On the recall of Lord Ellenborough, the Ministry proposed his kinsman and friend, Sir Henry Hardinge as his successor, and the Court of Directors heartily concurred in the nomination. Sir Henry had entered the army at an early age, and went through the campaigns in the Peninsula under the Duke of Wellington, in which he received four wounds, had four horses shot under him, and earned nine medals. His brightest wreath was won at the battle of Albuera, the success of which was attributed chiefly to his gallantry and skill, and he was described by a great historical authority “as the young soldier of twenty-five with the eye of a general and the soul of a hero.” He was present at the battle of Waterloo and was disabled by a severe wound. On the return of peace he entered Parliament, and,
having joined the Tory Ministry, filled, on two occasions, the post of Secretary at War, and was twice, for brief periods, Secretary for Ireland. In the management of these departments he exhibited a clear and sound judgment, great decision of character, and a kind and generous disposition, while he acquired a large store of official experience. These qualifications, but more especially his high reputation as a soldier, recommended him for the Government of India, at a time when the right bank of the Sutlege was bristling with hostile bayonets, and the army of the Punjab was beyond the control of the state. He entered on the duties of his office at the same age as Lord Hastings, in his sixtieth year. At the valedictory dinner at the London Tavern, the Chairman expounded to him the various duties of a Governor-General, among the most important of which he pointed out the maintenance of respect for the authority of the Court; “and we are persuaded,” he said, “that you will impress this feeling on our servants abroad, not merely by precept, but by your example.” With this lecture over the body of his contumacious and immolated predecessor, he was dismissed to his post. He went out with the most pacific intentions, anxious to establish his fame in connection with the Indian empire, not by means of conquest or the exhibition of military skill, but as the friend of peace, by efforts to promote the social interests and welfare of the people. But, like his two predecessors, he was destined to an early disappointment, and the most memorable events of his administration are the four battles fought in fifty-four days, which were more vigorously contested and more sanguinary than any we had previously fought in India.
Sir Henry Hardinge reached Calcutta on the 23rd July. Before leaving England he paid a visit to Mr. Mountstuart Elphinstone to seek his advice. The veteran statesman warned him against meddling with civil details. On his arrival he took the earliest opportunity of calling up and stating to the Secretaries to Government that he was not accustomed to civil affairs, and least of all to
Indian questions, but as they were selected and paid for their experience in such matters, he expected in every case that they would suggest in writing what they considered best to be done, and if he placed his initials under the suggestions they were to be carried into effect. “I do not think,” he said, “you will try to mislead me, but if you do, it will be the worse for you sooner or later.” Occasionally, he took steps to assure himself that he was properly advised, and was jealous and inquisitive if he suspected anything wrong in the opinions offered to him. He never allowed the Secretaries to forget their responsibility, and they felt that he was not to be trifled with. Under this system, business is said to have been promptly and satisfactorily performed. Within three months after his arrival he passed the memorable resolution, which held out the encouragement of office and promotion in the public service to the successful students of the Government colleges, as well as of private institutions; and thus gave the state the benefit of the talent which it had assisted to develop. For some time, this liberal measure was but slenderly carried into effect; because in India, as in England, the cause of education has been the sport of party prejudices and individual caprices. It was not fully carried out till after the establishment of the University of Calcutta, to which the various educational institutions in the country were affiliated, and which was impartial in the distribution of honours, but the merit of it belongs to Sir Henry Hardinge’s administration, and he was recompensed by an address of thanks signed by five hundred of the most influential native gentlemen in Calcutta. The important and difficult question of corporal punishment in the native army was forced upon his attention at an early period, by a large body of experienced officers, who considered the abolition of it by Lord William Bentinck a great error. To that measure there had always been the cardinal objection that the retention of flogging in the European army after it had been abolished in the sepoy regiments created an invidious distinction, which lowered the character of the English soldier in the
estimation, not only of his own native comrades, but also of natives of all ranks. It was also asserted, by a reference to the increase of acts of insubordination, that the abolition had failed as an experiment of discipline. Under the old system, the average, number of cases of corporal punishment had not exceeded 700 in the year, while under the new rule, the number sentenced for rebellious conduct to work on the roads with thieves and felons – which inflicted indelible disgrace on their families – amounted in the aggregate to 10,000. It was a question beset with difficulties. More than one regiment was known to be in a state of disaffection, and it was affirmed that only a spark was required to kindle the flame of mutiny throughout the army. Sir Henry listened calmly to all that was advanced on both sides of the question, and after a most anxious and careful deliberation, drew up a masterly Minute which embodied the arguments on which he came to the conclusion of repealing Lord William Bentinck’s order. Greatly as it is to be desired that the humiliating practice of corporal punishment, which cannot fail to lower the morale of an army, should be extinguished under the flag of England in all parts of the world, still, the re-establishment of it in the then existing condition of the Bengal army, from a paramount consideration of duty, was an act of moral courage which reflects the highest credit on Sir Henry Hardinge. It is grateful to record that the punishment was so rarely inflicted that the order became a dead letter.
During the years 1844 and 1845 the attention of Sir Henry Hardinge was anxiously fixed on the storm gathering in the Punjab; and we now turn to the progress of events in that country, where the death of Runjeet Sing was followed by six years of anarchy and bloodshed. He was succeeded in July, 1839, by his imbecile son, Khurruk Sing, but all real power was vested in Khurruk’s son, the young and gallant Nao Nihal, who, if he had not been prematurely cut off, would probably have emulated the ambition of his grandfather, whose talent and energy he inherited. This
power, however, he was obliged to share with Dhyan Sing, the minister, one of the three brothers of the Jummoo, or Dogra family, which at this period played a most important part in Punjab politics. Golab Sing, the head of the house, was originally a running footman, who happened to attract the attention of Runjeet Sing, and rapidly rose in favour; he was promoted to high office, and enriched with the territory of Jummoo, lying between Lahore and Cashmere. The Jummoo rajas were Rajpoots and not Sikhs, and this circumstance, combined with the extraordinary power they had attained, rendered them objects of envy and aversion. It was the great object of Nao Nihal Sing to reduce the authority of this family which overshadowed the throne, but his career was too brief to accomplish it. Khurruk Sing died, prematurely, on the 5th November, 1840, of the excesses in which he had long indulged, and his son, after the performance of his funeral obsequies, was passing under a covered gateway on his return to the palace when a portion of the structure fell and injured him so seriously that he expired in the course of the evening.
Chand Kowur, the widow of Khurruk Sing, seized the sovereignty, as regent, on behalf of the offspring to which the widow of Nao Nihal Sing was expecting to give birth, and she was assisted in the management of the state by Shere Sing, the reputed son of Runjeet Sing, and by the minister, Dhyan Sing. Shere Sing, who himself aspired to the sovereign power, and was supported by British influence, as well as by the minister, succeeded in gaining over some divisions of the army, and marched down upon Lahore on the 14th January, 1841. The chiefs interfered and insisted on a compromise. Chand Kowur was induced to retire from the court to a large jageer which was assigned to her, and Shere Sing became the ruler of the Punjab. He was shrewd, bold and frank, but the slave of sensuality, and the vassal of the Jummoo rajas, whom he was unable either to shake off, or to control. The soldiers had been the chief instruments
of his elevation, and he rewarded them with an increase of pay to the extent of a rupee a-month, which, as might have been expected, only served to sharpen their avarice and to increase their arrogance. They proceeded to wreak their vengeance on the officers who were obnoxious to them. General Court was obliged to fly for his life; General Avitabile was constrained to abandon Peshawar and seek shelter at Jellalabad, and the governor of Cashmere was put to death. The merchants of Amritsar began to tremble for their warehouses and money bags, and became clamorous for British protection. Shere Sing, unable to restrain his troops, made overtures to Lord Auckland in the spring of 1841, for the assistance of a British force. Sir William Macnaghten at Cabul was at the same time urging him to “crash the Sings, macadamize the Punjab, and annex the province of Peshawar to the dominions of Shah Soojah.” A force of 10,000 men was accordingly held in readiness to enter the Punjab, and so little was the real strength of the Khalsa army appreciated that the Resident at Loodiana actually proposed to march with this force to Lahore and disperse it. For this aid Shere Sing was to pay a subsidy of four lacs of rupees and to cede the Cis-Sutlege province to the Company. On receiving the mention of this proposal, he is said to have replied to it by simply drawing his finger across his throat, to signify the fate to which it would consign him There can be no doubt that if this insane project had been persisted in, the whole Khalsa army would have risen to a man, and hurled back the invasion. With the exception of some Mohamedan corps, that army consisted of a compact body of martial Sikhs, united by strong national and religious sympathies, proud of the victories they had gained and the conquests they had achieved, and fully conscious of their strength. When the iron sceptre of Runjeet Sing was removed, these Praetorian bands became the masters of the Punjab. The soldiers in each regiment were generally obedient to their own officers, but, as a body, their policy was regulated by the will, not of the sovereign or his minister, but of the army committees called punches,
the council or jury of five, who made every movement subservient to the interests of the army, and not of the state. The adherence of the troops was consequently given to those who were most liberal in subsidizing them.
While the capital was a prey to anarchy, Golab Sing, the Jummoo raja was pushing his ambitious projects in the north beyond the Himalaya range. His Lieutenant, Zorawur Sing, marched up to the sources of the Sutlege and the Indus, and established a military position in Chinese Tibet. The Governor-General considered it impolitic to allow Sikh influence to be extended to the confines of China, with the Government of which we had been at war, and were now negotiating a peace, and Shere Sing was required to recall the lieutenant of his feudatory. A day was fixed for restoring the town of Garo to the Grand Lama, and a British officer was deputed to witness the surrender; but before the order could reach Zorawur Sing, he was surrounded by the enemy on the banks of the classic lake of Manosurowur, 15,000 feet above the level of the sea. The Sikh soldiers, unaccustomed to the severity of such a climate, were frozen with the cold; their leader was slain; some of the principal officers were retained as prisoners, and the men were then left to perish of cold and starvation at a distance from their homes, which it was impossible for them ever to regain. In the spring of 1842, the victorious Chinese advanced along the upper Indus and expelled the Sikhs from all the positions they had occupied. Golab Sing poured fresh troops across the Himalaya, but, at the request of the British Government, a convention was at length concluded between the Government of Lahore and that of Lassa which replaced matters on the former basis.
Dhyan Sing the minister, finding his influence in the durbar on the decline, induced Shere Sing, in the year 1843, to recall Ajeet Sing, the head of one of the most powerful clans in the Punjab, who had been banished from the court. Ajeet Sing, who himself aspired to the office of minister,
became the boon companion of the prince, but Dhyan Sing, with profound craft, endeavoured to persuade him that he had been inveigled to Lahore, only to ensure his destruction, and he resolved to put his sovereign to death to preserve his own life. On the 15th September, he invited Shere Sing to inspect some new levies he had raised, and shot him dead on the parade; at the same hour his uncle despatched the raja’s youthful son Pertab Sing. The assassins then proceeded to the citadel to proclaim a new king in company with Dhyan Sing, who was insidiously separated from his escort and assassinated by Ajeet Sing. The young son of the murdered minister, Heera Sing, who had been the great favourite of Runjeet Sing, immediately called upon the soldiers to avenge these foul murders, and stimulated them to action by the promise of large rewards. They responded to his call, captured the citadel, and put both Ajeet Sing and his uncle to death. Duleep Sing, then five years of age, the son of Runjeet Sing by the ranee Jhindun, was brought forth from the zenana, and proclaimed Maharaja, while Heera Sing appropriated to himself the perilous post of minister. To strengthen his position he attached the troops to his interest, by immediately adding two rupees and a-half to the monthly pay of each soldier. From this time forward the army may be considered the absolute masters of the state. It was to these convulsions at Lahore that Lord Ellenborough made allusion in his Minute of the 1st November, when he dwelt on the necessity of making our rear secure by reducing the strength of the equally insubordinate army of Gwalior.
The position of Heera Sing was both difficult and unstable. Two other sons of Runjeet Sing started up and endeavoured to supplant Duleep Sing, but, though they were joined by a portion of the troops, their efforts proved abortive. In March, 1844, Soochet Sing, one of the Jummoo rajas, anxious to supplant his nephew, and secure the office of minister, appeared at Lahore with a large body of followers and made an appeal to the army; but Heera Sing had been lavish in his gifts and promises, and his rival
was defeated and slain. The Khalsa army, which had now assumed a position of entire independence, was the great object of anxiety to Heera Sing, and he endeavoured to curtail its power by dispersing the regiments, and by raising levies in the highlands, but his purpose was effectually thwarted by the punches, who would not permit a single regiment to leave the capital without their concurrence. The success which had hitherto attended his administration was due, not so much to his own abilities, as to the genius of his tutor, the Pundit Julla, the priest of the Jummoo family, who regulated all his movements, and was considered a man of such transcendent talent, that, if he had been able to control the army, he might have succeeded in establishing a dynasty of Peshwas at Lahore. But before his authority was consolidated, he imprudently endeavoured to reduce the power of Golab Sing, who retaliated on him by exciting revolts in various directions. He likewise sequestered the estates of many of the chiefs and treated them with disdain; but, above all, he incurred the wrath of the vindictive ranee and her brother, by his supercilious deportment. They appealed to the army, and Heera Sing and the pundit were obliged to fly, but, although they endeavoured to retard the pursuers by dropping their costly jewels one by one in their path, they were overtaken and put to death, and their heads carried in triumph to Lahore. The death of Heera Sing involved the immolation of twenty -four women, his wives and slaves, on the funeral pile. The Sikhs, though reformed Hindoos, retained with more than ordinary tenacity a passion for suttees, and the veneration of the cow. Indeed, a woman who had devoted herself to death was considered in the light of a sacred character, and men of the first distinction in the state prostrated themselves before her as before an incarnate deity.
On the dissolution of the government of Heera Sing, the management of affairs fell into the hands of Juwahir Sing, the brother of the ranee, Jhindun, and of a handsome brahmin of the name of Lall Sing, her favourite paramour. It was not without reason that
Sir Henry Hardinge designated her the Messalina of the north. The soldiers received another augmentation of pay, and became so clamorous for fresh gratuities, and so insubordinate, that it was deemed necessary to find some employment for them, to prevent the overthrow of the Government. They were accordingly instigated to march against Golab Sing, who was odious to the Sikhs, and reputed to be very wealthy. The raja could not but feel that his highland regiments would be no match for the well-disciplined Khalsa troops, and he brought into practice all those arts of cozenage of which he was so complete a master. He flattered the army committees; he made a liberal distribution of money among the men, and succeeded at length in prevailing upon them to let him off with a mulct of thirty-five lacs of rupees, and the cession of a portion of his territory. When, however, the money came to be removed, a dispute arose between his own officers and those of the army which led to a collision; two chiefs were killed, and the passions of the soldiers were inflamed to such a degree that he was constrained to accompany them to Lahore to prevent the plunder of his capital. At Lahore, the troops and the ministers extorted no less than sixty-eight lacs of rupees from him, and left him but a very slender portion of the family domains. He returned to his own principality, after having assisted at the installation of Juwahir Sing as prime minister, and the betrothal of Duleep Sing to the daughter of Chutter Sing. To keep the troops in active employ, the durbar further determined to let them loose on Moolraj, who had been permitted to succeed to the office of dewan, or viceroy of Mooltan, on the assassination of his father in 1844, but had refused to increase his annual remittances, or to pay the fine of a crore of rupees which was demanded of him on his succession to the Government. Moolraj felt, as Golab Sing had done, that it would be impossible for him to cope with the Sikh army now marching against him, and in September, 1845, rescued himself from danger by a compromise of eighteen lacs of rupees. Soon after, Peshora Sing, another of the sons of Runjeet, raised the standard of revolt
at Attock, but was defeated and ruthlessly put to death by Juwahir Sing. That unfortunate prince had always enjoyed a degree of popularity with the people and the army from his relationship to Runjeet, and the contempt which had been generally felt for the low debauches who occupied the post of minister, was turned into resentment by this atrocious murder. Lall Sing, who aspired to the office of vizier, made every effort to inflame this animosity. The punches met and determined that Juwahir Sing should die the death of a traitor, and he was led out into the plain of Meean Meer, in the neighbourhood of Lahore, and deliberately executed. After the loss of her brother, the ranee sat daily in durbar, transacting business, and in the beginning of November, 1855, appointed Lall Sing minister, and Tej Sing general-in-chief; but the army which had within the year humbled the two great feudatories of Jummoo and Mooltan, exacted eighty-six la& of rupees from them, defeated Peshora Sing, and pronounced death on the minister, was now the only real power in the state.
Nothing can more fully demonstrate the feeling of mutual respect and confidence which subsisted between the Government of India and Runjeet Sing than the fact that for thirty years after the Metcalfe treaty, the outpost at Loodiana, within a few marches of Lahore, and a hundred and fifty miles from any support, was left with a garrison of only two or three regiments. The anarchy which supervened on the death of Runjeet constrained the Government of India to make better provision for the protection of the frontier. Lord Auckland established a new cantonment at Ferozepore, which, however, was inadequately garrisoned. Lord Ellenborough, who considered a Sikh war all but unavoidable, increased the force on the frontier to 17,600 men with sixty-six guns. Sir H. Hardinge, immediately on his arrival, investigated the state of affairs on the Sutlege with the eye of a soldier, and found that it was one of extreme peril, and that the force collected there was not sufficient for the purpose of defence, still less for extensive
operations, if war should be forced upon us. His attention was steadily given to the augmentation of the army on the frontier, and he accomplished it so gradually and quietly, that it attracted no notice even in our own provinces. By these arrangements the number of troops massed on the Sutlege and at the stations immediately below it, was increased to 40,500, with ninety-four guns. Sir Henry Hardinge likewise brought up from Sinde to Ferozepore fifty-six large boats, which Lord Ellenborough had, with great forethought, ordered to be constructed there to serve as a pontoon. It has been surmised that it was this large assemblage of troops in front of the Punjab, which raised the suspicions of the Khalsa army and led to the invasion of our territories, in order to anticipate our designs. But, considering the distracted condition of the Punjab, a prey to political convulsions, the Government of India would have been without excuse if the most ample preparations had not been made to meet an impending crisis, which might arrive at any day. The Khalsa army was the most efficient and the most formidable which had ever been assembled under native banners. It possessed all the vigour of a young creed, and of a recent organization. It was flushed with its past successes, and panted for future triumphs. Unmindful of its defeat at Jumrood, it considered itself more than a match for the Afghans, and, consequently, superior to the British, whom the Afghans had once defeated and chased from their territory. In 1843, and again in 1844, a large Sikh force had marched down towards the Sutlege with a view to the invasion of the Company’s territories. During the year 1845 the army had completely overpowered the state, and the durbar at Lahore felt that the only chance of maintaining its own existence was to commit it to a conflict with the British power. No effort was therefore spared by those in authority to inflame the minds of the soldiers against our Government, and they met at the tomb of Runjeet Sing to renew their vows of fidelity to the Khalsa, and to devote themselves to the promotion of its greatness. It was not the precautionary measures
of the British Government, or the proceedings of its agents on the frontier, which brought on the collision. It was the ranee and Lall Sing and Tej Sing who launched the Sikh battalions on our territories, from the selfish motive of providing for their own security, and endeavoured to avert the plunder of Lahore by sending them to sack Delhi and Benares. If any blame is to be attached to Sir Henry Hardinge, it is that, in the presence of such imminent danger, he exceeded in moderation the bounds of prudence, and that, from the laudable desire of avoiding the charge of having provoked hostilities by the extent of his military preparations, he delayed to move the troops which he had collected, to the banks of the Sutlege, to be on the spot for immediate action whenever the emergency should arrive. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the military virtues of the Sikh army had always been underrated by the political officers connected with the Punjab, and that even to the latest period it was designated by some in high position “a rabble demoralized by the absence of every principle of subordination, and by its unchecked violence.” Neither the Government nor its officers had any adequate conception of the profound feeling of national ambition and arrogant confidence, and unexampled courage with which it was animated. They thought it possible that British districts might be insulted by the desultory inroads of marauding horsemen, or by loose bands of fanatic Akalis, but they never dreamt that 60,000 soldiers, with a large and admirably served artillery, would cross the Sutlege and burst as suddenly on our dominions as Hyder Ali had burst on the Carnatic sixty-five years before.
On the evening of the 17th November a general order was issued by the durbar for the invasion of the British dominions, but the astrologers declared that there would not be an auspicious day before the 28th. The troops were impatient to advance, and the ranee endeavoured to hasten their departure; but her eagerness tended to rouse their suspicions, and they remained in a state
of hesitation for nearly three weeks. On the 23rd November the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief received intimation of the marching orders the Sikh army had received, and Major Broadfoot, the political agent on the frontier, urged the most prompt and energetic measures of defence, but Sir Henry Hardinge, still clinging to the hope of peace, directed him to send another remonstrance to the Lahore durbar, the only response vouchsafed to which, was an order to the troops to commence their march without any further delay. Animated by a feeling of national and religious enthusiasm, 60,000 Khalsa soldiers with 40,000 armed followers and a hundred and fifty guns of large calibre crossed the Sutlege in the brief space of four days, each soldier turning his hand with great alacrity to the transport of the guns, the driving of the bullocks, or to any other labour which offered itself; and by the 16th the whole force was encamped within a short distance of Ferozepore. That fort was held by Sir John Littler, one of the oldest and best officers in the service, with 10,000 troops and thirty-one guns. Both he and his officers considered this force sufficient to dispute the passage of the river; the reason why this was not attempted, is one of the many enigmas of the two Sikh campaigns which are bequeathed to the researches of the future historian. On the 11th December, preparations had been made for a grand ball in the Commander-in-chief’s state tents at Umbala, when information was unexpectedly received that the Sikh army had marched down to the fords of the Sutlege, and was on the eve of crossing it. The ball was abandoned by common consent, and the night was spent in hasty preparations for the march. The next day the Commander-in-chief started with the troops assembled in haste, for the relief of Sir John Littler, who was enveloped by an army six times the strength of his own, accompanied with artillery greatly superior in number and power. Hours were now invaluable. The troops, heavily accoutred, performed a march which had never before been attempted in India, moving a hundred and fifty miles
in six days, through heavy sand, with little time to prepare their food, even when they were able to obtain any, and with scarcely an hour for repose.
On the 13th, the Governor-General published a Declaration of War, and confiscated all the districts belonging to the Sikh crown south of the Sutlege. Major Broadfoot had with incredible labour provisioned the stations on the line of march, and collected large stores at Bussean, which was within easy distance of the ford at which the Sikhs had crossed, and open to their attacks. Sir Henry, who had preceded the Commander-in-chief, on reaching that depot, perceived the necessity of protecting it from the assault of the Sikhs, and lost no time in ordering a force of 5,000 men from Loodiana to render it secure. The importance of this movement cannot be overrated, as the capture of Bussean by the enemy, with all its stock of provisions, would have delayed the operations of the army for more than ten days, and indefinitely augmented the difficulties of Sir John Littler’s position. His duties were rendered the more arduous from the charge of the women and children at Ferozepore. It might have been expected that after the warning received at Cabul, where the operations of the force were fatally hampered by the presence of ladies, so egregious a blunder would not have been repeated, and that those who were residing at Ferozepore would have been placed beyond the reach of danger, as soon as it was known that the Sikh army had received orders to cross the river; but they were permitted to continue there as if no enemy were at hand, and it was not till the place was actually invested that they were sent even into the fort. On the arrival of the Sikh force before Ferozepore, Sir John Littler marched out and offered the enemy battle, but they declined it. The day after, a large portion of the Khalsa army pushed forward ten miles to Ferozeshuhur, and constructed entrenchments of the most formidable character, leaving Tej Sing behind to watch the movements of General Littler. It is still a mystery why the
Sikh army, 60,000 strong, did not make a vigorous effort to dispose of his force before he could receive any assistance. It has been said that they had no skill in sieges, and shrunk from an .assault on his fortifications. It has, again, been affirmed that if the Sikh generals had been as sincerely bent on exterminating British power as their soldiers were, nothing could have saved General Littler. But Tej Sing and Lall Sing stood as much in awe of their own troops as of their enemies, and dreaded the chance of their triumph more perhaps than their defeat. To what extent the assertion which has been made that both these generals had touched English gold is to be believed, depends on documents not before the public.
Lall Sing’s scouts had brought him information that the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief were advancing to the attack of the Sikh army with only a slender force, and he pushed forward to the village of Moodkee with about 20,000 men and twenty-two guns, where under cover of the jungle he awaited the arrival of the British commander. On the 18th December the army had made a fatiguing march of twenty-one miles, over an arid plain, and at the sight of a pool of water on its arrival at the encamping ground, men, horses, and camels, rushed down impetuously, to appease a thirst which appeared to be unquenchable. The troops had not broken their fast since the preceding night, and were just preparing to cook a meal when a cloud of dust rose up before them. Major Broadfoot, who galloped off to reconnoitre, returned in haste to announce that it was raised by the Sikh army, and the thunder of its cannon soon corroborated his report. In this, as in numerous other instances, the intelligence department of the army was deplorably inefficient, and Sir Hugh Gough was as completely taken by surprise as he had been at Maharajpore. It was nearly four in the afternoon and little more than an hour of daylight remained The enemy’s horse endeavoured to outflank our force, but were gallantly repulsed. Then came the first conflict between the native sepoy and the Khalsa battalions of Runjeet Sing, trained and
disciplined by Allard and Ventura, and the superiority of the Sikhs became at once apparent. One native regiment turned suddenly round and sought the rear, and it was with no ordinary difficulty that the Commander-in-chief and his staff succeeded in bringing it back to the struggle. Even a European corps was for a few moments staggered by the rapidity and precision of the Sikh practice, and in the confusion of the hour one of our regiments fired into another. Lall Sing was the first to fly from the field with his cavalry, and he was at length followed by the infantry, who withdrew under cover of the night, leaving seventeen guns in the hands of the victors, the loss on whose part amounted to 872 in killed and wounded. For sixty years it had been usual to unite the office of Commander-in-chief with that of the Governor-General when he happened, as in the case of Lord Cornwallis, Lord Hastings, and Lord William Bentinck to be of the military profession. This precedent was for the first time neglected on the occasion of Sir Henry Hardinge’s appointment, and he was understood to have brought out with him only a dormant commission of Commander-in-chief, to be acted upon if the occasion should arise. After the battle of Moodkee, he placed his services at the disposal of the Commander-in-chief, and magnanimously took the post of second in command, an act well calculated to restore the confidence of our army which had been rudely shaken by the skill and valour displayed by the Sikhs, and the manifest deficiency of our tactics.
The army halted for two days at Moodkee to take repose and bury the dead, and was reinforced with two European and two native regiments, brought up by forced marches through the untiring energy of the Governor-General. He resolved that the army should advance to the attack of the entrenched camp of the Sikhs without the encumbrance of baggage, and it was left, together with the sick and wounded and the camp equipage, in the fort of Moodkee, guarded by a regiment and a-half. The force started
on the morning of the 21st for Ferozeshuhur, without provisions or tents. General Littler, who was duly advised of this movement by Sir Henry, was directed to join the army at the period of its arrival. He accordingly moved out early in the morning, leaving his camp pitched, his bazaar flags flying, his cavalry pickets standing, and a sufficient force to guard the fort, the entrenchment, and his female charge. He eluded the observation of Tej Sing, and reached the main force with 5,500 men and twenty-two guns a little before noon. The Sikh entrenchment was in the form of a parallelogram, around the village of Ferozeshuhur, about a mile in length and half a mile in breadth; the shorter sides looking towards the Sutlege and Moodkee; the longer towards Ferozepore and the plain on the east. The number of Sikh troops in the camp under the command of Lall Sing was estimated at 35,000, with 100 guns and 250 camel swivels. The batteries were mounted, not with ordinary field artillery, but with siege guns of heavy calibre, placed in position. The day was the shortest in the year, and with such a foe as the Sikhs had proved themselves to be, every moment was of inestimable value; but, after the junction of Sir John Littler, more than three hours and a-half were frittered away, and it was four in the afternoon before the first shot was fired. This delay, which entailed the most disastrous results, has never been accounted for, except by a reference to the general muddle which was visible in almost all the Sikh engagements. Sir Charles Napier, in his comments on the strategy of the day, maintained that the attack should have been made on the two sides which were not protected by the tremendous guns immovably planted in their position, but Sir Hugh Gough resolved to follow his usual practice of charging at once right up to the muzzle of the guns, and carrying the batteries by Cold steel. He himself held the command on the right; Sir Henry Hardinge in the centre, and Sir John Littler on the left. It fell to the lot of Sir John to attack the strongest section of the enemy’s positions, the western face, where they had gathered the iron strength of their heaviest
guns. He had brought twenty-two guns out of Ferozepore, but he derived no aid, or next to none, from them, and his troops advanced with the utmost gallantry up to the batteries, where they were arrested by an overwhelming fire. The 62nd foot, mowed down by grape and round shot, was checked and retired – beaten, but not in the eye of candour, disgraced, – leaving seventy-six of its brave men and seven of its gallant officers within fifty paces of the entrenchments. The other divisions encountered an equally terrific and unexpected resistance. To borrow the language of the historian of the Sikhs: “Guns were dismounted and the ammunition was blown into the air; squadrons were checked in mid career; battalion after battalion was hurled back with shattered ranks, and it was not until after sunset that portions of the enemy’s position were finally carried. Darkness, and the obstinacy of the contest, threw the English into confusion; men of all regiments and arms were mixed together; generals were doubtful of the fact or of the extent of their own success, and colonels knew not what had become of the regiments they commanded, or of the army of which they formed part.” General Littler’s repulsed division fell back to a village two miles to the west. Sir Harry Smith’s division penetrated to the heart of the camp and occupied the village of Ferozeshuhur, but the enemy brought so heavy a fire to bear on his battalions, that they were obliged at two in the morning to withdraw to a village two miles distant. The feat performed by the 3rd dragoons was both the most daring and the most useless of the engagement. Without any orders from the Commander-in-chief, they charged across the ditch while the battery in front mowed them down, till the yawning trench was choked up with their numbers, and those who followed crossed on a bridge of their own dead and dying comrades. This gallant band, after having silenced the battery in its front, faced the Khalsa army within the entrenchments, swept through the camp with loud huzzas over tents, ropes, pegs, guns, fires and magazines, and never paused till it emerged on the opposite side and
rejoined their companions. General Gilbert’s division, which was the strongest, after having captured the guns in position, was met by a storm of musketry, and obliged to retire as darkness set in, and bivouac on the edge of the Sikh encampment. With this division were the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief. During the night, which has justly been styled the “night of horrors,” the enemy’s expense magazines were ever and anon exploding; their camp was on fire in several places, but they did not cease to keep up a continuous discharge upon our soldiers. The Governor-General passed the night in moving from regiment to regiment, endeavouring to sustain the spirits and revive the ardour of the men; but, within three hundred yards of his position the great Sikh gun was dealing destruction on the recumbent and exhausted ranks, and it became indispensable to silence it. Soon after midnight he called up the 80th foot and the 1st Europeans lying around him on the frozen ground, and placing himself at their head, charged the gun and spiked it. It was with great truth that Sir Henry Hardinge remarked that another such engagement would shake the empire to its foundation.
It was suggested that the army should retire to Ferozepore, but Sir Henry strenuously opposed the movement. He felt that our political safety required the utter overthrow of the Sikh army, and he determined to renew the engagement the next morning, although there was but one weak division left for the work which had baffled the whole army the previous day. But in the Sikh encampment, though unknown to the English commanders, there had been stormy counsels and bitter recrimination, mutiny and desertion, and Lall Sing’s military chest had been plundered by his own troops. As day dawned, the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief collected the scattered soldiers of General Gilbert’s division, and advanced to assault the entrenchments. The opposition was feeble; the batteries were attacked in reverse and captured, and our troops swept down the whole length and rear of the enemy’s position with
little opposition. The legions which had defended this Roman encampment with Roman courage, were in full flight to the Sutlege through the cowardice, or the treachery, of Lall Sing. The British line, as soon as it had cleared the works, halted on the northern face, and the two commanders were received with grateful acclamations as they rode along the ranks. The cheers had scarcely subsided when a cloud of dust announced the approach of a new enemy. This was Tej Sing, who, on finding that Sir John Littler had eluded his vigilance, marched down towards Ferozeshuhur, on the morning of the 22nd, with 20,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and 70 guns. He found that the entrenched camp at Ferozeshuhur had been lost, that its powerful batteries, with all the munitions of war and the standards, were in the hands of the British, and that the Sikh army was in full retreat to the river. But he did not know that the British troops were drooping from hunger, having tasted no food for thirty-six hours, that their ammunition was completely exhausted, and that if vigorously attacked by his fresh battalions and his splendid artillery, no exhibition of the most brilliant courage could have saved them from destruction. After a brief cannonade, which at once dismounted our artillery, he withdrew with his whole force to the Sutlege; and the British empire in India was again saved by a miracle.
The battle of Ferozeshuhur was the most severe and critical we had ever fought in India. Never before had we encountered so resolute or skilful an enemy, and if our ranks had been composed only of sepoys, the empire might have passed away. The casualties on our side amounted to 2,415, including a hundred and three officers, and, although an effort was made to extenuate this loss by a reference to engagements in Europe even more sanguinary, it was impossible to evade the conclusion, that with more skilful strategy, no small portion of it might have been avoided. It was the defect of our tactics, and the deficiency of our ammunition, quite as much as the military ardour and courage of the Sikhs, which for a time gave a character of equality to the
struggle. As second in command the Governor-General could not, without going to extremities, issue or enforce orders, he could only suggest his wishes. He had five aides-de-camp killed and five wounded, and the only officer on his staff who escaped was his youngest son, Arthur, who fought by his side throughout the action. In this melancholy engagement fell the noble Broadfoot, and the chivalrous Somerset, who had been severely wounded at Maharajpore, and, after fighting at Ferozeshuhur with the hereditary gallantry of his race, fell covered with wounds. There, too, perished the amiable Major D’Arcy Todd, the former minister at Herat, who went into action with a mournful presentiment that he should not survive it, and Colonel Taylor, who had fought in America and Burmah, had assisted in forcing the Khyber, and won fresh laurels at Istaliff. Prince Waldemar of Prussia, who had been making the tour of the Himalayas, joined the Governor-General’s camp with his medical attendant, Dr. Hoffmeister, who was killed, and Counts Greuber and Oriolo; and the grandson of Frederick the Second, at the distance of half the globe from his native land, took an active share in a battle as fiercely contested as that of Rosbach. The extraordinary carnage of the day has led to the enquiry, why the action was not deferred till the morrow, but it has been recorded by officers of the soundest judgment, that, considering the plan of the campaign, it could not have been safely postponed on military grounds. It was of the first importance to bring on an engagement before the junction of the two Sikh forces. The condition of the British army, moreover, would not have been improved by a bivouac during a night of bitter cold, without food, water, or shelter, Besides, it is by no means certain that, even if the battle had been delayed till the morrow, the same strategy would not have been adopted of throwing the battalions on entrenchments bristling with cannon, and served by the best native artillerymen in India, and the increase of the enemy’s force would, in that case, only have served to increase the slaughter.
The tide of invasion had thus been stemmed. Of the 60,000 Khalsa soldiers who had poured down on our territories twelve days before, not one remained in arms on the left bank of the Sutlege; but in the battles of Moodkee and Ferozeshuhur, our army had lost a fifth of its number, and exhausted its ammunition. Hence it became necessary to order up a full supply of military stores of every description, and a large armament of siege guns from the nearest depot, which unfortunately happened to be more than two hundred miles distant, at Delhi. While this heavy convoy was slowly wending its way up to the banks of the Sutlege, the British army was condemned to a period of inactivity, between the fords of Ferozepore and Hurreekee. This delay in following up the success of the army, was naturally attributed by the Sikhs to fear. Towards the end of January Runjoor Sing crossed the river in force, and threatened the station of Loodiana, from which Sir Henry Hardinge had withdrawn the division for the protection of Bussean, and Sir Harry Smith was sent with four regiments of infantry, three of cavalry, and eighteen guns, to cover that station. On the night of the 20th January, he received information that Runjoor Sing had suddenly broken up his camp on the river, and marched down to Buddowal, a village lying between Loodiana and the force advancing to relieve it. Sir Harry made no change in the order of his march, because he mistrusted the intelligence, and also, because he expected the garrison of Loodiana to advance and meet him on the route he had fixed upon. If he had listened to the earnest advice of his experienced officers, he would have avoided the disaster which befell him. Runjoor Sing, though described by the most shrewd observer of the Lahore chiefs as “an ass of that order of mind which experience could not improve,” still contrived to envelope and completely to outflank the whole British force by the numerical superiority of his battalions and his artillery; and it was only through the admirable handling of the cavalry by Brigadier Cureton, that the division was saved from a fatal reverse.
The greater portion of the baggage, however, fell into the hands of the Sikhs, and some prisoners, and artillery store carts, were conveyed in triumph to Loodiana.
This disaster gave fresh confidence to the enemy, and it was deemed necessary to clear the left bank of the Sutlege of their troops, and prevent an attack by Runjoor Sing on the long convoy coming up from Delhi. He was reinforced by 4,000 regular troops and twelve guns, and fell back to a position at Aliwall on the Sutlege. General Smith’s force was likewise augmented to 11,000 men, and he was urged by the Governor-General to lose no time in attacking the enemy. The village was feebly defended by some battalions of hill men, who took to flight, with Runjoor Sing at their head, after firing a few rounds. But the British troops met with a stern resistance from the Khalsa soldiers posted on their right, men of true Sikh blood and metal, who stood their ground with unflinching courage, and it was not till their ranks had been thrice pierced by Cureton’s cavalry that they became disorganized, and retreated to the river, in which no small number of them met a watery grave, leaving sixty-seven guns as trophies in the hands of the victors. The renown which Sir Harry Smith had lost at Buddowal was recovered and heightened by this decisive victory at Aliwall. This reverse disheartened the Sikh ministers and induced them to commence negotiations. The utter incapacity of Lall Sing had become obvious throughout the campaign, and Golab Sing was invited from Jummoo, to take a share in the public councils, and to accept the office of minister. He immediately opened communications with the Governor-General, who informed him that he was prepared to acknowledge a Sikh sovereignty at Lahore, but not till the Khalsa army had been disbanded. Golab Sing replied with great truth that it was beyond his power to control the movements of the troops, who still continued to domineer over the public authorities of the state. It has been asserted that these communications resulted in an understanding that, for a suitable consideration, the Sikh
army, when attacked by the English battalions, should be deserted by its own chiefs, and that the way to the capital should thus be left open. The truth of this assertion, which was an article of faith in the camp, has never been distinctly substantiated, but it was strongly corroborated by the conduct of the Sikh generals in the subsequent engagement, and it was strengthened in no small degree by the harsh measure of removing from his political employment the accomplished historian of the Sikhs, who was the first to announce it in print.
While the British army was awaiting the arrival of the train from Delhi, and watching the operations of the Sikhs at the ford of Hureekee, they were diligently employed in transporting their force across the Sutlege at that point. With the natural ingenuity of a military people, and, as it was affirmed, with the aid of a Spanish and a French officer, they erected one of the strongest works against which troops had ever been led in India. It consisted of a series of semicircular entrenchments, with the river for their base and the outer line of which, two miles and a-half in circumference from the eastern to the western point, was surrounded with a deep ditch. The ramparts were defended by sixty-seven pieces of heavy ordnance, and 35,000 Khalsa soldiers. A bridge of boats united this encampment with another across the river, where heavy guns had also been planted which completely swept the left bank. These formidable bulwarks were erected in the presence of an inactive British force, burning with impatience to be led against the enemy, who continued from day to day to bid them defiance, by appearing on the plain and exhibiting the evolutions of their splendid horse artillery. At length, after a delay of seven weeks, the long and imposing train of heavy ordnance drawn by stately elephants, together with the munitions of war, marched into the camp on the 8th February, and raised the drooping spirits of the men, European and native. The brigade which had been detached under General Smith to
Loodiana rejoined the camp, and made up the British force to 15,000 men, of whom 5,000 were Europeans. The following day was employed in making arrangements for the assault. It was at once perceived that if an entrance could be effected into either end of the entrenchment where it rested on the river, the whole of the guns along the outer line would be taken in reverse and rendered useless. It was affirmed that Lall Sing treacherously informed the Governor-General that the western corner was the weakest of the Sikh entrenchments, and it was in consequence of this disclosure that the main attack was directed to this point by the division under General Dick. The centre division, under General Gilbert, and the right division, under General Sir Harry Smith, were directed to make feint attacks to divert the attention of the enemy from the real assault. Brigadier Cureton with his cavalry was appointed to watch the Sikh horse under Lall Sing. The whole of the heavy ordnance was planted in masses on some of the more commanding points opposite the Sikh entrenchments. A dense fog at dawn of the 10th enabled the Commander-in-chief to make his dispositions unnoticed by the enemy. The fog rolled up like a curtain at seven in the morning, and the great guns opened on the encampment, which was under the command of Tej Sing. The Sikhs, nothing daunted, answered flash for flash from their powerful ordnance, and the rays of the sun scarcely pierced the sulphurous smoke which filled the atmosphere. At nine, before the cannonade had made any impression on the enemy’s position, the British ammunition began to run short, and Sir Hugh Gough discovered that it was visionary to expect that his guns could, within any limited time, silence the fire of seventy pieces, behind well-constructed batteries of earth, planks, and fascines, or dislodge troops covered by redoubts, or epaulments, or within a treble line of trenches. After having waited for these guns for seven weeks, it was found that they were of little avail for the success of the day, and it became evident that the issue of the struggle must be
left to the arbitrament of musketry and the bayonet. Accordingly Colonel Lane’s horse artillery galloped up and delivered their fire within 300 yards of the batteries, and Sir Robert Dick’s division moved up to the attack in admirable order, charged home with the bayonet, leaped the ditch, and mounted the rampart. The Sikhs instantly perceived that this was to be the principal point of attack, and, slackening the defence of the entrenchments opposed to the other divisions, concentrated their attention on this contest. More guns in the interior of the Sikh encampment were turned on the assailants, who were also met by a hand to hand fight, and repeatedly staggered. Fresh regiments were sent up by the British commanders to their aid, but they recoiled in confusion from the deadly fire of the Sikhs, and it became necessary to order the two other divisions to make a simultaneous assault on the batteries before them. This was no sooner perceived by the enemy than they returned tumultuously to the posts they had quitted, and from every foot of the entrenchments poured on both divisions a withering fire of grape, round shot, and musketry. The gallant charge made by General Gilbert’s division on the centre batteries was one of the most memorable feats in the campaign. His men, of whom 689 were killed and wounded in the course of half an hour, were more than once driven back, but their indomitable courage at length mastered the enemy’s ramparts. Scarcely less sanguinary were the charges repeatedly made by General Smith’s division. The Sikh entrenchment was at length pierced in three directions, and the soldiers, when they could no longer fire, drew their swords and were bayoneted by the side of the guns they had so nobly served. Tej Sing, instead of endeavouring to rally his troops, was among the first to fly, and, either by accident or by design, broke the bridge; but the veteran chief Sham Sing had resolved not to survive a defeat, and, clothing himself in the garments of martyrdom, called on all around him to fight manfully for the Gooroo, rallied his shattered ranks, and rushed on the British bayonets,
where he found the death he sought, over a heap of his slain countrymen. The Sikh troops, pressed on three sides into a confused mass, still continued to contest every inch of ground till they were forced to the bridge, which they found broken, and, preferring death to surrender, plunged into the stream. Unfortunately for them it had risen during the night, and flooded the ford, and they perished by hundreds in the attempt to cross. By the forethought of the Governor-General the horse artillery had been brought up during the action and planted along the river, and its cannonade completed the destruction of the enemy. The confusion, dismay, and carnage were such as had not been seen in India since the field of Paniput. The loss on the side of the Sikhs was estimated at 8,000, and the whole of their encampment, with all their artillery, their standards, and vast munitions of war fell to the victors. The loss on our side was 2,383, but the victory was complete. By eleven in the morning not an unwounded Sikh was left on the British bank of the Sutlege. The conquerors, as they beheld the trenches filled with the bodies of their iron-hearted defenders, and the fords of the Sutlege choked up with thousands of corpses, and the river itself exhibiting in every direction the wreck of a great army, did not fail to pay a tribute of admiration to the gallantry and the devotedness of the noble Khalsa army.
Major Abbott, a distinguished officer of engineers, had been employed night and day in constructing a bridge with the boats which Lord Ellenborough had built in Sinde, and Sir Henry Hardinge had brought up to Ferozepore, and it was completed the night before the battle. Sir Henry Hardinge, though suffering from a serious injury occasioned by a fall from his horse, had been actively engaged on the field. He quitted it immediately after the victory was complete, and rode twenty-six miles to Ferozepore, to hasten the passage of the troops, and that same night six regiments bivouacked in the Punjab. Three days after the action, the whole army, which, including camp
followers, counted 100,000 men and 68,000 animals and forty pieces of artillery, was enabled, through the admirable arrangements of Major Abbott, to cross the river without a single casualty. Two days before the engagement several vakeels arrived from Lahore, and solicited an audience of the Governor-General, but were informed that they would not be received till it had been fought. They made their appearance again on the 11th, bringing with them as a peace offering the European prisoners and a gig captured at Buddowal. They were dismissed with a friendly message to the durbar, which brought raja Golab Sing and two of the ministers to the encampment on the 15th, empowered on the part of the Maharaja Duleep Sing to agree to any terms the Governor-General might think fit to dictate. They were received as the representatives of an offending Government, without the usual forms and ceremonies, and their complimentary offerings were refused. On the 17th, Duleep Sing himself came into the camp, and having made his submission, was dismissed with honour. During these negotiations, the army continued to advance to the capital, and on the 20th was encamped on the plain of Meean Meer. The conquerors were now in possession of the metropolis of those who had wantonly invaded their territories, but Sir Henry Hardinge was determined to repress every outrage, and issued an order strictly forbidding any soldier to enter the city, even from motives of curiosity. The only humiliation to which the Sikhs were subjected was the occupation of the citadel of their pride by a garrison of British troops.
The future destiny of the Punjab then came up for consideration. The issue of the war had placed it unequivocally at the disposal of the British Government, and Sir Henry Hardinge might have incorporated it with the Company’s dominions upon every principle of justice and equity, and with the full concurrence of all the princes of India. But he had neither the means nor the desire of annexation. Sir Charles Napier was, indeed, at the time prepared to march up from Sinde with 16,000 men and fifty guns, but
Sir Hugh Gough’s army was essentially weak. Our strength in India consists in the number and efficiency of the European troops we are able to bring into the field, and the four battles had reduced this European force to barely 3,000 men. The morale of the army was low; the season of heat and prostration was approaching, and it was not easy to see how the army with its endless followers could have been sheltered and fed during the period when the climate reduced it to a state of inaction. After the battle of Sobraon, the Sikh army still mustered 14,000 strong, with forty pieces of cannon. Upon a careful consideration of all circumstances, Sir Henry Hardinge resolved, and not unwisely, to avoid encumbering his administration with the government of the Punjab. He considered it necessary to punish the Sikh nation for past offences and to prevent the recurrence of aggression, but he was anxious to perform these duties without suppressing its political existence. Immediately after the Sikh army invaded our territory he had issued a proclamation confiscating the Cis-Sutlege possessions of the Lahore crown, and he now annexed the Jullunder dooab, or district lying between the Sutlege and the Beeas, to the Company’s dominions, by which he obtained security for our hill stations, and a position which gave us the control of the Sikh capital. The expenses of the campaign were computed at a crore and a-half of rupees, which the Lahore state was required to make good, but the profligacy of the ministers and the rapacity of the soldiery had exhausted the treasury, and of the twelve crores which Runjeet Sing left in it., there remained scarcely fifty lacs of rupees to meet the demand. Sir Henry determined, therefore, to take over the province of Cashmere and the highlands of Jummoo in lieu of the remaining crore. Since the death of Runjeet Sing, the powerful raja of Jummoo, Golab Sing, had always cherished the hope of being able, by some happy turn of circumstances, to convert his principality into an independent sovereignty. During the recent contest he had played the part of an interested neutral, watching the issue of the contest
and prepared to side with the strongest. When called to assume the office of minister at Lahore he negotiated with the Governor-General as much for his own interests, as for those of the state. There could be little doubt that a clear understanding regarding his possessions existed between him and the British Government, and hence it created no surprise when he stepped forward and offered to pay down the crore of rupees on condition of being constituted the independent raja of Cashmere and Jummoo. The sovereignty of those provinces was accordingly sold to him, but it must not be forgotten that he received only an indefeasible title to that which he actually possessed at the time. By this stroke of policy, Sir Henry Hardinge obtained funds to cover the expenses of the war, and planted on the northern division of the Punjab an independent Rajpoot chief between whom and the Sikhs there was a feeling of irreconcilable discord. Tej Sing on hearing of the disposal of Cashmere, offered twenty-five lacs of rupees for another province and princely crown, but was sharply rebuked for his presumption.
The treaty of the 9th March, in which the settlement of the Punjab was embodied, also provided that the troops of the Lahore state should be paid up and disbanded, and that the regular Sikh army should be completely reorganized, and limited in future to 20,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry and that all the guns, thirty-six in number, which had been pointed against the British force should be surrendered. The troops who had so nobly confronted us in four actions were drawn up and discharged, and their manly deportment gave additional lustre to their valour. They alluded to their discomfiture as the chance of war, and dwelt with unabated confidence on the future destiny of the Khalsa. Within forty-eight hours of the signature of the treaty, the durbar importuned the Governor-General to lend a British force for the security of the Maharaja and his capital until the reconstruction of the Government was complete, and he consented, at length, to leave a sufficient force until the close of the year, but
with the positive assurance that it would not be permitted to remain longer. The first Sikh war thus terminated in the dissolution of the Khalsa army and the dismemberment of the Punjab; but India doubted our success. After the independence of every other kingdom had been successively extinguished, the natives still fixed their eyes with a feeling of hope on the new and powerful state which Runjeet Sing had built up in the Punjab, and cherished the belief that a native monarchy had at length been erected on the banks of the Sutlege, the cradle of Hindoo power, destined to re-establish Hindoo supremacy throughout India. The indecisive character of the actions at Moodkee and Ferozeshuhur, combined with the subsequent inactivity of the army, served to strengthen this opinion, and the report of our decisive success at Aliwall and Sobraon was received with feelings of mistrust. Sir Henry Hardinge deemed it important to remove this impression from the native mind, and to demonstrate that the power of Runjeet Sing’s kingdom was completely broken, and the last hope of a Hindoo sovereignty dissipated.
A grand procession was accordingly formed of two hundred and fifty of the cannon captured from the Sikhs, which marched from Lahore to Calcutta with every demonstration of military pomp. It was received at every station and cantonment on the route with great distinction by all the public functionaries. Its arrival in Calcutta was celebrated by a magnificent ceremonial in which the Deputy-Governor, Sir Herbert Maddock, and the whole staff of Government, and all the battalions within reach, took a part, and the report of it was transmitted to every durbar in Hindostan and the Deccan. The announcement of four battles fought in fifty-four days to repel an unprovoked assault on our territories, produced an extraordinary sensation in England. Even those who invariably professed a virtuous indignation on every recurrence of war or conquest in India, and attributed it to the ambition and rapacity of our countrymen, were constrained to admit that on this occasion, the question of peace or war
did not depend on the will of Government. The thanks of Parliament were moved to Sir Henry Hardinge, to Sir Hugh Gough, and to their brave companions, by Sir Robert Peel in the Commons, and by the Duke of Wellington in the Lords, in speeches which enhanced the value of the honour. The Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief were elevated to the peerage, and a baronetcy was conferred on the victor of Aliwall. To all the troops engaged in the campaign, Sir Henry Hardinge granted twelve months full batta, without waiting for permission from home.
Major Lawrence was selected by Lord Hardinge as the British representative at Lahore, and raja Lall Sing, the paramour of the ranee, the Orloff of the Punjab, was appointed prime minister. He was a man of low extraction, and handsome appearance, but without talent either for civil or military affairs, and his administration, which was very venal and oppressive, made him obnoxious to the people, and more especially to the chiefs. Towards the British Government he acted with singular treachery. Soon after the raja Golab Sing had taken possession of his new kingdom of Cashmere, a formidable opposition was organized against his authority by Imam-ood-deen. Major Lawrence felt the importance of extinguishing the first spark of resistance with the utmost promptitude, before it burst into a flame, and he proceeded in haste towards Cashmere with a large force, notwithstanding the risk of being blocked up by the snows of the approaching winter. “It was an extraordinary spectacle,” as remarked at the time, “to witness half a dozen European foreigners taking up a lately subdued mutinous soldiery, through one of the most difficult countries in the world, to put the chief, formerly their commander, new in their minds a rebel, in possession of the brightest gem of their land.” The energy and promptitude of this movement ensured its success. The refractory Imam-ood-deen made his submission, and then produced the written orders of Lall Sing for his contumacious proceedings. Lord Hardinge immediately directed a commission
of European officers to investigate the conduct of the minister, in the presence of sixty-five Sikh chiefs. The charge of treachery was fully substantiated; he was deposed from his office, and in spite of the remonstrances and tears of the ranee, conveyed to the British territories, and consigned to oblivion on a pension of 2,000 rupees a-month. As the period which Lord Hardinge had fixed for the retirement of the British garrison from the Punjab approached, the durbar and the most influential chiefs assured him that without this support, it would be impossible to carry on the government, or prevent the restoration of Khalsa supremacy. Lord Hardinge yielded with great reluctance to their importunity. Fifty-two chiefs assembled at the durbar tent of the Resident and discussed the articles of agreement which they themselves had assisted in drawing up, in conjunction with Mr. Currie, and on the 16th December, 1846, affixed their signatures and seals to the new treaty. It provided that a council of regency, composed of eight of the leading chiefs should be appointed to act under the control and guidance of the British Resident, who was to exercise unlimited influence in all matters of internal administration and external policy. A British force was to be stationed in the various forts and stations throughout the country, for the maintenance of which the sum of twenty-two lacs of rupees a-year was to be appropriated from the revenues of the state. The arrangement was to continue for eight years, till the Maharaja Duleep Sing attained his majority. By this treaty a much larger share of authority was conferred on the Resident than had been assumed in any of the states to which the British Government had extended its protection, and Major Lawrence, an officer of the Company’s artillery, became, in effect, the successor of Runjeet Sing.
In the course of thirty-six months, the three independent armies of Sinde, Gwalior and Lahore, numbering 120,000 soldiers, had been extinguished, and all their artillery, which formed their chief strength, captured. The time appeared now to have arrived when the strength of
our own army could be regulated without any reference to the hostility of the native powers. For eight years we had been incessantly engaged in war, or in preparations for it, and the armies of the three Presidencies had been augmented since October, 1838, to the extent of 120,000 men. The pressure on the finances of the empire had been proportionately severe, and the expenditure at this time exceeded the income by a crore and a-half of rupees a-year. Lord Hardinge had been obliged to open a new loan in October, 1846, but, after the satisfactory settlement of the Punjab in December, he considered himself justified in reducing the military force and, with it, the public expenditure. Happily, his long military experience, both in the field and as Secretary at War in the cabinet, enabled him to carry out the principle of reduction with great boldness, and at the same time with the least possible detriment to the efficiency of the public service. The police battalions were, accordingly, disbanded, and the rank and file of the army reduced to the extent of 50,000 men, leaving the number of officers, European and native, undiminished. In the recent actions on the Sutlege it was found that we had not more than 4,500 sabres opposed to more than 20,000 of the enemy, and Lord Hardinge rectified this deficiency by augmenting the irregular branch of the cavalry. These reductions resulted in a saving of a crore and a hundred and fifty lacs of rupees a-year. The revenue of the Sikh provinces on both sides the Sutlege which he had annexed was calculated at some forty lacs of rupees a-year, and, combined with the subsidy of twenty-two lacs from the Lahore state, restored the equilibrium of the finances. Nor should it be forgotten that in all Lord Hardinge’s efforts to bring the expenditure within the income, there was no curtailment of individual salaries. Notwithstanding these reductions, the security of the north-west frontier was fully provided for by the allotment of 54,000 men and 120 guns to Meerut and the stations above it. The precautionary measures adopted by Lord Hardinge for the safety of the Punjab, manifested equal foresight and vigour.
He did not expect that a country teeming with disbanded soldiers, the bravest and most haughty in India, who had been nurtured in victory and conquest, and pampered with seven years of military licence, would be as free from disturbance, as a district in Bengal. To provide for the prompt suppression of any insurrectionary movements which might arise, he organized three moveable brigades, complete in carriage and equipment, each of which consisted of one European corps, three regiments of native infantry and one of cavalry, with twelve guns, chiefly of European horse artillery. They were held in readiness at Lahore, Jullunder and Ferozepore, to take the field at the shortest notice.
The magnificent canals constructed by the Mogul emperors in the north-west provinces were among the most important of their undertakings, but they became practically extinct with the decay of the empire, and by the middle of the last century had ceased to be of any utility. The efforts made by the British Government to restore these invaluable works originated with Lord Hastings, and the zeal and earnestness with which they were carried on, formed one of the most distinctive features of his administration. Before he resigned his office he had the satisfaction of learning that, through the scientific exertions of Lieutenant Blane, to whom he had entrusted the undertaking, one of the most important of the canals had re-entered the city of Delhi, after an intermission of more than half a century. These labours were continued without relaxation under his successors, and a sum exceeding half a crore of rupees was devoted to the restoration and maintenance of the ancient canals. Such works have always been found remunerative in India, and the whole of this amount, with a trifling exception, was returned to the treasury in the augmented revenue derived from the irrigation of 800,000 acres, the annual produce of which was estimated at two crores and a-half of rupees. The superintendence of the canals at length devolved on Colonel Colvin, one of the most distinguished officers of one of the most renowned corps of the Company’s service, the Bengal engineers.
Down to this period the labours of the British Government has been directed to the restoration of the decayed canals of the preceding dynasty; but it was now determined to undertake the construction of an original work, far exceeding in magnitude and utility any enterprise of the kind which had ever been contemplated in India. This was the Ganges canal, designed to fertilize the fields of the Dooab lying between that stream and the Jumna. Lord Auckland was traversing this province in 1837, on his way to Simla, when it was desolated by the great famine, which was estimated to have swept away a million of the inhabitants, and to have cost the state half a million sterling. The smiling aspect, during this calamity, of the districts which had enjoyed the benefit of irrigation from the restored Mogul canals gave great weight to the proposal of Captain Cautley, who had succeeded Colonel Colvin, to construct a canal, and at an interview with Lord Auckland in the following year he was authorized to undertake a thorough examination of the low tract of country lying near the Ganges. The duty was entrusted entirely to his agency. He commenced his labours in December, 1839, and completed the whole of the survey, with the designs of the project, the plans, the estimates, and calculations, with no other aid than that of a young infantry officer, who joined him at the close of the final survey in 1844. His first report was submitted in May 1840, and transmitted to the Court of Directors, who, in a spirit of liberality worthy the greatness of their trust, adopted the plan, extended it beyond the limits which the Indian authorities had ventured to propose, and on the recommendation of Lord Auckland presented Captain Cautley with the sum of 6000 rupees, “in consideration of the great importance of the work which he had projected, and the zeal and ability displayed by him in his plans and report.” With this encouragement from home, Lord Auckland prosecuted the work with the utmost vigour, but Lord Ellenborough on his arrival suspended all operations, and one uncovenanted assistant was alone left on the works. The original design was at the same time materially modified, and it was proposed to make
the canal primarily a channel of navigation – though there was a river on each side of it – and only, in the second instance, a work of irrigation. A report was called for on the subject; this preposterous plan was rejected, and the canal was restored to its original object. The consideration of this question fell to the lot of Lord Hardinge, and in March, 1847, he visited the head of the canal, and examined its most important feature, the Solani aqueduct, after which he directed that the work should be pushed forward with the utmost activity, and that funds should be supplied without reserve.
The attention of Lord Hardinge during his tenure of office was chiefly occupied in the reduction of the great Khalsa armament, in the construction of a new system of government in the Punjab, in the reorganization of our own army, and the restoration of the finances. These important duties were sufficient to absorb the time of an administration which was limited to forty-two months; but, like Lord Hastings, Lord Hardinge was accustomed to be at his desk an hour or two before dawn, and he was enabled to create leisure for other labours connected with the material and social improvement of the country. He gave a great impulse at an important crisis to the project of Indian railways, then in the struggles of infancy. In October, 1846, he prohibited Sunday labour on all the Government establishments, and gave our Hindoo and Mohamedan subjects a proof of our respect for the principles of our creed. Lord William Bentinck had abolished suttees throughout the British dominions, but they were still perpetrated in the native states, and on the death of the raja of Mundee, a petty independent chief in the neighbourhood of the Governor-General’s residence at Simla, no fewer than twelve women were burnt alive on his funeral pile. Lord Hardinge employed the influence of our paramount authority, to induce the independent native princes to abolish, not only female immolation, but female infanticide, and slavery, within their territories, and, before his departure from India, he had the satisfaction of
receiving written assurances from twenty-four of the princes and princesses of India, including the raja Golab Sing, of Cashmere, that they had made the most strenuous and successful efforts to meet his wishes, and would not relax them; and a suttee in any native state is now considered as incredible as a duel in England. The distribution of his patronage was regulated by an exclusive regard to the public interests, and he was as free from the suspicion of nepotism as Lord Ellenborough himself. The selection he made for important offices did no little credit to his discernment. Among the most eminent of the public servants whom he was instrumental in bringing forward, may be mentioned Mr. – afterwards Sir Henry – Elliott, a highly distinguished oriental scholar, and an able secretary, who was cut off before he had reached the maturity of his fame; Colonel Grant, whom he selected for the Adjutant-Generalship, and who has won his way to the Governorship of Malta; and the present Governor-General, whose merits he was the first to discover. Lord Hardinge secured the confidence of society in India, as he had done in England, by his sterling sense, and by the rare combination of a kind and conciliatory disposition with decision of character and vigour of discipline. It was felt on both sides the Cape, that in his hands the empire was safe, and that a spirit of improvement pervaded all his purposes. He left Calcutta on the 15th March, 1848, with the conviction that it would not be necessary to fire another shot in India for seven years. The prospect of continued tranquillity appeared equally certain to all the public writers of the day; yet, so impossible is it to forecast the future in India, that before the end of a twelvemonth, the Punjab had revolted and been re-conquered, and had become a British province.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage