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Good Words 1860
Incident in the Sikh War


Time has rolled on, and the Crimean battles and Indian mutinies have in a great measure dimmed the memory of the terrible struggles of the first and second Sikh war, which shook our Indian empire to its foundation.

They can, however, never be forgotten by those of us who took part in them, and whose strange work it was to lead on the late Bengal army against the very Sikhs who, fighting under our orders, have, during the last two years, so materially assisted in destroying it.

Being one of those present in the battle of Chilianwalla, I think it may interest to tell of a scene which occurred on that terrible day.

On the 13th of January 1849, the Sikh army, 45,000 strong, was drawn up there in a line, two or three miles in length, partly in an open space,, but concealed from us, behind a dense jungle.

About one o'clock p.m., our army, nearly 14,000 strong, had arrived within range of their guns, though we did not know it. We were preparing to pitch our tents, when the lobbing of their shot into our lines told of their being too close to allow of our encamping.

Our own army, in its advance, had been formed in order of battle, and was prepared for the order to attack.

The brigade to which I was attached had to-advance obliquely, with the object of attacking those guns that had already opened from the enemy's left. To do this, we advanced through a thick tree-jungle, which interfered much with the regularity of our line, and, consequently, with the steadiness of the native regiments. It, however, at the same time, covered the advance of the troops from the observation of the Sikhs; so that, on their becoming aware of our approach to their batteries, they were so uncertain of our whereabouts, that their shot flew harmlessly over our heads.

When our line came within sight of the Sikh guns, the Queen's regiment, which formed the centre of our brigade, was formed up in an open space to charge and take them. The Sepoy regiment, on its right, could not be got, by the utmost exertion of its officers, to take up its position in line with the above regiment, but sheltered itself behind it, from the terrible storm of bullets that assailed them.

Seeing this, the young ensign, (an English boy,) who carried the colours of the native regiment, turning to another ensign who stood by, called out, "Come along with me, G------."

They both started off at a run to the front, and planted the colours in line with that of the European regiment. In doing this, they thought to induce their men to come forward and save the colours from falling into the hands of the Sikhs. Their men, however, did not support them; and a party of the enemy's cavalry, seeing the two young officers standing alone, made a dash at the colours. Observing the critical position of the officers and colours, the mounted European officers of the native regiment rode to the rescue, followed by some of the sepoys. A short, sharp struggle ensued, in which several lives were lost, and young G------- severely wounded; but the colours remained safe. Bleeding and insensible, he was carried to the surgeon of his regiment, who stopped the flow of blood at once. I had been similarly engaged, binding up the wounds of other soldiers, and seeing no one immediately requiring assistance, ran up to the surgeon to help, if necessary. He asked me to stay by G--------, and watch the vessels till he fetched another instrument. While watching, I observed a European soldier kneeling at the other side of the wounded officer, who, drawing a long breath, sighed out, "O God." On hearing this, the soldier, speaking with an earnestness well befitting such a scene, said, "Yes, young man, call now on Jesus, He is sure to hear you ; call now on Him, and He will save you."

I tried to take in, and realise the strange scene. In the background, at a short distance, a terrible struggle, and deafening noise of battle, extended along at least a couple of miles. Here, a poor sick soldier, who, though unable to carry his arms, had come out of hospital to look for, and render assistance to the wounded, was telling of a Saviour's love to, as he thought, a dying officer.

I could not but feel ashamed to think of the boldness of the soldier, in comparison with my own silence. Strong, indeed, in his weak state of body, must his love for souls have been, to bring him to the field to seek their comfort amid such danger as then surrounded us. Doubtless God's grace was strong in his own soul, and a rich blessing his reward.

The scene lasted but a moment. Other bleeding men called me away, and I saw the soldier no more. Years after, I met the officer, strong and well, on the banks of the Cabul river.

If, dear G------, a copy of Good Words, with this scene in it, fall into your hands in India, I know you will not be angry with me for recording it; for I know your every wish is to tell of this same Saviour's love to all about you.


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