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


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The whole army now crossed the river at leisure, and marched towards Lahore. Lord Hardinge issued a proclamation, in which he stated that the war was the result of the wanton and unprovoked incursion of the Sikhs; that the British Government wanted no acquisition of territory, but only security for the future, indemnity for the expenses of the war, and the establishment of a government at Lahore, which should afford a guarantee against such aggressions in the time to come. The Ranee and her Durbar, or council, now saw the necessity of prompt submission, which was tendered by plenipotentiaries sent to the British camp, who threw the whole blame of the war on the uncontrollable troops. They were well received by the Governor-General, and a treaty was without difficulty concluded on the 15th of February, at a place called Kussoor. By the terms of the treaty, all the territory lying between the river Beas and the Sutlej was ceded to the British Government. The sum of one million and a half sterling was to be paid for the expenses of the war; Gholab Singh was rewarded for his fidelity to the British by the grant of a large tract of territory, including Chumba and Cashmere, for which he agreed to pay 750,000, and to acknowledge himself a tributaiy of the British Government. Peace having been thus concluded, the young Maharajah, Dhuleep Singh, was received by the Governor-General at his camp with Oriental pomp; and on the 22nd of February, Sir Henry Hardinge entered Lahore at the head of his victorious army, taking possession of the gates, the citadel, and the Royal palace. In a proclamation issued from the capital, he said: "The army of the Sutlej has now brought its operations in the field to a close, by the dispersion of the Sikh army, and the military occupation of Lahore, preceded by a series of the most triumphant successes ever recorded in the military history of India. The British Government, trusting to the faith of treaties, and the long subsisting friendship between the two states, had limited military operations to the defence of its own frontiers. Compelled suddenly to assume the offensive, by the unprovoked invasion of its territories, the British army, under its distinguished leader, has in sixty days defeated the Sikh forces in four general actions, captured 220 pieces of field artillery, and is now at the capital, dictating to the Lahore Durbar the terms of the treaty, the conditions of which will tend to secure the British provinces from the repetition of a similar outrage. The Governor- General, however, being determined to mark with reprobation the perfidious character of the war, has required and will exact that every remaining piece which has been pointed against the British army during the campaign shall be surrendered; and the Sikh army, whose insubordinate conduct was one of the chief causes of the anarchy and misrule which have brought the Sikh state to the brink of ruin, is about to be disbanded."

These great victories, so hardly won with such heavy sacrifices of human life, and accompanied by such heroic achievements, excited the admiration of the British public. The principal actors were munificently rewarded. The Governor-General was created Viscount Hardinge, of Lahore, the title being accompanied by a shower of honours from his Sovereign, and a large pension from the East India Company. Sir Hugh Gough was also raised to the peerage, and received from the Company an annual pension of 2,000, with the same amount from Parliament, to be enjoyed not only by himself during life, but also by his next two successors in the peerage; and in addition to all these rewards he became Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards and Colonel- in-Chief of the 60th Royal Rifles. Many of the officers engaged in the Sikh war received promotions and military orders, and a gratuity of twelve months' pay was given to all the soldiers without exception engaged in the campaign.

But the conquered Sikhs did not very easily acquiesce in the terms proposed by the conquerors. Gholab Singh was chased from the territory the British had given him, and it became necessary that British arms should reinstate him, and that a British force should permanently garrison Lahore, at a cost to the Sikh Government of 220,000 a year. The intriguing and restless Ranee was sent off from the capital to Sharpoora, where she was kept under surveillance. Sir Charles Napier was obliged to resign his government in Scinde from ill health, and he returned home in 1847. The Governor-General, after making a progress through various parts of the empire, in order to inaugurate and encourage works of social improvement, was also obliged to retire from his post, in consequence of the failure of his health, owing to the fatigues and hardships he had endured in the campaign. On his return home he was made Master-General of the Ordnance and Commander - in-Chief, being succeeded in India by Lord Dalhousie, who arrived there on the 10th of January, 1848. He, too, found disturbances to be quelled and treachery to be punished among our allies and tributaries. Troubles occurred at Lahore, when the hostility of the inhabitants to the British broke out with terrible effect. Mr. Vans Agnew, the British resident, and Lieutenant Anderson were treacherously murdered. Their death was avenged by Lieutenant Edwardes and General Courtland, who, at the head of a small force, attacked and defeated the revolted Sikhs, 3,000 strong. At length 26,000 troops, under General Whish, invested the place. At the same time an insurrection broke out in the Punjaub, headed by the governor of the north-west province: in fact, there was a general revolt of the Sikhs against British rule.

On the 20th of October, 1848, Chuttur Singh, and his son Shere Singh, raised the standard of revolt in the Punjaub, and soon appeared at the head of 30,000 men. In November Lord Gough encountered them with 20,000. At Ramnugger, in attacking the position of the enemy, his men were led into an ambuscade, and were repulsed with tremendous loss. The contest was again renewed on the 12th of January, 1849, when the Sikhs were also very strongly posted in a jungle with 40,000 men and sixty-two guns. Near the village of Chillianwallah, a desperate battle was fought, and had lasted for some time, when the 14th Light Dragoons, on being ordered to charge, turned and fled through our Horse Artillery, upsetting several guns, and causing such confusion that the Sikh Cavalry, promptly availing themselves of the advantage, made a charge, and cut down seventy of our gunners, capturing six guns and five colours. The result was a drawn battle, but the loss on our side was fearful - twenty-seven officers and 731 men killed, and sixty-six officers and 1,446 men wounded. This terrible reverse produced a profound sensation at home. It was ascribed to bad generalship, and there were loud cries for the recall of Lord Gough. The Duke of Wellington felt that the case was so desperate, that he called upon Sir Charles Napier to go out and take the command, though suffering under a mortal disease, using the memorable expression, "If you don't go, I must." Sir Charles went immediately. But before he arrived Lord Gough had retrieved his reputation, and covered the British arms with fresh glory by winning, in magnificent style, the great battle of Goojerat, with the loss of only ninety- two killed and 682 wounded. Mooltan had been besieged in December. During the bombardment the principal magazine was blown up. It contained 16,000 lbs. of powder. 800 persons were killed or wounded by the explosion, and a number of buildings were destroyed.

The following description is from the pen of an eye-witness: - " Yesterday I saw one of the most awful and grand sights I am ever likely to witness; the whole of Moolraj's principal magazine, which he has been five years collecting, was blown up by one of our shells. The shock two miles off knocked bottles off the tables, and the report was terrific. The prisoners we have taken say it contained 16,000 lbs. of powder. It all blew up with one frightful explosion. All his principal houses, temples, &c., as well as about 800 men, were blown up; but the city, where many of his troops were, was untouched, neither are the walls of the battlements of the fort injured. He kindly sent us word next day to say, he had still enough powder and shot to hold out the siege for twelve months; and we were to do our worst, as he would hold out as long as a single stone of his fort would stand. When we sent in to summon the fort to surrender, he very coolly rammed the letter down his longest gun and fired it at us. But about the explosion - at first we felt a slight shock, like that of an earthquake, and then, a second or two afterwards, a tremendous and prolonged report, that was like an awful clap of thunder. I hardly know what to liken it to, it was so inconceivably grand; then a mass of dust rose to the very clouds, yet so perfectly distinct was its outline, and it was so dense and thick, that nobody at first could tell what it was. It looked like an immense, solid, brown tree, suddenly grown up to the skies, and then it gradually expanded, and slowly sailed away."

But Moolraj, though he saw destroyed in a moment a work which it cost him five years to construct, with his principal store of gunpowder, still held out. On the 2nd of January, however, the city was stormed, but the citadel remained. Though of immense strength, it yielded to the power of artillery, and Moolraj, with his garrison of nearly 4,000 men, surrendered at discretion.

" First appeared 200 ill-clothed, miserable wretches, who seemed broken and dispirited, then followed about 3,500 hard-trained, stern, and stalwart-looking men. They had defended the fort last, and abandoned it only when no longer tenable. They looked as if they would have fought to the death in the breaches, if such had been the will of their chief. They brought camels and horses, and large bundles of things along with them. These, together with their arms, were placed in charge of the prize agents as they passed. At last came Moolraj, and his brethren and chiefs; the last, as became him, in the retirement. He was gorgeously attired in silks and splendid arms, and rode a magnificent Arab steed, with a rich saddle-cloth of scarlet, which bore no marks of suffering or privation. No small curiosity was experienced to discover the appearance of one who had maintained a defence, obstinate and protracted beyond any related in the annals of modern war. He but little exceeds the middle size, is powerfully but elegantly formed; his keen, dark, piercing, restless eyes surveyed at a glance everything around. He neither wore the face of defiance nor dejection; but moved along under the general gaze as one conscious of having bravely done his duty, and aware of being the object of universal regard."

The result of these victories was that the Punjaub was annexed to our Indian Empire, the reasons for this step being explained by the Governor-General in a proclamation, which announced favourable terms for the conquered people. Moolraj was subsequently tried for the murder of Mr. Agnew and Mr. Anderson, and being found guilty, he was sentenced to death. The sentence was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life.

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Pictures for Chapter VIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3

Viscount Gough
Viscount Gough >>>>
Bridge of boats across the Sutlej
Bridge of boats across the Sutlej >>>>

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