A Survey officer’s tent in Bengal, 1857


An exceptionally precisely executed pen and ink sketch of the interior of a surveying officer’s tent with a view beyond of the camp, just over 6  inches square. The tent belonged to Lieutenant John Macdonald, 18th Bengal NI who was one of the two Assistant Surveyors on the Punjab Revenue Surveys at the time this sketch was made by E Garrett Esq. [ Executive Engineer with the East India Irrigation & Canal Company]. John Macdonald was commssioned into the 18th in 1852 achieving his majority in1871 and still working in the revenue department. He was a a member of the Scottish family of Macdonald of Sandside – the estate being on the far northern shores of the country. This sketch came to us in an archive of mateial from the family who provided many officers both civil and military in the India of the 19th century. Other items appear on the website. The verso of the folded sheet gives details of the picture and is signed J C Macdonald, June 11th ’57  just a few months after the outbreak of the Mutiny. It gives us an interesting insight to the life of an officer in the field – a life which was soon to be disrupted by the turmoil and violence of 1857/58.  8 SOLD 25th March

The sketch, in the very precise style of a trained surveyor, shows interesting detail of the tent interior with its brick lined fireplace, folding carriage or campaign table, saddle horse with saddle, his intrument boxes with his name on the lids in the left corner, etc. Through the open flap of the tent can be seen the cooks’ galley and to the left above the tent are a surveyor’s level and flag.