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March of the British on Delhi


March of the British on Delhi - Wilson's Meerut Brigade in the Field- Battles on the Hindun - Defeat of the Mutineers - Wilson joins General Barnard - Hodson again - Battle of Badlee Serai - Rout of the Sepoys - Arrival of the Guides: their Wonderful March - The British before Delhi - Danger in the Punjab - Revolt at Jhullundhur - Weakness of the Military Authorities - Sepoys escape - Mr. Ricketts at work on the Sutlej - Splendid little Action - Native Troops at Mooltan disarmed - Position before Delhi - The Sepoys assume the Offensive - Daily Actions - Plan to storm the City abandoned - The Sepoys reinforced - They attack the Rear - Combat of the 19th of June - Rebel Defeat - More Sepoy arrivals in Delhi - Fresh Actions - The British reinforced - State of the Siege at the end of June.
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It is necessary once more to return to Delhi, bring the British force well up before its walls, and show the Punjab authorities once more in action.

We left the troops under Sir Henry Barnard advancing slowly towards Delhi. Among them were the 60th Native Infantry; but instead of disarming them, he placed Colonel Thomas Seaton, an officer we shall meet again, at their head, and sent them to Rhotuck, in the vain hope that they would escape the contagion. Of course, in due time they mutinied, but did not kill their officers; and we may dismiss them here with the remark that the Sepoys swelled the rebel army, and the officers joined the British. Thanks to the journey made by Hodson, which we have recorded, the Meerut force were under orders to march on Bhagput, where there was a bridge over the Jumna. They were to reach this place and cross on the 1st of June. Accordingly, on the 27th of May, Colonel Archdale Wilson collected his little brigade. It consisted of half a battalion of the 60th Rifles, two batteries, and two squadrons of the Carabineers, with a few native sappers and troopers. The King of Delhi had got wind of this movement, and he sent out a body of mutineers to meet the column. Wilson's force encamped on the 30th on the Hindun, a feeder of the Jumna, crossed by an iron bridge at Ghazeeoodeen Nugger. The rebel force took up a position on their own side of the river. The warning of their proximity given by the outposts was followed by the fire of their cannon. Two heavy round shot were flung into the camp, wounding two bearers. In a moment the force was under arms. A company of the rifles took possession of the bridge. Major Tombs, with four guns and a troop of dragoons, dashed along the river and took the enemy in flank, while two 18-pounders, posted in front, soon shook the nerves of the rebel gunners over the river. Then, seeing their fire growing unsteady, the rifles on the bridge were reinforced, and, led by Colonel John J ones, they charged and captured five rebel guns. Thus, in a short time the mutineers were worsted in the first pitched battle. They hurried away so fast that pursuit was impossible, and were so cowed that the very Goojurs despoiled their stragglers of arms and accoutrements. We lost one killed and thirty-one wounded. But fresh forces came out from Delhi to retrieve their lost military honour. Our advance was now over the bridge in a burnt village. The enemy, who came up on Whit-Sunday, the 31st of May, posted themselves on a ridge, with a village on their left. The fight began by a fire from their heavy guns, which were rapidly answered, by Tombs and Light, with nine and eighteen-pounders. For two hours the contest was one of artillery, during which the Carabineers were drawn up in the open ground to protect our guns. Then the rifles charged upon the village occupied by the enemy, and forced them out. The Sepoys, in this fight, kept as far as possible out of musketry range, and would not allow our soldiers a chance of coming to close quarters. As we moved on, although we were hundreds and they thousands, they fell back, and when we crowned the ridge, the discomfited army was seen in the distance hurrying along the Delhi road. Our loss was six killed in battle, three by sun-stroke, and twelve were wounded. After this fight, Wilson's force halted four days, during which 100 rifles and the Sirmoor battalion of Ghoorkas, under Major Reid, came up from Meerut - a welcome addition to the brigade.

Marching towards the Jumna on the 4th, they crossed it on the 6th by the bridge of boats at Bhagput, which Hodson had taken care should be in order. On the 7th they joined the main body, which had arrived at Alipore. The force now numbered 2,400 infantry, 600 horsemen, and twenty-two field guns. The siege train from Philour, with 100 European artillerymen, strengthened the little army; and all was ready for grappling with the enemy. Very early on the 7th Hodson rode out, accompanied by a dozen native troopers. He went up to the very parade ground before Delhi, scaring away the rebel vedettes, and reconnoitring the place so well that it was on his information the general based his plans. The infantry were divided into two brigades; one, consisting of the 75th and 1st Bengal Fusiliers, was under Colonel Showers; the second, consisting of the 60th Rifles, the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers, and the Ghoorkas, under Brigadier Graves. With each brigade went some horse and guns; the remaining horse formed a cavalry brigade under Colonel Hope Grant, with two troops of horse artillery. These soldiers had come down from Umballa and Meerut, under a blazing sun of the Indian June, with the wind blowing, when it blew, in a current of "Liquid fire." Cholera had stricken down officers and men. The soldiers were fretful, from impatience to fight. At every step of their way they had gathered up horrid proofs of the truculent spirit of the mutineers; sometimes receiving a family of toil-worn and half-naked fugitives; sometimes picking up tiny shoes, with the feet still in them; sometimes coming upon villages where officers had been murdered or women outraged; and in these last cases swift vengeance was executed. Once or twice the criminals boasted of their deeds, and wished for power to commit more. Then rumour swelled up the real stories to a frightful magnitude, and our men, with heated blood and burning brains, thirsted for an opportunity of closing with a foe who warred with women and children, and murdered officers by treachery. Few armies have ever marched to battle animated by so fiery a spirit of revenge.

Before daylight on the 8th the army began its forward movement. The Sepoys had taken a post of vantage a few miles north of Delhi. They formed across the great road at the serai of Badlee. A serai is a square walled enclosure, having a tower at each angle, one door, and a fiat roof. It contains many small chambers for the use of travellers, and is loopholed all round. Thus, it is really a strong post. Badlee Serai lay a little to the west of the great road. Around it was the Sepoy camp; and in front of it, on a little hillock, having a command of the road, they had made a sandbag battery for four heavy guns, and an 8-inch howitzer for grape. On both sides of the road the ground is swampy, having pools here and there. The left flank of the Sepoys was covered by the Delhi canal, which ran parallel to the road, and was crossed by bridges not far from each other. This was the position which Hodson had looked at the day before. The pan of attack was simple. Sir Henry Barnard, with the main body, was to assail the front from the great road; while Hope Grant turned the left flank with three squadrons of the 9th Lancers, under Colonel Yule, fifty Jheend Horse, under Hodson, or 350 lances, and ten horse-artillery guns, under Tombs, Turner, and Bishop. This little force moved out of camp first, and crossed the canal near Alipore, with the intention of recrossing in rear of the Sepoys, thus cutting them off from Delhi. The main column, 1,900 infantry, 170 horse, and fourteen guns, marched later, but still in the dusk before dawn. A march of five miles brought them within sight of the Sepoy camps, where the lights were still burning. As our troops were moving down the road the enemy opened fire, and our guns coming rapidly into action, the battle began. The left brigade, under Graves, was still in the rear when the 75th and 1st Fusiliers deployed to the right of the road, and soon felt the weight of the heavy shot from the sandbag battery, which our light guns could not silence. Time was precious, but men were more so, and it would never do to play at long bowls with the mutineers. Grant's horsemen were not in sight, but the left brigade were hurrying up, when Sir Henry Barnard ordered the 75th to carry the battery. The men eagerly obeyed. Moving on steadily over rough and watery ground, they were exposed to a fire so heavy that in a few minutes nearly a hundred fell. But without a halt they pressed on, and bringing down the bayonet to the charge, surged into the battery, The 1st Fusiliers had supported the 75th, and soon joined them, when the two regiments dashed at the serai and stormed it. The left brigade had now come up. Grant's cavalry, delayed by watercourses which obstructed the progress of the guns, debouched on the left rear of the rebels, and these scattering and fleeing, left our troops masters of their camp and the greater part of their guns.

The enemy had fled, but not yet into Delhi. They had halted on the ridge overlooking that city, and here seemed disposed to make a stand. Sir Henry Barnard, with one brigade and guns, moved to the left, upon the cantonment lines, while Brigadier Wilson, with the remainder, took the road to the Subzee Mundi, a suburb of Delhi, while Reid's Ghoorkas extended between the two. The march of the main body had to be performed under fire, which, as the troops were filing over a canal bridge, proved very galling. But they went on with a will, and emerging from the old lines, near the Flagstaff Tower, opened fire, and instantly silenced the enemy's guns. The 60th and the 2nd Fusiliers, charging, took the guns, and sweeping along the ridge, arrived at a building on the right extremity, called the Hindoo Rao's house, and destined to be famous in the siege. Here the whole force rallied, Wilson having cleared the Subzee Mundi, and captured a gun. Air this time the Sepoys in Delhi cannonaded the British from the walls. It was now noon, and the troops withdraw behind the ridge to the camp, after posting pickets at the Hindoo Rao's house, and in the Flagstaff Tower. Thirteen guns had been captured. Our loss was fifty-one killed and 152 wounded; among the former was Colonel Chester, Adjutant-General. The loss of the enemy is supposed to have been about 400 killed and wounded. So far, a good beginning had been made; but instead of rushing into Delhi with the enemy, here was the little force obliged to sit down and begin a siege destined to last three months.

At length, then, behold Delhi. There lay the prize which might have been seized by a bold march from Meerut, on the night of the 10th of May, under an Edwardes or a Nicholson, but which now, swarming with the soldiers of sixteen or eighteen corps of our own training, having in its arsenal and magazine a practically inexhaustible supply of guns and ammunition, defied the gallant few who, after a month's delay, once more looked down Upon the handsome walls and beautiful buildings. And trooping along from all points were mutineers hastening to rally round the Great Mogul, and dispute for empire with the pale faces.

Early on the morning of the 9th, there was a scene in camp well worth recording, because, in many respects it illustrates forcibly the transition from the old to the new. There came into the camp squadrons of swarthy, horsemen and dusky foot. An officer was out riding; suddenly horse and foot closed upon him, surrounding him, shouting, and " behaving like frantic creatures." They seized his bridle, his dress, his hands, his feet; they threw themselves before his horse, and wept for joy, hailing him in their own tongue as " Great in Battle." The officer was Hodson, the warriors were the horse and foot of the Guide Corps, from whom he had been parted so long and so unjustly. We have seen them start, just three weeks before, from Hotee Murdan, beyond the Indus, 580 miles away. These real soldiers had crossed the Punjab and the Cis-Sutlej states, in twenty-one days, doing thirty miles a day, and halting only three days, and then by order. Three hours after they entered the camp, the Sepoys showed fight, and the Guides were at once to the front, engaging the enemy hand to hand, and coming out with one officer, Quentin Battye, mortally, and every other officer more or less, wounded. Recording this astonishing march, Colonel Herbert Edwardes, in his report on the Punjab mutinies, calls attention to "the characteristic features of this distinguished frontier corps, its mixed races and nominal uniform. These do not strike us now-a-days. In 1858, we have got well accustomed to them; but in 1846, to set Poorbeah Sepoys aside, and raise a corps of 'Shikarees' of all nations, and say they should neither be strapped down, nor braced up, nor button-strangled, but wear their own loose, dusky shirts, and wide pijamahs, and sun-proof, sword-proof turbans, and as few accoutrements as possible, was an invention, a stroke of real genius; and who conceived it? One who was as great a soldier as statesman; to whom such simple truths came by intuition; one who had served all his life with native soldiers, yet remained an Englishman, neither Hindooised nor Moslemised; one who knew and loved the native army well, yet had for years been lifting his voice to proclaim that it was a moribund body, which must have new life infused into it, or die; and who ended a life spent for others in nobly meeting the storm which he had foreseen. And now that 50,000 mixed irregulars have risen by acclamation out of the ruins of a pipe-clay Hindoostanee army, it is only just to remember that the Guide Corps, on which they have been modelled, was the thought of Sir Henry Lawrence. May the new' native army long remain a monument of his prescience and wisdom." Such were the men who so strikingly marked the transition from old to new, from death to life. As we go on, the reader wijl see how India " moulted " her old bad army, and replaced herself with a new and good one. This was the work of the men of the Punjab, without whom we should have been swept back into Bengal.

While the British, the Ghoorkas, and the Guides were establishing themselves before Delhi, a fresh mutiny in the Punjab threatened for a moment the safety of the great road to Lahore. The Sepoys broke out at Jhullundhur. The reader will remember that here were the 36th and 61st Native Infantry and the 6th cavalry; that it was from this station the troops went out who secured Philour; and that here incipient mutiny, on the 12th of May, had been checked by menace and precaution. Brigadier Johnstone succeeded Colonel Hartley on the 17th of May, and from that time the effects of a feebler hand are discernible. The brigadier humoured the Sepoys, listened to the prayers of their colonels, who here, as elsewhere, were infatuated, and, on the plea oi conciliation, gave in to their demands. He was exhorted to disarm Sepoys who could not be expected to resist the contagious example of their brothers, neither could he resist the reproaches and appeals of their officers. He had an ample European force. Captain Rothney halted his famous 4th Sikhs, and Charles Nicholson brought in the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, to aid in the disarming. The brigadier could not make up his mind; and these could stay no longer. At length, when it was too late, Brigadier Johnstone determined to do what he should have done before: too late, for the Sepoys took the initiative, rose on the 7th of June, led, as usual, by the Moslem cavalry, fired the station, and shot some of their officers. They called on the native gunners to join, but these replied with grapeshot, and would have given more such effective replies had not the brigadier stopped them. All was soon confusion. The Europeans were not allowed to act. The mutineers had it all their own way. For an hour and a half they burnt, plundered, and murdered, and then marched off, unpursued. About 200 remained stanch to their officers; and one whole company, kept in order by a subahdar, preserved the treasury, containing 10,000. The rest decamped, part going towards Loodiana, part taking the hill road, and striking the Sutlej higher up.; The former got safely off, the latter met with unexpected resistance. They had reached Philour before Brigadier Johnstone could get his column off. At Philour they were joined by the 3rd Native Infantry, and hoped to cross the bridge of boats and reach Loodiana. But Mr. Thornton, a young civilian, forestalled them. Mr. Rickets, ever prompt, hearing of the mutiny, not from Jhullundhur, but Umballa, at once collected a small force of Sikhs, and two guns belonging to the Nabba Rajah, and marched on the Sutlej. The rebels were at Philour. Mr. Rickets crossed the river in a boat, and, walking down the river alone, reconnoitred the enemy. Finding that they were about to make for an unguarded ferry where there were a few boats, he promptly moved there. But the road was heavy with sand, and he did not arrive until dark with his little force. "When they reached the spot indicated, not a watch fire was to be seen not a sound heard, and they suspected treachery. However, on pushed Mr. Rickets and Lieutenant Williams, at the head of the Sikhs, each firmly grasping the arm of a guide. Suddenly a ' challenge,' then a second and third, told them they had indeed come on the lair of the rebels. Without noticing the challenge of the pickets, they pushed on at a double, when the sentries began to fire upon them and fall back upon their supports. The guns were at once unlimbered, but the horses attached to the 6-pounder took fright, became unmanageable, and bolted, dragging after them tumbril and ammunition into the midst of the rebels, where they were soon cut to pieces. The 9-pounder, however, was safe, and quickly opened fire, sending a round of grape into the part where the rebels could be dimly, seen in the clouded moonlight. "They returned. the fire with musketry, when the Sikhs rushed up into line and delivered two splendid volleys. Now, however, it was clear that the struggle was to be maintained by themselves alone, for at the first volley the Nabba Rajah's cavalry and infantry bolted to a man. The gallant old commandant of the cavalry alone remained, and he bore himself bravely throughout, never, though severely wounded, leaving the post of danger." The mutineers had crossed to the number of 1,600. In the dim night they could not estimate the smallness of the force opposed to them. They felt the fire of the 9-pounder, which Mr. Ricketts worked himself, directing it first on one side and then on another; they felt the fire of the Sikhs in skirmishing order; but it was not until the fire grew less rapid, because the ammunition had become scarce - not until a passing flash of moonlight revealed the thin line of the gallant handful - that they essayed a charge. For two hours the Sikhs had fought. Now Williams, their leader, was wounded, and powder and shot failed, and they drew off towards Loodiana, carrying away their gun. And where was the European force from Jhullundhur? In camp near Philour, within hearing of the sound of Rickett's gun, yet forbidden to move by the brigadier, who thought them too fatigued! Had half the force marched up the river, and opened only on those mutineers who had not crossed, how different would have been the result? As it was, the mutineers were able to enter Loodiana, open the gaol, burn the church and the mission houses, try ineffectually to destroy the powder in the fort, and then fly in a panic across country towards Delhi. Had they moved down the great road, they would have swept everything before them. Let Mr. Montgomery describe the further proceedings of the brigadier: - " At nine a.m. on the 9th the advance of the Europeans started again in pursuit, crossed the river at two in the afternoon, and reached Loodiana by sunset; but the general did not arrive till an hour before midnight. At four a.m. of the 10th the advance left Loodiana, and reached the village of Daylou at 9.30, where they heard that the mutineers were still ten or twelve miles ahead at Malair Kotela. By this time the Europeans were exhausted, foot-sore, and dispirited. Their officers, too, saw that it was folly to proceed without supplies or support from the rear, neither of which could be obtained. The pursuit was therefore given up, and the troops returned to Loodiana the same night." A few days later Mr. Ricketts, hating the passing aid of Coke's Punjabees, disarmed the town, seized and punished the ringleaders in the late riots, and inflicted a heavy fine on the community. Sir John Lawrence also felt the necessity of securing Umritsir, and thither he sent Nicholson with the movable column; while at the other extremity of the Punjab Crawford Chamberlain, acting on Sir John's orders, very deftly disarmed the native infantry and cavalry at Mooltan by the aid of two Punjab regiments and a European battery.

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