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Chapter XL, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8


The Punjab saved by the Electric Telegraph - Course of the Message from Delhi - Lahore: Energetic Measures of Mr. Montgomery and Brigadier Corbett - Native Troops disarmed on the 13th - Philour secured - Jullundhur made Safe - The Sikh Rajahs support the British - Ferozepore - Part of the Native Troops Mutiny - Kangra, Umritsir, Mooltan secured - Peshawur: Measures of Edwardes, Nicholson, Cotton, and Sir J. Lawrence - The Movable Column - General Anson at Simla - What is Simla - Orders down the Europeans - General and European Troops at Umballa - Mutiny of Ghoorkas - The Siege Train: its Escapes - Help from the Sikh Rajahs - The British move off for Delhi - Lieutenant Hodson - His Ride to Meerut and Back - Anson Dies at Kurnaul - The Punjab Men at Work - " Clubs are Trumps, not Spades!" - Peshawur. Four Regiments Disarmed - Its Effect on the Mountain Tribes - Mutiny and Destruction of the 55th Native Infantry - Nicholson's Charge - A Fifth Regiment Disarmed - Captain Mundy's Adventure - New Native Levies - Punjabees Sound - Spread of Mutiny - Blazing all over the North-West - Breaks out at Roorkee - In the Doab; at Nusseerabad; at Hansi and Hissar; at Lucknow; Bareilly; Shahjehanpore; at Seetapore; Benares; Allahabad; Cawnpore; Jhansi; Neemuch; Azimghur - Mutiny Overruns Oude - Horrible Atrocities of the Mutineers - Adventures, Sufferings, and Escapes of the British.
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The electric telegraph, saved the Punjab. We have already told how from the office in Delhi went a message along the wire to Lahore. It was read at Umballa, en route; it was read at Lahore; it was shot north-westward to Sir John Lawrence at Rawul Pindee, and to Herbert Edwardes, John Nicholson, and Sydney Cotton at Peshawur. The reader will remember the words - "The Sepoys have come in from Meerut, and are burning everything. Mr. Todd is dead, and, we hear, several Europeans. We must shut up." A message worth bearing in mind. They had it by noon in Lahore: a messenger coming in from Meerut confirmed it. By eventide Sir John Lawrence had read the momentous words at Rawul Pindee; by midnight they were scanned at Peshawur. They fell into the hands of men prompt to face and to overcome danger; keen of sight and swift of action. There was to be no paltering with mutiny in the Punjab. The Britons were resolved to be masters in that land. The morning of the 12th brought fresh and fuller tidings, and out of them grew a fixed resolve. The Europeans had kept the secret imparted by the magic dial, and determined to be first in the field.

There were at Mean Meer, six miles from Lahore, three regiments of native infantry and one of cavalry. These Brigadier Corbett and Mr. Montgomery and others, after brief deliberation, resolved to disarm. The means at hand were slight, but sufficient for brave men. They were the 81st Queen's, and two troops of horse, and four companies of foot artillery. A ball had been appointed for the night of the 12th, and it was agreed that this festivity should be held, and that the troops should parade on the morning of the 13th. The 12th brought fresh news. A Sikh discovered and revealed a plot to seize the fort in Lahore, and massacre every white man. There were in the fort eighty men of the 81st and seventy artillerymen, Europeans, and a wing, or half a regiment, of the 26th Native Infantry. The Sepoy plan was to explode on the 15th, when half the 49th Native Infantry were to relieve the 26th. While both wings were in the fort they were to kill their officers, seize the place, and slay the Europeans. Of course, all the native troops were at once to rise. At the same time, similar scenes were to be acted at other stations, especially where there were magazines. The authorities kept their discovery to themselves, and prepared by a bold stroke to anticipate the conspirators. On the 12th also decisive measures were taken to secure possession of the fort of Govindghur, famous in Sikh annals; of the fort of Philour, "the key of the Punjab;" and to warn the commanders at Mooltan, Ferozepore, and Kangra. All night messengers, and even small bodies of troops, were speeding along; and every European was alert and vigilant.

The ball was held. The revel was kept up till nearly dawn, when the officers stole away to attend a parade which was to determine the fate of British rule in the country of the five rivers. During that night a company of the 81st were driving along in carts to Govindghur, three companies were held in readiness to relieve the conspirators of the 26th in Lahore Fort, and six companies were left in cantonments to perform a principal part on the parade ground. The pretence for the parade was to read a general order touching the disarmament of the 34th, at Barrackpore. The native regiments moved out and formed a line of columns, having the 8th cavalry on the left, the native infantry regiments in the centre, and the 81st and the guns on the right. The order was read. Then the native regiments were ordered to change front to the rear, by " the wheel and counter-march of subdivisions round the centre;" a movement now made familiar by the evolutions of our volunteers. The whole performed the evolution; but the 81st, facing about, retired, and then fronting, formed line on the right company, thus bringing their front two deep, parallel to the Sepoy columns, and facing them. At the same time the guns moved with the Europeans, and as they marched, covered by the 81st, they loaded with grape. When the movement was completed, the guns were still hidden by the British foot. As soon as this was done, an order was read aloud to the Sepoys, explaining to them that they were about to be deprived of their arms to prevent them from disgracing themselves and their colours, by yielding to the temptations of bad men, and rising in mutiny. At the conclusion of the reading, the order went forth to " pile arms." By this time the 81st had moved to the rear of the guns. There were twelve, each loaded with grape, and by each gun stood an artilleryman port-fire in hand. Colonel Renny of the 81st, also gave the order to load, and the ring of the steel ramrods told the Sepoys there was no hope for them. The infantry piled arms, the cavalry took off their sabres and pouches; a company of the 81st swept them up; the crisis was past, and Lahore was saved on the third morning after the outbreak at Meerut. On that signal morning, too, three companies of the 81st marched into the fort of Lahore. The 26th, astonished and surprised, laid down their arms without a murmur.

On the same day there were other deeds performed between the Ravee and the Sutlej. On the right bank of the latter river, and commanding the great highway from Delhi to Lahore, stands the fort of Philour. To the south-east, over the river, is the cloth-working town of Loodiana, also on the great road, and to the northwest the important cantonment of Jullundhur. Philour was wholly in the hands of the Sepoy guard, and a native regiment, the 3rd, was encamped under its walls. There were only eight Europeans in the fort, one of whom, Mr. Brown, had arrived on the 12th with telegraphic apparatus to open communication with Jullundhur. For when the officer commanding at the latter station heard of the mutiny, his first thought was for the safety of Philour. He sent Mr. Brown and his apparatus in a light cart, and he marched out 150 men of the 8th Queen's at night to garrison the fort. The gallant eight had one gun. They closed the fort, and loaded the piece with grape; and kept watch over the Sepoys within and the Sepoys without. It was an anxious night, and the gun was not quitted for one moment. Before day had dawned, up came the men of the 8th, with the welcome addition, picked up on the road, of two horse-artillery guns and some Punjabee troopers, under the chivalrous Probyn, of whom we may hear again. The Sepoys in the fort were surprised and dismayed when they were relieved, and marched out of the fort. They, too, were to have risen on the 15th, and Philour was to have been the rendezvous of all the mutineers in the Punjab.

At Jullundhur itself very vigorous measures had been taken. We have seen how Philour was saved. Mr. Ricketts, at Loodiana, was also warned to look sharp after the bridge of boats which carries the traffic of the great road over the Sutlej. The troops at Jullundhur were, the 6th Cavalry, the 36th Native Infantry, and the 61st Native Infantry, the 8th Queen's, and one troop of Horse Artillery. Brigadier Hartley would have disarmed the natives, but he feared for the out stations; so he contented himself with taking ample precautions, by an able disposition of his guns and his European infantry. The civil chief of the station appealed for aid to the Rajah of Kuppoorthulla, a Sikh chief, whose territories lie between the Beas and the Sutlej, and the Rajah responded with promptitude, bringing up at once a body of troops and guns. This was the first evidence of the good-will of the Sikh chieftains in this district. They were destined to render the most valuable services in the trying days at hand. Thus was mutiny for a time parried at Jullundhur.

Ear different had been the incidents of the crisis at Ferozepore. This town stands on the left bank of the Sutlej, nearly due south of Lahore, and below Loodiana; it contained the largest arsenal in Upper India, and its importance was immense. The brigade at the station consisted of the 10th Cavalry, the 45th and 57th Native Infantry, the 61st Queen's, and three batteries; the whole under Brigadier Innes, who had just arrived from Mooltan. Strong symptoms of disaffection had appeared among the 57th, but not in the 45th, or the 10th Cavalry. When on the 13th decisive news arrived, the brigadier held a council of war; but here, as in all other stations, his avowed suspicions of the native troops were sharply combated by their own officers. He adopted a half measure; he resolved to divide the two native regiments, placing them so that the Europeans and the guns would be between them, and he intended to disarm them the next day. On the evening of the 13th he held a parade, at the same time threw a hundred men of the 61st into the magazine, and selected the best positions for his artillery. From the parade he directed the 57th to march in one direction, and the 45th in another. The former obeyed, and encamped quietly in their new quarters; but the 45th, taking a route that brought them in sight of the magazine, saw the 61st men filing into the entrenchment. The regiment now broke into two parts; one, the larger, moved off to their camping ground, the smaller left the ranks and rushed at the magazine. They carried the entrenchment, for it was weak and unguarded; but within it was a high wall round the building containing the ammunition. This the Sepoys, aided by a company of the 57th within, tried to storm; they were met by a steady fire, and were soon in retreat. Three more companies of the 61st were hurried now into the magazine, and the Sepoy company there was disarmed. But the 61st could do no more; they had to guard the barracks, where the women and children had sought shelter, as well as the magazine, and thus were compelled to look on while the mutineers and the mob burnt the cantonments. The 57th took no part, and the next day gave up their arms and colours. The 45th were still bent on mischief, and as a precaution, the brigadier blew up the regimental magazines. Then the 45th, except a few, broke into open mutiny, and set out for Delhi, pursued by the Europeans and the 10th. Very few escaped, for the 10th caught some, and the villagers brought in others. Brigadier Innes had now leisure to secure all the powder and stores. Of the native force, the 10th alone retained their arms and received General Anson's thanks for their loyalty. In a few weeks they too were mutineers.

There were three other points of moment: one of supreme importance in the Punjab - Peshawur. The others were Kangra and Mooltan. Kangra was to the Rajpoots of the hills what Umritsir was to the Sikhs of the plains - a place invested with a moral prestige. Govindghur was sacred to the famous Gooroo Govind. " He who holds Kangra holds the hills," said a native proverb. Major Lake, getting one of Mr. Montgomery's notes from Lahore, marched a body of Punjab police into Kangra, and it was secured. We have already seen the men of the 8th enter Govindghur at dawn. Mooltan, standing on the left bank of the Chenab, a few miles above its junction with the Indus, was the key of the whole country around the point where the five rivers become one. It commanded the navigation; it was the connecting link between the Punjab and Scinde and the Punjab and South Afghanistan. There were only sixty Europeans there, and 3,500 natives. Of these the most dreaded were the 62nd and 69th Native Infantry; their officers alone were full of trust in them. Major Crawford Chamberlain could rely only on his sixty Europeans and some 250 Punjabees; he had hopes of a regiment of irregular cavalry, his own regiment, known all over India as Skinner's Horse. His policy was to temporise and prepare; and most ably he did both. It was pluck and skill which saved Mooltan.

Peshawur was, after all, the critical point in the Punjab. A little anecdote will illustrate this as well as pages of description. " Very early in the crisis," writes Mr. F. Cooper, Commissioner at Umritsir, "Rajah Sahib Dyal, an old and faithful adherent of the Government, asked the writer how matters looked at Peshawur. The reply was, 'Satisfactory.' 'Otherwise,' said the questioner, and he took the skirt of his muslin robe and rolled it significantly up." The Peshawur Valley lies at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, and above it rise the lofty hills peopled by savage Moslem tribes. Had the mutineers been successful at Peshawur, the fanatics and robbers who lived among the mountains on either side for 800 miles would have poured into the valley, and thence gathering strength as it went, the torrent would have " rolled up," the Punjab. But it was not so to be. There were men at Peshawur of mettle and strength of character. They understood the facts, and so acted.

There were at Peshawur five infantry regiments of the Bengal army, the 21st, 24th, 27th, 51st, and 64th; three cavalry regiments, the 5th Regulars, and the 17th and 18th Irregulars. In three adjacent forts were detachments of a Hindoo regiment, called the Khelat-i-Gilzies. The British force consisted of the 70th and 87th, and four batteries; in all about 2,000 men. At Nowshera, the station at the east end of the Peshawur Valley, and more than twenty miles off, were the 27th Queen's, the 55th Native Infantry, the 10th Irregulars, and a battery. At Hotee Murdan, a mountain-station, sixteen miles north of Nowshera, were the Guides, natives, but true as steel, because raised, officered, and disciplined on sound principles. These were the forces, native and British, north of the Indus. The Europeans were outnumbered by three to one.

The telegram from Lahore was received here and kept secret. The men who had to deal with probable mutiny were Brigadier Sydney Cotton, Colonels Edwardes. Nicholson, and Neville Chamberlain, for General Reid, the Commander-in-Chief, was not one of the prime moving spirits. On the morning of the 12th a council was held, and swift were its decisions. The bold spirit of John Nicholson suggested at once that the British should take the initiative and form a movable column, so that aid might be rendered where it was required, and visible tangible power shown to all. To form this column, the 55th Native Infantry were ordered to occupy Hotee Murdan; so that the Guides might join the 27th Queen's at Nowshera, and that these two should form the kernel of the column. At the same time the 64th Native Infantry were split up into three parts, and sent to the forts near Peshawur. The next morning, the 13th, the council heard the news of the disarming at Lahore, and proceeded with the work. Sir John Lawrence, though at Rawul Pindee, talked with his coadjutors by telegraph, and at his suggestion General Reid joined him, and thus the heads of the two public services were united. The measures taken extended over a wider field. The Punjabee infantry and the Sikh regiments, the remains of the old Khalsa army, were called in from all quarters to join the movable column. Not only was the station made safe, and the passage of the Indus at Attock secured, but Edwardes and Nicholson took advantage of their popularity on the frontier to call for aid from the very tribes whom it had been their business to rule, and to rule with no unsteady hand. For the moment these men, by boldness, promptitude, and sagacity, held down the raging element of mutiny on both banks of the Indus, and finally drew its teeth with little loss.

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