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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 20


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As it was now clear that it was useless to endeavour to prevent these desperate hordes crossing the Nerbudda, it was determined to march into their own retreats beyond that river, and regularly hunt them down. Sir John Malcolm, one of our ablest officers, and who has left us the graphic account of these transactions, had just now returned from England, and he was appointed, with major-general

Marshall, to this service. Not only Cheetoo, but Kureem, were again on foot; and Sir John learnt that Cheetoo was posted near the camp of the Holkar Mahrattas, and had received a lac and sixty thousand rupees from the peishwa. By this time he had advanced as far as Agra, but on this information he fell back on Oojein, where Sir Thomas Hislop lay with another body of troops. On the 21st of December the Holkar army and Cheetoo's army made a united attack on the English at Mehidpoor, on the banks of the Seepra. They were received with a murderous slaughter, and fled, leaving seventy pieces of artillery, all they had, and a great quantity of arms. They fled in confusion to Rampoora, a fortified town in Malwa. The English on their part had suffered severely, having one hundred and seventy-four killed, and six hundred and four wounded. Amongst these were thirty-five officers wounded, half of them severely.

Sir John Malcolm and captain Grant pursued the fugitives along the banks of the Seepra, killing numbers, and seizing immense booty, including elephants and numerous camels. He left them no time to reassemble, but advanced rapidly on the capital of Holkar, joined by reinforcements from the Bombay army under major-general Sir William Keir. Alarmed at this vigorous action, the Holkar Mahrattas hastily concluded peace, gave up all their forts, and placed their territories under British protection. Some Patan chiefs attempted to resist, trusting to the defences of Rampoora; but general Brown soon stormed that place, and the whole country of the Holkar Mahrattas was reduced to obedience. No respite was granted to the Pindarrees. Cheetoo was followed from place to place by the Guzerat army under Sir William Keir, and sought refuge in vain amongst the hills and jungles of Malwa, and along the Nerbudda. At length, in January, 1818, Cheetoo's last camp was surprised and cut to pieces. After seeking refuge amongst various tribes, Cheetoo at length was found in the jungle near the fort of Asseerghur, torn to pieces by a tiger, his horse grazing found not far off, safe, and a bag on his saddle containing Cheetoo's remaining jewels and two hundred and fifty rupees. And thus ended the existence of the long formidable hosts of the Pindarrees.

Whilst this extirpation of the Pindarrees had been going on the cholera broke out at Jessore, in the low lands of the Delta of the Ganges. This fatal disease has been by medical men supposed to receive its force, if not its origin, from the want of salt in this unhealthy district, salt being one of the monopolies of the East India Company, and which, though abundant in Madras, is not permitted to be carried into Bengal, except on payment of a duty of two hundred per cent. The natives, therefore, who subsist on a rice diet, not being able to procure this necessary antiseptic, have long fallen victims to the terrible scourge of cholera. From this centre, where it is said, more or less, to rage in perpetuity, it now spread rapidly up the course of the Ganges, the Jumna, and their confluent rivers, and if the British impost on salt had anything to do with its prevalence, it now inflicted a severe retribution. The marquis of Hastings, the governor- general, was posted in Bundelcund with his army, when it appeared there and swept away thousands, both British and natives. The very men attending on the governor-general at dinner dropped down behind his chair and died. To seek a healthier region he marched eastward, but all the way the pest pursued him, and when he reached the healthy station of Erech, on the right bank of the Betwa river, towards the end of November, one-tenth of the force had fallen under its ravages. The scourge did not stop there, but for a number of years continued to spread at an amazing speed, and eventually overspread Europe with its horrors. ,

During the time that Malcolm, Keir, Hislop, and other officers were running down the Pindarrees, major-general Smith, who had received reinforcements at Poonah, was performing the same service against Bajee Rao, the peishwa who had furnished Cheetoo with funds. He marched from Poonah at the end of November, 1817, accompanied by Mr. Mountstuart Elphinstone. They encountered the army of the peishwa on the Kistnah, where his general, Gokla, had posted himself strongly in a ghaut. The pass was speedily cleared, and the army of the peishwa made a rapid retreat. The chase was continued from place to place, the peishwa dodging about in an extraordinary manner, till, at length, he managed to get into the rear of general Smith, and, passing between Poonah and Seroor, he was joined by his favourite Trimbukjee, whom he had long lost sight off, with strong reinforcements of both horse and infantry. General Smith, so soon as he could discover the route of the peishwa, pursued it, but soon after the Mahrattas showed themselves again in the vicinity of Poonah. To secure that city from the peishwa's arms, captain F. F. Staunton was dispatched from Seroor on the last day of the year with six hundred sepoys, three hundred horse, and two six-pounders; but he was not able to reach Poonah. The very next day, the 1st of January, 1818, he found his way crossed by the whole army of the peishwa, consisting of twenty thousand horse and several thousand foot. With his small force captain Staunton was in the utmost danger of being surrounded and cut off. He therefore pushed forward to get possession of the village of Corregaum, situated on a height, and consisting of stone houses, with gardens surrounded by stone walls. Here he might have defended himself till relieved; but the Arabs, who composed the principal part of the peishwa's infantry, knew his design, and dashed forward to seize it before him. The British and they met in the streets, and a desperate conflict ensued - the whole Mahratta army supporting the Arab force. Captain Staunton was soon wounded, yet he and his little handful of men continued to hold their ground the whole of the day till nine at night, without refreshment, and so much as a drop of water. Lieutenant Chisholm and assistant-surgeon Wingate were killed, and not only captain Staunton, but lieutenant Conellan and lieutenant Pattinson were severely wounded, yet they sustained charge after charge from the Arabs and Mahrattas, and soon after nine they had driven the enemy out of the village. During the night the British troops obtained no refreshment but a little water, yet they kept their post all the next day, the enemy not daring to attack them. Could they have remained a little longer, general Smith, who was on the track of the peishwa, would have been up to support them. But in the night of the 2nd of January, having no provisions, and his men getting nothing but a little water, he fell back, carrying with him all his wounded and his guns, and reached Seroor by nine o'clock on the morning of the 3rd of January.

That very day general Smith reached Corregaum in force, and at this apparition the peishwa fled back towards the sources of the Kistnah, whence he had descended. Not only general Smith, but brigadier-general Pritzler and colonel Boles kept up the pursuit, advancing from différent quarters, as the slippery Mahratta chief turned and manœuvred, till, growing weary of the chase, at the suggestion of Mr. Mountstuart Elphinstone, they determined to reduce Satara, his capital, and then each of his strong forts and towns one after another, thus depriving him of supplies, and leaving him no place of refuge or subsistence. Satara surrendered to general Smith on the 10th of February, the same day that he appeared before it. As one place after another fell, the general Gokla made an effort to arrest this process of reduction, and this enabled general Smith to attack him on the 20th of February, at Ashtee, where he completely routed him. Gokla himself was killed, and the peishwa only escaped by abandoning his palanquin and mounting a horse. General Smith and lieutenant Warrand were wounded, but not a man was killed on the British side. Great booty was taken, including twelve elephants and fifty-seven camels.

The remnant of the Mahratta army fled northwards, pursued and continually reduced by the British. At the same time the reduction of the towns and forts was steadily going on, and every day the fugitive peishwa became more and more involved in the toils of his enemies. He endeavoured to escape into Nagpoor, but on the banks of the Wurda he was met, on the 1st of April, by colonel Scott, and driven back, only to fall into the hands of colonel Adams, who attacked him near Soonee, with only one regiment of native cavalry and some horse artillery, and gave him a thorough defeat, taking five guns, three elephants, and two hundred camels. More than a thousand Mahrattas fell, and the peishwa himself narrowly escaped, his palanquin, which he had abandoned, being found shot through. Bajee Rao now endeavoured to get to the north-east into Malwa, but he was stopped by general Sir Thomas Hislop, who was advancing from that quarter towards the Deccan. Sir Thomas had orders for the surrender of a number of Holkar's forts; but at the fort of Talnere, on the river Taptee, the commander, instead of obeying the order, fired on the British. Sir Thomas sent word to him that if he did not quietly surrender the fort upon his master's order he would treat him as a rebel and hang him. The killadar continued to fire, whereupon Sir Thomas blew the gates of the fort open with cannon. At a second gate a treacherous ruse was resorted to. Pretending to surrender, a wicket was opened, and a number of our officers and a dozen grenadiers went in. They were immediately fallen upon with knives, and major Gordon and captain Macgregor were killed, and lieutenant-colonel Murray severely wounded. Immediately lieutenants Chauvel and Macgregor were massacred, and the whole of the grenadiers. For this the storming party took summary vengeance, bursting in and putting to the sword the whole of the garrison, three hundred in number. The killadar was seized, and Sir Thomas kept his word and hanged him. On this severe execution, the remainder of the forts surrendered on summons.

At length, his forces dispersed, his towns in possession of the English, his way on all sides cut off, the peishwa came in and surrendered himself to Sir John Malcolm, on the 3rd of June, 1818, on promise of good treatment. Sir John granted him eight lacs of rupees per annum, on condition that he resigned the title of peishwa for ever, and surrended all his possessions. This was confirmed by the supreme government at Calcutta. He was required to retire to Betoor, on the Ganges, near Cawnpore, where, on his splendid allowance of eighty thousand pounds a year, he continued to live in magnificence, maintaining three expensive sets of dancing girls, and surrounded by a low and sensual court. Thus was the existence of the Pindarrees, and the power of the Mahrattas, broken up, and the rajah of Satara restored. He was a minor, but on reaching the age of twenty-one, which was in the year 1821, he was invested with the government of his dominions. These included a district of about eleven thousand square miles, and produced a net revenue of fifteen million rupees. Out of this, how- ever, three lacs per annum were reserved for chiefs who had become subjects of the company, and three more lacs were alienated. The rajah was required also to renounce for ever the title of peishwa, to which he had the hereditary claim; and many of the hill-forts, which had been the sources not only of much résistance to the British, but of oppression to the natives, were dismantled. As for Trimbukjee, whose crimes and murders had determined the English to secure him at any cost, he was discovered, after a long quest, in the neighbourhood of Nassuck, by captain Swanston, and carried to Tannah, the prison from which he had escaped. He was thence transferred to Calcutta, and finally to the rock of Chunar, near Benares. The last success of this war was the reduction of the fortress of Asseerghur, one of the most formidable strongholds in India, and which had undergone some most arduous sieges. " In this war," says lieutenant Lake, the historian of it, " thirty-three hill fortresses, each of which might have defied the whole Anglo-Indian army, fell in the course of a few weeks; and this vast Mahratta empire, which had over- shadowed the East, and before which the star of the mogul became pale, was annihilated."

Nothing had ever contributed so much to the peace and security of India as the suppression of these restless depredatory Pindarrees and Mahrattas. For more than thirty years the whole of central India had repeatedly been overrun and pillaged by them. One army of Pindarrees, Mahrattas, Rajpoots, and Patas, had succeeded another, the one as fierce and rapacious as another. Means were now taken to bring the districts which were reduced to protection into order, and to lay the foundations of future prosperity. Sir John Malcolm, who had contributed so greatly to this pacification, and earl Moira, now the marquis of Hastings, were appointed to the military and political command of Malwa. This province had suffered enormously. Hundreds of villages had been destroyed by the continual traversing of fierce and cruel armies. They were become the lairs of tigers, which made a determined résistance to the returning inhabitants, and the British soldiers were sometimes obliged to be called in to expel them from these lairs in the long grass grown up in the village streets. In the state of Holkar, out of three thousand seven hundred and one villages, one thousand six hundred and sixty-three were totally deserted. Under the management of Sir John Malcolm, in two years, two-thirds of these were wholly restored, and in less than five Malwa was in a state of such prosperity as it had been a stranger to for a very long period. Indore, a city of Malwa, which had been nearly deserted in a very few years, acquired a population of nearly a hundred thousand inhabitants. The Grasseas, the Sondwarrees, the Gonds, the Bheels, and other hereditary depredators, were suppressed. In 1818 the country along the Nerbudda, and in the Vindhya mountains, stretching from the province of Bahar to Cape Comorin, were infested by such formidable bands of robbers, that small bodies of troops, much less the inhabitants, were not safe. It was the same from the territory of Bopaul to Guzerat, and from Hindia to the country of Burwannee, on both banks of the Nerbudda. All these marauding tribes were reduced, and many of them were induced to adopt the cultivation of the land, instead of the trade of robbery. This was the case with the Bheels between Jaum and Mandoo.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 20

Elba
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Death of George III
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Brighton Pavilion
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