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Chapter XLIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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Yet even now Havelock could not go on. As the Oude folk defended every post, he felt that he could only reach Lucknow with a force too weak to break in, much less carry off the garrison. He heard also that the Gwalior Contingent was moving up to the Jumna, and he knew that Nana Sahib was not far off in Oude, and that the mutineers at Bithoor were growing every day stronger. Therefore he once more fell back to Mungulwar. The troops were indignant, but there is no doubt the general was right. His army was the only force we had between Behar and Delhi, and he was bound not to throw it away uselessly. He, therefore, drew up at Mungulwar, entrenched it, and made good his raft bridge over the Ganges, hoping reinforcements would arrive. In vain. Neill now urged him to send over aid to drive the enemy from Bithoor, who were meditating offensive operations. Havelock then resolved to abandon Oude altogether. He had begun to re-cross the river, when he learned that 5,000 men, with artillery, had occupied Busserutgunge. He saw that if he retreated under such a threat without striking a blow, he would lose much of that moral influence his daring actions had secured. So, before Crossing, he turned upon his foe. Two marches brought him up to the position. Again the enemy had made a skilful choice of position; and again, by skill and courage, our troops thrust him out of it, with heavy loss to him and little to them. Thus they had been thrice beaten on this one battlefield. Having struck this heavy blow, Havelock retreated at once, and on the 13th crossed to the right bank of the Ganges; then the bridge was broken up, and the boats brought over to the Cawnpore side. Such was the first effort to relieve Lucknow. It failed; but it is impossible not to admire the devotion and resolution of the general and his men, who - in spite of such odds as were arrayed against them - in spite of the fervid heat and its effects, fever, cholera, lassitude - had eight times encountered victoriously the enemy on the field of battle.

On the 16th he went forth to his ninth action. The rebels at Bithoor were now to feel the weight of his hand. They were a "scratch pack," from five regiments, but they had a strong position, and many of them were very brave men. They were drawn up in fields of sugarcane, with a village and an inclosure here and there, and behind a line of breastwork. Behind these was a stream crossed by a stone bridge. Instead of having this in their rear, the enemy should have had it in front. No doubt he relied on his numbers. After a march, under a cloudless August sun, the troops came up with the enemy, and speedily routed him out of his cane- brakes, but not before, in some cases, men of the 42nd Native Infantry had crossed bayonets with the Madras Fusiliers. The real work had now to be done. Covered by his breastwork, the enemy fought with great obstinacy, keeping his great guns going, and maintaining a fire of musketry equal, so thought the general, to that of the Sikhs at Ferozeshah. Our artillery could not silence the Sepoy guns. There was nothing for it but the bayonet. Our infantry got the word they love so much, and charging in upon the enemy, lifted him clear over the bridge, captured his guns, and put him to flight. As Havelock rode along the line, after the action, the men cheered. "Don't cheer me, my men," he said; "you did it all yourselves." Havelock halted at Bithoor one night, and then returned to Cawnpore. Before he left he had cleared the town, and had blown up the remains of the Nana's buildings. The reason for retreating was that the defeated force might have doubled round upon Cawnpore, and sacked it in the absence of the troops.

This action terminated Havelock's first campaign. He now learned, to his chagrin, that Sir James Outram had been appointed to take command of the troops destined for the relief of Lucknow. Here we must quit for a time this noble soldier, whose services were precious- were inestimable. But before we return to Delhi, we must tell by what accumulation of stupidities the reinforcements destined for Havelock were delayed on the road.

The reasons lie in the defective resolution of the Calcutta Government. At an early stage in the mutiny, Jung Bahadoor, of Nepaul, had offered his assistance, and Major Ramsay, our agent at his capital, had transmitted the offer. He proposed to send six regiments of Nepaulese to Benares or Allahabad. The Government did not like to acquiesce in this destination of the troops. Benares and Allahabad were too important to be held by any natives. The proposal was declined; but, after a lapse of some days, when our prospects grew every moment more gloomy, Jung Bahadoor's offer was accepted, but he was directed to move upon and occupy Gorruckpore. Here he might do good and could do little harm. In this opinion, not only the Calcutta Government, but Mr. Tucker at Benares, and Havelock at Cawnpore acquiesced, and the latter declared that he could not accept aid from Nepaulese, unless their women and children and sick were left in some place as a sort of hostages, so profound was the distrust at this time of any natives. Lord Canning has been censured with regard to his treatment of the Nepaulese, but we do not think wisely. His treatment of the Sepoys at Dinapore, however, does not admit of defence or excuse.

Dinapore is a military station, ten miles west of Patna, the capital of the province of Behar, inhabited by a turbulent population, numbering 300,000, a large proportion of whom were Mahomedans. Dependent on Patna, were Gyah, Arrah, and Dinprah, small civil stations without troops. In the whole of the province, there were only troops at three places: the 12th Irregulars, at Segowlie; a detachment from them, and Rattray's Sikhs, at Patna; and a brigade at Dinapore. This brigade consisted of the 10th Foot, the 7th, 8th, and 40th Native Infantry, and two companies of Artillery, one European, the other native; the commander was General Lloyd, a veteran of large service, and once a man of energy and ability; but he was now nearly seventy, and he believed in the fidelity of the Sepoys Now, not only were the latter ripe for mutiny, but Patna itself was on the verge of revolt. In July, Mr. Tayler got the clue to a conspiracy, pounced upon, and forthwith hung a number of conspirators, and when the Mahomedans, persisting, rose in revolt, he crushed them at once with Rattray's Sikhs. Dr. Lyell, however, was slain; a Moulvie, the chief plotter, got off, and three of the worst criminals, reprieved for the moment were in the end released. Nevertheless, Mr. Tayler kept Patna down with an iron hand. There could be no security in the province, until the Dinapore regiments were disarmed.

Nothing would have been easier. In the middle of July, the 5th Foot, just landed from the Mauritius, and half the 37th Foot were on their way up the Ganges. On their arrival at Dinapore, these might have been landed, and in conjunction with the 10th Foot, every native might have been disarmed in an hour. But Lord Canning left it to General Lloyd to say whether the regiments should be disarmed, and General Lloyd had faith in the Sepoys. Moreover, Lord Canning refused to allow the 5th to land for an hour at Dinapore. The consequence of throwing the responsibility on Lloyd, and of refusing to detain the 5th, were very serious. General Lloyd thought it would be enough to take away from the Sepoys the percussion caps. This half-measure was executed on the 25th of July, just when Havelock

was preparing to spring into Oude. On the morning of that day, the 10th were under arms, and two carts sent to the magazine; in these the caps were placed, and brought away. The Sepoys murmured, threatened, but <; for the moment were quieted, and the general, thinking all over, went to lunch on board a steamer. Suddenly shots were heard. It appeared that when the Sepoys were ordered to deliver up the caps in their pouches, they fired; thereupon the 10th marched upon their lines and opened fire. The Sepoys at once decamped; some ran to the Ganges and tried to cross, but a sharp fire from a steamer sunk their boats. The greater part made off, unpursued, towards Arrah. Their enterprise was not easy; they had the Soane to cross. A quick pursuit would have found them seeking boats on its right bank. No pursuit was made for three days, and in that time they had crossed the river and entered Arrah. Kour Singh, a large landowner, a man who exhibited a gun at the Great Exhibition in 1851, joined the mutineers, supplied boats, counsel, leadership. They marched on Arrah, intending to plunder the treasury, and crossing the Ganges at Buxar, enter Oude. They were frustrated by the bravery of a few civilians, who, in their turn, had to be relieved by the skill of a genuine soldier.

Early in June, on rumour of mutiny at Patna, the European residents at Arrah had sent the women and children to Dinapore. With them went many men, non-combatants; but there stayed behind eight men, resolved not to desert the station. These men kept up a very strict watch, and lived together. Moreover, they determined to select a house, render it defensive, and provision it. Mr. Boyle, railway engineer, possessed a two-storied building, intended for a billiard room. A verandah, resting on arches, ran round each story. Mr, Boyle bricked up the arches of the lower altogether, except spaces for loopholes. On the upper floor he piled sand-bags between the pillars, leaving intervals for musketry fire. In this place provisions were stored - rice, grain, biscuits, water. This little fort was finished in June. In July fifty Sikhs came from Patna for treasure, and happily remained long enough to be of essential service.

For when the news of the Dinapore mutiny arrived, the little party of Europeans at once betook themselves to their fort. They were - Mr. Littledale, Mr. Wake, Mr. Coombe, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Halls, Mr. Colvin, Mr. Field, Mr. Cock, Mr. Anderson - names deserving to be remembered. There were also six half-castes, one native gentlemen, and fifty Sikhs. On the 26th of July, these gallant fellows bricked themselves up in their house; the next day the Dinapore mutineers, reinforced by the scum of Arrah and the retainers of Kour Singh, were around them. That very day they made a sort of charge on the frail building, which, says one of its defenders, they might have knocked down by their weight alone; but so hot was the fire from the loopholes that they fell back under shelter. For a week these gallant men were regularly besieged; the Sepoys brought up small cannon, and all day and night kept up a fire. But the defenders were as indefatigable as they were brave; they repaired damages, strengthened the defences, dug a well when water ran short. The enemy mined, and they countermined, with tools stolen from the enemy. Such was the effect of their fire, that no Sepoy could show himself in safety. The foe was so near that one of them, at intervals, offered terms, which were scornfully refused: the heroes of Arrah had resolved to die where they stood rather than capitulate. The Sikhs proved to be true as steel.

Two efforts were made to relieve this illustrious garrison; one from Dinapore, one from an unexpected quarter. The general at Dinapore sent 400 men in steamers, up the Soane, under Captain Dunbar. These landed on the left bank, and, unfortunately, the officer in command was induced to march at night. He was led into a Sepoy ambuscade, planted close to the town, and there in the dark, he and his men were shot down by hundreds of Sepoys concealed in the groves lining the road. Unable to see the enemy, our men fired at random, and were forced back in confusion. Some rallied, and marched the next morning for the Soane, pursued all the way by the Sepoys even to the river. Out of 400 men there were only fifty unwounded, and out of fifteen officers only three. The garrison at Arrah heard the fight; a Sikh brought in news of the defeat, but happily he understated the magnitude of the disaster, and the intelligence did not shake the morale or quench the hope of Mr. Boyle and his comrades. Cheerfully they fought on, until aid came from Major Eyre.

Vincent Eyre had already won a name in the annals of India. He was an officer of artillery, and at the end of July was steaming up the Ganges, in charge of three guns and half a company of European artillery. He reached Ghazeepore on the 28th, and there heard that the Dinapore mutineers were besieging Europeans in a house at Arrah. Eyre was at once eager to strike a blow for their relief. The authorities offered him twenty-five Highlanders, and with this addition to his force, making a total of sixty men, he was ready to undertake the enterprise. Thereupon, the head of the steamer was turned down stream, bound for Buxar on the right - that is, the Arrah - bank of the Ganges. Buxar was reached on the 30th, and there Major Eyre by good luck found 150 men of that very regiment, the 5th, which Lord Canning would not allow to be used in disarming the Dinapore brigade. Eyre took the 5th, sent back the Highlanders, accepted the services of volunteers from the Stud and Railway Department, and with 200 men and two guns, marched for Arrah on the 1st of August. He had fifty miles to traverse. That night he marched twenty-eight; here he heard of the defeat of the Dinapore troops, which we have already described. Far from discouraging him, this evil news only inspired him with new vigour. At two in the morning he was again on the road; but the march was slow, for there were several streams to cross, and he had to make the bridges passable. In the evening he reached a village nine miles from Arrah, and had the good fortune to find that a bridge over a deep stream had not been broken. Seizing the bridge, he halted in rear of it, and waited for daylight, to move on the enemy. Hearing of his approach, they had quitted the siege, leaving only a part of their force to blockade the house, and had taken up a position in the woods, on the road through which the relieving force was obliged to pass.

When Eyre moved out of his camp on the 3rd, he soon felt the enemy. But seeing that their front was weaker than their flanks, Eyre made for it, and the Sepoys, fearing the result, retreated from the groves, and fell back to an entrenched position. A river flowed in front of it, the mutineers had broken the bridge, and thus they were unassailable; but higher up the stream, a railway embankment crossed it, and Eyre resolved to master this point. So he turned to his right and moved off, covering his movement by the fire of his guns; thereupon the Sepoys marched out of their lines, and hurried along intent on seizing a clump of wood, which commanded the approach to the railway. There was now a race for this point, and the Sepoys won it, having better ground to traverse, and no guns. But Eyre would not be thus foiled. In spite of the gallant conduct of the Sepoys, he got up his guns, and shelled them in the woods; while his foot, in skirmishing order, kept up a musketry fire. Nevertheless, the Sepoys held fast to the groves, and even made some attempts to capture the guns. Finding he could not expel them with cannon, Eyre let loose his infantry. They had to cross 300 yards under fire; but led by Captain L'Estrange, cheered on by Captain Hastings and Mr. Kelly, who rode on the flanks, they charged in. The Sepoys did not wait the shock, but vanished at the sight of the cold steel. Pursuing the fugitives, our troops were unhappily stopped by another stream, and had to halt until a bridge could be made, over which to take the guns. This was a very brilliant action, in which 200 men, well led, defeated 2,500.

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Pictures for Chapter XLIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3

General Havelock
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Environs of Delhi
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