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Ameers of Scinde page 2


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Next day the victorious general sent a message to Hyderabad, threatening to storm the city if they did not immediately surrender. The walls were very strong, I and might have been defended successfully; but the Ameers had lost heart, and six of them came out to the British camp, and laid their swords with their precious ornaments, valued at thousands of pounds, at the feet of the conqueror, who magnanimously returned them, saying: - "Their misfortunes are their own creation; but as they are great, I give them back their swords." He also left untouched their palaces and property, and respected the sanctity of their harems. But though the city was in his possession, conquest seemed only to increase his difficulties. He had to keep possession of a large hostile city, and to defend his own entrenched camp against 20,000 Beloochees, who were still in the field under Shere Mahommed, and to accomplish all this he had but 2,000 effective men under his command. Reinforcements, however, were quickly dispatched by Lord Ellenborough. They arrived safely, and gave him an army of 5,000 veteran troops. In the meantime, Shere Mahommed had come within five miles of the British camp, and sent Sir Charles Napier a summons to surrender. He conducted the messengers along the whole front of his army, which was then under inspection, and then dismissed them, with a letter to their chief, in which he said: - "If the Ameer Shere Mahommed chooses to meet me to-morrow, as I march to attack him at the head of my army, and will surrender himself a prisoner, with no other condition than that his life shall be safe, I will receive him. If the Beloochee chiefs choose to accompany him, I will receive them, on condition that they swear obedience to the Governor-General, and then they may return to their villages with their followers, and all their rights and possessions shall be secured to them." It was not likely that a high-spirited chief, at the head of an army of 20,000 men, well posted, with fifteen guns, protected in front by a nullah, twenty feet wide and eight deep, with the protection of a wood on one side, and of a village with the houses loop-holed on the other, as well as another deep nullah with its sides scarped - all supported by a large force of cavalry - would submit without a struggle to such humiliating terms. Nothing daunted, however, Sir Charles Napier attacked the enemy. His plan of action was altered, on account of an unauthorised attack made by Colonel Stark with his cavalry, in consequence of the giving way of the centre before an onset of the Irish regiment. The cavalry charge, the result of a sudden inspiration, was brilliantly successful. The cavalry swept everything before them, and carried confusion and dismay into the rear of the enemy's centre. The British general instantly took advantage of this success, and, changing his plan, he led on the Irish infantry to storm the first nullah. After a fierce resistance, the scarp was mounted, and Lieutenant Coote fell wounded, while in the act of waving the Beloochee standard in triumph on the summit. The Sepoys were equally successful in storming the second nullah, which was bravely defended, but ultimately carried with great loss to the enemy, who were routed in all directions, their retreating ranks being mowed down by our artillery, and pursued by our cavalry for a distance of several miles. The loss of the British in this great victory was only 270 men, of whom 147 belonged to the 22nd Queen's - so that the chief glory of that day was due to the Irish. Seventeen standards and fifteen guns were among the trophies won by the victors. Although the heat was then 110 in the shade, Sir Charles Napier rapidly pursued the enemy, so that his cavalry arrived at Meerpoor, a distance of forty miles, before Shere Mahommed could reach it. It was his capital - strongly fortified, filled with stores of all kinds - and it fell without resistance into the hands of the British general. Shere Mahommed had retreated to the stronghold of Omercote, in the desert. Thither he was pursued by Captain Whitlie, at the head of the Light Horse. In consequence of the flooding of the Indus at this time, by the melting of the snow in' the mountains, Sir Charles sent an order to stop the march. This order reached Whitlie when he was Only twenty miles from the place, having received intelligence that it was abandoned. He resolved, therefore, to halt and send for fresh instructions. Then was performed a feat of horsemanship, perhaps unparalleled in the annals of war. Lieutenant Browne rode back to Meerpore, a distance of forty miles, without stopping, and having got his orders, after an hour's rest, returned upon the same horse, the thermometer standing 130 in the shade. The army then moved forward. The Ameer fled with some horsemen into the desert. The garrison that remained, after a few shots, pulled down their colours, and, on the 4th of April, the British standard waved on the towers of Omercote.

The remnant of the Beloochee forces were hunted for some weeks by flying columns. At length, Captain Roberts, at the head of one of them, captured the brother of Shere Mahommed and 1,000 of his followers. Another of them was attacked by the Ameer himself; but his followers, after the first round of fire, dispersed. The whole military force of the Ameers was now annihilated, and the conquest of Scinde was complete. " I think," said Sir Charles Napier. "I may venture to say that Scinde is now subdued,! The Scindian population everywhere express their satisfaction at the change of masters." No doubt; the change from Mahommedan to British rule was an advantage to the poor Hindoos; and if it be allowable to do evil that good may come, Lord Ellenborough was justified in the means he had adopted for supplanting the Ameers. At all events, he was highly delighted with the result, was enthusiastic in his praise of the troops and their commander, and profuse in the bestow- ment of honours and rewards upon the officers of all ranks. He issued a proclamation in the Napoleonic style, in which he said: - "The army of Scinde has twice beaten the bravest enemy in Asia, under circumstances which would equally have obtained for it the victory over the best troops in Europe. The Governor- General regards with delight the new proofs which the army has given of its pre-eminent qualities in the field, and of its desire to mitigate the necessary calamities of war, by mercy to the vanquished. The ordinary expressions of thanks would ill convey the extent of the debt of gratitude which the Governor- General feels to be due to his Excellency Major- General Sir Charles Napier on the part of the Government, the army, and the people of Hindostan. To have punished the treachery of protected princes; to have liberated a nation from its oppressors; to have added a province, fertile as Egypt, to the British empire; and to have effected these objects by actions in war unsurpassed in brilliancy, whereof a grateful army assigns the success to the ability and valour of its general, are deeds to which the ordinary language of praise cannot convey their deserved reward."

The British public, thrilled by the news of his heroic achievements, fully sympathised with the victorious general. The thanks of both Houses of Parliament were voted to him and the army, and the Duke of "Wellington expressed in the House of Lords the highest admiration of his generalship. Sir Charles Napier became the civil governor of the province which his sword had won for his Sovereign; and he showed by the excellence of his administration, that his capacity as a statesman was equal to his genius as a general. History records that " he raised up the sinking Scindian labourer, and abated the pride and violence of the fierce Beloochee, by the force of order and wholesome control." He encouraged trade and commerce; he commenced and carried on extensive public works; he erected a pier at Kurrachee, extending two miles into the water, and forming a secure harbour; he organised a most efficient police; he raised a revenue sufficient to pay the whole expenses of the administration, giving a surplus of 90,000, which, added to the prize money, brought half a million sterling into the Company's treasury in one year. The cultivators of the soil were protected in the enjoyment of the fruits of their industry; artisans, no longer liable to be mutilated for demanding their wages, came back from the countries to which they had fled; beautiful girls were no longer torn from their families to fill the zenanas of Mahommedan lords, or to be sold into slavery. The Hindoo merchant and the Parsee trader pursued their business with confidence, and commerce added to the wealth of the new province. The effect of these reforms was conspicuous in the loyalty of the Scindians during the revolt of 1857. In contrast with the atrocities which stained the Indian character at that time, it is gratifying to record some touching traits of humanity displayed during the war in Scinde. In a long march over burning sands, the 25th Sepoys, overpowered with heat, and nearly maddened with thirst, on one occasion rushed forward to meet the water-carriers, and tore the full skins out of their hands, crying, " Water! water!" Just then some straggling soldiers of the 22nd came up and begged a drink. Immediately the Hindoos relinquished their hold upon the bags, till the fainting Irish had quenched their thirst, and then they kindly carried their muskets, and, patting them on the shoulder, encouraged them to hold out. But these noble fellows soon after fell on the march, and then it was discovered how intense was their passion for military glory, and their devotion to their general. They had been all wounded; but they concealed their sufferings and the loss of blood which caused their exhaustion, in order that their last hour might be given to their country on another field of battle. Sir Charles Napier gratefully records the names of those heroes in the ranks. They were John Drew, John Macdowney, Robert Young, Henry Sims, Patrick Gill, James Andrews, Sergeant Honey, Thomas Middle- ton, James Malony, and Silvester Day, the last of whom carried a ball in his foot. "Here," says Alison, "is self-denial rivalling that of Alexander on the same deserts two thousand years before, and heroism equal to any recorded of the Spartan youths, occurring in a lonely desert of Scinde, on the part of the common Sepoy and Irish soldiers!"

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