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John Jacob
Brigadier General John Jacob, engraving by Thomas Lewis Atkinson, 1859
Born (1812-01-11)11 January 1812
Died 6 December 1858(1858-12-06) (aged 46)
Place of birth Woolavington, Somerset, England
Place of death Jacobabad, modern Pakistan
Buried at Jacobabad, modern Pakistan
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British East India Company (1801) East India Company
Years of service 1828-1858
Rank Brigadier-General
Commands held 36th Jacob's Horse

Brigadier-General John Jacob CB (11 January 1812 – 6 December 1858) was an officer of the British East India Company who served in colonial India for the major portion of his career. He is known for the cavalry regiment called 36th Jacob's Horse and for founding the town of Jacobabad.

Early lifeEdit

He was born at Woolavington, in the county of Somerset, England, where his father the Reverend Stephen Long Jacob was incumbent. His mother was Susanna, daughter of the Reverend James Bond of Ashford, Kent, England. He was schooled by his father until he obtained his cadetship to Addiscombe Military Seminary.[1] A number of the young cadets there who were his contemporaries, included such famous officers as Eldred Pottinger, Robert Cornelis Napier, Henry Mortimer Durand, Vincent Eyre and others.[2] He was commissioned into the Bombay Artillery (Bombay Army) on his 16th birthday, and subsequently sailed for India in January 1828, never to set foot in England again.

Afghan WarEdit

After seven years employed with his regiment, he was then employed as subordinate to the collector of Gujerat. In 1838 he was ordered to Sind with the Bombay column, to join the army of the Indus at the outbreak of the First Anglo-Afghan War.

He first saw active service in the summer of 1839 as a subaltern of artillery, the force led by Sir John Keane, sent to invade the Upper Sindh. He was given command of the Sind Horse by Sir James Outram in 1841; in 1842 he was additionally placed in political charge of the whole of the Cutchee frontier. He saw his first major action as Brevet Captain at the Battle of Meanee, with the British force sent to conquer Sindh. He was awarded a CB.

He set about to recruit a second regiment of Sind Horse, which Napier announced in a letter dated 28 November 1846 would be called Jacob's Horse. As Irregular Cavalry, each regiment had only three European officers, a system that Jacob argued should be extended to all Indian cavalry regiments. Both regiments were absorbed into the Indian Army in 1860 and ultimately became the 35th Sind Horse and the 36th Jacob's Horse. They saw active service in Northern and Central India, Persia and Afghanistan, and during World War I in France. They were amalgamated in 1921 and became known as the 14th Prince of Wales's Own Scinde Horse.

In 1847 Jacob was placed in political charge of the frontier and established his headquarters at Khangurh, where a flourishing town known as Jacobabad developed.

He wrote many pamphlets which were critical of the Indian Army as it then was, and got him into much trouble with the Government in London. He was a scientist and inventor, developing an exploding bullet, or shell, that fired combustibles up to 6 miles. He believed this would revolutionize the art of war. Two good riflemen could, in his opinion, annihilate the best battery of field artillery in 10 minutes. Further experiments made it possible to fire shells up to a range of 14 miles. More importantly, he designed a four grooved rifle and had various experimental guns manufactured in London by leading gunsmiths, and at his expense.

In April 1855 he was gazetted Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1856, due to Sir Bartle Frere's poor health, he taking leave in England, Jacob was pronounced Acting Commissioner in Sind.

Persian WarEdit


Brigadier General John Jacob, CB. Marble bust at Taunton Shire Hall

At the outbreak of the Anglo-Persian War, Jacob was put in charge of the cavalry and departed for Persia. He was raised to the rank of Brigadier-General, and appointed A.D.C. to Queen Victoria. When he arrived at Bushire, General Stalker having suddenly died, Jacob was put in charge of 3000 men. Peace favourable to the British Government having been negotiated, Jacob was left in charge of conducting the evacuation of Bushire.

A month after the end of hostilities with the Persians, the Indian rebellion of 1857 had broken out; Jacob's Horse remained loyal throughout. He was anxious to return to India, as he had been selected for the command of the Central Indian Army. He was delayed in Bushire on the insistence of the British minister there, and Lord Elphinstone was unable to await his arrival; the command was given to Sir Hugh Rose instead. Jacob returned to Jacobabad where he raised two regiments of infantry. He died of ill health at Jacobabad on 6 December 1858. He was buried in the town where his grave has been well-maintained by the locals for whom he retains a cult status, and, according to BBC correspondent Mark Tully locals believed he had saintlike status.[3]


Among his descendants, were Lt. Gen. Sir Ian Jacob, KBE, CB, a former Director-General of the BBC, Prof. Ernest Jacob, an historian; and Doctor Gordon Jacob, the composer.[4]


  1. Through the good offices of his cousin, Capt William Jacob of the Bombay Artillery in February 1826. His elder brother, Herbert, was then also serving out in India as a new subaltern. HT Lambrick, John Jacob of Jacobabad, reprint, Karachi, 1975, of original edition, p.7
  2. Lambrick, p.8
  3. 'Karachi to the Khyber Pass', Mark Tully ?
  4. Lambrick, p. 5, footnote

Further readingEdit

  • Alexander Innes Shand, Brigadier General John Jacob C.B., Seeley and Co, London, 1900
  • Hugh T. Lambrick, John Jacob of Jacobabad, Cassel and Co, London, 1960
  • Kenneth W. Jacob, Brigadier General John Jacob of Jacobabad, Family History, Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Vol 20, No 163, April 2000.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Lee, Sidney, ed (1892). "Jacob, John". Dictionary of National Biography. 29. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  • Alaric Jacob, Scenes from a Bourgeois Life, Secker & Warburg 1949.
  • Major John Jacob, 'Remarks on the Native Troops of the Indian Army', Times Press, Bombay, 1854.

External linksEdit

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