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in-Chief with head-quarters marched with the Madras
Division towards Mellown, upon which city the Bur-
mese army had been ordered to concentrate. The
country between it and Meeayday was a perfect
wilderness, and wholly depopulated ; the once thriv-
ing villages along the route had been burned, and all
the cattle, and every living thing that could afford
sustenance to an army, had been driven off. The
scene was depressing, and must have awakened grave
apprehension in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief,
and, indeed, of every thoughtful man of the force.
The situation of this handful of British troops could
not but cause anxiety, and as day by day the hard-
ships of the march and the continuous visitations of
the fell disease cholera, thinned the ranks or increased
the number of non-effectives, many brave hearts must
have whispered to themselves the anxious question,
What will be the end of all this ? One writer on
the events of the war doubtless expresses this feeling,
which, however, was at no time one of despondency,
for the force had implicit confidence in their com-
mander, as one who had profited by the lessons he
had learned in that unequalled school of war under
the mighty Wellington in Spain. " We appeared to
traverse a wilderness from which mankind had fled ;
and our little camp of 2,000 men seemed but a speck
in the desolate and dreary waste that surrounded it,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 149

calling forth at times an irksome feeling which, could
with difficulty be repressed, at the situation of a
handful of men in the heart of an extensive empire,
pushing boldly forward to the capital, still 300 miles
distant, in defiance of an enemy whose whole force
still outnumbered ours in a tenfold ratio, and without
a hope of further reinforcement from our distant ships
and depot." Colonel Pollock continues in his diary :

"22nd December. Marched at seven A.M., and reached our
ground at a quarter to one ; road most abominable. I walked
the whole way. Joined Sir A. Campbell, who had halted for
his baggage. Still many dead Burmahs on the roadside.
(Camp Kanlah, seven miles.)

" 23rd. Marched at seven, and reached our ground at
quarter to ten A.M. Road good. Called on the two generals.
Firing heard up the river from the flotilla. The natives are
said to be coming in for protection. (Camp Bho, or Bo.)

" 2^tJi. Sir A. Campbell gone on with his usual party. We
halt and move on to-morrow at seven.

" 25th December, 1825. Christmas day. Marched this morn-
ing at twenty minutes to five o'clock, by moonlight, and reached
our ground at a quarter to eleven A.M. Afc our usual rate of
going I should suppose we had come fourteen miles ; the road
good, except in two or three places. Near the end of the march
the pole of the leading gun was broken. We encamped on the
ground which Sir A. Campbell had left in the morning, com-
pletely surrounded by jungle ; a nullah in our rear. (Camp

" %Gth December. Marched at twenty-five minutes past four,
reached our ground at half-past eight. We came, I think,
about seven or eight miles. The road very good ; encamped on
the banks of the river. There is a large house and several
pagodas here. Sir A. Campbell left this ground this morning.
The distance to Patanagoh is said to be seven or eight miles ;
he must consequently have reached it to-day. Opposite to it,
on the other side of the river, is said to be Mellown, and as we

150 Life of Sir George Pollock.

have not heard firing, we conclude that the enemy have fled as

This place Colonel Pollock calls in his diary Shem-
bonwa, though it is called by other writers Longhee;
it is prettily situated on the banks of the Irrawaddy,
and is described by Colonel Syme, in his account
of Lord Macartney's mission to the King of Siam,
as a flourishing town, though at the time of the
visit of the British army there was scarcely a single

11 27th December. Marched at half-past four, a distance of
nine miles ; reached our ground at ten. The road bad, hilly,
with short turns ; the whole way a thick forest or jungle
hardly ever able to see thirty yards in any direction. Passed
rather a large village this morning, quite deserted. It is said
we have fifteen miles to go to-morrow, when we shall be six
miles from Patanagoh. (Camp Kashahzoon.)

" 28th. Marched a little after three A.M.; reached our ground
at a quarter to eleven. A veiy bad road, generally thick jungle.
Passed seven stockades well situated, and twelve times crossed
nullahs. Came about thirteen miles. Colonel Tidy, Captain
Smith, and Dr. Knox have proceeded to Mellown to learn how
matters stood. Patanagoh is said to be five miles off, and
Mellown nearly opposite. There are five stockades close to us.
The jungle we have passed through has proved fatal to many,
who have died of fever in consequence. Lieutenant McLeod,
89th, died this morning ; another officer of that corps is very
ill, also Lieutenant Carter of the Royals. We are on the banks
of the river, and the flotilla close to us. I am not sanguine as
to peace. (Camp Meghioungyeh, thirteen miles.)"

The army had now marched 140 miles from Prome,
through a description of country that would have
been deemed impassable to any artillery but British ;

Life of Sir George Pollock. 1 5 1

not a solitary inhabitant had been met along a route
once thickly populated, or a single head of cattle on
the banks of a stream forming the chief highway of
a kingdom.

The officers named by George Pollock were de-
spatched as an embassy to Mellown, jointly by Sir A.
Campbell and Mr. Bobertson, the chief Civil Commis-
sioner with the army, and had been sent in conse-
quence of a communication from Sir James Brisbane,
stating that Kollein Mengie had arrived from Ava
with full powers to treat with the British, and that
he was anxious to commence negotiations having for
their object the conclusion of a definitive treaty of

The Burmese Commissioners demanded a truce of
twenty-five days, but this Colonel Tidy positively re-
fused, and only consented to allow twenty-four hours;
while in the meantime the army continued its advance,
and passed through a series of fortified posts, selected
with great care and skill, but destitute of any de-

. We were yesterday ordered to march at half-past
six o'clock, but in the evening were ordered to follow with the
three Native corps at ten. After marching nearly two miles I
was met by the Deputy Adjutant- General, Madras force, who
had orders to hurry us forward to take up a position. We
advanced at a trot, and kept it up nearly the whole way ; the
leading bullocks being driven by Burmahs, who really appeared
to enjoy the prospect of attacking their brethren. I afterwards
found the head sirdar Burmah driver had relations in Mellown,
though this did not prevent him urging on the men. On my
arrival I found that negotiations were going on. The enemy

152 Life of Sir George Pollock.

had escorted the steamboat up the river past Mellown, by that
means cutting off their own boat in case we should not eventually
agree about terms ; part of the flotilla is thus above, and part
below the city. Many are said to have taken themselves off.

" Towards the afternoon we heard that the final and decisive
conference would be held the following day at twelve o'clock.
From this side we can see into the stockade in almost every

The town of Patanagoh, which was occupied on
the 29th, was immediately opposite Mellown, the
fortifications of which were built on the slope of a
hill. The principal stockade was of considerable ex-
tent and strength, though it was commanded from
the river face by artillery, which, if well directed,
could search out every nook and corner of it. Trant
thus describes the position, as well as the events of
the 29th:-

" The river here is only 1,000 yards wide ; and on the west
side is bounded by successive ranges of hills, falling in some
places gradually, in others abruptly, down to the water's edge.
On the slope of these were the ruins of the ancient fort of
Mellown, which, formerly consisting of a rampart and ditch,
now fallen to decay, were considerably elevated above,, and
overlooked the country on the land side ; though from the river
the whole interior of the work could be seen. Its shape was
square, and it had further been defended by a stockade and
strong abattis. In the centre was a conical hill, surmounted by
a pagoda, and fortified on the summit by a brick revetment,
which rendered it a very strong post quite the acropolis of

" Numerous gay pagodas reared their spiral tops within the
walls ; and at a short distance from the ramparts a neat gilt
pagoda had lately been erected by the directions of the king
over the ashes of the much- valued Maha Bundoolah, whose
remains had been brought thus far.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 153

" About a mile to the south of Mellown the river becomes
more contracted, and there, on the brink of a precipice, the
enemy had erected a strong work, and mounted several guns,
which completely commanded the passage of the river, and
rendered the attempt to pass up rather hazardous. At the
moment of our appearance at Patanagoh, Mellown presented a
very lively appearance. Troops well armed were marching and
countermarching ; chieftains, distinguished by their golden
chattahs, kept moving to and fro, apparently giving directions ;
gongs and bands of music were sounding with a most vehement
uproar ; and under the walls lay several hundred boats, some
adapted for war, but by far the greater part belonging to
merchants and traders, who, as soon as they saw us, made a
simultaneous attempt to pull up the stream, but were arrested in
their flight by a few rounds from our artillery fired over their
heads. In the meantime Sir James Brisbane, in the Diana,
advanced up the river, but the Burmahs, instead of firing at
him, sent a couple of gilt war-boats to meet the steamboat and
escort her past the batteries ; and the commodore, unmolested,
sailed by the town, and anchored in a line beyond the Burman
boats, so as to prevent any of them escaping."

Prince Memiaboo, who commanded at Mellown,
had fled from the fort, hut he subsequently returned.
To proceed with extracts from Colonel Pollock's diary.

December. The Commissioners * met in a native boat
well suited to the occasion, anchored in the middle of the river.
The hour appointed was two P.M. The commissioners were
punctual, but the Burmahs were late. The dress of the Khee
and party was fantastical, as at Neoun-ben-zeik. We who
remained ashore felt considerable anxiety for the result. I
certainly expected to be employed that night in making batteries
to be opened in the morning. The conference lasted three hours,
and was reported to be of a most pacific nature ; that the Bur-

* Kollein Mengie, Khee Wong- British side were Sir A. Campbell,
hee, Maha Silwa, and another of Sir James Brisbane, and Mr.
inferior rank, while those on the Robertson.

154 Life of Sir George Pollock.

mahs had ceded all the territory asked, but demurred about the
money, pleading inability. A second conference was agreed
upon for the following day at the same hour. Fevers and
cholera still continue to carry off several of our men ; two
officers died yesterday, and several more are dangerously ill.
The state of things may be attributed to the forests and jungle
we have passed through from Prome to this.

" 31s. A second conference was held to-day, and peace
appears to be certain, as far as the negotiations here are con-
cerned, and they say the king will ratify anything they sign. All
difficult and knotty points have been got over. A meeting is to
take place to-morrow to determine some minor points, but which
cannot affect the harmony now subsisting between the two

" 1st January, 1826. The conference which was to have been
held to-day has been deferred, in consequence of the illness of
one of the Burmah negotiators. Although things have gone on
well so far, these fellows are not to be trusted ; accordingly, Dr.
Knox paid the gentleman a visit, and found it a true bill. He,
however, administered nothing, as the patient had already taken
a Burmah dose ; for his trouble the doctor received a common
piece of cloth and a few plantains.

" 2nd January. The Commissioners met again to-day at two
o'clock, and did not separate till dark, when we learnt that
everything had been finally settled, with the exception of
signing, for which purpose they are to meet to-morrow at ten
o'clock. All parties appear to agree that there can be little or
indeed no doubt of our returning as friends in a few days. We
wait here, or at our last ground, until the treaty returns from
Ava, ratified by the Grolden Foot. One or two occurrences are
said to have taken place this side the river which have a bad
appearance, and certainly require to be sifted, now that we are
supposed to befriends. A Madras dawk was sent some days ago
from hence to the other camp (not more than three miles) : the
letters have not arrived, and the man has not been heard of.
We have also heard that the afternoon before yesterday Lieutenant
Flood, of H.M.'s 13th, left this camp for his own about five
o'clock on horseback, and has not since been heard of."

Life of Sir George Pollock. 155

This officer was subsequently restored to his
comrades, and stated that on the night of his dis-
appearance he was returning to Meghioungyeh, about
five miles distant, where his regiment was stationed,
when being overtaken by the darkness, he lost his
way, and after wandering about all night, encoun-
tered a native, from whom he inquired his way to
camp. This man led him some distance until he
came to a place where four other Burmese were
standing, who immediately rushed out, seized and
pinioned him, and then, placing him in a cart, drove
off to a village, distant about fifty miles inland.
There he was roughly treated, part of his clothes
were taken from him, and he was obliged to exhibit
himself to the villagers as a curiosity. Subsequently
he was removed to Mugway, forty miles up the river,
where he received much better treatment, and was
permitted to rove about the village.

"3rd January. To-day the treaty was signed and sealed.
The Burmahs begged hard to be let off fifteen lacs or so, but the
sum was fixed at one crore. We wait here till the prisoners, the
treaty ratified, and the rupees come from Ava. We then proceed
to Prome, and wait for a further payment : after which we go
to Rangoon, and wait for a third instalment, and then for

"4<th January. This morning Lawrenson, with Lieutenant
Wilson, of the 13th, and twelve troopers of the body-guard,
went in search of Lieutenant Flood. They started at ten A.M.,
and returned at dusk, and were so far successful that they
traced the direction in which he had been taken from the print
of his boot among those of naked feet. I called on Sir A.
Campbell this morning, and obtained leave for Biddulph to
return to Bengal ; Graham and Paton have also permission to

156 Life of Sir George Pollock.

proceed. The treaty left Mellown to-day* in a war-boat for
Ava, and is expected back in ten or eleven days with the
prisoners and a part of the money we demanded."

As to Lieutenant Flood, it is probable that he
would have never returned to his anxious friends but
that an old woman, who had passed through Mug-
way, came to the British camp with the intelligence
that she had seen a British officer there. Her deposi-
tion, on being committed to paper, was sent to the
Khee Wonghee, who had previously professed igno-
rance of his fate, but now promised he should be
restored. And restored he was on the 10th, together
with his valuable Arab horse, which had been well-
nigh ridden and beaten to death. At the same time
that the war-boat was despatched to Ava, nominally
bearing the treaty, Captain Snodgrass, military
secretary, proceeded to Calcutta to obtain the signa-
ture of the Grovernor-General. When it was known
that peace had been provisionally signed, an unre-
strained intercourse took place between the British
camp and Mellown. A large bazaar was formed on
the side of the river on which the former was pitched,
to which the Burmese soldiers resorted for the purpose
of making their purchases, while the messmen and
servants of our countrymen daily visited the town,
and made their purchases of fowls, vegetables, and

* So it was supposed, but it ap- men with the treaty returned by

peared afterwards that the whole land to Mellown, to lauyh at our

was a hoax. The war-boat went beards. Diary.
a mile or two up the river, and the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 1 57

other provisions. It was a curious and busy scene,
this sudden transformation from the horrors of war ;
but the return to the former condition of affairs was
destined to be as rapid and startling. During the
hollow and short-lived truce that now succeeded,
there were not wanting evidences to those who had
eyes to see, that all this fraternization was illusory,
that the truce was a hollow pretext to gain time, and
that there was and could be no peace until the pride,
already severely shaken, of these Burmese chiefs and
their king, living in a fool's paradise of security at
Ava, had been visited by the fall which, we are told
on the highest authority, awaits those who indulge
in its pleasing delusions. Pollock continues :

"5th. Graham, Biddulph, and Paton have proceeded by water
to Rangoon this morning. During the day we had a report that
the enemy on the other side of the river were stockading and
strengthening themselves ; Colonel Tidy and Major Jackson were
sent over. They were admitted to the stockade without hesitation,
and received without suspicion or j ealousy . The Khee Wonghee
explained satisfactorily what had been doing, and from his
general conduct rather confirmed than weakened our confidence
in their sincerity. I must confess I shall have doubts until the
treaty returns ratified.

" 6th, 7th, and 8th January. Nothing particular has occurred.
Reports, as usual, contradicting each other constantly during
the day. A letter has been received from Lieutenant Bennett,*
of the Royals, at Ava, evidently dictated by some one in the
interests of the Burmahs. He recommends peace, but says it
is against the religion of the king to cede territory.

* This officer, together with when proceeding from Rangoon to
Dr. Sandford, of the same regi- Prome in the preceding Novem-
ment, had been taken prisoner ber.

158 Life of Sir George Pollock.

" 9th January. The generality appear to think the chances
are rather in favour of war. I think so too ; but there appears
to me to be one clause in the treaty which the Burmahs (a cun-
ning race) may catch at, and by a little manoeuvring get rid of
us without putting themselves to much expense, except as far as
the cession of territory goes. It is agreed that on the return of
the treaty ratified, also of the prisoners, and on the payment of
four lacs of rupees, we have engaged to return to Prorne, four-
teen marches. The prisoners can be of no value to the Burmahs.
The ratification of the treaty is certainly a pledge for the fulfil-
ment of the terms ; but four lacs will be well spent if they en-
sure our return to Prome, by which time some story will be
trumped up about the second payment, and if the report be
true, the Bengal Government are rather indifferent about the
money at all."

In the meantime the bad faith with which the
enemy were acting became hourly more apparent.
The Burmese could be perceived daily at work at
Mellown repairing the fortifications ; bodies of in-
fantry and cavalry were constantly arriving from the
Ava road, while indications were plentiful of the
presence of a large force^ a little way inland. At
length, the 18th January, the day on which the
ratified treaty, the prisoners, and the money were to
be delivered to the British General, drew nigh.
George Pollock thus writes of these days of ex-
pectancy :

" From the 9th to the 18th the chances for peace or war
fluctuated every hour. A conference was appointed for the 18th,
at which I was present. It was to be the last, if everything was
not clearly and distinctly acted up to as agreed in the treaty.
The farce was kept up extremely well by the Burmahs. Sir A.
Campbell was ready, as were all who were to go. Two o'clock

Life of Sir George Pollock. 159

was the hour appointed, and it was about that time when a
messenger with two ponies (as a present) waited on the General
to intimate that the Khee Wonghee and Kollein Mengie were too
ill to attend, and requested the conference might be deferred till
the following day. The reply was short and decisive either
that they were to give up Mellown the next day in token of
their sincerity, or he would take it, as the period agreed on for
the cessation of hostilities would expire at twelve o'clock at mid-
night between the 18th and 19th. It appeared to be a bitter pill,
but they said they could not do so without consulting Memiaboo,
the king's brother, who was a day's journey distant. Any delay
was promptly refused, and it ilien turned out that Memiaboo was
at hand in Mellown. He was accordingly referred to, and said
he could not give up the fort. The party we sent over returned,
and orders were issued for the guns to be landed, batteries, &c.,
commenced at twelve at midnight. As an instance of the refined
treachery of the Burmah Commissioners during the whole time
of cessation of hostilities, they declared most solemnly that all
was going on well ; that they had received indirect accounts of
the ratification of the treaty ; and previous to commencing to
treat, they solemnly declared they had authority from the king
and that he would ratify whatever they signed. Notwithstanding
this, it was afterwards discovered that the Khee Wonghee soon
after our arrival issued instructions to seize all stragglers from
our camp, to cut the heads off common men, and take to the
Khee whatever they had. (In this way a Madras dawk was
lost, and two Lascars beheaded.) Sirdars* were to be taken
alive for the purpose of being sent to the capital. Until the 19th
the Bengal division was encamped about three miles in rear of
us I am still, as I have been all along, with the Madras division
and the Khee Wonghee ordered a strong force to attack them
on the 18th, but they were afraid.

" We opened our batteries about 11 A.M. on the 19th January,
after a night's hard work. We commenced with a salvo from
all the guns and mortars, heavy and light, Bengal and Madras,
also with rockets under Lieutenant Blake. The fort on the
opposite side of the river was filled with men who appeared

* Officers.

160 Life of Sir George Pollocfc.

busy ; but from the moment we opened the guns all was tranquil
in the fort and hardly a man to be seen. They were concealed
in the holes they usually dig, each man his own ; nor did they
make their appearance till we were obliged to cease firing, in
consequence of the storming party having nearly reached the
opposite side of the river. We continued firing about two hours
before the storming party pushed off. The incessant fire kept
up by the guns and rockets had a most imposing effect, and was
a sight worth seeing. About 300 rockets (Congreves) were fired;
about five failed. They created a terror among the natives
beyond all expectation, who considered them as implements of
war guided by some deity intent upon their destruction, and as
being sensitive beings."

The original garrison of Mellown only consisted
of some 4,000 men, but it had been strengthened by
reinforcements during the truce until it had now
reached the formidable total of 20,000 soldiers. It
was at midnight that the heavy artillery was landed,
and the construction of batteries commenced ; whilst
at the same time it became evident that the enemy
also were busy erecting new stockades. The bat-
teries for twenty-eight pieces of cannon, under the
directions of Lieut. -Colonels Hopldnson and Pollock,
were ready at daybreak ; but as some of the heavy
guns were still lying on the beach, a detachment of
artillerymen was ordered down to assist in dragging
them up. Whilst thus employed the fog cleared up,
and disclosed what the working party was engaged
in effecting ; but though the Burmese might have
occasioned considerable loss, they never attempted
to fire a shot. They had not been idle, however,
during the night. An extensive stockade appeared

Life of Sir George Pollock. 161

on the spot whence had been heard the din of pre-

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 12 of 40)