OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter XLIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

Pages: 1 <2> 3 4

The heads of the army - really, at this time, Chamberlain and Norman - saw now that they must get rid of the irregulars; but instead of disarming them, they marched them off to the Punjab. Chamberlain had commanded the 9th, hence he dealt tenderly with them; while he disarmed the native artillerymen who had behaved so well, and sent them to work in the batteries!

Not content with the result of the 9th, the mutineers, on the 14th, renewed the attack. They moved, as usual, out of the Lahore Gate, and made for the Subzee Mundee. The position on this side, however, had been strengthened greatly since the inroad of the troopers on the 9th, and the Sepoys were easily repelled. The fight became one of artillery and musketry, each party availing himself of good cover. At length we had to put an end to it in the usual way. Brigadier Chamberlain formed a column, and led them against the enemy - literally so; for our troops, not liking the look of a wall lined with Sepoys, stopped short, instead of charging at it. Thereupon Chamberlain, spurring his horse, leaped clean over the wall into the midst of the enemy, daring his own men to follow. They did, but Chamberlain got hit in the shoulder. Once on the move, our infantry kept the Sepoys going, and drove them from garden to garden and house to house up to the walls of Delhi. For this they paid heavily; for when they began to retire, the Sepoys took heart, and, issuing out, opened with musketry and grape. Luckily, Hodson, who had seen the column go in, followed with a few of his horse, and arrived at the moment of peril. Aided by some officers and the boldest spirits among the European and Guide Infantry, he stopped the enemy's cavalry, and then retired fighting, until two guns came up, and soon "drove the last living rebel into his pandemonium," as they called Delhi in those days. But we lost 15 killed, and had 150 wounded. Hodson himself had a narrow escape. "A rascally pandy," he writes, "made a thrust at my horse, which I parried, when he seized his 'tulwar' (sabre) in both hands, bringing it down like a sledge-hammer. It caught on the iron of my antigropelos legging, which it broke into the skin, cut through the stirrup-leather, and took a slice off my boot and stocking; and yet, wonderful to say, the sword did not penetrate into the skin. Both my horse and myself were staggered by the force of the blow; but I recovered myself quickly, and I don't think that pandy will ever raise his tulwar again."

During the remainder of July there were two more actions. The Jhansi regiments entered Delhi on the 16th; our spies in the city warned the general of an impending attack; and on the 18th the fresh regiments began what they boasted should be a four days' fight. There was nothing in the combat to distinguish it from so many of its predecessors. The alarm sounded, our troops turned out; the Sepoys, swarming among the ruins about the Subzee Mundee, retired as soon as they were assailed, and our men followed them as far as prudence dictated, and then drew off. The Sepoys did not keep their promise. One day's fighting seemed to have satisfied them. On the 23rd they sallied from the Cashmere Gate, and tried to establish a battery near the house called Ludlow Castle; but they were sharply assailed by a force under Brigadier Showers, and driven into the city. Unfortunately, in trying to take their guns the troops got too near the walls, and suffered accordingly. Showers, and Seaton, and Money, all excellent officers, were wounded. No other fighting of moment occurred for the rest of the month; but in the meantime there had been hot work in the Punjab.

General Wilson, looking for troops from the Punjab, had changed materially the system of warfare before Delhi. He resolved to make more secure the position on the ridge, and connected the isolated batteries with a continuous line of breastworks. He determined to confine himself as much as possible to a system of resistance, and not give the enemy the opportunities he appeared to covet of luring our columns under the fire of the walls. He established a system of reliefs, so that part of the force got some rest while the bulk was on duty. The result was that the discipline of the troops, which had been growing somewhat slack, was rendered more rigorous, and a higher tone was imparted to the whole body. Rest and food, at stated times, soon improved the health of the army. The great point was to stand fast until the remaining troops which could be spared from the Punjab should arrive. We have now to tell what detained them.

To all suggestions that the siege of Delhi should be abandoned, Sir John Lawrence had offered instant and peremptory resistance. He would rather have restored the Peshawur valley to the Affghans than have abandoned Delhi. As a measure of despair he had even contemplated and discussed the surrender of the valley. His wisest counsellors were vehemently opposed to the latter move; they would have preferred the raising of the siege. Happily neither measure was forced upon him. He was burthened with a vast responsibility, for by severing the electric wires the Sepoys had made him Governor-General of the Punjab and the North-west above Agra. Aided by men like Montgomery, and Edwardes, and Nicholson - supported by such unflinching lieutenants as Frederick Cooper, Reynell Tayler, Spankie, Barnes, and Forsyth - he was able to quell his own mutineers, and pour down on Delhi those reinforcements which enabled Wilson to take it by storm.

That brilliant invention, the moveable column, had not been idle during the month of July. There were five regiments of infantry and two of cavalry still in arms. Six of these regiments were in stations where there was not a single European soldier. The problem was how to get their arms. It was resolved first to deal with the 58th Native Infantry at Rawul Pindee and the 14th at Jhelum. The first is a station between the Indus and the river Jhelum; the second is on the right bank of the stream whose name it bears, and is one of the most picturesque stations in India. Sir John Lawrence reduced the force of the 14th, by calling up two companies to Rawul Pindee, where he had the 24th Foot and six guns. At this time the moveable column, which had fallen to the able command of Nicholson, was at Philour. He had joined the column at Jullundhur. With it was the 35th Native Infantry, and Nicholson called up the 33rd Native Infantry, and then set out with these troops as if he were about to march for Delhi. There was amazement in the camp. March two Sepoy regiments to Delhi! It was madness. Nicholson had far other designs, but these he kept secret. By artful management he brought both under the guns of Philour, and into the presence of his European infantry; took them by surprise, ordered them, one after the other, to pile arms, and was obeyed! Had there been resistance, for this he was prepared; 'for Mr. Ricketts stood at the bridge of boats over the Sutlej, ready to break it at the sound of the first gun, and Bourchier stood by his battery, ready to follow the fugitives, and mow them down with grape.

This successful move had been completed, and the column was eager for a march on Delhi, when Nicholson, who was acting in concert with Sir John Lawrence, turned his back on the road to Delhi, and his face towards the north. On the march he deposited the disarmed regiments at stations where they could be watched by Punjabee infantry, and thus freed, moved to Umritsir. In the meantime Sir John had planned that the disarmament of the 58th and 14th should be effected on the same day, July 7. He had little difficulty with the 58th. At first they seemed inclined to resist, but soon yielded. The two companies of the 14th, however, fled. They were pursued by mounted Punjabees, and those that escaped were brought in by the villagers. At Jhelum there was a battle. Sir John had sent 260 of the 24th Foot, three guns, and 150 police, all under Colonel Ellice, to disarm the 14th. These were followed by 700 Mooltanees, partly mounted, and the two bodies joined on the 6th. On the 7th Ellice sent part of the Mooltanee horse to guard the river, and with the rest marched towards the station. The 14th had been called under arms, and as soon as they saw the Europeans moving towards them, they began to load. Then there was a dropping fire. Presently the Sepoys broke, the Mooltanees charged, and did some execution, but the mutineers got into their quarters, and defied the horse. The Mooltanee foot came up. These were beaten off. The guns arrived, and opened. The Sepoys, well sheltered, would not budge. Colonel Ellice then arrived with the 24th Foot, and forming a small column, carried the lines with the bayonet. Ellice being wounded at the head of his men, Gerard took command. The Sepoys fled into a fortified village, and there stoutly resisted every onset. When night fell the troops were obliged to retire, leaving behind a howitzer, which was taken by the enemy. In the night they retreated, but did not escape. Out of 500 men only fifty were not " accounted for." No fewer than 150 fell in action, 180 were captured by the police, and 120, who reached Cashmere, were surrendered. But we suffered a loss of 44 killed, and 109 wounded, of whom one-half were Europeans.

Nor was this the worst loss. There were two native regiments at Sealkote - a few score miles distant east of the Chenab. They had long been suspected. They might have been disarmed in May, when there were European troops in the station. Brigadier Brind, the commandant, a brave old officer, remonstrated against the withdrawal of the 52nd Foot and Bourchier's European battery to form the moveable column. He did not like to be left with only Hindoostanee troops. " He was requested," says Mr. Montgomery, " to remove the cause of alarm by disarming them. He did not see his way to do this, and the column marched on." Sir John Lawrence had directed the ladies of the station and the soldiers' wives and children to be sent to Lahore. The latter were marched to Lahore under escort; several of the former remained. Brigadier Brind kept up a show of confidence in the 46th Native Infantry and the wing of the 9th Cavalry in the station; but he knew they were mutinous in spirit. The wonder was they had not gone before. Perhaps they waited for a signal from Delhi, and there is some evidence that the signal reached the station simultaneously with the news of the fight at Jhelum on the 7th. Be that as it may, on the 9th all the native troops mutinied. The officers, roused from sleep, mounted and rode among the men, but found remonstrance useless. They all made for an old fort which Tej Singh, a Sikh chief, had placed at their disposal. But only some escaped. Brigadier Brind was shot in the back by a trooper. He was not killed outright, and some officers, rallying round him, conveyed him to the fort, where he died. Dr. Graham was shot by his daughter's side, as he was driving her to the fort. Dr. J. Graham was killed in his carriage among his children. The Rev. W. Hunter, his wife, and child, were slain by one of the gaol guard. Captain Bishop was driving his wife and children to the fort, when a trooper overtook him. To divert his attention, Bishop leaped out and plunged into the fort ditch, while his wife drove on to the gate. Regardless of a fire from the rampart, the trooper deliberately killed his victim. The cavalry always behaved with ferocity in these mutinies. Several infantry officers were warned by their men and hurried away; but only one trooper proved faithful. Those who reached the fort had to bear the pain of feeling helpless; while the mutineers and the felons and budroashes devastated and burnt the station. In the evening others arrived. Dr. Butler and his family had been preserved by a Sikh watchman. Colonel Caulfield and Captain Farquharson, prisoners in the quarter guard of the 46th, had been offered high pay and residence at a hill station if they would command the mutineers. They of course refused, and yet were allowed to escape.

The news reached Lahore in the dead of the night, and Mr. Montgomery, holding instant council, took prompt measures of precaution, and devised means of punishment. The 10th Cavalry, at Ferozepore, were deprived of their horses, lest they should join the mutineers; Major Tay 1er, at Kangra, was ordered to disarm the 4th Native Infantry; guns and Europeans were posted at the bridge of boats over the Ravee.

Nor was this all. The moveable column was at Umritsir. Here were the 59th Native Infantry. They had shown no symptoms of disaffection; but on the 8th General Nicholson heard of the fight at Jhelum. He saw at once the peril of the moment, and the duty. On the 9th he disarmed the 59th. It was only done just in time. On the evening of that day in came a messenger from Lahore, telling of the mutiny at Sealkote, and directing Nicholson to march on Gordaspore and intercept the Sealkote men. At the same time, in rode a band boy of the 46th Native Infantry. He had seized a pony on the parade-ground at Sealkote on the morning of the mutiny, and galloped off. " By dint of borrowing and seizing fresh ones in the villages as he passed through, he finished his ride of some eighty miles into Umritsir" in two days, and rode into head-quarters with the mail-cart from Lahore. The name of this gallant lad was Macdougal. Nicholson did not hesitate. Disarming and dismounting the men of the 9th Cavalry, who were at Umritsir, he set out on the night of the 10th for Gordaspore, and by daylight he had made twenty-six miles.

They had still eighteen miles before them. Witness the energy with which the work was done, "A halt was called for a couple of hours," writes Colonel Bourchier, who was with the column; "bread and rum, with an abundance of milk, were served out. All were aware what a terrific sunning we might expect. None knew it better than Nicholson; but he knew also the value of the stake. It was in a difficulty of this kind that his valuable qualities shone forth in grasping the resources of the country. Two hundred pony carriages (ekhas), with all the ponies belonging to the grass- cutters of the 9th Cavalry, carried as many as possible of the 52nd; while the cavalry horses were made over to the Sikhs. Even with these appliances many fell victims to the heat. When mounted, it was bad enough; but for an infantry soldier, with his musket and sixty rounds of ammunition in pouch, it was terrific. Yet, under these circumstances, trying as they were, the spirit of fun was not extinct. The artillery made extemporary awnings of branches of trees over their gun-carriages and wagons, giving them the appearance of carts ' got up ' for a day at Hampstead. Officers crowned with wreaths of green leaves were ' chaffed ' by their comrades for adopting headdresses a la Norma. Here might be seen a soldier on a rampant pony, desiring his companion, on a similar beast, 'to keep behind and be his edge-de-camp;' there, a hero; mindful, perhaps, of Epping on Easter Monday, bellowing out his inquiries as to 'who had seen the fox?' Privates never intended for the mounted branch here and there came to grief, and lay sprawling on mother earth; while ever and anon some mighty Jehu, in his ekha, dashed to the front at a pace a Roman charioteer would have envied. All things must have an end. The artillery arrived at Gordaspore at three p.m. on the 11th, having been eighteen hours on the road; the infantry did not arrive until three hours later. Three artillery horses were shot, and all were much knocked up; but the district was saved. The mutineers were only eight miles distant, on the banks of the Ravee, never dreaming but that the column was still at Umritsir."

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3 4

Pictures for Chapter XLIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

Colonel Herbert Edwardes
Colonel Herbert Edwardes >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About