Forty-One Years in India
From Subaltern to Commander-In-Chief
FIELD MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS
The next morning, the 11th, I had the honour of making the Commander-in-Chief's acquaintance. The manner of my introduction was peculiarly unceremonious. I had left my own tent to be repaired at Cawnpore, and was sharing one with Norman, who was well known to, and greatly believed in by, His Excellency, whose Brigade-Major he had been at Peshawar. Before we were out of bed we heard Sir Colin's voice outside. He had come to speak to Norman about his plans for the future, and as the conversation seemed likely to be of a very confidential nature, and it was too dark for him to see me, I asked Norman to make my presence known. Sir Colin said to Norman somewhat roughly, 'Who is he?' and on my name being mentioned, he asked if I were to be trusted. Norman having vouched for my discretion, the old Chief was apparently satisfied, and then ensued an intensely interesting discussion on Outram's letter, Kavanagh's description of the state of affairs in the Residency, and the manner in which it was best to carry out Outram's recommendations.
That same afternoon the Commander-in-Chief reviewed the column, which now amounted to about 600 Cavalry and 3,500 Infantry, with 42 guns.1 The parade was under the command of Hope Grant, who had been given the rank of Brigadier-General, and put in executive command of the whole force.
Sir Colin spoke a few inspiriting words to each regiment and battery, being particularly appreciative and complimentary in his remarks to the Delhi troops, who certainly looked the picture of workmanlike[Page 170] soldiers; and, considering what they had accomplished, there was nothing invidious in the Chief's singling them out. The Bengal Artillery came in for a large share of praise; he had a strong liking for them, having been with them on service,2 and seen of what good stuff they were made. He recognized several old acquaintances amongst the officers, and freely expressed his satisfaction at having such reliable batteries to help him in the hazardous operation he was about to undertake. He was careful also to say a few words of commendation to the four squadrons of Punjab Cavalry, and the two regiments of Punjab Infantry, the only Native troops, except the Sappers, with the column.
Sir Colin's Preparations That evening orders were issued for a march to the Alambagh the following morning. It may perhaps seem as if Sir Colin was rather leisurely in his movements, but he had ascertained that the Lucknow garrison was in no immediate want of food, as had been reported, and he was determined to leave nothing undone to ensure the success of the undertaking. He personally attended to the smallest detail, and he had to arrange for the transport of the sick and wounded, and the women and children, shut up in the Residency, numbering in all not less than fifteen hundred souls.
Everything being ready, we began our march towards Lucknow, one and all eager to have a share in the rescue of our suffering countrywomen and their children from a most perilous position, and in relieving soldiers who had so long and so nobly performed the most harassing duty, while they cheerfully endured the greatest privations.
We had proceeded but a short distance, when the advance guard was fired upon by some guns in position on our right, near the old fort of Jalalabad. An extensive swamp protected the enemy's right flank, while on their left were a number of water-cuts and broken ground. The Infantry and Artillery wheeled round and attacked the battery in front, while Hugh Gough pushed on with his squadron of Cavalry to see if he could find a way through the apparently impassable swamp to the enemy's right and rear. Bourchier's battery coming up in the nick of time, the hostile guns were soon silenced, and Gough, having succeeded in getting through the jhil, made a most plucky charge, in which he captured two guns and killed a number of the enemy. For his gallant conduct on this occasion Gough was awarded the Victoria Cross, the second of two brothers to win this much-coveted distinction.
The next morning Adrian Hope, who commanded a brigade, was ordered to seize the Jalalabad fort, but finding it evacuated, he blew up one of the walls, and so rendered it indefensible.
On the afternoon of the 13th I accompanied the Commander-in-Chief in a reconnaissance towards the Charbagh bridge and the left[Page 171] front of the Alambagh, a ruse to deceive the enemy as to the real line of our advance. When riding along he told me, to my infinite pride and delight, that I was to have the honour of conducting the force to the Dilkusha. The first thing I did on returning to camp was to find a good guide. We had only about five miles to go; but it was necessary to make sure that the direction taken avoided obstacles which might impede the passage of the Artillery. I was fortunate in finding a fairly intelligent Native, who, after a great deal of persuasion, agreed, for a reward, to take me by a track over which guns could travel. I never let this man out of my sight, and made him show me enough of the road to convince me he knew the way and meant fair dealing.
The Alambagh The Alambagh now proved most useful; all our camp equipage was packed inside the enclosure, for we took no tents with us, and all our spare stores were left there. A rough description of semaphore, too, was constructed on the highest point of the building, by means of which we were able to communicate with the Residency. It was put in Orders that the troops were to breakfast early the next morning, and that they were to take three days' rations in their haversacks; while sufficient for fourteen days was to be carried by the Commissariat.
Just before we started on the 14th November we were strengthened by the arrival of 200 of the Military Train equipped as Cavalry, two Madras Horse Artillery guns, and another company of Madras Sappers.
Captain Moir, of the Bengal Artillery, was placed in charge of the Alambagh, with a garrison consisting of the 75th Foot, 50 of the regiment of Ferozepore,3 and a few Artillerymen. The 75th was the first regiment to move down from the hills when the news of the outbreak at Meerut reached Head-Quarters; it had done grand service, had suffered heavily during the siege of Delhi, and had well earned, and badly needed, a rest. It was now only 300 strong, and had lost in six months 9 officers, in action and from disease, besides 12 wounded. The officers were all friends of mine, and I was very sorry to leave them behind, particularly Barter, the Adjutant, a jolly, good-hearted Irishman, and an excellent officer.
We marched at 9 a.m., keeping to the south of the Alambagh and the Jalalabad fort. We then struck across the fields to the ground now occupied by the Native Cavalry lines, and on to the open space upon which the present race-course is marked out. On reaching this point the Dilkusha came in sight about a mile in front. As we approached, a few shots were fired at us; but the enemy rapidly disappeared as the Cavalry and Horse Artillery, followed by the Infantry of the advance[Page 172] guard, in skirmishing order, passed through an opening which had been hastily made in the wall of the enclosure.
The Dilkusha and Martinière The gallop across the Dilkusha park was quite a pretty sight: deer, which had been quietly browsing, bounded away on all sides, frightened by our approach and the rattle of the guns; while the routed sepoys flew down the grassy slope leading to the Martinière. We reined up for a few seconds to look at the view which opened out before us. In front rose the fluted masonry column of the Martinière, 123 feet high; directly behind, the picturesque building itself, and in the distance the domes and minarets of the mosques and palaces within the city of Lucknow; all looked bright and fair in the morning sun.
We could see that the Martinière was occupied; a crowd of sepoys were collected round the building; and as we showed ourselves on the brow of the hill, a number of round shot came tumbling in amongst us.
Remmington's troop of Horse Artillery, Bourchier's battery, and a heavy howitzer brought up by Captain Hardy, now came into action, and under cover of their fire the 8th Foot and 1st battalion of Detachments attacked and drove the enemy out of the Martinière, while the Cavalry pursued them as far as the canal.
On this occasion my friend Watson greatly distinguished himself. Entirely alone he attacked the enemy's Cavalry, and was at once engaged with its leader and six of the front men; he fought gallantly, but the unequal contest could not have lasted much longer had not Probyn, who, with his own and Watson's squadrons, was only about 300 yards off, become aware of his comrade's critical position, and dashed to his assistance. For this 'and gallantry on many other occasions,' Hope Grant recommended Watson for the Victoria Cross, which he duly received.4
By noon on the 14th we had occupied the Dilkusha and Martinière, and placed our outposts along the right bank of the canal from the river to the point immediately opposite Banks's house. The left bank was held in force by the rebels. Early in the afternoon I went with Hope Grant, accompanied by a small force of Cavalry, to ascertain whether it would be possible to ford the canal somewhere close to the river, and we succeeded in finding a place by which the whole force crossed two days later. Our movements were fortunately not noticed by the enemy, whose attention was concentrated on the roads leading direct to the city from the Dilkusha and Martinière, by which they expected our advance to be made.
Sir Colin, meanwhile, had fixed his Head-Quarters in the Martinière,[Page 173] on the topmost pinnacle of which he caused a semaphore to be erected for communication with Outram. From this post of vantage Kavanagh was able to point out to the Commander-in-Chief the different objects of most interest to him—the positions taken up by the enemy; the group of buildings, of which the Chatta Manzil5 was the most conspicuous, then occupied by the gallant troops led by Outram and Havelock, who, by overwhelming numbers alone, had been prevented from carrying their glorious enterprise to a successful issue; the Residency, where, thanks to Sir Henry Lawrence's foresight and admirable arrangements, a handful of heroic Britons had been able to defy the hordes of disciplined soldiers and armed men who, for nearly three months, day and night, had never ceased to attack the position; and the Kaisarbagh, that pretentious, garish palace of the Kings of Oudh, the centre of every kind of evil and debauchery.
Later in the day the enemy made a determined attack on our centre, which was checked by Brigadier Little advancing with the 9th Lancers and some guns. On a few rounds being fired, they retired from the immediate neighbourhood of the canal, and in the belief that there would be no further trouble that day, the Cavalry and Artillery returned to the Martinière; but the guns were hardly unlimbered before heavy firing was heard from the direction of Banks's house.
I galloped off with Mayne to ascertain the cause. Some little distance from the canal we separated, Mayne going to the left, I to the right. I found the piquets hotly engaged, and the officer in command begged me to get him some assistance. I returned to Hope Grant to report what was going on, but on the way I met the supports coming up, and presently they were followed by the remainder of Hope's and Russell's brigades. Russell had, early in the day, with soldierly instinct, seized two villages a little above the bridge to the north of Banks's house; this enabled him to bring a fire to bear upon the enemy as they advanced, and effectually prevented their turning our left. Hope opened fire with Remmington's troop, Bourchier's battery, and some of Peel's 24-pounders, and as soon as he found it had taken effect and the rebels were shaken, he proceeded to push them across the canal and finally drove them off with considerable loss.
Hope's and Russell's united action, by which our left flank was secured, was most timely, for had it been turned, our long line of camels, laden with ammunition, and the immense string of carts carrying supplies, would in all probability have been captured. As it was, the rear guard, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ewart,6 of the 93rd[Page 174] Highlanders, had a hot time of it; it was frequently attacked, and its progress was so slow that it was more than twenty-four hours between the Alambagh and the Dilkusha.
Mayne's Death At the conclusion of the fight I heard, with great grief, that my poor friend Mayne had been killed, shot through the breast a few seconds after he had left me. He was seen to turn his horse, and, after going a short distance, fall to the ground; when picked up he was quite dead. This was all I could learn. No one was able to tell me where his body had been taken, and I looked for it myself all that evening in vain.
At daybreak the next morning, accompanied by Arthur Bunny, the cheery Adjutant of Horse Artillery, I began my search afresh, and at length we discovered the body inside a doolie under the wall of the Martinière. As there was no knowing how soon our services might be required, we decided to bury the poor fellow at once. I chose a spot close by for his grave, which was dug with the help of some gunners, and then Bunny and I, aided by two or three brother officers, laid our friend in it just as he was, in his blue frock-coat and long boots, his eyeglass in his eye, as he always carried it. The only thing I took away was his sword, which I eventually made over to his family. It was a sad little ceremony. Overhanging the grave was a young tree, upon which I cut the initials 'A.O.M.'—not very deep, for there was little time: they were quite distinct, however, and remained so long enough for the grave to be traced by Mayne's friends, who erected the stone now to be seen.
The whole of that day (the 15th) was spent in preparing for the advance. The Dilkusha was turned into a general depot, where the sick and wounded were placed, also the Ordnance park and stores of every description. A rough defence was thrown up round the building, and a garrison was left to protect it, consisting of five Field guns, half the 9th Lancers, the Military Train, a squadron of Punjab Cavalry, and the 8th Foot, the whole under the command of Little, the Brigadier of Cavalry.
In the afternoon Sir Colin made a feint to the left of our position for the purpose of diverting the attention of the enemy from the real line of advance. He massed the Artillery in this direction, and ordered a constant mortar fire to be kept up during the night on the Begum palace and the barracks. To further strengthen the belief that operations would be carried on from our left, some of the piquets on our right were drawn in; this induced the enemy to make a slight demonstration in that direction. They crossed the canal, but were speedily driven back by the Madras Horse Artillery guns. They then opened fire with a 12-pounder howitzer from the west side of the Gumti, when[Page 175] a really most extraordinary incident happened, which I am not sure I should have the courage to relate, were it not that Sir Dighton Probyn and Sir John Watson, who were close by and saw what took place, are able to vouch for the accuracy of my story.
A Tall-talk Story A shell, fortunately a blind one, from the enemy's howitzer came into Watson's squadron, which was drawn up under the bank of the Martinière tank; it struck a trooper's saddle in front, and must have lifted the man partly out of it, for it passed between his thigh and the horse, tearing the saddle7 to shreds, and sending one piece of it high into the air. The horse was knocked down, but not hurt; the man's thigh was only badly bruised, and he was able to ride again in a few days. One of Watson's officers, Captain Cosserat, having examined the man and horse, came up and reported their condition to Watson, who, of course, was expecting to be told they were both dead, and added: 'I think we had better not tell this story in England, for no one would believe it.' I myself was close to the squadron, and distinctly saw what happened.8
All that day (the 15th) I had been very hard at work, and was greatly looking forward to what I hoped would be a quiet night, when an Aide-de-camp appeared, who informed me that the Commander-in-Chief desired my presence at the Martinière.
Ammunition Required On reporting myself to His Excellency, he told me that he was not satisfied that a sufficient reserve of small-arm ammunition had been brought with the force, and that the only chance of getting more in time was to send back to the Alambagh for it that night, adding that he could neither afford the time nor spare the troops which would be required, were the business of fetching the additional supply to be postponed until the following day. Sir Colin then asked me if I thought I could find my way back to the Alambagh in the dark. I answered, 'I am sure I can.' I might have hesitated to speak so confidently had I not taken the precaution of placing the man who had acted as my guide on the 14th in charge of some Afghan chuprassies9 attached to the Quartermaster-General's department, with strict orders not to lose sight of him. I thought, therefore, I would have him to depend upon[Page 176] if my own memory failed me. The Commander-in-Chief impressed very strongly upon me the great necessity for caution, and told me I could take what escort I thought necessary, but that, whatever happened, I must be back by daybreak, as he had signalled to Outram that the force would advance on the morrow. Sir Colin desired that the Ordnance officer, whose fault it was that sufficient ammunition had not been brought, should go back with me and be left at the Alambagh.
A Night March It was then dusk, and there was no time to be lost. In the first instance I went to my General, and reporting the orders I had received from the Commander-in-Chief, consulted him about my escort. Hope Grant strongly urged my taking with me a troop of the 9th Lancers, as well as some Native Cavalry, but for a night trip I thought it would be better to employ Natives only. I knew that my one chance of success depended on neither being seen nor heard, and Native Cavalry move more quietly than British, chiefly because their scabbards are of wood, instead of steel. I felt, too, that if we came across the enemy, which was not improbable, and got scattered, Natives would run less risk, and be better able to look after themselves. All this I explained to the General, but in the kindness of his heart he pressed me to take the Lancers, telling me he would feel happier about me if I had my own countrymen with me; but I stuck to my own opinion, and it was arranged that I was to be accompanied by Younghusband and Hugh Gough, with their respective squadrons of Native Cavalry. I took leave of my kind and considerate General, and hurried off first to warn the two Cavalry officers, then to the Dilkusha to tell Lieutenant Tod Brown, in charge of the Ordnance depot, that his assistant was to go with me, and lastly to arrange with the Commissariat officer for camels upon which to bring back the ammunition.
It was quite dark before I got to the place where my servants had collected, and where I expected to find my guide. What was my horror to hear that he had disappeared! He had made his escape in the confusion consequent on the enemy's attacks the previous afternoon. What was to be done now? I was in despair—and became more and more doubtful of my ability to find the Alambagh in the dark. By daylight, and with the aid of a compass, which I always carried about me, I should have had little difficulty, even though the country we had to get over was intersected by ravines and water-courses, not to speak of the uncompromising jhil near the Jalalabad fort. However, go I must. I could not possibly tell the Commander-in-Chief that I was unable to carry out a duty for which he had selected me—there was nothing for it but to trust to my own recollection of the route and hope for the best.
Everything having been put in train, I returned to the Artillery bivouac, managed a hasty dinner, mounted a fresh horse, and, about 9 p.m., started off, accompanied by Younghusband, Hugh Gough, the[Page 177] unlucky Ordnance officer, two squadrons of Cavalry, and 150 camels.
We got on well enough until we reached the broken ground near the present Native Cavalry lines, when we lost the road, or rather track, for road there was none. We could see nothing but the lights of the enemy's piquets at an uncomfortably short distance to our right. I struck a match, and made out from the compass the right direction; but that did not help us to clear the ravines, which, in our efforts to turn or get through them, made our way appear interminable. At length we found ourselves upon open ground; but, alas! having edged off too much to our right we were in close proximity to the enemy's piquets, and could distinctly hear their voices. We halted to collect the long string of camels, and as soon as they were got in order started off again. I led the way, every few minutes striking a light to see how the compass was pointing, and to take an anxious look at my watch, for I was beginning to fear I should not be able to accomplish my task by the given time. Our pace was necessarily slow, and our halts frequent, for the little party had to be carefully kept together.
At last the Jalalabad fort was reached and passed. I then told Hugh Gough, whose squadron was in front, that we had better halt, for we could not be far from the Alambagh, and I was afraid that if we approached in a body we should be fired upon, in which case the camel-drivers would assuredly run away, there would be a stampede amongst the camels, and we might find it difficult to make ourselves known. I decided it would be best for me to go on alone, and arranged with Gough that he should remain where he was until I returned.
The Alambagh proved to be farther off than I calculated, and I was beginning to fear I had lost my way, when all at once a great wall loomed in front of me, and I could just make out the figure of the sentry pacing up and down. I hailed him, and ordered him to ask the sergeant of the guard to summon the officer on duty. When the latter appeared, I explained to him my object in coming, and begged him to have the ammunition boxes ready for lading by the time I returned with the camels. I then rode back to where I had left Gough, and the whole procession proceeded to the Alambagh.
Already half the night was gone; but beyond the time required for loading the camels there was no delay; the utmost assistance was afforded us, and ere long we started on our return journey.
Day had dawned before we came in sight of the Dilkusha, and by the time I had made the ammunition over to the Ordnance officer it was broad daylight. As I rode up to the Martinière I could see old Sir Colin, only partially dressed, standing on the steps in evident anxiety at my non-arrival.
He was delighted when at last I appeared, expressed himself very pleased to see me, and, having made many kind and complimentary[Page 178] remarks as to the success of the little expedition, he told me to go off and get something to eat as quickly as possible, for we were to start directly the men had breakfasted. That was a very happy moment for me, feeling that I had earned my Chief's approbation and justified his selection of me. I went off to the Artillery camp, and refreshed the inner man with a steak cut off a gun bullock which had been killed by a round shot on the 14th.
The Advance on Lucknow At 8 a.m. the troops moved off. I was ordered to go with the advance guard.10 Hope's and Russell's brigades came next, with Travers's Heavy battery, Peel's Naval Brigade, and Middleton's Field battery.
Greathed's brigade (except the 8th Foot left at the Dilkusha), with Bourchier's battery, remained to guard our left flank until mid-day, when it was ordered to follow the column and form its rear guard.
The offer of a Native who volunteered to guide us was accepted, and Sir Colin, who rode just behind the advance guard, had Kavanagh with him, whose local knowledge proved very valuable.
The enemy had been so completely taken in by the previous day's reconnaissance that they had not the slightest suspicion we should advance from our right, the result being that we were allowed to cross the canal without opposition.11 We kept close along the river bank, our left being partially concealed by the high grass. About a mile beyond the canal we turned sharp to the left, and passed through the narrow street of a small village, coming immediately under fire from some houses on our right, and from the top of a high wall above and beyond them, which turned out to be the north-east corner of the Sikandarbagh.
The greatest confusion ensued, and for a time there was a complete block. The Cavalry in advance were checked by a fierce fire poured directly on them from the front: they were powerless, and the only thing for them to do was to force their way back, down the confined lane we had just passed up, which by this time was crammed with[Page 179] Infantry and Artillery, making 'confusion worse confounded.' As soon as the Cavalry had cleared out, the 53rd lined the bank which ran along the side of the lane nearest the Sikandarbagh, and by their fire caused all those of the rebels who had collected outside the walls to retire within the enclosure. This opened a road for Blunt, who, leading his guns up the bank with a splendid courage, unlimbered and opened fire within sixty yards of the building.
Blunt found himself under a heavy fire from three different directions—on the right from the Sikandarbagh; on the left and left front from the barracks, some huts (not twenty yards off), and a serai; and in front from the mess-house, Kaisarbagh, and other buildings. In these three directions he pointed his guns, regardless of deadly fire, especially from the huts on the left.
It would, however, have been impossible for the advance guard to have held its ground much longer, so it was with a feeling of the utmost relief that I beheld Hope's brigade coming up the lane to our assistance. A company of the 53rd, in the most brilliant manner, forced the enemy from the position they held on our left front, and the Highlanders, without a moment's hesitation, climbed on to the huts—the point, as I have already said, from which the heaviest fire proceeded; they tore off the roofs, and, leaping into the houses, drove the enemy before them right through the serai and up to the barracks, which they seized, and for the remainder of the operations these barracks were held by the 93rd.
This action on the part of the Highlanders was as serviceable as it was heroic, for it silenced the fire most destructive to the attacking force; but for all that, our position was extremely critical, and Sir Colin, perceiving the danger, at once decided that no further move could be attempted until we had gained possession of the Sikandarbagh. It was, indeed, a formidable-looking place to attack, about 130 yards square, surrounded by a thick brick wall twenty feet high, carefully loopholed, and flanked at the corners by circular bastions. There was only one entrance, a gateway on the south side, protected by a traverse of earth and masonry, over which was a double-storied guard-room. Close to the north side of the enclosure was a pavilion with a flat roof prepared for musketry, and from the whole place an incessant fire was being kept up.
Sir Colin Wounded Sir Colin, in order to get a better view of the position, and thus be able to decide in what direction the attack could most advantageously be made, rode up the bank and placed himself close to one of Blunt's guns. Mansfield and Hope Grant were on either side, and Augustus Anson and I were directly behind, when I heard the Commander-in-Chief exclaim, 'I am hit.' Luckily it was only by a spent bullet, which had passed through a gunner (killing him on the spot) before it struck Sir Colin on the thigh, causing a severe contusion, but nothing[Page 180] more. It was a moment of acute anxiety until it was ascertained that no great damage had been done.
The Attack on the Sikandarbagh By this time one of Travers's guns and a howitzer, which with considerable difficulty had been dragged up the bank, opened fire on the point selected by Sir Colin for the breach—the south-east corner of the wall surrounding the Sikandarbagh.12 Instantly Hardy (Captain of the battery) was killed and the senior Subaltern wounded: Blunt's charger was shot, and of the few men under his command 14 Europeans and 6 Gun Lascars were killed or wounded; 20 of the troop-horses were also knocked over.13
While the heavy guns were at work on the breach, Adrian Hope, with the 53rd, cleared off a body of the enemy who had collected on our left front, and connected the barracks with the main attack by a line of skirmishers.
In less than half an hour an opening three feet square and three feet from the ground had been made in the wall. It would have been better had it been larger, but time was precious; Sir Colin would not wait, and ordered the assault to begin. The Infantry had been lying down, under such slight cover as was available, impatiently awaiting for this order. The moment it reached them, up they sprang with one accord, and with one voice uttered a shout which must have foreshadowed defeat to the defenders of the Sikandarbagh. The 93rd under Lieutenant-Colonel Ewart, and the 4th Punjab Infantry under Lieutenant Paul, led the way, closely followed by the 53rd under Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon14 of the 93rd Highlanders, and one of the battalions of Detachments under Major Roger Barnston.
Heroic Deeds It was a magnificent sight, a sight never to be forgotten—that glorious[Page 181] struggle to be the first to enter the deadly breach, the prize to the winner of the race being certain death! Highlanders and Sikhs, Punjabi Mahomedans, Dogras15 and Pathans, all vied with each other in the generous competition.16
A Highlander was the first to reach the goal, and was shot dead as he jumped into the enclosure; a man of the 4th Punjab Infantry came next, and met the same fate. Then followed Captain Burroughs and Lieutenant Cooper, of the 93rd, and immediately behind them their Colonel (Ewart), Captain Lumsden, of the 30th Bengal Infantry,17 and a number of Sikhs and Highlanders as fast as they could scramble through the opening. A drummer-boy of the 93rd must have been one of the first to pass that grim boundary between life and death, for when I got in I found him just inside the breach, lying on his back quite dead—a pretty, innocent-looking, fair-haired lad, not more than fourteen years of age.
The crush now became so great in the men's eagerness to get through the opening and join the conflict within, that a regular block was the consequence, which every minute became more hopeless. One party made for the gateway and another for a barred window18 close by, determined to force an entrance by them. The traverse having been rushed by the 4th Punjab Infantry gallantly led by a Dogra Subadar,19 a Punjabi Mahomedan of this distinguished corps behaved with the most conspicuous bravery. The enemy, having been driven out of the earthwork, made for the gateway, the heavy doors of which were in the act of being closed, when the Mahomedan (Mukarrab Khan by name) pushed his left arm, on which he carried a shield, between them, thus preventing their being shut; on his hand being badly wounded by a sword-cut, he drew it out, instantly thrusting in the other arm, when the right hand was all but severed from the wrist.20 But he gained his object—the doors could not be closed, and were soon forced open[Page 182] altogether, upon which the 4th Punjab Infantry, the 53rd, 93rd, and some of the Detachments, swarmed in.
This devoted action of Mukarrab Khan I myself witnessed, for, with Augustus Anson, I got in immediately behind the storming party. As we reached the gateway, Anson was knocked off his horse by a bullet, which grazed the base of the skull just behind the right ear, and stunned him for a moment—the next, he was up and mounted again, but was hardly in the saddle when his horse was shot dead.
The scene that ensued requires the pen of a Zola to depict. The rebels, never dreaming that we should stop to attack such a formidable position, had collected in the Sikandarbagh to the number of upwards of 2,000, with the intention of falling upon our right flank so soon as we should become entangled amongst the streets and houses of the Hazratganj.21 They were now completely caught in a trap, the only outlets being by the gateway and the breach, through which our troops continued to pour. There could therefore be no thought of escape, and they fought with the desperation of men without hope of mercy, and determined to sell their lives as dearly as they could. Inch by inch they were forced back to the pavilion, and into the space between it and the north wall, where they were all shot or bayoneted. There they lay in a heap as high as my head, a heaving, surging mass of dead and dying inextricably entangled. It was a sickening sight, one of those which even in the excitement of battle and the flush of victory make one feel strongly what a horrible side there is to war. The wretched wounded men could not get clear of their dead comrades, however great their struggles, and those near the top of this ghastly pile of writhing humanity vented their rage and disappointment on every British officer who approached by showering upon him abuse of the grossest description.
The firing and fighting did not cease altogether for some time after the main body of the rebels were destroyed. A few got up into the guard-room above the gateway, and tried to barricade themselves in; others sought shelter in the bastions, but none escaped the vengeance of the soldiers. There were some deadly combats between the mutinous sepoys and the Sikhs. Eventually all the rebels were killed, save three or four who dropped over the wall on the city side. It is to be hoped they lived to tell the tale of the dauntless courage which carried everything before it.
Considering the tremendous odds which those who first entered through the breach were exposed to, and the desperate nature of the fighting, our losses were astonishingly small. The 93rd had 2 officers[Page 183] and 23 men (including the Sergeant-Major) killed, and 7 officers and 61 men wounded.
The 4th Punjab Infantry The 4th Punjab Infantry went into action with four British officers, of whom two were killed and one was severely wounded. Sixty-nine of the Native officers and men were also killed or wounded.22
FOOTNOTES, CHAPTER XXIII
[Footnote 1: Besides the troops from Delhi, the force consisted of Peel's Naval Brigade, with eight heavy guns and howitzers; Middleton's Field Battery of Royal Artillery (the first that had ever served in India), and two companies of garrison Royal Artillery, under Travers and Longden, equipped with heavy guns and mortars; a company of Royal Engineers under Lieutenant Lennox, V.C.;* a few Bengal, and two newly-raised companies of Punjab Sappers; the 93rd Highlanders, Head-Quarters and wing of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and of the 53rd Foot; part of the 82nd Foot, and detachments of the 5th Fusiliers, 64th, 78th, 84th, and 90th Foot, and Madras Fusiliers, regiments which had gone into the Residency with Outram and Havelock. The Infantry was brigaded as follows:
Wing 53rd Foot
Wing 23rd Fusiliers
Commanded by Brigadier D.
[*: Afterwards General Sir Wilbraham Lennox, V.C, K.C.B.]
[Footnote 2: Sir Colin Campbell had served throughout the Punjab Campaign and on the Peshawar frontier.]
[Footnote 3: Now the 14th (Sikhs) Bengal Infantry.]
[Footnote 4: During one of Watson's many reconnaissances he received a cut on the face from a sabre. One of the 2nd Punjab Cavalrymen, seeing what had happened, rushed to Probyn, and said: 'Watson sahib has got a wound which is worth a lakh of rupees!']
[Footnote 5: Built by a king of Oudh for the ladies of his harem. It takes its name from the gilt umbrella (Chatta) with which it is adorned. Now the Lucknow Club.]
[Footnote 6: Now General Sir John Ewart, K.C.B.]
[Footnote 7: It was a Native saddle, such as Irregular Cavalry used in those days, made of felt without a tree.]
[Footnote 8: On one occasion, when I was telling this story to General Sir Samuel Browne, V.C., he said that something similar happened at the battle of Sadulapur on December 2, 1848. He (Browne) was Adjutant of his regiment (the 46th Native Infantry), which was drawn up in line, with a troop of Horse Artillery, commanded by Major Kinleside, on its right flank. Seeing that something unusual had occurred, Browne rode up to the troop, and found that one of the men had had his saddle carried away from under him by a small round shot. The man, who happened at the moment to be standing up in his stirrups, escaped with a bruise, as did the horse.]
[Footnote 9: A kind of more or less responsible servant or messenger, so called from wearing a chuprass, or badge of office.]
[Footnote 10: It consisted of Blunt's troop of Horse Artillery, the wing of the 53rd Foot, and Gough's squadron of Hodson's Horse.]
[Footnote 11: We had not, however, gone far, when a body of rebel Infantry, about 2,000 strong, managing to elude Greathed's brigade, crossed the canal, and, creeping quietly up, rushed the Martinière. Sir Colin had left Lieutenant Patrick Stewart, an unusually promising officer of the Bengal Engineers, on the top of the Martinière to keep Outram informed of our movements by means of the semaphore, and while Stewart was sending a message he and Watson (who was with him) observed the enemy close up to the building. They flew down the staircase, jumped on their horses, and, joining Watson's squadron and the two Madras Native Horse Artillery guns, rode to the city side of the Martinière to try and cut off the enemy, who, finding no one inside the building, and seeing their line of retreat threatened, made the best of their way back to the city. Several were killed by the Horse Artillery, which opened upon them with grape, and by Watson's sowars.]
[Footnote 12: This wall has long since been built up, and the whole place is so overgrown with jungle that it was with difficulty I could trace the actual site of the breach when I last visited Lucknow in 1893.]
[Footnote 13: Blunt's troop, when it left Umballa in May, 1857, consisted of 93 Europeans and 20 Native Gun Lascars. It suffered so severely at Delhi that only five guns could be manned when it marched from there in September, and after the fight at Agra its total loss amounted to 12 killed and 25 wounded. Four guns could then with difficulty be manned. When Blunt left the troop in January, 1858, to take command of Bourchier's Field Battery, 69 out of the 113 men with whom he had commenced the campaign had been killed or wounded! The troop would have been unserviceable, had men not volunteered for it from other corps, and drivers been posted to it from the Royal Artillery. At the commencement of the Mutiny Blunt was a subaltern, and in ten months he found himself a Lieutenant-Colonel and a C.B. Quick promotion and great rewards indeed, but nothing more than he richly deserved; for seldom, if ever, has a battery and its commander had a grander record to show.]
[Footnote 14: Captain Walton was the senior officer of the regiment present, and took a conspicuous part in leading it, but as in Sir Colin Campbell's opinion he was too junior to be in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon was appointed as a temporary measure.]
[Footnote 15: The word 'Dogra' was originally applied to the Rajput clans in the hills and sub-montane tracts to the north of the Ravi. In later years it included hill Rajputs south of the Ravi, and in military parlance all these Rajputs who enlisted in our ranks came to be called Dogras.]
[Footnote 16: In consequence of the behaviour of the 4th Punjab Infantry on this occasion, and in other engagements in which they served with the 93rd Highlanders, the officers and men of the latter corps took a great liking to the former regiment, and some years after the Mutiny two officers of the 93rd, who were candidates for the Staff Corps, specially applied to be posted to the 4th Punjab Infantry.]
[Footnote 17: Attached as Interpreter to the 93rd Highlanders.]
[Footnote 18: It was here Captain Walton, of the 53rd, was severely wounded.]
[Footnote 19: Subadar Gokal Sing was mentioned by the Commander-in-Chief in despatches for his conduct on this occasion.]
[Footnote 20: For this act of heroism Mukarrab Khan was given the Order of Merit, the Indian equivalent to the Victoria Cross, but carrying with it an increase of pay. At the end of the campaign Mukarrab Khan left the service, but when his old Commanding officer, Colonel Wilde, went to the Umbeyla expedition in 1863, Mukarrab Khan turned up and insisted on serving with him as an orderly.]
[Footnote 21: One of the principal thoroughfares of Lucknow.]
[Footnote 22: Lieutenant Paul, the Commandant, was killed. Lieutenant Oldfield mortally, and Lieutenant McQueen severely, wounded. Lieutenant Willoughby, who brought the regiment out of action, was quite a lad, and was killed at Ruhiya the following April. Both he and McQueen were recommended for the V.C. for their gallantry on this occasion. After the fight was over, one of the Native officers, bemoaning the loss of the British officers, asked me who would be sent to replace them. He added: 'Sahib, ham log larai men bahut tez hain, magar jang ka bandobast nahin jante' ('Sir, we can fight well, but we do not understand military arrangements'). What the old soldier intended to convey to me was his sense of the inability of himself and his comrades to do without the leadership and general management of the British officers.