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


Havelock ordered to recover Cawnpore and relieve Lucknow - His March from Allahabad - Battle of Futtehpore, July 12th - Battles of Aong and Pandoo Nuddy, July 14th - Battle of Cawnpore, July 16th - Brilliant Tactics - The Enemy utterly routed - Nana Sahib massacres all the Women and Children, his Prisoners, and flies into Oude - Havelock enters Cawnpore - The House of Massacre - The Well - Bithoor captured - Havelock crosses the Ganges on the 25th of July - Battles of Onao and Busserutgunge, July 29th - Retreat to Mungulwar: reasons thereof - Defeats the Rebels again at Busserutgunge, August 5th - Retreats again to Mungulwar - Third Advance to and third Victory at Busserutgunge, August 12th - Retreat to and passage of the Ganges: reasons thereof - Battle of Bithoor, August 16th - Havelock's ninth Action - Close of his Campaign - Outram appointed to command - Cause of Havelock's failure lies at Calcutta - Weakness of Government - Mutiny at Dinapore delays Reinforcements - The Revolted Sepoys besiege Arrah - Defeat of a Relieving Force from Dinapore - Splendid Defence of Mr, Boyle's House - Vincent Eyre relieves Arrah - His March and Battle - Effects of the Dinapore Mutiny.
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We have seen the rebels assailed at Delhi, and subjected to a siege; we have seen them become the besiegers of the British at Lucknow, and triumphant by horrible treachery at Cawnpore. We left Colonel Neill at Allahabad preparing the way for Havelock; and it is now time to describe the marvellous career of that general from Allahabad to Cawnpore; trusting that the reader will bear in mind how all these separate actions were going on simultaneously, marking the period when we were fighting for existence from the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna to the frontier of the Punjab.

Havelock, as we have said heretofore, reached Calcutta on the 17th of June, and on the 20th he was appointed to command a movable column which was to be collected at Allahabad. Five days afterwards he quitted Calcutta, and on the 28th of June, one day after the bloody business at Cawnpore, he arrived at Benares. On the 30th he reached Allahabad. That very day, with the sanction of Sir Patrick Grant, Commander-in-Chief at Calcutta, the first detachment prepared by Neill marched for Cawnpore. It consisted of 400 Europeans, 420 natives, chiefly Sikhs, and two guns, the whole under Major Renaud. Havelock, soon after he arrived, sent 100 men in a steamer up the Ganges, to cover the right flank; but was obliged to wait, not only for carriage, but for troops, until the 7th, before he could start himself. On the 3rd he learned the fate of the Cawnpore garrison, and found that his duty, instead of saving them, would be first to recover Cawnpore, and then essay to relieve Lucknow. On the 7th of July he set out to join Renaud, taking with him about 1,000 bayonets, furnished by the 78th Highlanders, the 64th, the 84th, the Madras Fusiliers and Braysher's Sikhs, the bulk of whom were with Renaud. Havelock had also eighteen volunteer horsemen and six guns. Such was the force which, on the afternoon of the 7th of July, 1857, moved out of Allahabad to perform one of the most striking campaigns in the history of India.

Major Renaud had pushed onwards about seventy miles towards Cawnpore, and had halted, according to orders. For Havelock, by dint of a judicious use of money, had secured excellent information of the enemy's proceedings; and knowing that Nana Sahib was advancing on Renaud, intent on snapping him up, Havelock pushed on by forced marches, and joining him on the night of the 11th, both hastened forward to Belinda, a few miles from Futtehpore, the scene of Robert Tucker's heroism. Here the troops halted and proceeded to cook, while Colonel Tytler rode on to reconnoitre. Lo: the rebels were at Futtehpore. Thinking Tytler and his escort were only the head of Renaud's column, the rebels rushed to assail them, opening the ball with the fire of a 24-pounder. This roused our men, who stood to their arms, and presented to the rebels the unexpected array of a small army. The Sepoy horse stopped abruptly. It was now Havelock's turn. He resolved to force an action, although he had only 1,800 men and eight guns to match against their 3,500 and twelve guns.

The Sepoy mutineers were in position across the road. They occupied ground broken by swamps, groves, and hillocks, as a front line, with the enclosures of Futtehpore to fall back upon. The trunk road ran through the position, and formed the best line of advance. Havelock put his guns in the centre, and covered them with 100 riflemen. He disposed of his other troops in columns preceded by skirmishers; and he put his handful of horse on the flanks. In this order he advanced. Some of the troops had Enfield rifles, and with these, deftly used, he struck the rebels at ranges which filled them with amazement. In ten minutes, says Havelock, the action was decided, so distressed were they at the fire of the rifle and Maude's artillery. The enemy at once abandoned three guns. "As we moved forward," writes the general, "the enemy's guns continued to fall into our hands, and then, in succession, they were driven from the garden enclosures, from a strong barricade on the road, from the town wall, into and through, out of, and beyond the town." Here they tried to stand; the 2nd Cavalry charged, and our irregulars fled leaving the volunteers alone; but the Rifles got into action, and the guns came up, and the rebels bolted altogether, leaving in our hands eleven guns. We actually did not lose a single man at the hands of the enemy, but twelve died of sunstroke. They had been afoot fourteen hours, had fought without food, and now sank exhausted. Have- lock issued a stirring order of the day, in which he attributed the victory to the rapid fire of the guns, "to the power of the Enfield rifle in British hands, to British pluck, that great quality which has survived the vicissitudes of the hour, and gained intensity from the crisis; and to the blessing of Almighty God on a most righteous cause, the cause of justice, humanity, truth, and the good government of India."

Resting on the 13th, Havelock took three of the captured guns and added them to his train, and sent 100 Sikhs to guard his communications. On the 14th he marched and met no enemy, but at the halt found it desirable to disarm and dismount his native irregulars, and give their horses to his brave volunteer cavalry. These men had refrained from striking a blow in action, and had even allowed their commander, Lieutenant Palliser, to charge into the enemy almost alone. But it should be recorded that when Palliser was surrounded, and on the point of losing his life, the native captain, who had followed him, saved him by sacrificing himself. At daybreak on the 15th Havelock's force found itself again in front of the enemy. He had entrenched the great road in front of the village of Aong, and garnished his line with two guns. This was a strong outpost covering the main position of the rebels behind the stone bridge over the Pandoo Nuddy, a stream, now swollen by the rains, and flowing through a deep ravine. It was necessary to take Aong, and push on as fast as possible to the bridge.

General Havelock divided his little army into two parts. One part he placed under the orders of Colonel Tytler. This was destined to assail the enemy. With the other the general himself guarded his train and baggage from the enemy's horse. Tytler moved up, the Volunteer Cavalry, under the gallant Barrow, leading the way. The enemy's guns opened, and the Sepoys, ( intending to attack while the troops were forming, advanced with a confident air from their position to a village Thereupon Major Renaud, with his Madras Fusiliers, pounced upon them like lightning, and drove them back; but in the combat he received a mortal wound. Then Tytler closed with the enemy, expelled him from gardens and buildings, and put him to flight, but could not reach his guns. Havelock, for his share, had beaten off repeated onsets of cavalry, and these now retired to rejoin their comrades.

Halting his men to cook, Havelock anxiously awaited reports from his spies, respecting the doings of the enemy on the Pandoo Nuddy. The news came. The enemy were engaged in strengthening their position on this river, by mining the bridge. The moment was critical. If they were permitted to succeed in this work, the march of the army would be arrested for several days. On the other hand, the troops had been on foot since midnight, and had not fed. But Havelock did not hesitate. He ordered his little band to march, and they willingly obeyed. There were six miles and a hot fight before them. But these men were animated by strong motives. They knew of the atrocities perpetrated by Nana Sahib, and they believed what was then true, that above 200 women and children were still in the power of this miscreant. They left their food, and stepped off without a murmur.

Two hours' march under a burning sun brought them to the bank of the river. The Sepoys were arrayed beyond the bridge; they were at work under one of the arches; and they had two 24-pounders, so planted that their fire swept the great road. The plan of attack was soon decided on. Eight guns were drawn up in positions which enabled them to concentrate their fire on the bridge. There was a bend in the river at this point, and the Madras Fusiliers, armed with the Enfield rifle, at once took advantage of this, by pushing up in open order above and below the bridge, and from the banks of the river pouring in a hail of bullets on the rebel artillerymen. This shook the steadiness of the enemy, the fire of our guns increased his alarm; and when the mine in the bridge was seen to explode, yet failed to injure the structure, the artillerymen lost heart. As the fire slackened, Major Stephenson gathered up his Fusiliers, and dashing at the bridge carried it with a rush, and seized the guns. Thereupon the mutineers took to their heels, and made off for Cawnpore. We lost twenty-five killed and wounded, and took in all four guns.

The soldiers were now quite "done up," to use their own expressive phrase. "During twelve hours our troops," writes Major North, "had been under arms, and twice engaged, and their endurance tested to the uttermost. [The Highlanders were in woollen clothes!] The scorching sun glared down its unpitying rays upon their arms, which glittered with intolerable radiance, till the brain reeled, and the eye-balls ached with the intensity of that dazzling sheen." The sun shot its steady rays also upon their heads, and many fell, some to die. They were now to rest for a few hours. Havelock wrote for reinforcements, for gun ammunition, for Enfield ammunition, for field artillery, for rum. With regard to the last, he said that unless supplies arrived, he should be obliged to put the men on half-rations, and that "would be a most trying deprivation to troops, exposed to the fatigue and hardships that my men have endured." Some have thought it needful to apologise for this statement. But Havelock, though a friend to temperance, knew that his men were called upon to perform most unusual labours, and that under these circumstances a stimulant was needful.

There was another battle before them. They marched the next morning, the 16th. Cawnpore was twenty-four miles away. Before them lay an arid road. The sun was more formidable than the foe. Nana Sahib, alarmed at the progress of Havelock, and enraged by the repeated defeats of the mutineers, had concentrated all his forces, about 5,000 men and eight guns, and had posted them a few miles from Cawnpore, determined there to give battle. Havelock marched his men sixteen miles, and then halted there for three hours, to give them time to cook, and to await the baggage. The troops eagerly swallowed a hasty meal, and then slept under the grateful shelter of the little groves near the village of Maharajpore, where the bivouac was. The indefatigable Volunteer Cavalry were out in the front keeping watch. These picked up two Sepoys who had remained faithful to the British, and had come down from Delhi. Having passed the night in the rebel camp, they were able to state the force and describe the position.

Inspired by this information, the general resumed his march at two o'clock, leaving his baggage under a guard in the village, and quickly came within sight of the enemy. The mutineer army had been posted with some skill. It was drawn up across two roads, one leading to the cantonments at Cawnpore, the other being the great trunk road to Delhi. Each flank rested on a native village; another village strengthened the centre. All were entrenched or walled. The Ganges was distant about a mile from the left, and on the right rose the half-finished embankment for the railway. The rebel infantry were drawn up in a concave line from flank to flank. Their horse were in a body on the left, and their guns were so disposed along the line as to sweep the two roads. About 1,200 yards from the centre of the line, the roads became one, that is, the cantonment road diverged at this point from the trunk road. Beyond the point of junction a fringe of wood ran towards the Ganges. In taking up this position the enemy had calculated on a front attack. He had measured out distances along the roads, and his gunners stood ready to fire as soon as the British came within range.

But he had to deal with a general versed in warfare. On coming within sight of the enemy, Havelock took steps to ascertain from the country folk the nature of the country on both flanks of the rebel host, for he had resolved to turn one or the other. He found that the enemy's left was the more assailable. A student of military history, he saw at a glance that he could repeat the manœuvre which made the great Frederick victor over superior numbers at Leuthen. He saw that those groves we have mentioned would conceal a flank march from Nana Sahib, as the hills had hidden the movement of Frederick from Marshal Daun. He at once called up the leading officers, and " standing in the midst of them, rapidly traced a rough diagram of the projected movements in the dust with the point of his scabbard." Having made all clear, he directed the infantry to wheel to the right in column of companies at deploying distance, with the guns in the intervals of the brigades, and half the Madras Fusiliers in skirmishing order on the left or inner flank of the column. Thus the force marched for about a mile and a half behind the screen of trees, while the little body of Volunteer Horse showed themselves on the trunk road, as if they were the forerunners of a front attack.

Suddenly the enemy became aware of the object of the manoeuvre, as he caught glimpses, through breaks in the wood, of a column moving behind the trees. He opened fire. Our troops, without heeding shot and shell, moved silently on, until they arrived at a point perpendicular to the rebel position. Then they wheeled into line. The guns came up and opened fire, and the Madras riflemen once more spread out and made play with their splendid weapons. But Havelock was not the man to trifle with an advantage of position such as he had gained by his skilful march. He ordered an advance in échelon from the right. The Madras men went first in open order; the 78th Highlanders came next, then the 64th and 84th combined, and lastly the Sikhs. There were three 24-pounders on the enemy's left, well entrenched behind a village. The 78th were launched upon them. Moving up steadily under a fire of grape, until they were within eighty yards, their colonel, Hamilton, in front, the bagpipes playing in the rear, the Highlanders suddenly rent the air with a fierce sh out, and, charging in, carried the village, and captured the guns, breaking the enemy's left into two parts, hurling one in confusion on the centre, and shouldering the other to the rear. In the meantime the 64th had come abreast of the Highlanders, and the Madras Fusiliers, on the other flank, had successfully encountered and defeated the rebel cavalry. Reforming the 78th, Havelock rode to the front, and pointing to the rally of the enemy on his centre round a howitzer, cried, "Now, Highlanders, another charge like that wins the day." The charge was made, and, with the aid of the 64th, the gun was captured. The Volunteer Horse, too, making a daring charge up the road, fell upon the enemy and slew many. The whole of the British force was now united again after its rough fight. The position of the enemy and several of his guns had been won, and our troops, emerging in the rear of it, reformed. The Sepoys had again rallied, with commendable promptitude, on Suktipore, a village between the two roads. From this he had to be driven. Havelock's voice was again heard animating his soldiers to renewed exertions, and again, this time unsupported by any artillery fire from our side, did those noble foot soldiers of Britain drive the foe before them. Yet again he rallied, so stubborn was he in this combat. Nana Sahib, present on the field, was seen to be encouraging his troops. He brought them up as the sun was setting, and prepared for a last effort. He still had a 24-pounder and two pieces of smaller calibre, and with these he commanded our men, now lying down, awaiting their artillery. The sun went down. There were about 900 British soldiers, only waiting a signal from Havelock. His horse had just been shot under him, and, mounted on a hack, he rode into the hail of shot, the only man exposed to view. He says himself that the enemy showed a long line, and that, as the longer his men looked at it the less they would like it, he resolved on a charge. His piercing voice was heard, crying, "The line will advance," and then "forward!" And well the wearied men obeyed the call. "The final crisis," he writes, "had arrived. My artillery cattle, wearied by the length of the march, could not bring up the guns to my assistance; and the Madras Fusiliers, the 64th, 84th, and 78th detachments, formed in line, were exposed to a heavy fire from the 24-pounder on the road. I was resolved this state of things should not last; so, calling upon my men, who were lying down in line, to leap on their feet, I directed another steady advance. It was irresistible. The enemy sent round shot into our ranks, until we were within 300 yards, and then poured in grape with such precision and determination as I have seldom witnessed. But the 64th, led by Major Stirling and by my aide-de-camp, who had placed himself in their front, were not to be denied. Their rear showed the ground strewed with wounded; but on they steadily and silently came; then, with a cheer, charged and captured the unwieldy trophy of their valour. The enemy lost all heart, and after a hurried fire of musketry gave way in total rout. Four of my guns came up, and completed their discomfiture by a heavy cannonade; and as it grew dark, the roofless barracks of our artillery were dimly descried in advance, and it was evident that Cawnpore was once more in our possession."

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Pictures for Chapter XLIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8

General Havelock
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Environs of Delhi
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