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Chapter LII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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But he dared not halt. Roberts was following. Smith's troops on the Agra trunk road were approaching him. The Mhow force, under General Michell, was preparing to strike. Tantia's object was now the Bhopal state; his ultimate design being to cross the Nerbudda and the Taptee, and breaking into the Deccan or Nag- pore, raise a mighty insurrection, and gather the Rohillas to his flag. This was a great danger, and it was necessary to strain every nerve to ward it off. Smith detached Robertson, of the 25th Bombay Native Infantry, and Michell moved up from Mhow. Robertson overtook part of the rebel force at Bajapore, mostly Sepoys, many wearing medals. He came upon them as they were cooking, drove them into and over a river, and killed many hundreds. Michell had even better fortune, for he routed the main body on the 13th of September, and took nearly thirty guns,' the spoil of Julra Patun. Thus, headed off from Bhopal, Tantia hastened to Seronge, on the Betwa, and halted to refit and recruit. But he dared not stay long. His spies told him that columns were a-foot, east, west, north, and south. So he broke up from Seronge a few hours before Captain Mayne rode in with part of Smith's force, and going northwards, attacked and captured Esaughur, a fortress belonging to Scindia. Smith and Mayne followed him, making a march on Esaughur in concert with troops from Jhansi and Gwalior. Again the rebel made a rapid retreat, striking in between the advancing troops, and making eastward for the Betwa. He crossed this river on the 9th of October, intending to seize and plunder the friendly native state of Tehree. Here he had the aid of an ally. The Nawab of Banda came up the river on the left bank to oppose Michell advancing from Seronge, while Tantia sacked Tehree. But on the very day when Tantia crossed the Betwa, Michell met the nawab, and fighting him at once with characteristic vigour, routed him with great loss. In the meantime Tantia had formed a column on the road to Tehree; and when, on the 11th, he was moving back to the Betwa, Michell, who had crossed that river at Mungrowlee, fell in with Tantia at Sindwah, and took four of his guns.

Thus frustrated and defeated, this persevering partisan fled first towards the north, but doubling back, stole away between his pursuers, and made for the Nerbudda, by way of Ratghur, which readers will remember as a fort west of Saugor, besieged and captured by Sir Hugh Rose at the opening of his campaign. He had not effected this movement without suffering one more defeat at the hands of the energetic and tireless Michell. In spite of these defeats Tantia was now apparently nearer than ever to the object of his endless manoeuvres; for, at the end of October, he actually crossed the upper waters of the Nerbudda, east of Hoosingabad. Before him lay one line of posts, and he was in Nagpore, or the Deccan. This was the one moment of great peril for us. If Tantia, with even a broken force of 7,000 men, entered the Deccan, he would in a week have been at the head of 100,000 men. The Government was really alarmed; but as the danger was greater, so were the means of parrying it greater, since Lord Elphinstone had pushed up a large force of European and native cavalry to render the hunt after Tantia more effective; while, from Kamptee, in Nagpore, to the Gulf of Cam- bay, there was- a great stir of troops, and a readiness to move at the shortest notice to guard the passes, and fords, and great roads southwards. And the measures adopted proved to be effective. Tantia found he could not get further than the hills of Sindwarra. Out of these he was forced by Lieutenant Kerr. Flying by devious routes, he sought the Nerbudda again; but, being headed, he turned westward, and traversed the hills between the Taptee and Nerbudda at racing speed. It is assumed that his aim was Candeish. Moving into Nimar, he actually prevailed on 1,000 men of Holkar's Horse to desert and join him, and with this reinforcement rode off to Burwanna, evading our troops. Finding it impossible to remain in the valley of the Nerbudda, or to break into Candeish, he once more crossed the great river, and hurried into Malwa; not, however, before he had been hit very hard by a new enemy - the Camel Corps; that is, infantry mounted on camels. It was this force which drove Tantia over the river. Brigadier Parke now came up. He formed a flying column, all horsemen, except 100 Highlanders. With these he crossed the river, and marched 241 miles in nine days; he caught Tantia near Chota Odeypore. Forced to fight, the rebel chief showed his usual judgment in the selection of a position on broken ground. Parke put his handful of Highlanders in the centre, and placed horse on the flanks, and formed a reserve wholly of cavalry. Then, although overlapped on both flanks, he charged in upon the foe, drove him from his strong ground, and pursued him for miles. He fled deeper into Malwa.

In the meantime Feroze Shah, who had been fighting in Oude, found a gap in Lord Clyde's line, and crossing the Goomtee, made his way over the Ganges into the Doab. Here Brigadier Percy Herbert marched upon him, and, wresting from him his only gun, drove him over the Jumna. Feroze Shah made for the west. Robert Napier, hearing at Gwalior of the advent of this new foe, took with him 300 men, horse and foot, and marching 140 miles in four days, came up with the rebels at Runnode, smote them heavily, and forced them to turn towards Kotah. Met at various points, Feroze Shah wound in and out, and at length succeeded in crossing the Chumbul near Inderghur. Tantia Topee, smarting under the rough punishment inflicted by Parke, now sought to join the Delhi Shazadah. Starting from Saloomber, Tantia made for Pertaubghur. Major Roche, who had been watching for him, reached Pertaubghur first. A combat ensued, but the fire of our guns frightened Tantia away, and he fled, losing men. His next point was Mundisore, but he was again checked. Colonel Benson had come up from Indore, and Tantia Topee rushed away again, losing men and elephants. As he had no guns, he could move through the most difficult country, and distanced Benson, crossed the Chumbul, and marched to Zeerapore, in Holkar's dominions. But there Colonel Benson, by a forced march, came up with him once more, killed more men, and took more elephants; but the rebel got away. Colonel Somerset next got on his track, marching diagonally upon his line of retreat, by forced marches, caught him at Burrode, about fifty miles north-east of Kotah. Colonel Somerset, however, could only bring about 300 men into the field, and therefore could only facilitate the retreat of the enemy by driving him onwards; and so it proved. Tantia Topee made for the Chumbul again, crossed it, and joined Feroze Shah somewhere in the Jeypore country. The whole of these operations were performed at racing speed between the 20th and 30th of December.

Brigadier Showers got wind of their whereabouts, and marching ninety-four miles in three days, overtook the two worthies on the 16th of January, and slew some of their followers, but failed to catch chiefs who were so prone to fly at the sound of the cannon.

Thus reduced to extremities, Feroze Shah disappeared, and was never captured. Tantia Topee, making a fruitless effort to break into Bikaneer, doubled back again to Central India, and, his fightings and flyings over, took to the jungle. His long and romantic career was now coming to an end. Beset on all sides, having made many enemies, he dared not venture abroad, and his very life now depended on the fidelity of those who knew his secret. In April a native betrayed him; he was captured in the jungle near Seronge, tried by court martial, and hanged at Sepree, having furnished for ten months ample occupation to all the troops in Central India.

With the capture and execution of Tantia Topee the war came to an end. Perfect tranquillity, like that which had been the normal state of India before the mutiny, was not restored. Bands of marauders still collected in the jungle, and committed depredations on a small scale until they were hunted down. The Sepoys in the Terai strove again and again with desperate force to break out of their pestiferous prison, but strove in vain. But, to all intents and purposes of a practical nature, the war of the rebellion was at an end.

The struggle was over then, and now a new one arose. The stupendous exertions required to suppress the mutiny had created great confusion. Order, in another sense, had to be restored. The mutinous Sepoys the rebellious rajahs and their followers, had been exterminated or quelled. Now it became of the last consequence to revive public confidence, to bring back order and solidity to the finances of the country, to re-establish the principles of government, and to reorganise the army. This gigantic task Lord Canning, aided by the Home Government, had to undertake and accomplish; a task not so exciting as that of suppressing a mutiny backed by an insurrection, but perhaps even more laborious and exhausting, because more tedious.

A very few figures will serve to show the magnitude of the financial undertaking. Just before the mutiny the Indian budget showed a small surplus - contrary to the rule, which was that it should show a deficit. But the mutiny, as a matter of course, rapidly restored, in an aggravated form, the normal state of the finances. With a revenue of nearly 32,000,000, the budget of 1857-8 showed a deficit of nearly 9,000,000, which in the next year rose at a bound to nearly 15,000,000, making a total deficit in two years of 24,000,000. The revenue, by dint of taxation, had actually increased during the first year of the mutiny; a fact which testified to the wonderful elasticity of the resources of India. The great deficit was provided for by loans, nearly one-half of which were raised in India itself, showing that public confidence in British power and good fortune had not been impaired, although the debt rose in two years to 81,500,000, and in three to 95,000,000. The question for Lord Canning and the Home Government to solve was, how to balance revenue and expenditure. In order to effect this, Sir Charles Wood determined to present India with a Chancellor of the Exchequer. In England, as all know, the Chancellor who has to meet the expenditure has also to provide the ways and means, and has, of course, considerable power and influence in the Government which decides on the policy, and, as a consequence, the expenses to be incurred. But in India the department which provided the money had no connection with the department which spent it. There was consequently carelessness, extravagance, and confused accounts. The first remedy, then, was to send out Mr. James Wilson, the well-known economist, a statesman familiar with our mode of keeping accounts, to take charge of the Indian department, with power and authority sufficient to combat and overcome the tendency to delay and obstruct but too common among the servants of both the great branches of the Government. Mr. Wilson went, restored order to the finances, and died in his duty; a great loss to India and to England. In addition to the gain we looked for by the adoption of a sound system worked out with vigilant superintendence, the Indian Government was obliged to have recourse to extra taxation. These labours began as soon as the insurrection was suppressed; and within five years of the end of these great troubles not only had the revenue increased, but the expenditure was appreciably diminished, and the Government of India was even able to reduce taxation, and secure a small surplus.

The army presented difficulties as great as the finances. No sooner was one mutiny at an end, than the Government was threatened with another. We have already recorded the transfer of authority from the Company to the Crown. Under that Act the army became, of course, the Queen's army. Here, however, arose a serious difficulty. There were nearly 20,000 European soldiers who had enlisted to serve, not the Queen, but the Company. Technically, no doubt, they had all along been servants of the Queen, whose agent the Company was. But soldiers do not understand these refined distinctions; and when the men were simply told that they would in future be Queen's soldiers, they first murmured, and then mutinied. The act of mutiny is always indefensible. In this case, however, it admits of some excuse; for, as the men said, the Government had no right to transfer them from one service to another, " like cattle." It was true: they has no moral and only a barely legal right. If, instead of dealing with the soldiers as if they were cattle, the Government had told them of the transfer, and given them a small bounty, the men would have been pleased with the consideration displayed; as it was, every one sympathised with the men who were punished, and even the Queen's troops betrayed a strong inclination to take their part, and gave unmistakable signs of their anger. And, after all, the Government had to do with an ill grace what it should have done at first with a good grace. And at great cost: for a bounty of 2 sterling per man would have amounted to only 40,000; whereas the course adopted - that of giving every man the option of taking his discharge - cost nearly a million; and many of the men, when brought home, re-enlisted!

This European mutiny had a very important political consequence. At first, after the abolition of the Company, the Home Government seemed disposed to increase rather than diminish, much less abolish, the army raised for local service in India. Many were of opinion that we should have a separate army for service in India, China, the Cape, Australia, New Zealand, and the islands we hold in the Indian Ocean. The mutiny of the Company's Europeans, mild though it was, turned the scale in favour of abolishing them altogether. The consequence was an Act which amalgamated the Company's European troops with the Queen's army, and thus the European infantry became regiments of the line. In order to prevent that abstraction of officers from their regiments to do staff duty, civil as well as military, so common under the Company's regime, a Staff Corps was organised, admission to which was obtained by undergoing an examination. For a long time, of course, it was difficult to pronounce any opinion on the working of these extensive changes, but on the whole it was thought that they worked well.

The result of the mutiny was to bring about an enormous increase in the number of European troops in India. The number of Europeans, including officers of native regiments, was, before the mutiny, only 45,522; the number of native troops was 249,153, giving a total of 294,675. But at the end of 1859 there were in India no fewer than 110,320 Europeans - an enormous drain upon our resources in men. There were of native troops 207,765, one-half of whom were new levies, enlisted during the fight. So that of regular soldiers there were 318,085, and if we add to these the Military Police, a thoroughly military body, there was a total of 407,914.

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