A contemporary of Walter Scott, David Baird was born on December 6, 1757. Baird made his mark in the military, mostly in India. His first tour of duty was as a captain, with Sir Hector Munro in India. During battle, the whole force Baird was assigned to was destroyed; Baird himself captured, and held for 4 years. Several years after his release, Baird purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy and returned to India. Here, in the battle of Seringapatam, Baird distinguished himself, and was promoted to colonel.
Baird continued successful military actions in India, but was disappointed not to advance further. A command he expected to receive went to Colonel Arthur Wellesley, beginning a pattern of disappointment that would embitter Baird through his career. He was, however, knighted in 1804.
Scott was familiar with Baird, and in a personal letter to his own son Walter, described Baird:
"Respecting David Baird, besides being always a man of courage himself, and a successful general, it should never be forgotten that the army, Britain, and the whole world owe the Duke of Wellington entirely to him."