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Recollections of Thirty-nine Years in the Army
Chapter IX


ioth Foot—International Exhibition—Sail for India—Incidents—Battened downChinsurah again—S underbunds—Purbootpore--Kurumnassa—Incidents of the river trip—By Grand Trunk Road—hospitable Brahmins—Louis Napoleon - Deobund - Saharunpore— Jugadree—Uznballah—Noormahal - Loodianah - Ferozeshah—Ferozepore—Lahore---Googeranwallah—Arrive at regimental head. quarters.

AMONG regiments stationed throughout the Punjab, then but recently annexed, was the 10th Foot, to which, by exchange,'I was now appointed. Towards that province I accordingly started without delay. Arrived in London, we visited the great novelty of that day, the palace of glass situated in Hyde Park, in which was held the International Exhibition, progenitor of a long series as it was destined to be. No time was lost in completing arrangements for the coming sea voyage in so far as restricted pecuniary means permitted. Early in June we embarked on board the Lord George Ben/luck, I in charge of troops; some hours thereafter the ship was under sail and away.

Among the incidents of our voyage these were recorded at the time of their occurrence; namely, some of our crew drunk and insubordinate, others impertinent; recruits undisciplined; junior officers unacquainted with duties required of them. In a quarrel between soldier and sailor the knife was used, fortunately without fatal result. The death-roll included one child, a soldier who in delirium tremens jumped overboard, another who accidentally fell into the sea during a squall at night,— his death-scream, as he fell, most painful to hear.

Far away in southern latitudes we experienced a hurricane such as occur from time to time in those regions. Ten days and nights it continued to rage; hatchways battened down; men, women, and children confined 'tween decks, deprived to a great degree of light rand air, their food and drink handed to and passed from each to other as best could be under the circumstances; decks washed from stem to stern by heavy seas, the ship running before the wind; sky so thick that "sights" were impracticable, and so our exact position left conjectural for the time being. This, added to experiences already mentioned, was the kind of initiation into the rougher side of military life to which my wife was subjected; she herself in delicate health, our infant son severely ill, his "nurse" a young untrained woman, the wife of a recruit.

The sea voyage ended, our detachment was conveyed by steam-boat and flats to Chinsurah, as on a former occasion when transit was by means of country boats. Within a few days after arrival there, cholera attacked our young recruits, many of whom, as also the wives of some among them, fell victims. The sudden death of our child's nurse was the first shock and trying experience his mother had to face in India.

Starting on November 1, again by steamer and flats, our route was by the Sunderbunds to reach the main stream of the Ganges. A week previous that region was swept over by storm wave and hurricane, by which several ships, among them the steamer Powerful were wrecked. Two days were occupied in passing along the narrow creeks that intersect the partially submerged forest tract, a thousand miles in superficial extent, to which the name of Sunderbunds is given. At the end of that time we are in the Ganges.

Time passed without special incident. Arrived at Purbootpore, a village on the left bank of the river, the place was interesting only as being the locality where, on August 11, 1852, the Moolraj of Mooltan died, and was burned in accordance with Hindoo rites. He it was who instigated, in April, 1848, the murder of Vans Agnew and Anderson, and headed the revolt which led to the siege and capture of that fortress by British forces, and proved to be the first act in the second Sikh war of that year. The Moolraj was for upwards of two years detained as a political prisoner at Calcutta; his health having given way, Government sanctioned his transfer to Allahabad, and while on his way thither death overtook him.

Not far from Buxar we passed the point of junction between the river Kurumnassa and the Ganges. The former stream is by good Hindoos held accursed, so that to touch its water is to them pollution. This reputation, however, would seem to be of modern date,—namely, October 23, 1764, when the forces of Mir Cossim were defeated by those under Major Munro; pursued by them to that river, in which many of them perished. It was a similar occurrence in 1826 on the part of the Ashantees at Acromant that gave to that place in Guinea the name of "accursed," by which it was known during my period of service there.

In some respects our river voyage was pleasant; the cool dry air, the incidents of each day including walks on shore, the peculiarities of village life along the banks, the "fleets" and single craft we met, became, in turn, sources of interest to us. As this the dry season advanced, the size of the once mighty stream diminished, shoals became numerous, boats ran aground, delay and other inconvenience the consequences. On one such occasion several recruits from the particular boat concerned, started away clandestinely in the shallow water to indulge in the luxury of a river bath. Suddenly a scream was heard; two of their number disappeared; whether engulphed in a quicksand, or carried away by a crocodile, no one could tell.

Our river journey ended at Allahabad. Thence our progress was to be by march along the Grand Trunk Road. A short halt was permitted to enable officers to purchase such camp equipment and stores as pecuniary means were equal to. Early in December we marched out of the—to me—familiar place. Nine days thereafter, arrived at Cawnpore, the terrible story in connection with which was in the not distant future. Here my wife had her first experience of one of those violent whirlwind storms whose distinctive name is taken from the locality; her surprise great on seeing some tents, articles of clothing, etc., drawn up and disappearing in the meteor.

At Kullianpore I found my way into the enclosure of a Hindoo temple. Great was my surprise at the offer of hospitality by the priests connected with it, they being in the act of partaking of a meal as I entered, the particular dish called "phillouree." Of it accordingly I partook; but the incident seemed to indicate that then at least my hosts entertained no religious horror against the European.

Arrived at Meerut, the Overland Express brought news that Louis Napoleon having the army on his side has carried all before him, dissolved the ministry and courts of law; has thrown himself on the people, and intimated his readiness to be designated by any title they may decide upon giving him." The next act in the drama so announced was soon to come.

Deobund was soon reached. There took place, in 1827, the last suttee permitted under public sanction. Since that date the practice has been officially suppressed, though it has been stated that isolated instances have clandestinely occurred. On the former suttee ground stood in its centre a temple; a series of small minarets of peculiar device indicate spots on which immolation of widows had taken place. The priests readily admitted us to the threshold of the shrine, but, unlike their brethren already mentioned, offered no food. In the neighbouring grove, numerous baboons—representatives of Humayon, the monkey god—chattered and made grimaces at us.

At Saharunpore a visit was paid to the Botanic Gardens. The excellence of their arrangement and management seemed to merit the eulogies bestowed upon them, a centre as they are from which plants are distributed throughout India, and to various European countries. The process of acclimatization was particularly interesting; so also was the care with which plants of temperate climates were being arranged and packed for dispatch to hill sanatoria in the Himalayas, there to remain throughout the coming hot season. It was a somewhat strange thing to see a daisy being thus nursed.

At Jugadree the detachment, its stores and equipment, crossed the Jumna, there so divided by shoals and islands as in effect to be four different rivers. Across the first the men waded at an hour so early that dawn had not appeared; the second and third were passed by means of bridges of boats such as are common on Indian rivers; over the fourth a bridge had been erected, so elegant in construction as to claim general admiration. Through its arches rushed currents of sparkling water, in the eddies and shallower parts of which were seen fish rising to flies; along the banks grew willow, acacia, and wild fig trees, the adjoining fields rich with well-irrigated crops of wheat. In the far distance rose above the haze of morning the snowy peaks of Himalayah.

Arrived at Umballah, headquarters of the Sirhind Division, a short halt was made, according to the custom of the time, for the double purpose of repairing equipage and exchanging draught animals where necessary. According also to the custom of the time, some of our number were invited to partake of friendly hospitality by officers stationed there.

Continuing, northward from Umballah were seen ruined remains of pillars raised by order of Jehangir to mark the halting places of Noor Jehan, otherwise Noor Mahal, on her journey from Delhi to Lahore. Those remains seemed to occur at intervals of six to eight miles, representing the length of each daily journey of that Chere Reine.

Loodianah had an interest in that, during a severe cyclone some years previous, portions of barracks occupied by the 50th Regiment were blown down, several men being killed in the catastrophe, besides many injured. In the first Punjab war the Sikhs made a rush upon the station, set fire to and destroyed various bungalows and other buildings within it. Further depredations by them were checked by their defeat at AliwaI by Sir Harry Smith.

Arrived at Kool, the position occupied by the army of Tej Singh preparatory to the battle at Ferozeshah, we mounted elephants and so rode to the field of that disastrous victory of December 21 and 22, 1845. Our ride for five miles was across open flat country, covered here and there by acacia bushes, occasional patches of cultivation occurring as we proceeded, the crops consisting of wheat and grain (dolichos). The village of Ferozeshah, half concealed by groves, had yet some remains of entrenchments and batteries, behind and on which the Sikh guns were placed. Along the ground for a considerable distance in front of that position lay scattered and bleached by six years' exposure bones of gallant men, chiefly of the 62nd Regiment, for here it was that so many of them were swept away on the first of those eventful days. Of our small party there was one who had shared the risks and "glory" of that battle, and now pointed out the several positions occupied by the opposing forces.

Ferozepore, for many years the frontier station, ceased to be so when, after the battle of Sobraon, British occupation of the Punjab took place. At one time a sandy plain, it had become beautified by ornamental trees and shrubs, and in other respects somewhat attractive in appearance.

Crossing in its near proximity the Sutlej—Hesudrus of the time of Alexander—we were within the territory of the Punjab—Panch-ab, or "Five Rivers." Five more marches and we encamped close to Lahore, capital city of that province; our camp pitched on ground where in former times had stood cantonments of troops in pay of Runjeet Singh. In near vicinity stood houses of British officials, some tombs and mosques, one of the latter transformed into an English church.

Arrived on the right bank of the Ravee (Hydraotis), our camp occupied ground close to the tomb of Jehangir, and not far from that of his empress Noor Jehan, "Light of the World," whose romantic history interested some of our number, if not all. Thence to Goojeranwallah, birthplace of Runjeet, "Lion of the Punjab," and anciently the Buddhistic capital of the province. In recent times the camp ground has obtained unpleasant notoriety, it being so infected with poisonous snakes that a new site for that purpose has been selected.

Ten months' travel by sea and land, I joined the regiment into which, hoping thereby to advance my own prospects and position, it had cost me so much in means and personal trouble to exchange. Having done so, the occasion seemed opportune to take stock, as it were, of that position. At the date in question regimental appointments in India had their market value, according to their several kinds, and the period still unrun of service in that country. That of my own position was reckoned at £100 for each year so before us; thus my exchange cost six and a half times that amount, in addition to which the cost of passage, added to other unavoidable expenses, placed me on the debit side to the extent of £1,180, all of which, having had to be "raised" as best I could, was an incubus to be got rid of with the least practicable delay. [Although anticipating the order of this narrative, the fact may be stated in this place that, by the aid of my dear wife and her patient submission to curtailment of luxuries and even necessities, pecuniary obligations were cleared off within eighteen months. As we shall see, troubles of other kinds arrived against which it became most difficult to bear up.]


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