It will be conducive to the clearness of the narrative if, before recording the events in the North-west Provinces which immediately followed the capture of Lakhnao, I return for a moment to Calcutta, record the progress made towards the. restoration of order in eastern Bengal and the Bihars, and progress thence towards Allahabad by way of Azamgarh and the adjacent districts. Then I propose to trace the action of Carthew in guarding the important line between Allahabad and Kanhpur. Returning north-westward, I shall record the action of Seaton in the vicinity of Fathgarh, of Walpole in Oudh, of Lugard, Rowcroft, and Douglas in the Azamgarh, Ghazipur, and Shahabad districts and in Bihar, of Jones and Coke in Rohilkhand, and of Sir Colin Campbell in Bareli. The book will close with an account in detail of the progress of events in Rajputana.
When Sir Colin Campbell, on the 27th November, had left Calcutta for Kanhpur, he carried with him the power of the country. For the moment the civil authority, though nominally existing, was in abeyance. The fate of India was in the hands, not of Lord Canning, but of Sir Colin Campbell; and although, as I have noted on one important occasion, the opinions of the Governor-General in Council exercised a potential influence on the general plan
of campaign of the Commander-in-Chief, yet to the hands of the latter functionary its execution was committed. From the moment, then, when Sir Colin Campbell left Calcutta to direct the military measures for which he had been preparing, he became the chief centre of interest; and the capital, giving habitation though it did for a time to the Governor-General and his Council, was proportionately shorn of its importance. Thenceforward Calcutta deserves notice as the port for the reception of the troops, and the depot of stores and supplies from England; the terminus whence the new arrivals started for the seat of war, and the invalids and wounded for Europe. The continuous attacks made upon the rebels satisfied the longings even of those who had been the severest critics of the tardy, the hesitating, and the half-hearted action of Lord Canning and his councillors; while the social tranquillity of the capital, no longer in real danger, was but once disturbed, and then by a panic which had for its foundation a want of confidence in the firmness of the Government.
In the third week of January, 1858, Lord Canning quitted Calcutta and proceeded to Allahabad. A few days after his arrival at that place (9th February), he abolished the temporary office of Chief Commissioner of Agra, till then held by Colonel Fraser, C.B., and drew the whole of the north-west divisions, that of Dehli excepted, within one lieutenant-governorship.
A few days later, Mr. J. P. Grant, who at a trying and critical period had governed with marked ability the Central Provinces, returned to Calcutta to take up the office of President of the Council, the Governor-General assuming the charge which Mr. Grant thus vacated.
It was after the return of Mr. Grant to Calcutta that the panic of which I have spoken occurred. Nothing happened, indeed, which ought to have alarmed men’s minds, but in times of excitement the slightest causes often produce the most startling effects. The case was simply as follows. On the 3rd March, a telegraphic message from Barrackpur was received in Calcutta to the effect that the Sipahis of two native regiments stationed there were deserting in bodies of ten and twelve, and making their way to the capital. People did not stay to reflect that the Sipahis had been disarmed; that in addition to regular troops there was a fine volunteer regiment – horse, foot, and artillery – .
in the city. The information conveyed by the telegram was circulated in exaggerating terms; and the inhabitants of the suburbs, consisting mainly of Eurasians, became much alarmed. Pickets of the volunteer guards were promptly posted at the points supposed to be threatened; the streets were patrolled by the volunteer cavalry; the artillerymen took post at their guns.
But no enemy appeared. Some Sipahis had indeed deserted, but with no intention of attacking Calcutta. The panic passed away more quickly even than it had been produced193.
In eastern Bengal there had been some cause for anxiety.
On the 18th November, the detachments of the 34th Regiment Native Infantry, stationed at Chitragaon194, mutinied, plundered the treasury, released the prisoners from the gaol, burnt down their own lines, fired the magazine, and then left the station, carrying off with them three elephants, the property of Govern- went, and the whole of the treasure they found in the collectorate, with the exception of three hundred and forty rupees in cash. These, as well as the stamps, the Government securities and records, they left untouched. They attacked none of the Europeans, and the only man who suffered at their hands was a native gaoler who protested against their preceedings. Him they killed. They then made off in the direction of Tiparah, but at Sitakund they left the high road,
and, making for Hill Tiparah, endeavoured to find their way along the hills in a north-westerly direction, avoiding British -territory.
Four days later an attempt was made by Lieutenant Lewis, Indian Navy, to disarm the detachments of the 73rd Native Infantry, and Native Artillery, stationed at Dhakah, numbering about three hundred and fifty Sipahis. Lewis had at his disposal four officers and eighty-five men, English sailors, and two mountain-train howitzers. He was aided likewise by some thirty volunteers, including Messrs. Carnac, Bainbridge, and Macpherson, of the Civil Service, and Lieutenants Dowell and Hitchins of the Bengal Army.
Lewis disarmed, without resistance, the detached guards at the public offices. But, when he marched to the lines, he found the Sipahis drawn up close to their magazine, with two 6-pounders in their centre. Parties of them also occupied strong brick-built buildings in the vicinity, the walls of which had been carefully loop-holed. Lewis deployed his force, but before the movement was completed the Sipahis opened upon him with canister and musketry. Replying with one volley, Lewis then charged with his infantry, whilst the two mountain guns opened on the left rear of the enemy. The charge was most successful.
The rebels were driven, one by one, from their strong positions. They had lost one of their guns, but to preserve their second they made a last desperate stand. A young midshipman, named Arthur Mayo, charged it, however, at the head of twenty men, and, aided by a flank attack made at the same time, captured it195. The Sipahis then broke and fled.
Forty-one dead bodies were counted on the ground, eight men were brought in desperately wounded, three were drowned or shot in the river. This success was not attained without some loss. The list of killed and wounded contained one man killed, five dangerously, eight severely, and four slightly wounded, in all eighteen.
The Sipahis who escaped at once went off in a north-westerly direction, making, it was believed, for Jalpaiguri, the head-quarters of the regiment. Prevented from reaching that place, they found a temporary refuge in Bhutan.
The action of the local authorities at Chitragaon was prompt and effective. Whilst arrangements were made at the station for the security of European life in case the Sipahis should return to it, the Commissioner communicated at once with the Rajah of Tiparah.
This loyal feudatory at once directed his retainers and subjects to check the progress of the mutineers, and, if possible, to close the passes against them. The Commissioner called likewise upon the two principal zamindars occupying the hill districts which it was thought the mutineers would traverse, to summon their men to arms and follow them up, and either to attack them or to shut them up in the defiles which lay before them. The manner in which this appeal was responded to, and the results it produced, will be related immediately.
Nor was the action of the Government at Calcutta less satisfactory. Dealing with the cases of Dhakah and Chitragaon as intimately connected the one with the other, they despatched, on the 26th November, by river from Calcutta, three companies of the 54th Regiment, and a hundred seamen; on the 27th, by the same route, another party of sailors.
It was the intention of the Government, that whilst the detachment of the 54th should proceed at first to Dhakah, and thence pursue the Chitragaon rebels in the direction it would be ascertained they had taken, the Indian Naval Brigade should move northwards to Rangpur and Dinajpur to protect the country towards which it was believed the mutineers from both stations were making their way. Their arrival at their destination on the 10th December contributed greatly to the preservation of order in the neighbouring districts.
The Chitragaon mutineers were, meanwhile, beginning to experience the drawbacks to a march across the hills, pursued and threatened by enemies. On leaving Sitakund, they had followed a northerly course, and, crossing the ferry at Ramgarh ghat, had pushed on towards Udaipur, thence towards Agartalah, the residence of the Rajah of Tiparah.
That chief, hearing of their approach, despatched a considerable body of men, who stopped them at Sankhula on the 2nd December. Turning then westward, they entered British territory
at or near Mugra, and made their way towards Singar hill – about one and a half day’s journey north of Komila, and on the direct route to Silhat. In their progress they had been much harassed; they lost the three elephants, and about ten thousand rupees of the treasure they had stolen; of the prisoners they had released from the gaol, many were daily being captured; they found the mountain paths difficult, and though the hillmen were ready enough, for payment, to cut a way for them, their progress was necessarily slow. But worse things were in store for them.
Harassed by the opposition of the Rajah of Tiparah, and of the zamindars of whom I have spoken, the mutineers resolved to make their way to Manipur. On their way to that place, they descended from the hills, attacked and plundered, on the 15th December, a police-station in British territory. This attack gave to the British the information they had desired as to their position. Mr. Allen, the chief civil officer at Silhat, had the capacity to discern that the European troops would arrive too late to intercept the rebels.
He took upon himself, then, the responsibility of ordering the Silhat Light Infantry, commanded by Major the Hon. R. B. Byng, into the field. That regiment left Silhat in pursuit of the rebels that very day, the 15th, and reached Partabgarh, a distance of eighty miles, by a forced march, in thirty-six hours. At Partabgarh, Byng received information from Mr. Dodd, who had accompanied the force for the special purpose of guiding it, that the rebels had changed their route, and would be at Latu, a place which they had passed through on the night of that day, the 17th, or very early the next morning.
Latu was twenty-eight miles from Partabgarh; the men had made a forced march of eighty miles, but with one voice they expressed their willingness to return. The road led through jungles and swamps, but, setting out, they marched back cheerily. Dodd, who had ridden on in advance, met the column as it was entering the village of Latu at dawn on the 18th, with the information that the rebels were close at hand.
Before line could be formed, they were seen advancing in good order. The hostile parties saw each other simultaneously, but, before they could
come to blows, the rebels made many efforts to seduce the men of the Silhat Light Infantry – one-half of whom were Hindustanis – to make common cause with them. But their persuasions were answered by the cold steel of the bayonet. Notwithstanding their long march, the loyal soldiers of the Silhat regiment displayed a vigour and an energy which carried all before them.
In the early part of the action their gallant leader, Major Byng, was killed. This occurrence only roused them to greater fury.
The post he had held was filled by Lieutenant Sherer, an officer of rare merit – a son of the gallant soldier whose splendid audacity at Jalpaiguri I have described in the preceding volume – and Sherer gave the rebels no breathing-time. After a fierce struggle, in which the rebels lost twenty-six men killed and a still larger number wounded, he forced them to abandon the field, and to seek shelter in the close and difficult jungles which lie between Latu and Manipur.
Into these jungles it was impossible to follow them. All that Sherer could do was to send detachments to watch the issues from the jungle into Manipur. Having seen to this, he returned to Silhat. The party of the 54th Regiment, which had been sent on to Silhat and had even marched towards Latu, was ordered back, first to Dhakah, and a few weeks later to Calcutta.
After their defeat by Sherer, the Chitragaon mutineers marched north-eastwards, and entered the Manipur territory. There they were joined by one of the Manipur princes, with a few followers. The hopes they might have conceived from this accession of strength were, however, of short duration.
On the 12th January they were attacked by a party of the Silhat corps, under Captain Stevens, and, after a fight which lasted two hours, they were driven into the jungles, with the loss of twenty men killed. Ten days later, the same officer, having learnt where they were encamped, succeeded in surprising them while their arms were , piled, and putting them to flight, with the loss of all their arms and accoutrements. On this occasion they lost ten men killed. Eight days later another detachment of them was attacked and completely defeated, with the loss of thirteen men, by a small party
of the Silhat regiment, led by a native officer, Jamadar Jagathir. This was the finishing stroke. Since their departure from Chitragaon, the rebels had lost two hundred and six men in battle.
Those who survived were now blocked up in hilly country, the passes leading out of which were closed, and there the greater number perished miserably.
Thus, by the firm attitude and the fearlessness of responsibility on the part of the civil authorities, especially of Mr. Allen, and by the daring leading of a few European officers and the gallantry of their native followers, order was re-established in the important districts to the east of Calcutta. All this time Colonel Sherer was nobly maintaining his position at Jalpaiguri, dominating, by the force of his character, the armed native regiment which he commanded.
I pass on now to eastern Bihar, the division under the control of Mr. George Yule. Although the relief of Arah by Vincent Eyre, in the month of August 1857, and the subsequent storming by that gallant soldier of. the stronghold of Kunwar Singh, had, for the moment, averted danger from eastern Bihar, the elements of revolt still continued to smoulder in that province.
These elements were fostered by scarcity, caused by long-prevailing drought, and the temper of the people in the vicinity of Munger was manifested as the year began to wane by an increased and increasing number of highway robberies and other crimes.
Under these circumstances the outbreaks at Dhakah and Chitragaon assumed a very threatening character. The station of Jalpaiguri belonged to the division ruled by Mr. Yule. The headquarters and main breaks at body of the 73rd Native Infantry, commanded by Sherer, were at that station. The Sipahis who had mutinied and resisted so stoutly at Dhakah belonged to that regiment. It seemed only probable, then, that they would make their way to Jalpaiguri, and incite their comrades to revolt.
The Government had despatched a body of British sailors to Purnia, midway between Bhagalpur and Jalpaiguri, and these men were due at that station at the end with troops of November. But this precaution did not seem to Mr. Yule to be sufficient. With the concurrence of
the Government, then, he moved, on the 27th November, the small detachment of the 5th Fusiliers, then at Munger, to Purnia, accompanying them himself. He arrived there on the 1st December, and, finding all quiet, marched on the next day towards Kishnganj, thirty-one miles distant.
He was not a moment too soon. On the nights of the 4th and 5th December the detachments of the 11th Irregular Cavalry at Madariganj and Jalpaiguri mutinied, and went off, spreading alarm throughout the district.
The conduct of the civil officers in the district at this crisis was worthy of all praise. At many of the stations they had nought to depend upon but their own brave hearts. Not for a moment did their courage falter or their presence of mind fail them.
Macdonald, the Collector of Rangpur, placed all the moneys in the Government Treasury upon elephants, and moved with it into the jungle, hoping that the rebels, finding Rangpur evacuated, would be too hardly pressed to search him out. The rebels, however, never went near Rangpur, but made straight for Dinajpur.
The Collector of this place was Mr. Francis Anstruther Elphinstone-Dalrymple, one of the ablest men in the Civil Service, but whose prospects had been ruined by long years of persecution on purely private grounds by those wielding authority in Bengal. But, if Dalrymple’s worldly fortunes stood low, his courage was as high, and his determination was as unshaken, as they were when, a young civilian, he volunteered for and served in the first China war196. He had upwards of a hundred thousand pounds in his treasury, and he determined to fight for it. He packed off, then, by water, to Calcutta, the solitary missionary of the station and his wife. Then summoning Grant the judge, Drummond.
the magistrate, Brown the assistant, Harold Holm, a Dane, connected with indigo and well known and much liked in those parts, and a few other Europeans and Eurasians, he posted them, with their rifles and ammunition, in his official court, and, at their head, awaited there the coming of the rebels. Their arrival within twelve miles of the station was announced. Any moment, then, they might appear. But amongst Dalrymple and his companions there was but one thought – to defend the station to the very last, to die rather than abandon the trust confided to them.
Fortunately for them, the rebels, when within a short distance of the place, received intelligence of the movements of the British seamen previously referred to. Instead, then, of marching on Dinajpur, they hurried off to Purnia, there to fall into the clutches of Yule. Dalrymple and his companions were not attacked. Not the less, however, did they deserve for their splendid resolution the praise and the credit which were never officially awarded to them!
Yule meanwhile, marching northwards, had reached Kishanganj. There he heard of the revolt at Madariganj and Jalpaiguri, and that the revolters had taken the road leading to Purnia. No time was to be lost. He set out at once to return to Purnia, and, marching all day, accomplished the distance, with the aid of his elephants, by sunset. He arrived in good time.
The mutineers, ignorant of Yule’s rapid march, were entering the town early the following morning with a view to plunder it, when they found themselves face to face with the Europeans. After an exchange of shots, they fell back a few miles, halted, and encamped. It was difficult for Yule, who had only infantry, to bring mounted men to action, but he resolved to try. That night he marched out his men, and at daylight came up with the enemy, just as they were preparing to set out.
The rebels, putting on a bold face, charged, but were beaten back with the loss of thirteen of their number. They then fled to the north. Yule had saved Purnia by his prompt action. He did more. Pushing on rapidly, the morning of the 12th, with his party, he succeeded, notwithstanding the obstructions offered by the numerous and extensive quicksands of the Kusi, in crossing that river, and reaching Nathpur before the rebels. Finding their
onward progress thus checked, and cut off, by movements of which I shall speak immediately, from a retrograde movement, the mutineers took refuge for the moment in Nipal, only, however, to meet their fate at a later period.
Meanwhile, on the first news of the mutiny of the irregular Jalpaiguri. cavalry, all the available troops, European and Gurkha, amounting to a hundred of the former and three hundred of the latter, had been sent down from Darjiling to Pankibari, and thence on to Jalpaiguri. They served to strengthen the hands of Sherer. Acting on the principle that boldness is prudence, this firm and resolute officer had blown from the guns, in the presence of his armed native regiment, two troopers caught in the act of revolt.
Four days later the seamen of whom I have spoken as having been detached from Calcutta, on the news of the Dhakah mutiny, to protect the districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur, arrived at Bagwah, thirty miles east of the former, and, pushing on quickly, reached their destination on the 15th December.
Yule, I have said, had, by his prompt and vigorous movements, saved the British districts on the right bank of the Kusi from invasion, and forced the rebels to seek refuge in Nipal territory. There, at a place thirty-six miles from the British frontier, they were detained by the Nipalese authorities, pending instructions from Bang Banddur. It was useless for Yule to wait any longer on the frontier, or to disquiet himself regarding the fate of men no longer able to plunder and destroy. And it happened that just at the moment his energies were required in another part of his division.
In a previous page I have recorded how the Dhakah mutineers, resisting the attempt made . to disarm them, had set off from that station for Jalpaiguri, but, finding it impossible to traverse the intervening country, had been forced to take refuge in Bhutan. Yule, as he lay with his small force at Nathpur, received an express informing him that the Dhakah rebels were threatening Jalpaiguri from the north-east, and urging him to march to that place.
Yule at once set out, and, marching sixty-four miles in thirty-.six hours, reached Kishanganj, thirty-one miles north-east of Purnia. Another long march of thirty miles brought him, on the 22nd, to Titalia.
Here he received a dispatch from Jalpaiguri recommending him to take up a position between Siliguri and Pankabari, on the road to to Thirjiling, there to await further intelligence. Yule complied, waited patiently till the 26th; but, as the promised intelligence was still withheld, he determined to act on his own responsibility.
The ideas he had formed on the subject were singularly clear and correct. Granted, he argued, that the rebels intended to move on Darjiling or on Jalpaiguri, they must of necessity cross the river Tista. The Tista is a river gradually increasing on their move- the plains to a width of from seven to eight hundred meats. yards, deep, rapid, and difficult.
To the rebels scarcely any other option was offered than to cross at the Chawa Ghat, where facilities for such a purpose existed. Now, Chawa Ghat had not been occupied, and Yule, tired of waiting, resolved to act upon his own instincts, and occupy it. But the delay caused by waiting for intelligence which did not come had been fatal. As he approached the ghat through the jungle, his advanced parties discovered the enemy on the left bank of the river, occupying a position so strong and so favourable for defence, that it would have been madness for him, with his small force, to attack it.
But there was still one way open to him to bar their progress. That was to occupy the only practicable road by which they could advance, and give them battle when they should attempt to move forward. Yule accordingly occupied that road.
But the rebels, more wily than he believed them to be, broke up their camp that night, and marching by an unfrequented by-path, turned his position, crossed the Mahananda river, and made for the Darjiling road. Yule discovered, early on the morning of the 28th, that he had been thus out-manoeuvred. Promptly did he repair his error. Leaving his camp standing, he took up a position on the Darjiling road and awaited the approach of the enemy. He waited in vain all that day. As evening approached, there being no signs of the rebels, he determined to move back to the camp to allow his men to break their fast.
But they had scarcely left the road when the enemy were seen emerging from the jungle by a path some little distance from the position he had held during the day. Yule at once sent his
advanced party in pursuit. But so rapidly did the rebels rush across the road and the open country between the place of their issue and the next thick jungle, that the British had only time to fire one volley, and, although Captain Burbank and his sailors continued the pursuit for two or three hours, they failed to come up with the enemy.
The Jalpaiguri party, consisting of Europeans and Gurkhas, commanded by Captain Curzon, 52nd Light Infantry, had been equally unsuccessful. False information had sent them to one ford of the Tista whilst the rebels crossed by another.
But the failure he had encountered made Yule only the more resolved to follow the Dhakah mutineers to the bitter end. Occupying as he did the inner line of communication, whereas the rebels, by their flight, had gained the outer line, it was still possible for him, by marching along the edge of the forests which skirt the Nipal frontier, to guard the British territories from incursion. This course he adopted.
Marching westward, in lines with the rebels, he having the inner parallel line, he forced them to cross the Nipal frontier. Continuing within the British territory this parallel march, he again, on the 3rd January, crossed the Kusi at Nathpur. On that day the rebels were distant from him between forty and fifty miles, at a place called Chatra, at the foot of the hills at the point where the Kusi issues from them, thirty-six miles within the Nipal frontier – the whole intervening space being jungle.
On the 11th Yule’s party was strengthened by the arrival of Major Richardson, with the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry. It was a great accession. Major Richardson was one of the most gallant men living. He had distinguished himself at the storming of Multan in a manner which would have procured for him the Victoria Cross had that symbol of distinction then existed. As it was, his conduct in leading the stormers elicited an expression of marked admiration from the then Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gough, and proved the stepping-stone to advancement in his profession.
The Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry was composed of men, many of them Eurasians, some Europeans and well born, who had enlisted for that special service, on special terms, to aid in suppressing the mutiny in July and August 1857. When the corps was first raised Lord
Canning was very anxious to select as its commandant an officer who should possess alike the power of attraction and the power of command, who could rule as well as dominate, and inspire affection as well as fear. At the moment Richardson landed from furlough to Europe in Calcutta. He was at once recognised as the man for the situation. The choice was in all respects preeminently good.
Richardson joined Yule on the 11th January. The rebels were still at Chatra. Just about the same time the practical reply of Jang Bahadur to Yule’s representations regarding the mutineers of the 11th Irregulars was received.
That reply took the shape of an order to his lieutenant on the spot, Ratan Man Singh, to attack the mutineers, in co-operation with the English. It unfortunately happened that the force at the disposal of Ratan Man Singh consisted mostly of untrained infantry militia, and only a few trained artillerymen with their guns. The Nipalese commander was therefore unwilling to assent to any manoeuvre which would necessitate division of his own force.
After some discussion, then, it was agreed between himself on the one side, and Mr. Yule and Major Richardson on the other, that whilst the Nipal troops should guard the roads leading eastward, and Richardson with his cavalry should watch the right bank of the Kusi, Yule’s infantry should attack Chatra. Yule and Richardson were aware that it would have been far better that the Nipal commander should watch the left as well as the right bank of the river, for the upper part of the left bank could not, from the nature of the country, be effectually guarded by cavalry. But, under the circumstances, it was the best thing to be done, and, after all, they both believed that the rebels would fight.
To give time to the Nipal commander to make his arrangements, the 21st was fixed upon as the day for the attack.
This delay proved fatal to the success of the plan. Yule crossed the Nipal frontier on the 14th, and on the 19th reached Pirara, about ten miles from Chatra. Richardson meanwhile had advanced to Chauria, a place which commanded the only path by which he believed the mutineers could possibly proceed westward, should they cross the river above it. But whether the mutineers had been
warned, or whether they gained information from their scouts, it is certain that as soon as they heard that Yule had reached Pirara, they crossed the river, and marched westward.
Yule and Richardson pushed after them; but, as it was seen that the rebels were following a line of country totally impracticable for cavalry, Richardson proceeded by rapid marches to Darbangah to cover Tirhat, whilst. Yule197 returned to his division – which was not subsequently disturbed.
The mutineers succeeded in making their way into north-eastern Oudh, only eventually to fall by the bullet and the sword.
Before proceeding to western Bihar, I propose to say a few words regarding the extensive district on the south western frontier, known as Chutia Nagpur.
In a preceding page of this volume198 I have briefly recorded how Major English had, on the 2nd October, inflicted a severe defeat upon the rebels at Chatra199. But this victory, important as it was in effecting the security of the grand trunk road, was far from restoring order to the country. From that period, and for several months following, the energies of Captain Dalton, Major Simpson, Lieutenant Graham, Lieutenant Stanton, of Colonel Forster and the Shekawati battalion, and other excellent officers, were devoted to the arduous task of repelling attack, of checking petty risings, of suppressing pretenders to power, of hunting down armed freebooters, of recovering places which had been surprised, and of avenging the injuries, in some cases amounting to death, inflicted upon the unarmed and unoffending.
To enter into full detail of the various marches and counter-marches of the companies and small detachments engaged for months in this desultory warfare, would to enter require far more space than could be fairly allotted to a subject which, however important in itself, forms only an adjunct to the main story. No officers deserved better of their country than those who served in Chutia Nagpur: none exhibited greater zeal, greater energy,
greater self-reliance, greater devotion; but, after the defeat of the rebels by English at Chatra, their action affected the course of events, not generally throughout Hindustan, but in Chutia Nagpur alone. For this reason I shall be justified, I believe, if I recount in less detail than I have given to the actions of Sir Colin Campbell and his lieutenants, and to occurrences bearing directly on the main story, the principal events which marked the period of disturbance in the country forming the south-west frontier of Bengal.
In the district called Palamau, affairs seemed, so late as 1857, to be very critical. There Lieutenant Graham, with a handful of men, occupied a large house containing from three to four hundred native women and children. The house belonged to a loyal Thakur200, and was encircled by a strong wall. In this Graham was besieged by a body of rebels, whose numbers, amounting at first to two thousand, gradually rose to six thousand. Whilst a portion of these blockaded Graham, without daring to assault him, the remainder plundered the country all about.
To relieve Graham two companies of the 13th Light Infantry, under Major Colter, were despatched from Sasaram on the 27th November. Thither also was directed the Shekawati battalion under Major Forster. Colter relieved Graham on the 8th December, but, though the presence of two companies of English troops in the rebellious district would have been invaluable, the necessity of guarding the grand trunk road was paramount, and Colter was ordered to lead back his men to Sasaram. But, though he was forced to leave, the good he had effected remained behind him. Graham had employed the first hours after his relief in seizing the person of Debi Bakkas Rai, a man suspected of being the real prompter of the rebellion. This bold action led to proof that the suspicion was well founded, for the rebellion in Palamau at once collapsed. Then, too, did well-disposed chiefs, previously held in check by fear of the rebels, declare themselves in favour of the British; and Graham, though not strong enough without reinforcements to assume the offensive, was confident, notwithstanding the departure of Colter, to be able to hold his own.
The wave of insurrection passed then into the district of Singhbhum. A large party, composed of the representatives of no less than three tribes, assembled at a place called Aytidhya, and proclaimed the brother of one of the local rajahs, the Rajah of Purahat, to be their ruler. Fortunately a party of Rattray’s Sikhs, commanded by Captain Hale, was in the neighbourhood. Hale, supported by the followers of one of the local chieftains, attacked and dispersed the followers of the pretender. But for some time the insurrection remained unsubdued.
This victory was succeeded by a multitude of small affairs in the several districts, in most of which the advantage inclined to the side of authority. It was not, however, always so. On one occasion the Commissioner of the Manbhum and Singhbhum divisions, Mr. Lushington, attended by Dr. Hayes and accompanied by Captain Hale, Lieutenant Birch, and fifty Sikhs, who had been engaged in seizing men convicted of murder, found themselves suddenly surrounded by not less than three to four thousand infuriated Dols, armed with arrows, who had stolen up unperceived.
Nothing but the steady gallantry of the Sikhs extricated the party from their perilous position. They had to fight their way through their numerous opponents, and it was only by great perseverance, and at the expense of a large casualty roll, that they ultimately succeeded. Twenty-five Sikhs were wounded, one mortally; one was killed. Captain Hale was wounded in four places; Lieutenant Birch had his arm pinned to his side by an arrow; Mr. Lushington and Dr. Hayes were also wounded. Of the enemy a hundred and fifty are said to have fallen. The British party was, however, forced to abandon its camp equipage in order to effect a secure retreat.
Some time before this the spirit of insurrection had travelled to the southerly district of Sambalpur. Up to the mouth of September that district had been guarded by two companies of the Ramgarh battalion, and a sergeant’s party of Ramgarh Horse.
But no sooner had the men composing this small force heard of the mutiny, of their comrades at Hazaribagh than they displayed a disposition to follow their example. In this emergency Captain Leigh, who represented the civil authority of the government in the district, applied to
Katak201 for, and obtained the assistance of, two companies of the 40th Madras Native Infantry. In October, finding these troops insufficient to repress the disorder caused by mutinous Sipahis and the followers of the rebel landowners, Leigh again applied to Katak for aid.
His demand was complied with – Lieutenant Hadow, Madras Artillery, being sent with two mountain guns, escorted by another company of the 40th Madras Native Infantry, to reinforce him.
Hadow reached Sambalpur on the 4th of November. The next morning he marched out with a small party, commanded by Captain Knocker of the 40th, to storm the pass of Shergati. This was effected without much loss. The small column then scoured the district, destroying the villages and mud forts belonging to the disaffected. In these operations, and in those of a similar nature which followed, fever was more fatal to the British officers than was the enemy’s fire. At one time all the officers in the district, Captain Leigh and Lieutenant Hadow excepted, were prostrated by this disease.
In spite of the efforts of the authorities the rebellion in Orisa showed no signs of abating. In December, Dr. Moore, on his way to Sambalpur, was intercepted and murdered by the rebels. Apothecary Hanson, who was following him, had a narrow escape. Captain Leigh, hearing of his approach, sent a party of native police on an elephant to bring him in.
This party started from the one side about the. same time as a party of the rebels set out on the other – the distances being nearly equal, and the objects identical – to obtain possession of the person of Hanson. The race was very exciting: but the British just won it.
The excesses committed by the rebels reached so great a height at this period that Captain Leigh applied to the Commissioner, Captain Dalton, for further assistance. Such was the demand, however, for troops elsewhere that Captain Dalton was unable to comply with his request. Captain Leigh was in despair. More than half the troops at his disposal were prostrated by sickness, and but one officer, Lieutenant Hadow, was fit for duty.
At this conjuncture, Mr. Cockburn, of the Civil Service,. Commissioner of Katak, taking a clear view of the situation, resolved, at all hazards, to support British authority in Sambalpur. Not only did he write to the Madras Government to transfer a body of its local troops for special service in that district, but he took upon himself the responsibility of ordering thither the remaining wing of the 40th Madras Native Infantry. At the same time he directed the enlistment at Katak, for the same service, of two companies of local Sipahis. With a view to ensure prompt action, the district was temporarily transferred to the zealous and watchful superintendence of Mr. Cockburn. Mr. Cockburn assumed charge on the 19th of December.
Before the wing of the 40th could reach Sambalpur Captain Leigh was strengthened by the arrival on the 29th of December of a squadron of the Nagpur Irregular Cavalry, under Captain Wood. Drawing to himself one hundred and fifty men of the 40th Madras Native Infantry and fifty of the Ramgarh Infantry, Wood attacked the main body of the rebels the following morning. Not only did he defeat them and slay three of their chiefs, but he surrounded the village in which the principal leader of the insurrection, Surandar Sahi, lay concealed. This fact having been ascertained, the men began searching the houses for him.
Then occurred one of those untoward events wrongly called accidents, which spoil the best laid plans. The capture of this chief would have probably caused the rebellion in the district to cease, and half an hour’s further search would have ensured his capture. But Captain Wood had been wounded, and just as the search promised to be successful the bugle sounded the recall. The bugle-sound was not only a reprieve to Surandar Sahi; it gave fresh life to the rebellion.
But, notwithstanding this, affairs throughout Chutia Nagpur began to mend with the dawning year. On the 7th January Major Bates forced the Shergati pass; two days later Captain Shakespear stormed the Singhura pass and over-ran the country with his cavalry; on the 21st January Captain Dalton and Lieutenant Graham completely defeated the rebels near the Palamau fort; and about the same time Colonel Forster, with the Shekawati battalion, restored order in Singhbhum. These successes were
followed by others of a similar character. Captain Dalton pursued the rebels from place to place. Ably seconded by Mr. Cockburn – who had strengthened the disposable force by the addition of a wing of the 5th Madras Native Infantry – and assisted by Colonel Forster, by Ensign Wardlaw, by Captain Moncrieff, and by other officers placed at his disposal, he gradually re-established everywhere British authority. The embers of disaffection continued, indeed, to smoulder long after every enemy had disappeared from the field, and it was not before the close of 1858 that perfect tranquillity could be said to reign in every corner of Chutia Nagpur.
193. Sir Orfeur Cavenagh writes me, on the subject of this panic, as follows:– “On the 2nd of March, about 6 P.M., I received a note from General Ramsay stating that he had received information that arms had been collected in the suburbs of Calcutta for the purpose of being distributed amongst the men of the Reserve guard, on their march down to the fort, to enable them to make an attack on the European residents. The general begged me to be on the alert, and to cause a search to be made for the arms. Mr. Dorin was then President of the Council, and I rode over to his house and showed him the note. He requested me to instruct the civil authorities to make the requisite search for the arms, and to quietly intimate to commanding officers, including Turnbull, who commanded the volunteers, that it was possible that the services of the troops might be required, so that they might be ready to turn out if necessary. No orders were given for any pickets to be posted, nor was the garrison guard under arms. It was late before I returned to the fort, as I had to ride over to Alipur to see F., who was the magistrate by whom orders for the search had to be made. Only a few muskets were discovered. This was the real cause of the alarm to which you refer. I was rather surprised at hearing of the excitement that had taken place at Calcutta.”
194. Vide short description of places, page xv.
195. For this act Mr. Mayo received the Victoria Cross.
196. Mr. F. A. Elphinstone-Dalrymple accompanied a party of soldiers sent during that war from the Rustomjee transport to attack a battery. As there appeared some chance that the party would arrive late, Dalrymple persuaded the mate to beach the boat at once in the centre of the battery, thus taking the lead of the whole force. He himself was the first man in the battery. At Chusan he accompanied the 55th Regiment in the storm of the steep hill and the intrenched camp. At Chinghai he was on the deck of H.M.S. Nemesis with Captain Hall, afterwards an admiral, better known as Nemesis Hall, fighting the batteries, and subsequently at the taking of Ningpo. He carried Sir Henry Pottinger’s despatches to Lord Auckland.
197. In the month of May following, when the return of Kunwar Singh had again thrown the affairs of western Bihar into confusion, Mr. Yule offered to the Government the services of himself and twenty well-mounted gentlemen to act against the rebels in that province. The offer was declined.
198. Page 100.
199. Not to be confounded with the Chatra within the Nipal frontier.
200. Thakur, a land-owner; in Rajputana, a small chief or baron.
201. Katak, incorrectly spelt Cuttack, is the chief town of one of the three districts of Orisa. It lies on the right bank of the Mahanadi.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage