Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Recollections of Thirty-nine Years in the Army
Chapter XVII


Record of events—Various—Proclamation—Parliamentary debates—Sikhs—Ghoorka "allies "—Rainy season—Last of H.E.I.C.—Rebel forces—Native comments— Warrant for A.M.D.—Subjects of talk—The drama ended—Personal chagrin— Farewell service—March away—Parisnath—Raneegunge—Embark and sail— Order by Government—On board ship—England.

A PERIOD of rest in cantonments had become a matter of necessity to restore physical efficiency to our regiment, worn out as men and officers were by service in the field. The ordinary duties incidental to barrack existence in India were performed by all, our spare time devoted to current records of events announced from day to day by the newspapers. A few examples now follow.

No sooner had our force departed from Jugdispore than the rebels returned to their former positions in the extensive jungle by which that place is, surrounded. Among the proceedings taking place elsewhere was the defeat, by Sir Hope Grant, of a strong rebel force at Nawabgunge. In the vicinity of Shahjehanpore, the Moulvie already mention was killed by the troops of a Rajah' who had risen against his authority. Gwalior had been re-captured; the Ranee of Jhansi killed while leading her troops at that place against the Central India Force. Reports of disaffection in certain Bombay regiments. In our own near neighbourhood, a threatened outbreak by the prisoners in Patna gaol led to the dispatch thither of two companies of the 10th. The rebels had collected in a body of considerable strength at Chuprah, from which position they were committing depredations on trading boats on the Ganges; a portion of the 35th was accordingly dispatched against them. Another party of rebels threatening Bulliah, a detachment of the 10th proceeded by steamer towards that place. Various lines of communication were kept open by parties of troops placed at suitable points along them. The position at Arrah was so strengthened as to be secure against attack. The arrival of a small kind of gunboat intended for use on rivers was in its way important, as indicating the introduction of a new means of attack.

At this time the issue of certain Proclamations by Government seemed to attract much attention among the rebels still in the field; the tenor of the one an invitation to them to lay down their arms, the other in effect confiscating the property of landowners in Oude, with a few exceptions. "It is all very well," said they, "to invite us to come in, lay down our arms, and accept forgiveness; but why make the offer if you have the power to subdue us?" "Hitherto, if we committed murder, robbery, or burnt houses, we were hanged, imprisoned, or put on the roads for life; now we have done all these things, and we are invited to accept forgiveness. Truly this is a great raj; may it live for ever! . . ." Adverting to the first of those Proclamations, Lord Canning had expressed himself: "It is impossible that the justice, charity, and kindliness, as well as the true wisdom which mark these words, should not be appreciated." That is the way they were so. The second was at once called "the Confiscation Proclamation"; its almost immediate effect, an outbreak of hostility among chiefs who were otherwise more or less ready to remain passive if not actually favourable to existing law. At a subsequent date it was cancelled.

The debates in Parliament on these dispatches and many other comments on them were daily perused with great interest, not only by ourselves, but, as we learnt, by the rebels still in arms, the several views expressed by them somehow reaching cantonments.

The publication of orders, in which it was considered that services performed by the Sikhs were referred to in exaggerated terms as compared with the purely British, produced for the time being one effect to which allusion may here be made. "Why," said a very intelligent officer of that nationality, who was well known to most of us in cantonments, "you admit yourselves that we saved India for you; if we can do that for you foreigners, why should we not take the country for ourselves?" At the very time he spoke there were 82,000 Sikh troops in British employ. It was therefore not altogether subject of surprise to learn, as we did, that a mutinous plot had been discovered in the 10th Sikh Infantry at the distant station of Dhera Ishmail Khan.

Nor were matters satisfactory on the part of the Ghoorkhas, recently our "allies." The circumstance transpired that correspondence had been discovered between some of the higher authorities of Nepaul and the Royal family of Oude; that Jung Bahadur had expressed himself dissatisfied with degree of acknowledgment awarded by the Indian Government for services rendered by himself and by his troops.
With the advance of the rainy season sickness and death made sad havoc among our ranks. Meanwhile a state of unrest among the general population became more and more apparent, fanned as it was by reports circulated among them that large reinforcements from England would speedily arrive. Nor was that unrest confined to the non-military sections; some of the remaining sepoys believed to be "staunch" were said to have been detected in treasonable correspondence with their brethren in open rebellion; that representatives of mutineers had taken service in the ranks of the police force.

The 1st of November, 1858, began an era memorable in the history of India. On that day was read at every military station throughout the country the Proclamation by the Queen, declaring the transference to Her Majesty of the governing power hitherto exercised by the Honourable East India Company, the 10th Regiment and other troops occupying our present station being paraded at the civil station of Bankipore to impart additional splendour to an otherwise imposing ceremony. The Proclamation was read by the Commissioner of the district, an immense concourse of natives being present on the occasion.

With reference to the portions of that Proclamation in which, under certain specified conditions, pardon and amnesty are offered to rebels, the Punjabee newspaper of October 30 publishes a return of the army still opposed to us in Oude alone, comprising, according to figures there given, 79 chiefs, with an aggregate of 271 guns, ii 66o cavalry, 242,100 infantry, or 253,760 men in all; an imposing force indeed, considering that the suppression of the outbreak is declared to have been accomplished.

From the rebels still in the field, various comments on the terms so offered reached our cantonments. They considered that for crimes committed the sepoys deserved punishment by death, nor could they understand the exemption to that penalty now expressed. "As an earthquake"—according to their "prophets" - "has three waves, so will there be three shocks to British power in India: one we have just had; a second will occur a few years hence; the last after a longer interval, when the British position in India will vanish."

The arrival of papers with a new warrant for the Medical Department of the Army naturally enough was of considerable interest to those of us who belonged to that branch of the military service. As expressed in my diary at the time: "Most liberal it is, wiping away at one swoop the grievances under which the Department has laboured, and making it, as it ought to be, one of the best, if not the very best, in the Army." The great importance of the duties pertaining to that department in relation to individual needs and general rnilitaryefficiency of a force was then prominently in my view from actual experience.

Shortly after the Proclamation by Her Majesty was read, a counter document of similar nature was issued by the Begum of Lucknow; but the latter produced little if any effect upon the rebels or their chiefs, numbers of both "coming in" one after another to make their submission. An attempt was made by a leading journal to ascertain the number of persons who, being convicted of crimes against the State, had suffered the penalty of death. They were, according to that paper, as follows, from the outbreak of the Mutiny, namely:—By military tribunal, executed by hanging, 86; by civil tribunal, 300; the number shot by musketry, 628; blown from guns, 1,370; making a total of 2,384. The deposed King of Delhi recently passed our station by steamer, en route to Calcutta, and finally to Rangoon, there to spend the remaining portion of his life. The event gave rise to comment in respect to the action of the old king against the Indian Government, including his correspondence with the Shah of Persia in 1856; his reputed sanction of atrocities at Delhi in May, '57; his correspondence with Lucknow, etc. Another subject of talk was the reported escape of the Nana, the truth of which was soon thereafter confirmed. Lastly, the publication of correspondence between Colonel Edwards, Sir John Lawrence, and the Viceroy, in respect to that portion of the Proclamation which related to native customs, religious and otherwise, afforded ample subject to discuss in our social coteries.

In the early days of 1859 came the welcome orders that all detached parties of the 10th should rejoin Headquarters, for the purpose of volunteering preparatory to the departure of the regiment for England. Other orders directed various reductions to be made in military establishments now in India; among them the withdrawal of several time- expired regiments, and the return to their respective ships of the Naval Brigades temporarily employed; that regiments still in the field should proceed to quarters; brigadiers commanding columns cease to hold appointments as such—thus declaring in effect that the campaign connected with the great Mutiny was ended. But the facts were well known that bodies of rebels and mutineers were in the field, special forces actually employed against them; that bodies of disaffected had taken refuge in Nepaul. These and various other incidents were looked upon as so many supplements to the great drama at the end of which official orders declared that we had arrived.

Now there occurred an event the outcome of which to several men who, like myself, had held distinct charges of troops on active service, was much chagrin and disappointment; namely, our supersession in promotion by four officers, personally good, but who, though in the Crimea, had neither there nor elsewhere held equivalent positions. Some little time thereafter there appeared in a service journal I a leading article "On the partiality and injustice to the Department exhibited in the late promotions." This was the first outcome of a warrant regarding which first impressions were as already recorded.

At last came orders for the 10th to prepare for an early march towards the port of embarkation for England, and that meantime volunteering should be open to soldiers desiring to prolong their service in India. All such orders were obeyed with the greatest possible alacrity. The usual formalities on similar occasions being attended to, 141 of our men availed themselves of the option thus given them, and so ceased to belong to the corps in which they had performed much excellent work under very trying circumstances. On an intervening Sunday a farewell sermon was preached to the regiment in our garrison church, and as I noted at the time, "strange as it seems, some of the soldiers were visibly affected thereby"; but as I have had numerous opportunities of seeing, soldiers of the period now referred to, notwithstanding the undoubted roughness of the great majority, had in their numbers many men keenly sensitive to the finer impulses of our common human nature.

Before daylight on February io, our regiment began its march, "played out" of Dinapore by the band of the 19th Foot. Eight days thereafter we encamped in near vicinity of Gyah, a place sacred to Buddhists, and interesting in other ways. Two days more and we were on the Grand Trunk Road. Soon at the hot wells of Burkutta, the water of which, clear and having a slight odour of sulphur, is said to have many medicinal virtues.

In observing the necessary custom on a march, of halting on the seventh day, an opportunity was afforded those of us interested in such matters, to ascend the hill of Parisnath. Occupying the eastern tableland of the Vindyha range, itself 4,449 feet in height, like Mount Aboo on the west of the same range, its summit is covered with small Jain temples. Its sides are clothed with dense forests of sal (Vateria indica).

In the course of our march, several trains of camels or kafilats, with their Cabulee drivers, were met, as they were on their return journey from Calcutta to Affghanistan. In accordance with the custom of the time, they had begun their journey from Cabul eight months previous, and hoped to return at the end of four more, thus completing it in one year. These kafilats brought with them for sale in India, and Calcutta more especially, fruit of different kinds, spices, skins, asafoetida, and salep; with the proceeds of the sale of which they purchased and carried back with them bales of cotton goods, and others of European manufacture. These caravans, including camels, drivers, and "followers," presented a picturesque and patriarchal scene, as in long lines they seemed to glide along the road. Arrived at Raneegunge, our camp was pitched for the last time. There a delay of several days took place, while arrangements were in progress for embarkation; hurried journeys by rail to and from Calcutta being made by those of us whose duty it was to carry those arrangements into effect. A series of coal-mines situated not far from our camp were being worked; but the industry was, comparatively speaking, in its infancy.

In the early morning of St. Patrick's Day, the regiment, stepping out cheerfully to the familiar music appropriate to the occasion, and dear to Irish soldiers, marched away from camp to railway station; thence proceeded by train to Howrah, then by river steamer to the ship King Philip, and so embarked. On the second day thereafter our ship, taken in tow by a river tug, began her homeward voyage. As we glided past Fort William, a Royal salute, fired from its ramparts, was a gratifying compliment paid by order of Government to the departing regiment for services performed by it during a most eventful episode in India's history. Wearied and worn out as our men were as a result of those services, no cheer was raised in response to the unusual compliment being paid to them.

The order by Government so alluded to was in these terms:-"The Calcutta Gazette Extraordinary, Friday, March 18, 1859. No. 360 of 1859. Notification. Fort William, Military Department. The 18th March, 1859.—Her Majesty's 10th Regiment of Foot is about to embark for England. His Excellency the Governor-General cannot allow this regiment to pass through Calcutta without thanking the officers and men for all the good service which they have rendered in the last two eventful years : first, in the outbreaks at Benares and Dinapore; next, as a part of the Column under their former Commander, Brigadier- General Franks; and more lately in the harassing operations conducted by Brigadier-General Sir E. Lugard and Brigadier Douglas on either bank of the Ganges. The Governor-General in Council desires, in taking leave of the 10th Regiment, to place on record his cordial appreciation of their valuable services. The regiment will be saluted by the guns of Fort William on leaving Calcutta. By order of his Excellency the Viceroy and Governor-General of India in Council.— R. J. H. Birch, Major-General, Secretary to the Government of India."

[Subsequently the officers of the 10th, including myself, received among us nine promotions and honorary distinctions for the services above alluded to.]

During the homeward voyage several deaths occurred among our men, exhausted as so many of them were by fatigue and exposure on service. Perhaps it was that the incidents of that service had to some extent affected the feelings heretofore so often manifested by soldiers in presence of death among their comrades; at any rate, it became a source of regret to some of our numbers to observe now the indifference shown on such occasions; indeed, scarcely was the solemnity of committing a body to the deep finished than games, songs, music, or dancing were resumed by parties of the men. The long rest afforded by the voyage did much to restore health to men and officers, and in other ways was beneficial to us all.

As we neared England a pilot boarded our ship. He had with him a bundle of papers, from which we learned, among other matters, of the occurrence of war in the Quadrilateral, full details being given of the great battles of Magenta and Solferino. In the accounts contained in the same papers of the state of public affairs preceding that campaign, a probable explanation was afforded of the suddenness with which active measures against the mutineers had ceased, and considerable forces withdrawn from India. At Gravesend, on July 13, the regiment transhipped to the Himalaya/i, and so was conveyed to Plymouth, there to be quartered in the Citadel. A few days thereafter,' I had the happiness of being with my beloved wife and children, grateful in spirit to Providence that life was preserved through the arduous ordeal now relegated to the past.


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus