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Recollections of Thirty-nine Years in the Army
Chapter IV


16th Lancers— Delhi—The city—Kutub—Feroze's Lath—Divers—Mu ttra —Affairs in Gwalior—Army of Exercise—Halt—City of Krishna—River ChumbulAcross—Sehoree—Before the battle—Battle of Maharajpore—The 16th— "The Brigadier "—Search for wounded—General Churchill—Lieutenant Cavanagh—The muster-roll----Next night—The killed and wounded— Resume the advance—News of Punniar—Queen Regent—Around our camp—Gwalior —The fort—Disarming the conquered—Breaking up— Repassing the field of battle—Meerut—The welcome—Writing to the papers—Native troops—Hurdwar—Religious festival—The Dhoon— Return—Batta--A native regiment disbanded—Unrest in Punjab—Rejoin the Buffs.

ON the day the Buffs began their march, I proceeded to join the 16th Lancers, to which distinguished regiment I had been, by General Orders, attached for duty. Ten nights were passed in travelling by palkee dâk. In early morning of the eleventh day the Kutub was seen in bold relief against the indistinct horizon, for the atmosphere was laden with dust. After a little time, the Jumna was crossed by a bridge of boats; then another interval, and I was hospitably received by Dr. Ross, to whom I had an introduction.

Various places of interest in the imperial city were visited in turn. The Jumna Musjid, or chief mosque, its domes and minarets imposing in their grandeur; the balcony in the Chandee Chouk, whereon, in 1739, Nadir Shah sat witnessing the massacre of the inhabitants; the palace of the once "Great Mogul"; the smaller building in its garden, within which had stood "the Peacock Throne"; the remnants of the crystal seat upon which, in ancient times, monarchs were crowned; those of numerous fountains; the Persian inscription, to the effect that "If there is an Elysium upon earth, it is this." But from the ruins around, frogs and lizards stared at us; the once gorgeous palaces, and all that pertained to them, were smeared over with filth.

At a distance of twelve miles from the city stands the Kutub, surrounded by numerous remains of buildings, the road through all that way being along a space covered by ruins of various kinds. The Cashmere gate of Delhi by which we emerged was then noted as the place where Mr. Fraser, Resident at the Court of the Emperor, was murdered, and where Shumshoodeen, the instigator of that crime, was executed; it was to become famous as the scene of severe but victorious struggle against the mutineers in 1857. About two miles onwards stood the ruins of an astronomical observatory, one of two of their kind in India, the other being at Benares. A little farther on was the tomb of Sufter Jung, minister to the princes of Delhi; then continuous ranges of ruins until we arrive at Feroze's Lath, a metal pillar, the history of which is somewhat obscure, but on which marks of shot indicate attempts by Nadir Shah to destroy it. Now we reach the Kutub, a pillar sixty-five yards in circumference at the base, the ascent within it comprising three hundred and twenty-nine steps, the exterior interrupted by four terraces. Legend relates that it is Hindoo in origin; history that its exterior ornamentation was seriously damaged by the Mahometan conquerors. Not far from it are the ruins of what would seem to have been a tower of still larger dimensions. In the vicinity of the latter a deep well, into which from a height of sixty feet natives dived, performing strange evolutions in mid-air as they did so.

From Delhi to Muttra the journey was made along by-paths across country. In camp near the latter-named city were the 16th, commanded by Colonel Cureton, and there I joined them. The fact had meantime been promulgated that the destination of "the Army of Exercise" was to be Gwalior. The force so named, 30,000 strong, was to be divided into two wings or corps, to enter that State simultaneously from two directions. That from the south and eastward comprised the Buffs, 5oth Regiment, 9th Lancers, Artillery, Native Cavalry, and Native Infantry; that from the west, the 16th Lancers, 39th and 40th Regiments, a strong force of Artillery, 1st and 10th Regiments of Native Cavalry, 4th Irregulars, and several regiments of Native Infantry.

While arrangements for active movements were being matured, those of us on whom as yet cares of office had not descended, passed our time in visiting places of interest in and near the cities of Muttra and Bindrabund, both held sacred by Hindoos in relation to the life of Krishna. In the last-named city we were only permitted to approach the principal temple that stood close to its entrance gate, but from the distance we could see, stretching far away as it seemed to us, the vista of its interior, dimly lighted by hanging lamps; at its extreme end the emblem of the deity to whom it was dedicated, resplendent with gems and precious stones. Everywhere along the narrow streets and from the flat roofs of their houses armies of "sacred" baboons grinned and chattered at us. A picnic to some characteristically Indian gardens adjoining the banks of the Jumna furnished us with another pleasant interlude.

The division of the force of which the 16th were part resumed it march; in three days arrived at its assigned position not far from Agra and there encamped, pending the result of an ultimatum dispatch by the Governor-General to the disaffected Gwalior leaders. Mean while, arrivals of the high civil and military officials, additions to the force, salutes and festivities afforded all of us pleasant occupation am variety.

The answer of the chiefs arrives; its terms are defiant. War against the State immediately proclaimed by Lord Ellenborough; portions of the force put in motion towards the river Chumbul, among them the 16th. The appointed rendezvous near Dholpore is speedily reached and there we encamp.

A vakeel arrives in camp, bearer of a dispatch by which the leaden of Gwalior rebels submit proposals for peace, on their own terms They are at once refused. By daybreak next morning the force is in motion. Three hours suffice for crossing the Chumbul, an operation effected without important incident; establishments follow without delay; camp is pitched on hostile territory. The aspect of our position and immediate vicinity presents uneven ground, intersected by deep ravines, destitute of roadways. Our halt is of short duration. Earl: next morning the force emerged on open country; in due time arrive( in near proximity to the village of Sehoree, and there encamped.

Meanwhile, information was received that Gwalior forces were rapidly concentrating in our front. Officers on the staff of our Quartermaster General reconnoitred the country to a radius of ten miles and more around our camp. Soon the "Chief" issued orders that the march should be resumed next day, and the Mahrattas attacked if met with.

Conversation at mess turned upon the probable events so soon to transpire; extemporised plans by individual officers indicated the several views they entertained of what was to happen. The very young expressed hopes that the enemy would show good fight; some of their number speculated on the chances of promotion before them. Their broke in one of the seniors, who had gained experience of war in Affghanistan: "I have just been employed in making a few little arrangements in case of accidents." "Highly proper," remarked another "for no one knows what to-morrow may bring forth."

At daylight on December 29 our force began its advance, its manner of distribution to make an attack simultaneously on front and flank of the position known to have been occupied by the Mahratta the previous evening. But during the night they had taken up a new position, considerably in advance, and from it unexpectedly opened fire on our leading columns. The general force was at once directed upon the new position. Horse Artillery commanded by Captain Grant1 at full gallop rode directly at the Gwalior battery; opened fire upon it with crushing effect, and within the space of a few minutes reduced it to silence. Having done so, away again at full gallop Captain Grant led his battery against one on the left of the former, that had meanwhile opened upon us, our infantry columns plodding their way, slowly but steadily, against its line of fire. Very soon that battery also was silenced. The infantry were at work with the bayonet with terrible effect upon the enemy, with very heavy loss to our own forces, in men, horses, and ammunition. A third battery began its deadly work upon other bodies of infantry, in motion onwards. Again Captain Grant led his troop against it with the same result; then arrived the infantry, including the 39th and 40th British regiments; then hand-to-hand conflict, and then—the positions were in the grasp of our forces.

While thus the conflict raged fiercely, the i6th, led by Colonel Rowland Smyth, together with the two cavalry regiments brigaded with them, were ordered to sweep round the rebel camp, cut off, destroy, or disperse those who, driven from their guns, might take to flight. The Lancers dashed onwards at the charge, the bright steel and showy pennants of their weapons seeming to skim the ground, while at intervals stray rebels fell lifeless. The Gwalior men, anticipating such a manoeuvre, had taken precautions against its complete success; the position for heaviest guns selected by them had along its front a ravine of great breadth and depth. Upon its edge the cavalry suddenly came, nor is it clear by what means they escaped being precipitated into it. There was for a moment some confusion as the halt was sounded; eighteen guns directly in front, six others in flank sent their missiles through our ranks or high above them. To remain exposed to risks of more perfect practice would serve no good purpose; there was no alternative but to retire. The infantry were seen advancing; down one side of the ravine, lost to sight; up the further side, then onwards, into the batteries, and then—the fight was won.

When at first the 16th took the position assigned to them on the field, it may have been that my endeavours to discover what was subsequently called "the first line of assistance" were unsuccessful; it may have been that they were not very keenly made, at any rate "the Brigadier "—for so was named the troop horse I rode—knew his right place in the ranks, and so enabled me to witness the events now described.

Returning to my proper duties, I joined the parties who traversed the field of battle in search of wounded. Great, alas! was the number who lay prostrate,—many dead, many more suffering from wounds. Among the latter was General Churchill, his injuries of a nature to make him aware that speedy death was inevitable. While being attended to with all possible care, he requested me to take charge of the valuable watch he wore, and after his demise to send it to his sonin1aw, Captain Mitchell' of the 6th Foot, at that time serving in South Africa. During the night he died, and his request was carried out by me.

At a short distance lay, in the growing crop that covered the field of battle, Lieutenant Cavanagh of the 4th Irregulars, loudly calling to attract attention, supporting by his hands a limb from which dangled the foot and part of the leg, his other limb grazed by a round shot which inflicted both wounds, and passed through his horse, now lying dead beside him. He was taken to the hospital tents, where meanwhile wounded soldiers and officers in considerable numbers had accumulated. The surgeons' work begun, three of us mutually assisted each other. The turn of Lieutenant Cavanagh to be attended to having come, he made a request that we should "just wait a bit while he wrote to his wife," for he had recently been married. This done, he submitted to amputation, and during that process uttered no cry or groan, though nothing in the shape of anesthetic was given, nor had chloroform as such been discovered; then, during the interval purposely permitted to elapse between the operation and final dressing, he continued his letter to his young wife, these circumstances illustrating the courage and endurance so characteristic among men (and women) at the time referred to. His case was one of many men who had to be succoured that day.

Meanwhile the force was in process of encamping on the field so gallantly won; the 16th paraded for roll call, the band of the regiment playing "The Convent Bells," the notes of which long years thereafter recalled the day and occasion. Casualties among the men were only nine; but among the horses more numerous than they had been at Waterloo, where as Light Dragoons the 16th so highly distinguished themselves.

The arduous and responsible work of the day over, those of us who could do so withdrew to our tents, our hearts full of gratitude to the Almighty for individual safety, there to obtain such measure of rest and quiet as under the circumstances was procurable; for all through the evening and early hours of night the bright glare from burning villages, the dense smoke from others, the dull heavy sound of exploding mines made the hours hideous. Such was the battle of "Maharajpore."

During the evening the mangled remains of what in the morning had been a band of brave men were committed to earth. With returning daylight the same sad task was continued, all possible honour being shown to the dead according to the rank they had held, from that of General Officer in the person of General Churchill, who had succumbed in the course of the night, to that of the private soldier. Meantime, in tents the work of attending to the wounded went steadily on. There, officers and men whom we personally knew, lay helpless; among them Major Bray, of the 39th, and his son in adjoining cots, the former terribly burnt by the explosion of a mine, the life-blood of the latter ebbing through a bullet-wound in his chest. And there were many other very painful instances, to the aid of whom our best endeavours had to be directed.

It was for the time being impossible to carry on with the army, in its further advance, the large number of wounded with which it was now encumbered. A guard sufficiently strong to protect the extemporised field hospital having been detailed, the general force resumed its march, the intention being to press on as rapidly as possible to the capital. Along a tract of soft sandy country, oppressed by heat, exhausted by the fatigue of the previous day, the troops plodded their weary way, in their progress passing many relics of the recent fight, including shot, arms, shreds of clothing, dead bodies of animals and of men, etc.

At last the halt resounded from trumpet and bugle; for a time we rested as best we could, and then the tents having arrived we encamped. Some further delay was rendered necessary by circumstances. During that and the succeeding day information was received in camp that while the battle was proceeding in the vicinity of Maharaj pore, an engagement equally formidable took place between the Mahrattas and the force under General Grey at Punniar, on the eastern border of the Gwalior State; that in it the Buffs had sustained a loss in killed of one officer and thirteen men, in wounded of three officers and sixty men,—the casualties in the 5oth being equally numerous.

The arrival in camp of the Queen Regent, together with her Sirdars, and the young Maharajah, the salute on the accession of whom some ten months previous has been already mentioned, caused no little excitement, and at the same time much speculation among us. Later on, however, the report spread that the result of their interview with the Governor-General was by both parties deemed satisfactory.

As some among us took rides in different directions around our camp, not an armed man was met with. In some of the villages visited individuals who had escaped the carnage of the previous day were found lying more or less completely stripped of clothing, and wounded, some of them dead. The villagers had fallen upon the fugitives, robbed them of all they possessed, then turned them adrift. They had failed, and they paid the penalty of failure.

The march resumed, the force in due time reached the immediate vicinity of Gwalior, and there encamped. The huge fortress seemed to tower above us, while the neighbouring hills looked as if from their summits a well-directed fire could have swept the country to a considerable distance around. Within a couple of days arrived the force under General Grey and the Seepree contingent under Brigadier Stubbs. Negotiations had so far advanced that the latter took possession of the fort, the camp of the former adding very considerably to the dimensions of the great canvas city already existing. Rapidly and completely did the routine of life to which for some time past we had been accustomed undergo a change: complimentary visits and entertainments, each regiment entertaining every one else and being in turn entertained by them. By the high officials durbars and receptions were held, to which ceremonials Representatives of Gwalior having given their presence, the fact that they did so indicated that the end of our expedition was approaching.

Connected with the strong fortress by which the city of Gwalior is dominated were many points of interest; among them the general aspect of decay as seen from without, the tortuous narrow lane that leads to it, the steep and difficult flight of stone steps by which the ascent must be made, and powerful gates that seemed to lead but to a mass of ruins. Within the defences we were face to face with remains of temples, pillars, and arches pertaining to edifices of the Jains; there were remains of what had been reservoirs of large dimensions and beautiful workmanship, in some portions of which clear water glistened in the sunlight. Only one piece of ordnance was met with; it was an ancient gun, seventeen feet in length, and apparently capable of discharging a fifty-eight pound shot.

The process of disarming the Gwalior troops was next performed— somewhat slowly at first, and not without some risk of difficulty, but more rapidly as information circulated among them that they were to receive all arrears of pay due, and a certain number of them taken into the service of "the Company."

Then did they march to the places assigned to them in battalions, their bands playing what was intended to be "God Save the Queen"; finally laying down their arms and surrendering their colours, all of which, packed on elephants, were taken to the fort. The artillery and cavalry gave theirs up elsewhere.
The wounded from different regiments were collected in camp, those among them fit to undergo the journey towards Allahabad being dispatched thither by means of doolies and native carts (hackeries),—the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, as expressed by himself, being that their progress thither should be by "easy stages and intermediate halts." From Allahabad they were to be conveyed by means of native boats to Calcutta, and there embarked on board one or more of the most comfortably and well-equipped ships proceeding via the Cape to England. For those whose condition was more serious, accommodation was provided in camp, and in public buildings outside the city of Gwalior. Among those so left were three respected officers of the Buffs. Of these, Captain Chatterton and Dr. Macqueen shortly afterwards succumbed to the disease—induced by the trials of active service. The death of the third—namely, Captain Magrath—was attended by a little circumstance which showed that the spirit of romance persisted to the last in him. During the battle at Punniar, he, together with thirteen men of his company, were blown up by the explosion of a tumbril that they were in the act of capturing. Captain Magrath and twelve of the soldiers with him speedily succumbed, or were instantly killed. When his body was being prepared for burial, there, over the region of the heart, was found a lady's glove; nor was it diffi cult, bearing in mind some of the most pleasant incidents at Allahabac already recorded, to indicate the hand to which the memento originally pertained.

A general parade of the combined forces now took place. On that occasion the young Maharajah accompanied the Governor-General, b3 whom, in the course of his address, sufficient was expressed to raise hopes that further service on the Punjab frontier was to be immediately undertaken. But this was not to be.

Disintegration of "the Army of Exercise" forthwith began, ir obedience to orders issued. Starting on their return march, the 16tI traversed the field on which, twenty-nine days previous, the battle already mentioned had taken place. At short distances over its extent lay bodies of men and horses far advanced in decomposition; fragment of natives and equipments everywhere. The village of Maharajpor reduced to charred ruins; in their midst numbers of dead bodies o those who had so manfully stood their ground and perished as they did so. In what had been a room or enclosure a confused heap of what had been men further testified to the obstinacy of the defence. Ir some places miserable-looking inhabitants were searching among th ruins for property and houses. Such was the wreck of battle.

Thence to Meerut the march of the Lancers was uneventful. Halt, for a day were made respectively at Hattras and Alighur, associated a those places are with early campaigns of the century. At the latter for tress we visited the gate and approach thereto through which was made th historic charge by the 76th Regiment; I then the monument to officer., and men who fell on that occasion, and at Laswaree soon thereafter Twenty days en route; the 16th re-enter Meerut, whence they ha( started on service now happily performed. Very touching were meet ings between wives and their husbands; though to younger and les thoughtful men the full significance of husband and father restored to those dependent on him had yet to be realized.

A series of entertainments, including regimental dinners and a station ball, welcomed the return to cantonments of the 16th and troop of Horse Artillery, now under Captain Alexander, that had so much distinguished itself at Maharajpore. Preparations rapidly pushed on for the annual race for "the Lancer Cup," and all seemed to settle down for the hot season of 1844, then fast approaching.

A young (Artillery) officer had the indiscretion to write to the paper; a severe criticism—from his point of view—on the tactics to which, according to himself, was due the heavy cost in killed and wounded at which the recent victory had been gained. A second officer made open boast of the help he had given in preparing that letter, and both of them boasted pretentiously of what they had done. But soon the attention of the "authorities," including the venerable Commander-in-Chief, was drawn to the comments in question, with the result to the subalterns concerned that, as expressed at the time, they were "come down upon like a sledge-hammer." Popular verdict declared that the example set by them, if followed, would destroy all discipline.

The date on which, according to ancient custom, the great Hindoo religious festival of the year was to be held at Hurdwar was near at hand. As on similar occasions, arrangements were made to send to that place a small body of native troops, those detailed for the purpose being men of the 53rd N.J. and 10th Cavalry, I placed in departmental charge. Our march thither began in the middle of March. As we proceeded, we went along through a highly cultivated country, many of the fields covered with "golden grain," for it was the season of barley harvest. More and more distinct became the snowy peaks and precipices of the Himalayahs; denser and more dense the masses of pilgrims toiling their weary way to the sacred shrine, for the occasion was that of the greater fair known as Kumbh Mela, held every twelfth year.

Situated directly on the right bank of the Ganges, where that river emerges from the Himalayahs, the surroundings of Hurdwar are extremely beautiful, comprising hill, valley, forest, and stream. At short intervals temples stand; ghats or steps that lead downward to the sacred stream are crowded with devotees. In the clear, rapid stream, men, women, children, and fish commingle—for, like the river, the fish are sacred. The hills immediately behind the town are of the Sewalik range. Along their face occur a series of what were roads, though now scarcely deserving the name; on either side of them are veritable rock dwellings, now occupied by Fakeers. To the geologist the same range has interest connected with the remains of extinct animals contained therein; among them, of Ganesa's elephant, that lived, died, and became imbedded in marshes subsequently to be upheaved and so form the range referred to.

On this occasion an estimated number of two hundred thousand persons were assembled on and in the immediate neighbourhood of the ghats to take part in what was called "the great celebration." At a given signal by the Brahmin priests, the masses precipitated themselves into the river, there to perform their religious ceremonies. Of the number who did so, about fifteen thousand were women; but it was said that during some previous years female devotees had been fewer than heretofore. After nightfall the river was illuminated by floating lamps as already described in reference to the Jumna at Allahabad, the scene presented being, as on that occasion, very beautiful.

An excursion to a distance of twenty miles or so up the valley of the Dhoon, undertaken for the combined purposes of shooting small game and relaxation, introduced us to surroundings very beautiful in themselves, full also of living things, animal and vegetable, most interesting to lovers of Nature. From the point reached by us a striking view was obtained of the ranges on which stand respectively the sanatoria of Landour and Mussoorie, and in the further distance snow-covered peaks of the Himalayahs.
The mela, or festival, over, without mishap or outbreak of special sickness, our return march took place. The mid-day heat had become great; we were therefore glad to be again within comfortable houses at Meerut, provided with thermantadotes and tatties; and so the temperature reduced from 105° F. in the open to 76° F. indoors.

Not long thereafter the greater number, if indeed not all of us, were gratified on reading, in Government Orders, the announcement that officers and men who had been present at the battles of Meeanee or Hyderabad, recently fought in Scinde, Punniar, or Maharajpore in Gwalior, were granted as a donation one years' batta, amounting in my instance, with relative rank of lieutenant, to Rs,700-a very welcome windfall.

Certain native regiments were at this time ordered to the first-named country. Rumour spread that peace having been established therein, the extra allowances granted to troops while war was in progress was to be discontinued. In the regiments alluded to insubordination immediately showed itself, in at least one of them to a degree bordering on mutiny. A general parade was ordered; the disaffected corps so placed as to be in face of artillery, on either side cavalry and infantry; thereupon the sepoys belonging to it laid down their arms, after which they were paid up to date and escorted out of the station. The officer commanding another corps took upon himself to get rid of the ringleaders without waiting for official authority for so doing. Thus was suppressed what for the moment threatened to become a somewhat difficult state of matters. This was in 1844. The terrible events of 1857 at the same station were in the future.

The state of unrest with reference to affairs in the Punjab continued to increase, the likelihood of war next cold season appearing the greater from the facts that military stores were ordered to be collected at Umballah and Ferozepore, means of transport arranged for, and troops of various arms warned to proceed towards the frontier. Meanwhile, Lord Ellenborough was recalled, and Lord Hardinge reigned as Governor-General in his stead.

At the end of April, in obedience to orders, I started away to rejoin the Buffs, who had returned to Allahabad. The first part of the journey thither was performed by horse transit, then recently introduced—the palanquin placed upon a four-wheeled truck or cart, drawn by a single horse at the rate of seven miles per hour; for as yet railways had not been introduced into India. The latter part of the journey was by ordinary "palkee dâk's; and so, in due course, I was again with the happy regiment to which properly I belonged.


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