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Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde
Chapter VIII The Campaign in Central India


The operations which, during the long campaign of the Mutiny, were carried on under Lord Clyde’s direct supervision were confined to the region north of the Jumna; he himself never crossed that river. But in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief he was mainly responsible for the grand strategy of the campaign throughout the whole area of military operations, the outlines of which he had laid down in the scheme prepared during his voyage from England. Of this scheme an essential feature was, it may be remembered, a great concentrated advance upon the Central Indian States to be undertaken by the available military forces of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies. The fulfilment of this plan of campaign was retarded by various causes, but the wisdom of the Commander-in-Chief’s conception was justified in the event.

Something had already been done in Central India before Colin Campbell set foot on Prinsep’s Ghat on the strand of Calcutta. On the 12th of July, 1857, there left Aurungabad for Mhow a little column under the command of Brigadier C. S. Stuart, consisting of half of the Fourteenth Dragoons, the Third Hyderabad Cavalry, Woolcombe's battery, the Twenty-Fifth Bombay Native Infantry, and detachments of Bombay and Madras sappers. On August 2nd this force relieved Mhow, but remained there doing nothing until after the middle of October. On the 21st of that month, accompanied by Colonel Durand, the acting Resident at Mhow, and strengthened by the Eighty-Sixth regiment, Hungerford’s battery and sundry details including a small siege-train, the column, now bearing the title of the Malwa Field Force, marched on Dhar and on the 25th prepared to bombard that strong fort. Its garrison abandoned it during the night of the 31st. The main body marched northward on Mundasore on the 8th of November, while Major Orris column of the Hyderabad Contingent moved on Mahidpore, where the fugitives from Dhar had been joined by the Mahidpore Contingent, which had killed the Europeans attached to it. Orr overtook the mutineers at Rawul, and inflicted on them a severe defeat with the loss of all their guns. On the morning of the 21st the Field Force took up a position between Mundasore and Neemuch, where it was attacked in force but routed its assailants with heavy loss, and the cavalry drove them into Mundasore sabring them as they fled. On the 23rd the column pushed on to Neemuch, where it was known that the British people of that station had been shut up in the fort for months surrounded by about ten thousand of the enemy. They had beaten off two desperate attacks, but provisions and ammunition were running short, and word had come from the fort that they could not hold out many days longer. While on the march the rear of the column was harassed by troops from Mundasore, and presently there became visible in front a large mass of cavalry and two bodies of infantry which had come out from Nee-much to resist the British advance. Those Rohillas were exceedingly daring and stubborn, and fought to the last gasp. They held with extreme obstinacy the village of Goorariah, from which they maintained a constant heavy fire. As the night closed in the village became one great blazing fire; death stared its occupants in the face 1 yet they clung to it throughout the night. In the morning the place was a mere shell into which was being poured a stream of heavy missiles, yet the garrison held out until after mid-day, when at length some two hundred and fifty survivors came out and surrendered. With the storm of Ghorariah and the relief of Neemuch, Durand, scanty as the force at his disposal was, had succeeded in crushing the rebellion in the Malwa country and in cutting off the disaffected troops of Holkar from the supports on which they had rested. Leaving the Hyderabad Contingent at Mundasore under Major Orr he returned by way of Mahidpore and Oojein to Indore, where he disarmed Holkar’s troops. With this service ended the short Malwa campaign. On December 16th there arrived at Indore Major-General Sir Hugh Rose, the officer who had been nominated by Lord Canning to conduct the operations of the body of troops thenceforth known as the Central India Field Force. Rose had seen much war, and had displayed brilliant gallantry in the field as well as great capacity in the cabinet. He was a man who wore the silk glove over the iron hand, and while the suaveness of his manner seemed to the superficial observer to indicate a lack of force, it was apparent to the more clear-sighted that he possessed the former in which marked him as a man of promptitude, determination, and vigour. His division, consisting of five and a half infantry battalions, five cavalry regiments, six batteries, detachments of Bombay and Madras sappers and a siege-train, was divided into two brigades, of which, the second, which Rose himself accompanied, marched on Rhatghur and Saugur, while the first moved on a parallel line farther to the west heading for Goona and the Trunk Road from Bombay to Agra.

Rose began his advance on January 6th and arrived in front of the fortress of Rhatghur on the 24th. After two days’ bombardment it was evacuated by the garrison during the night of the 28th, an attempt on the part of the forces of the Rajah of Baunpore to raise the siege having been easily frustrated. Rose then pushed forward to Saugur, which had been beleaguered for the last eight months. The place was relieved in the beginning of February, when the Europeans who had been so long cooped up in their fort came out to welcome their deliverers; by whom aud by the Thirty-First Bengal Native Infantry, one of the few regiments of that army which had remained faithful, Rose was escorted past the fort into the cantonment. On February 11th with part of his force he was before the fort of Gurrah Kota, which was garrisoned by the revolted sepoys of the Fifty-First and Fifty-Second Bengal Native Infantry, One day’s bombardment sufficed to reduce the place. The garrison escaped during the night of the 12th, but the fugitives were pursued by cavalry for twenty-five miles and suffered considerable loss. Rose was back in Saugur on the 17th, eager to prosecute his advance on Jhansi distant one hundred and twenty-five miles farther north. He had been informed that General Whitlock with the Madras column had reached Jubbulpore, but he could not quit Saugur until he should be assured that the Madras general had begun his advance towards that place. The interval he utilised in gathering supplies, replenishing the ammunition of his siege-train, and strengthening it by the addition of heavy guns, howitzers, and mortars from the Saugur arsenal. At length tidings came that Whitlock had left Jubbulpore, and Rose moved from Saugur on the 27th. A few days later, by a flank movement through the pass of Madanpore, he turned the more formidable pass of Malthon by which the enemy had been expecting him, and after some extremely hard fighting entered the town of Madanpore. On March 19th he was within fourteen miles of Jhansi, whither he despatched the cavalry and field-artillery of his second brigade to reconnoitre and invest that place.

Jhansi was the chief stronghold of the rebel power in Central India; and it was a place, moreover, in which the slaughter of British men and women had been perpetrated in circumstances of peculiar atrocity. It was of great strength, both natural and artificial, its walls varying in thickness from sixteen to twenty feet. Town and fortress were garrisoned by eleven thousand men, rebel sepoys, mercenaries, and local levies under the command of the Ranee, a woman of fierce and dauntless character. The cavalry having invested the place on the 22nd, the siege operations began on the night of that day. The batteries opened fire on the morning of the 25th, on which day the first brigade came up into line, having on its march bombarded, breached, and stormed the important fortress of Chandairee, situated about eighty miles south-west of Jhansi. For seventeen days the duel between the besieging batteries and the guns of the defence was incessant. By the 31st a breach had been effected, but it was barely practicable; and on the same evening tidings came to Bose that Tantia Topee with twenty-two thousand men and twenty-eight guns was on the march from the north to the relief of Jhansi. He realised that his position, placed as it was between two superior hostile forces, was critical in the extreme. But Bose was the man to pluck the flower of safety out of the nettle of danger. Maintaining his grip on the fortress, he resolved to take the offensive against Tantia Topee on the following morning.

As the rebel army advanced, he struck both its flanks simultaneously with cavalry and horse-artillery. As soon as that evolution had manifested itself, his infantry advanced, poured in a volley, and then charged. The first line of the rebels broke and fled in disaster hotly pursued. Brigadier Stuart struck in upon the right flank of the second line and hurled it into confused flight. Tantia fired the jungle, and under cover of the smoke made for the Betwa. But the British cavalry and horse-artillery pursued with ardour, and did not desist until every rebel gun had been taken. Fifteen hundred of the mutineers were killed or wounded. Tantia Topee and his discomfited host fled towards Calpee. Bose took prompt advantage of the discouragement which he realised that Tantia’s defeat must have -wrought on the garrison of Jhansi. He stormed the fortified city at dawn of April the 3rd. It was an arduous task. “The fire of the enemy waxed stronger, and amid the chaos of sounds of volleys of musketry and roaring of cannon, of hissing and bursting of rockets, stink-pots, infernal machines, huge stones, blocks of wood and trees, all hurled on their devoted heads, the men wavered for a moment and sheltered themselves behind stones.” Everywhere fierce and bloody, the conflict was most severe near and inside the palace, which had been prepared by the rebels for a centre of resistance in the last resort. Four hundred men who had taken up a position outside the fortress were surrounded by Rose’s cavalry and slain almost to a man. Desultory fighting continued for thirty-six hours. The Ranee made her escape and galloped straight to Calpee. The fortress was finally occupied by Rose on the 5th. The loss sustained in its subjugation, including that in the action of the Betwa, amounted to three hundred and forty-three killed and wounded, of whom thirty-six were officers. The enemy’s loss was reckoned to exceed five thousand.

It now only remained for Sir Hugh Rose to march on Calpee, and to exterminate from that important position the mutinous bodies which had so long threatened Sir Colin Campbell’s main line of communications. He began his advance in the end of April and on May 7th reached Koonch, where the rebels were in an entrenched position covering the Calpee road. That position he turned, stormed the town, and pursued the rebels for eight miles along the road to Calpee, capturing eight guns and a quantity of ammunition and stores. He had now been joined by the Seventy-First Highlanders, and continuing his advance reached the Jumna at Gowlowlee six miles below Calpee. The Commander-in-Chief had sent to co-operate with him Colonel Maxwell with the Eighty-Eighth Foot, some Sikhs and the Camel Corps, part of which crossed the river and joined Rose’s force on the right bank. After four days of constant skirmishing Maxwell’s batteries opened fire from the left bank on the fort and town, and Rose determined to strike the decisive blow on the 22nd. But the rebels anticipated him. On the morning of that day they came out in great masses to attack him. There was a critical moment when the thin British lino momentarily yielded. But Sir Hugh brought up the Camel Corps, dismounted the men, and led them forward in person to the charge. The victory was won; Calpee was evacuated during the following night, and the rebel force, pursued by the horse-artillery and cavalry, lost formation and dispersed, losing all its guns and baggage. “This,” writes Dr. Lowe, “was a glorious success won over ten times our number under most trying circumstances. The position of Calpee; the numbers of the enemy, who came on with a resolution and' display of tactics we had never before witnessed; the exhausted and weakened state of Sir Hugh Rose’s force; the awful, suffocating hot wind and burning sun which the men had to endure all day without time to eat or drink; combined to render the achievement one of unsurpassed difficulty. Every soul engaged suffered more or less. Officers and men fainted away, or dropped down as if struck by lightning in the delirium of sunstroke. Yet all this was endured without a murmur, and in the cool of the evening we were speculating on the capture of Calpee on the morrow.” The speculation was justified. Calpee was occupied, fifteen guns and several standards were taken; and Sir Hugh Rose, considering the campaign ended, issued a complimentary order to his troops and prepared to proceed to Bombay on sick certificate.

But in the first week in June he had suddenly to alter his plans. The main body of the Calpee mutineers had reached Morar, the cantonment of the old Gwalior Contingent, situated close to Scindiah’s capital. Remaining steadfast to the British cause the young Maharajah moved out from Gwalior on June 1st and engaged the enemy in the Morar position. It was obvious from the first that Tantia Topee had been successfully tampering with the Maharajah’s troops, who went over in a body to the rebels and Scindiah had to seek safety in flight to Agra. The daring project of the Ranee had thus far succeeded, and she and her confederates were prompt to take advantage of the temporary good fortune which had come to them. They took possession of fortress, treasury, arsenal, and town, and proceeded to form a regular government. Nana Sahib was proclaimed as Peishwah and Rao Sahib as Governor of Gwalior. The royal property was declared confiscated. The command of the troops outside the city was vested in the Ranee; those inside were under the command of Tantia Topee.

On receiving intelligence of this extraordinary state of things, Sir Hugh Rose resumed his command and advanced on Gwalior by forced marches, gathering up reinforcements as he moved. Of his two brigades one was commanded by Brigadier C. S. Stuart of the Bombay Army; the other by Brigadier R. Napier of the Bombay Engineers. Approaching Gwalior on June 18th, the ninth day from Calpee, he attacked the insurgents on the following morning, drove them out of the cantonments and pursued them vigorously. Smith with the Sipree column joined by Orr with his people of the Hyderabad Contingent, fought his way through the defile of Kotah-ke Serai after a stout defence on the part of the enemy, in which the Ranee of Jhansi lost her life while attempting to escape. Reinforced by Smith and Orr, Sir Hugh advanced on the 19th with the combined force against the heights in front of the city. In face of a heavy fire of artillery the assaulting columns carried the heights gallantly, capturing all the twenty-seven guns of the enemy. Then the rebels lost heart and fled pursued by the cavalry, while Rose advanced on the city. That same evening Scindiah, who had accompanied a force from Agra, found himself once more sovereign of the Gwalior State. The rock-fortress of Gwalior was daringly captured on the morning of the 20th by a couple of lieutenants at the head of a handful of men, after a hand-to-hand struggle with the garrison in which the gallant young Lieutenant Rose met his death. A flying column of cavalry organised by Sir Hugh was placed in command of Brigadier Napier, who on the morning of* the 21st, after a ride of twenty-four miles, struck the enemy at Jowra Alipore. He had barely six hundred men all told, and only six guns ; the enemy were reckoned twelve thousand strong—the remnants of the Calpee force with additions picked up at Gwalior. Lightfoot with his troop of horse-artillery galloped to the enemy’s left flank, fired a couple of rounds, and then dashing forward at full speed with Abbott’s cavalry rolled up the enemy’s line and drove him from his guns. The mutineers, stricken and demoralised, dispersed, abandoning sixteen guns which Napier brought in. The Central India Field-Force was now broken up, and the troops composing it were distributed at Gwalior, Jhansi, Sipree, and Goona. Its gallant chief repaired to Bombay, there to recruit his health impaired by the triumphant march he had accomplished through Central India. The doings of Whitlock with his Madras column in the Banda and Kirwee territories were not brilliant and need not be summarised. With the pacification of Gwalior began what Sir Colin Campbell described as “that hunt of the rebel leaders which was finally brought to a conclusion by the capture and execution of Tantia Topee in April, 1859,” after a chase which lasted nearly ten months.


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