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 XLVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2


Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5

It was on the 22nd of September that the garrison got news of the coming relieving force. On that evening the faithful and intrepid Ungud arrived with a letter from Sir James Outram, announcing that he had crossed the Ganges on the 19th, and would soon be in Lucknow. To account for the appearance of this army, we must- go back to the period when we left Havelock after his victory over the mutineers at Bithoor in August.

Sir Colin Campbell had just arrived in Calcutta. When the news of General Anson's death reached London, the name of only one man occurred to the Duke of Cambridge, as that of a soldier fit to restore to us an empire in the East. By a sort of instinct, in moments of real peril, nations select their commanders; and when the Duke of Cambridge sent for Sir Colin Campbell, he only anticipated the national choice of a fit leader. The scene at the Horse Guards was characteristic. The Duke offered the command of the Indian army to the veteran, who but a few months before was simply a colonel. Sir Colin accepted the appointment, and when he was asked how soon he would be ready to start, he replied - in four- and-twenty hours. He was as good as his word, and embarking for India at once, arrived in Calcutta on the 13th of August, two months and a half after the death of Anson. But the army he was to command was slowly steaming and sailing round the Cape of Good Hope. The French Emperor had offered to our Government free passage for troops through France, but we had not become so humiliated as a nation as to be in a position to accept that offer. Many persons urged the Government to send the Indian reinforcements through Egypt as if Egypt were our own. Had the Government done so, an evil precedent would have been set; for the French would have been only too happy to avail themselves of an example which would have made Egypt a sort of neutral highway; and which might have been used to serve ambitious purposes, and have led to the occupation of Egypt by a French army, which it would have required a war to expel. Therefore the Government wisely sent the troops by the sea route.

As soon as he heard of Sir Colin's arrival. Havelock reported to him, and begged that he might be reinforced. The Indian Government, however, had taken the unusual step of superseding Havelock by Sir James Outram, and left the former to learn his supersession from the columns of the Calcutta Gazette. Havelock felt this keenly, but he was a good soldier, and did not complain. His friends supplied the required amount of indignation, and his biographers, from excusable motives, have not failed to censure the Government. It cannot, however, be contended that there was anything unfit in placing over Havelock the man under whom he had so recently served in Persia.

The position of Havelock at Cawnpore was one of great peril; enemies were accumulating all around him. There was a mutinous force at Futtehpore, above; the Gwalior contingent, kept inactive by the skill of Scindia and his able minister, Dinkur Rao, nevertheless threatened to move on Calpee. The Oude insurgents had occupied the abandoned position at Mungulwar, and scouring the left bank of the Ganges, threatened to strike at his line of communications with Allahabad. Agra, it must be remembered, was beset. Delhi, it should be borne in mind, had not been taken; indeed, Nicholson had only just entered the camp with the moveable column. Central India was ablaze with mutiny. To hold Cawnpore we had not more than 1,000 men. Deducting the force required to guard an entrenched position covering the point of passage over the river, and a hundred men sent down the Ganges in a steamer to destroy the boats collected on the Oude bank for an inroad into the Doab at Futtehpore, Have- lock could only muster 685 Europeans. Thus it was impossible that he could act in the field. Indeed, at the end of August he was forced to contemplate the fatal step of retreating on Allahabad, unless he were speedily reinforced. These views he laid before Sir Colin, for the telegraph enabled them to hold a rapid correspondence. Now, there were troops in Behar, the 5th and 90th; but the civil authorities had got hold of these, and had kept them for their own protection at various points between Benares and Allahabad. Sir Colin saw the folly of splitting up these regiments into detachments; but so eager was every civil servant for a company of Britons, that it required the most energetic efforts on the part of the Commander-in-Chief to employ his army as he thought fit. He succeeded, and Havelock learned, to his great delight, that the 5th and 90th Foot had been ordered to proceed at once to Allahabad. Thus set at rest on this vital point, Havelock began to prepare for a march into Oude, equipping a powerful train of artillery, but being obliged to draw on his infantry both fo r gunners and for horsemen.

But these reinforcements did not arrive very quickly. As soon as he assumed command, Sir Colin Campbell requested General Outram to push on the 5th and 90th to Allahabad, together with all the detachments available, as fast as possible. The 90th had no sooner started than the civilians called them back. Then Koer Singh reappeared in the field, and part of the troops destined for Cawnpore had to be detained to watch and counteract him. Moreover, Sir James Outram conceived a new plan of campaign - a march up the Gogra or Goomtee, combined with the advance of Havelock from Cawnpore, instead of the dash of a single column from Cawnpore on Lucknow. To this both Sir Colin and Lord Canning were opposed, and when Sir James Outram heard that Havelock could not hold Cawnpore unless reinforced, he gave up his own views at once, and set his face towards Cawnpore. At the same time he apprised Havelock of his approach, and told his old comrade in arms that he would not supersede him. "I shall join you with reinforcements," so ran his message; " but to you shall be left the glory of relieving Lucknow, for which you have already struggled so much. I shall accompany you as civil commissioner, placing my military service at your disposal, should you please [to accept it], serving under you as a volunteer." On the 1st of September Outram had reached Allahabad; but, as all his soldiers had not come up, he could not start until the 5th, when he led 1,450 men forward on the road to Cawnpore. Intending to move rapidly - for the danger at Lucknow, he had been assured, was most pressing - he made a forced march; but so many soldiers sank down on the way, that he reduced the length of each day's journey, in order that he might bring in his men fresh and well.

Outram's column had reached Aong, the scene of one of Havelock's victories, when news arrived that a force from Oude had crossed the Ganges, the forerunner of a regular irruption, intent on intercepting our communications. Sir James saw at once how necessary it would be to put a stop to that, and he detached Major Eyre, already known to us, at the head of 150 men, two guns, and forty native troopers, under Captain Johnson and Lieutenant Charles Havelock, to attack and destroy the invaders. Eyre put his infantry on elephants, and, making a rapid march, came upon the enemy at daybreak. Detaching his horsemen, to keep them in play, and urging on his elephants, he found, on arriving, that the enemy had fled to his boats, and that the cavalry were gallantly engaging him, and holding him to the shore. The infantry went briskly into action, and the guns were brought to bear. The Oude men were smitten with terror, and bundling into the river, tried to escape by swimming. So deadly was the fire of grape and musketry that only three men out of the host succeeded in recrossing the Ganges. This was a deadly blow, and left a deep impression. Another body had come over, four miles above, and Eyre at once turned upon them; but they had got news of the slaughter of their comrades, and before Eyre could strike them, they had swept back into Oude. Eyre then made a forced march, and joined Sir James at Futtehpore.

To this swift and sharp blow the Lower Doab was indebted for future security. The Oude borderers did not again get within reach by attempting to molest the roads in our rear. Sir James Outram reached Cawnpore on the evening of the 15th, and with him came the last of the reinforcements. The two chiefs now had all the men they could possibly obtain. Brigadier Inglis had named the 21st of September as the day he could hold out to. There was no time to be lost. Indeed, Have- lock had already began to take measures for the reconstruction of his bridge of boats, a work intrusted to the skilful hands of Captain Crommelin.

Hitherto Sir James had only privately notified his intention not to deprive Havelock of his command. Now, on the 16th of September, in a general order, become famous, Sir James Outram told his soldiers that the honour of relieving Lucknow was due to Brigadier- General Havelock, and, "therefore, in gratitude for, and admiration of, the brilliant deeds in arms achieved by General Havelock and his gallant troops," he, Sir James Outram, would cheerfully waive his rank, and serve as a volunteer until Lucknow was relieved. Well might Sir Colin Campbell say, 'c Seldom, perhaps never, has it occurred to a Commander-in-Chief to publish and confirm such an order." All the civilised world thrilled with admiration of the conduct of Outram; but those who knew the man, rightly called the Bayard of India, expected from him nothing less than this act of disinterested generosity. Outram and Havelock were old friends, not likely to deprive each other of glory. But the incident is not the less touching and rare. It is the most brilliant, because the purest, act in the eventful story of 1857; so full of heroism, so abounding in noble instances of valour, fortitude, and self-sacrifice.

The bridge was established in three days, the enemy watching the operation supinely from Mungulwar. Leaving 400 men to guard the entrenchment at Cawnpore, Havelock crossed the river on the 19th, with 2,388 infantry, 109 volunteer cavalry, and 282 artillerymen, all Europeans. There were, besides, 341 Sikh soldiers, and 59 native troopers. The European infantry was made up of six regiments - the 64th, 84th, 78th, 5th, 90th, and the Madras Fusiliers. The artillery consisted of two 9-pounder batteries, under Maude and Olpherts, and a heavy battery - to wit, four 24-pounders, and two 8-inch howitzers, 18 guns - under Vincent Eyre. This force had been got together from Burmah, Ceylon, Madras, Bombay, and the Mauritius, one regiment, the 90th, being part of the force intended for operations in China. These details show the straits to which we were put in 1857. Thus Havelock crossed the Ganges with 3,179 men and 18 guns, confident that, if he arrived in time, he should save the noble Lucknow garrison.

The heavy guns and stores for thirteen days were carried over the bridge on the 20th, and on the 21st the army began its march in two brigades, the first under General Neill, the second under Colonel Hamilton, of the 78th. The progress of the force was far more rapid than that of Havelock when he first crossed into Oude. Moving upon Mungulwar, he found the enemy posted there with six guns. Mindful of former defeats, the enemy made no stand, and being started from cover by the infantry and guns, were chased by Outram with the volunteer horse as far as Busherutgunge, where two guns, much ammunition, and a standard were captured. The whole force came up the same night, and slept on the scene of Havelock's three brilliant combats. The next day the troops marched fifteen miles. They found the bridge over the Sye unbroken, and they encamped on the opposite bank. On the 23rd, ten miles from the Sye, they found the enemy in position at Alumbagh. This was a large park or garden, devised as a pleasaunce for one of the favourite wives of a former King of Oude. The park was enclosed by a wall, with turrets at each angle; it was entered by a handsome gateway, and contained a large palace.

The enemy had brought up 10,000 men, including 1,500 horse from Lucknow, and supported them with many guns. Part of his front was covered by a morass, his centre stood across the road, and his left was in the Alumbagh. In order to get at him, the whole column had to move along his front under fire, having the water of the swamp between it and the foe. But when once this obstacle was surmounted, and it became possible to open with heavy guns, both artillery and cavalry fell away to the rear in some confusion. One gun alone remained. Its gunners were gallant, well-trained regulars, and they went through their work without flinching. Suddenly a little band of horse swept down upon them, and closing in, cut them down. It was Lieutenant Johnson and his native irregulars. He was now more than half a mile in front of our line, and of course could not keep the gun, but the enemy did not go near it again. However he put two pieces into the Alumbagh, making holes in the wall, to serve as embrasures. This stood him in no stead, for the 5th Foot charged him, and drove him out of the garden and palace. We captured five guns, and pressed the enemy back upon Lucknow, with the Volunteer Horse at his heels. The troops prepared to bivouac and wait for their baggage; and had just taken up position, when Sir James Outram informed them that, on the 14th, the British had broken into Delhi - cheering news, which our soldiers received with loud shouts.

Havelock was now in actual contact with the assailants of the garrison in Lucknow. He was within sight of the goal he had done so much to reach. It had been comparatively easy to defeat the enemy in the open field. The task of breaking into Lucknow, through its tortuous lanes and mighty buildings, was far more arduous. It had to be undertaken with resolution, but also with circumspection: it was needful to temper daring with craft. On the night of the 23rd, for instance, the general had posted his men on a ridge, a little in advance of the left front of Alumbagh, because the high ground was drier than the low ground, and for two nights the rain had fallen in torrents. But at dawn it was found that the ridge was within range of guns hidden in the trees which fringe the suburbs of the city; and so precise was the fire of the enemy that the whole line had to be withdrawn, and formed a thousand yards to the rear on the interior slope. The pickets were posted in an enclosure a mile in front of the line, which faced down the road to the Charbagh Bridge, over a canal which covers the south and south-east front of the city. Havelock determined to rest his men on the 24th, and to their great comfort tents were pitched in the forenoon. But they had scarcely been set up ere a dashing body of mutineer cavalry, 1,500 strong, crept stealthily into the rear, and charged the long baggage train just arriving at the camp. Mistaken for our own irregulars, the baggage guard had allowed them to come too near, and when they charged with horrid shouts, the drovers and camp followers were so terrified that they fled swift and far, their flight resembling "the sound of a rushing storm sweeping over the plain." The guard were soon on the alert, and the horsemen were driven off, but not before they had killed an officer and several men. The round shot from Lucknow suburbs still rolled through the camp, but the baggage was put out of harm's way in the Alumbagh.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5

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

General Wilson
General Wilson >>>>
Brigadier Inglis
Brigadier Inglis >>>>
Pursuit of Mutineers by colonel Greathed
Pursuit of Mutineers by colonel Greathed >>>>
The Duke of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About