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


Lucknow - Situation of the Garrison after Chinhut - Position of the Residency described - The Garrison beleaguered - Immense Numbers of the Besiegers: they begin to mine, and the besieged to countermine - Assault of July 20th: its Failure - More mining - Fart of the Defences blown down - Assault of the 10th of August - Fierce Onslaught repelled - Another Mine is sprung - Defeat of the Foe - Sufferings and Endurance of the Garrison: described by Brigadier Inglis - Hopes of Belief - Sir Colin Campbell arrives in India - Have- lock asks for Aid - Outram is appointed to command - His Schemes - Position of Havelock - Reinforcements on the way: delayed - Out- ram's magnificent Self-denial - He resolves to serve under Havelock - Marches up the Doab - Vincent Eyre's Exploit - Junction of Outram and Havelock - Passage of the Ganges - Combat of Mungulwar - Battle of Alumbagh - Attack on Lucknow - Capture of the Charbagh Bridge - The Highlanders - Sound of Firing heard in Lucknow - Havelock advances - The Garrison sees his Soldiers - Havelock captures the Chutter Munzil, and storms through the Streets into the Residency - Death of Neill - Lucknow relieved - Joy of the Garrison - Misfortunes of the Wounded - Outram in command - Shut up in Lucknow - Sir Colin Campbell collects an Army - Leaves Windham at Cawnpore, and marches on Lucknow - Capture of the Delkoosha; of the Secunder Bagh - Awful Slaughter of Sepoys - Peel and his Sailors - Outram breaks out, and Sir Colin breaks in - Evacuation of Lucknow - March towards Cawnpore - Death of Havelock.
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The reader will remember that we left the small garrison of Lucknow beleaguered in its extemporised lines by the rebel force of Oude; and that we narrated the first campaign of Havelock to relieve the garrison, and its failure. The result of that campaign simply enabled us to recover Cawnpore, and to show the mutineers that we had still power to rout them in the open field; and this was an immense gain at that time. We have now to recount, as briefly as possible, the story of the defence of the Lucknow Residency and its various outposts, and then to show how the noble garrison was first succoured by Havelock and Outram, and finally rescued by Sir Colin Campbell.

The defeat of the British forces at Chinhut, the abandonment of the Muchee Bowun, the defection of all but a few hundreds of the native troops, the suddenness of the disaster, created great confusion. The position occupied consisted of a number of buildings around the Residency. The defences begun early in June were still incomplete. There were large gaps at vital points. The engineers had been permitted to level only a few of the surrounding houses, and this only on the north side facing the river. Hence the enemy, as soon as he closed around, was able to occupy the near houses, and from these, as well as from the more distant buildings, the vast palaces and stronger houses, to open at once, and maintain almost without intermission, a terrible fire of shot, shell, and musketry. Consequently, the defences had to be completed under fire; and had the enemy shown the least courage, he might at once have stormed in at more than one point; but, strong in numbers, he was weak in bravery, and he feared to grapple at close quarters, even with the few hundreds encircled by his fire.

The position occupied was a piece of table land, on the crown of which stood the Residency. The ground fell sharply towards the river, and all along the northern face ran a low rampart, eked out with sandbags, and having a ditch in front. The north-eastern and eastern fronts consisted of lines of buildings connected by barricades and banks of earth. Here were the hospital, the Treasury, the Bailey Guard, a strong gateway, well- banked up with earth, Dr. Fayer's house and enclosures, the Financial Garrison House and wall, Sago's house, and Anderson's house, which was entrenched, and formed the south-eastern angle of the position. Then, looking south, came the Cawnpore Battery, so named because it swept the Cawnpore Road. From this point the line of available buildings trended in a westerly direction, until the house of Mr. Gubbins was reached. This was made by that energetic civil servant into a very strong post at the eleventh hour. The western face of the position was the series of houses connected with the north face by an entrenchment running along the brow of the high land on that side. Within the outer line were inner posts, some of which commanded those in front, and at suitable points batteries were constructed and armed with guns. The labour of creating these defences was most trying, but a good deal had been done by natives hired and paid every day. After the place was invested the natives deserted in large numbers, and very few officers retained their servants. This added greatly to the sufferings of the garrison. Every post had its allotted defenders, while the women and children, the fugitive ladies and their little ones, the sick and wounded, were stowed away in the large underground rooms of the Residency and other buildings. Nevertheless, it was soon found that there were few spots into which the projectiles of the enemy did not make way. In fact, the whole position was encircled by hosts of foes, who from batteries placed within a hundred yards, from houses still nearer, from the roofs and upper stories of the lofty and more distant palaces on the east, kept up an incessant hail of shot.

The garrison consisted of the men of the 32nd Foot, under Brigadier Inglis, portions of the 13th and 48th Native Infantry, some Sikhs of the 71st, many officers of the mutinied regiments, the civil servants of the East India Company, and several merchants: in all 1,692 men, of whom 765 were natives. The force of the assailants varied in numbers. Always formidable, never less than 30,000 men, the nucleus of whom were the Oude Sepoys, the number sometimes rose to 100,000. Chiefs came in from the country districts, bringing their retainers, stayed as long as they deemed expedient, and went away. Then Havelock's advance drew off a portion of the investing force for a long period. Nevertheless, the active operations of the siege went on without cessation for nearly four months. The investment all this time was so strictly maintained that until after the arrival of Outram and Havelock in September, only one messenger, Ungud by name, was able to go out with dispatches and return.

Within the first week of the siege the enemy had established batteries on every side. He had also manned the houses. The round shot and shell brought down the walls of the larger buildings, and the bullets fell in every part of the place like rain. It was only by keeping close under shelter that any one escaped. In some spots the balls fell so thick that soldiers and officers crossing the space on duty were obliged to run at speed. Many refused to run, and of these not a few fell, sacrificed to an excessive spirit of honour. It was this perpetual fire, and not the assaults of the enemy, that caused the greatest losses. The brave men among the besiegers were few. They would lead an assault and fall, auk then, instead of pressing the charge home, their companions would run back to the first cover. Strict watch had to be kept night and day, and the sentries would often fire at anything mistaken for a dark form. At night the garrison were compelled, not only to repair damages, but to bury the dead, and not only the dead bodies of their comrades, and of women and children, but of the cattle and horses - the latter at first numerous - which fell under the enemy's fire. They had to cook their own food, for there were few servants in the lines, and their food soon became scanty. Fortunately, they had an abundance of guns, and an immense supply of ammunition. They had, also, the one thing needful - a stoutness of heart which never failed, a determination to perish rather than yield. Even the sick soldiers came out of hospital of their own accord, looking like ghosts of men, and when reproved and ordered back again, nobly replied, "Well, sir, in these times a man must do his best.5 ' The ladies and women shared in the labours and the dangers, ready to cook for the strong, and to attend on the sick; and the virtues of the tender sex never shone out more brightly than in this siege.

Up to the 20th of July the enemy contented himself with keeping up an incessant fire of cannon and musketry, to which with musketry and cannon we replied. They had been busy underground. They had begun to mine. Their first effort was against the Redan. On the morning of the 20th they sprung their mine, but it did no harm. " As soon as the smoke had cleared away," writes Brigadier Inglis in his famous report, "the enemy boldly advanced under cover of a tremendous fire of cannon and musketry, with the object of storming the Redan; but they were received with such a heavy fire that, after a short struggle, they fell back with much loss. A strong column advanced at the same time to attack Innes' post, and came on to within ten yards of the palisades, affording to Lieutenant Loughnan - 13th Native Infantry, who commanded the position, and his brave garrison, composed of gentlemen of the uncovenanted service, a few of Her Majesty's 32nd Foot and the 13th Native Infantry - an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, which they were not slow to avail themselves of, and the enemy were driven back with great slaughter. The insurgents made minor attacks at almost every outpost, but were invariably defeated; and at two p.m. they ceased their attempts to storm the place, although their musketry fire and cannonading continued to harass us unceasingly as usual."

The action thus described was a very severe one. The enemy, in more than one place, got close under the defences, and some among our volunteers, especially the half-castes, engaged in a war of insults with the enemy, in which our own Sepoys joined. The defenders were few, the assailants many, but in no place did the latter penetrate the lines. After this struggle the old state of things recurred. A ceaseless cannonade and fusilade, constant deaths and wounds, sleepless watchfulness. Day after day passed with a horrible monotony, varied only by the deaths of friends. Still the garrison kept up its courage, and stood ever ready to fight. The besiegers were again at work underground, and we had begun to countermine, doing considerable damage to the works of the enemy. But on the 10th of August they fired a mine on the south side, which entirely destroyed the defences of the place for the space of twenty feet, and blew in a wall, forming a breach "through which a regiment could have advanced in perfect order." Another mine was sprung on the east side, and a general attack commenced. A few went gallantly up to the first breach, but fell under a flank fire. On the eastern side some ran up under the walls, and laid hold of the bayonets through the loopholes; these were soon shot down. Another party attacked the Cawnpore Battery. They rushed on with fixed bayonets and trailed arms. They dashed through the stockade, and reached the mound in front of the inner ditch; but no farther; the fire in front and flank was too sharp and telling; the leading men all fell. Again and again the chiefs cried, " Come on, the place is taken I " but those who obeyed were soon driven back. About a hundred got under the Cawnpore Battery, carrying ladders; but a few hand grenades, dropped among them, sent them flying. "At intervals," says Captain Anderson, "I heard the cry of ' More men this way! ' and off would rush two or three here and there; and then the same cry was repeated in an opposite direction, and again the men had to rush to support their comrades who were more hotly pressed." The wounded left the hospitals, and those wounded in the legs threw away their crutches, and kneeling down, fired out of the loopholes; while those who could do nothing else loaded muskets. " In my garrison," writes Captain Anderson, and the extract will give a good idea of the style of fighting, " the truly brave and heroic Mr. Capper and a subaltern officer kept the volunteers at their loopholes; and every man did good service during the attacks by keeping up a constant and rapid fire on the enemy. Monsieur Geoffroi heard one of the chiefs say, 'Come on, brothers, there's nobody here;' upon which he replied, in a loud voice, 'There are plenty of us here, you rascal! ' And, as a further proof of his assertion, he shot the leader dead, and followed up by sending a bullet into another man, who was close behind him. Our good old friend, Signor Barsottelli, got very excited as the enemy rushed past the stockade. He said to the Frenchman, ' Son dentro, per Dio' in Italian! (They are in, by G----.') However, he did as he had always done before; he placed himself in a good, commanding position, and then asked the officer in command if he should fire; his expression generally was, 6 Here we dominate; shall I strike? ' All this time he was, probably, standing at a loophole, with his eye fixed on the right of his musket, and his body in such an attitude that any one could se" he was full of determination."

In these encounters the enemy lost immense numbers, the killed alone on the 10th amounting to 470 men, by the admission of the natives themselves. " On the 18th of August," says the brigadier's report, "the enemy sprung another mine in front of the Sikh lines, with very fatal effect. Captain Orr, Lieutenants Mecham and Soppitt, who commanded the small body of drummers composing the garrison, were blown into the air; but providentially returned to earth with no further injury than a severe shaking. The garrison, however, were not so fortunate. No less than eleven men were buried alive under the ruins, from whence it was impossible to extricate them, owing to the tremendous fire kept up by the enemy from houses situated not ten yards in front of the breach. The explosion was followed by a general assault of a less determined nature than the two former efforts, and the enemy were consequently repulsed without much difficulty. But they succeeded, under coyer of the breach, in establishing themselves in one of the houses in our position, from which they were driven in the evening by the bayonets of Her Majesty's 32nd and 84th Foot."

The enemy made one more serious assault, this time on the 5th of September. He sprung two mines in succession, and strove to storm into the place. He brought up scaling ladders, and tried to mount, but could not stand against the fire of musketry and the explosion of hand grenades. On this, as on other occasions, he was routed with immense slaughter.

But these actions were not what the garrison had most to dread. The glory of the defence did not lie in these fierce combats, but in the unfaltering "fortitude which enabled all to bear the incessant fire";' the daily losses; the horrid stench; the ever-present dread of mines; the absence of the common conveniences of life; the want of a knowledge of the events occurring in the outer world; the fear lest all the natives should desert. The unceasing cannonade knocked down the walls, and tore through and through some of the buildings. It seemed as if, by sheer force of heavy shot, the enemy would level the defences in one common ruin. But it is astonishing what an amount of cannonading a clump of well-built houses will bear. The enemy, fortunately, did not possess a good supply of shells, so that the arrival of these destructive missiles was comparatively rare. We had shells, but no howitzer to fire them from, and to supply this want, Lieutenant Bonham ingeniously rigged a carriage for a mortar. It was called "the ship," and did good service in horizontal shell firing.

The history of the mining operations is not the least remarkable. The enemy was ever employed in digging and mining all round the place, and hence we were compelled to countermine. Shafts were sunk and galleries run out in the direction of the enemy's mines, that direction being discovered by close observation above, and intense listening under-ground. In this work, very severe, the Sikhs and Hindostanees behaved extremely well. As there was more skill in the garrison than in the rebel army, so the former were more fortunate in their mines. But the eloquent report of Brigadier Inglis contains at once the most authentic and most touching account of the sufferings and endurance of this illustrious garrison, and we cannot do better than quote it. Had it not been, he says, "for the most untiring vigilance on our part, in watching and blowing up their mines before they were completed, the assaults would probably have been much more numerous, and might, perhaps, have ended in the capture of the place. But by countermining in all directions, we succeeded in detecting and destroying no less than four of the enemy's subterraneous advances towards important positions, two of which operations were eminently successful, as on one occasion not less than eighty of them were blown into the air, and twenty suffered a similar fate on the second explosion. The labour, however, which devolved upon us in making these countermines, in the absence of a body of skilled miners, was very heavy. The Bight Honourable the Governor-General, in Council, will feel that it would be impossible to crowd within the limits of a dispatch even the principal events, much more the individual acts of gallantry, which have marked this protracted struggle. But I can conscientiously declare my conviction, that few troops have ever undergone greater hardships, exposed as they have been to a never-ceasing musketry fire and cannonade. They have also experienced the alternate vicissitudes of extreme wet and intense heat, and that, too, with very insufficient shelter from either, and in many places without any shelter at all. In addition to having to repel real attacks, they have been exposed night and day to the hardly less harassing false alarms which the enemy have been constantly raising. The insurgents have frequently fired very heavily, sounded the advance, and shouted for several hours together, though not a man could be seen, with the view, of course, of harassing our small and exhausted force, in which object they succeeded; for no post has been strong enough to allow of a portion only of the garrison being prepared in the event of a false attack being turned into a real one. All, therefore, had to stand to their arms, and to remain at their posts until the demonstration had ceased; and such attacks were of almost nightly occurrence. The whole of the officers and men have been on duty night and day during the eighty-seven days which the siege had lasted up to the arrival of Sir J. Outram, G. C. B. In addition to this incessant military duty, the force has been nightly employed in repairing defences, in moving guns, in burying dead animals, in conveying ammunition and commissariat stores from one place to another, and in fatigue duties too numerous and too trivial to enumerate here. I feel, however, that any words of mine will fail to convey any adequate idea of what our fatigue and labours have been - labours in which all ranks and an classes, civilians, officers, and soldiers, have all borne an equally noble part. All have together descended into the mine; all have together handled the shovel for the interment of the putrid bullock; and all, accoutred with musket and bayonet, have relieved each other on sentry without regard to the distinctions of rank, civil or military. Notwithstanding all these hardships, the garrison has made no less than five sorties, in which they spiked two of the enemy's heaviest guns, and blew up several of the houses from which they had kept up the most harassing fire. Owing to the extreme paucity of our numbers, each man was taught to feel that on his own individual efforts alone depended in no small measure the safety of the entire position. This consciousness incited every officer, soldier, and man to defend the post assigned to him with such desperate tenacity, and fight for the lives which Providence had intrusted to his care with such dauntless determination, that the enemy, despite their constant attacks, their heavy mines, their over whelming numbers, and their incessant fire, could never succeed in gaining one inch of ground within the bounds of this straggling position, which was so feebly fortified that had they once obtained a footing in any of the outposts, the whole place must inevitably have fallen. If further proof be wanting of the desperate nature of the struggle which we have, under God's blessing, so long and so successfully waged, I would point to the roofless and ruined houses, to the crumbled walls, to the exploded mines, to the open breaches, to the shattered and disabled guns and defences, and lastly to the long and melancholy list of the brave and devoted officers and men who have fallen. These silent witnesses bear sad and solemn testimony to the way in which this feeble position has been defended. During the early part of these vicissitudes, we were left without any information whatever regarding the posture of affairs outside. An occasional spy did, indeed, come in, with the object of inducing our Sepoys and servants to desert; but the intelligence derived from such sources was, of course, entirely untrustworthy. "We sent our messengers daily, calling for aid and asking for information, none of whom ever returned, until the twenty-sixth day of the siege, when a pensioner, named Ungud, came back, with a letter from General Havelock's camp, informing us that they were advancing with a force sufficient to bear down all opposition, and would be with us in five or six days. A messenger was immediately dispatched, requesting that on the evening of their arrival on the outskirts of the city, two rockets might be sent up, in order that we might take the necessary measures for assisting them in forcing their way in. The sixth day, however, expired, and they came not; but for many evenings after officers and men watched for the ascension of the expected rockets, with hopes such as make the heart sick. We knew not then, nor did we learn until the 29th of August, or thirty-five days later, that the relieving force, after having fought most nobly to effect our deliverance, had been obliged to fall back for reinforcements; and this was the last communication we received until two days before the arrival of Sir James Outram on September 25th. Besides heavy visitations of cholera and small-pox, we have also had to contend against a sickness which has almost universally pervaded the garrison. Commencing with a very painful eruption, it has merged into a low fever, combined with diarrhoea; and although few or no men have actually died from its effects, it leaves behind a weakness and lassitude which, in the absence of all material sustenance, save coarse beef and still coarser flour, none have been able entirely to get over. The mortality among the women and children, and especially among the latter, from these diseases and from other causes, has been, perhaps, the most characteristic of the siege. The want of native servants has also been a source of much privation. Owing to the suddenness with which we were besieged, many of these people, who might perhaps have otherwise proved faithful to their employers, but who were outside of the defences at the time, were altogether excluded. Very many more deserted, and several families were consequently left without the services of a single domestic. Several ladies have had to tend their children, and even to wash their own clothes, as well as to cook their scanty meals, entirely unaided. Combined with the absence of servants, the want of proper accommodation has probably been the cause of much of the disease with which we have been afflicted. I cannot refrain from bringing to the prominent notice of his Lordship in Council the patient endurance and the Christian resignation which have been evinced by the women of this garrison. They have animated us by their example. Many, alas! have been made widows and their children fatherless, in this cruel struggle. But all such seem resigned to the will of Providence, and many - among whom may be mentioned the honoured names of Birch, of Polehampton, of Barbor, and of Gall - have, after the example of Miss Nightingale, constituted themselves the tender and solicitous nurses of the wounded and dying soldiers in the hospital."

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

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