicholson's obelisk www.azkhan.de
- Listen to Dark Hero: Nicholson of Delhi, BACSA podcast from a presentation 11 February 2019 by Stuart Flinders, BBC journalist, broadcaster and author of Cult of a Dark Hero: Nicholson of Delhi (2018).
Historical books online
- Lives of Indian Officers Vol II by John William Kaye 1867 John Nicholson archive.org
- The life of John Nicholson, soldier and administrator. Based on private and hitherto unpublished documents by Captain Lionel J. Trotter 1897 Archive.org
- John Nicholson: The Lion of the Punjaub by RE Cholmeley, 1908. Gutenberg.org. Archive.org download (same file).
- The Hero of Delhi: a Life of John Nicholson, Saviour of India, and a History of his Wars by Pearson Hesketh 1939. Archive.org, Public Library of India Collection.