b. 03/1826 Drumlea, County Fermanagh, Ireland. d. 29/10/1886 Calcutta, India.
Henry Hartigan (1826-1886) was born in March 1826 at Drumlea, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland. Little is known about Hartigan’s early life in Ireland, though it is believed like so many contemporaries of his time, he decided a better life would be had by joining the Army and receiving a regular wage. Hartigan enlisted with the 9th Lancers (later the Queen’s Royal Lancers) and was posted to India in 1848 and was awarded the Punjab Medal with two clasps for “Chilianwara” and “Goojerat”. Hartigan spent the majority of his army service in India, and in 1857 became involved in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny which had broken out. He was mostly involved at the Siege of Delhi and was awarded the Mutiny Medal with one clasp.
Hartigan was awarded the Victoria Cross on 19th June 1860, for his actions on two separate dates, 8th June and 10th October 1857. Firstly, on 8th June 1857, at the Battle of Budli-ke-Serai, on the outskirts of Delhi, he went to the assistance of Sergeant H. Helstone who was wounded, dismounted and surrounded by the enemy, and at the risk to his own life, he carried him to the rear. On 10th October 1857, at Agra, he ran unarmed to the aid of Sergeant Crews, who was attacked by four rebels. Hartigan caught a tulwar with his right hand from one of them, and with the other hit him in the mouth, and then defending himself against the other three, killing one and wounding two, when he himself was disabled from service due to his wounds.
Hartigan recovered from his wounds, and was presented with his Victoria Cross by Lady Hersey at Fort William, Calcutta on Christmas Eve, 1860. Hartigan remained in India following his army service and died on 29th October 1886, aged 60 in Calcutta. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Barrackpore New Cemetery in the city. His medals were acquired by the Borough Museum, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire in 1948 as part of a large collection of medals donated by Major Hawley of Barlaston. A notebook with the medals stated Hawley had bought the medals for £52.10 but doesn’t state where from or from whom.
However, in 2010, doubts were raised over the authenticity of the Victoria Cross due to the unusual method of engraving. Hancocks were consulted and confirmed their records do not show any VC being engraved in this way. They compared the engraving to another VC awarded for the Indian Mutiny and they didn’t match, though the dates on Hartigan’s medal do match his citation. His other two medals both were deemed to be correct.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BOROUGH MUSEUM & ART GALLERY, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYNE
BURIAL PLACE: BARRACKPORE NEW CEMETERY, INDIA. (UNMARKED GRAVE).
Thomas Stewart – Image of the VC Medal Group at the 9th/12th Lancers RHQ
Borough Museum and Art Gallery – Image of the reverse of the Hartigan VC.