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


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Lord Clyde immediately marched on the fort. A bridge was thrown over the Ganges below the rebel position, from the opposite bank, and a force crossed over, while cavalry and guns from Cawnpore patrolled the Doab shore. It was supposed that Bainie Madho had about 8,000 Oude Sepoys and many thousands of irregular levies; and the British brought up 6,000 men. There were great hopes that the rebel talookdar would be caught. The army advanced across country, through the crops, covered by a strong line of skirmishers and horsemen, and so disposed as to approach the fort on three sides. Between them and Dhondiakera lay an open plain full of crops, growing in fields enclosed by high walls and banks of earth, and studded with tumuli. Nothing of the fort was visible, except a ridge and the tops of two or three mosques. Lord Clyde rode just behind the skirmishers, and soon came under fire. For a brief space there was brisk exchange of musketry, then the enemy opened with cannon, and our guns were ordered up to the front, just as our line pushed on. Prom that time the British advance was continuous, Lord Clyde still leading with the eager skirmishers. After a brief but heavy cannonade, our "advance became a run. The men cheering, broke out into a double, at last into a regular race, Lord Clyde himself leading them on." The ridge was crowned, just in time to see the enemy in full flight up and down the banks of the Ganges. In a moment the cavalry and horse artillery and some of the foot went off in pursuit, while another body, with two guns, opened upon a host of fugitives who were trying to escape across the Ganges. But the rebel chief escaped with his treasure, and lost only some hundreds killed and his stronghold. Nevertheless the blow was, in one sense, effective. The rebel force was broken up; its leaders were convinced that there was no safe place for them south of the Goomtee, and they fled even beyond the Gogra.

Lord Clyde, directing his army upon Lucknow, encamped there a short time. More talookdars surrendered. Practically, Southern Oude was free from organised revolt, and it now only remained to deal with the Begum, reinforced by Bainie Madho, and with Nana Sahib, all of whom had been driven to seek refuge in Beyratch, with their backs to a pestiferous belt of forest land, called the Terai, which skirts the foot of the Himalayas. The British forces were now widely distributed in posts all over the country, and when in December Lord Clyde heard that the rebels were assembling on the Gogra, not far from Nawabgunge, he had to collect a column wherewith to attack them. He marched north from Lucknow on the 4th of December. On the 6th, he heard that the enemy were in force at Beyram Ghat on the Gogra. Directing the infantry to follow, he made a forced march with the cavalry and four guns, hoping to surprise the enemy and drive them into the river before they could destroy their boats. But, although he rode at speed all the way, he reached the river only to find that the enemy had just fled.

The army was next marched to Fyzabad, and thence it crossed the Gogra into Beyratch. Maun Singh and his brother accompanied the force. Halting for some days in the town of Beyratch to receive and answer letters from the rebel leaders, some of whom were willing to come in on terms, Lord Clyde would not listen to anything but unconditional surrender, and finding it impossible to effect an arrangement, the army marched on Nanparah. A few miles beyond the troops came up with a body of the enemy in the jungle, but the latter would not stand an attack. They fled in all directions before the cavalry and the guns. Here it was that Lord Clyde met with a severe accident. Galloping over the fields, his horse put one foot in a hole, and coming down, threw the Commander-in-Chief with such force that his right shoulder was dislocated. This was soon remedied by the surgeons, but Lord Clyde was much shaken, and obliged to follow the troops in a litter.

The operations were now rapidly coming to an end. On the 27th of December, hearing that a body of the enemy had collected in the fort of Mejidiah, Lord Clyde marched upon them, drove them out with his guns, and then went in and took all their artillery. It was a very strong place, and its easy capture showed that the enemy had lost confidence. On the 30th Lord Clyde was informed that Nana Sahib and Bainie Madho were at Bankee, twenty miles north of Nanparah. He determined to march all night, and, if possible, surprise them. This was the last action of the war on this side. Brigadier Rowcroft had already defeated Bala Rao, brother of the Nana, at Toolsepore, and our forces were close to the Terai on all sides. In order to move his force rapidly Lord Clyde made use of 150 elephants. Upon these he placed half his infantry, mounting the other half at the halting places. An elephant bearing a huge lantern guided the column across country; and thus went on horse, elephants, and guns, traversing by night an Indian jungle. " About seven o'clock," says Dr. Russell, " when the force had got within a few miles of Bankee, a white clump was observed by our vedettes at the base of a thick tope of trees. It wavered to and fro, extended, end broke, resolving itself into a strong picket of Sowars, who rode away from our right front. About eight o'clock the enemy, mostly cavalry, were visible in our front; as we approached, it was ascertained that a long, deep swamp lay in their front, which was covered on each flank by a small village. Behind them and on their left, as far as the eye could reach, extended the jungle, a dense, high wall of green, apparently of immense thickness. The Commander-in-Chief, who was now mounted on an elephant, attended by Colonel Metcalfe, reconnoitred their positions. General Mansfield was entrusted with the general direction of the attack. A very few moments sufficed for the dispositions. The Hussars slipped after the infantry towards our left; the guns, Carabineers, and Punjabees on the right were received by the fire of three guns - one in the tope, and two from the village, near the angle of the two lines of jungle. They pushed on, the shot flying over their heads, the enemy running into the jungle; and in a few moments the three guns were ours. It was about half-past eight when the enemy opened fire on us. The belt of jungle was about half a mile broad. By half-past ten our cavalry and part of the guns suddenly emerged on a wide plain with an undulating surface, in front of which rose the Nepaulese Hills, with their base covered by the Terai. On the left of the cavalry, the belt of jungle ran on in a line down to a dip in the ground, where it abruptly ceased. In the plain appeared the enemy, flying in two disorderly bodies, one towards the left, where the jungle ceased, as I have described, the other towards a village on our right. Detaching a squadron of the 7th Hussars to the left, Sir William Russell led the remainder of his regiment and the Punjabees towards the large mass of the fugitives on the right. As they dashed onwards their course was unfortunately interrupted by a deep nullah filled with water, which stopped Eraser's guns, and detained the cavalry in their pursuit. The moment they were freed from this obstacle they charged on to the right, but the enemy had got a good start, and were close to the village, which was situated on a ford of the river Raptee. Here they rushed across in wild confusion. But the Hussars pressed close upon them. The Punjabees captured a gun on the brink of the river. Suddenly a heavy battery of six guns, from the other side of the river, opened on our cavalry, covering the ford, and ploughing up the opposite bank. The Begum's guns had been sent up, and Mehudi Hoosim was doing his best for his friends. Our guns were not up. The enemy on the right had got over, and were collecting on the other side of the rapid river, under cover of their guns. Meanwhile the squadron under Fraser on the left, having a greater space to go over, had not got so close to the river at the point where the jungle joined its course. The enemy, headed by the Rifles through the jungle, and cut off on the right, were all crowding in dismay towards the narrow point where there was a ford on the left. The Hussars and Punjabees on the right were at once wheeled round, and running the gauntlet of the enemy's guns all along the banks of the river, galloped as hard as they could to assist the squadron on the left. As Fraser's men saw they were gaining on the enemy, and that a river ran before them, they gave one ringing cheer, sat down in their saddles, and rushed along as fast, fierce, and strong as the Raptee itself. 'Steady men, steady!' It is in vain; the thunder of horses' hoofs, the lightning of battle, roll and flash along. In a cascade of white the Sowars precipitate themselves into the waters of the Raptee. At the sight our Hussars give one more wild cry, and in an instant they are engaged with them in the river; not a man could be held, each went straight at an enemy. Their horses flounder amid the rocks; but the Hussars hold their own. They cut down the Sowars, as they are struggling in the whirling stream, and charge them in the ford. It is one of those wonderful spectacles only to be seen in actual war, and of which peace has no counterpart; here, men and horses swimming for their lives; there, fierce hand-to-hand conflicts between Sowars and Hussars in the foaming water. But the river was our most formidable foe. Poor Major Home, a most kind-hearted, excellent old soldier, overturned with his horse in the river, was rolled over, swept away, and drowned. Captain Stisted, carried away by the stream, was only saved by the activity and presence of mind of Major Fraser, his comrade, who pulled off his coat, and plunged into the river just in time to carry his friend, with a spark of life unextinguished, to the bank. The river was full of struggling men and horses, and some forty or fifty of the enemy were swimming for their lives; but the rest were beneath the waters, or were riding across the other bank. Our men had ridden thirty miles. They were exhausted, and so were the horses; and so at one o'clock the cavalry fell back, marched through the jungle, and joining the rest of the expedition, found their tents pitched and baggage up at Bankee, in their rear, at three o'clock on the 31st. We halted here for several days, in order to close up the pass, and keep the enemy at Nepaul; whilst Lord Clyde awaited the instructions of Lord Canning in reference to the course to be adopted with the rebels who had escaped into the territories of our ally."

Such was the last encounter on the Oude frontier. Nana Sahib, unhappily, got away. He was in a wood, two miles in rear of the position, when the guns opened. He gave orders for flight at once, and with elephants, bearing himself and his treasure, dashed over the Raptee into the Terai and Nepaul. Sir Hope Grant had followed his brother, Bala Rao, into the jungle beyond Toolsepore, and had dispersed his soldiery, taking fifteen guns. " Thus," says Lord Clyde, in his official report, " the contest in Oude has been brought to an end, and the resistance of 150,000 armed men subdued with a very moderate loss to Her Majesty's troops, and the most merciful forbearance towards the misguided enemy." One after another the chiefs surrendered, and Major Barrow held his court to receive these rebels, who acknowledged that they had lost the game. The rebels, with the Nana and the Begum, were held fast in the Terai, where they perished one by one. The Nana and, the Begum have never since reappeared. Years have passed by, and we are still ignorant of their fate. It is assumed that they found safe shelter either in Nepaul or Tibet. All the other leaders, except Feroze Shah, of Delhi, were either captured, killed in action, or surrendering, were punished according to the nature of their crimes. Oude was disarmed, the forts of the talookdars were demolished; Lucknow was fortified, and the province was permanently occupied. Mr. Montgomery, and after him Mr. Wingfield, were left to reorganise the government. Lord Clyde went to Simla to restore his health, and Lord Canning returned to Calcutta to undertake the gigantic task of reorganising the whole Government of India on the new basis of Imperial rule, and as a fundamental step was obliged to take in hand the finances, which the mutiny had so greatly disordered. After the end of January, 1858, there were combats and skirmishes here and there with bodies of turbulent men, the dregs of the native armies raised by the rebellious chiefs; but they only measured the regular subsidence of the great tempest which had swept over the land, and could not be made interesting in detail to any reader. With one exception, we have now followed the track of every rebel leader to its close. That exception is the career of Tantia Topee, who, with Kour Singh, was the only able man thrown to the surface by these great events. His romantic course is worth following, at least in outline.

The reader will remember that it was Tantia Topee who directed the Gwalior Contingent upon Cawnpore when Windham was rudely handled; that it was Tantia Topee who devised the scheme of relieving Jhansi, and who fought the battle of Calpee so well, and who, when beaten, conceived the really great design of dethroning Scindia, and rousing all Central India against us. It was Tantia Topee who showed so much skill in the battles before Gwalior, that he extorted a compliment from Sir Hugh Rose. Had this remarkable man possessed as much personal courage as he did military ability, he would have been the most formidable antagonist, except the Sikh leaders, we had encountered in India since the days of Tippoo. Robust, active, of middle height, Tantia Topee was framed to bear fatigue. Cool and composed, with a keen eye and fertile brain, he was able to devise endless plans; and, although unable to risk the dangers of the battle field, he was never daunted or abashed by defeat. By sheer personal influence he drew armed men around him wherever he went, and is, perhaps, the only authentic instance of a really able soldier who inspired confidence without sharing the perils of his men. India is the only country in the world where such a phenomenon could be seen; because in India alone is cowardice not held in contempt.

Driven from Gwalior, Tantia rode off to the westward. Pursued and stricken by Robert Napier, turned aside by the appearance of Brigadier Showers with the Agra troops at Futtehpore Sikri, he made with all speed for Jeypore, seizing camels, horses, elephants, carts, provisions as he went. His object was to seize some large town and plunder it, taking arms, and cannon, and coin; and getting together as large a mass of mounted men as he could. The native ruler of Jeypore was on our side, and there was, therefore, a double motive for saving him. Accordingly, General Roberts, as soon as he learned that Tantia was marching on Jeypore, broke up his camp at Nusseerabad, and, by rapid forced marches, interposed just in time between the rebel and his prey. Frustrated in his move upon Jeypore, Tantia turned abruptly southward, and rode straight for Tonk, a town and native principality on one of the affluents of the Chumbul. Roberts now followed, and other columns closed from different quarters towards the rebel line of march. Tantia was first at Tonk. The rajah shut himself up in his fort, and kept the enemy at bay; but he plundered the town, and carried off four guns. Colonel Holmes now took up the chase, but was soon stopped by want of carriage. Then Roberts went on, and by long marches overtook the enemy, forced him to an action, and routed him. The light-heeled rebels rushed away towards Odeypore. Roberts followed, and overtook them again, this time getting well among them with his horsemen, cutting them up, and retaking the Tonk guns. The enemy scattered to avoid the pursuing cavalry, and then crossing the Chumbul, and being reinforced by the desperadoes of the country side, laid siege to and took the important town of Julra Patun. Here they levied very heavy contributions, and obtained a largo number of guns. This was Tantia's greatest triumph. He had sacked Julra Patun in the teeth of our troops.

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