The Peishwa proceeds to Punderpoor – pretended reduction V his military establishment – Poona auxiliary force – Sir John Malcolm political agent of the governor-general, arrives at Poona – interview with the Peishwa at Maholy is deceived by Bajee Rao – system recommended in consequence Advance V the divisions of the Deccan army – Peishwa’s proceedings at Maholy – invests Bappoo Gokla with full powers – plan for corrupting the troops – fidelity of the Sepoys – murder of the resident prevented by Gokla – Festival of the Dussera – alarming appearances at Poona – Peishwa hesitates – arrival of the European regiment – British troops take up a new position – are suddenly attacked by the Peishwa’s army – battle of Khirkee – residency plundered and burnt – violent proceedings of the Peishwa – remonstrances – Interview between the resident’s moonshee and Gokla – General Smith returns to Poona – flight of the Peishwa – Poona is occupied – pursuit of the Peishwa – defence of Korygaom – The Peishwa continues his flight – pursuit taken up by General Pritzler – resumed by General Smith – Mr Elphinstone is appointed commissioner, and two divisions of the army of the Deccan placed at his disposal – Capture of Satara – The Satara proclamation – new distribution of the force – General Smith surprises the Peishwa’s army at Ashtah – death Vz Gokla – rescue of the Raja of Satara – Affairs of Nagpoor – treacherous attack on the British troops – Battle of Seetabuldee – arrival of General Doveton – Appa Sahib surrenders himself – his guns are stormed and taken – attack on Nagpoor repulsed – Arabs capitulate – operations of General Hardyman and reduction of the northern districts – Appa Sahib is reinstated – Revert to affairs in Malwa and Hindoostan
In the month of July, is soon as the arrangements resulting from the treaty of Poona were put in a train of adjustment, the Peishwa left his capital, and proceeded on his annual pilgrimage to the temples of Punderpoor, unaccompanied by the resident; which, promised to have a good effect, in marking the restoration of confidence on the part of the British government. He immediately reduced his military establishment, chiefly his cavalry; but it was subsequently discovered, that he had given every Sillidar seven months’ pay, with orders to remain at his village, and to hold himself in readiness to return when called upon, with as many of his friends as he could collect.
The regular battalions raised by the Peishwa, were transferred as part of the contingent, which was placed under the direction of the British government, and now termed the Poona auxiliary force; but at Bajee Rao’s particular request, that he might be able to confer the command on Captain Ford, one of the, battalions was to be retained in his own pay, and in lieu of it a new corps was to be recruited. Every exertion was made to raise the stipulated number of horse; but the Peishwa’s emissaries opposed the recruiting by every means they could devise. From Punderpoor, the Peishwa, instead of returning to Poona, proceeded to Maholy, a village near Satara, and a Sacred place, at the junction of the Yena and Kistna. During his stay there, Sir John Malcolm arrived at Poona, having, on his appointment as
political agent to the governor-general, with his usual great activity, visited all the native courts in the Deccan, for the purpose of consulting with the residents, previously to entering on the scene of operations in Malwa; and the Peishwa, on hearing of his arrival, invited him to a conference at Maholy.
In the course of conversation, the Peishwa complained much of the degraded state in which he was left by the late treaty, lamented the loss of that friendship which had hitherto been only productive of benefit; but enlarged on the gratitude which he felt, and must ever feel, for the protection and support he had experienced from the British government. Sir John Malcolm endeavoured to soothe him, explained in a general manner the plans of the Marquis of Hastings for the suppression of the Pindharees, and strongly recommended him to adopt a line of policy calculated to assure the British government of his sincere desire to promote the alliance, and secure its friendship: – that the restoration of what was already forfeited, he must not expect, but by pursuing the course now recommended, and aiding the operations with his utmost means, he might rely on the justice and liberality of the governor-general, for obtaining considerable acquisitions as a recompense for the fidelity of which he boasted, and which he might now display. The Peishwa’s professions were most cordial, and communicated, as usual, with so great an appearance of candour and good sense, that Sir John Malcolm was completely deceived, and returned to Poona, in the full conviction that
Bajee Rao would now heartily engage in the British cause; and that by encouraging him to raise troops, and treating him with perfect confidence, he would prove a faithful ally. Mr. Elphinstone, though he expressed his opinions, would not oppose the liberal system recommended by Sir John Malcolm; but lie contemplated and foretold a different result, especially on considering the tempting opportunity which would be afforded, by the advance of General Smith’s division to the frontier, and the exposed state of the handful of troops at Poona.
The forts of Singurh, Raigurh, and Poorundhur, were restored to the Peishwa during the month of August. The excessive heavy rains of this season, prolonged to an unusually late date, delayed the advance of the whole Deccan army. Brigadier-General Smith had transported his division across the Ghore by the 9th October, and by the 20th, occupied convenient positions close to the Chandore range of hills, with a view of advancing into Candeish, as soon as it should appear requisite. A battalion of light infantry, with some auxiliary horse were left between Seroor and Ahmednugur; one auxiliary battalion was stationed for the protection of the Seroor cantonment, and the Peishwa’s own corps, consisting of from four to five hundred men, remained at Dhapooree, in its first cantonment, a few miles to the north-west of Poona. The Company’s European regiment from Bombay was to be held in readiness to join the brigade at Poona about the end of October.
The Peishwa did not return to his capital until the end of September. During his stay at Maholy,
he was most actively engaged in those schemes he had long meditated against the British government; but by the advice of Bappoo Gokla, he had determined on changing his plans of covert hostility to an open attack, as soon as he should be prepared. The recommendation of Sir John Malcolm to recruit his army, for the purpose of aiding in the Pindharee war, afforded an excellent cloak to his designs. Gokla was now was leader of all his measures, and Bajee Rao was induced to give him a formal writing under his own seal, which he confirmed on oath, binding himself to be implicitly directed by his counsel, and investing him with the full powers of his government. This measure seems to have been adopted, not merely as a security to Gokla, but as a means of allaying the mistrust which the Sillidars entertained towards Bajee Rao, and was the condition on which several of the jagheerdars pledged themselves to stand by him. This circumstance, though reported in the country, was not fully ascertained until after the commencement of hostilities. Bappoo Gokla received ten millions of rupees, nearly a million sterling, to assist in the expense of preparation. From the time of his first determination to break with the English, Bajee Rao restored the lands of many of his jagheerdars, and, for several years, had been endeavouring to render himself more popular with all classes of his subjects. He unfolded his intention, Of going to Wit with the English, to the Raja of Satara; and, whilst he exacted from him and his mother an oath of secrecy and support, he sent theta and all their family into strict confinement in
Wassota. His recruiting went forward with remarkable activity; – his forth also were garrisoned; stored, and repaired; and orders were issued to prepare his fleet. Many Bheels and Ramoosees were engaged in his interest by Trimbukjee Dainglia; and special missions were despatched to Nagpoor, and the camps of Sindia, Holkar; and Umeer Khan; but the schemes which he personally directed were the seduction of the native troops, and the assassination of the resident. His plan of corrupting the troops extended even to the European officers; and the agent employed for the latter purpose, was Jeswunt Rao Ghorepuray who for many years had resided at Poona, was intimately acquainted with many of the officers, and since the treaty of Surjee Angengaom, had received a pension of 1000 rupees a month from the British government161. Jeswunt Rao had experienced much kindness from Mr. Elphinstone; but, at this period, in consequence of some petty intrigues, in which he had made an improper use of his name, the resident was obliged to treat him with unusual reserve. Bajee Rao; therefore, judging the opportunity
favourable, sent for Jeswunt Rao, and after many promises, exacted an oath of secrecy, and communicated the plan for corrupting the European officers; a commission which Jeswunt Rao, although he well knew its futility, like a true Mahratta, readily undertook, upon receiving an advance of 50,000 rupees. So far he kept his oath, as to say nothing of these circumstances162; but Jeswunt Rao had a great personal regard for Mr. Elphinstone, and throughout the rise and progress of the Peishwa’s preparations, gave early and constant warning of what might be expected. Jeswunt Rao Ghorepuray was the only man of family, who, at the rupture, openly espoused the British cause; but of all its adherents, none was of so much importance, or rendered himself so eminently useful, as a Bramin named Ballajee Punt Nathoo163, whose
vigilance, judgment, fidelity, and firmness, at that trying period, entitle him to be mentioned in this place.
The reports of corrupting the troops were brought from all quarters; some of the Sepoys indignantly refused what to them were splendid offers; and others, pretending to acquiesce, communicated the circumstances to their officers; but the extent of the intrigues could not be ascertained, and they at last became alarming, even to those who knew the fidelity of the Bombay Sepoys, from the circumstance of the Peishwa’s having many of their families and relations in his power, against whom he commenced a system of persecution, which he threatened to perpetuate if the Sepoys refused to desert the British service.
It was the Peishwa’s wish, previous to the commencement of hostilities, to invite Mr. Elphinstone to a conference, and murder him; but this plan was opposed by Gokla, who, though he concurred in that of corrupting the Sepoys, and was most sanguine in his belief of its complete success, disdained to perpetrate so base a crime, especially as Mr. Elphinstone had, more than once, proved himself his friend. But Bajee Rao was unwilling to relinquish a favourite scheme of personal revenge, and proposed to assassinate the resident as he rode out; or, should that fail, to get Trimbukjee, with a body of Bheels, to endeavour to surprise the residency by night, whilst a simultaneous attack should be made on the cantonment.
The last interview which took place between
Mr. Elphinstone and the Peishwa was on the 14th of October, when, although the latter adverted to the loss of territory and reputation he had suffered by the late treaty, he continued to express grateful acknowledgments for the former friendship of the British government. On Mr. Elphinstone’s mentioning how anxiously the advance a the troops was desired, Bajee Rao repeated the assurances which he had of late frequently made through his ministers, that his troops should be sent to the frontier, to co, operate against the Pindharees immediately after the Dussera.
The festival of the Dussera took place on the 19th October, and was the most splendid military spectacle ever witnessed since the accession of Bajee Rao. Two circumstances were particularly observable on this occasion; a marked degree of slight towards the resident, and, at the moment of the Peishwa’s quitting the ground, a large compact mass of horse, under an officer named Naroo Punt Aptey, galloped down, as if they had intended to charge the flank of the British troops, but wheeled of as they came close up. The intention of this manoeuvre was to show the Sepoys their insignificance, when compared to this host of Mahratta spears, and might be supposed to have its effect in aiding the Peishwa’s intrigues. It would have been difficult to convince the Mahrattas, in that vaunting moment, that of the three weak battalions, then peaceably and unsuspectingly standing before them, one should, in less than three months, repulse their whole army.
After the Dussera every day became more interesting, and by the 25th parties of troops were coming into Poona from all quarters, by day and by night. General Smith’s force was now at a distance, and the European regiment from Bombay could hardly be expected in less than ten days. The position occupied by the brigade almost joined the northern environs of Poona: it had been originally taken up by Sir Arthur Wellesley for the protection of the city, but circumstances were now reversed. Gardens and inclosures, with high prickly pear hedges; ran in many places within half musket shot of the lines, affording not only every advantage for the attack of the Arabs and irregulars, but, in case of disaffection amongst the Sepoys, every facility to desert. Small parties of horse came out, and encamped round the British cantonment, and in a few days were augmented to large bodies, whilst a strong corps of Gosaeen infantry occupied a position on one of the flanks. The Sungum being at some distance from the cantonment, the Vinchorkur’s horse, with some infantry and guns, encamped between the residency and the village of Bambooree: but, besides these preparations, all reports concurred in representing that an immediate attack was meditated.
For several nights the Peishwa and his advisers had deliberated on the advantage of surprising the troops before the arrival of the European regiment; and for this purpose, on the 28th October, their guns were yoked, their horses saddled, and their infantry in readiness. This intelligence was
brought to Mr. Elphinstone a little before midnight of the 28th, and for a moment it became a question, whether self-defence, under all circumstances, did not require that the attack should be anticipated. It was an hour of anxiety:– the British cantonment and the residency were perfectly still, and the inhabitants slept in the complete repose inspired by confidence in that profound peace to which they had been long accustomed; but in the Peishwa’s camp, south of the town, all was noise and uproar. Mr. Elphinstone had as yet betrayed no suspicion of the Peishwa’s treachery, and, as he now stood listening on the terrace164, he probably thought that, in thus exposing the troops to be cut off without even the satisfaction of dying with their arms in their hands, he had followed the system of confidence, so strongly recommended, to a culpable extremity: but other motives influenced his conduct at this important moment. He was aware how little faith the other Mahratta princes placed in Bajee Rao, and that Sindia, who knew him well, would hesitate to engage in hostilities, until the Peishwa had fairly committed himself. Apprised of the governor-general’s secret plans and his intended movements on Gwalior, which many circumstances might have concurred to postpone, Mr. Elphinstone had studiously avoided every appearance
which might affect the negotiations in Hindoostan, or by any preparation and apparent alarm on his part, give Sindia’s secret emissaries at Poona reason to believe that war was inevitable. To have sent to the cantonment at that hour would have occasioned considerable stir; and in the meantime, by the reports of the spies, the Peishwa was evidently deliberating; the din in the city was dying away; the night was passing; and the motives which had hitherto prevented preparation, determined Mr. Elphinstone to defer it some hours longer. Major J. A. Wilson, the officer in command of the European regiment, on its march from Bombay, had already been made acquainted with the critical state of affairs, and was hastening forward.
Next morning, however, the officer in command of the brigade at Poona was requested to keep the men, ready in their lines, but with as little appearance of bustle as possible. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Elphinstone sent a message to the Peishwa, mentioning that his Highness’s horsemen were crowding in upon the position of the brigade; that such a mode of encamping had never been practised or permitted by, British troops, and therefore the commanding officer confined his men to their cantonment until those of his Highness should be withdrawn, lest, by their contiguity, disputes might arise between them. This message was delivered by Captain Ford, and created a great sensation. Gokla recommended that the attack should not be delayed, the Peishwa hesitated, stating that he wished a little more time to make sure of corrupting the Sepoys;
the European regiment was still, as he believed, at a great distance, and every hour was adding to his army.
Another night was thus wasted in consultation, and at four o’clock of the following afternoon, the European regiment, by great exertions, marched into the cantonment. Mr. Elphinstone now determined on removing the troops from their present very bad position, to another in many respects more eligible, at the village of Khirkee, four miles distant, which had been early pointed out by General Smith, as the proper one to be occupied in case of an apprehended rupture.
The troops accordingly took up their ground at Khirkee on the 1st November, and the residency being close to the town, two hundred and fifty men were sent for its protection. The Peishwa was apprised of the intended movement; but his army supposed that the British troops had withdrawn from fear, and was much encouraged in consequence. The cantonment was plundered; an officer165, on his route to Bombay, was attacked, wounded, and robbed, in open day; the language of the Peishwa’s ministers was that of perfect slight; his troops everywhere began to insult individuals as they passed; and they continued to push forward their parties as if in defiance. They proposed forming a camp betwixt the old cantonment and the new position, and a party of horse moved down for the purpose. – A second message was therefore
sent to the Peishwa, begging that the motives of the movement might not be misconstrued; for, if the British troops were pressed upon, as in the old position, those of his Highness must be treated as enemies.
The Peishwa now believed, from the reports of his emissaries, that the Sepoys were completely seduced166. On the 4th November, Moro Dixit, the minister, who had formed an attachment to Major Ford and was anxious to save him, communicated this circumstance, and that his master was determined to cut off the British detachment without sparing a man167. He advised him to stand neuter, when his property should be spared and his family protected; but on Captain Ford’s telling him he would immediately join his countrymen, he took an affectionate leave of him, promising, at all events, that he would do his best to befriend his family; but as there was, he observed, no saying what turn the war might ultimately
take, he exacted a like promise from Captain Ford, which was readily granted. Until this communication was made, Captain Ford, though in daily intercourse with the city, and made acquainted with the circumstances by Mr. Elphinstone, was perfectly confident that the Peishwa had no intention of going to war, and his astonishment and alarm were proportionally great. The Peishwa’s reason for still wishing to procrastinate, was the expected arrival of the Putwurdhuns, and Appa Dessaye Nepankur; matters, however, were brought: to a crisis before they could join his army. General Smith, who continued in the position already described, on hearing what had taken place, was prepared to expect a rupture; and therefore, without waiting for orders from Sir Thomas Hislop, concentrated his force at Phooltamba, on the Godavery, and ordered the light battalion to fall back to Seroor; it was also settled between him and the resident, that in case the communication were interrupted; the general might conclude that the troops at Poona were attacked. On the 3d November, Mr. Elphinstone directed the light battalion and a party of auxiliary horse, stationed at Seroor, to move to Poona. As soon as the news of these arrangements reached the Peishwa, he determined to delay the attack no longer.
His preparations began about seven o’clock on the morning of the 5th; but in the early part of the day, he sent out several messages calculated to lull the resident’s suspicions; such as, that his troops were alarmed by hearing that those at Khirkee were under arms;
that he was about to perform a religious ceremony, at the temple of Parbuttee, and that the troops were drawn out, in honour of the occasion, to form a street as he passed. In the afternoon, when all was in readiness, the whole of his principal officers having assembled at his palace, Wittoojee Gaekwar, a personal servant of the Peishwa, was despatched to Mr. Elphinstone, by Gokla’s advice, to inform him that the assembly of troops at Poona was very offensive to the Peishwa; to desire him to send away the European regiment, to reduce the native brigade to its usual strength, when it must occupy a position which the Peishwa would point out, and that if these demands were not complied with, he would withdraw from Poona and never return. Mr. Elphinstone denied the Peishwa’s right to require the removal of the European regiment, explained the reason of his having called in the light battalion, and recommended that the Peishwa should send his troops to the frontier as he had promised, in which case all cause of complaint would be removed: – there was a good deal more passed, as the conversation, on the part of the messenger, was intended to engage as much attention as possible; but he at last withdrew, warning the resident of the bad consequence of his refusal. In the meantime the Peishwa’s officers at the palace were despatched to their troops; Bajee Rao, in person, proceeded to the Parbuttee168, and Wittoojee Gaekwar had scarcely quitted the residency, when
intelligence was brought that the army was moving out on the west side of the city. There was a momentary consultation about defending the residency, but it was instantly abandoned as impracticable, and it was determined to retire to Khirkee, for which purpose the nature of the ground afforded great facility. The river Moola betwixt the Sungum and the village of Khirkee forms two curves like the letter S inverted. The residency and the village were both on the same side of the river, but at the former there was a ford, and near the latter, a bridge; so that the party, by crossing at the ford, had the river between them and the Peishwa’s troops the greater part of the way. From the residency no part of the Mahratta army was visible, excepting bodies of infantry which were assembling along the tops of the adjoining heights, with the intention of cutting off the residency from the camp, and having this object in view, they did not molest individuals. On ascending one of the eminences on which they were forming, the plain beneath presented at that moment a most imposing spectacle. This plain, then covered with grain, terminates on the west, by a range of small hills, while on the east it is bounded by the city of Poona, and the small hills already partially occupied by the infantry. A mass of cavalry covered nearly the whole extent of it, and towards the city, endless streams of horsemen were pouring from every avenue169.
Mr. Elphinstone had personally reconnoitred the ground in front of the village of Khirkee, and ascertained that there was a ford between that village and Dhapooree, which, although difficult, was practicable for six pounders, three of which, manned by native artillerymen, belonged to the auxiliary force, and was attached to Captain Ford’s corps. It had been arranged, in case of an attack, that Captain Ford was to join the brigade under Lieutenant-Colonel Burr; and Mr. Elphinstone had been at pains to explain to all concerned, the advantage of always acting on the offensive against Mahrattas. When the party was fording at the residency, a messenger was despatched to warn the troops of the approach of the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Burr, the officer in command, wished to have acted on the defensive, but as the message required him to move down and attack the Peishwa’s army, he immediately sent the battalion companies of the 2d battalion 6th regiment to protect the stores, ammunition, and followers in the village of Khirkee, left his camp standing, and instantly
marched down by the high road for about a mile; – then wheeling to the right, he moved in the direction of Dhapooree, to facilitate the junction of Captain Ford’s corps, and bring his front parallel to that of the enemy. In a few minutes the expected corps was seen approaching; the resident’s party had joined, and Colonel Burr advanced to the attack. The Mahrattas, who had sent on their skirmishers, some of whom had already suffered from the fire of the light infantry, were surprised by this forward movement in troops whom they had been encouraged to believe, were already spiritless; and a damp, which had been spreading over the whole army by the accidental breaking of the staff of the Juree Putka before they left the city, was now much increased. Gokla, with the true spirit of a soldier, was riding from rank to rank animating, encouraging, and taunting as he thought most effectual, but the Peishwa’s heart failed him; and after the troops hid advanced he sent a message to Gokla desiring him “to be sure not to fire the first gun.” At this moment the British troops were halted, their guns were unlimbering, – it was the pause of preparation, and of anxiety on both sides; but Gokla, observing the messenger from the Peishwa, and suspecting the nature of his errand, instantly commenced the attack by opening a battery of nine guns, detaching a strong corps of rocket-camels to the right, and pushing forward his cavalry to the right and left. The British troops were soon nearly surrounded by horse; but the Mahratta infantry, owing to this rapid advance, were left considerably in the rear, except a regular
battalion under a Portuguese, named De Pento, which had marched by a shorter route concealed for a time under cover of the enclosures, and were now forming with apparent steadiness, immediately in front of the 1st battalion 7th regiment, and the grenadiers of the 2d battalion 6th: – no sooner, however, were their red coats and colours exposed to view of the English Sepoys, than the latter with one accord pushed forward to close, and in their eagerness got detached from the rest of the line. Golda, hoping that they might either be disposed to come over, or that he might be able to take advantage of their impetuosity, prepared a select body of 6,000 horse, which, accompanied by the Juree Putka, and headed by several persons of distinction, had been held in reserve near his left, and were now ordered to charge170. The Mahratta guns ceased firing to let them pass; and they came down at speed, in a diagonal direction across the British front. Giving their fire, and receiving that of the line, they rode right at the 7th. Colonel Burr took his post with the colours of that corps; it had long been his own battalion, he had “formed and led” it for many years, he was then suffering under a severe and incurable malady171, but he showed his wonted coolness
and firmness in this moment of peril. He was the first to perceive the moving mass: he had just time to stop the pursuit of De Pento’s battalion, already routed, and to call to the men, who could not be dressed in line, to reserve their fire, and prove themselves worthy of all his care. Fortunately there was a deep slough, of which neither party were aware, immediately in front of the British left. The foremost of the horses rolled over, and many, before they could be pulled up, tumbled over those in front; the fire, hitherto reserved, was now given with great effect, numbers fell, the confusion became extreme, and the force of the charge was completely checked: a very small proportion came in contact with the bayonets, a few continued the attack in the rear, but many turned back; some galloped round the left as if to plunder the camp, but they were driven off by a few shots from two iron guns at Khirkee, and the Sepoys had nearly repulsed the attack before a company of Europeans could arrive to their support. This failure completely disconcerted the Mahrattas; they began to drive off their guns; their infantry retired from the distant position they occupied, and upon the advance of the British line, the whole field was cleared. The brigade returned to its position at Khirkee after night-fall, and the light battalion and auxiliary horse joined it next morning. The report of their arrival, and the effect of
the forward movement, deterred Gokla from renewing the attack. The Mahrattas in Captain Ford’s battalion deserted, and a part of the newly raised auxiliary horse were, at their own desire, permitted to quit the British camp; but not one Sepoy of the regular service left his colours. The number of the British troops engaged at the affair of Khirkee, including Captain Ford’s battalion, was 2,800 rank and file, of whom about 800 were Europeans. Their loss was comparatively trifling, amounting only to eighty-six men in killed and wounded, fifty of whom were of the Sepoys on the left. The Mahratta army consisted of 18,000 horse and 8,000 foot, with 14 guns172. They suffered considerably, having lost five hundred men in killed and wounded; and though the proportion of horses killed on the spot was inconsiderable, a very great number were disabled. Amongst the sufferers was the minister Moro Dixit, who by rather a strange fatality, was mortally wounded by a grape shot, from one of the guns attached to the battalion of his friend Captain Ford.
Hostilities were no sooner commenced, than the ferocious and vindictive character of Bajee Rao’s previous orders became apparent, from the proceedings in every direction; probably before he had time to stop them. The residency was plundered and burnt, and of the resident’s library and
private apartment, not one stone was left upon another; the families and followers of the troops who fell into the hands of the Mahrattas, were robbed, beaten, and frequently mutilated; the gardens were destroyed, the trees were torn from the roots, and the graves were dug up. An engineer officer, on survey, was attacked and killed; two brothers, of the name of Vaughan, one of them a Captain in the Madras army, were taken while travelling between Bombay and Poona, near the village of Tullygaom, and though they made no resistance, were most barbarously hanged under the superintendence of a Bramin, named Babjee Punt Golda173. These atrocities, excepting the plunder of the adherents and servants of the British government, were not perpetrated under Bappoo Gokla’s sanction; but as he had been intrusted with the entire powers of the state, Mr. Elphinstone took the first opportunity of intimating to him, that any individual, however exalted his rank, who might order the death of a British prisoner, should answer for it in his own person.
Two officers, cornets Hunter and Morrison, of the Madras establishment, on the route from Hyderabad to Poona with a small escort, were attacked when they approached the latter place, and after a manful resistance, being compelled to surrender, they were confined in a hill-fort; some small parties who stood on the defensive in various
situations, and surrendered on terms, were permitted to join the British camp. Amongst this number was the resident’s moonshee, who having a party of Arabs in his pay, defended his house in the city for several days, until Gokla interposed, and sent for him. During their interview, at which several persons were present, Gokla showed him the Peishwa’s paper investing him with the full powers of his government, and after some conversation observed, “I have given you protection because your master was an old friend of mine, we are now enemies; the trial we have already had” (alluding to the action of the 5th,) “has not turned out as I expected, but tell him we shall persevere we may have taken our shrouds about our heads, but we are determined to die with our swords in our hands.”
As soon as General Smith found the communication cut off, he advanced on Poona. From the time his division quitted Seroor, he was followed by flying parties of Mahrattas, who, owing to his want of cavalry, harassed his march.
He arrived on the evening of the 13th, and preparations were made to attack the Peishwa before daylight of the 15th. His army having, obtained a considerable addition by the junction of most of the southern Jagheerdars, had come out a few days before, and encamped with its left on the late cantonment of the British troops, and its right stretching along the Hyderabad road for several miles. The intended attack, however, on the morning of the 15th, was postponed by General Smith in consequence
of unforeseen difficulties at the ford. About sunset on the evening of the 16th, an advanced brigade-was ordered to cross the ford, and take up a position to the east of the Peishwa’s army, at the village of Ghorepuray, for the purpose of co-operating in an intended attack on the ensuing morning: it was opposed by a body of the Peishwa’s infantry, supported by parties of horse and two guns, but having succeeded in getting to its station, though with the loss of eighty-four men in killed and wounded, it was no longer molested during the night. In the morning, when General Smith moved towards the camp, he found it abandoned, and that the Peishwa had fled towards Satara. During the day the city was surrendered, and the greatest care being taken on this, as on every occasion, by General Smith for the protection of the peaceable part of the community, order and tranquillity were soon re-established. General Smith remained at Poona for five days, during which time the communication with Bombay was opened, and a party being detached for the purpose, succeeded in capturing several guns in the neighbourhood of the fort of Singurh. Some of the inhabitants of Poona, who fled as usual with their property towards the hill-forts, were sufferers on this occasion, as a great quantity of baggage was taken at the same time with the guns, and became the booty of the army.
On the 22d November, General Smith, having been joined by a regiment of native cavalry, commenced pursuing the Peishwa, who remained at Maholy, and during his stay there, sent a party to Wassota, for the purpose of bringing the Raja of
Satara, his mother and brothers to his camp, but he had quitted Maholy prior to the Raja’s arrival, owing to the approach of General Smith, before whom he fled to Punderpoor, and thence, turning up the bank of the Beema, he continued his flight until he ascended the Lag Ghaut, north of Joonere, where he occupied a position at Bamunwaree. This part of the country is exceedingly strong, with mountains on all sides, and the passes were stockaded by Trimbukjee Dainglia, who here joined the Peishwa with a reinforcement. The Raja and his family were brought into his camp whilst on the route from Punderpoor. General Smith followed the Peishwa until he was past Poona, when he proceeded to Seroor: he there deposited his battering train, and heavy baggage, and left a battalion of native infantry, and a body of auxiliary horse, to reinforce the station; he then proceeded by Ahmednugur down the Nimbadewra Ghaut; and up the bank of the Paira to Sungumnere. Finding he had got to the northward of the Peishwa, he ascended the Wursura Ghaut, and here he divided his force, sending back a part by Ahmednugur, and, with a light division, continuing the pursuit of the Peishwa, who fled to the southward as soon as he heard of General Smith’s arrival at Sungumnere, giving out that he intended to attack Poona. Great exertions were, therefore, made to come up with him; but, in the meantime, the most remarkable event of the war took place from the following circumstances. General Pritzler, it must be premised, was, at this time, advancing with the reserve division of the Deccan army from
Adonee towards Punderpoor for the purpose of co-operating in the pursuit of the Peishwa; and Smith, deeming it probable that he should get to the northward of the Peishwa, as in fact he did, and that the Mahratta army, afraid of being driven back upon Pritzler, might descend into the Concan, where there was a small force fitted out by the Bombay government, under Lieutenant-Colonel Prother, employed in reducing the country, and which might thus be exposed to be cut off, it became necessary to provide against such an event. Accordingly Lieutenant-Colonel Burr, who was stationed at Poona, was directed, in case he should have positive information that the Peishwa had descended into the Concan, to detach the 2d battalion 6th regiment from his own immediate command, to reinforce Lieutenant-Colonel Prother; and in that case, he was authorized to call in to Poona the 2d battalion 1st regiment, lately left by General Smith to reinforce the cantonment at Seroor. But when the Peishwa commenced his flight to the southward, Colonel Burr, hearing that he meditated an attack on Poona, sent off an express for the 2d battalion 1st regiment, to reinforce himself.
The battalion, on receipt of this application, commenced its march from Seroor on the last day of the year, at eight o’clock in the evening. It consisted of little more than 500 rank and file, and was supported by two six pounders, well manned by twenty-four Europeans of the Madras artillery, under a serjeant and a lieutenant. It was also accompanied by 300 of the newly raised irregular horse, and the whole were under the command of Captain Francis Staunton.
Having marched all night, by ten o’clock on the morning of new year’s day, Captain Staunton reached the high ground above the village of Korygaom, on the Beema, where he beheld the whole of the Mahratta horse, consisting of about 25,000, on the opposite side of the river. He continued his march towards the bank, and the Peishwa’s troops believed that he intended to ford, but as soon as he had gained the neighbourhood of the village, he immediately took post in it. Korygaom is a moderate sized village, immediately overhanging the steep bank of the Beema, but owing to the immense beds of the Indian rivers, which are never filled except during the rains, the channel occupied but a small part of the space between the banks, so that the village was fifty or sixty yards from the water. There is a mud wall which, at one time, probably surrounded the village, but is now full of large breaches on the side next the river, and on the east it is completely open174. Most of the Peishwa’s infantry, in number about 5,000, had gone on in advance towards the Bhore Ghaut, east of Poona; but on first descrying the battalion, immediate orders were sent to recal them. As soon as they arrived, three bodies, of six hundred choice men in each, consisting of Arabs, Gosaeens, and
regular infantry, mixed together, advanced on three different points, under cover of the bank of the river, and supported by two guns, to storm the village. A continued shower of rockets was at the same time poured into it, and many of the houses were set on fire. Captain Staunton had selected a commanding position for the guns; but unfortunately the interior of the village was not sufficiently reconnoitred, as there was a strong square enclosure commanding most of the streets, of which the enemy obtained possession, and whence they could not be dislodged. The village was immediately surrounded by horse and foot, and the storming party was supported by fresh troops. All access to the river was speedily cut off, Captain Staunton was destitute of provisions, and this detachment, already fatigued from want of rest and a long night march, now, under a burning sun, without food or water, began a struggle as trying as ever was maintained by the British in India. Every foot of ground was disputed, several streets were taken and retaken, but more than half the European officers being wounded, the Arabs made themselves masters of a small temple, towards the east side of the village, generally used as a choultry, where three of the officers were lying wounded. Assistant-Surgeon Wingate, one of their number, got up, and went out, but was immediately stabbed by the Arabs, and his body cruelly mangled. Lieutenant Swanston, who had two severe wounds, had the presence of mind to advise his remaining companion to suffer the Arabs to rifle them unresistingly, which they did, but committed no further violence; and in the meantime,
a party of the battalion under Lieutenant Jones and Assistant-Surgeon Wyllie, arrived to their rescue, retook the choultry, avenged the death of Mr. Wingate, and carried their companions to a place of greater safety. The sufferings of the wounded became extreme from thirst; and the men who continued the conflict were fainting, or nearly frantic, from the dreadful privation of water. Some of the artillery men, all of whom bore a very conspicuous part in this glorious defence, proposed to Captain Staunton that they should surrender if terms could be obtained. His determined refusal did not satisfy them, but Lieutenant Chisholm their officer being killed, the enemy encouraged by this circumstance, rushed upon one of the guns and took it. Lieutenant Thomas Pattinson adjutant of the battalion, lying mortally wounded, being shot through the body, no sooner heard that the gun was taken, than getting up he called to the grenadiers, “once more to follow him,” and seizing a musket by the muzzle, rushed into the middle of the Arabs striking them down right and left175, until a second ball through his body completely disabled him. Lieutenant Pattinson had been nobly seconded; the Sepoys, thus led, were irresistible, the gun was retaken, and the dead Arabs, literally lying above
each other, proved how desperately it had been defended. The body of Lieutenant Chisholm was found by his gun with the head cut off; Captain Staunton judiciously took advantage of the circumstance, by pointing it out to the men, and telling them “such was the way all would be served, who fell dead or alive into the hands of the Mahrattas,” on which they declared “they would die to a man,” and the conflict was resumed, by all, with the most determined valour. Captain Staunton, Lieutenant Jones, and Assistant-Surgeon Wyllie were the only officers who remained fit for duty, and manfully persevered in continuing the defence. Their situation towards evening was very hopeless; Captain Staunton had apprized Colonel Burr of the difficulties he laboured under, and an unavailing attempt from Poona had been made for his relief. As the night fell, however, the vigour of the attack relaxed, and the men were able to procure a supply of water. By nine o’clock at night the firing ceased, and the village was evacuated by the Peishwa’s troops176.
Next morning, the Mahratta army was still hovering round the village, and Captain Staunton opened his guns upon them as soon as he could see. They appeared to draw off in the direction of Poona; but they had heard of General Smith’s approach, who was hastening forward with a very small force
in hopes that the Peishwa might be encouraged to make a stand; but Captain Staunton, not knowing of General Smith’s advance, and having reason to believe the enemy was in wait for him on the route to Poona, gave out that it was his intention to proceed thither. As soon as it was dark, however, taking as many of the wounded with him as he could carry, he moved out of the village at first in the direction of Poona; then changing his route, he retreated to Seroor, where he arrived next morning, with the loss of one hundred and seventy-five men in killed and wounded, of whom twenty were of the small detachment of artillery. Besides these, about one third of the auxiliary horse were killed, wounded, and missing177. The Mahrattas lost five or six hundred men, and have the generosity, on all occasions, to do justice to the heroic defenders of Korygaom. During the conflict, the Peishwa sat on a rising ground, on the opposite side of the river, about two miles distant. Gokla, Appa Dessaye, and Trimbukjee
directed the attacks, and at one time, Trimbukjee entered the village. Bajee Rao frequently expressed his impatience, and asked his commanders “where were now their boasts of defeating the English when they could not overcome one battalion.” The Raja of Satara was with the Peishwa, and having put up an aftabgeer, or screen from the sun, the latter begged he would put it down, “otherwise the English would send a cannon ball through it.”
After leaving Korygaom the Peishwa fled towards the Carnatic, followed by General Pritzler, who took up the pursuit near the Salpee Ghaut. On Bajee Rao’s arrival on the Gutpurba he was surprized to find a part of the country already in possession of the British government. It appeared that Brigadier General-Munro, who had been originally sent up by the Madras government as commissioner to receive charge of the districts in the Carnatic, ceded by the treaty of Poona in June 1817, had collected a few regulars in addition to his own escort, and by his personal influence and experience had raised the native population, who were averse to the Mahrattas, as they had been to Tippoo, and eagerly desired a change of government.
The Peishwa, in pursuing the southern route, was supposed to have some hope of being joined by the Raja of Mysore; but disappointed in this respect, and alarmed at the progress of General Munro, he turned suddenly round, passed General Pritzler, and re-crossed the Kistna, where General Smith having arrived with the light division, pressed
him very hard, until he got down the Salpee Ghaut, and went off in the direction of Sholapoor. General Smith’s division was then halted, for the purpose of allowing General Pritzler to join, in order to form a new distribution of the force, according to a plan proposed by Mr. Elphinstone, who now took upon him the direction of affairs, by authority received from the governor-general.
When the Marquis of Hastings heard of the Peishwa’s treachery, superadded to the numerous proofs of his insidious and persevering intrigues against the British government, he determined to put an end to the dynasty of his family, and to annex his dominions to the Company’s territory; merely reserving a small tract, sufficient for the comfort and dignity of the imprisoned Raja of Satara, which might serve as a counterpoise to the remaining influence of the Bramins, conciliate the Mahratta nation, and leave an opening for the employment of many persons, in their own way, whom it would have been expensive to subsist, and who could not obtain a livelihood under the English administration. Instructions to this effect were transmitted to Mr. Elphinstone, vesting him with full powers, as sole commissioner for the settlement of the territory to be conquered. The 4th and 6th divisions of the Deccan army, under Generals Smith and Pritzler, were withdrawn from Sir Thomas Hislop’s control, and placed at the disposal of the commissioner. These instructions were received by Mr. Elphinstone early in January, but various reasons induced him to reserve their promulgation
for a short period, until it could be done under impressions more favourable to the British cause, than existed at the moment; and be then followed up, in a manner which should convince the Mahratta nation of the advantages of submission, and the hopelessness of resistance. Hitherto, the pursuit of the Peishwa had been productive of nothing important, excepting the political effect of holding him up as a fugitive. Whenever Bajee Rao was pressed, Gokla, with all the light troops, hovered round the pursuing divisions, firing long shots with their matchlocks, throwing rockets in favourable situations, and cutting off cattle and baggage. Some skirmishes took place in consequence, and the Mahrattas frequently suffered from the shrapnell shells of the horse artillery; but these affairs were attended with no advantageous result to either party.
The two divisions having united at Rehmutpoor, the whole force, under the command of General Smith, proceeded to Satara, which it was thought advisable to reduce, on account of the importance attached to the possession of that fortress in the minds of the Mahratta people.
It scarcely made any resistance, and was surrendered in the evening of the 10th February, when the British colours were hoisted; but next day, they were hauled down, and the Bhugwa Jenda, or standard of Sivajee and his descendants, was, with due forms, hoisted in its place. A manifesto was at the same time published by the commissioner, in the name of the British government, succinctly
representing the whole conduct of Bajee Rao, and stating the reasons of its being deemed incumbent on the British to deprive him of public authority; to exclude him and his family from all concern in Deccan affairs; to take possession of his territory, and to govern the whole under the authority of the Company, excepting a small tract to be reserved for the Raja of Satara. It was declared, that there should be no interference with the tenets of any religious sect; that all wutun, enam lands, established pensions, and annual allowances should be respected and continued, provided the owners withdrew from the service of Bajee Rao, and retired to their habitations in two months from that date. Farming of revenue was to be abolished, and the hereditary district and village officers were called upon to reserve the revenue, otherwise they would be compelled to make good the payments; and should they or any other wutundars afford aid or pay money to the deposed. Peishwa, their wutuns were declared liable to confiscation. No notice was taken of Jagheers, as it was soon understood they would be kept or restored, according to the readiness with which the holders under the Peishwa should tender their allegiance to the new government, and whilst retained, they became a powerful security for the fidelity of the claimants.
The reader who has perused the foregoing pages with attention, will be able to judge of the merits of this proclamation, and how well it was calculated to the end in view; especially when seconded by strenuous and persevering exertions on the part of the military.
A new distribution of the two divisions of the army was immediately formed, one for the purpose of pursuing Bajee Rao, the other for besieging his forts. General Smith chose the former, as promising the most active service, and marched with two regiments of cavalry, a squadron of the 22d dragoons, 1,200 auxiliary horse, and 2,500 infantry, in quest of the Peishwa. General Pritzler, in the meantime, attacked the strong hill forts immediately south of Poona, whilst a small force, originally sent back by Sir Thomas Hislop, under Lieutenant-Colonel Deacon, to occupy the intended position of the 4th division in Candeish, had moved down at Mr. Elphinstone’s request, and laid siege to Chakun. Other divisions were likewise occupying the country; General Munro, in the Carnatic, was eminently successful; the small force of Lieutenant Colonel Prother, already mentioned, had taken many forts in the Concan, and another small detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Kennedy, likewise fitted out by the exertions of Sir Evan Nepean, governor of Bombay, had commenced operations in the Concan, south of Bancoote.
Whilst the new arrangement of the divisions, and the reduction of Satara were in progress, Bajee Rao remained in the neighbourhood of Sholapoor where he exacted large sums of money from the carcoon of the late Sewdasheo Bhow Mankesir. That minister died at Poona a short time before the breaking out of the war, and with the general respect of all parties. During the short time he was employed after the surrender of Trimbukjee, he honourably endeavoured to convince
Bajee Rao of the futility and wickedness of the course he meditated; and that there now was neither honour nor safety to the Mahratta nation, excepting by a faithful adherence to that alliance, which, when contracted, might, in his opinion, have been avoided. The Peishwa deceived him respecting the secret insurrection; and though so well acquainted with Bajee Rao’s character, when the facts were forced upon his conviction, he gave vent to expressions of indignation and disgust at the unparalleled deceit and treachery of his master.
At Sholapoor, Bajee Rao was joined by a body of horse from Nagpoor under Gunput Rao, to whom we shall hereafter revert. In the mean time General Smith was marching towards the Mahratta army; the Peishwa decamped and moved to the westward, as Gokla conceived he should have no difficulty in passing the British detachment, and avoiding them or not as he thought proper.
On the 19th General Smith arrived at Yellapoor; he heard that the Peishwa was on the route from Sholapoor towards Punderpoor. He therefore marched all that night in hopes of coming upon him; but, before morning, he learnt that he had gone to the northward and was encamped at Ashtah. Taking, therefore, the cavalry and horse artillery, desiring the remainder to follow as expeditiously as they could, General Smith pushed forward, and came in sight of the Mahrattas about half-past eight, just as they were moving off the ground. The Peishwa sent Gokla a taunting message for having thus allowed the army to be surprised,
to which the latter replied, that he might rest assured his rear should be guarded. Gokla, having desired Appa Dessaye Nepankur, who was at the head of about four thousand men to support him; waited with five hundred horse for the approach of the cavalry, who were then advancing in three columns, the dragoons being in the centre the 7th on the right, and the 2d regiment on the left. Gokla’s friends advised him to retire for support, and return better prepared to meet them, but to this he objected, and merely replied “whatever is to be done, must be done here.” As the British troops came near, the Mahrattas fired a volley, with little effect; and three hundred of them, with Gokla at their head, came galloping down diagonally across the front, wheeled suddenly round on the flank of the 7th regiment of cavalry, as they were forming after crossing a ravine, and driving upon them with their spears, occasioned considerable confusion; but Captain Dawes of the 22d dragoons, instantly throwing back a troop of his men, charged along the rear of the 7th and dashing into the middle of the Mahrattas, in a few minutes dispersed them in flight. Gokla fell on this occasion, by the hand of a dragoon; and, though supposed to have been wounded before he came in contact with his antagonist, fought bravely to the last, literally dying, as he had pledged himself; with his sword in his hand. Govind Rao Ghorepuray and Anund Rao Babur, both persons of distinction, were killed with him. The Mahrattas were pursued for some miles; several elephants, a quantity of baggage, and a few horses
were taken; but the most important result was the capture of the Raja of Satara, with his mother and brothers, who, on this occasion, to their great joy, were rescued from the power of Bajee Rao, and the thraldom of the Concanee Bramins. Prior to this event the Mahrattas had resolved to stand a general action, as soon as Ramdeen, a partizan of Holkar’s, should arrive. For this purpose, the Peishwa’s infantry and guns, before left at Nepanee had arrived at Kurar, but the unexpected attack of General Smith, and the death of Gokla completely disconcerted their arrangements. The affair of Ashtah, trifling as it was, had a very material effect in hastening the termination of the war, and these advantages were purchased with the loss of only one man killed, and eighteen or twenty wounded; amongst the latter was General Smith. The Mahrattas, in the charge and during the pursuit, lost about one hundred men.
The Raja of Satara, having been made over to the care of Mr. Elphinstone, General Smith proceeded to Seroor, and thence resumed the pursuit. Bajee Rao remained for a time at Kopergaom, where he was joined by the expected Ramdeen, and deserted by his lukewarm friends the Putwurdhuns.
He next continued his route towards Chandore, intending ultimately to proceed to Nagpoor, where events as interesting as those already detailed had taken place before this period.
We left Appa Sahib in February 1817, established in the regency. It was not discovered, at, the time, that he had been accessory, to the death
of the Raja Pursajee; and he was therefore proclaimed his successor by the name of Moodajee Bhonslay. The emissaries of the Peishwa were so successful at Nagpoor, that until the feigned insurrection, set up by Bajee Rao under Trimbukjee, was checked, Appa Sahib had pledged himself to take part in the warfare begun in that insidious manner; but on hearing of the Peishwa’s submission he completely changed his conduct, and, although he continued in constant correspondence with Poona, the resident did not anticipate any more serious departure from the terms of his alliance, until it was known that the Peishwa had attacked the British troops. Upon this intelligence Appa Sahib secretly determined to make common cause with him, and immediately exerted himself, by every means in his power, to augment his military establishment. Mr. Jenkins, on perceiving these preparations, sent to Colonel Adams, requesting that a brigade of his division might be left to the southward of the Nerbuddah, and that a part of it should be held ready to march on Nagpoor. This application, however, was merely precautionary; Appa Sahib betrayed no other indication of hostile designs; on the contrary, he was profuse in his professions of friendship, and inveighed bitterly against the conduct of Bajee Rao, in treacherously attacking the English.
But on the night of the 24th November he sent to inform Mr. Jenkins that a Khillut had arrived for him from the Peishwa, who had also sent him a Juree Putka, and conferred on him the title of Senaputtee; that he intended to go in state to his
camp to receive these honours next day, and invited the resident to be present at the ceremony. Mr. Jenkins’s remonstrances against such a proceeding were, of course, of no avail; the insignia were received, and Appa Sahib’s troops immediately took up positions in the vicinity of the residency, so threatening, that Mr. Jenkins was induced to call in the brigade from its cantonment, about three miles westward of the city.
Next day appearances were so hostile, that preparations for defending the residency became necessary, and an express was despatched to call in the 2d division of the Deccan army, under General Doveton. The whole force at Nagpoor consisted of a brigade of two battalions of Madras native infantry, the 1st battalion 20th regiment, and 1st battalion 24th regiment, both considerably reduced by sickness; the resident’s escort of two companies of native infantry, three troops of the 6th regiment of Bengal native cavalry, and four six-pounders, manned by Europeans of the Madras artillery. Lieutenant-Colonel Hopeton Scott was the senior officer.
The residency lies to the west of the city of Nagpoor, and is separated from it by a rocky hill, running north and south, called Seetabuldee. At each extremity of this hill, and distant about thirty yards from each other, are two eminences; that to the north, which is close to the residency, is considerably larger and a little higher than that to the south; but the base of the latter, being close to the huts of a village, communicating with the suburbs, and affording facility to the approach of irregulars,
was a most important point, and was occupied by 300 men of the 24th regiment, under Captain Sadler, supported by a six-pounder. The three troops of cavalry, under Captain Fitzgerald, occupied the enclosures surrounding the residency, being behind and partly to the right of the larger hill, upon which the remainder of the force was posted. In the evening, as the British picquets were about to be placed, a party was fired upon from the village, at the bottom of the lower hill; but, under the possibility of a mistake, they forbore returning it, until, upon a continuance of the aggression, they gave their fire, and retired upon the smaller hill, under a heavy discharge of matchlocks, which became the general signal for an attack on the British position. A smart fire was maintained, on both sides, till two o’clock in the morning, when it slackened on the part of the Mahrattas, but was renewed with great fury with cannon and musketry at daylight. The heaviest loss which, the British had hitherto sustained was at the smaller hill. Frequent attempts had been made by the Arabs to carry it, and that post had been, in consequence of the slaughter, repeatedly reinforced, At last, by the accidental explosion of a tumbril, some confusion was created, of which the Arabs took immediate advantage, charged up the hill sword in hand, carried it, and immediately turned the gun against the larger hill, where the casualties became distressingly severe. Emboldened by their success, the enemy’s horse and foot closed in from every direction, and prepared for a general assault. To add to this appalling
crisis, the Arabs got into the huts of the British troops, and the shrieks of the women and children reached the ears of the Sepoys. The residency grounds, where Captain Fitzgerald was posted, were also attacked; guns were brought up, and bodies of horse threatened to break in. Captain Fitzgerald had repeatedly applied for permission to charge, and was as often prevented by orders from the commanding officer; but seeing the impending destruction, he made a last attempt to obtain leave. Colonel Scott’s reply was, “Tell him to charge at his peril” – “at my peril be it,” said the gallant Fitzgerald on receiving this answer, and immediately gave the word to advance. As soon as he could form clear of the enclosures, he charged the principal body of horse, drove them from two guns by which they were supported,_ pursued them to some distance, cut a body of infantry accompanying them to pieces, and brought back with him the captured guns. The infantry posted on the hill witnessed this exploit with loud huzzas; the greatest animation was kindled amongst them: it was proposed to storm the smaller hill as soon as the cavalry returned, but another explosion of ammunition having taken place amongst the Arabs on the south hill, the same accident by which it had been lost, men and officers mingling together rushed forward: – irresistible, under such an impulse, they carried everything before them, pursued the Arabs down the hill, took two of their guns, spiked them, and returned to their posts. The Arabs again assembled, and evinced a determination to recover their ground; but as they
were preparing to advance, a troop of cavalry, under Cornet Smith, charged round the base of the hill, took them in flank, and dispersed them. The British troops now advanced from the hills, drove the infantry from the adjoining huts, and by noon this trying conflict, only equalled during the war by the defence of Korygaom, had wholly ceased. Instances of heroism equal to that of Pattinson are adducible, particularly that of Lieutenant John Grant, adjutant of the 24th regiment, who, though impeded by two severe wounds, was foremost in the storm of the smaller hill, and received a third and mortal wound as the post was carried.
The British had not fourteen hundred men fit for duty in the defence of Seetabuldee, whereas the army of Appa Sahib amounted to eighteen thousand men, half of whom were infantry, and of these three or four thousand were Arabs, who fought with much resolution. The British lost three hundred and thirty-three in killed and wounded; amongst whom twelve were European officers178. The Mahrattas lost about an equal number. The disproportion at Nagpoor was not much greater than at Poona; but the presence of an European regiment, and the advantage of acting offensively, gave a very different character to the contest.
Appa Sahib being foiled in his treacherous attempt, sent wukeels to express his sorrow, and
to disavow his having authorized the attack; but Mr. Jenkins ref-Used to treat with him under present circumstances, until he disbanded his troops, though he agreed to a suspension of hostilities. Reinforcements poured into Nagpoor from all quarters.
Lieutenant-Colonel Gahan with a brigade from Colonel Adam’s division appeared on the 29th, Major Pitman arrived with a detachment on the 5th December, and General Doveton, with the whole second division, had reached Nagpoor before the middle of that month.
On the morning of the 15th, Mr. Jenkins demanded the absolute submission of Appa Sahib, requiring of him to disband his troops, to place his territory at the disposal of the British government, and to surrender himself as a hostage for the performance of these conditions; but he was at the same time given to understand, that upon compliance, no harder terms should be enforced, than a cession of territory equal to meet the expenses of the subsidiary force, and as much control in his internal government as should prevent similar treachery in future. Till four o’clock on the following morning was the time allowed for his acceptance of the terms. At six o’clock it was intimated, that the troops would not permit Appa Sahib to come to the residency as he wished; a respite of three days was requested, but three hours only were granted. When the time expired the troops advanced; Appa Sahib then came in, and the army was halted, in hopes that his force would be disbanded, and his guns given up. Such
of the latter as were in the arsenal were surrendered, but on advancing to take possession of the others, a cannonade was opened upon the British troops. The line was in consequence immediately formed, and the guns were stormed and taken, but with the loss of one hundred and forty-one men in killed and wounded. Two of Appa Sahib’s officers, Gunput Rao and Mun Bhut, were the persons who maintained this resistance; and it was supposed, without their master’s orders. Gunput Rao afterwards went off towards the Peishwa’s territory, and joined Bajee Rao, as already mentioned, near Sholapoor.
Mun Bhut, with the Arabs, retired to the fort of Nagpoor, where an attempt was made to storm one of the gates on the 24th December, and repulsed, with the loss of two hundred and sixty-nine men in killed and wounded. The Arabs afterwards offered to surrender, on being permitted to march out with their property, families, and arms; terms which were admitted, because time was of importance, and there was no efficient battering train on the spot.
The reserve division of the Bengal army stationed at Rewah, under Brigadier-General Hardyman, was ordered down to Nagpoor, when the Marquis of Hastings was first apprised of the defection of Appa Sahib; but the order was not received until the 6th December, so that General Hardyman did not reach the neighbourhood until the whole was settled by General Doveton; but on the 19th December, he routed a body of the enemy assembled at Jubbulpoor, reduced that place and co-operated
with Lieutenant-Colonel McMorine in occupying the whole of Appa Sahib’s northern territory, excepting Choureeagurh and Mundelah.
Hostilities at the capital were brought to a conclusion by the capitulation of the Arabs and the surrender of Mun Bhut; Mr. Jenkins, owing to the interruption of the communication, had received no instructions relative to Appa Sahib in case of submission; and therefore in consequence of what had been already proposed, although the terms had not been complied with, Mr. Jenkins, on a consideration of all circumstances, conceived it incumbent on the British government to reinstate Appa Sahib, but deemed it necessary that his government should be most effectually controlled. For this purpose, to secure the subordination of the capital, the Seetabuldee hill was to be fortified; the British troops to have complete military occupation of the whole country; and a territorial cession, amounting to about twenty-four lacks of rupees, equal to the full charge of the subsidiary force, was demanded.
A treaty to this effect was drawn out and about to be submitted for the Raja’s acceptance, when, on the 2d January, Mr. Jenkins received instructions from the Marquis of Hastings, issued on first hearing of the Raja’s defection, before being informed of what had passed subsequent to the arrival of General Doveton. These instructions forbade any reconciliation with Appa Sahib himself, and directed, that the son of the daughter of the late Pursajee, a minor, should be placed on the musnud, and affairs confided to a regency, selected by
the British government. Afterwards, however, upon considering the motives which swayed the resident, respect for the moral obligation implied by the terms of his personal surrender, induced the governor-general to confirm the treaty179 on the terms proposed by Mr. Jenkins.
At this point, therefore, we shall for the present leave the detail of Deccan affairs, and return to the operations which were about to be commenced by the British armies in central India, when their Mahratta allies at Poona, and Nagpoor, taking advantage of the removal of the British troops, treacherously attempted, as we have seen, to annihilate the detachments at their capitals180.
161. It may be here mentioned, that Jeswunt Rao Ghorepuray had a just claim to the fort and valley of Sondoor, held by his brother Khundee Rao Ghorepuray, but which Jeswunt Rao bad made over to the Peishwa, in exchange for other villages. The British government approved of the transaction, and promised at the time the transfer was made, to put the Peishwa in possession of Sondoor, but various causes prevented the fulfilment of this promise; until the end of October of this year, when Sondoor surrendered to a part of the reserve under Colonel Thomas Munro, detached from the force of Brigadier-General Pritzler for the express purpose.
162. Independently of its having been found in the Peishwa’s accounts, I became acquainted with the circumstances from an individual then high in Bajee Rao’s confidence, whose name it would be improper to publish.
163. At my particular request, he wrote a very correct and voluminous history of his own times, in which he quotes his authorities. It was translated for me by my friend Mr. William Richard Morris, of the Bombay Civil Service, whose valuable assistance I have already acknowledged, but the original MS. is in possession of its author, who, for various prudential reasons, was desirous of retaining it. Ballajee Punt Nathoo was the carcoon of the ill-requited Khundee Rao Rastia, who at his death appointed him guardian to his children. He endeavoured to interest Colonel Close in their behalf, was in the habit of coming much to the residency, and at last attached himself to Mr. Elphinstone, openly embraced the British cause, and proved himself well entitled to the munificent reward which was conferred upon him, before Mr. Elphinstone assumed the government of Bombay.
164. As I was the only person with Mr. Elphinstone during that night, though I here narrate simply what I saw and heard, some apology to him may be necessary, for publishing without his sanction, what relates to him personally, but I trust that the occasion is sufficiently, interesting to the public, and honourable to him, to authorize my having done so.
165. Lieutenant Shaw. Veesram Sing, a horseman of Bajee Rao’s personal retinue, was the individual who speared him.
166. Many of the Sepoys behaved with admirable fidelity; one native officer, Jemadar Shaik Hoossein, of the 2d battalion 6th regiment, on being tampered with, encouraged the overtures, by the advice of his Adjutant, Lieut. Robert Billamore, who was instructed on the subject. The Peishwa sent for the Jemadar, made him great promises, and desired a carcoon to give him 10,000 rupees, but the latter gave the Jemadar one-half and kept the other himself. The Jemadar brought the money to his officer in a bag of rice, just before hostilities commenced.
167. Dr. Coats and Captain Ford, the latter only if he stood neutral, were to be the sole exceptions. Dr. Coats had attended the Peishwa in an illness, had gratuitously performed many cures amongst the people of the country, and had spread vaccination for many miles around; the anecdote proves that Bajee Rao was not wholly devoid of gratitude.
168. Situated on a hill on the south side of Poona, and already mentioned.
169. Those only who have witnessed the Bore in the Gulf of Cambay, and have seen in perfection the approach of that roaring tide, can form the exact idea presented to the author at sight of the Peishwa’s army. It was towards the afternoon of a very sultry day; there was a dead calm, and no sound was heard, except the rushing, the trampling and neighing of the horses, and the rumbling of the gun wheels. The effect was heightened, by seeing the peaceful peasantry flying from their work in the fields, the bullocks breaking from their yokes, the wild antelopes startled from sleep, bounding off, and then turning for a moment to gaze on this tremendous inundation, which swept all before it, levelled the hedges and standing corn, and completely overwhelmed every ordinary barrier as it moved.
170. Naroo Punt Apty, Mahdoo Rao Rastia, and Aba Poorundhuree, were all in this charge. Golda advanced a considerable distance with them, until his horse was wounded: he told Naroo Punt that most of the Sepoys were friendly, and would fire over his head.
171. Colonel Burr had lost the use of his side from a paralytic stroke, and both mind and body were impaired, but he was foremost in the post of honour. On this occasion, two of his attendants were shot by his side, his horse’s head was grazed by a ball, and another went through his hat.
172. This number is given from the actual returns, and does not include 5,000 horse and 2,000 foot stationed with the Peishwa at Parbuttee, so that Bajee Rao had already collected thirty-three thousand men at Poona.
173. This person is now a prisoner, in a wooden cage, in the fort of Singurh. Bajee Rao disavowed the murder of the Vaughans, but acknowledged that the residency was destroyed by his orders.
174. I write this description of the village from recollection; I have not seen it for seven or eight years: not indeed since the morning after Captain Staunton evacuated it, when, though I carefully examined that scene of recent and desperate conflict, I at that time had no intention of publishing an account of it.
175. Lieut. Pattinson was a very powerful man, being 6 feet 7 inches in height; nothing could exceed his heroic conduct on the memorable occasion where he received his wounds; he did not expire until the regiment reached Seroor, but unfortunately, in his last moments, he laboured under an impression that his corps had been defeated, which caused him great distress.
176. To commemorate this glorious defence, a monument was erected by government, recording the names of those who fell; the corps was made grenadiers, as their lat battalion had been, for the defence of Mangalore, and “Mangalore and Korygaom” became the animating motto of the regiment.
177. There were eight European officers on this memorable defence.
2d Battalion 1st Regiment.
Lieutenant and Adjutant Pattinson, died of his wounds.
Lieutenant Conellan, wounded.
Assistant-Surgeon Wingate, killed.
Lieut. Chisholm, killed.
Lieutenant Swanston, wounded.
178. Including Mr. Sotheby of the civil service, 1st assistant to the resident, who was killed.
179. The treaty was dated 6th January.
180. Authorities as for the preceding Chapter.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage