I return once more to Lakhnao. Of the army which conquered that city, one division, that commanded by Sir E. Lugard, has been disposed of in the preceding pages. There remain still the corps d’armée under Hope Grant, and the division under Walpole. I shall deal first with the former.
On the 9th April, Sir Hope Grant, commanding the force already noted220, received instructions in person from the Commander-in-Chief, to march at once with a column to Bari, twenty-nine miles from Lakhnao, to drive thence a body of rebels who had collected there under the famous Maulavi; then marching eastwards to Muhammadabad, and following the course of the Ghagra, to reconnoitre a place called Bitauli, where it was rumoured the Begam of Lakhnao with six thousand followers had taken post; thence to march to Ramnagar to cover the march of the Nipalese troops on their return to Nipal-
To carry out these instructions, Hope Grant marched from Lakhnao on the morning of the 11th April. He took with him Middleton’s battery, Mackinnon’s troop of horse artillery, two 18-pounders, two 8-inch howitzers, two 5½ inch Cohorn mortars, the 7th Hussars, one squadron 2nd Dragoon Guards, Wale’s Panjab Horse, the 2nd battalion Rifle Brigade, the 38th Foot, the 1st Bengal Fusiliers, five hundred men of Vaughan’s Panjab Corps (the 5th), one hundred sappers and miners with a proportion of engineer officers – in all, about three thousand men.
A curious incident, emblematic of the progress made by the
rebels in the art of daring yet crafty reconnoitring, occurred on the night of the following day. Hope Grant had encamped about three parts of the way between Lakhnao and Bari. As he lay there that night, a troop of irregular cavalry penetrated within the line of pickets, which at that point were drawn from Wale’s Horse. When challenged, they replied, with the most absolute truth, that they belonged to the 12th Irregulars. They did not add that their regiment had mutinied so far back as July of the previous year, and murdered their commandant221. The pickets, replied to in this confident manner, suspected nothing, and allowed the new-comers to pass on. The mutineers, having seen all they cared to see, quietly slipped out and returned to Bari.
The plan which the rebel leader, who was no other than the Maulavi, adopted on receiving the information which the men of the 12th had acquired, did credit to his tactical skill. He at once occupied a village about four miles on the Bari side of the British encampment with his whole force. This village was covered all along its front by a stream, the banks of which on the side nearest to it were high, and the ground leading up to which was honeycombed. It was a very strong position. The idea of the Maulavi was to hold the village with his infantry, whilst he sent his cavalry by a circuitous route to fall on the flanks of the attacking force.
It was really a brilliant idea; for the British force, he was aware, would march at daybreak, entirely unsuspicious of his presence, and, could he but conceal his infantry from view till the British were well within range, and restrain his cavalry till the resistance from the side of the village had begun, the chances of success seemed to be all in his favour.
But the brilliant idea was spoilt by the mode in which it was executed. Hope Grant did indeed march at daybreak, unsuspicious of danger. The bulk of the enemy’s cavalry, avoiding the line of march, was rapidly gaining a position on his rear, there to fall upon the six thousand carts which were carrying the baggage of the force, when their leaders were tempted by the sight of two guns in the British advance, lightly guarded by Wale’s Horse, to throw to the winds the plan of their general and attempt to capture the guns.
For a moment fortune seemed to favour them. They surrounded the picket, wounded the officer commanding it, Lieutenant Prendergast, and had the guns in their power. Just as they were about to carry them off, however, they caught sight of a troop of the 7th Hussars, led by Captain Topham, on the point of charging them.
Without awaiting the charge, they abandoned their prey, galloped off, and endeavour to recur to the original plan. But they had spoilt it. The British were now thoroughly awake. Hope Grant made prompt arrangements for the protection of his rear guard, and, though the enemy made two considerable efforts to capture the baggage, they were baffled, first by a splendid charge of the 7th Hussars troop under Topham, and secondly by a volley, delivered within thirty yards of them, by two companies of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers.
Completely baffled in their plans, they then retreated.
Meanwhile, Hope Grant pushed forward with his infantry to the village. He noticed the strength of the position, the difficulty it might give him were it well defended. But the premature action of the cavalry, while it had ruined the plan of the Maulavi, had taken all the heart out of his followers. Prepared to surprise the British force and even to resist should the cavalry charge throw it into disorder, they did not h care to meet the assault of the troops which had already repulsed the cavalry.
Under the circumstances they preferred to wait for a more favourable opportunity, and evacuated the village without firing a shot.
Pushing on to Bari and eastward from that place, Hope Grant reached Muhammadabad on the 15th, and Ramnagar on the 19th. Ramnagar was but six miles from Bitauli, the spot where it was rumoured the Begam and her followers had taken post. But the Begam, wise in her generation, had not awaited the arrival of the English general, and Bitauli was found evacuated.
Bitauli evacuated, Hope Grant proceeded to look after Jang Bahadur’s Nipalese. He found them at Masauli, midway between Ramnagar and Nawabganj. In his journal, the general gives a vivid description of the condition of our allies. “The European officer in command,” he writes, “had great difficulties to contend with in marching through a country so filled with rebels. His force consisted of
eight thousand men with twenty guns; yet he could only reckon on two thousand men for actual fighting purposes. He had two thousand sick and four thousand carts; and each of the latter being filled with tents, private property, and loot, required, according to the usages of these troops, a man to guard it222.” From this place Hope Grant marched southwards to protect the road between Kanhpur and Lakhnao, then threatened at Unao.
After some skirmishes of no great moment, in which the rebels were invariably dispersed, he reached, the fort of Jalalabad, near Lakhnao, on the 16th May. Here, for the present, I must leave him, to follow the plans of the Commander-in-Chief with respect to Rohilkhand.
It had been determined by the Governor-General, the reader will recollect, that the re-conquest of this province should follow the re-capture of Lakhnao, and Sir Colin Campbell found Lord Canning still firm in this respect. He himself would have preferred to wait till the hot season had passed. But Lord Canning, with a clear idea of the necessities of the situation, insisted on immediate action. The rebels who, by Sir Colin’s own carelessness, had been allowed to escape from Lakhnao, had fled into Rohilkhand. Thence at all costs they must be expelled, with promptitude and energy.
In accordance with this view, Sir Colin arranged to converge three columns, starting from different points, on the doomed province. One of these, commanded by General Penny, was directed to cross the Ganges at Nadauli and join Walpole’s division, marching from Lakhnao, at Miranpur Katra, twenty miles to the west of Shahjahanpur. Another, starting from Rurki, would penetrate into the province from the north-west. Connected, to a certain extent, with these operations was a third. at Fathgarh under Seaton, guarding the south-eastern entrance
into Rohilkhand on the one side, and the districts between the Ganges and the Jamnah on the other.
Seaton, left by Sir Colin Campbell, at the end of January, in command of the Fathgarh district, had employed the time which passed till the fall of Lakhnao in strengthening the fort of Fathgarh, in removing the bridge of boats to a point under the walls of the fort, and in practising his artillery at marks on the other side of the river near the positions which an advancing enemy would be likely to take up. The rebels meanwhile continued to threaten him from the Rohilkhand side of the Ramganga, though they took care to keep out of the range of his guns.
But, as time went on, and Seaton made no move, whilst reinforcements flocked into the rebel camp, the situation became critical. It became still more so when the rebel Rajah of Mainpuri, Tej Singh, entered their camp, and incited them to profit by the supineness of the British at Fathgarh to cross the Ganges and raise the Duab.
But Seaton, supine as apparently had been his action, had been neither blind nor indifferent to the proceedings of the enemy. He had held his hand so long as it seemed probable that they would remain on the left bank of the river; but the moment they showed a disposition to attempt to burst the door of the Dual), he resolved to attack them.
Hazardous as it was, with his slender force, to assault a powerful enemy, Seaton could not really act otherwise. For the occupation of the Duab by a large rebel force would close the grand trunk road, and cause the preparations, now about to be set in action, against Rohilkhand, to be indefinitely delayed.
Seaton ascertained that the rebels occupied three strong positions: one at Aliganj, seven miles from Fathgarh, on the further bank of the Ramganga; a second at Bangaun, three miles from a ferry on the Ganges, twenty-four miles above Fathgarh .; and a third at Kankar, in the same direction, twenty-two miles distant. Now, in the opinion of Seaton, Aliganj was so strong as to be proof against attack; Bangaun was too far off for a night’s march. He resolved, then, to attack Kankar. Kankar being situated between Aliganj and Bangaun, he believed, to
use his own expression, that “if he knocked out the middle post the upper one would collapse on the lower.”
So, indeed, it proved. Leaving Fathgarh with his small force (a thousand infantry, three hundred cavalry, and five guns) at 11 o’clock on the night of the 6th April, Seaton reached Kankar by daylight, drove back the enemy’s cavalry, and then stormed the villages occupied by the infantry, inflicting upon them a loss of two hundred and fifty killed and wounded, and taking three guns.
In this action Lieutenant de Kantzow greatly distinguished himself. Seaton had only five men killed and seventeen wounded. The immediate effect of his victory was very important. The rebels renounced their idea of invading the Duab, and the division at Aliganj was so affected by it that its leader broke down the bridge across the Ramganga.
Whilst Seaton was thus keeping fast the door of the province, Penny was moving down from Balandshahr to join in the operations contemplated by the Commander-in-Chief in Rohilkhand. His force consisted of two hundred of the Carabineers, three hundred and fifty-three of the 64th, three hundred and sixty of the Baluch Battalion, two hundred and fifty Multani Horse, three hundred and twenty 2nd Panjabis, and six heavy and six light guns.
Penny met Sir Colin Campbell at Fathgarh on the 24th, then crossed the Ganges, and pushed on to Usehat, a town on the further side of one of the confluents of the main stream. Usehat was found deserted, and Cracroft Wilson, the political officer with the column, brought the general information that the enemy had fled into Oudh, and that his march to Budaun would not be opposed. Penny accordingly started on the night of the 30th April to make a night march of upwards of twenty miles to that place. He had reached Kakrala, riding with Cracroft Wilson at the head of the advanced guard, commanded by Captain Curtis, when some dusky forms and some lights were noticed a short distance ahead.
It was quite dark, and before the nature of these appearances could be ascertained, a discharge of grape came into their midst. Penny was never seen again alive, and it was supposed that his horse, frightened by the sudden discharge, started off, and carried him into the ranks of the enemy.
Certain it is that his body was found there after the fight, shot, stripped, and sabred. When the discharge occurred the infantry were some distance in the rear. The Carabineers at once charged, took the gun, and then, it being dark, dashed forward into a trench full of Ghazis (fanatics). A desperate contest ensued, many of the officers being cut down.
As soon as they could extricate themselves, the village, which the enemy occupied in force, was shelled. When the guns had done their work, the infantry charged and carried it – the enemy retreating with but small loss. The column, falling under the command of Colonel Jones of the Carabineers, then continued its march, and joined the Commander-in-Chief at Miranpur Katra on the 3rd May.
Walpole’s division had left Lakhnao for that place on the 7th April. He had with him the 9th Lancers, the 2nd Panjab Cavalry, the 42nd, 79th, and 93rd Highlanders, the 4th Panjab Rifles, two troops of horse artillery, two 18-pounders, two 8-inch howitzers, some mortars, and a few engineers and sappers.
The name of General Walpole has been mentioned more than once in these pages, but once only as an officer holding independent command. The expedition upon which he was now about to enter was not one likely to test the qualities of a commander. It offered no difficulties. A fort here or there might require to be taken, a disorganised band of rebels to be dispersed. To carry it to a successful issue, then, demanded no more than the exercise of vigilance, of energy, of daring – qualities the absence of which from a man’s character would stamp him as unfit to be a soldier.
Walpole, unhappily, possessed none of these qualities. Of his personal courage no one ever doubted, but as a commander he was slow, hesitating, and timid. With some men the power to command an army is innate. Others can never gain it. To this last class belonged Walpole. He never was, he never could have been, a general more than in name. Not understanding war, and yet having to wage it, he carried it on in a blundering and hap-hazard manner, galling to the real soldiers who served under him, detrimental to the interests committed to his charge.
It may be remarked that this censure, however justly applicable, is out of place as a preface to a short campaign conducted by the commander in question – a campaign. which I have already described as “offering no difficulties.” If the campaign offered no difficulties, it may be urged, surely any man, even a Walpole, might have carried it to a successful issue. Thus to brand a commander with incapacity when the occasion did not require capacity, is as unnecessary as ungenerous!
It would be so, indeed, if the campaign, devoid of difficulty as it was, had not been productive of disaster. But the course of this history will show that, though there ought to have been no difficulties, Walpole, by his blundering and obstinacy, created them, and, worse than all, he, by a most unnecessary – I might justly say by a wanton – display of those qualities, sacrificed the life of one of the noblest soldiers in the British army – sent to his last home, in the pride of his splendid manhood, in the enjoyment of the devotion of his men, of the love of his friends, of the admiration and well-placed confidence of the army serving in India, the noble, the chivalrous, the high-minded Adrian Hope.
Walpole, I have said, set out from Lakhnao on the 7th April. His orders were to advance up the left bank of the Ganges, and so to penetrate into Rohilkhand. For the first week the march was uneventful.
But on the morning of the 15th, after a march of nine miles, Walpole found himself in close vicinity to Ruiya, a small fort fifty-one miles west by north from Lakhnao, and ten miles east of the Ganges. The fort was enclosed by a mud wall high on its northern and eastern faces, loop-holed for musketry, defended on those sides by a broad and deep ditch, and covered by a thick jungle. It was provided with irregular bastions at the angles, and had one gate on the western, another on the southern face. It belonged to a petty landowner named Nirpat Singh, a man who was a rebel as long as rebellion seemed profitable, but who had not the smallest inclination to run his head against a British force. Walpole had received information the previous day that Ruiya was occupied by rebels, and there can be no doubt that their number was, as usual, greatly exaggerated. The two or three hundred men who followed Nirpat Singh had been increased by report to fifteen hundred.
It happened that one of the troopers of Hodson’s Horse, who, taken prisoner in some previous encounter, had been confined within the fort of Ruiya, found means that morning to escape, and to penetrate into the British state of camp. Taken to the general, he informed him of the state of affairs within the fort, and that Nirpat Singh was prepared, after making a show of resistance, sufficient to save his honour, to evacuate it that afternoon, leaving one gate open for the British to walk in.
Walpole gave no credit to the man’s story. What was worse, he would not even reconnoitre. He clung to the belief that the fort was garrisoned by fifteen hundred men, and, it would seem, he was anxious to win his spurs by driving them out of it.
He did not, I have said, take the trouble to reconnoitre. The slightest examination would have shown him that, whilst the northern and eastern faces were strong, covered by dense underwood and trees, the western and southern were weak, and incapable of offering defence.
These faces were approached by a large sheet of water, everywhere very shallow, and in many places dried into the ground, and the walls there were so low that an active man could jump over them. But, I repeat, Walpole made no reconnaissance. Without examining the fort at all, he sent his men in a blundering, hap-hazard manner against its strongest face!
The rebels were prepared to evacuate the fort, and they had intended to fire a few rounds and retreat. But, when they saw the British general sending his infantry in skirmishing order against the face which could be defended, they changed their minds, and determined to show fight. Meanwhile Walpole had ridden up to a company of the 42nd that was in advance, commanded by Captain Ross Grove223, and had directed that officer to extend and pass through the wooded ground in his front; then to close on the fort, hold the gate, and prevent the enemy from escaping. Another company of the same regiment, led by Captain Green, was to move in support.
Pushing through the forest before them, the 42nd dashed across the open space between the trees and the fort, and lay down on the edge of the counterscarp of the ditch, which had till then been invisible.
During their advance the enemy had poured upon them a continuous fire. That fire now became increasingly hot, and, as the men had no cover, many of them were shot down, killed or wounded. After waiting here for some time, Grove sent a bugler to the general to tell him that there was no gate, but that if he would send scaling-ladders he would escalade the place. It was evident by this time to Grove that no other attack was being made.
To his message to Walpole Grove received no answer. Then, as the casualties were becoming serious – there being only a few paces between his men and the enemy – he sent another message asking for a reinforcement as well as ladders, and pointing out that it was impossible to cross the ditch without the latter.
Presently, Captain Cafe came down with his Sikhs, the 4th Panjab Rifles. Without communicating with Grove, Cafe dashed into the ditch a little to the left of the 42nd. There his men, having no ladders, were shot down like dogs. It was marvellous that any escaped. Amongst the officers killed was Edward Willoughby, a young officer of the 10th Bombay Native Infantry, who, though on the sick-list, had left his dooly to join in the fight. Of the hundred and twenty men Cafe had brought with him, forty-six men were killed and two wounded. Finding it useless to persevere, Cafe drew back the remnant of his men, and asked the 42nd to help him to recover Willoughby’s body. Grove, unable to go himself, being in command, gave him two privates, Thomson and Spence. With these men Cafe returned to the ditch and brought back the body, Cafe being wounded. He received the Victoria Cross for his gallantry; so, likewise, did Thomson. Spence died two days later from a wound he received in carrying out his splendid deed.
No orders had reached Grove, who, with his men, remained still exposed to the enemy’s fire, when, a short time afterwards, Adrian Hope came up, accompanied only by his aide-de-camp, Butler. It would seem that, whilst the troops I have mentioned were acting in the manner there described on one face of the fort, Walpole, alarmed at the consequences of his own rashness, had caused the heavy guns to open on the walls from the side opposite to that on which the skirmishers still were. Soon after they had opened fire, a report was made to Adrian Hope that the balls from the heavy guns were going over the fort and dropping amongst the skirmishers. He at once rode up to Walpole.
What passed between them cannot with any certainty be known, but it seems probable that Walpole doubted the truth of the report, for, on his return from the conversation, Hope declared to Butler that he would go and see for himself. The moment Grove saw him he sprang to his feet, and, rushing to him, said, “Good God, general! this is no place for you; you must lie down.” But it was too late. Even at the moment his immense frame had become a target to the enemy, not to be missed. He was shot through the chest, and died almost immediately in Grove’s arms. Whilst holding him, Grove’s own bonnet and kilt were shot through.
Grove then told Butler that he could not and would not retire without orders, and that scaling-ladders were the things he wanted. Butler went back to report to Walpole. Meanwhile, in the hope of finding some means of entering the fort, Grove crawled round the edge of the ditch, followed by two men, to keep down, as far as they could, the enemy’s fire. He persevered till one of the two men was killed by a round shot from the British guns discharged from the other side, when, finding his effort fruitless of results, he returned. A few minutes later the Brigade-Major, Cox, came up with the order to retire. This order the two companies of the 42nd obeyed in as strict order and steadiness, by alternate files, as if they had been on a parade ground.
Their losses had been heavy. Lieutenants Douglas and Bramley and fifty-five of their followers were killed; two other officers were wounded. The bodies of the dead officers were not allowed to remain where they fell. Quarter-master Sergeant Simpson, Privates Douglas and Davis, especially distinguished themselves in the dangerous and heroic work of recovering them224. Lieutenant Harington of the Artillery was also killed.
Adrian Hope had fallen. Then, the retreat having been ordered in the manner I have described, Brigadier Hagart was directed to bring off the dead. Walpole rode back to camp. That same night the rebels evacuated the fort. Nirpat Singh kept his word. He marched out after vindicating his honour! But, thanks to Walpole, at what a cost to us!
The loss the country sustained by the deaths of Willoughby, of Douglas, of Bramley, of Harington, and of the hundred and
odd men uselessly sacrificed before Ruiya was great – but the loss of Adrian Hope was a cause for national sorrow.
His death was mourned on the spot by every man in the camp. Loud and deep were the invectives against the obstinate stupidity which had caused it. Nor, though thirty years have since passed away, is he yet forgotten225.
Adrian Hope was indeed a man to be loved. “A gentler, braver spirit never breathed – a true soldier, a kind, courteous, noble gentleman, in word and deed; devoted to his profession, beloved by his men, adored by his friends – this indeed is a sad loss to the British army.” So wrote on the spot William Howard Russell. Nor was the testimony of the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief less genuine. “No more mournful duty has fallen upon the Governor-General in the course of the present contest,” wrote Lord Canning, “than that of recording the premature death of this gallant young commander.”
“The death of this most distinguished and gallant officer,” wrote Sir Colin Campbell, “causes the deepest grief to the Commander-in-Chief. Still young in years, he had risen to high command; and by his undaunted courage, combined as it was with extreme kindness and charm of manner, had secured the confidence of the brigade in no ordinary degree.”
Walpole pushed on the following day, and on the 22nd reached the village of Sirsa forty miles beyond the fatal Ruiya. Sirsa is a strong village on the right bank of the Ramganga, not far from Aliganj, place occupied by the rebels who had so long annoyed Seaton. And, in fact, they were the same rebels who had now crossed the river. The experience he had gained at Ruiya had made Walpole careful of his infantry. This time he brought his artillery to bear on the village in front, whilst he sent his cavalry to turn their flank. The manoeuvre was so far successful that the enemy were driven out of the village, leaving their four guns behind them, and forced to cross the river in such
disorder that they did not destroy the bridge which spanned it. But no proper arrangements had been made for following up the victory, and the great bulk of the rebels escaped.
Five days later, 27th April, Walpole was joined by the Commander-in-Chief on the Rohilkhand side of Fathgarh. The force then marched on Shahjahanpur, which the enemy had evacuated. It then pushed on without opposition to Miranpur Katra, where it united with the troops lately commanded by Penny, on the 3rd May.
I proceed now to trace the course of the Rurki column, commanded by Brigadier-General Jones of the 60th Rifles.
Sir Colin Campbell had, in the first instance, decided that the force forming at Rurki to march thence across Rohilkhand to Bareli should be merely a brigade force, and he had appointed Colonel John Coke, commanding the 1st Panjab Infantry, to lead it.
Colonel Coke was one of the best known and most distinguished officers of the Panjab Frontier Force. To a thorough knowledge of his profession he added an acquaintance with the natives of India not to be surpassed, and a rare power of bending them to his will.
He had seen much service. He had been with Sir Charles Napier in Upper Sindh, with Gough at Chilianwala and Gujrat, with Gilbert in pursuit of the Sikhs. After the conclusion of the second Sikh war, he served continuously, up to the outbreak of the mutiny, on the frontier. There his name became a household word. Scarcely an expedition was undertaken against the wild border tribes but Coke bore a part in. it. Twice was he wounded; but his unflinching demeanour, his power of leadership, whilst it gained the supreme confidence of his men, extorted respect and admiration from his enemies. Wherever he might be, his presence was a power.
Summoned to Dehli early in August, Coke brought to the part assigned him in the siege all the qualities which had made his name on the frontier. He was always prominent in the fight, always daring and self-reliant226.
The force into command of which he suddenly fell was such as might well have inspired him with the hope of gaining distinction as an independent commander. It was composed of a troop of’ the 9th Lancers, of Cureton’s Multani Cavalry, of a wing of the 60th Rifles, of the 1st Panjab Infantry, of the 1st Sikhs, and of the 17th Panjab Infantry. The artillery portion of it was formed of Austin’s light field battery and two 18-pounders.
Coke had arrived at Rurki on the 22nd February, but April was approaching, before, with the assistance of Baird Smith, who was then at that station, he had been able to complete his commissariat arrangements. The country, in fact, had been so thoroughly exhausted that but little carriage was procurable. In this dilemma Coke’s practical knowledge and fertility of resource came into play.
He had read how, in the olden days of Indian warfare, the Brinjaris – dealers who carry their grain on pack cattle – had made themselves eminently serviceable. Calling to mind, then, that at the actual season these men were accustomed to pasture their
cattle in the Tarai227, he sent thither, found them, and made such arrangements with their head men as enabled him to conquer a difficulty which many another man would have found insurmountable.
The carriage had been supplied, all the arrangements for the march of the force had been completed, the force was about to march, when Coke was suddenly superseded. It seemed good to Sir Colin Campbell to make the command of the field force a divisional command. The other wing of the 60th Rifles was accordingly added to it, and with that wing came Colonel John Jones, with the rank of Brigadier-General, to command the whole. Coke acted as brigadier and second in command under Jones.
In reality the change was only in name. General Jones was a very brave man, but he was unwieldy in body, and incapable of very great activity. But he had no jealousy, and he was gifted with rare common sense.
He saw at a glance that Coke was the man for the work, and he was content to leave it in his hands. In the campaign that followed, then, and of which he reaped all the credit, he never once interfered with Coke’s arrangements. That officer continued to be supreme – in all but name.
General Jones – nicknamed at the time, from his habit of denouncing vengeance against the rebels, “ The Avenger” – joined the force early in April. On the 17th of that month he opened the campaign by crossing, unopposed, the Ganges at Hardwar.
The rebel troops were occupying the thick forest on the left bank of the river in considerable force. They were aware that the British would be compelled to march through this forest, and, as it was traversed in many places by deep canals, they hoped to find opportunities for attacking them at advantage.
Jones had learned from Coke the general position of the enemy, and he had authorised that officer, as brigadier commanding the advance, to make the necessary arrangements for
forcing it. When, then, he had crossed the Gauges, Coke pushed on rapidly with the advance in the direction of the town of Nagai, near which it was known the enemy’s main force was located.
But he had marched only four miles when he fell in with a considerable body of rebels posted in a thick jungle, and their front covered by a canal, at a place called Bhogniwala. They had six guns, which at once opened on the British.
But Austin, bringing up his field battery, promptly replied to them, whilst the infantry, in skirmishing order, steadily advanced. When they reached the canal, the bed of which was nearly dry, they had a fair view of the rebels. At that moment Lieutenant Gostling, commanding a troop of the Multani Horse, let loose his men, and forced them back. This was the decisive moment. Coke, bringing the bulk of Cureton’s regiment (the Multani Horse), and Austin’s battery well to the front, charged the rebels whenever they attempted to form. This action, constantly repeated, produced the desired result. The rebels gave way under the pressure, abandoning their camp equipage and guns, casting away their arms, and even throwing off their clothes to facilitate escape. The Multanis followed them for some miles, cutting up a large number of them, and capturing four guns. On this occasion Lieutenant Gostling killed eight men with his revolver. The loss of the victors was small, amounting to one man killed and sixteen wounded. That of the conquered was considerable228.
The following morning a very brilliant and very daring feat of arms was accomplished, under the inspiration of Cureton, by a native officer of the Multani Horse, Jamadar Imam Bakhsh Khan. Conceiving that the rebels defeated on the previous day might have taken refuge in the thick jungle to the north of Najibabad, Cureton despached the Jamadar mentioned and forty troopers to patrol in that direction. The Jamadar, in carrying out this duty, received information from villagers that a rebel Nawab with five hundred followers was in occupation of a fort called Khot, a few miles distant. With happy audacity, Imam Bakhsh Khan proceeded
at once to the fort, and summoned the garrison to surrender. He so imposed on them by his bearing and threats that they yielded unconditionally. Imam Bakhsh disarmed and dismissed the garrison, made prisoner of the Nawab, and then returned to camp to report his brilliant exploit229.
That day, the 18th, Jones pushed on, first to Najibabad, then, finding that place abandoned, to the fort of Fathgarh230, also deserted by the enemy. In these two Naghina. places he captured eight guns besides ammunition and grain. On the 21st, having in the interval been joined by four heavy guns and a squadron of the Carabineers, he marched to Naghina, where, he had been informed, the rebels, numbering ten thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, with fifteen guns, had taken up a strong position.
He found their position strong indeed. Its front was covered by the canal, guarded by ten guns; a battery of five guns protected a bridge on their left, whilst a tope of trees covered the right.
The British force marched directly on to the canal. Whilst the guns on the right attacked the enemy’s battery on the bridge, the 60th Rifles and the 1st Panjab Infantry, with the Multanis on the left, crossed the canal and formed up to the right – the 1st Sikhs, under Gordon, clearing, meanwhile, its banks. By the time the canal had been cleared, the force which had crossed it had gained a position completely turning the enemy’s right. The order was then given to charge. Never was a charge more successful. The rebels, panic-stricken, made no attempt to defend their guns, but fled in wild confusion. On this day Cureton rendered splendid service with his Multanis. He pursued the enemy for five miles, and, notwithstanding the resistance of despair which he and his followers encountered, he did not rest until he had slain their chiefs and captured their elephants and guns.
It was a greater glory for him to rescue an unfortunate English telegraph signaller taken , who, previously prisoner by the rebels, had been brought into the field that he might witness the defeat of his countrymen! Cureton rescued this man at great personal danger to himself231.
But the toil of the day was not yet over. On returning from the slaughter of the chiefs with his two hundred mounted followers, Cureton descried, approaching the main body of the defeated enemy, a compact force of eight hundred infantry, five hundred cavalry, and some guns. The presence with him of the captured elephants of the Nawabs made it probable, he thought, that the rebels would regard the Multanis as a party of their own friends. He accordingly drew up into a grove by the roadside to await their approach. On they come, and the grove containing their supposed friends is almost reached. “Still not a sound issues from the trees, not a greeting strikes the ear, not a signal meets the eye. Suddenly a clear English voice rings out the word ‘Charge!’ and in an instant the Multanis are in the midst of the panic-stricken foe. Taken by surprise, daunted by the fury of the onset, the rebels do not resist long, but flee in all directions, leaving upwards of one hundred dead on the ground, and a green standard and several guns as trophies232.”
In the combat of Naghina, the British loss was small in comparison with that of the rebels. The army had to regret, however, the death of Lieutenant Gostling, a gallant and meritorious officer, who fell in the final charge of which I have spoken.
Where all so distinguished themselves it is difficult to single out any officer for special notice, but I cannot omit to record that the cavalry leading of Cureton was talked of in camp at the time, and has been handed down to the new generation as a most brilliant example of the combination of skill, daring, readiness of resource, and practical ability.
Amongst the volunteers present whose gallantry was marked was a young student of the Rurki Civil Engineer College named Hanna. The desperate gallantry of this gentleman, who accompanied Cureton, procured him two serious wounds. It was then believed that he was a young officer, nor was it till after the fight was over that his real calling was discovered. Thanks to the strong recommendation of Cureton and his own intrepid spirit, Mr. Hanna obtained an unattached commission in the Indian army.
The victory was decisive. Thenceforward the progress of the column was not seriously opposed. Bijnaur was reoccupied without opposition. Jones did not delay there, but pushed on rapidly to Muradabad
The course of affairs at this station had not impressed the inhabitants with the advantage of the native rule of Khan Bahadur Khan233, and they had heard with anxious and beating hearts of the progress of the columns of the Avenger.
The pent-up longings of their hearts had been confirmed and strengthened by the loyal attitude of a neighbouring native chieftain, the Nawab of Rampur234, who had from the first exerted himself to maintain the authority of the British As Jones advanced nearer and nearer, these feelings displayed themselves in action.
It happened on the 21st April, that Firuzshah, a prince of the royal house of Dehli, who had cast in his lot with the Rohilkhand revolters, marched upon Muradabad, and demanded money and supplies. The townspeople refused, whereupon the prince, after some negotiation, endeavoured to help himself by force. The townspeople were still resisting when Firuzshah received information that the avenging columns of the British were approaching. Instantly he desisted and beat an ignominious retreat. But the following day he returned secretly into the native part of the town.
Jones arrived in the vicinity of Muradabad on the 26th April. His camp was there joined by Mr. Inglis, C.S., a gentleman thoroughly acquainted with the characters
and doings of the rebel chiefs then figuring in Rohilkhand Inglis informed Brigadier Coke that many prominent leaders of the revolt were at the moment hiding in the city of Muradabad, and that it would not be impossible, by the exercise of daring and prudence, to seize them. These two qualities shone conspicuously in the character of Coke. He at once made arrangements to effect the capture of these men. Posting the Multani cavalry so as to guard the outlets of the city, he entered with a body of infantry and proceeded to the houses indicated to him. The task was difficult and dangerous, but it resulted in success. Twenty-one notorious ringleaders of the revolt were actually taken. Others were slain defending themselves. In this affair Lieutenant Angelo greatly distinguished himself. Bursting open the door of one of the houses, he seized a prominent rebel leader and one of his sons. Whilst engaged in this work he was fired at from one of the upper rooms of the house. He at once rushed upstairs, forced the door of the room whence the firing had proceeded, and found himself face to face with seven armed men. Nothing daunted, he shot three of them with his revolver, and kept the remainder at bay with his sword till reinforced from below. Firuzshah, unhappily, escaped.
A few days later Jones again started to take part in the operations which the Commander -in-Chief was directing against Bareli, and to which I must now return.
I have already stated that the Commander-in-Chief, with the force from Fathgarh joined to that of Walpole, had found it evacuated. It was not so much the evacuation of this important place as the escape of the rebel army which had held it, commanded by the notorious Maulavi, accompanied, it was believed, by Nana Sahib235 and his followers, in the direction of Oudh, which caused vexation to Sir Colin.
It was a proof that, notwithstanding his great efforts, the campaign had failed in one important particular.
Though he had planned that four army-corps, starting from different points,
should converge on Bareli and Shahjahanpur, enclosing the rebels on four sides, their most formidable enemy had managed to break through the meshes, and to break through them, too, on the side for which he and Walpole were mainly responsible! However, there was no help for it. The Rohilkhand rebels were still in Bareli. They, at all events, he was resolved, should not escape him.
Leaving at Shahjahanpur five hundred men of the 82nd under Colonel Hale, De Kantzow’s Irregular Horse, and four guns, Sir Colin pushed on, picked up Penny’s column – commanded by Jones of the Carabineers – at Miranpur Katra, on the 3rd May, and on the 4th arrived at Faridpur, a day’s march from Bareli.
Khan Bahadur Khan was still holding sway in the capital of Rohilkhand. The exact amount of his force cannot be stated with certainty. Spies had rated it at thirty thousand infantry, six thousand horse, and forty guns, but it certainly did not reach anything like that number.
The feeling that animated leader and men was the reverse of sanguine, for they knew that the town was threatened on both sides. Nevertheless there were amongst them a certain number of fanatics (Ghazis) who were resolved to sell their lives dearly, neither to give nor to accept quarter.
Bareli itself did not offer a strong defensible position. The town consists of a main street, about two miles long, having occasionally narrow offshoots on both sides. Outside these streets were large suburbs formed of detached houses, walled gardens, and enclosures; outside these again were wide plains intersected by nullahs. One of these, called the Natia Nadi, covered the town on the south side. Its banks were steep, and, if well protected, it was capable of presenting an obstacle to an advancing enemy. But it was bridged, and the bridges had not been broken.
Khan Bahadur Khan heard on the 5th of the arrival of the Commander-in-Chief at Faridpur. He was likewise aware that Jones was advancing from Muradabad. There was yet a way of escape open to him – the way he subsequently followed – in the direction of Pilibhit. But the hot Rohila blood of the descendant of Hafiz Bahmat forbade him to flee without striking a
blow for his cause. He determined to meet the British force in the open plain outside the town.
On the evening of the 4th May he took up his position. Crossing the Natia Nadi, he placed his guns on some rising ground – sand-hills – which commanded the line by which the British must advance, covered by his first line of infantry, whilst he guarded both his flanks with his cavalry. His second line occupied the old cantonment nearer to the town.
To force this position Sir Colin Campbell had under his orders a very considerable force. He had two brigades of cavalry236, the first commanded by Brigadier Jones, 6th Dragoon Guards, the second by Brigadier Hagart, 7th Hussars; Tombs’s and Remmington’s troops of horse artillery, Hammond’s light field battery; two heavy field batteries under Francis; and the siege-train with Le Mesurier’s company and Cookworthy’s detachment, the whole commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Brind; some sappers and miners under Colonel Harness; the Highland brigade under Leith Hay, consisting of the 93rd, 42nd, 79th, 4th Panjab Rifles, and the Baluch battalion; Brigadier Stisted’s brigade, consisting of seven companies 64th Foot, 78th Highlanders, four companies 82nd, 2nd Panjab Infantry, 22nd Panjab Infantry.
Very early on the morning of the 5th Sir Colin broke up from Faridpur and marched on Bareli. As he approached the place the vedettes reported the presence of the enemy.
It was 6 o’clock. Sir Colin halted his troops and formed them in two lines. In the first line he placed the Highland regiments, supported by the 4th Panjab Rifles and the Baluch battalion, with a heavy field battery in the centre, and horse artillery and cavalry on both flanks. The second line, consisting of the remainder of his force, he disposed to protect the baggage and siege-train. The numerous cavalry displayed by the enemy seemed, in the opinion of Sir Colin, to render this precaution necessary.
It was striking 7 o’clock just as these dispositions were completed.
Sir Colin then moved forward. He had not marched a hundred yards before the enemy’s guns opened upon him. But the British force advanced with so much steadiness and precision that the rebels promptly abandoned their first line, and made no attempt to defend the stream. Their infantry fell back on the old cantonment, covered by their cavalry and horse artillery, both of which occasionally made as though they would charge the British line. Nothing came of it, however. The British force still continued to press on, capturing as they reached the rivulet the guns which the rebels had failed to remove.
The rivulet, not defended, offered but a slight obstacle to the advance of the British army. Whilst the left of their first line held the bridge, the right crossed it. The first line then advanced about three-quarters of a mile towards the town.
The heavy guns were then rapidly passed over in succession, and were placed in a position to rake the enemy’s second line. The troops then halted to allow time for the siege-train and baggage to close up.
Whilst the troops formed up thus halted, the 4th Panjab Rifles occupying some old cavalry lines on the left, the enemy made a desperate effort to change the fortunes of the day.
In my description of the troops led by Khan Bahadur Khan I stated that there were amongst them a certain number who were resolved to sell their lives dearly, and neither to give nor accept quarter. I alluded to the Ghazis, men who believed that the taking the life of an infidel opened to the slayer the gate of Paradise, and who were thus impelled by the most self-interested of all motives to court, sword in hand and desperation in every act, the death which was to give them a glorious immortality.
The line, formed up, was halting, when a considerable body of these fanatics, “fine fellows, grizzly-bearded elderly men for the most part, with green turbans and kamarbands237, every one of them wearing a silver signet-ring, a long text of the Koran engraved on it238, rushed out from the right, and dashed at the village held by the 4th Panjabis. “They came on,” wrote the eye-witness I have
already quoted, “with their heads down below their shields, their talwars flashing as they waved them over their heads, shouting ‘Din, Din239!’ ” dashed at the village, swept the surprised Sikhs out of it with the élan of their rush, and then hurled themselves against the 42nd Highlanders, who were moving to the support, and to cover the re-formation of the Panjabis. Fortunately Sir Colin happened to be close to the 42nd. He had just time to call out “Stand firm, 42nd; bayonet them as they come on! “The 42nd did stand firm. The Ghazis could make no impression upon their serried ranks. They killed some of them indeed; and they acted up to their professions. Not one of them went back. Killing, wounding, or failing to kill or to wound, every man of them who had flung himself against the Highland wall was bayoneted where he had fought.
But a portion of them had swept past the 42nd and had dashed to the rear, where were Cameron commanding that regiment, and, a little further back, Walpole, of Ruiya renown. Three of the Ghazis dashed at Cameron, pulled him off his horse, and were about to despatch him, when Colour-Sergeant Gardner of the 42nd dashed out of the ranks and bayoneted two of them, whilst a private shot the third240.
Walpole narrowly escaped death from a and of similar cause; he was saved by men of the same Walpole. regiment.
This attack repulsed, the 42nd, supported by the 4th Sikhs and a part of the 79th, advanced, sweeping through the empty lines and pushing forward for about a mile and a half into the old cantonment.
The heat was intense; the men had suffered so greatly from the heat, from thirst, and even from sunstroke, that Sir thought it advisable to sound the halt for the day, even at the risk of leaving a door of escape to the enemy – for Bareli had not been entered.
Another reason weighed to a certain extent with him in arriving at this conclusion. During the attack of the Ghazis, the enemy’s cavalry, skilfully handled, had galloped round the British left, with a view to plunder the baggage. The amount of alarm, confusion,
and panic created by this movement amongst the drivers and camp-followers is not to be described. A few rounds from Tombs’s guns, and a threatened counter-attack from the Carabineers and the Multani Horse succeeded, indeed, in soon dispersing the enemy.
But Sir Colin deemed it, nevertheless, desirable that the impedimenta should close up with the main force. Directing, then, a portion of the 79th and 93rd to seize all the suburbs in their front, he placed the troops as far as possible in the shade, and halted for the day.
The attack thus made on the suburbs led to fresh encounters with the Ghazis. One company of the 93rd – led by Lieutenant Cooper, whose gallant bearing at the Sikandarbagh had been the theme of admiring comment241 – sent on this duty, arrived at a spot near the suburbs where some artillery guns under Lieutenant-Colonel Brind were posted. Brind pointed out to Cooper the position which he believed the Ghazis were occupying. That officer, carefully noting the place, posted his men in some ruined houses and under cover of some walls to the left and left front of it. The guns then opened fire. After a few rounds the buildings occupied by the Ghazis caught fire. The Ghazis rushed out. Some five or six made a dash at Cooper. Two of these he shot dead, a third he killed after a brisk pursuit; with a fourth he then engaged in a sword fight, when the Ghazi was shot dead by a private. The others were disposed of by the men.
The halt ordered by Sir Cohn, desirable as it was for the health of the troops, was, in a military point of view, fatal. It gave Khan Bahadur Khan a chance which he eagerly seized. No sooner had the shades of darkness , fallen than the wily Rohila quietly withdrew the bulk of his trained forces from the town and stole away to Pilibhit, thirty-three miles north-east of Bareli, leaving only a rabble to maintain a show of resistance.
When, then, the following morning, the guns of Sir Colin Campbell began to play upon the city, they met with no reply. The sound of artillery fire was indeed heard on the opposite side, but that fire proceeded. from the guns of Brigadier General Jones.
I left that officer marching from Muradabad towards Bareli to attack that city on the side opposite to that by which Sir Colin Campbell had approached. The march was one long-continued skirmish. At Nurganj, twenty- one miles from Bareli, the Multani cavalry and Pathan horse again dal admirable service, completely defeating the rebels, and capturing several guns.
As he approached with the leading division of the force to Bareli, Coke could obtain no tidings of Sir Colin or his movements; but, whilst waiting for information, some Hindu retail dealers announced to him that the rebels had deserted their guns placed at the entrance to the city.
With a combined caution and daring adapted to the circumstances, Coke determined to proceed himself, and, should the story prove true, to take possession of the guns. He took with him a detachment of the Pathan cavalry. But he had hardly come within sight of the guns, barely within range, when the falsehood of the traders’ tale became apparent – for the guns at once opened fired on his party. Fortunately the rebels were unable to control their impatience, or the consequences might have been disastrous. As it happened, one trooper only was killed. Coke at once sent back for the heavy guns and the infantry; then, placing a company of the 60th Rifles in a walled, garden commanding the entrance to the city, ordered the guns to open fire. Ten minutes later the enemy’s guns were silenced. Coke then led the Panjab infantry regiments into the city and penetrated as far as the great mosque. Cureton’s cavalry had meanwhile been sent to operate outside with the double view to cut off the rebels from their line of retreat to the north and to open out communication with Sir Colin.
The action , of the cavalry outside speedily made itself felt within the city, for the rebels, fearing for their line of retreat, evacuated the place with so much haste, that when Coke proceeded to make arrangements to force his way further, he discovered that none were required, as the city had been deserted.
The next day, the 7th May, a junction was effected with Sir Colin.
The town had indeed been conquered, but the bulk of the rebel army had escaped. This was the second occasion in this short Rohilkhand campaign in which the rebel leaders had outmanoeuvred the British commander: on the first, the Maulavi had doubled back from Shahjahanpur into Oudh; on the second, Khan
Bahadur Khan had succeeded in escaping to a point not far from the Nipal frontier, along which it would not be difficult to penetrate into the same kingdom.
But the Maulavi was influenced by motives nobler than those indicated by a mere avoidance of his powerful enemies. With the prescience of a capable general he had counted on the probability that Bareli would offer to the British army a certain resistance; and he had resolved to avail himself of the opportunity thus offered to make a raid upon Shahjahanpur and overpower the small garrison which he hoped would be left there.
Sir Colin Campbell had left in Shahjahanpur a wing of the 82nd, a detachment of artillery with two 24-pounders and two 9-pounders, and De Kantzow’s Irregular Horse – the whole under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hale, C.B., of the 82nd.
The habitable houses in Shahjahanpur having been unroofed, by order, it was stated, of Nana Sahib, Hale had pitched his camp in a tope of trees near the gaol, indicated to him by Sir Colin as the place to be held should he be attacked. The enclosure round the gaol he at once proceeded to make defensible, placing in it his guns and as large a stock of provisions as he could procure. Working with great zeal and energy, Hale completed his preparations in one day – the day on which the Commander-in- Chief left him to proceed to Bareli – the 2nd May.
Meanwhile the Maulavi and his army had reached Muhamdi. There he found, eager to join him in any attack on the British, the Rajah of that place, and one Mian Sahib, one of the old Lakhnao chiefs, each at the head of a considerable body of armed men, most of them mounted. Their plans were quickly formed. Learning that the bulk of the British force would leave Shahjahanpur for Bareli on the morning of the 2nd, they resolved to attempt to surprise the place and cut up the detachment left to guard it the following morning.
They marched that day and part of the night of the 2nd to carry out this resolve. But again an excellent plan was spoiled by inefficient execution. Had the Maulavi pushed on, he would have reached the town in the dead of night, and it is possible that he might have reaped all the advantage of a complete surprise.
But, when within four miles of the place, he halted to rest his men. The halt was fatal to his complete success. Native spies employed by the British were on the alert, and one of these flew with the intelligence of his dangerous vicinity to Colonel Hale.
Hale acted at once with the prudence which the circumstances required. He had been ordered to remain on the defensive. Instantly, then, he moved his stores and camp equipage into the gaol, covering the transfer with four companies of the 82nd.
He then went forward with De Kantzow’s Horse to reconnoitre. The sudden apparition of vast bodies of cavalry, numbering about eight thousand, covering the plain, proved the truth of the spy’s story. De Kantzow242, truly one of the heroes of the mutiny, always ready for action, always cool and
resolute, was for a charge to check their advance. Hale, mindful of his orders, would not permit it, but, falling back, brought all his men within the gaol enclosure, thence to bid defiance to the enemy.
Meanwhile the Maulavi and his allies, pressing on, speedily mastered the undefended town, seized the old fort, and then imposed a money requisition upon the wealthier inhabitants. In acting thus he simply conformed to the customs of war as practised in Europe. Simultaneously he placed his guns, eight in number, in position against the gaol. From this day, the 3rd, till the morning of the 11th, he bombarded the British position incessantly, without, however, producing any other effect upon Hale and his comrades than increasing their resolve to hold out until assistance should arrive.
Intelligence of the state of things at Shahjahanpur first reached Sir Colin Campbell on the 7th. On that very day he had become master of Bareli, and had effected a junction with the Rurki column under the Jones. The news was like a message from heaven. Fortune gave him a chance to repair the error by which the Maulavi had been allowed to escape him on his march, and this time he was determined that there should be no mistake.
He at once sent for Brigadier John Jones, and directed him to march the following
morning with a brigade, the nature and composition of which he indicated, to Shahjahanpur, there to deal with the Maulavi. He gave him further discretionary power to pursue his success, and, should he think it advisable, to attack Muhamdi.
The troops composing the brigade ordered on this duty were the 60th Rifles, the 79th Highlanders, a wing of the 82nd, the 22nd Panjab Infantry, two squadrons of Carabineers, the Multani Horse, with some heavy guns and some horse artillery. With this little force Jones marched on the morning of the 8th.
Shortly after sunrise on the 11th he reached a point close to Shahjahanpur, where the road branches out to the city and cantonments. Immediately afterwards the advance guard reported the presence of the enemy. Jones at once drew up his men, the heavy guns in the centre, and then moved forward. He soon came in sight of the enemy, huge masses of horsemen, formed up and ready, apparently, to dispute the further progress of the British. A few shots from the heavy guns checked them, and, the Highlanders and Rifles pushing on in front whilst the horse artillery guns opened on their flanks, the hesitation which had been gradually creeping on them developed into retreat, and, very soon after – the British continuing the same tactics – retreat into flight.
Their detachments still, however, held the old fort, the bridge of boats over the river, the stone bridge over the Kanarat Nadi, the houses in the town, all loop-holed, and the position was in all respects formidable. But Jones was too quick for them.
Pushing forward his skirmishers and horse artillery, he drove the enemy to the banks of the river opposite to the entrance to the city, and by a heavy and continuous fire forced them to abandon the idea they had attempted to put into execution of destroying the bridge of boats, and drove them within the city. Bringing up then his heavy guns and mortars, he compelled them to abandon, one after the other, the old fort, the stone bridge, and other commanding positions. He had now only the town to deal with.
Made aware, by the reports which reached him, that all the houses in the main street had been loop-holed, and that the enemy counted upon his forcing an entrance through that street, Jones resolved to baffle the rebels by avoiding the route indicated, and by taking the road which led through the eastern
suburbs. He met with no opposition as he traversed the suburbs, but no sooner did he emerge into a space near the new schoolhouse, than he discovered a body of rebel cavalry. He at once attacked them, drove them back, and then quickened their movements by a few rounds of shrapnel. The Carabineers, who came up in the nick of time, were at once sent in pursuit.
At first the rebels seemed inclined to measure swords with that gallant regiment, but second thoughts prevailed, and they fled, leaving a gun and ammunition waggon in the hands of their pursuers. Jones halted for a quarter of an hour in the open space I have mentioned, to allow his men to form up, and then pushed on by the church and across the parade ground to the gaol, still held by the gallant Hale and his comrades.
But there commenced the difficulties of the relieving force. The main body of the enemy was here found assembled. Their advanced positions – leading through the main street, and which could only have been forced at great risk and with enormous loss – had been turned by the skilful manoeuvre of Jones.
But in this open plain, where the masses of their cavalry could act freely, they were too strong to be attacked with any hope of success. Jones, therefore, was forced to maintain himself on the defensive until reinforcements should reach him from Bareli. To wait for these he established himself in a strong position, flanked on one side by the gaol.
So passed the 11th. The 12th, 13th, and 14th were spent in preparations for the encounter looming in a very near future, Jones engaged in increasing his means of resistance, the Maulavi in welcoming fresh allies.
And, indeed, those allies poured in with an alarming celerity. It was not alone the rabble escaped from previous fights, the discontented landsmen, the freebooters by profession, who flocked to his standard. There came, likewise, one after another, the Begam of Oudh, the prince Firuzshah, and, although Nana Sahib did not himself appear, he sent a body of his followers, whose presence gave colour to the rumour that he too was not afraid to meet in fair fight the countrymen of those whom he had murdered.
Rumour lied. Nana Sahib loved his life too well to risk it in a battle with the English.
By the evening of the 14th all these reinforcements had poured into the Maulavi’s camp. On the 15th he struck his great blow. He attacked Jones with his whole force. But the troops led by Jones were men unaccustomed to show their backs to a foe. Charged and charged again, they repelled every assault. Jones’s deficiency in cavalry would not permit him to retaliate, to carry the war into the enemy’s camp. But at least the enemy gained no ground from him. His men clung, then, with all the stubbornness of their natures, to the positions which they had been ordered to defend; and when evening fell, and the baffled enemy ceased their attack, they could boast that they had not lost so much as an inch. They could make the same boast when, three days later, the Commander-in-Chief appeared in person on the scene. To him I must now return.
When Sir Colin Campbell had despatched Jones to Shahjahanpur on the 8th, he imagined that he had certainly disposed of the Maulavi and had cleared the country as far as Muhamdi in Oudh. Regarding, then, the Rohilkhand campaign as virtually settled, he had begun at once to distribute his forces. He had nominated General Walpole as divisional commander of the troops in Rohilkhand. He had indicated the regiments which were to remain at Bareli itself; those to proceed to Lakhnao; and the one or two which were to march to Mirath.
He had ordered likewise Brigadier Coke to proceed on the 12th with a column, consisting of a wing of the 42nd Highlanders, the 4th Panjab Rifles, the 1st Sikh Infantry, a portion of the 24th Panjab Infantry, a squadron of the Carabineers, a detachment of the 17th Irregular Cavalry, and a considerable force of artillery, with three weeks’ supplies for the Europeans and four weeks’ for the natives, towards Pilibhit, the line of retreat taken by Khan Bahadur Khan.
Having made these arrangements, Sir Colin had deemed that he might safely return himself to some central station on the great line of communication whence he could more easily direct the general campaign. Taking with him, then, his headquarter staff, the 64th Foot, two troops of the 9th Lancers, the Baluch Battalion, Tombs’s troop of horse, and Le Mesurier’s company of foot, artillery, he had started from Bareli in the direction of Fathgarh on the 15th.
On the 16th, at Faridpur, he received Jones’s message. Sir Colin at once sent to Bareli for the remainder of the 9th Lancers,
and the next day moved cautiously forward to Tilhar243. That evening he received information that the Maulavi, whilst still pressing Shahjahanpur, had withdrawn the bulk of his troops in the direction of Muhamdi, the entire length of the road to which he commanded.
The next morning, the 18th, Sir Colin marched towards Shahjahanpur. As he approached the place, a strong force of the enemy’s cavalry, calculated to number fifteen hundred men, with five guns, threatened to attack him. But it was little more than a demonstration, and Sir Colin, passing the ground on which he had previously encamped, made a partial circuit of the city to the bridge of boats.
Crossing this, unopposed, he traversed the city, and effected a junction with Brigadier-General Jones.
But even then the British force was too weak in cavalry to encounter the enemy with any hope of a decisive result – a result, that is to say, fraught not only with defeat but with an annihilating pursuit. The truth of this presumption was fully shown that very day.
Sir Colin had no intention whatever to engage the enemy. It happened, however, that a reconnoitring party of horse was fired on by the enemy from four guns posted in a fortified village called Panhat; the sound of the guns brought out the masses of the enemy’s cavalry; and these again attracted to the field the Commander-in-Chief and his whole force. The battle then partially engaged.
The 82nd, pushed forward, occupied the village of Panhat, on the right front. They were followed by the horse artillery, and a field battery, and part of the 9th Lancers and the Irregulars. The 79th then took possession of a grove of trees in the centre of the position, near a small rising ground, on which were posted a couple of heavy guns; whilst a heavy field battery, supported by a wing of the Rifles, with parties of the Carabineers and Baluchis, covered the left flank.
It was a strong defensive position, on which the enemy could make no impression. In the artillery and cavalry skirmish which followed, the rebels displayed more than ordinary skill and courage, and, although in the end they
gave ground, no attempt was made to pursue them.
Sir Colin, in fact, was quite satisfied with the repulse of the enemy. He preferred to defer a decisive battle till he should have more troops, especially more cavalry. He sent off, then, a despatch to Brigadier Coke, directing him to bring down his brigade with all possible speed.
Coke at once turned back, and joined the Commander-in-Chief on the 22nd. On the 24th the whole force marched to attack the enemy. But again the Maulavi baffled Sir Colin.
Whilst his light cavalry did their utmost to hinder the British advance on Muhamdi, retiring the moment the pursuers halted to discharge their guns, the Maulavi and his allies evacuated that place, after destroying the defences, and fell back into Oudh.
They had similarly treated Kachiani, the mud fort which had previously given shelter to European fugitives. The expulsion of the rebels from Rohilkhand was the one result of the campaign.
How they were followed up and hunted down in Oudh I shall tell in another chapter. The occurrences in Rajputana, long neglected, demand immediate attention. It will suffice here to state that, on the expulsion of the Maulavi from Rohilkhand, the Rohilkhand and Rurki field forces were broken up, the regiments of which they were composed being detailed for other duties. The Commander-in-Chief himself, accompanied by the headquarter staff, resumed his journey to Fathgarh (Farrukhabad); Brigadier Seaton, relieved by Colonel McCausland in his command at that place, was appointed to Shahjahanpur, having under him the 60th Rifles, the 82nd, the 22nd Panjab Infantry, the Multani Horse, two squadrons of the Carabineers, and some artillery. Coke turned with his force to Muradabad, to act as Brigadier commanding the district; the 64th went to Mirath; the 9th Lancers to Ambala; the 79th to Fathgarh. The army was broken up. In north-eastern India, Oudh alone remained to be thoroughly subjugated.
But I cannot leave the scene of so many combats without recording events which, either from their historical interest or from the deep personal sympathy they excited, demand special notice. The first of these, not in date,
not in importance, not in the sympathy it excited, but in the connection which it bears to the contents of this chapter, is the death of the Maulavi of Faizabad. The Maulavi was a very remarkable man. Sir Thomas Seaton, who had many opportunities for arriving at a just opinion, has described him as “a man of great abilities, of undaunted courage, of stern determination, and by far the best soldier among the rebels.” It has been surmised, and with great reason, that before the mutiny occurred the Maulavi was travelling through India on a roving commission, to excite the minds of his compatriots to the step then contemplated by the master-spirits of the plot. This at least is known: that such a commission was undertaken; that the Maulavi travelled to the parts of India which subsequently proved the most susceptible to the revolt; that he was the confidential friend and adviser of a very prominent member of the deposed royal family of Lakhnao. If, as I believe, the mutiny was in a great measure determined not less by the annexation of Oudh than by the sudden and treacherous manner in which that annexation was carried into effect – that the greased cartridges were simply a means used by the higher conspirators to force to revolt men who could be moved only by violence to their faith – the story of the action of the Maulavi only seems natural. Certain it is that in April 1857 he circulated seditious papers throughout Oudh; that the police did not arrest him; and that to obtain that end armed force was required. He was then tried and condemned to death. But, before the sentence could be executed, Oudh broke into revolt, and, like many a political criminal in Europe, he stepped at once from the floor of a dungeon to the footsteps of a throne. He became the confidential friend and adviser of the Begam of Lakhnao, the trusted leader of the rebels.
In person the Maulavi was tall, lean, and muscular, with large deep-set eyes, beetle brows, a high aquiline nose, and lantern jaws. Of his capacity as a military leader many proofs were given during the revolt, but none more decisive than those recorded in this chapter. No other man could boast that he had twice foiled Sir Colin Campbell in the field!
His death he owed, strange to say, not to his enemies, but to his quondam allies. After his retreat from Muhamdi, determined to use every means in his power to hinder the complete success of the British, the Maulavi
started off, armed with the authority and money of the Begam, for Powain, a town on the frontiers of Oudh and Rohilkhand, eighteen miles north-east of Shahjahanpur. The Rajah of this place was supposed to possess a certain amount of influence, and it was the Maulavi’s object to induce him and others to join in a new league against the British.
The Maulavi started for Powain, with a small following, on the 5th June, having previously sent forward a messenger to make known his wishes to the Rajah. The Rajah, Jagan-nath Singh by name, was a fat unwieldy man, not given to martial feats, desirous to sit at home at ease, and particularly anxious to avoid giving offence to the British in the hour of their triumph. He, however, consented to grant the Maulavi a conference. Upon this the Maulavi pushed on to Powain.
On reaching that place he found, to his surprise, that the gates were closed, the walls manned, and the Rajah, his brother, and his armed retainers, were lining the ramparts which overlooked the gateway. Amid these unpromising appearances the conference began. But the Maulavi soon satisfied himself that unless he could overawe the Rajah his eloquence would be wasted. To overawe him, then, he made the driver of the elephant upon which he was mounted urge the animal forward to burst open the gate. The elephant advanced, and applied his head with such force to the barrier, that in a second or two it must inevitably have yielded.
In this crisis the Rajah’s brother, inspired by the urgency of the occasion, seized a gun and shot the Maulavi dead. His followers at once turned and fled. The Rajah and his brother then and there cut off the Maulavi’s head, and, wrapping it in a cloth, drove to Shahjahanpur, thirteen miles distant. Arrived at the magistrate’s house, they entered, and found that official and his friends at dinner.
They immediately produced the bundle, and rolled the bloody head at the feet of the Englishmen. The day following it was exposed to view in a conspicuous part of the town, “for the information and encouragement of all concerned244.”
Thus died the Moulvi Ahmad Allah of Faizabad. If a patriot is a man who plots and fights for the independence, wrongfully destroyed, of his native country, then to the most certainly the Maulavi was a true patriot. He had not stained his sword by assassination; he had connived at no murders; he had fought manfully, honourably, and stubbornly in the field against the strangers who had seized his country; and his memory is entitled to the respect of the brave and the true-hearted of all nations.
Naturally enough, the British Government rejoiced to be rid of a formidable enemy. But another death, occurring a few weeks earlier, caused an outburst of the deepest sorrow in the heart of every Englishman serving in India – throughout the homes and the hearths of England. The reader who has accompanied me so far will have marked with pride and pleasure the record of the splendid achievements of the Naval Brigade under its gallant and accomplished leader, William Peel; they will remember that on the 9th March, when seeking a suitable place for the posting of some guns to breach the outer wall of the Martinière, William Peel was shot in the thigh by a musket-ball. The ball, however, was extracted, and the progress to convalescence after the extraction, if slow, was solid and hopeful.
With the capture of Lakhnao the work of the Naval Brigade was regarded as completed. On the 1st April, then, the sailors struck their tents, and started for Kanhpur on their way to Calcutta.
Great preparations were made to receive them in that city. The Government had decided to notify their sense of their splendid services by giving them a public reception, and the Calcutta people, for once in accord with the Government, were resolved that the reception should yield, in heartiness, in sincerity, and in splendour, to none by which a body of public men had ever been greeted in their palatial city. No one foresaw that the daring leader, for whom the greatest ovation was reserved, would be called to his last home too soon to witness the admiration of his non-combatant countrymen.
One gratification, indeed, had been reserved for William Peel. On the 2nd March he had received the mark of the approval of his Gracious Sovereign, intimated by his to nomination to be an Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, and by the bestowal of the Knight Commandership of
the Bath. They were fit honours for his noble service, rewards of the nature he would prize the most, as constituting spontaneous testimony from his Sovereign of the efforts he had made to suppress the rebellion, the possible mischief of which, if unchecked, no one had recognised more clearly than had the First Lady in the Realm245.
William Peel reached Kanhpur in safety. Though still weak, he was still slowly gaining strength, when, on the 20th April, he was attacked by confluent small-pox. His frame had been too much weakened to bear the shock. On the 27th he succumbed to the disease.
In him England lost one of the worthiest, of the noblest of her sons. How thoroughly he had impressed his spirit on the men whom he led may be gathered from the journal of one of them. “I cannot say,” wrote Lieutenant Verney, on the 30th April, “what a sad loss we all feel this to be, and how deeply his death is felt and regretted by every officer and man; the mainspring that worked the machinery is gone. We never felt ourselves to be the Shannon’s Naval Brigade, or even the Admiralty Naval Brigade, but always Peel’s Naval Brigade.” But the grief was not confined to the gallant men who had followed him. It was overpowering; it was universal; it was realised that England had lost a king of men.
The Government were not slow in giving expression to the universal feeling. On the 30th April Lord Canning issued a general order, in which, after notifying the sad fact and recapitulating his services, he thus eloquently recorded his sense of the extent of the catastrophe, of the greatness of the man:– “The loss of his daring but thoughtful courage, joined with eminent abilities, is a heavy one to this country; but it is not more to be deplored than the loss of that influence which his earnest character, admirable temper, and gentle kindly bearing exercised on all within his reach – an influence which was exerted unceasingly for the public good, and of which the Governor-General believes it may with truth be said, that there is not a man of any rank or profession who, having been associated with Sir William Peel in these times of anxiety and danger, has not felt and acknowledged it.”
The memory of his great name and his great deeds still survives. In the Eden Gardens of Calcutta a statue in white marble recalls to the citizens, by whom those gardens are nightly thronged, the form and fashion of him who was indeed the noblest volunteer of this or any age, who was successful because he was really great, and who, dying early, left a reputation without spot, the best inheritance he could bequeath to his countrymen246.
I have already recorded the death of Venables. This gentleman, an indigo-planter, had, by his unflinching daring, saved the district of Azamgarh in June 1857, when its natural guardians had withdrawn from it. Subsequently he had struggled bravely against the invaders from Oudh, and had ridden with Franks, as a volunteer, in his glorious march from the eastern frontier of Oudh to Lakhnao. Withdrawing thence to Allahabad, “broken in health and spirits, anxious for rest, looking forward eagerly to his return to England247,” he was persuaded by the Governor-General to return to Azamgarh, once again seriously threatened. The reader will
recollect how useful were the services he then rendered to the gallant Lord Mark Kerr.
Nor were those subsequently given to Sir E. Lugard less remarkable. It was in the performance of “these great services,” inspired by the highest sense of duty, that, on the 15th April, he was struck down. The wound was mortal. “A few days afterwards,” wrote in eloquent language some years ago an able and conscientious historian248, “death, resulting from the wound, cut short the sufferings and belied the hopes of this ‘brave, self-denying English gentleman,’ one among many such who in those days of sharp trial proved their right to be held in equal honour with the best-rewarded officers of the East India Company and the Crown.”
220. Vide page 328, note.
221. Vol. III. page 47.
222. Hope Grant’s Incidents of the Sepoy War. As these troops took no further part in the war, it may be convenient to state here that they continued their retreat from Masauli towards their own country, and effected it without molestation. They reached Gorakhpur early in May, and resumed their march thence on the 17th idem. In consequence of the number of their carts they experienced some difficulty in crossing the Gandak at Bagaha, in the Champarau district. Marching thence by way of Bhetiti and Sigauli, they crossed the Niptil frontier early in June.
223. Now Major Ross retired.
224. They all received the Victoria Cross.
225. It is a curious commentary on the principle, then, as now, in fashion, of conferring honours on men, not for the deeds they achieve, but for the high positions they occupy, that the general who lost more than one hundred men and Adrian Hope, in failing to take this petty fort, was made a K.C.B.
Though he failed to take the fort, he was yet a divisional commander.
226. I may be pardoned if I relate here one special act, amongst many, which illustrated his conduct at this period. On the 12th August Coke received instructions from Brigadier Showers to turn out the European picket at the Metcalfe stables, and, taking the men composing it with him, to proceed through the Metcalfe gardens and attack the guns which had been firing on the picket the preceding day. No information was given him as to the locality of the guns; but, having been quartered at Dehli before the outbreak, Coke imagined that he would find them in the vicinity of Ludlow Castle. He directed, then, the officer commanding the picket to extend the men on his right, and to follow the direction he should take. At the same time he ordered Lieutenant Lumsden, commanding his own regiment, to skirmish through the gardens on his left – the direction in which he expected to find the enemy in force. He then rode through the gardens towards Ludlow Castle. On reaching the boundary wall of the gardens on the main road leading to the city, he found that an embrasure had been made in the wall of the garden. At the same moment he saw the enemy’s guns – two nine-pounder brass guns – in the road with horses attached, but no one with them, the enemy having apparently taken refuge in Ludlow Castle when driven out of the Metcalfe gardens by Lumsden. The horses’ heads were turned towards the city. An alarm – a stray bullet – a discharge close to them – might start them off at any moment. Quick as lightning the idea flashed into Coke’s brain that, if he could but turn the horses’ heads towards the camp, it would little signify how soon the horses might be alarmed; they would, of themselves, capture the guns for the British. On the instant he alighted from his horse, got down through the embrasure into the road, ran to the horses of the leading gun, and turned them up the road towards cantonments. Whilst doing this he was shot in the thigh by the enemy in Ludlow Castle, but the guns were captured. He had done his self-allotted task, and reaped his only reward in the admiration of all who witnessed his splendid daring.
227. Tarai; literally, low ground flooded with water. In Rohilkhand “the Tarsi” forms a district with an area of 938 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Kumann, on the east by Nipal and Pilibhit, on the south by Barelf, Muradabad, and the state of Rampur. It consists of a narrow strip of land, about ninety miles long by twelve broad, lying at the foot of the hills where the springs burst from under the bhabar forests of Kumaun.
228. That it was very great may be inferred from the saying of the natives, “that the spirits of the dead still haunt the scene, and that their groans may be heard in the night.” – Vide Cornhill Magazine for January 1863, article “Indian Cossacks,” containing a spirited account of this little campaign by an actor in it.
229. He received the third class of the Order of Merit – an insufficient acknowledgment of such a deed.
230. In the Bijnaur district, not to be confounded with the Fathgarh in the Farrukhabad division.
231. “Indian Cossacks.” – Vide, note below.
232. The Cornhill Magazine, January 1863, Art. “Indian Cossacks.” The author of this article, who is believed to be a distinguished officer of the British army, thus proceeds: “With this feat of arms end the gallant deeds of Cureton and his Multanis in the action of Naghina. They may well be proud of that day; for to defeat cavalry and artillery, then infantry, then again cavalry, artillery, and infantry combined, in the latter case contending against enormous odds, were exploits of which even a veteran corps might boast. How much more, then, a young regiment only three months raised, and engaged that day in its second action!”
233. Vol. III. pages 222-3.
234. An Indian Gazetteer will show the student nearly forty places called Rampur or Rampura. The Rampur mentioned in the text is bounded on the north by the Mufti district; on the east and south by the Bergh district; on the west by the Muradabad district. The upper classes of the inhabitants are mostly Rohila Afghans.
235. Before evacuating Shahjahanpur, Nana Sahib is said to have caused all the official buildings to be destroyed, in order that the Europeans, on their arrival, might find no shelter.
236. The first cavalry brigade was composed of two squadrons 6th Dragoon Guards and Lind’s Multani Horse; the second, 9th Lancers, 2nd Panjab Cavalry, detachments Lahor Light Horse, 1st Panjab Cavalry, 5th Panjab Cavalry, and 15th Irregular Cavalry.
237. “Kamar-band”: a girdle, a long piece of cloth girt round the loins.
238. Dr. W. H. Russell.
239. Meaning: “For our faith, our religion.”
240. Gardner received the Victoria Cross. I regret to be unable to record here the name of the private.
241. Vide page 129.
242. Vide Vol. III. pages 104-6; and page 351 of this volume.
243. Tilhar lies fourteen miles to the west of Shahjahanpur.
244. The Government paid the Rajah a reward of five thousand pounds for killing the Maulavi.
245. Life of the Prince Consort, vol. iv. chapter 78.
246. The death of William Peel was a double misfortune to the officers of the Shannon brigade. He had been very sparing of praise in his despatches. It had been his intention personally to press the claims of the officers whom he knew to be deserving. His premature death frustrated this idea.
247. Letter from Lord Canning to the Committee of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce, assembled in June 1858, to devise a fitting monument to Mr. Venables. The letter ran thus:– “It will be a satisfaction to me to join in this good work, not only on account of the admiration which I feel for the high qualities which Mr. Venables devoted to the public service, his intrepidity in the field, his energy and calm temper in upholding the civil authority, and his thoroughly just appreciation of the people and circumstances with which he had to deal, but also, and especially, on account of circumstances attending the last service which Mr. Venables rendered to his country. After the capture of Lakhnao, where he was attached to Brigadier General Franks’s column, Mr. Venables came to Allahabad. He was broken in health and spirits, anxious for rest, and looking forward eagerly to his return to England, for which his preparations were made. At that time the appearance of affairs near Azamgarh was threatening; and I asked Mr. Venables to forego his departure from India, and return to that district, with which he was intimately acquainted, there to assist in preserving order until danger should have passed any. He at once consented cheerfully; and that consent cost him his life. I am certain that the Court of Directors, who are fully informed of all particulars of Mr. Venables’ great services and untimely death, will be eager to mark, in such manner as shall seem best to them, their appreciation of the character of this brave, self-denying English gentleman; and I am truly glad to have an opportunity of joining with his fellow-countrymen in India in testifying the sincere respect which I feel for his memory.”
248. Trotter’s History of the British Empire in India.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage