Meantime, the army of the Sutlej, under Sir Hugh Gough, was advancing on them. After a trying march of 150 miles, with little rest, and a scarcity of water, on the afternoon of the 18th of December the information was received by the British army that the Sikhs were advancing on Moodkee, which they had just reached. The troops immediately got under arms, the horse artillery and cavalry were pushed forward; the infantry, accompanied by field batteries, moving on in support. Before long the enemy, it was found, were approaching in order of battle, with 20,000 infantry, the same number of cavalry, and 40 guns. The country over which the two armies were advancing to the conflict is a dead flat, covered at short intervals with a low but thick jungle, and dotted with sandy hillocks. The enemy screened their infantry and artillery behind this jungle and such undulation as the ground afforded.
The British cavalry, under Brigadiers White, Gough, and Mactier, advanced rapidly to the front in columns of squadrons, and occupied the plain, followed by five troops of horse artillery, under Brigadier Brooke, who took up a forward position, having the cavalry on his left flank. The British infantry now forming from echelon of brigade into line, the enemy opened a severe cannonade on them, which was vigorously replied to by the batteries of horse artillery under Brigadier Brooke. A gallant charge of the 3rd Light Dragoons, the 5th Light Infantry, and 4th Lancers, turned the left of the Sikh army, put their cavalry to flight, and sweeping along the whole rear of the infantry and guns, silenced them for a time. After this, Brigadier Brooke pushed on his horse artillery, and while the cannonading was resumed on both sides, the infantry, under Major-Generals Sir Harry Smith, Gilbert, and Sir John McCaskill, attacked in echelon of lines the enemy's infantry, almost invisible among the jungle and the approaching darkness of night. The enemy made a stout resistance; but though their line far outflanked the British, that advantage was counteracted by the flank movements of the cavalry. The roll of fire from the British infantry showed the Sikhs that they had met a foe they little expected, and their whole force was driven from position after position at the point of the bayonet, with great slaughter and the loss of seventeen pieces of artillery.
Night alone saved them from worse disaster, for this stout conflict was maintained for an hour and a half in dim starlight, amidst a cloud of dust from the sandy plain, which yet more obscured every object. The victory was not, however, obtained without severe loss to the British. Sir John McCaskill was shot through the chest, and killed on the field; the gallant Sir Robert Sale, the brave defender of Jellalabad, received so severe a wound in the leg that he shortly after died from its effects; many other officers and men were killed, making in all 215; and 657 were wounded. The enemy's sharpshooters had climbed into trees, and from thence killed and wounded many officers. The victorious army returned to camp at midnight, and halted on the 19th and 20th, that the wounded might be collected, the captured guns brought in, and the men refreshed.
BATTLE OF FEROZESHAH—21ST DECEMBER 1845.
The Sikhs had intrenched themselves in a camp a mile in length, and half a mile in breadth, with the village of Ferozeshah in the centre. They numbered nearly 60,000 men, and 108 pieces of cannon of heavy calibre in fixed batteries.
The Umbala and Sir John Littler's forces, having formed a junction, now arrived. The British army, thus increased, consisted of 16,700 men, and 69 guns, chiefly horse artillery. The united forces advanced at about four o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st, to attack the intrenched camp of the Sikhs. The Governor-General, Sir Henry Hardinge, had offered his services to Sir Hugh Gough as second in command, and was actively engaged in the operations of this and the following day. The divisions of Major—General Sir J. Littler, Brigadier Wallace, and Major-General Gilbert deployed into line, having the artillery in the centre, with the exception of three troops of horse artillery, one on either flank, and one in support. Major—General Sir H. Smith's division and the cavalry moved in a second line, having a brigade in reserve to cover each wing. Sir Hugh Gough directed the right wing, and Sir Henry Hardinge the left wing of the army.
The infantry advanced under a terrific storm of shot and shell from upwards of 100 Sikh guns, 40 of them of battering calibre; but nothing stopped the impetuous onset—the formidable intrenchments were carried— the men threw themselves on the guns, and with matchless gallantry wrested them from the enemy. No sooner, however, were the Sikhs' batteries won, than the enemy's infantry, drawn up behind their guns, opened so tremendous a fire on the British troops, that in spite of their most heroic efforts, a portion only of the intrenchment could be carried.
Sir Harry Smith's division advancing, captured and retained another point of the position, and Her Majesty's 3rd Light Dragoons charged and took some of the most formidable batteries; yet the enemy remained in possession of a considerable portion of the great quadrangle, whilst the British troops, actually intermingled with them, held the remainder, and finally bivouacked upon it, exhausted by their gallant efforts, greatly reduced in numbers, and suffering extremely from thirst, yet animated by that indomitable spirit which they had exhibited throughout the day. Whenever moonlight, however, exhibited the British position, the enemy's artillery never failed severely to harass them.
Sir John Littler's division, which had advanced against the strongest part of the work, suffered severely, especially Her Majesty's 62nd Regiment, which had 17 officers killed and wounded out of 23.
It was not till they had done all that men could do that they retired. The 3rd Dragoons in this desperate charge lost 10 officers, and 120 men out of 400. When the Sikhs found that Sir Harry Smith had retired from the village, they brought up some guns to bear upon the British. The fire of these guns was very destructive. When the Governor-general found this, mounting his horse, he called to the 80th Regiment, which was at the head of the column, "My lads, we shall have no sleep until we take those guns." The regiment deployed immediately, and advancing, supported by the 1st Bengal Europeans, drove a large body of Sikhs from three guns, which they captured and spiked, and then retiring, took up its position again at the head of the column, as steadily as if on parade. "Plucky dogs!" exclaimed the Governor-General; "we cannot fail to win with such men as these." His aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel R. Blucher Wood, was severely wounded in the attack. For the rest of the night the column was unmolested, but its position was one of great danger,—150 yards only from an overpowering foe, while neither the Governor-General nor Sir Hugh Gough could tell in what direction Sir John Littler and Sir Harry Smith were to be found. It was suspected, also, that the Sikh army had been greatly reinforced by Tej Singh. The two generals therefore agreed to hold their ground, and at earliest dawn to attack the enemy, taking their batteries in reverse, and to beat them, or to die honourably on the field. The whole of Sir Henry Hardinge's personal staff had been disabled, except his son, Captain A. Hardinge, who had his horse killed under him.
Of that memorable night he himself has given us a most graphic description:—"It was the most extraordinary of my life. I bivouacked with the men, without food or clothing, and our nights are bitterly cold. A burning camp in front—our brave fellows lying down under a heavy cannonade, which continued during the whole night, mingled with the wild cries of the Sikhs, our English hurrah, the tramp of men, and the groans of the dying. In this state, with a handful of men who had carried the batteries the night before, I remained till morning, taking very short intervals of rest, by lying down with various regiments in succession, to ascertain their tempers and revive their spirits. I found myself again with my old friends of the 29th, 31st, 50th, and 9th, and all in good heart. My answer to all and every man was, that we must fight it out, attack the enemy vigorously at daybreak, beat him, or die honourably on the field.
"The gallant old General, kind-hearted and heroically brave, entirely coincided with me. During the night I occasionally called on our brave English soldiers to punish the Sikhs when they came too close, and were imprudent; and when morning broke, we went at it in true English style. Gough was on the right. I placed myself, and dear little Arthur by my side, in the centre, about thirty yards in front of the men, to prevent their firing; and we drove the enemy without a halt from one extremity of the camp to the other, capturing thirty or forty guns as we went along, which fired at twenty paces from us, and were served obstinately. The brave men drew up in an excellent line, and cheered Gough and myself as we rode up the line, the regimental colours lowering to me as if on parade. The mournful part is the heavy loss I have sustained in my officers. I have lost ten aides-de-camp hors de combat, five killed and five wounded. The fire of grape was very heavy from one hundred pieces of cannon. The Sikh army was drilled by French officers, and the men the most warlike in India."
This letter describes the commencement of the struggle on the 22nd. The line was supported on both sides by horse artillery, while from the centre was opened a fire by such heavy guns as remained effective, aided by a flight of rockets. The British, however, in the advance suffered much from a masked battery, which, opening on them, dismounted the guns and blew up the tumbrils. But nothing impeded the charge of the undaunted British, led on by their two heroic generals, till they were masters of the field. Their rest was short: in the course of two hours Sirdar Tej Singh, who had commanded in the last great battle, brought up from the vicinity of Ferozepore fresh battalions, and a large field of artillery, supported by 30,000 Ghorchurras, hitherto encamped near the river. He drove in the British cavalry, and made strenuous efforts to regain the position at Ferozeshah.
Scarcely had this attempt been defeated, when more Sikh troops and artillery arrived, and a fresh combination was made against the flank of the British, with so formidable a demonstration against the captured village that it was necessary to change the whole front to the right, the enemy's guns all the time keeping up an incessant fire, while those of the British were silent for want of ammunition. Under these circumstances Sir Hugh Gough ordered the almost exhausted cavalry to threaten both flanks of the enemy at once, while the whole infantry prepared to advance. With the swoop of a whirlwind the gallant 3rd Dragoons and other cavalry regiments rushed on their foes. The Sikhs saw them coming, while the British bayonets gleamed in front. Their courage gave way; abandoning their guns, they fled from the field, retreating precipitately towards the Sutlej, and leaving large stores of grain and the materiel of war behind them. Thus in less than four days, 60,000 Sikh troops, supported by 150 pieces of cannon, were dislodged from their position, and severely punished for their treacherous commencement of the war.
The regiments which bear the word "Ferozeshah" on their colours are the 3rd Light Dragoons, 9th, 29th, 31st, 50th, 62nd, and 80th Regiments; while they and the 1st European Light Infantry of the Honourable East India Company's Service received the Governor—General's thanks for their courage and good conduct.
BATTLE OF ALIWAL—28TH JANUARY 1846.
While the British army were resting after the desperate encounters in which they had been engaged, and Sir Hugh Gough was watching the enemy, Sirdar Runjoor Singh Mujethea crossed from Philour, and made a movement which not only threatened the rich and populous town of Loodiana, but would have turned the right flank, and endangered the communication with Delhi. Sir Harry Smith was accordingly despatched to the relief of Loodiana. Having first captured the fort of Dhurmkote, he fought his way past the enemy to that city, where his presence restored confidence and order. This part of his duty being accomplished, and having under him 10,000 men and 24 guns, he next proceeded to attack the Sirdar Runjoor Singh, who was strongly intrenched at Aliwal, about eight miles to the westward of Loodiana, with 15,000 men and 56 guns. The Sikh force had advanced a short distance from their intrenched camp, when Sir Harry Smith, on the 28th, with his small army, advanced to meet them.
The regiments of cavalry which headed the advance of the British troops opened their glittering ranks to the right and left, and exhibited the serried battalions of infantry, and the frowning batteries of cannon.
The scene was magnificent, yet few could have failed to experience a sense of awe as the shock of battle was about to commence. The lines were not truly parallel. That of the Sikhs inclined towards and extended beyond the British right, while the other flanks were for a time comparatively distant.
It was perceived by Sir Harry Smith that the capture of the village of Aliwal was of the first importance, and the right of the infantry was led against it. The Sikh guns were keeping up a heavy fire, and Major Lawrenson, not having time to send for orders, at once galloped with his horse artillery up to within a certain distance of the enemy's guns, unlimbered, and by his fire drove the enemy's gunners from their guns. This promptitude of the gallant officer saved many lives. The defenders of the village were chiefly hillmen, who, after firing a straggling volley, fled, leaving the Sikh artillerymen to be slaughtered by the conquerors. The British cavalry of the right made at the same time a sweeping and successful charge, and one half of the opposing army was fairly broken and dispersed. The Sikhs on their own right, however, were outflanking the British, in spite of all the exertions of the infantry and artillery; for there the more regular battalions were in line, and the brave Sikhs were not easily cowed. A prompt and powerful effort was necessary, and a regiment of European lancers, supported by one of Indian cavalry, was launched against the even ranks of the Lahore infantry. The Sikhs knelt to receive the orderly but impetuous charge of the English warriors; but at that critical moment the wonted discipline of many failed them. They rose, yet they reserved their fire, and delivered it at the distance of a spear's throw, in the faces of the advancing horsemen, the saddles of many of whom were quickly emptied. Again and again the cavalry charged and rode through them, but it was not till the third charge, led by Major Bere, of the 16th Lancers, that the Sikhs dispersed; and even then, the ground was more thickly strewn with the bodies of victorious horsemen than of beaten infantry. Upwards of a hundred men of the 16th were either killed or wounded. An attempt was made by the enemy to rally behind Boondree, but all resistance was unavailing. The Sikh guns, with the exception of one, were captured, and they were driven headlong across the river. This gun was carried across the river, when Lieutenant Holmes, of the irregular cavalry, and Gunner Scott, of the horse artillery, in the most gallant way followed in pursuit, and, fording the river, overtook and spiked it.
All the munitions of war which Runjoor Singh had brought with him were captured, and the Sikh forces were thrown into the most complete dismay. The victory was decisive and complete. The loss of the British was 151 killed, and 413 wounded; that of the enemy far greater.
SOBRAON—10TH FEBRUARY 1846.
While Sir Hugh Gough was waiting for reinforcements from Delhi, as also for the arrival of Sir Charles Napier, who was moving up the left bank of the Sutlej, the Sikhs were strongly fortifying themselves at a bridge they had formed across that river at Sobraon. Their lines were encompassed by strong walls, only to be surmounted by scaling-ladders, while they afforded protection to a triple line of musketry. These formidable works were defended by 34,000 men and 70 pieces of artillery, while their position was united by a bridge of boats to a camp on the opposite side, in which was stationed a reserve of 20,000 men, and some pieces of artillery, which flanked some of the British field-works. Altogether a more formidable position could scarcely have been selected, and a Spanish officer of engineers in their service assured them that it could not be taken.
As soon as Sir Harry Smith had returned from Aliwal, and the heavy artillery had arrived from Delhi, Sir Hugh Gough determined to attack the Sikh position—his army now consisting of 6533 Europeans and 9691 natives, making a total of 16,224 rank and file, and 99 guns. On Tuesday the 10th of February, at half-past three o'clock in the morning, the British army advanced to the attack, fresh, like lions awaked out of sleep, but in perfect silence, when the battering and disposable artillery were at once placed in position, forming an extended semicircle, embracing within its fire the works of the Sikhs. A mist, however, hung over the plain and river; and it was not till half-past six, when it cleared partially away, that the whole artillery fire could be developed. Then commenced the rolling thunder, of the British guns. Nothing grander in warfare could be conceived than the effect of the batteries when they opened, as the cannonade passed along from the Sutlej to Little Sobraon in one continued roar of guns and mortars; while ever and anon the rocket, like a spirit of fire, winged its rapid flight high above the batteries in its progress towards the Sikh intrenchment. The Sikh guns were not idle, and replied with shot and shell; but neither were well-directed, nor did much damage. At first, it was believed that the whole affair was to be decided by artillery; but, notwithstanding the formidable calibre of the British guns, mortars, and howitzers, and the admirable way in which they were served, aided by a rocket battery, it could not have been expected that they could have silenced the fire of 70 pieces behind well-constructed batteries of earth, planks, and fascines, or dislodge troops covered either by redoubts, epaulments, or within a treble line of trenches.
"For upwards of three hours this incessant play of artillery was kept up upon the mass of the enemy. The round shot exploded tumbrils, or dashed heaps of sand into the air; the hollow shells cast their fatal contents fully before them, and devious rockets sprang aloft with fury, to fall hissing among a flood of men: but all was in vain, the Sikhs stood unappalled, and flash for flash returned, and fire for fire."
It was determined, therefore, to try what the British musket and bayonet could effect. The cannonade ceased, and the left division of the army, under Brigadier Stacey, supported on either flank by Captains Harford and Fordyce's batteries, and Lieutenant—Colonel Lane's troops of horse artillery, moved forward to the attack. The infantry, consisting of Her Majesty's 10th, 53rd, and 80th Regiments, with four regiments of Native Infantry, advanced steadily in line, halting only occasionally to correct when necessary, and without firing a shot; the artillery taking up successive positions at a gallop, until they were within 300 yards of the heavy batteries of the Sikhs. Terrific was the fire they all this time endured; and for some moments it seemed impossible that the intrenchment could be won under it. There was a temporary check; but soon persevering gallantry triumphed, and the whole army had the satisfaction of seeing the gallant Brigadier Stacey's soldiers driving the Sikhs in confusion before them within the area of their encampment. The check was chiefly on the extreme left, where they were exposed to the deadly fire of muskets and swivels, and enfilading artillery; but their comrades on the right of the first division, under Major-General Sir Harry Smith, headed by an old and fearless leader, Sir Robert Dick, forming themselves instinctively into masses and wedges, rushed forward, with loud shouts leaped the ditch, and swarming up, mounted the ramparts, where they stood victorious amid the captured cannon.
At this point Lieutenant Tritteon, bearing the Queen's colours, was shot through the heart, and Ensign Jones, who carried the regimental colours, was about the same time mortally wounded. The regimental colours, falling to the ground, were seized by Sergeant McCabe, and then rushing forward, he crossed the ditch and planted it on the highest point of the enemy's fortifications. There he stood under a tremendous fire, and maintained his position unhurt, though the flag was completely riddled with shot. Lieutenant Noel had seized the Queen's colours, the staff of which was shivered in his hand; and the men cheering, rushed gallantly into the works, and drove the enemy towards the river, into which they were headlong precipitated.
But for some time the Sikhs fought with steadiness and resolution, and turned several guns in the interior on their assailants. Several times the British line was driven back, and the fierce Sikhs rushing on, slaughtered without mercy all who remained wounded on the ground. Each time that with terrific slaughter the British were thus checked, with their habitual valour and discipline they rallied and returned to the charge. At length the second line moving on, the two mingled their ranks, and, supported by a body of cavalry, which, under Sir Joseph Thackwell, had been poured into the camp, everywhere effected openings in the Sikh intrenchments.
In vain the brave Sikhs held out. Each defensible position was captured, and the enemy was pressed towards the scarcely fordable river; but none offered to submit, everywhere showing a front to the victors, or stalking sullenly away, while many turned and rushed singly forth to encounter a certain death amid the hosts of the victors. The foe were now precipitated in masses over the bridge, shattered by shot, into the Sutlej, which a sudden rise had rendered hardly fordable. In their efforts to reach the right bank through the deepened waters, they suffered a dreadful carnage from the horse artillery, which poured in rapid succession volleys among them, till the river was red with the mangled bodies of men and horses; and it is supposed that fully one-third of the Sikh army perished thus or in the battle. Vast quantities of munitions of war were captured, numerous standards, and 67 guns, with 200 camel swivels. This desperate fight began at six in the morning; by nine the combatants were engaged hand to hand, and by eleven the battle was gained. Sir Robert Dick, who had commanded the 42nd Highlanders in Spain, was among the slain, as was Brigadier Taylor, C.B., the beloved colonel of the 29th Regiment, who commanded the third brigade of the second division.
The 3rd, 9th, and 16th Light Dragoons, 9th, 10th, 29th, 31st, 50th, 53rd, 62nd, and 80th Foot, received the thanks of Parliament, and have "Sobraon" on their colours. Two days after this, the British army, now joined by Sir Charles Napier, reached Lahore, and on the 22nd a brigade of troops took possession of the palace and citadel of that capital of the humbled Sikhs.
In the four battles the British lost 92 officers and 1259 men killed, and 315 officers and 4570 men wounded.
BATTLES IN THE PUNJAUB, 1848.
The Punjaub lies between the Indus and the Sutlej, with the river Chenab in the centre. In the southern part is the province of Mooltan, governed in 1848 by Dewan Moolraj. The chief city of the province, a strongly fortified place, is also called Mooltan. A Sikh force in the Company's service was sent into the Punjaub in 1847, and Lieutenant Herbert Edwardes was attached to it as political agent, and invested with a very considerable amount of authority. Young as he then was, and with little experience, either of fighting or diplomatising, he never failed to act with judgment and courage. He had soon ample exercise for both qualities. The Government determined to supersede the above-mentioned Moolraj, and to place a new Nazim, Sirdar Khan Singh, as Governor of Mooltan. This latter personage was accompanied to Mooltan by two officers—Mr Vans Agnew, of the Civil Service, and Lieutenant Anderson, of the 1st Bombay European Fusiliers—and a considerable body of troops. Moolraj, however, had no intention of losing his government, and either prompted by his own ambition, or instigated by evil counsellors, he resolved to rebel. By bribes he won over the native troops who had accompanied the commissioners, and whom, there can be little doubt, he instigated his followers to murder. Both Mr Agnew and Lieutenant Anderson were set upon and cruelly cut to pieces; not, however, till they had written to Lieutenant Edwardes to warn him of their danger. Lieutenant Edwardes was at that time with a small force at the distance of five days' march from Mooltan. He sent a messenger to say that he would instantly set out with all the men he could collect to their assistance, while he directed Lieutenant Taylor, who was with General Courtlandt, to join him. The heat was intense; but he pushed on, though he learned too soon that the lives of his countrymen had already been sacrificed. Moolraj was in open rebellion, collecting troops from all sides. Edwardes set to work to raise an army to oppose him, and recruiting went on actively on both sides. Edwardes did his utmost to persuade the people that it would be to their true interest to join the British. By May he had raised a force of between 5000 and 6000 men, to which were united about 1500 Sikhs, under General Courtlandt, while he was ably supported by Bhawal Khan, Nawab of Bhawulpoor, with nearly 12,000 followers. With this force, having crossed the Chenab on the 19th of June, he encountered the army of Moolraj, some 18,000 to 20,000 strong, horse and foot, and twenty guns, near the village of Kineyree. The battle began at a little after seven a.m., and was not decided till half-past four p.m. It was hotly contested, and both parties fought with desperation. Out of ten guns, the enemy succeeded in carrying only two into Mooltan, to which place they retreated, leaving 500 men dead on the field of battle. It was an important victory; but as Lieutenants Edwardes and Taylor were the only British officers present, I will not further describe it. The warning uttered to Moolraj by the murdered officers, that their countrymen would amply avenge their deaths, was about to be fulfilled.
Soon after this, Lieutenant Edwardes' force was joined by Lieutenant Lake, and other British officers. On the 1st of July was fought the battle of Suddoosam, where Dewan Moolraj, in spite of the assurances of his soothsayers that it would be an auspicious day to him, was again completely beaten, and driven up to the very walls of his capital. In this battle fell a gallant soldier, Captain Macpherson, in the service of the Nawab of Bhawulpoor, under Lieutenant Lake. The next day a serious accident happened to Lieutenant Edwardes. His pistol exploded as he was putting it into his belt, and the ball passing through his right hand, deprived him for ever of the use of it. His sufferings were great till the arrival of Dr Cole, a young and excellent English surgeon, who won the affection of all the wounded natives he attended. The four chief leaders in these actions received the thanks of the Governor in Council, and all the credit they so fully deserved; nor was a brave Irishman, Mr Quin, who volunteered to serve under Lieutenant Edwardes, and rendered him most efficient aid, overlooked.
There can be little doubt that, from the ill-defended condition of Mooltan, these successes might have been followed up by the capture of the city itself, had the victorious army been allowed at once to attack it; but the higher authorities decided otherwise, and Lieutenant Edwardes' force was directed to wait for the arrival of a regular army to commence the siege.
Moolraj, consequently, was allowed time to complete the defences of Mooltan, which he rendered very formidable.
No sooner had Sir Frederick Currie, the resident at Lahore, received information that Moolraj had shut himself up in Mooltan, than he despatched General Whish, with a train of heavy siege-guns, to invest it. Meantime the fort was surrounded and closely invested by the troops under Lieutenant Edwardes and the Nawab of Bhawulpoor, and had thus at their command the revenues and resources of the whole district. Lieutenant Edwardes was now joined by Lieutenant Lumsden and a young lad, Hugo James, who had come out to seek for a cadetship—a gallant boy. As he had come out to learn the art of fighting, his chief afforded him every opportunity of doing so, and "used to give him a few hundred men to take into any ugly place that wanted stopping up."
Steamers had found their way up the mighty Indus into the Chenab, and two of their officers, Captain Christopher and Mr McLawrin, frequently joined their mess. The steamers were employed in capturing the boats, and otherwise harassing the enemy. The English leader had a great cause of anxiety from the approach of a large Sikh force, under Rajah Sher Singh, whose fidelity he had every reason to doubt. The Sikhs advanced, however, and encamped before the city, and Moolraj lost no time in endeavouring to corrupt both their leaders and common soldiers. With the latter he succeeded but too well, as the sequel will show. Meantime, Moolraj was actively recruiting, and numbers from the Sikh country flocked to his standard. Thus matters went on till the arrival of General Whish, under whom the right column of the British army encamped at Seetul-Ke-Maree, on the 18th of August 1848. Moolraj, hearing of his approach, resolved to attempt surprising him before he reached the city. Accordingly, on the night of the 16th, he sent out a strong force, accompanied by artillery horses ready harnessed, to bring away the guns they expected to capture. Now it happened that on that very day Lieutenant Edwardes, not wishing to have the Sikh force between him and General Whish, had exchanged positions with it, and both armies, according to custom, had in the evening fired a feu de joie on the occasion, prolonged by General Courtlandt's gunners in honour of their approaching friends. This heavy cannonade put the British camp on the qui vive, and the General ordered all the tents to be struck, and the troops to get under arms, in case it should be necessary to march to Mooltan, and assist in the supposed engagement with the enemy. Scarcely had this been done than the rebel detachment reached the British camp; and instead of finding all plunged in sleep, except the usual sentries, they were received with such a rattling fire, that, after fruitlessly assailing the pickets, they fled in confusion, as many as possible mounting the artillery horses, which they had brought for so different a purpose. In the affair the British had only six men and two horses wounded, and none killed; while the enemy lost forty killed, many more wounded, and some taken prisoners. It is one of the numberless examples to be brought forward of the importance of being on the alert in the neighbourhood of an enemy. How disastrous might have been the consequences had General Whish's army not been aroused and prepared for an enemy on that occasion!
Moolraj made every attempt to destroy his enemies; and contriving to send three traitors into the camp of the irregulars, who got employed as cooks, Lieutenant Edwardes, Lake, Lumsden, Courtlandt, Hugo James, and Cole, who were dining together, were very nearly all poisoned. The wretches were shaved, flogged, and turned out of the camp, when they fled to Mooltan as fast as their legs could carry them.
SIEGE OF MOOLTAN.
And now the avenging army arrived before Mooltan. General Whish's headquarters were with the right column; the left was under Brigadier Salter, and arrived on the 19th August 1848; while the heavy siege-guns, under Major Napier, with the sappers and miners, commanded by Captain H. Siddons, did not reach headquarters till the 4th of September. The European regiment attached to each column came as far as practicable by water. The irregular force under Edwardes and Lake being encamped a distance of six miles from that of General Whish, it was necessary to move it closer up to the latter, to prevent the enemy's cavalry from passing between them. The very position taken up, it was found, was within gunshot of Mooltan; but as it was an important one to hold, Lieutenant Edwardes resolved to keep it. It was not obtained without some fighting, where Lake and Pollock greatly distinguished themselves. Hugo James and Captain Wilmot Christopher accompanied Lieutenant Edwardes into the field, and greatly assisted him in carrying orders. The latter rode about with a long sea-telescope under his arm, just as composedly as if he had been on the deck of his own vessel. Encamping within shot of the enemy's walls is unheard of in regular warfare; and the irregulars soon found it anything but pleasant. One Sunday, during the service held by the Chief for the benefit of all the Christians under him, the little congregation was disturbed by about twenty shot falling round the tents in the space of a very few minutes; and when at length one found its billet, and smashed a man's thigh at the door, a general rush was made to the guns, and the whole strength of the artillery bent upon the Bloody Bastion until its fire was silenced.
On another occasion, Major Napier had one night gone over to visit Edwardes. They were sipping tea and breathing the cool night air, while Lake, exhausted with his day's work, was fast asleep in his bed, under the same awning as themselves, when, the rebel gunners seeming to awake, one shot buried itself hissing in the sand by Napier's side, and then another passed close by his friend.
A third fell at the head of Lake's bed, and his servant immediately got up, and with great carefulness turned his bed round. Lake gave a yawn, and asked sleepily, "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," replied the bearer; "it's only a cannon ball!" Lake went to sleep again. Five minutes later another fell at his feet, when the good bearer again shifted his master's bed. Once more Lake asked, half asleep, "What's the matter now?" and was told in reply, "Another cannon ball—nothing more!"—on which he said, "Oh!" and returned calmly to the land of dreams. Various plans were suggested for carrying on the siege against the place, which, it was discovered, was very formidable, and not easily to be taken. Constant skirmishes took place. The European soldiers took the night duty in the trenches, to avoid the heat of the day. On the night of the 9th of September, it became necessary to dislodge the enemy from a position they had taken up among some houses and gardens in front of the trenches; and four companies of Her Majesty's 10th Regiment, a wing of the 49th Native Infantry, the rifle company of the 72nd Native Infantry, and two of General Van Courtlandt's horse artillery guns accordingly advanced, and a very sharp night-fight ensued. Ignorance of the localities, and the darkness and confusion consequent on a hastily planned night-attack, rendered the gallant efforts of the troops useless, and, after a considerable loss in killed and wounded, they were withdrawn. Lieutenant-Colonel Pattoun, of the 32nd Foot, led the attack with great gallantry. Lieutenant Richardson, adjutant of the 49th Native Infantry, an officer of Herculean frame, rushed at the barricaded door of the house most strongly occupied by the enemy, and with a mighty effort dashed it in among the rebel inmates, who threw themselves forward to oppose his entrance. Seeing that the party was too strong for him, he seized the foremost Sikh soldier in his arms, and, with his body thus shielded, backed out of the enclosure, when he hurled the half-strangled rebel back among his friends. He did not escape, however, without some severe wounds about his head and arms.
Captain Christopher had, from the first arrival of the steamers at Mooltan, shown the usual willingness of his profession to co-operate with his brother officers on shore. On the night in question he had already once conducted some reinforcements to Colonel Pattoun's assistance, but the fighting at the outposts still raged with unabated fury. Another reinforcement came up, but had no guide. "Will no one show us the way?" asked the officer of the party, looking round on the tired occupants of the trenches. "I will," replied Christopher; and putting himself at their head, he steered them with the steadiness of a pilot through ditches and gardens, under a roaring fire of musketry. Ere he reached the spot, a ball hit him on the ankle, and shivered the joint to pieces. He was borne out of the fight, but never recovered from the wound, and three weeks afterwards was numbered with the brave who fell at the siege.
The British army continued forming their approaches for the attack, and the rebels at the same time laboured without ceasing to strengthen their position. On the 12th of September, General Whish determined to clear his front. The action commenced at seven a.m. by the irregulars, under Lumsden, Lake, and Courtlandt, making an attack to distract the attention of the enemy on the left, when they expelled the enemy from an important village, and captured their magazine and hospital. Two British columns now advanced to do the real business of the day: the right, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Pattoun; the left, by Lieutenant-Colonel Franks; while three squadrons of cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Wheeler, protected the British flanks. Both the rebels and British troops fought desperately. Moolraj's intrenched position was fiercely assailed, and fiercely defended. Scarcely a man of its defenders escaped to tell their chief how calmly the young English engineer, Lieutenant Grindall, planted the scaling-ladder in their grim faces; how vainly they essayed to hurl it back; how madly rushed up the grenadiers of the 32nd; with what a yell the brave Irish of the 10th dropped down among them from the branches of the trees above; and how like the deadly conflict of the lion and tiger in a forest den, was the grapple of the pale English with the swarthy Sikhs in that little walled space the rebels thought so strong.
On this day fell Major Montizambert, of the 10th, Colonel Pattoun, Quarter—Master Taylor, Lieutenant Cubitt, and Ensign Lloyd; while Major Napier, the chief engineer, was among the wounded. Altogether, 39 men were killed, and 216 wounded. This victory of Dhurum Salah gained the besieging army a distance to the front of some eight or nine hundred yards, and brought them within battering distance of the city walls. Everybody expected that in a few hours Mooltan would be won, when the astounding news reached General Whish that Rajah Sher Singh and his whole army had gone over to the enemy. A council of war was on this immediately held, when it was decided that the siege of Mooltan should be raised, and that the British army should retire to a short distance, and there, holding a dignified attitude, wait for reinforcements. Rajah Sher Singh was, however, received with suspicion by Moolraj, and so, in a short time, he marched off to join his father and other insurgent chiefs. It was soon evident that the greater part of the Sikh population was insurgent. The only remedy for this state of things, it was agreed, was the annexation of the Punjaub—Mooltan, however, must first be taken.
The interval was not passed idly. Lieutenant Taylor prepared all sorts of contrivances for facilitating siege operations; and General Courtlandt's sappers and Lieutenant Lumsden's guides prepared the enormous number of 15,000 gabions and 12,000 fascines. Moolraj was also actively employed in strengthening his defences, and in endeavouring to gain over the neighbouring chiefs to his cause. One of the most important features in the scenery round Mooltan was the Wulle Muhommud canal, which runs past the western side of the city, and the eastern of the village of Sooruj Koond. The water had been drained off by Lieutenant Glover, by damming up the mouth at the Chenab. The enemy were intrenched within this canal under the walls of the city, and General Whish determined to attack them on the 7th of November, and to drive them out at the point of the bayonet. The attack was to be made at daylight, on both sides of the canal, by a strong British brigade on the east, and by the irregular force on the west, each division carefully keeping on its own side of the canal, to prevent the friendly irregulars from being mistaken for the foe. On the very day before, some 220 men of one of General Courtlandt's regiments, called the Kuthar Mookhee, who had been placed in an advanced battery, deserted to the enemy, and endeavoured to carry off Lieutenant Pollock with them; but he was rescued by the rest of the regiment, who remained faithful; and in spite of this defection, he, assisted in a true comrade spirit by Lieutenant Bunny, of the Artillery, and Lieutenant Paton, of the Engineers, held the post with unflinching constancy till day. In consequence of this desertion, it was not deemed prudent to trust the other regiments of the same force with the posts which had been assigned to them. Lieutenant Edwardes, with his irregulars, was to supply their place; but, when all was prepared, the enemy himself attacked the British position, and the very men whose fidelity had been doubted gave such evident proof of their loyalty that they were allowed to take part in the action.
The enemy was soon repulsed, and the British advanced, as had been intended. It was at this time that a body of Rohillas irregulars, disregarding the order they had received to keep on the west side of the canal, crossed over and captured a gun on the eastern bank, when, mistaken by the sepoys for some of the Moolraj's troops, they were instantly fired on. Two had been shot down, when Private Howell, of Her Majesty's 32nd Foot, perceiving what was going on, leaped down the canal, and putting himself in front of the Rohillas, faced the British troops, and waved his shako on the end of his bayonet, as a signal to cease firing. By his presence of mind and courage many friendly lives were saved. Brigadier Markham afterwards presented Howell with fifty rupees, at the head of his regiment, sent to him by Lieutenant Edwardes. On this occasion, Lieutenants Lake and Pollock and Mr Hugo James again distinguished themselves; and so especially did Dr Cole, who not only attended to those who were hurt on his own side, but saved the lives of many wounded Sikhs on the field of battle—an act to be performed only by one who adds the courage of a soldier to the humanity of a physician.
Brigadier Markham led the British column. Proceeding with the force under his command across the bridges over the nullah, on the right of the allied camp in the Sooruj Koond in open column, flanking the enemy's position, they brought their shoulders forward to the left, and proceeded directly across their rear. When they had advanced sufficiently far to ensure overlapping the most distant part of their position, they wheeled into line, three guns on the right and three on the left, the whole of the cavalry (with the exception of a small party with the guns) on their right flank. The reserve, in quarter-distance column, in rear of the centre of the right brigade, advanced steadily in echelon of brigade, at fifty paces' distance from the right, under a smart fire of grape and round shot. General Markham, observing a large body of the enemy moving on his right, ordered the cavalry to attack them, to prevent them removing their guns. Major Wheeler, advancing in the most brilliant manner, charged the enemy, cutting up numbers of them, and saved the guns; then sweeping the whole British front, he re-formed speedily and in good order on the left, and moved off to cover the right. As the cavalry cleared the front, the horse artillery opened their fire, the line charged, and took the position, with the whole of the guns, on the bank of the nullah, driving the enemy across and up it with considerable loss. The action lasted about an hour. After the enemy's batteries had been destroyed, the troops returned to camp.
Never was there a more perfect triumph of discipline and good soldiership than the battle of Sooruj Koond. The British troops, who were manoeuvred as on parade, turned a large army out of a strong intrenchment, and routed them, with the loss of five guns, before they even understood the attack. The four leaders, Lieutenant-Colonels Franks and Brooks, and Major Wheeler and Brigadier Markham, were all comparatively young, and no men could have behaved with more judgment, as well as gallantry and spirit.
On the 21st of December, a Bombay division, commanded by Brigadier the Hon. H. Dundas, C.B., of Her Majesty's 60th Rifles, arrived before Mooltan, with Colonel Cheape as chief engineer, raising the army under General Whish to upwards of 15,000 men.
On the 27th of December, the united British force resumed the long-suspended siege of Mooltan.
The plan adopted was to make a regular attack upon the north-east angle of the citadel, and to expel the enemy only from so much of the suburbs as were actually required for the operations of the besiegers.
The portion of the suburbs so required consisted of some high brick-kilns; the cemetery of Moolraj's fathers, called Wuzeerabad; and Moolraj's own garden-house, Am Khas. To seize these positions was the object of the opening attack on the 27th of December. While one British column was effecting it, three others were ordered to make diversions for the purpose of distracting the enemy, with discretionary orders to follow according to the effect produced, even to the taking of the positions, if facilities offered. The third column was composed of the whole disposable force of the irregulars. Facilities did offer, and Brigadier Dundas captured, occupied, and crowned with guns some most important positions which commanded the city. The whole of the suburbs were now occupied by the British army, and it was resolved to take the city also. On this occasion Major Edwardes says that Lieutenants Lake, Pollock, Pearse, and Young all distinguished themselves, as did his writer, the brave Mr Quin, who led on the Sooraj Mookhee regiment; but the palm was carried off by a new volunteer, Mr McMahon, who had joined him only a few days before, and who now earned his title to be brought especially to notice by encountering in single combat the leader of the enemy's infantry, a powerful Sikh, whom he killed with one blow which divided his head.
His men at last, thinking themselves responsible for his safety, made him prisoner, and brought him back, with bent and dripping sword, to where Major Edwardes and Sir Henry Lawrence were standing directing the movements of the troops.
On the 30th of December, a shell from a mortar laid by Lieutenant Newall, of the Bengal Artillery, pierced the supposed bomb-proof dome of the Grand Mosque in the citadel, which formed the enemy's principal magazine, and descending into the combustibles below, blew the vast fabric into the air.
On the 2nd of January 1849, the breach in the Rhoonee Boorj or Bloody Bastion of the city was declared practicable, and a second at the Delhi gate was thought sufficiently good to allow of an attempt being made on it as a diversion. General Whish determined to try both; and a party from the Bengal division was told off for the Delhi gate breach, and one from the Bombay division for the breach at the Bastion. The irregular force was to assist both by a diversion on the left. The diversion was commenced at one p.m., and the assault, by a signal from the batteries, at three p.m. The storming party destined to attack the Delhi gate was led by a fine soldier, Captain Smyth, of the grenadier company of Her Majesty's 32nd Regiment. Off they started with hearts beating high; but no sooner had they emerged from the suburbs, than they found themselves on the edge of a deep intervening hollow, after crossing which, under a heavy fire of matchlocks, they discovered, to their surprise, that the city wall in front, about thirty feet in height, was unbreached and totally impracticable. This disagreeable fact had hitherto been concealed by the hollow, both from the breaching-battery and the engineers. The gallant band had therefore to retire; and without loss of time they hurried round to the breach at the Bloody Bastion, to assist their more fortunate comrades in the city.
The Bloody Bastion was assaulted by three companies of the 1st Bombay Fusiliers, under Captain Leith.
They found the breach easy to be surmounted, but it was intrenched inside, and a most bloody struggle ensued, in which the brave Captain Leith was severely wounded, and had to be carried to the rear; but his place was at once taken by Lieutenant Grey, and the redcoats pushed onwards. The first to mount was Colour-Sergeant John Bennet, of the 1st Fusiliers, who, having planted the colours of Old England on the very crest of the breach, stood beside them till the flag and staff were riddled with balls. On rushed the Fusiliers; they remembered the legends of their ancient corps, and closing with the rebels, soon made the city of Mooltan their own. "Then arose from every crowded height and battery, whence the exciting struggle had been watched, the shouts of applauding comrades; and through the deafening roar of musketry, which pealed along the ramparts, and marked the hard-earned progress of the victorious columns through the streets, both friend and foe might distinctly hear that sound, never to be forgotten—the 'Hurrah!' of a British army after battle."
No sooner did Moolraj discover that the city was captured, than, leaving three-fourths of his army to the mercy of the victors, he retired with 3000 picked men into the citadel, intending to hold out till he could make advantageous terms for himself. The garrison who could escape made the best of their way over the city walls, and fled to their homes. Never did a city present a more awful scene of retribution than did that of Mooltan. Scarcely a roof or wall which had not been penetrated by English shells; and whole houses, scorched and blackened by the bombardment, seemed about to fall over the corpses of their defenders. The citadel itself was now closely invested, and incessantly shelled, so that there was scarcely a spot within the walls where the besieged could find shelter. In this siege the bluejackets of Old England, as well as the redcoats, took a part. Commander Powell, of the Honourable East India Company's Navy, at the head of a body of seamen, worked one of the heavy batteries from the commencement to the termination of the siege. "It was a fine sight to see their manly faces, bronzed by long exposure to the burning sun of the Red Sea or Persian Gulf, mingling with the dark soldiers of Hindoostan, or contrasting with the fairer but not healthier occupants of the European barrack. They looked on their battery as their ship, their eighteen-pounders as so many sweethearts, and the embrasures as port-holes. 'Now, Jack, shove your head out of that port, and just hear what my little girl says to that 'ere pirate, Mol Rag' (Moolraj?), was the kind of conversation heard on board of the sailor-battery by those passing."
The citadel still held out, but by the 19th two breaches had been effected, and the assault was fixed for six a.m. on the 22nd. Before that hour the traitor sent in his submission, asking only for his own life and the honour of his women. The answer from General Whish was, that the British Government "wars not with women and children, and that they would be protected, but that he had neither authority to give Moolraj his life nor to take it." Thus Moolraj was compelled to make an unconditional surrender. This second siege of Mooltan occupied 27 days, and the British loss was 210 men killed and 982 wounded. One of the last acts of the victors was to disinter the bodies of Agnew and Anderson, and to carry them to an honoured resting-place on the summit of Moolraj's citadel, through the broad and sloping breach which had been made by the British guns in the walls of the rebellious fortress of Mooltan.
AFFAIR AT RAMNUGGUR—22ND NOVEMBER.
The Sikhs and Afghans having formed a combination against the British power, a large force was quickly assembled at Ferozepore, under the immediate orders of Lord Gough, the Commander-in-Chief, in the autumn of 1848.
Sher Singh and Chuttur Singh having effected a junction on the 21st of October, their forces amounted to 30,000. On the 21st of November, Lord Gough joined the British army assembled at Saharum. The Sikh forces were found posted at Ramnuggur. In front of this place flows the Chenab River, which has in mid-channel a small island, on which, protected by a grove of trees, was placed a battery of six guns, with some 400 men. The enemy also having boats on the river, and command of the fort, had pushed across a considerable number of infantry and cavalry. The British army having arrived in front of this strong position, a reconnaissance was made in force with cavalry and horse artillery. The Sikhs, confident in their numbers and the strength of their position, sent across their cavalry, who rode as if in defiance before the British army. A charge of the 3rd Light Dragoons, aided by light cavalry, had chastised on one point the presumption of the Sikhs. William Havelock, the colonel of the 14th, entreated to be allowed to attack another body of the enemy; and to this Colonel Cureton consented. The Commander-in-Chief also riding up, said, "If you see a favourable opportunity of charging—charge." The gallant old colonel soon made the opportunity. "Now, my lads," he exclaimed, boldly leading his dragoons to the onset, "we shall soon see whether we can clear our front of those fellows or not." The Sikhs made a show of standing the charge, and some of them stood well. Captain Gall, while grasping a standard, had his right hand cut through by the stroke of a Sikh sword, and Lieutenant Fitzgerald's head was cleft in two by a blow from one of the enemy's weapons; but the mass of the Sikhs, opening out right and left, gave way before their victors. Colonel Cureton, however, on seeing the 14th charge, exclaimed, "That is not the body of horse I meant to have been attacked!" and, riding to the front, received in his gallant breast a matchlock ball, which killed him on the spot.
"Again the trumpets of the 14th sounded, and, overturning all who opposed them, onward in the direction of the island that gallant regiment took their course. The Sikh battery opened on them a heavy fire, and there was a descent of some four feet into the flat; but Havelock, disregarding all difficulties, and riding well ahead of his men, exclaimed, as he leaped down the declivity, 'Follow me, my brave lads, and never heed the cannon shot!' These were the last words he was ever heard to utter. The dragoons got among broken ground filled with Sikh marksmen, who kept up a withering fire on the tall horsemen, throwing themselves flat on their faces whenever they approached. After many bold efforts, the 14th were withdrawn from the ground, but their commander never returned from that scene of slaughter." In this unfortunate cavalry affair, 87 men were killed, and 150 wounded.
BATTLE OF CHILIANWALA—13TH JANUARY 1849.
In January of the following year Lord Gough determined to attack the force of Sher Singh, then posted in his front at the village of Chilianwala, before he could be joined by his son, Sirdar Chuttur Singh.
The British army was marched round to take the village in the rear, and it was late in the day before they reached the ground where it was proposed they should encamp, it being Lord Cough's intention to attack early in the morning. While, however, the Quartermaster-General was in the act of taking up ground for the encampment, the enemy advanced some horse artillery, and opened a fire on the skirmishers in front of the village. Lord Gough immediately ordered them to be silenced by a few rounds from the heavy guns, which advanced to an open space in front of the village. Their fire was instantly returned by that of nearly the whole of the enemy's field-artillery, thus exposing the position of his guns, which the jungle had hitherto concealed.
It now became evident that the enemy intended to fight, and Lord Gough drew up his forces in order of battle. Sir Walter Gilbert's division was on the right, that of General Campbell on the left; the heavy guns were in the centre, under Major Horsford, which commenced the engagement by a well-directed and powerful fire on the enemy's centre. The cannonade had lasted about an hour, when Major-general Campbell's division was ordered to advance against the enemy. Part of it was victorious, but the brigade of General Pennycuick met a terrific repulse. "Its advance was daring in the extreme, but over impetuous. The order to charge was given at too great a distance from the enemy; consequently its British regiment, the gallant 24th, outstripped its native regiments, mistaking the action of their brave leaders, Brigadier Pennycuick and Lieutenant-Colonel Brookes, who waved their swords above their heads, for the signal to advance in double-quick time. The 24th, consequently, led by Colonel Brookes, rushed breathless and confused upon the enemy's batteries. Close to their position, it received a deadly shower of grape; and, while shattered by its fatal effects, was torn to pieces by a close fire poured in by the Bunno troops from behind a screen of jungle. The brigade was thrown into utter confusion. The most desperate efforts of the officers availed not to restore order. Colonel Brookes, with numbers of his brave 24th men, fell among the guns. Brigadier Pennycuick was slain at the commencement. His son, Ensign Pennycuick, when he saw his father fall, rushed forward, and striding over his prostrate body, attempted to keep his assailants in check; but the fierce Sikhs rushed on, and hacked the gallant youth to pieces. Besides these brave chiefs, five captains, three lieutenants, and three ensigns of the 24th were killed, while many more were wounded; making in all 23 officers and 459 men. The Sikhs, seeing their advantage, cut down their opponents with savage fury, and at length compelled the shallow remnant of the regiment to fly in disorder."
The cavalry brigade was also brought forward in a way contrary to all the rules of warfare. Advancing in line through a dense forest, they came suddenly upon a strong body of Ghorchurras, intoxicated with the stimulating drug which the heroes of the East call to the aid of their valour. These fanatics, riding furiously towards them, killed some and wounded others, among whom was their brave colonel. At this moment a voice was heard to shout, "Threes about!" It was a fatal order. Wheeling round, the British dragoons fled, panic-struck, followed by the Ghorchurras, even among the ranks of the artillery. It was now that their chaplain, who was attending to some of the wounded in the rear, seeing them approach, grasped a sword, and leaped on a charger standing near him. "My lads," he exclaimed, "you have listened to my preaching, listen to me now. About, and drive the enemy before you!" Saying this, he placed himself at their head, and, encouraged by his gallant example, they once more wheeled about, and uniting with the rest of the regiment, who had been rallied by their colonel, charging furiously, drove back the enemy, and retrieved their honour. Among the officers slain on this occasion was Lieutenant A.J. Cureton, the son of Colonel Cureton, who was killed at Ramnuggur.
On the extreme left, however, the cavalry, under Sir Joseph Thackwell, were victorious wherever they encountered the enemy. The left brigade, under Brigadier Mountain, distinguished itself; while the right attack of infantry, under Sir Walter Gilbert, was perfectly successful: indeed, the disasters of that fatal evening were caused, in the first place, by engaging so late in the day; and in the case of the 24th Regiment, from the over-impetuosity of the officers; and in that of the 14th Light Dragoons, from being suddenly attacked on unfavourable ground, and from receiving wrong orders during the confusion into which they were consequently thrown. Completely did the regiment retrieve its honour in subsequent actions. The Sikhs retreated; the British remained masters of the field. Their loss was, however, very great. Twenty-six European officers and 731 men killed, and 66 officers and 1446 men wounded, was a heavy price to pay for so small an advantage. Never, indeed, had a British army in India, prepared for battle, suffered what was more like a defeat than on this disastrous occasion.
BATTLE OF GOOJERAT—21ST FEBRUARY 1849.
After the battle of Chilianwala, the Sikhs were joined by a body of 1500 Afghan horse, under Akram Khan, a son of Dost Mahomed Khan. Compelled, however, by want of supplies, they quitted their intrenchments, and took up a fresh position with 60,000 men, and 59 pieces of artillery, between Goojerat and the Chenab. From this they probably intended marching on Lahore, but were prevented by a brigade under Major-General Whish, who was detached to guard the fords above and below Wuzeerabad, while Lord Gough advanced towards them—the whole army burning to avenge the loss of their comrades who had fallen on the 13th of January, many of whom, when lying wounded, had been cruelly slaughtered by the Sikhs. This time Lord Gough took good care to commence the action at an earlier hour in the day. At half-past seven in the morning on the 21st of February, the sky clear and cloudless, and the sun shining brightly on the extended line of bayonets and sabres, with the precision of a parade the British army advanced to meet the foe. The Sikh artillery opened at a long distance, thus exposing the position of their guns. With good judgment, Lord Gough therefore halted the infantry out of the range of fire, and pushed forward the whole of his guns, which were covered by skirmishers.
The Sikh guns were served well and rapidly; but the terrific fire of the British artillery at length compelled the enemy to fall back, when the infantry were deployed, and a general advance directed, covered by artillery.
A village in which a large body of the enemy's artillery was concealed lay directly in the line of Sir Walter Gilbert's advance. This was carried by the 3rd Brigade, under General Penny, in the most brilliant style, the enemy being driven from their cover with great slaughter. Here the 2nd European Regiment distinguished itself. At the same time a party of Brigadier Harvey's brigade, most gallantly led by Lieutenant-Colonel Franks, of the 10th Foot, drove a large body of the enemy from another village. The infantry continued to advance, while the heavy guns as well as field batteries kept pace with them, unlimbering in successive positions for effective action. The rapid advance and admirable fire of the horse artillery and light field batteries, strengthened by two reserved troops of horse artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Brind, broke the enemy's ranks at all points. The other villages were stormed; the guns in position carried, 53 pieces falling into the hands of the victors; the camp with baggage and standard captured, and the whole army of Sher Singh routed in every direction. The cavalry had hitherto been restrained from taking too active a part in the action, though the brigades on either flank were occasionally threatened and attacked by large masses of the enemy's horsemen. Each time, however, by their steady movements and spirited manoeuvres, ably supported by the horse artillery attached to them, the British cavalry put the foe to flight. A large body of Ghorchurras, with some Afghan cavalry, appearing on the right, a brilliant and successful charge was made on them by some troops of the 9th Lancers with the Scinde Horse, when several standards were captured. The 14th Light Dragoons and other cavalry regiments, by their bold front and gallant conduct whenever the enemy approached, contributed much to the success of the day.
The enemy on all sides now took to flight. The right wing and General Campbell's division passed in pursuit to the eastward of Goojerat, and the Bombay division to the westward.
"Then, from either flank the horse, unbroken and in perfect order, swept forward to do the work of final retribution. The two columns speedily got into communication. Onward they moved in union, cutting down, dispersing, riding over, and trampling the flying or scattered infantry, capturing guns and waggons, strewing the paths with dead and dying; forward they moved in their irresistible course, and converted a beaten army into a shapeless, hideous mass of helpless fugitives."
The Sikh army was soon dispersed over the country, the ground strewed with the dead and wounded, and their weapons and military equipments, which they cast from them in the hopes that they might be taken for peasants or camp followers instead of soldiers.
For twelve miles did the avenging horsemen pursue the foe; and it was not till half-past four that they drew rein, when they returned exultingly to camp. Such was the battle of Goojerat, one of the most important and decisive ever fought in India. By it the power of the Sikhs was completely broken, while it taught a lesson to the Afghans, who now for the first time had united to them, and made them feel that it was their best policy to obtain the friendship rather than the enmity of England. This great battle was won chiefly by artillery; though the infantry, by their gallant advance, drove back the enemy, and the cavalry, by their brilliant charges and their rapid pursuit, entirely broke and destroyed the force of the enemy. The flying army was followed up by Sir Walter Gilbert, Sir Colin Campbell, and Colonel Bradford, in three different directions, on the 3rd of March. Sir Walter Gilbert came up with a portion of the fugitives, which still held together under Sher Singh and Chuttur Singh, at Horrmuck, on the 11th of March, when they surrendered; and three days afterwards, the remainder of their forces, amounting to 16,000 men, laid down their arms at Rawul Pindee, and 41 pieces of artillery were given up. Dost Mahomed was pursued as far as the Khyber Pass.
In consequence of these operations, the Punjaub was annexed to the Government of India.
"Goojerat" is borne by the 3rd, 9th, and 14th Light Dragoons, and the 10th, 24th, 29th, 32nd, 53rd, 60th, and 61st Regiments—while the army received the thanks of Parliament. Sir Charles Napier had been hurried out to take command, out found on his arrival that the work to be done had been achieved, and that the brave Lord Gough's last battle was a crowning victory.
THE LOSS OF H.M.S. BIRKENHEAD.
In 1853 a terrible disaster at sea occurred which was the occasion of a display, to a degree never surpassed and rarely equalled, of the courage, heroism, and discipline of British soldiers. Her Majesty's steamer Birkenhead was on her passage from Simon's Bay to Algoa Bay, with 630 souls on board, consisting of the ship's company, drafts from several regiments, and boys, women, and children. At about ten minutes past two a.m., the weather being fine, with a heavy swell on shore, she struck. Mr Salmond, the master, came on deck, and ordering the engines to be stopped, the boats to be lowered, and an anchor to be let go, directed the military officers, Major Seton, of the 74th Regiment, and Captain Wright, of the 91st, to send the troops to the chain-pumps; the order was implicitly obeyed, and perfect discipline maintained. As soon as Mr Salmond heard that there was water in the ship, he directed the women and children to be put in the cutter in charge of Mr Richards, master's assistant, which was done.
In ten minutes after the first concussion, and while the engines were turning astern, the ship struck again under the engine-room, and broke in two. Major Seton had called all the officers about him, and impressed on them the necessity of preserving order and silence among the men. Sixty were put on the chain-pumps, and told off in three reliefs; sixty were put on to the tackles of the paddle-box boats, and the remainder were brought on the poop, so as to ease the fore part of the ship. "The order and regularity that prevailed on board, from the time the ship struck till she totally disappeared, far exceeded anything that I thought could be effected by the best discipline," says one of the survivors. "This is more to be wondered at, seeing that most of the soldiers had been but a short time in the service. Every one did as he was directed, and there was not a cry or a murmur among them until the vessel made her final plunge. I could not name any individual officer who did more than another. All received their orders, and had them carried out as if the men were embarking instead of going to the bottom; there was only this difference, that I never saw any embarkation conducted with so little noise and confusion. Four hundred and thirty-eight men and boys perished on this sad occasion. Major Seton, standing among his men, and refusing to leave them, perished with the rest." No heroes of whom we read in the page of history ever met their fate with more heroic courage than did these British soldiers embarked on board the Birkenhead, and well worthy is the account to be placed among the gallant deeds of our Redcoats.
THE CRIMEAN WAR—1854-1855.
The settled resolve of the Russian Government to crush the power of the Turks, and to take possession of Constantinople, was the cause of the declaration of war by England and France against Russia.
The war became at once popular among the British people when the news was spread that a Russian fleet, consisting of six men-of-war and several smaller vessels, had darted out of Sebastopol, and, taking advantage of a dense fog, had entered the harbour of Sinope, where they found a Turkish squadron of eight frigates, two schooners, and three transports, totally unprepared for battle. Admiral Nachimoff, the Russian commander, fiercely attacked them, and though the Turks fought bravely, so great was their disadvantage, that in a few hours 5000 men were massacred, and every ship, with the exception of two, was destroyed. To prevent the recurrence of such an event, the allied fleets of England and France entered the Black Sea on the 3rd of January 1854. War was not officially declared against Russia till the 28th of March. The Guards and other regiments had, however, embarked early in February; first to rendezvous at Malta, and subsequently at Varna, on the Turkish shore of the Black Sea. The British troops, under Lord Raglan, amounted to 26,800 men of all arms; that of the French, under Marshal Saint Arnaud, to nearly the same number, 26,526; and there were also 7000 Turks, under Selim Pasha; making in all 60,300 men, and 132 guns, 65 of which were British.
On the morning of the 14th September, the fleet conveying this magnificent army anchored off the coast, near Old Fort, distant about eighteen miles south of Eupatoria. The first British troops which landed in the Crimea were the men of Number 1 company of the 23rd Welsh Fusiliers, under Major Lystons and Lieutenant Drewe. The landing continued during the whole day, without any casualties. The first night on shore the rain fell in torrents, and the troops, who had landed without tents or shelter of any sort, were drenched to the skin. On the following morning the sun shone forth, and the disembarkation continued. No enemy was encountered till the 19th, when two or three Russian guns opened fire, and a body of Cossacks were seen hovering in the distance. The Earl of Cardigan instantly charged them, and they retreated till the British cavalry were led within range of the fire of their guns, when four dragoons were killed and six wounded,—the first of the many thousands who fell during the war.
The evening of the 19th closed with rain.
BATTLE OF THE ALMA—20TH SEPTEMBER.
Wet and weary the allied troops rose on the morning of the 20th September of 1854, to march forward to the field of battle. On their right was the sea, on which floated the British fleet; before them was the river Alma, down to which the ground sloped, with villages, orchards, and gardens spread out along its banks. "On the other side of the river, the ground at once rose suddenly and precipitously to the height of three or four hundred feet, with tableland at the top. This range of heights, which, particularly near the sea, was so steep as to be almost inaccessible, continued for about two miles along the south bank, and then broke away from the river (making a deep curve round an amphitheatre, as it were, about a mile wide), and then returned to the stream again, but with gentler slopes, and features of a much less abrupt character." The road crossed the river by a wooden bridge, and ran through the centre of the valley or amphitheatre. Prince Menschikoff had posted the right of his army on the gentler slopes last described, and as it was the key of his position, great preparations had been made for its defence. About half-way down the slope a large earthen battery had been thrown up, with twelve heavy guns of position; and higher up, on its right rear, was another of four guns, sweeping the ground in that direction. Dense columns of infantry were massed on the slopes, with large reserves on the heights above. A lower ridge of hills ran across the amphitheatre, and at various points batteries of field-artillery were posted, commanding the passage of the river and its approaches. In front of this part of the position, and on the British side of the river, was the village of Borutiuk.
On their left, close to the sea, the acclivities were so abrupt that the Russians considered themselves safe from attack. The river, which ran along the whole front, was fordable in most places, but the banks were so steep, that only at certain points could artillery be got across. A numerous body of Russian riflemen were scattered among the villages, gardens, and vineyards spread along the banks. The Russian right was protected by large bodies of cavalry, which constantly threatened the British left, though held in check by the cavalry under Lord Lucan. The right of the allies rested on the sea, where, as close in shore as they could come, were a fleet of steamers throwing shot and shell on to the heights occupied by the Russian left.
"At about eleven a.m. the allied armies advanced, the whole front covered by a chain of light infantry. On the extreme right, and about 1500 yards in advance of the line, was the division of General Bosquet; next, on his left, was that of General Canrobert; then the Prince Napoleon's, with General Forey's in his rear, in reserve. The English then took up the alignment, commencing with the 2nd division (Sir De Lacy Evans), then the light division (Sir G. Brown), and, in rear of them, the 3rd and 1st divisions respectively—the whole in column; Sir G. Cathcart, with the 4th division, being in reserve on the outward flank; the English cavalry, under the Earl of Lucan, considerably farther to the left, also protecting the exposed flank and rear."
The French advancing, gained the heights, took the enemy somewhat by surprise, and almost turned his left. He then, however, brought forward vast masses of troops against them, and it became necessary for the British more completely to occupy them in front.
The two leading English divisions (the light and 2nd), which had advanced across the plain in alignment with the French columns, on coming within long range of the enemy's guns deployed into line (two deep), and whilst waiting for the further development of the French attack, were ordered to lie down, so as to present as small a mark as possible. The Russian riflemen now opened fire, and the village burst into flames. Lord Raglan, with his staff, passing the river, perceived the position of the enemy on the heights he was about to storm. He instantly ordered up some guns, which, crossing the river, opened fire, and afterwards moving up the heights, harassed the Russian columns in their retreat.
Now, with skirmishers and rifles in advance, the two leading divisions advanced towards the enemy, General Codrington's brigade leading straight for the Russian intrenched battery. The two brigades of the 2nd division were separated by the burning village. The brigade of General Pennefather moved to the left of the village, close to the Sebastopol road, and found itself in the very focus towards which the Russians were directing their heaviest fire, both of artillery and musketry. Still undaunted, though suffering terrible loss, they pressed the Russians hard, and fully occupied their centre. While other operations were going on, the light division, under Sir George Brown, having moved across the plain in a long thin line, became somewhat broken among the vineyards and inequalities of the ground. As they approached, however, they found some shelter; and at length the word was given to charge. They sprang from their cover, and with a rattling fire rushed at the foe; and General Codrington's brigade, 33rd and 23rd Regiments, and 7th Fusiliers, with the 19th on their left and the 95th on their right, were now in direct line, and in full view of the great Russian battery. The whole British line now opened a continuous fire— the Russian columns shook—men from the rear were seen to run; then whole columns would turn and fly, halting again and facing about at short intervals; but with artillery marching on their left flank, with Codrington's brigade streaming upwards, and every moment pouring in their fire nearer and nearer as they rushed up the slope, the enemy's troops could no longer maintain their ground, but fled disordered up the hill. The Russian batteries, however, still made a fearful havoc in the English ranks; and a wide street of dead and wounded, the whole way from the river upward, showed the terrific nature of the fight.
"Breathless, decimated, and much broken, the men of the centre regiments dashed over the intrenchment and into the great battery in time to capture two guns. But the trials of the light division were not over. The reserves of the enemy now moved down. The English regiments, their ranks in disarray and sorely thinned, were forced gradually to relinquish the point they had gained, and doggedly fell back, followed by the Russian columns. It seemed for a moment as if victory was still doubtful; but succour was close at hand. The three regiments of Guards (having the Highland brigade on their left) were now steadily advancing up the hill, in magnificent order. There was a slight delay until the regiments of Codrington's brigade had passed through their ranks, during which time the struggle still wavered, and the casualties were very great; but when once their front was clear, the chance of the Russians was at an end, and their whole force retreated in confusion. The several batteries of the different divisions, after crossing at the bridge, moved rapidly to their front, and completed the victory by throwing in a very heavy fire, until the broken columns of the enemy were out of range. And now from rank to rank arose the shout of victory. Comrades shook hands, and warm congratulations passed from mouth to mouth that the day was won, and right nobly won. What recked then those gallant men of the toil, and thirst, and hunger, and wounds they had endured! Those heights on which at early morn the legions of Russia had proudly stood, confident of victory, had been gained, and the foe, broken and damaged, were in rapid retreat."
In this fight the Royal Welsh Fusiliers especially distinguished themselves by their heroic valour; and no less than 210 officers and men, upwards of a quarter of their number, were killed or wounded during the battle. The brave young Lieutenant Anstruther carried the colours; and when he fell dead under the terrific fire from the chief redoubt, they were picked up by Private Evans, and by him given to Corporal Luby. From him they were claimed by the gallant Sergeant Luke O'Connor, who bore them onwards amid the shower of bullets, when one struck him, and he fell; but quickly recovering himself, and refusing to relinquish them, onward once more he carried them till the day was won, and he received the reward of his bravery, by the praises of his General on the field, and the promise of a commission in his regiment; and a better soldier does not exist than Captain O'Connor of the 23rd.
Captain Bell, of the same regiment, seeing the Russians about to withdraw one of their guns, sprang forward, and putting a pistol to the head of the driver, made him jump off, and springing into the saddle in his stead, galloped away with it to the rear, but was soon again at his post, and, all the officers above him having been killed or wounded, had the honour of bringing the regiment out of action. Colonel Chester and Captain Evans were both killed near the redoubt. Captain Donovan, of the 33rd, captured another gun; but the horses not being harnessed to it, the driver took to flight, and it could not be removed. Nineteen sergeants of that regiment were killed or wounded, chiefly in defence of their colours. The colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards were carried by Lieutenants Lindsay and Thistlethwayte. The staff was broken and the colours riddled, and many sergeants fell dead by their side, yet unharmed they cut their way through the foe, and bore them triumphantly up that path of death to the summit of the heights. The action lasted little more than two hours. In that time 25 British officers were killed, and 81 wounded; and of non-commissioned officers and men, 337 were killed, and 1550 were wounded. But death was not satiated, and many brave officers and men died from cholera even on the field of victory. One name must not be forgotten—that of the good and brave Dr Thompson, who, with his servant, remained on the field to attend to the wants of upwards of 200 Russians who had not been removed.
Lieutenant Lindsay, who carried the colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards, stood firmly by them, when, as they stormed the heights, their line was somewhat disordered, and by his energy greatly contributed to restore order. In this he was assisted by Sergeants Knox and McKechnie, and Private Reynolds. Sergeant Knox obtained a commission in the Rifle Brigade for his courage and coolness on this occasion.
SIEGE OF SEBASTOPOL.
On the 17th of October commenced one of the most extraordinary sieges to be found recounted in the page of modern history. Five bombardments took place; three sanguinary battles were fought under these walls, and numerous sorties and skirmishes occurred. Sixty guns and mortars were landed and brought into position by the British; but the Russians were not idle, and not only was the Malakoff tower strengthened, but the Redan and other formidable batteries were thrown up. The French were on the left, and had fifty-three guns and mortars in position.