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

Windham at Cawnpore: his position - The Gwalior Contingent advances from Calpee - Windham's hesitation: he resolves to attack: delays: defeats part of the enemy, and is surprised in his Camp - First Battle of Cawnpore - Defeat of Windham - He retires into the Fort to cover the Bridge - Sir Colin hears the Cannon; his opportune Arrival; ho saves Windham - Passage of the Oude Convoy - Second Battle of Cawnpore - Utter Rout of the Gwalior Contingent - Seaton's Campaign in the Doab - Combats of Gungaree and Puttiala - Hodson's daring Hide and narrow Escape - Sir Colin advances on Futtehghur, and takes it - He is joined by Seaton and a vast Convoy.
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It was rather a misfortune for Sir Colin that he had been obliged to leave at Cawnpore, not a Neill or a Have- lock, but General Windham, who owed his military- good fortune, not to especial or eminent military qualities, but to the place he occupied in correspondence from the Crimea, and to the part he played - that of a brave soldier - in the last attack on the Redan. His position at Cawnpore was an arduous one, too arduous for an officer who was simply brave. Enemies were gathering round him. He had to preserve the bridge over the Ganges into Oude, to keep up the communication with Allahabad, to watch night and day the hostile force at Calpee, of which the famous Gwalior Contingent formed the nucleus, and to improve his defences. He had general instructions, and of course he was ordered not to assume the offensive unless compelled. But these instructions supplied guides to his discretion; they did not fetter it.

At first only 500 men, the troops at Cawnpore gradually increased until they approached 2,000. The Gwalior Contingent, knowing that Sir Colin had passed into Oude, crossed the Jumna themselves in the middle of November, and approached Cawnpore. They moved slowly, and spread themselves out as if they intended to attack the place on all sides, and overwhelm the defenders by sheer weight of numbers. Had they moved rapidly they might have done so; but had Windham possessed Havelock's military skill and resolution, he would have cut them up in detail before they could reach him in masses. Unfortunately, he deemed it necessary to submit every plan to the Commander-in- Chief, and even when he found that the road from Cawnpore to Lucknow was closed by roving parties of the enemy, he still deemed it his duty to wait for an answer. But it is of the essence of success in war to be swift, if you mean to surprise your enemy and beat him in detail. Windham not only delayed, but fearing that Sir Colin might be in difficulties himself - as if Sir Colin Campbell with 5,000 good troops was likely to get into a scrape - Windham parted with a body of Native Infantry from Madras, and sent them to Bunnee in Oude. Thus cut off from Campbell, he was cut off from the instructions he sought, and delaying to act with vigour until it was too late, he allowed the enemy to approach him in full force.

Fortunately for him, although no doubt acting on a sound principle in striking at Cawnpore, the enemy was timid in his approaches, and a long time making up his mind. Thus the hesitation was tolerably equal on both sides. In the meantime four regiments from Oude joined the enemy, and he seemed disposed to join issue. Windham, gaining some confidence as his numbers increased, encamped outside the city, with the canal covering his front. The enemy had pushed up his advanced guard within three miles. There were 3,000 men with several guns on the banks of the Pandoo Nuddee now the mere bed of a stream. On the 26th Windham moved out with 1,500 men and eight guns, and falling briskly upon them, routed them in a short time, and captured three cannon. Our loss was fourteen killed and seventy-eight wounded. Although the troops defeated were not the Gwalior men, the result of this action showed the advantage of a prompt and judicious offensive. But that enterprising mode of warfare had been adopted too late. When he had carried the enemy's position, Windham saw, from a hill, the main body of the enemy not far distant, and he returned to Cawnpore with the certainty that he should be attacked. All his thoughts now were how he could best act on the defensive, and save the city and stores from pillage. To this strait he had been reduced, because he had shown a want of decision and enterprise. With an army larger than Havelock's famous little host, he found himself driven to bay.

Yet even now he did not give the enemy credit for audacity greater than his own. He thought they had been checked by the stroke he had just delivered. So he went into camp among some hillocks and brick-kilns on the Calpee Road outside the town. Thus the town was in his rear. When he rose on the 27th there was no sign of the foe. The Gwalior men were playing a fine game. They intended a surprise, and they succeeded, for Windham does not seem to have known how to get intelligence - a great defect in a general. In broad daylight, at ten a.m., while he was reconnoitring, the enemy, who had moved up unobserved, opened fire in front and flank, and took the general by surprise. They had advanced with much boldness, crossed the Delhi Road and the Bithoor Road, and thus showed a front extending from the canal on their right nearly to the Ganges. Windham met them in front with the 88th and the Rifles, and on the right flank with the 34th and 82nd. There were ten guns in action on our side, the enemy had forty. Then ensued a most unsatisfactory combat, the exact "rights" of which no one, perhaps, will ever know. Assailed in front and flank, Windham's troops resisted for five hours. All that time the enemy confined himself to a cannonade. But he was creeping up on both flanks; and, greatly alarmed for his bridge, Windham gave orders to retreat. As the camp followers and drivers had fled, he had to abandon his standing camp to the foe. Thus he retired in the face of an enemy who had not courage sufficient to molest him in retreat!

Windham now disposed his troops in position where they could cover the entrenchment, and spent an anxious night, not knowing well what to do. He had forwarded alarming letters to Sir Colin Campbell, and three of these in succession were delivered to the Commander-in- Chief, as he was marching from Bunnee towards the cannonade. All that day, the 28th, as Campbell's immense train was working through the dusty roads of Oude, Windham was fighting for his post. On the left, Walpole, with the Rifles and four guns, successfully defended that flank, and actually captured two pieces of cannon. But Colonel Woodford was killed. On the right the enemy came on in greater force, swarming down the Bithoor Road, hoping to carry the entrenchment, or at least to take positions which would give them the control of the bridge of boats. Brigadier Wilson, a zealous officer, led part of the 64th against four guns, and captured them at the cost of his life; but when taken, they could not be held. The enemy came on like a tide, rolling nearer and nearer every hour, except on the left, where Walpole kept him at a distance. On the right front of the entrenchment were a church, a chapel, and the assembly rooms. These were all defensible posts, but at dark Brigadier Carthew deemed it expedient to withdraw. It was at this moment the leading troops under Hope Grant, with Peel's naval guns, arrived in sight of the bridge, and found that it was under the fire of the enemy's cannon. Staff officers, with eager looks, rushed over to inquire for Sir Colin. He had crossed the bridge, after ordering the naval brigade to post their guns on the left bank to answer and extinguish the fire of the enemy. Sir Colin's presence rescued Windham from the plight into which he had got himself from an undue fear of responsibility. His force was diminished by upwards of 300 men.

Sir Colin at once took measures to secure the bridge. He pushed Hope's infantry, with the cavalry and some field guns, across, and during the night brought over the wounded, and women and children. The infantry and horse had, in the meantime, occupied positions covering the road to Allahabad; and under cover of these, and the fire from the left bank and from the fort, the huge convoy from Lucknow moved day by day over the bridge. It was not until the 30th that the last cart came across, and not until the 3rd of December that the convoy with the women and children had been dispatched under escort for Allahabad. Two more days were consumed in caring for the wounded. All this time Sir Colin was obliged to permit the enemy to remain in Cawnpore, and to maintain a desultory skirmish, using guns when the mutineers showed any audacity. Free from his encumbrances, Sir Colin at once struck a heavy blow.

His plan of action was based on the position of the enemy. He observed that the town of Cawnpore separated the right from the left; that on the right was the camp of the Gwalior Contingent, and behind the right the road to Calpee, the line of the enemy's advance and his line of retreat. Sir Colin saw that by falling with his whole force on the right, he could smash the enemy in detail. He therefore, on the morning of the 6th, drew up his troops under cover of some old buildings on the Allahabad Road, and ordered Windham to open a heavy fire from the entrenchment, to deceive the enemy into the belief that the attack was coming from that side. The camp was struck and the baggage put under a guard near the river. Then Windham opened fire about nine, and at eleven o'clock Sir Colin deployed his infantry and attacked the enemy. For a brief time the guns on either side were engaged; then the infantry columns dashed over the bridge of a canal which covered the enemy's front, Captain Peel and a soldier of the 53rd, named Hannaford, leading over one of them with a heavy gun. The whole line, filing over, reformed on the other side, covered by Punjab infantry in skirmishing order, and then went steadily into the heart of the enemy's right. The attack was irresistible. The enemy gave way at all points, and in two hours our troops were in his camp, and his men were flying in disorder along the Calpee Road. The cavalry had been sent to the left, in order that they might get well in the rear, but badly guided, they went too far to the left, and came up late, but still in time. Without losing a moment, Sir Colin sent them, with Bourchier's light guns, in hot pursuit, supporting them with infantry. On reaching the enemy's camp he had detached General Mansfield, his accomplished chief of the staff, with a strong column, to the right, to assail the enemy's left, now gathering round a tank, called the Soubahdar's Tank. The pursuing column, headed by the artillery, followed the fugitives closely, Bourchier's Battery going two miles without a check and alone, and coming four times into action in that distance. Then the battery halted until the cavalry came up, and the pursuit was renewed. "The cavalry spread like lightning over the plain in skirmishing order. Sir Colin takes the lead. The pursuit is continued to the fourteenth milestone" on the banks of the Pandoo Nuddee. Here it ceased. Not a cart, not an enemy was visible. So the column returned, taking with it in triumph thousands of fine bullocks, and every gun in that part of the enemy's position. In the meantime Mansfield had routed the enemy on the Bithoor Road, and driven them off in that direction. The next day Hope Grant followed them with a strong force. He made a forced march of five- and-twenty miles, and coming upon the enemy as they were crossing the Ganges, took all their guns and ammunition.

Thus was the defeat of Windham retrieved, and the Gwalior Contingent, with its auxiliary bands, crushed and deprived of nearly all its guns. Out of forty brought by them to Cawnpore, five were taken by Windham's troops, and thirty-two by Sir Colin Campbell; so that they only got away with three. The loss on our side was insignificant, that of the enemy very great. But the chief gain to us was the destruction of this formidable force, and the capture of its guns. One characteristic of this action we must not omit - the use Peel made of the naval brigade. " On this occasion," writes Sir Colin, " there was the sight beheld," and a novel sight it was, " of 24-pounder guns advancing with the first line of skirmishers! " Such was the admirable mode in which Sir Colin Campbell first rescued the glorious garrison of Lucknow, and then saved the unhappy force under Windham at Cawnpore.

There was now no hostile force of any magnitude in the Doab, except that which the Nawab of Furruckabad had collected round him, and with which he domineered over the country between the Ganges and Jumna as far to the north-west as Allyghur, and to the southeast as Etawah. Before dealing with the enemy who swarmed in the regions north of the Ganges, from Gorruckpore to Rampoor, it was necessary to clear the whole of the Doab, restore and secure complete communication between Allahabad and Delhi, by way of Agra, and procure from the north-west ample supplies of transport. In order to accomplish this, a vast convoy had been collected at Delhi, and a column organised under the orders of Colonel Thomas Seaton, to escort it to Cawnpore. The plan was for Seaton to take his convoy to Allyghur, leave it there under the guns of the fort, defeat the enemy, whose bands made the roads insecure, and then join Sir Colin, whose force, divided into two columns, was, when united and reinforced by Seaton, to concentrate on Futtehghur, the fort which commanded Furruckabad and the passage of the Ganges. By these means it was thought the whole of the Doab would be cleared of the enemy; and the means proved to be equal to the end. At the same time,, the engineer brigade and some Muzbee sappers, with guns and ammunition, were sent from Agra to Allyghur, there to meet Seaton.

The latter force reached Allyghur on the 10th, and on the 11th Seaton's column and convoy came in from Delhi. His train was fifteen miles long - a procession of grain carts, camels, elephants, horses - and his column about 1,500 strong. Allyghur is on the Grand Trunk Road, at a point where it is crossed by the road from Meerut to Agra. Near it stands a fort, which the Mahrattas had built and French engineers had improved in the times when Bussy and Dupleix strove with us for empire in India. Leaving his convoy under the guns of the fort, Seaton at once began active operations against the enemy, and fought a brief, spirited, and important campaign in the Doab. He had with him two regiments of infantry, the 1st Bengal Fusiliers and the 7th Punjabees, a squadron of Carabineers, and Hodson's Horse, under Hodson himself, and eight guns. At daybreak on the 12th he marched out in search of the enemy, and was not long in finding him.

Crossing the Ganges canal a few miles from Allyghur, Seaton halted for the night at Jullailee, and the next day moved on to Gungaree. Here the troops arrived about eight o'clock. The camp was pitched, and all prepared to rest for the day as usual. Suddenly the pickets began firing. Instead of waiting to be attacked in their lines at Khasgunge, the enemy, 5,000 strong, had become the assailant. This somewhat astonished the officers, and they only understood the reason later. It appears that the enemy, acting on false information, had moved out, hoping to surprise a weak detachment of the Belooch Battalion. Hence their boldness. They came on with some spirit, but were shocked to find themselves in front of a strong force of all arms. In a moment our guns dashed to the front and opened fire. The Carabineers charged the enemy's battery and took their guns, but lost three out of four officers. At the same time Macdowell, commanding Hodson's Horse, seeing the Carabineers attacking, shouted "Charge!" and rode into the foe with such good-will that he scattered them in all directions. The pursuit was kept up by the artillery and horsemen for five miles, and the enemy utterly routed. Our infantry had not time to fire a shot.

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

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