Our Soldiers; Gallant Deeds of the British Army during Queen Victoria's Reign, by W.H.G. Kingston.
A very interesting book telling us about the various deeds of the British Army throughout the reign of Queen Victoria. Most of us will be aware of nearly all of the campaigns, but that there were so many comes as a bit of a shock. Although many of the campaigns and battles were favourably completed, quite a few were not, and this also comes as a bit of a shock.
Kingston was the original author, but died many years before the end of Queen Victoria's reign, and the work was taken in hand by Mr G.A. Henty, also a prolific writer of books for teenagers. There was some evidence in the book of two or more authors being at work, by reason of different spellings for the same person or item. For instance one of the authors spelt "Gatling guns" as "Catling guns". The Ghurkas also appeared in several variants, and a character called "Soojah-ul-Moolk" appeared with a different spelling practically every time!
Having cleared all that out of the way, we present you with a most interesting book that we hope you will greatly enjoy reading, or just glancing through.
OUR SOLDIERS; GALLANT DEEDS OF THE BRITISH ARMY DURING QUEEN VICTORIA'S REIGN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGNS—1839-42.
In 1809 the reigning Ameer of Afghanistan, Shah Soojah-ul-Moolk, was dispossessed of his throne and an exile. Runjeet Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjaub, plundered and imprisoned him at Lahore, and obtained from him the famous Koh-i-noor, the great diamond which is now among the crown jewels of Great Britain. Eventually Soojah escaped from Lahore and became a pensioner of the East India Company. For many years after the fall of Shah Soojah, anarchy ruled in Afghanistan, until in 1826 Dost Mahomed established himself upon the throne at Cabul.
Meantime Shah Soojah never ceased to plot for his restoration, and in 1832 came to an agreement with Runjeet Singh, in pursuance of which the latter undertook to assist him in an armed attempt to oust Dost Mahomed. The Indian Government, while professing neutrality, indirectly assisted Shah Soojah by paying his pension in advance.
In 1833 Shah Soojah's army was thoroughly beaten by Dost Mahomed before Candahar, though he himself escaped. But Runjeet Singh was more successful; he drove the Afghans back into the Khyber Pass and occupied Peshawur, which province he held against all the attempts of the Afghan Ameer to expel him.
In 1837 the Shah of Persia, under the instigation of and with assistance from, Russia, and in spite of strong remonstrances by the British, made war upon Afghanistan and marched upon Herat.
ELDRED POTTINGER AT HERAT.
The siege of this place commenced on the 23rd of November 1837, and lasted over nine months, when it utterly collapsed, owing mainly to the determination and courage of Lieutenant Pottinger, who had arrived in the city just before, and assisted the Afghans in the defence. Notwithstanding the assistance of Russian volunteers the Persian attack was but feebly delivered; still, but for the presence of Pottinger and the courage given by his example, the Afghan defence would have been equally spiritless. At length, after some days' bombardment, a general assault was made on the 23rd of June 1838, and repulsed by Pottinger with heavy loss. Soon after the Shah, hearing that a British expedition had been sent up the Persian Gulf to force him to retire, raised the siege and left Herat, which has remained up to the present in the hands of the Afghans—a fact which may be said to be in the first instance due to the heroic achievements of one young British officer, Lieutenant Eldred Pottinger.
THE AFGHAN WAR.
The Indian Government had now determined, for reasons into which it is not our province to inquire, to make war upon Dost Mahomed and to replace Shah Soojah upon the throne.
This war, which ended so disastrously to our arms and prestige, seems at this time, when it is possible to take an impartial view of the question, to have been one of wanton aggression against a prince well disposed towards our Government—and who, with whatever faults he had, was a strong and wise ruler, and accepted by his people—in order to force upon the Afghans a mere nominee of the British, and one whose authority could only be supported by the bayonets of an alien race. Such an enterprise was as discreditable to our councillors as it proved to be disastrous to our soldiers.
The army collected for this purpose consisted of the Bengal contingent, which, after leaving a division in reserve at Ferozepore, was 9500 strong, under the command of Sir Willoughby Cotton, and the Bombay contingent, consisting of another 6000, the whole being under the command of Sir John Keane.
At the same time, another force, nominally under the command of Shah Soojah, was to be raised in the Company's territories, to accompany him into Afghanistan. This army crossed the Indus near the fortress of Bukkur, entering territories famous from their association with the operations of Alexander the Great, and which had never before been traversed by British troops.
Marching from Shikapore, the army advanced for fifty miles through the dark defiles of the Bolan Pass, lofty mountains covered with snow towering above their heads. It now entered a desert region, where provisions were not to be procured, and where on every side the troops were assailed by the fierce Beloochees, who attacked foraging parties and camp followers, and plundered the baggage left in the rear. Early in April, the troops marched through the vale of Shawl, forded many rivers, and passed the heights of Kozak, over which the artillery was dragged by the men with ropes, till at length, surmounting all difficulties, the army reached Candahar on the 27th of April 1839.
On the 27th of June the march was resumed, but it was necessary to leave a strong garrison at Candahar, and, strange to say, probably owing to the difficulties of transport, the siege-guns which had been dragged with so much toil through the passes were left behind, while supplies were so short that the army had to proceed on half rations.
CAPTURE OF GHUZNEE—23RD JULY.
On the 21st of July the army arrived before the famous fortress of Ghuznee, which was considered impregnable by the Afghans.
The city of Ghuznee lies between Candahar and Cabul, about 230 miles distant from the former, and 90 from the latter place. It stands on the extreme points of a range of hills, which slope upwards and command the north-east angle of the Balla Hissar. As the British advanced on it, and observed its strong fortifications rising up before them on the side of a hill, they saw that the place could not be reduced by artillery for want of the siege-guns left at Candahar, and at the same time a high wall with a wet ditch in front made operations with scaling-ladders or mining equally impossible.
It was discovered, however, by Captain Thomson, who made an inspection under heavy fire from the walls, that though the gates had been built up the Cabul gate still existed, and he reported that this one, though at great risk, could be blown up, and so an attempt to take the place by storm could be made. The want of supplies made it absolutely necessary to take the place, and therefore Sir John Keane gladly accepted Captain Thomson's proposal.
The morning of the 23rd of July, just before daybreak, was the time fixed for the assault. The regiments told off for the service were the 2nd, 13th, and 17th (Queen's), and the Company's European regiment, under Major Carruthers, Lieutenant-Colonel Orchard, Colonel Croker, and Major Tronson. The advance consisted of the light companies of these four regiments. The night and morning were unusually stormy. The advance was placed under the command of Colonel Dennie of the 13th Light Infantry, and the main column under Brigadier Sale. The explosion party was directed by Captain Thomson, who had under him Lieutenants Durand and Macleod of the Bengal, and Captain Peat of the Bombay corps. Under cover of the darkness, the noise the men might make being overpowered by the roaring of the wind, the storming column advanced along the Cabul road, while the engineers carried up their powder-bags to the gate. Meantime the General filled the gardens near the city walls with the sepoys, who kept up a sharp fire on the wall, while the light batteries opened hotly upon the works.
This demonstration fixed the attention of the enemy, and called forth a responsive fire. Suddenly a row of blue lights appeared along the walls, illuminating the place, and showing that the Afghans were manning them in expectation of an escalade. All this time the British engineers were quietly piling their powder-bags at the Cabul gate. It was a work that required great courage, and it was done well; but at first the powder failed to ignite, and Lieutenant Durand was obliged to scrape the hose with his finger-nails. Again the port-fire was applied. The powder exploded. The noise of the explosion was almost overpowered by the roaring of the guns and the rushing of the wind. Still, many an Afghan trembled at the ominous sound. Mighty indeed was the effect. Down with a crash came heavy masses of masonry and shivered beams in awful ruin and confusion. Now occurred a slight delay. It had been agreed that the signal for the storming party should be the bugle-call "Advance," but the bugler had fallen, and so Durand had to rush back to the nearest party he could find. At length the signal was given. The advance was sounded. Colonel Dennie at the head of his brave band rushed forward through the breach, amid clouds of smoke and dust, and soon the bayonets of his light companies were crossing the swords of the enemy, who had rushed down to the point of attack. A few moments of darkness and confusion, and then the foremost soldiers caught a glimpse of the morning sky, and pushing gallantly on, were soon established in the fortress.
Three hearty, animating cheers, so loud and clear that they were heard throughout the general camp, announced to their excited comrades below that Dennie and his stormers had entered Ghuznee.
Colonel Sale was pressing on to support Dennie, when, deceived by a false report that the latter had failed to enter the breach, he halted his column. There was a pause of painful doubt; but the true state of affairs was soon ascertained. Again the cheering notes of the bugle sounded the advance, and the British troops pushed on. But the enemy had profited by the pause, and numbers crowded to the breach. One of their number, rushing over the ruins, brought down the gallant Sale by a cut on the face with his sharp sabre. The Afghan repeated his blow as his opponent was falling; but the pommel, not the edge of his sword, this time took effect, though with stunning violence. He lost his footing, however, in the effort, and both rolled down together amid the fractured timbers of the gate. Sale now made an effort to master the weapon of his opponent. He snatched at it, but one of his fingers met the edge of the sharp blade. He quickly withdrew his wounded hand, and placed it over that of his adversary, so as to keep fast hold of the hilt; but the Afghan was active and powerful, and he was himself faint from loss of blood. Happily, at that moment Captain Kershaw, of the 13th, approached the scene of conflict. The wounded leader called to him by name for aid. He gave it effectually by passing his sabre through the body of the Afghan; who, however, continued to struggle gallantly. At length the Brigadier for a moment got the uppermost. Still retaining in his left hand the weapon of his enemy, he dealt him with his right a cut from his own sabre, which cleft his skull from his crown to the eyebrows. The Mohammedan once shouted "Ne Ullah!" (O God!) and never moved or spoke again.
At length the enemy gave way. The British pushed on. The support, under Colonel Croker, advanced, and the reserve speedily followed; and soon the colours of the 13th Regiment, planted by the brave young Ensign Frere, as well as those of the 17th, were flying out in the morning breeze from the ramparts of Ghuznee.
The struggle within the fort, for a considerable time, was most desperate. In addition to a heavy fire kept up on them, the British troops were assailed by the enemy sword in hand, as well as with daggers, pistols, and other arms; but British courage, perseverance, and fortitude overcame all opposition, and the enemy were soon to be seen abandoning their guns, running in all directions, throwing themselves down from immense heights, and endeavouring to make their escape over the walls. By five o'clock the capture of the Afghans' last stronghold was complete. But there was much hard fighting within the walls. In the frenzy of despair the Afghans rushed out from their hiding-places, plying their sabres with terrible effect, though only to meet with an awful retribution from the musketry or bayonets of the British infantry. Some, in their frantic efforts to escape by the gateway, stumbled over the burning timbers, wounded and exhausted, and were slowly burnt to death. Some were bayoneted on the ground, and others hunted into corners and shot down like dogs; but though many an Afghan sold his life dearly, and cut to the last at his hated enemy, the appeals of the helpless for mercy were never made in vain. And when resistance ceased, not a conquered enemy was injured.
So Ghuznee fell to the British army, and was made over to Shah Soojah. It cost the victors only 17 killed, and 165 wounded; of these last, 18 were officers.
Upwards of 500 of the garrison were buried by the victors; many more fell beyond the walls under the sabres of the British horsemen. Sixteen hundred prisoners were taken, and large stores of grain and flour fell into the hands of the conquerors.
The fall of Ghuznee—a fortress hitherto deemed by the Afghans impregnable—astonished Dost Mahomed, and was the cause of the ruin which soon afterwards overtook him.
CAPTURE OF KHELAT—13TH NOVEMBER.
In the northern part of Beloochistan stands the strong mountain fortress of Khelat. The chief, Mehrab Khan, had offended the British, and it was resolved to annex his territories to the kingdom of Shah Soojah. Khelat is a place of commanding strength. The citadel rises high above the buildings of the town, and frowns down menacingly on its assailants. On the north-west of the fort are three heights. On these the Khan had posted his infantry, supported by five guns in position. General Willshire was sent to capture it, with the 2nd and 17th Queen's Regiments, the 31st Bengal Native Infantry, with two howitzers, four of the Shah's 6-pounder guns, and a detachment of local horse. On the morning of the 13th of November he found himself before the place. The Engineer officers reported that until the heights were carried it would be impossible to proceed against the fortress; accordingly orders were issued for the attack. It was Willshire's hope that the enemy might be driven down to the gate of the fortress, and that the stormers might rush in with them. Gallantly our brave soldiers made their way up the heights—gallantly they were carried, and right nobly the guns were captured.
The shrapnel shot from Stephenson's batteries fell with too deadly an aim among the Beloochee footmen for them to hold their position on the hills. They fled towards the walls of their fortress, and the British infantry pushed hotly after them; but, in spite of all their exertions, our brave soldiers were not in time to secure an entrance—the gates were closed against their advance. The enemy's artillery, planted on the walls, was now brought into play. The British infantry were compelled to find shelter behind some ruined buildings, while our batteries, planted on the heights, opened upon the gate and the neighbouring defences. Two of Cooper's guns were brought within 200 yards of the walls. The gunners suffered much from the matchlocks of the enemy, but undauntedly continued to fire full upon the gate. At length it gave way. Pointing his hand towards the gateway, Willshire boldly rode down to show the infantry that an entrance was ready for them. Rising at once from their cover, with a loud hurrah they rushed on. Pennycuick and his men were the first to enter. The other companies eagerly followed, till the whole of the storming column were within the walls of Khelat.
Onward they struggled manfully towards the citadel. Every inch of ground was obstinately disputed. The citadel was reached, but there was here a desperate resistance. Sword in hand, Mehrab Khan and some of his principal chiefs stood to give battle to their enemies. The Khan himself fell dead with a musket-ball through his breast. Eight of his principal sirdars fell beside him. Heaps of dead lay around,—many fine-looking men,—their shields shot through and broken, swords and matchlocks scattered about in every direction, telling of the fierce fight. A small party held out in an inner apartment; there was no reaching them, except by a narrow passage which admitted but of one at a time. Three or four attempted it, and were instantly shot dead. The little band of Beloochees would not trust the British. At length Lieutenant Loveday was sent up to them alone. It was a critical moment for him; but they listened to his proposals, and surrendered. And Khelat was won, the British loss being 138 killed and wounded.
These defeats had a very depressing effect upon the followers of Dost Mahomed, who, although still at the head of an army of 14,000 men, found that there was no courage in his faint-hearted followers, and that they could not be trusted even to be true to himself. His position being thus hopeless, Dost Mahomed fled from Cabul on the 2nd of August, and that city was entered in state by Shah Soojah, who then, though for a short time, was restored to the throne which he had lost thirty years before.
The army now ceased to be an expeditionary force, and became settled as an army of occupation. The officers sent for their wives and families, and for a time English society and English amusements may be said to have been established in Cabul. Still Shah Soojah was not accepted by the people, his rule was exacting and cruel, and disaffection was rife in the country, which was rapidly preparing to rise.
In the meantime, Dost Mahomed was still to be reckoned with. After his flight from Cabul he and his son Akbar had gone to Bokhara, where for a time they were in captivity. Escaping thence, they reached Khartoum, where the Dost's family were under the protection of his brother Jubbar Khan. Here he found the tribes strongly in his favour, and soon gathered force wherewith to oppose the British who were concentrating at Bamian, where a small force under Colonel Dennie arrived on the 14th of September 1840.
THE BATTLE OF BAMIAN.
On the 18th of September Colonel Dennie moved out with a detachment to drive a force of the enemy out of a valley near Bamian. Soon after eight o'clock, two horse artillery guns, under Lieutenant Murray Mackenzie, two companies of the 35th Native Infantry, two companies of the Goorkha corps, and about four hundred Afghan horse, marched out to meet the enemy. About half an hour afterwards, Dennie, with two more companies of the native infantry regiment, and two also of the Goorkha corps, followed, in support of the advanced detachment. Instead of coming merely upon the advance of the enemy, the Brigadier found an army in his front; but, in spite of the slender force at his command, and the apparently overwhelming numbers of the enemy, he did not hesitate for a moment. His men were eager to advance, and he himself was full of confidence and courage. The enemy had got possession of a chain of forts reaching to the mouth of the defile, and were collected in bodies round the several forts, and upon the hills on either side of the valley. Mackenzie's guns began to play upon them. For some short time the Oosbegs, forming part of the Dost's force, stood the fire, but the guns were ably served, and the shrapnel practice told with terrific effect on dense bodies of men, who had nothing to give back in return.
The Oosbegs retreated; the British guns were pushed forward, opening a destructive fire, first from one distance, then from another, upon the wavering enemy. The Dost's army was soon broken to pieces, and the British cavalry were then let slip in pursuit. Following the disorded masses of the enemy for some miles along the defile, they cut down large numbers, and dispersed them in all directions. The defeat of the Dost's army was complete, and he and his son owed their lives to the fleetness of their steeds.
DOST MAHOMED'S LAST CHARGE.
Notwithstanding all this, Dost Mahomed, not yet beaten, was soon once more in command of a respectable force. The force which had been pursuing him under Sir Robert Sale came up with him on the 2nd of November. As our cavalry advanced upon him, Dost Mahomed, at the head of a small band of horsemen, strong, sturdy Afghans, but badly mounted, prepared to meet his assailants. Beside him rode the bearer of the blue standard, which marked his place in the battle. He pointed to it, and reined in his horse, then snatching the white lunghi from his head, stood up in his stirrups uncovered before his followers, and called upon them in the name of God and the Prophet to drive the cursed Kaffirs from the country of the faithful. "Follow me," he cried aloud, "or I am a lost man!" Slowly, but steadily, the Afghan horsemen advanced. The English officers who led our cavalry to the attack covered themselves with glory; but the native troopers, those vaunting horsemen, treacherous not for the first time even now, and who were in after years to prove traitors of the darkest dye, fled like sheep. Emboldened by the dastardly conduct of the men of the 2nd Light Cavalry, the Afghan horsemen dashed on, driving their enemy before them, and not stopping till they were almost within reach of the British guns.
The British officers unsupported by their men met the full force of the Afghan charge, and fought bravely to the last. Lieutenants Broadfoot and Crispin were killed, while Captains Fraser and Ponsonby, though badly wounded, broke through their assailants.
The next evening poor gallant Dost Mahomed, seeing his cause was hopeless, gave himself up to the British at Cabul, and shortly after was sent to British India.
ACTION NEAR SOORKHAB—NOVEMBER 1841.
The chiefs of certain hill tribes, Kuzzilbashs, Ghilzyes, and other robbers and bandits by profession, had been accustomed to receive subsidies to induce them to refrain from robbing any caravans or parties travelling in the neighbourhood of their territories. The expenses of the war in Afghanistan had been enormous; and it becoming necessary to retrench, it was unwisely determined to begin by cutting off the pay of these chiefs. They resented the measure, and assembling in vast numbers, took every opportunity of attacking the British troops passing through the defiles of their mountainous country. Sale's brigade had reached Jugdulluck with little opposition; but on the next march it was seen that the heights were bristling with armed men, and a heavy fire was poured in with terrible effect from all the salient points on which the mountaineers had posted themselves. Sale threw out his flanking parties, and the light troops, skirmishing well up the hillsides, dislodged the enemy, whilst a party under Captain Wilkinson, pushing through the defile, found that the main outlet had not been guarded, and that the passage was clear. The march was resumed, but the enemy were not yet weary of the contest. Reappearing in great numbers, they fell furiously upon the British rearguard, and for a time the men thus suddenly assailed were in a state of terrible disorder. The energetic efforts of the officers, however, brought them back to a sense of their duty. Broadfoot, Backhouse, and Fenwick rallied and reanimated them. But the British loss was heavy; upwards of 100 were killed and wounded, and among them fell the gallant Captain Wyndham, of the 35th Native Infantry. Although lame from a hurt, at the moment of peril he had dismounted to save the life of a wounded soldier, by bearing him from the combat on his charger. When the rearguard broke before the onset of the Ghilzyes, unable to keep pace with the pursued, he turned, fought, and, overpowered by numbers, fell beneath the swords and knives of an unsparing foe. The force halted at Gundamuck. The political managers of affairs in Afghanistan fancied that this would prove the termination of disturbances in that country. Unhappily the storm which was to break with such fearful violence was only now gathering.
RETREAT FROM CABUL—6TH JANUARY 1842.
The British army had, as we have seen, advanced on Cabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in August 1839. Since that period it had been placed in cantonments outside the city. Major-General Sir V. Cotton had at first commanded in Afghanistan. He was succeeded by Major-General Elphinstone, who assumed the command in April 1841. On the morning of the 2nd of November 1841, the inhabitants of Cabul broke out in rebellion, and murdered Sir A. Burnes, the political agent, as well as his brother and Lieutenant Broadfoot, who sold their lives dearly. The rebellion extended rapidly through the country; supplies were cut off, and it was resolved to retreat from Cabul.
The amount of the British force was 4500 fighting men: the camp followers were about 12,000 men, besides women and children. The retreat commenced at 9 a.m. on the 6th of January 1842. It was as disastrous as any in the pages of history. A revengeful, active enemy, bitter cold and driving snow overwhelmed them; and of that great multitude, only one officer, Dr Brydon, reached Jellalabad in safety. All the rest had died from cold or the sword of the enemy—except those who had been delivered as hostages at the commencement of the retreat, or who had been taken prisoners; an account of whose release will be hereafter given.
DEFENCE OF JELLALABAD—OCTOBER 1841 TO APRIL 1842.
Before it was suspected to what extent the insurrection in Afghanistan would reach, Sir Robert Sale was placed in command of a brigade which was ordered to return to Hindostan. His road led through the Ghilzye defiles. Here, for several days, he was attacked by the mountaineers, but fighting his onward way, he reached Gundamuck. Here he heard of the outbreak at Cabul. Deeming it important to push on, he left a considerable portion of his camp equipage at Gundamuck, under charge of some Afghan levies; but they proved traitors, plundered the baggage, and set fire to the cantonment. Captain Burn and the other European officers were pursued by the insurgents, but succeeded in reaching the British camp.
Sir Robert Sale renewed his march the next morning, but already the whole armed population of the district was on the alert. The Afghans crowned each height as soon as our pickets were withdrawn, swarmed like hornets round the camp, and were repelled only by the most strenuous efforts. They permitted the advanced guard and the main body to pass through the town of Futtehabad without interruption. Bodies of them even came in guise of unarmed suppliants to beg for protection. But no sooner had the rearguard passed the houses and fort of this town, than a destructive fire was opened upon it. Captain Broadfoot and his sappers turned fiercely round more than once, and inflicted vengeance for this treachery; and Colonel Dennie, in the end, dexterously decoyed the enemy away from their walls into the open plain, and then the cavalry, under Captain Oldfield and Lieutenant Mayne, charging among them with headlong valour, strewed the ground with 150 slain. That night the force encamped under the walls of Jellalabad, and took possession of it next morning, the 12th of November. It was a most important object to occupy this place, in order to establish a post on which the corps at Cabul might retreat it necessary, and then form a link in the chain of communication with India. A glance at the map will show the immense distance which the British forces were from all support, with intricate passes, lofty mountains, deserts, and broad rivers intervening between them and India; while on every side swarmed hostile tribes, accustomed to warfare, and sworn to destroy them.
Jellalabad was the winter residence of the rulers of Cabul, and inferior only to that city and Candahar. The walls were, however, in a state which might have justified despair as to the possibility of defending them. They were also far too extensive for our small force, embracing a circumference of upwards of 2300 yards. There was no parapet, except for a few hundred yards. In many places the walls were not more than two feet high, while rubbish had accumulated to such an extent that there were roads over them into the country.
The population within was disaffected, and without were ruined forts, walls, mosques, tombs, and gardens, from which a fire could be opened at 20 or 30 yards. Captains Broadfoot and Havelock and Colonel Dennie assured the General that the works might be restored by adequate exertions, and it was therefore resolved to occupy the town.
The brigade was scarcely within the walls, when the plain was darkened by masses of the enemy. They had expected that the British troops would continue their progress towards India, and looked for a rich harvest of plunder of their baggage between Jellalabad and Peshawur. It was determined to read them a salutary lesson, and Colonel Monteith was ordered to drive them away. He issued from the gate on the morning of the 14th of November, with horse, foot, and artillery, 1100 in number, of whom 300 were Europeans, and fell on the enemy with such vigour and skill, that the masses broke up and fled, leaving 200 dead on the field. At noon not an Afghan remained, and all molestation ceased for fourteen days. On the 15th, the work of clearing away the ruins and restoring the fortifications was commenced, under the direction of Captain Broadfoot. The day was spent by him in superintending the work, the evening was devoted to his plans and calculations. Working parties were told off, who laboured from dawn to dusk—officers and men worked with emulation; and in a few weeks the ramparts were ready to receive the guns, and everything around the town that could afford cover to the enemy was, as far as possible, cleared away. The chief cause of anxiety to Sir Robert Sale was the deficiency of ammunition, which a single prolonged engagement would go nigh to exhaust. The men were therefore ordered not to expend a single shot uselessly.
On the 29th of November, large bodies of Afghans poured down upon the plains from the surrounding valleys, and opened a desultory fire on the town. As they interrupted the workmen on the fortifications, Colonel Dennie sallied out of the gates soon after midday on the 1st of December, with 300 men from each regiment, to disperse them. The Afghans fired a volley and fled—the troops followed. The guns dealt destruction among the fugitives; the cavalry, galloping in pursuit, drove some into the river, and cut down others, till 150 bodies strewed the plain. The garrison enjoyed a long period of repose in consequence of this spirited repulse of the enemy. At length news reached the gallant band of the disasters at Cabul; and Dr Brydon arriving in the city, confirmed the sad news. Councils of war were held, and there was some talk of evacuating Jellalabad; but there were brave spirits among the garrison, who saw, and loudly spoke, not only of the disgrace, but of the suicidal folly of such a measure. Their bolder counsels prevailed, and it was determined to hold out to the last extremity. There was Havelock, whose name was afterwards to be in the mouth of every British soldier, as one to be loved and imitated; there were Broadfoot and Dennie, true heroes of the noblest stamp.
On the 19th of February a letter was received from General Pollock, who had arrived in Peshawur, approving of their resolution to hold out, and promising to advance as soon as possible to their aid. Sir Robert replied that the whole of the horses of his cavalry and artillery must perish in another month if he was not succoured before that time, and that then a retreat even on a force advancing to his relief would be impossible.
Major Havelock and Captain Wade were seated by Sir Robert's side, the former writing the reply to General Pollock, when the house began to shake violently. A fearful earthquake was taking place. The shocks continued, without intermission, with frightful violence—a confused, rumbling sound wildly mingled with the crash of falling houses and the outcries of the inhabitants. The earth was so uplifted that it was scarcely possible for the people to keep their feet. But the destruction of the defences was most appalling. All the parapets were shaken down, several of the bastions were injured, all the guard-houses were cast to the ground, a third of the town was demolished, and a considerable break made in the ramparts of a curtain in the Peshawur face, while the Cabul gate was reduced to a shapeless mass of ruins.
The garrison did not lose heart even under these appalling circumstances. The camp of the enemy they knew was only seven miles off, and he might be upon them in a few hours. It was also necessary to guard against a rush which any parties of the enemy concealed in the neighbourhood might make against the ruined walls. At the sound of the bugle the troops assembled on the ramparts. When it was ascertained that no enemy was near, they piled their arms, and set to work with brave determination to restore the defences. Temporary parapets of loose clods were thrown up, the earth was cleared out of the ditch, gabions were filled to block up the main breaches, and palisades fixed to impede the progress of assailants through others. In a few hours the walls wore a more encouraging aspect. The Afghans, when a few days afterwards they approached the fortress and saw the wonderful state of repair in which it had been placed, believed that it had escaped through the power of English witchcraft. The difficulties of the garrison, however, increased great anxiety was felt for the subsistence of the cavalry and artillery horses. Foraging parties were sent out daily under an escort, and were constantly attacked by the enemy; and the close investment of the place by Akbar Khan made it impossible for them to get in the needed supplies.
At length, on the 11th of March, the Afghans approached so near the walls, that it was suspected that they purposed undermining them. To prevent this Colonel Dennie made a vigorous sally with 800 men, and ascertained that they had commenced no operation of the sort. Akbar Khan then advanced on the city with his whole force. It was a critical moment, but the hearts of none of the garrison failed them. He was received with so hot a fire from the ramparts, while horse and foot attacked him with such heroic courage, that he was compelled to fly, leaving more than 100 dead on the field.
Starvation now threatened the garrison. For many days the European regiments had been on half rations of salt beef, without vegetables, while the native troops subsisted mainly on flour; and it was doubtful whether this allowance would be continued beyond the second week in April. When, however, they were almost reduced to despair that help would come in time to preserve their lives, some large flocks of sheep were seen grazing on the plains before them. At first it was believed that they were placed there to lure them out to destruction, but the desire to capture them at all hazards became too strong to be resisted. About 200 men of the 13th, and the same number of the 35th, with some sappers and miners, were allowed to sally out to bring in the prey. They succeeded beyond their most sanguine expectations, and 500 sheep and goats were captured and brought in amid shouts of laughter by the men. This success raised the spirits of the whole garrison, and made them more than ever determined to hold the fort until rescue should come.
On the 6th of April the situation again changed and the fortunes of the garrison once more seemed desperate. Spies had brought in rumours of a serious check inflicted upon General Pollock by the enemy at Ali-Musjid, and Akbar Khan had salutes fired in honour of this supposed victory.
Few of the officers believed these reports, but they were only the more eager to attack Akbar in force, and so, it victorious, effect their own relief, and support General Pollock if the report should turn out to be true. This plan of action was especially urged by Havelock upon the General, and though at first Sir Robert Sale, brave as he was, shrank from the responsibility of ordering so daring an effort, he in the end agreed. On the 7th of April the infantry marched out in three columns. The centre, under Colonel Dennie, consisted of the 13th, 500 strong; the left, of the 35th, under Colonel Monteith, mustering the same number of bayonets; and the right, under Captain Havelock, composed of one company of the 13th, another of the 35th, and the detachment of sappers under Lieutenant Orr, the whole amounting to 360. Captain Broadfoot lay on his couch, suffering from a dangerous wound received in a sortie on the 24th of March.
It was at this time reported in the town that Akbar Khan was preparing to retreat.
Without sound of bugle or drum, at early dawn the troops fell into their ranks and marched out of Jellalabad. Notwithstanding the report of his flight, Akbar Khan's troops, 6000 in number, were found drawn up in front of his camp, his left resting on the Cabul river. Havelock moved on rapidly in advance with his column, and driving the skirmishers before him, pushed on towards the enemy's camp, the other columns following. Sir Robert Sale was with the centre column. At about three-quarters of a mile from Jellalabad, a flanking fire was opened from one of the forts on that column, and Sir Robert ordered Colonel Dennie to storm it. Accordingly, rushing on with his men of the gallant 13th, he passed the outer wall through an opening, but found himself exposed to a murderous fire from the inner keep. Here fell the brave Colonel Dennie, mortally wounded by an Afghan marksman. He was acknowledged by all to be one of the most gallant soldiers in the British army. This false move nearly produced disastrous consequences. Akbar Khan, seeing Havelock, who was much in advance, unsupported, brought down a body of 15,000 cavalry on his feeble column. Havelock posted the company of the 13th in a walled enclosure on his right, to pour a flanking fire on the enemy, and formed the rest into square. That he might be able to command both parties, he himself remained outside the square till the horsemen were close upon them. His horse rearing, he was thrown, and the animal galloped back riderless to the town. He would have been killed by the Afghans had not a sapper and two men of the 13th rushed forward and rescued him. The enemy's horse, charging with much resolution, approached within 30 yards; but their leader was shot, and, exposed to a heavy fire in front and flank, they retired in confusion. Again Havelock's column advanced, and once more the Afghan horse charged it. Thrown into one square, it awaited the attack, which was more easily repulsed than the first. Sir Robert then sent Backhouse's guns to Havelock's assistance. The column, cheering them as they came on, advanced against the enemy's encampment and penetrated it, driving the Afghans headlong into the river. The other columns now came up, the camp was attacked on three points, and in a short time the enemy were dislodged from every part of their position, their cannon taken, and their camp burnt. Four guns, lost by the Cabul and Gundamuck forces, were recaptured, and a great quantity of ordnance stores and materiel was taken or destroyed. The field was strewed with the bodies of the Afghans, while the loss on the side of the victors amounted to only 10 killed and 50 wounded.
Thus the garrison of Jellalabad, after having been isolated in a hostile country for five months, surrounded by enemies, and constantly threatened with destruction, achieved its own relief. The peasantry now brought in ample supplies of provisions, and on the 16th of April the relieving force under General Pollock, having gallantly fought its way through the Khyber Pass, routing the Afridis who guarded it, approached the long beleaguered city, an exploit second to none in the annals of warfare; and thus was accomplished the successful defence of Jellalabad.
FORCING THE KHYBER PASS—5TH APRIL 1842.
Meanwhile, when the news reached India that a British army had been destroyed in Afghanistan, and that General Sale, with another, was closely besieged in Jellalabad, a strong force was despatched under General Pollock to his relief. General Pollock had to encounter many difficulties in his march, but the greatest was forcing the Khyber Pass, which was known to be guarded by a numerous, active, and daring enemy. The troops had arrived at Jumrood, on the east end of the pass—on the west end was Ali-Musjid. The hills on either side of the pass were rocky and precipitous, presenting great obstacles to troops, guarded as they were by numerous bodies of Afridis, long accustomed to warfare. The difficulties were great, but they were known, and General Pollock prepared to surmount them. Brigadier Wild was in command of the advance guard, and General McCaskill of the rear.
Before dawn on the 5th of April Pollock's force set out from Jumrood to the entrance of the Khyber Pass. It was formed of eight regiments of infantry, among whom were the 9th Queen's Regiment, three cavalry corps, including two squadrons of the 3rd Dragoons, artillery, and sappers, in all some 8000 men. Brigadier Wild was in command of the advance guard and General McCaskill of the rear. The arrangement of the march was that the heights on either side should be occupied by infantry, the right being under the command of Colonel Taylor, and the left of Colonel Morley; and while these advanced along the heights the main column was to advance through the pass.
At three o'clock in the morning the army commenced its march. It moved off in the dim twilight without beat of drum or sound of bugle. The crowning columns moved off to the right and left, and commenced in silence to climb the heights, which were covered with the enemy; but so little did they expect that mode of attack, that the flankers had ascended a considerable distance before the Khyberees were aware of their advance. Daylight soon revealed the respective positions of the contending forces, and the struggle commenced.
The hillmen had thrown up across the pass a formidable barricade, composed of stones, mud, and branches of trees. Behind this barrier the enemy were gathered in force, waiting the opportunity to attack the main column when it should attempt the pass. But this opportunity did not come, for the main column on entering the pass halted in battle array, while the infantry on the hills performed the duty assigned to them of clearing the heights.
The left column was soon actively engaged; the right could not at first surmount the heights, from their precipitous character; but Colonel Taylor and his men, not to be defeated, stole round the base of the mountain unseen, and found a more practicable ascent than that they had at first tried. "Then on both sides the British infantry were soon hotly engaged with the mountaineers, clambering up the precipitous peaks, and pouring down a hot and destructive fire upon the surprised and disconcerted Khyberees, who had not expected that our disciplined troops would be more than a match for them on their native hills. But so it was. Our infantry, native and British, were beating them in every direction, and everywhere the white dresses of the Khyberees were seen as they fled across the hills."
Now was the time for Pollock to advance. The centre column did not attempt to move forward until the flankers had fought their way to the rear of the mouth of the pass. But when he had fairly turned the enemy's position, he began to destroy the barriers, and prepared to advance into the pass. The enemy had assembled in large numbers at the mouth; but finding themselves outflanked, they gradually withdrew, and without opposition Pollock now cleared his way through the barricade, and pushed into the pass with his long string of baggage. The great extent of his convoy was his chief difficulty for the rest of the day.
The march to Ali-Musjid occupied the greater part of the day. The heat was intense. The troops suffered greatly from thirst, but they all did their duty well. During the night, in spite of the bitter cold, the heights were held, and the enemy, who were constantly firing on the troops, kept in check. From thence the march was without incident, and the head of the column marched into Jellalabad unresisted on the 13th, a fortnight after the gallant sortie by which the garrison had freed themselves of Akbar Khan and his army.
OCCUPATION OF CABUL IN 1842.
Victory had once more settled on the standards of the British army. On the 8th of September the first division of General Pollock's army approached the hills which overlook the pass of Jugdulluck. The Afghans attempted to oppose their invaders, but were driven back like sheep from hill to hill by the soldiers of the 13th, many of them the raw recruits whom Havelock had brought up from Calcutta the preceding year, and whom five months of hard service at Jellalabad had turned into veterans.
Akbar Khan's last stand was made at Tzeen, a valley surrounded by hills; but these were gallantly stormed, and the enemy, as before, driven from crag to crag, fighting with all the fury of despair; but they were ultimately put to flight, and two days afterwards General Pollock's force was encamped at Cabul. One of the first results of this victory was the rescue of Lady Sale and the other prisoners who had been carried off by Akbar Khan.
Among the officers rescued with Lady Sale was Lieutenant Mein, of Her Majesty's 13th Light Infantry, who had distinguished himself by his gallantry in the retreat from Cabul, before he was taken prisoner. Lieutenant Eyre gives us an account of him:—"Sir Robert Sale's son-in-law, Lieutenant Sturt, had nearly cleared the defile, when he received his wound, and would have been left on the ground to be hacked to pieces by the Ghazees, who followed in the rear to complete the work of slaughter, but for the generous intrepidity of Lieutenant Mein, of Her Majesty's 13th Light Infantry, who, on learning what had befallen him, went back to his succour, and stood by him for several minutes, at the imminent risk of his own life, vainly entreating aid from the passers-by. He was at length joined by Sergeant Deane of the sappers, with whose assistance he dragged his friend on a quilt through the remainder of the pass, when he succeeded in mounting him on a miserable pony, and conducted him in safety to the camp, where the unfortunate officer lingered till the next morning, and was the only man of the whole force who received Christian burial. Lieutenant Mein was himself suffering from a dangerous wound in the head, received in the previous October." His heroic disregard of self, and fidelity to his friend in the hour of danger, are well deserving of a record in the annals of British valour and virtue. Besides the officers and ladies, 36 non-commissioned officers and men of the 44th Regiment were rescued, making 105 in all, who, with Dr Brydon, formed all that remained of the troops who left Cabul in 1841.
The British avenging army arrived at Cabul on the 15th of September 1842, and encamped on the racecourse.
The following morning the British colours were hoisted on the most lofty pinnacle of the battlements of the Balar Hissar, where they could be seen from all parts of the city. A royal salute was fired, the national anthem was played, and the troops gave three cheers. The colours were hoisted regularly every day on the Balar Hissar as long as the troops remained at Cabul.
DEFENCE OF CANDAHAR, 1842.
Major-General Sir William Nott, with the 40th Regiment, and other troops, was stationed at Candahar when the Afghan insurrection broke out. On the morning of the 12th of January 1842, a large force of the insurgents, under two powerful chiefs, approaching within eight miles of the city, Sir William Nott, with his troops, the 40th Regiment forming the advance, went out to meet them. Although the Afghans were strongly posted, they were quickly put to flight. From this period up to the 7th of March the troops remained all night long accoutred and ready for action. In consequence of the severity of the weather, the British could not again quit the city to punish the enemy, who swarmed around and plundered the neighbouring villages. At length the position became so dangerous, that early in March every Afghan was expelled from the city, and then the General, leaving a small garrison in the city, marched on to attack the enemy. As he advanced the Afghans retired, and so gradually drew him away from the city. Suddenly, on the night of the 10th, a large force doubled back on Candahar and made a furious attack on the gates, one of which they set on fire and tore down. The garrison were hard-pressed, but fought valiantly for three hours behind an improvised rampart, and eventually drove off the enemy. Nott was not able to return to Candahar till the 12th, but it was now free from the enemy. Here he had to stay waiting for ammunition and supplies, which eventually reached him, escorted by a force under Sir R. England, and on the 10th of August he marched to Cabul, passing on the way the fort of Ghuznee. This, it will be remembered, had been valiantly taken by storm by our troops three years before, now it was again in Afghan hands. For after a siege of three and a half months in the preceding December, the enemy, aided by treachery, found a way in, and the garrison, few in number, retired to the citadel. On the 6th of March they at length surrendered, under a promise of safe-conduct with colours and arms and the honours of war to Peshawur, and, as was customary at this date, fell victims to Afghan treachery, and were massacred or made prisoners.
On the march to Ghuznee, General Nott on the 30th of August came up with an army of 12,000 men, and after a severe fight utterly defeated them. On the 5th of September Ghuznee was once again occupied by our troops, and on the 17th Cabul was reached, just two days after Pollock had entered.
The grand bazaar in Cabul, in which the remains of the British Envoy had been exposed to insult, having been destroyed on the 12th of October, the army commenced its return to India. On the way the fortifications of Jellalabad were blown up; and on the 17th of December, the brave garrison of that place marching in advance, and wearing the medals granted to them, the whole army made a triumphal entrance into Ferozepore.
The 13th Light Infantry have "Jellalabad"; the 40th and 41st, "Candahar and Ghuznee"; and the 3rd Light Dragoons, 9th, 13th, 31st, 40th, and 41st, "Cabul, 1842." Thus ended the Second Afghan Campaign.
THE CONQUEST OF SCINDE, 1843.
BATTLE OF MEEANEE, 17TH FEBRUARY 1843.
Scinde is a large province, through the western portion of which the river Indus flows before it reaches the Indian Ocean. Hyderabad is the capital, situated on the banks of the Indus. This country was ruled by a number of chiefs or princes, who held the title of Ameer. They were a lawless and rapacious set, and tyrannised over their subjects with the most barbarous cruelty. When, however, it was resolved (in 1831) to open up the Indus for the navigation of our merchant vessels, it became important to secure their friendship; and to effect that object, Colonel Pottinger was despatched by Lord William Bentinck, and succeeded in forming with them a treaty, by which they guaranteed all the objects desired by the British Government. For some years, while they believed that it was their interest to be honest, they remained tolerably faithful to the English; when, however, they fancied, from our disasters in Afghanistan, that the British power was on the wane, they instantly began to plot with our enemies for our overthrow. To put a stop to these proceedings, Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General of India, despatched General Sir Charles Napier with an army into Scinde, and gave him the following instructions:—"Should any Ameer or chief, with whom we have a treaty of alliance and friendship, have evinced hostile intentions against us during the late events, which may have induced them to doubt the continuance of our power, it is the present intention of the Governor-General to inflict on the treachery of such an ally and friend so signal a punishment as shall effectually deter others from similar conduct." Sir Charles, who was encamped at Sukkur, in upper Scinde, on the right bank of the Indus, soon obtained ample proof of the treachery and hostility of the Ameers, and prepared for war by disciplining and organising his troops, who were composed chiefly of raw levies with little experience. On the same side of the Indus as Sukkur, and about twenty miles from the river, was Shikarpoor, with Roree on the left bank, and the fortress of Bukkur between them.
One of the principal Ameers was Roostum, and an arch traitor. He had already induced a large number of Beloochees, a warlike race from Beloochistan, to prepare for battle. Many also remained in their homes, ready for the signal to flock to his standard. He and the other chiefs did not delay long in raising that standard, and a force of 60,000 men was soon collected near the capital of Hyderabad, at a spot afterwards to become famous, called Meeanee. Sir Charles had led his forces down the left bank of the Indus, several steamers accompanying his progress. On the 16th of February the British army had reached Muttaree, about sixteen miles from Hyderabad, when Sir Charles heard that 20,000 Beloochees had suddenly crossed the Indus, and that not less than 36,000 men were really in order of battle. In consequence of the garrisons he had been compelled to leave in his rear, his own army consisted at this time of only 2600 men of all arms fit for duty. Still his resolution remained unshaken. He well knew what discipline could do against untrained hordes, however brave, and he was also well aware of the danger of retreating before a barbarian enemy. He was informed that the enemy's cavalry was 10,000 strong, and that they were posted on a vast plain of smooth hard clay or sand, while his whole cavalry force numbered but 800. Marching on the night of the 16th, his advanced guard discovered the enemy at eight o'clock next morning, and at nine o'clock the British line of battle was formed. The enemy, 36,000 strong, were posted along the dry bed of the river Fullaillee, which falls into the Indus. Its high bank, sloping towards the plain in front, formed a rampart. Their position was about 1200 yards wide. Eighteen guns, massed on the flank in advance of the bank, poured their shot on the British troops while forming the line, and the Beloochee wings rested on shikargahs (copses or woods), which lined the plain so far as to flank the advance on both sides. They were very large and dense, and that on the Beloochee right intersected with nullahs (water-courses) of different sizes, but all deep, carefully scarped, and defended by matchlock-men. Behind the shikargahs, the Fullaillee made a sudden bend to the rear, forming a loop, in which the Ameer's cavalry was placed.
The shikargah on the enemy's left was more extensive, and, though free from nullahs, very strong. It was covered towards the plain by a wall, having one opening, not very wide, about half-way between the two armies. Behind this wall 5000 or 6000 men were posted, evidently designed to rush out through the opening upon the flank and rear of the British when the latter advanced. Some matchlock-men were seen astride on this wall, which was ten feet high, but they soon disappeared; and the General, discovering that there were no loopholes or scaffolding to the wall, ordered Captain Tew, with a company of the 22nd, to occupy and defend it to the last. It was another Thermopylae. The gallant Tew died in the gap, but the post was maintained, and thus 6000 enemies were paralysed by only 80.
As the British army advanced—the baggage, cast into a circle, was left close in the rear, surrounded by camels, which were made to lie down with their heads inwards, and their bales placed within them for their armed followers to fire over, thus forming a fortress not very easy to storm. Two hundred and fifty Poona horsemen, and four companies of infantry under Captain Tait, were the only force which could be spared for its protection.
The order of battle was thus formed:—
Twelve guns, under Major Lloyd, flanked by 50 Madras sappers, under Captain Henderson, were on the right. On Lloyd's left stood the 22nd Queen's Regiment, under Colonel Pennefather, not 500 strong, half Irishmen, strong of body, high-blooded soldiers, who saw nothing but victory. On the left were the swarthy sepoys of the 22nd Bombay Native Infantry; then the 12th, under Major Reid, and the 1st Grenadiers, led by Major Clibborne; the whole in the echelon order of battle. Closing the extreme left, but somewhat held back, rode the 9th Bengal Cavalry, under Colonel Pattle. In front of the right infantry, skirmishers were thrown out, and on the left the Scinde horsemen, under Captain Jacob, fierce Eastern troops, were pushed forward. Between the two armies there was a plain of about 1000 yards, covered for the first 700 with a low jungle, which impeded the march of the British troops. For 300 yards, however, in front of the Beloochee line, it had been cleared to give free play for their matchlocks, with which they fired long shots at times without showing themselves.
The order to advance was given, and the General and his staff rode forward in face of the heavy fire from the Beloochee guns. The enemy's right was strongly protected by the village of Kottree, now filled with matchlock-men. The main body of the British advanced in columns of regiments, the right passing securely under the wall of the enclosure, where Tew's gallant company, now reinforced by a gun, were with a rattling fire of musketry keeping their host of foes in check. Onward marched the main body of the British army, while Clibborne's grenadiers were storming the village of Kottree on the left. The level was all the time swept by the Beloochee guns and matchlocks, answered at times by Lloyd's battery, but nothing stopped the progress of the gallant band. When within 100 yards of the Fullaillee, the 22nd opened into line, and all the columns formed in succession, each company as it arrived throwing its fire at the top of the bank, where the faces of the Beloochees could be seen bending with fiery glances over their levelled matchlocks.
The British front was still incomplete, when the voice of the General, loud and clear, was heard commanding the charge. The order was answered by a hearty British cheer. Four guns were run forward, and the infantry, at full speed, dashed on towards the river, and rushed up the sloping bank. The stern Beloochees, with matchlocks resting on the summit, let their assailants come within 15 yards before they delivered their fire; but the steepness of the slope inside, which rendered their footing unsteady, and the rapid pace of the British, spoilt their aim, and the execution done was not great.
The next moment the 22nd were on the top of the bank, thinking to bear all down before them; but even they staggered back at the forest of swords waving in their front. Thick as standing corn, and gorgeous as a field of tulips, were the Beloochees in their many-coloured garments and turbans. They filled the broad, deep bed of the now dry Fullaillee; they were clustered on both banks, and covered the plain beyond. Guarding their heads with their large dark shields, they shook their sharp swords, gleaming in the sun, and their shouts rolled like a peal of thunder, as, with frantic might and gestures, they dashed against the front of the 22nd. But with shrieks as wild and fierce, and hearts as big, and arms as strong, the British soldiers met them with the bayonet, which they used with terrible effect against their foremost warriors. At the same time the few guns that could be placed in position on the right of the 22nd, flanked by Henderson's small band of Madras sappers, swept diagonally the bed of the river, tearing the rushing masses with a horrible carnage. Soon the sepoy regiments, 12th and 25th, prolonged the line of fire to the left, coming into action successively in the same terrible manner.
"Now the Beloochees closed in denser masses, and the dreadful rush of their swordsmen was felt, and their shouts answered by the pealing musketry, and such a fight ensued as has seldom been recorded in the annals of warfare. Over and over again those wild, fierce warriors, with shields held high and blades drawn back, strove with strength and courage to break through the British ranks. No fire of small-arms, no sweeping discharge of grape, no push of bayonets could drive them back; they gave their breasts to the shot, their shields to the bayonet, and, leaping at the guns, were blown away by twenties at a time: their dead rolled down the steep slope by hundreds, but the gaps were continually filled from the rear; the survivors pressed forward with unabated fury, and the bayonet and sword clashed in full and frequent conflict."
Thus they fought—never more than five yards apart, often intermingled, and several times the different regiments were forced backwards, but their General was always there to rally and cheer them. At his voice their strength returned, and they recovered ground, though soon in the dreadful conflict nearly all their regimental leaders were killed or wounded.
Major Teasdale, animating the sepoys of the 25th Regiment, rode violently down a gap in the Beloochees, and was there killed by shot and sabre.
Major Jackson, of the 12th, coming up with his regiment, the next in line, followed the same heroic example. Two brave havildars kept close to him, all three in advance of their regiment, and all fell dead together, but not till several of the fiercest of the Beloochee swordsmen were seen to sink beneath the brave Jackson's strong arm and whirling blade. Here also fell Captains Cookson and Meade, and Lieutenant Wood, nobly cheering on their men to the attack, while Tew had died at his post at the entrance of the shikargah. Many more were desperately wounded: Colonel Pennefather and Major Wylie; Captains Tucker, Smith, Conway; Lieutenants Plowden, Harding, Thayre, Bourdillon; Ensigns Firth, Pennefather, Bowden, Holbrow.
Lieutenant Harding, of the 22nd, was the first to leap upon the bank. His legs were cut by the swordsmen, and he fell, but rose again instantly, and, waving his cap, cheered his men to the charge. Receiving another sword-cut, his right hand was maimed; yet still he urged the men forward, till at length a shot went through his lungs, and again he fell, and was carried out of the fight.
Lieutenant McMurdo, a young staff-officer, rode, like Teasdale and Jackson, into the bed of the Fullaillee, and his horse being killed, he fell. Regaining his feet, he met and slew Jehan Mohamed, a great chief and a hardy warrior, in the midst of his tribe. Several of Jehan's followers then engaged him in front, while one struck at him fiercely from behind, but being at that moment struck down by a sergeant of the 22nd, the blow fell harmless. McMurdo turned and repaid the service by cleaving to the brow a swordsman who was aiming at his preserver's back; another fell beneath his weapon, and then he and the sergeant fought their way out from among the crowds of foes pressing fiercely round them.
Several times the sepoys, when their leaders were killed or disabled, slowly receded; but the General was always at the point of the greatest danger, and then manfully his swarthy soldiers recovered their ground.
Once he was assailed by a chief, and his danger was great, for his right hand had been maimed before the battle. At the moment that the fierce warrior was about to cut him down, Lieutenant Marston, of the 25th Native Infantry, sprang to his side, killed the sirdar, and saved his General. At another period Sir Charles Napier was alone for some moments in the midst of his enemies, who stalked round him with raised shields and scowling eyes; but, from some superstitious feeling possibly, to which the Beloochees are very prone, not one attempted his destruction, which they might easily have accomplished. When the soldiers of the 22nd saw him emerge unharmed from his perilous position, they gave vent to their feelings in a loud and hearty cheer, heard above the din of battle.
For more than three hours did this storm of war continue, and still the Beloochees, undismayed, pressed onwards with furious force, their numbers to all appearance increasing instead of being diminished by those who had been struck down. Now came the critical point in every battle. Except the cavalry, there was no reserve to bring forward. In vain the brave Jacob had previously endeavoured to turn the village of Kottree with the Scinde Horse, and to gain the flank of the enemy's position.
So heavily pressed by the Beloochees on the right, and so exhausted were his men, that he could not quit that point; but his quick eye saw that the enemy's right could be turned, and he sent orders to Colonel Pattle to charge with the whole body of the Bengal and Scinde horsemen on the enemy's right. Never was an order more promptly obeyed. Spurring hard after their brave leaders, the Eastern horsemen passed the matchlock— men in the village of Kottree, and galloped unchecked across the small nullahs and ditches about it, which were, however, so numerous and difficult, that 50 of the troopers were cast from their saddles at once by the leaps. But dashing through the Beloochee guns on that flank, and riding over the high bank of the Fullaillee, the main body crossed the deep bed, gained the plain beyond, and charged with irresistible fury. Major Story, with his Bengal troopers, turning to his left, fell on the enemy's infantry in the loop of the upper Fullaillee, while the Scindian Horse, led by Lieutenant Fitzgerald, wheeling to their right, fell on the camp, thus spreading confusion along the rear of the masses opposed to the British infantry. In this gallant charge three or four Beloochees had fallen before his whirling blade, when one, crouching, as is their custom, beneath a broad shield, suddenly stepped up on the bridle-hand, and with a single stroke brought down the horse. Fitzgerald's leg was under the animal, and twice the barbarian drove his keen weapon at the prostrate officer, but each time the blow was parried; and at length, clearing himself from the dead horse, the strong man rose. The barbarian, warned by the Herculean form and threatening countenance of his opponent, instantly cast his shield over a thickly rolled turban of many folds, but the descending weapon went through all, and cleft his skull. On charged the cavalry. The fierce Beloochees, whose fury could before scarcely be resisted, slackened their onslaught, and looked behind them. The 22nd, perceiving this, leaped forward with a shout of victory, and pushed them back into the deep ravine, where again they closed in combat. The Madras sappers and the other sepoys followed the glorious example. At length the 6000 Beloochees who had been posted in the shikargah abandoned that cover to join the fight in the Fullaillee, but this did not avail them. Both sides fought as fiercely as ever. A soldier of the 22nd Regiment, bounding forward, drove his bayonet into the breast of a Beloochee; instead of falling, the rugged warrior cast away his shield, seized the musket with his left hand, writhed his body forward on the bayonet, and with one sweep of his keen blade avenged himself. Both combatants fell dead together. The whole front of the battle was indeed a chain of single combats. No quarter was asked for, none given. The ferocity was unbounded; the carnage terrible.
The Ameers had now lost the day. Slowly the fierce Beloochees retired in heavy masses, their broad shields slung over their backs, their heads half turned, and their eyes glaring with fury. The victors followed closely, pouring in volley after volley; yet the vanquished still preserved their habitual swinging stride, and would not quicken it to a run though death was at their heels! Two or three thousand on the extreme right, who had been passed by the cavalry, kept their position, and seemed disposed to make another rush; but the whole of the British guns were turned upon them with such heavy discharges of grape and shells that they also went off. All were now in retreat; but so doggedly did they move, and so inclined did they appear to renew the conflict on the level ground, where the British flanks were unprotected, that the General recalled his cavalry, and formed a large square, placing his baggage and followers in the centre. Such was the battle of Meeanee, fought with 2000 men against 36,000. Six officers were killed and 14 wounded, and about 50 sergeants and rank and file were killed, and 200 wounded—a large proportion of the few actually engaged. Of the enemy, upwards of 6000 were killed: 1500 bodies and more lay in heaps in the bed of the Fullaillee alone.
The next morning, six of the principal Ameers presented themselves on horseback at the camp, offering their swords, and promising to deliver up Hyderabad to the victor. To Hyderabad he accordingly marched, and took possession of that city.
There was another powerful chief still in arms with 10,000 men, about six miles off, and it is asserted that, had Sir Charles at once marched against this chief, Shere Mahomed of Meerpore, he might have defeated him without loss of time; but at the same time it is evident that it was most important in the first place to secure the capital, and to give his troops refreshment after so desperate a fight.
For the first time in English despatches, the names of private soldiers who had distinguished themselves were made known—an innovation which still more endeared him to those under his command, and which was hailed with satisfaction by thousands who never saw him.
The men of the 22nd Regiment all fought most bravely, but Private James O'Neil, of the light company, was especially noticed for taking a standard while the regiment was hotly engaged with the enemy; and Drummer Martin Delany, who shot, bayoneted, and captured the arms of a chief, Meer Whulle Mohamed Khan, who was mounted, and directing the enemy in the hottest part of the engagement. Lieutenant Johnstone, of the 1st Grenadiers, Native Infantry, cut down a Beloochee, and saved the life of a sepoy who had bayoneted the Beloochee, but was overpowered in the struggle. The names of a considerable number of the native regiments were also mentioned as conspicuous for their gallantry, as well as those of Lieutenant Fitzgerald and Lieutenant Russell, whose steady, cool, and daring conduct kept the men together in the desperate charge over the nullahs, under a heavy fire, made by the corps to get on the flank of the enemy—a manoeuvre which so mainly contributed to secure the victory to the British army.
BATTLE OF HYDERABAD—24TH MARCH 1843.
After the battle of Meeanee, the victorious army of Sir Charles Napier entered Hyderabad in triumph. He had not been there long when he heard that Shere Mahomed, or the Lion, one of the most powerful of the Ameers of Scinde, was in arms at the head of a large force, hoping to retrieve the losses of his brother chieftains. Considerable reinforcements for the British army were expected—some from Sukkur down the Indus, and others from Kurrachee.
Approaching Hyderabad, the haughty Ameer sent an envoy as herald to the British camp, with an insolent offer of terms, saying, "Quit this land, and, provided you restore all you have taken, your life shall be spared." Just then the evening gun fired. "You hear that sound? It is my answer to your chief. Begone!" said Sir Charles, turning his back on the envoy.
On the 21st a column, under Major Stack, reached Muttaree—a long march from Hyderabad. The fortress of Hyderabad was by this time repaired, and the intrenched camp was complete; and, on the 16th, recruits and provisions came up from Kurrachee, and the 21st Regiment of Sepoys arrived from Sukkur, down the Indus. When the Lion had notice of Major Stack's approach, he moved with his whole army to Dubba, intending to fall on him on the following day. The General's plans were soon laid. His first care was to save Major Stack's column. He accordingly sent out Captain McMurdo with 250 Poona horsemen, to meet Stack, and to order him to advance after he had ascertained the Lion's position. The next morning, Jacob was despatched with the Scinde horsemen along the same road, and he himself followed, at a short distance, with the Bengal Cavalry and some guns, supported by all the infantry, who moved a short distance behind. Meantime Major Stack had advanced, leaving his baggage unprotected. It was attacked by a body of Beloochee matchlock-men; but Captain McMurdo, with only six Poona Horse, kept them at bay till some troops he sent for came up to his assistance. The Beloochees were ultimately driven back, and the force reached Hyderabad. Sir Charles had now 5000 men of all arms, 1100 being cavalry, with 19 guns. Leaving two guns to guard the camp, at break of day on the 24th he marched from Hyderabad upon Dubba, which was eight miles north-west of that city. The infantry and guns moved forward in a compact mass, the cavalry scouting ahead and on the flank; for so thickly covered was the whole country with houses, gardens, shikargahs, and nullahs, that 50,000 men might be in position without being discovered at half a mile distance.
Ten miles were passed over, and still the exact position of the enemy was unknown, when a scout came in with the information that the Lion was with his whole force two miles to the left.
The General, at the head of the irregular horse, galloped forward, and in a quarter of an hour found himself on a plain, in front of the whole Beloochee army. The whole plain was swarming with cavalry and infantry; the right wing resting on the Fullaillee, with a large pond of mud protecting the flank, while the left rested on a succession of nullahs and a dense wood. No distinct view could be obtained of the order of battle, but 26,000 men were before him, and they had 15 guns—11 being in battery, while two lines of infantry were intrenched, and a heavy mass of cavalry was in reserve.
The front was covered with a nullah 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep, with the usual high banks, which were scarped so as to form a parapet. Behind this the first line of infantry was posted, extending for a mile in a direction perpendicular to the Fullaillee; while behind the right wing, close to the Fullaillee, was the village of Dubba, filled with men, and prepared for resistance by cuts and loopholes in the houses.
There were other nullahs, behind which the rest of the Beloochee army was posted, with one gun on a height to the right, and the remainder behind the third line. Altogether, no position could have been better chosen or more formidable.
The march of the British force was diagonal to the front of the Beloochee army, and this brought the head of the column left in front near the right of the enemy, and the line was immediately formed on the same slant; the cavalry being drawn up on the wings, and the artillery in the intervals between the regiments.
When the line was formed, the left, being advanced, was under the enemy's cannon. One shot nearly grazed the General's leg, and several men were killed. Still the enemy's position could not be clearly made out, and to ascertain it more exactly, Captain Waddington of the Engineers, and Lieutenants Brown and Hill, rode straight to the centre of the Beloochee lines, and then, under a sharp fire of matchlocks, along the front to the junction of the centre with the left. A thick wood on the right gave the General some anxiety, as it was supposed to be filled with Beloochees, ready to rush out and attack the British rear when they were hotly engaged. To watch it, he placed the Scindian horsemen and 3rd Bombay Cavalry under Major Stack, with orders to oppose whatever enemy appeared. The battle commenced at nine o'clock. Leslie's horse artillery pushed forward, followed by the rest of the artillery in batteries, and all obtained positions where their fire crossed, and with terrible effect they raked the enemy. Lieutenant Smith, eager to discover a place where his artillery could cross a deep nullah, bravely rode up to it alone. He ascended the bank, and instantly fell, pierced by a hundred wounds. It was full of Beloochees. The gallant 22nd was again first in action, and, as they advanced under a terrific fire from the gun on the hillock, and from the matchlock-men, with whom were some of the bravest chiefs posted in the first nullah, nearly half the light company were struck down.
Beyond the first nullah, a second and greater one was seen, lined still more strongly with men, while the village became suddenly alive with warriors, whose matchlocks could also reach the advancing line. While about to lead the gallant 22nd to the charge, the General observed the cavalry on the right making a headlong dash at the enemy's left wing, in consequence of having seen some of them moving in apparent confusion towards the centre. The right flank of the British army was thus left uncovered; and had the wood been filled with Beloochees, the consequences might have been serious. "The whole body of cavalry was at full speed dashing across the smaller nullahs, the spurs deep in the horses' sides, the riders pealing their different war-cries, and whirling their swords in gleaming circles. There the fiery Delamain led the gorgeous troopers of the 3rd Cavalry; there the terrible Fitzgerald careered with the wild Scindian horsemen, their red turbans streaming amid the smoke and dust of the splendid turmoil." See 'Conquest of Scinde', by Sir W. Napier.
No enemy appearing from the wood, the heroic General hurried back and regained the 22nd at the moment it was rushing to storm the first nullah. Riding to the first rank, he raised that clear, high-pitched cry of war which had at Meeanee sent the same fiery soldiers to the charge. It was responded to with ardour, led by Major Poole, who commanded the brigade, and Captain George, who commanded the corps. They marched up till within forty paces of the intrenchment, and then stormed it like British soldiers. The regiments were well supported by the batteries commanded by Captains Willoughby and Hutt, which crossed their fire with that of Major Leslie. The second brigade, under Major Woodburn, consisting of the 25th, 21st, and 12th Regiments, under Captains Jackson, Stevens, and Fisher respectively, bore down into action with excellent coolness. They were strongly sustained by the fire of Captain Whitley's battery. On the right of it again were the 8th and 1st Regiments, under Majors Browne and Clibborne, which advanced with the regularity of a review up to the intrenchments. Lieutenant Coote, of the 22nd, was the first to gain the summit of the bank, where, wresting a Beloochee standard from its bearer, he waved it in triumph, while he hurried along the narrow ledge, staggering from a deep wound in his side. Then, with a deafening shout, the soldiers leaped down into the midst of the savage warriors. At that point a black champion, once an African slave, and other barbarian chiefs, fell, desperately fighting to the last.
Onward the brave 22nd fought its bloody way amid the dense masses of the enemy, ably supported by the 25th Native Infantry; and now the British line began to overlap the village of Dubba, while Stack's cavalry were completely victorious on the right, and Leslie's horse artillery, crossing the nullahs with sweeping discharges, committed fearful havoc among the dense masses of the Beloochee army. The other regiments, bringing up their right shoulders, continued the circle from the position of the 25th, and lapped still farther round the village. In this charge the 21st Sepoys stabbed every Beloochee they came up with, whole or wounded, calling out "Innes! Innes!" at every stroke of death they dealt.
In consequence of the rapidity of this charge, some confusion ensued, and while the General was endeavouring to restore order, a Beloochee field-magazine exploding, killed all near him, broke his sword, and wounded him in the hand. Still the enemy fought on fiercely; surprising feats of personal prowess were displayed. Four or five of the foe fell beneath the iron hand of Fitzgerald, whose matchless strength renders credible the wildest tales of the days of chivalry. McMurdo was engaged in three successive hand-to-hand combats, his opponents having the advantage of shields to aid their swordsmanship. He killed two in succession, but the third, with an upward stroke, cut him from the belly to the shoulder, and would have killed him, had he not cleft the man to the brows, and thus lessened the force of the blow. As it was, he received a desperate wound. Three other officers also performed surprising deeds of personal prowess. The General proved that he possessed humanity, as well as courage of the most heroic order. Near the village, a chief, retiring with that deliberate rolling stride and fierce look which all those intrepid fatalists displayed in both battles, passed near the General, who covered him with a pistol; but then remembering Meeanee, when in the midst of their warriors no hand had been raised against him, he held his finger. His generosity was fruitless, for a sepoy plunged his bayonet into the man with the terrible cry of "Blood! blood!"
Much to the General's satisfaction, 16 wounded prisoners were taken, whereas at Meeanee the lives of only 3 had been saved.
Slowly and sullenly the enemy retired, some going off with their leader to the desert, others towards the Indus; but the latter were intercepted by the victorious cavalry of the right wing, and driven in masses after their companions into the wilderness. Meanwhile the General in person led the Bengal and Poona Horse, under Major Story and Captain Tait, through the valley of Dubba against the retreating masses, putting them to the sword for several miles, but not without resistance, in consequence of which the brave Captain Garrett and others fell. The Lion himself was seen, and very nearly captured by Fitzgerald and Delamain, as he was escaping on his elephant.
On his return with the cavalry, the General was received with three hearty cheers by his troops. In this bloody battle, which lasted three hours, the British lost 270 men and officers, of which number 147 were of the gallant 22nd Regiment, who had sustained the brunt of the fight. Though fought near Dubba, this battle is best known as that of Hyderabad, which name is inscribed on the colours and medals of the soldiers by whom it was won.
Sir Charles Napier had resolved to make the battle a decisive one. Having arranged for sending his wounded to Hyderabad, reorganised his army, and ascertained that the enemy had retreated towards Meerpoor, in eight hours he was again marching in pursuit. During the battle the thermometer stood at no degrees, and the heat was daily increasing. On that day his troops had marched twelve miles to find the enemy, fought for three hours, and had been employed for eight in collecting the wounded, burying the dead, and cooking, rather than in resting; but all were eager for a fresh fight; as evidence of which, several of the 22nd Regiment concealed their wounds, that they might take part in it, instead of being sent back to Hyderabad.
Their names are recorded—John Durr, John Muldowney, Robert Young, Henry Lines, Patrick Gill, James Andrews, not severely hurt; Sergeant Haney, wound rather severe; Thomas Middleton, James Mulvey, severely wounded in the legs; Silvester Day, ball in the foot. It was only discovered that they were wounded on the march, when, overcome by thirst, they fell fainting to the ground. Captain Garrett and Lieutenant Smith were killed in the battle; and Lieutenants Pownoll, Tait, Chute, Coote, Evans, Brennan, Bur, Wilkinson, McMurdo, and Ensign Pennefather were wounded.
The next day the Poona Horse were at the gates of Meerpoor. The Lion fled with his family and treasure to Omercote, and the gates of the capital were at once gladly opened to the victors. While the General remained at Meerpoor, he sent forward the camel battery of Captain Whitley, supported by the 25th Sepoy Infantry, under Major Woodburn. There was but little water, and a risk of the Indus rising, so that it would have been dangerous to have gone with the whole army. He promised the Lion terms if he would surrender at once. News was brought him that the Indus was rising. He despatched orders to Captain Whitley to return. That officer had just received information that the Ameers had again fled, and that Omercote might be captured. He was then distant 20 miles from that place, and 40 from Meerpoor. A young officer, Lieutenant Brown, who had already distinguished himself, undertook to ride these 40 miles to obtain fresh instructions. He reached Meerpoor without a stop, and borrowing one of the General's horses, rode back again under a sun whose beams fell like flakes of fire, for the thermometer stood at above 130 degrees. He bore orders to attack Omercote. The little band pushed forward, and, on the 24th, Omercote opened its gates.
Thus was this important place reduced ten days after the battle of Hyderabad, though 100 miles distant, and in the heart of the desert. This capture may be said to have completed the conquest of Scinde. The Lion was still at large, but he was finally hunted down and crushed by different columns sent against him, under Colonels Roberts, Chamberlayne, and Captain Jacob. Scinde was annexed to British India, and Sir Charles Napier was appointed its first governor, independent of the Presidencies, with directions to abolish slavery, to tranquillise the inhabitants, and to bring out the resources of the country he had so bravely acquired.
THE GWALIOR CAMPAIGN, 1843.
BATTLE OF MAHARAJPOOR—29TH DECEMBER 1843.
The loss of British prestige in the defiles of Afghanistan had induced many of the native princes of India to fancy that the power of England was on the wane, and that they might assume a tone of authority and independence which they would not before have ventured to exhibit. Among others, the Mahratta Court at Gwalior adopted a line of policy inimical to British interests, and contrary to the engagements into which their princes had entered.
Lord Ellenborough, foreseeing that they would make an attempt to emancipate themselves altogether from British influence, assembled an army on the frontier facing the Mahratta territory, and called it the "Army of Exercise." It was gradually increased, and placed under the command of Sir Hugh Gough. Various insulting acts having been committed by the Mahratta Government against the English, and no apology having been made, the Governor-General ordered the army to enter the Mahratta territory.
General Grey took the lead with a division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, and, crossing the Jumna at Calpee, threatened the Gwalior territory from the south; while two divisions of infantry, and two brigades of cavalry, with the usual complement of artillery, moved down from the northward under the command of Sir Hugh Gough himself. General Grey, having advanced from Bundelcund, reached Panniar, about 12 miles from Gwalior, on the 28th of December. The enemy, estimated at about 12,000 in number, took up a strong position on the heights near the fortified village of Mangore. Although the British troops were much fatigued by their long march, the enemy were immediately attacked and driven from height to height, till the rout was completed. The British loss was 215 killed and wounded.
Sir Hugh Gough advanced, and found the enemy awaiting him at a strong post which they had selected on the evening of the 28th. It was reconnoitred; but during the night the Mahratta forces left their intrenched position, and took up another three or four miles in advance of it. The British troops numbered about 14,000 men, with 40 pieces of artillery. The Mahrattas mustered 18,000 men, including 3000 cavalry and 100 guns. The Mahratta army had under Scindia been carefully organised by European officers, and was therefore composed of well-disciplined men, equal in bravery to any of the natives of India.
On the morning of the 29th, no fresh reconnaissance having been made, the British forces found themselves in the presence of an enemy they fancied some miles off. Many ladies, on their elephants, were on the field when the action commenced by the gallant advance of Major-General Littler's column upon the enemy, in front of the village of Maharajpoor.
The enemy's guns committed severe execution as they advanced; and though the Mahrattas fought with the most desperate courage, nothing could withstand the headlong rush of the British soldiers. Her Majesty's 39th Foot, with their accustomed dash, ably supported by the 56th Native Infantry, drove the enemy from their guns into the village, bayoneting the gunners at their posts. Here a sanguinary conflict took place. The fierce Mahrattas, after discharging their matchlocks, fought sword in hand with the most determined courage. General Valiant's brigade, with equal enthusiasm, took Maharajpoor in reverse, and 28 guns were captured by this combined movement. So desperately did the defenders of this strong position fight, that few escaped. During these operations, Brigadier Scott was opposed by a body of the enemy's cavalry on the extreme left, and made some well-executed charges with the 10th Light Cavalry, most ably supported by Captain Grant's troop of horse artillery, and the 4th Lancers, capturing some guns and taking two standards, thus threatening the right flank of the enemy.
On this, as on every occasion, Sir Henry, then Captain Havelock, distinguished himself. The 56th Native Infantry, who had been brigaded with Her Majesty's 39th, were advancing on the enemy, but at so slow a pace as to exhaust the patience of Sir Hugh Gough.
"Will no one get that sepoy regiment on?" he exclaimed.
Havelock offered to go, and riding up, inquired the name of the corps.
"It is the 56th Native Infantry."
"I don't want its number," replied he. "What is its native name?"
"Lamboorunke pultum—Lambourn's regiment."
He then took off his cap, and placing himself in their front, addressed them by that name, and in a few complimentary and cheering words reminded them that they fought under the eye of the Commander-in-Chief. He then led them up to the batteries, and afterwards remarked, that "whereas it had been difficult to get them forward before, the difficulty now was to restrain their impetuosity."
In conformity with the previous instructions, Major-general Valiant, supported by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, moved on the right of the enemy's position at Chouda. During the advance he had to take in succession three strongly intrenched positions, where the enemy defended their guns with frantic desperation. Here Her Majesty's 40th Regiment lost two successive commanding officers, Major Stopford and Captain Coddington, who fell wounded at the very muzzles of the guns. It captured four regimental standards. This corps was ably and nobly supported by the 2nd and 16th Grenadiers, under Lieutenant-Colonels Hamilton and McLarey. Major—General Littler, with Brigadier Wright's brigade, after dispersing the right of the enemy's position at Maharajpoor, steadily advanced to fulfil his instructions to attack the main position at Chouda, and was supported most ably by Captain Grant's troop of horse artillery, and the 1st Regiment of Light Cavalry. This column had to advance under a severe fire, over very difficult ground, but when within a short distance of the enemy, the gallant 39th Regiment, as before, rushing forward, led by Major Bray, and gallantly supported by the 56th Regiment, under Major Dick, carried everything before them, and thus gained the intrenched main position of Chouda.
The battle of Maharajpoor was now virtually won. The loss on both sides had been severe. The British had 106 killed, of whom 7 were officers, and 684 wounded, and 7 missing, making a total loss of 797. The Mahrattas are supposed to have lost between 3000 and 4000 men.
In consequence of this victory and that of Panniar, the Mahratta Durbar submitted to the British Government. Lieutenant-Colonel Stubbs was appointed governor of the fort of Gwalior, which commands the city. The Mahratta troops were disbanded, and a British contingent was formed, to be maintained at the cost of the Gwalior Government, which was compelled to pay forthwith the expenses of the campaign.
THE PUNJAUB CAMPAIGNS, 1845-1849.
BATTLE OF MOODKEE—18TH DECEMBER 1845.
On the death of Runjeet Singh, the Lion of Lahore, chief of the Sikhs and ruler of the Punjaub, in 1839, the throne was seized by his reputed son, Sher Singh. He was a good-natured voluptuary, and utterly unable to manage the warlike troops raised by his father. He was disposed to be friendly with the English, but being assassinated by Ajeet Singh on the 15th of September 1843, Dhuleep Singh was proclaimed Maharaja, and Heera Singh was raised to the dangerous office of vizier.
The new vizier soon found that he could, no more than his predecessor, content the army. His only chance was to give it employment, or rather induce it to engage in a contest with the British, which he hoped might terminate in its dispersion. Probably, like other rulers nearer England, he was prepared for either contingency. Should the army be successful, he would take advantage of their success; if destroyed, he would not be ill pleased. The Sikhs, indulging themselves with the idea of the conquest of British India, virtually declared war against the English on the 17th of November. They commenced crossing the Sutlej on the 11th of December; and on the 14th of that month a portion of the army took up a position a few miles from Ferozepore. The Sikhs, it should be understood, had some territory on the eastern side of the Sutlej, and it is supposed that they had from time to time sent across guns, and buried them there, to be ready for their contemplated invasion of British India. At length, on the 13th of December, the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej, and threatened Ferozepore, but were held in check by the bold front shown by the garrison of that place under Major-General Sir John Littler.