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paration the previous night ; and it appears they had
previously prepared the wood, ditch, and abattis, so
that to erect it only required placing the timber in
position. Upon a hill to the southward was observed
a large entrenchment of Shaans, but within the city
all the soldiery had taken shelter in bomb-proofs, or
were manning the ramparts. At eleven o'clock,
when the batteries opened with one general volley of
shot, shells, and rockets into the enemy's works,
those who had not already taken shelter scuttled off
to their respective holes like so many rabbits in a
warren ; but the British guns enfiladed their fortifi-
cations. Not a single shot was fired in return.

It is related of Colonel Hopkinson, that when his
guns opened fire, the gallant officer, who, though
brave, was never very enthusiastic in the pursuit of
military glory, was calmly enjoying his breakfast
some little distance off, so that it devolved upon
George Pollock to work both batteries. The General
came up, and was highly displeased on finding that
the former had thus absented himself from his duties.
While the cannonade was in progress, troops were
embarking in the flotilla a little above Patanagoh,
in order to take advantage of the current. The first,
or Bengal brigade, consisting of H.M.'s 13th and 38th
(now only mustering together 489 bayonets, though
they left Calcutta with an effective strength of 1,800
men), under Lieut.-Colonel Sale, was ordered to
attack the south-east angle of Mellown ; while Bri-

162 Life of Sir George Pollock.

gadier-General Cotton, with three brigades, com-
manded by Lieut.-Colonels Grodwin, Blair, and Parlby,
was to cross above the town, and after carrying the
outworks, attack it on the northern face, and prevent
the Burmese from escaping. At one o'clock the
troops moved off under cover of the artillery, which
kept up a brisk fire on the enemy's works, and being
favoured by a strong wind and tide, the 13th and
38th Regiments passed rapidly down in front of the
Burmese entrenchments, exposed to a heavy fire of
grape and musketry, which was only a't this time
opened upon them. The sight was described by an
eye-witness as most splendid. On the river were
the gunboats full of soldiers, and engaged in re-
turning the fire of the fort ; the land batteries, dis-
charging their projectiles a distance of 1,200 yards
over the heads of the storming party, were in full
play ; while the enemy's fortifications displayed one
unbroken line of fire and smoke. Notwithstanding
every previous arrangement, and the utmost exertion
of every one employed, the current, together with
a strong northerly wind, carried the first brigade,
under all the fire of the place, to its destined point
of attack before the other brigades could reach the
opposite shore. Arriving at the south-east angle,
where the bank was fortunately rather high and
shelving, thus protecting the boats from grape,
though they were much exposed to musketry, Col. Sale
and some other officers in a little man-of-war's boat,
pulled in shore with two gunboats, the others being

Life of Sir George Pollock. 163

rather astern. At this moment a volley of mus-
ketry disabled half the crew of sailors, and Colonel
Sale and Lieut. Dickson were also both wounded.
The men of the adjoining boats, however, imme-
diately sprung on shore, and being too few in number
to assault the work without ladders, dashed half-way
up the bank, to a spot where a little cover was
afforded by a ridge of sand, within ten yards of the
walls, and there, lying down, kept up a sharp fire
until the arrival of a reinforcement enabled them to

Captain Trant thus describes the incidents of the
storm :

" An opening was soon made in the abattis, and a few men
got under the walls, whence the Burmahs tried to drive them by
thrusting out spears and throwing down shot. Major Frith, who
had succeeded to the command, was dangerously wounded by one
of the former; but the ladders being placed, the wall was
instantly gained, and the Burmahs commenced their retreat in
two dense columns, without defending the lofty pagoda, which
it was supposed would have been their chief point of resistance.
They were instantly pursued through the fort by our gallant
little force, which seemed a mere handful compared to the
masses of the enemy who were retiring before it ; but the men
were so much fatigued that they could not proceed beyond the
west face of the stockade, whence they kept up a heavy fire on
the fugitives. The first brigade was in possession of Mellown
before the whole of General Cotton's column had crossed the
river ; that officer, however, made a judicious movement to the
rear with his troops, for the purpose of intercepting the fugitives,
but unfortunately too late for that purpose. In this affair the
enemy exhausted his last resources, and not only was their loss
very heavy, but, as a consequence of the subsequent panic, the
principal part of their army disbanded. The Burman chiefs
had supposed it impossible that Mellown could ever be taken."

11 *

164 Jtife of Sir George Pollock.

It must assuredly have been a proud sight, that of
a mere handful of British soldiers driving a dense
mass of from 10,000 to 15,000 armed men before
them from works of such strength that even Prince
Memiaboo, contrary to the invariable custom of
Burman leaders, was one of the last to flee. Cash to
the amount of about 30,000 rupees, together with
state dresses and other baggage, was found in his
house, besides a considerable sum which was divided
by the soldiers amongst themselves. Mellown was
full of military stores of great value, anTl on the walls
were mounted 79 pieces of cannon ; 20 tons of gun-
powder, 1,700 muskets, and a large amount of grain
were also captured. But what was of still more
consequence, as affording undeniable proof of the
treacherous conduct of the prince, the peace Com-
missioners, and their government, both the English
and Burmese copies of the late treaty were found in
Memiaboo's house, just in the same state as when
signed and sealed at the final meeting on the 3rd.
This paper was sent up to the Kollein Mengie and
Khee Wonghee, with a polite note, sarcastically
stating that in the hurry of their departure they
had left it behind. The discovery proved that the
armistice was only desired for the purpose of obtain-
ing reinforcements, and it was now ascertained that
5,000 fresh troops were within one day's march of
Mellown on the 19th. There were found also some
other curious papers written by a priest, styled the
Eaj Gooroo, a spiritual friend and counsellor of the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 165

King of Ava, who had been for some time in the
British lines, setting forth the condition and pro-
spects of the invading army ; and there was likewise
brought to light every document that had passed
during the conferences at Neoun-ben-Zeik. The
members of the late embassy were not to be outdone
either in politeness or sarcasm ; and, notwithstanding
the bitterness of defeat, and the humiliation of hav-
ing their duplicity thus openly made manifest, they
returned their best thanks for the treaty that was
said to have been sent to Ava, but had. never left
Memiaboo's house, and observed that the same hurry
that had cost the loss of this document had compelled
them to leave behind a large sum of money, which
they also much regretted, and which they were sure
the British general only waited an opportunity of
returning. Not the least curious paper in this
budget was a letter from a lady at Ava to her hus-
band with the army at Mellown, containing a request
that he would send her a few of the white English
slaves !

Eighteen gilt war-boats, and 300 others of various
kinds were captured on the 19th January. On the
following morning the pioneers were employed throw-
ing the ammunition into the river and destroying
the works, when a considerable number of wounded
men, who had concealed themselves, were discovered.
George Pollock relates that he saw a man sitting on
a tree with his leg so fearfully shattered that the
doctors considered amputation necessary. The un-

1 66 Life of Sir George Pollock.

fortunate man submitted to the operation without
a word, and, when it was completed, calmly put
forward his other limb, under the impression that
it was the British custom thus to mutilate their

The guns and magazines having been removed from
Mellown, the works were set on fire, and presented a
very grand spectacle ; while occasionally the small
powder magazines would explode with a loud report,
sending forth columns of smoke, and projecting into
the air large burning fragments of wood. The next
day Mellown was a heap of ashes ; and this, the most
considerable stronghold of the kingdom, whence the
invaders were to have been ignominiously driven back,
presented an aspect of desolation distinguished from
.the adjoining country solely by the clusters of black-
ened pagodas and by the embers of the stockade.
At this moment also the host of men who were
utterly to destroy the handful of invaders, were dis-
persed about the country, a broken, dispirited, and
demoralized rabble, uncertain whither to direct their
steps. During the storm of Mellown, besides Colonel
Sale, Major Frith, of the 38th Kegiment, who suc-
ceeded to the command, received a spear wound
which was of a serious nature. Major Thornhill, of
the 13th, on whom the accidents of war threw the
perilous distinction of leading the assaulting column,
was more fortunate, and escaped scathless. The total
British loss in the flotilla, as well as in the troops, only
amounted to nine killed and twenty-five wounded, of

Life of Sir George Pollock. 167

whom three were officers. In his report to Lord
Amherst, the Governor-General, the Commander-in-
Chief speaks in the following terms of the services of
the artillery :

"Where zeal displays itself in every rank, as amongst the
officers whom I have the happiness to command, and all vie
with each other in the honourable discharge of duty, the task of
selecting individual names for the notice of his lordship becomes
difficult and embarrassing ; and I am compelled to adopt the
principle of particularizing those alone on whom the heaviest
share of exertion happened to devolve on this occasion. It fell
to the lot of the artillery to occupy this conspicuous station in
the events of the day. In behalf, therefore, of Lieut.-Colonel
Hopkinson, commanding the whole, and of Lieut.-Colonel
Pollock, commanding Bengal Artillery, and Captains Lumsden,
Bengal Horse Artillery, and Montgomerie, Madras Artillery,
commanding the batteries, I have to solicit your recommenda-
tion to his lordship's favourable attention. The rocket practice,,
under Lieut. Blake, of the Bengal Horse Artillery, was in every
way admirable ; of 304 rockets which were projected during the
day, five alone failed of reaching the spot for which they were
destined, and uniformly told in the works or in the ranks of the
enemy with an effect which has clearly established their claim
to be considered a most powerful and formidable weapon of

The laborious duty of collecting and destroying
the enemy's artillery and stores, together with a
heavy fall of rain, prevented the army from march-
ing ; but at length, at eight o'clock in the morning
of the 25th January, 1826, the first division started
in its onward march towards Ava, the capital of the
Golden Foot, a glittering prize, the capture of which

1 68 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the troops hoped would recompense them for all
their manifold dangers and hardships. The road ran
through a hilly country, well wooded with a species
of mimosa and teak-tree, and other shrubs which,
from their stunted growth, showed the poverty of the
soil compared with the rich loam and abundant vege-
tation of the lower provinces. After proceeding six
miles from Patanagoh, the army marched over a
steep hill, commanding a magnificent view of the
surrounding country, which presented the aspect of
a large plain covered with wood, Sind ornamented
with numerous pagodas, some of great antiquity,
bespeaking the grandeur or opulence of what had
been in former times a considerable town. In the
valley on the left rolled the Irrawaddy, whose course
might be traced for many miles, and on its opposite
bank ran some ridges of hills, which gradually
merged into the Arracan mountains, whose distant
peaks were just visible on the horizon. The encamp-
ment was pitched at Meingoon, which bore the
traces of having once been a place of considerable
importance, though it now only had a few ruined
and deserted huts. The remains of a square fort and
ditch could easily be traced, but the only buildings
that remained entire were some pagodas of a pyra-
midal shape covering a vaulted chamber, inside
which was a figure of Boodh, whose worship the
Burmese have cultivated from remote ages. The
officers of the army were now allowed to indulge in
shooting, and good bags of partridges, quail, and

Life of Sir George Pollock. 169

snipe were frequently made, while deer and hares
varied the mess fare.

A march of three miles on the 26th brought the
troops to Yehangiounwah, a village situated in the
middle of a plain about a mile wide and of great
length, intersected by a fine stream of water and
covered with a species of tall grass. The whole
country bore evidences of the tyranny and mis-
management of the government of Ava. Deserted
villages were thickly strewn on the line of route,
while large plots of ground that had once been re-
claimed from the forest were now on every hand
returning to their former condition of jungle. Sad
evidences there were also, as at Meeayday, of the
ruthless cruelty of the chiefs. In one place the
boats of the flotilla discovered, affixed to crucifixes,
the bodies of fifteen men and women, who had been
shot by the orders of Mountoungboo, a ferocious
chieftain, who, with a corps of 500 men, fell back a
few miles in advance of the force as it proceeded on
its march. It is satisfactory to reflect that this
wretch, who, among other enormities, made a prac-
tice of throwing women into the river, quickly met
with his deserts.

On the 30th January, the Governor- General's body-
guard, which, when it started from Eangoon mus-
tered 353 sabres, but now numbered only thirty -four
troopers, started, in command of a staff officer, to
beat up the quarters of this wholesale murderer, and
most effectually performed its task. They came upon

170 Life of Sir George Pollock.

him unexpectedly, charged home in the most brilliant
manner, and sabred or shot down fifty men, among
whom was the redoubtable Mountoungboo himself.
The troops encamped at Mugway on the 27th, and
on the following day passed a large town known as
Memboo. The Irrawaddy here had increased in
breadth, and was consequently very shallow, and
divided by large sandbanks which, when under water
in the rainy season, make an expanse of five miles
from shore to shore. The army halted at a small but
pretty town on the 29th January, and on the 31st,
head-quarters were established at Yaynangheoum, or
" earth-oil creek," near which, as its name denotes,
are extensive petroleum springs, which constitute
one of the most important articles of trade of the
province. The general aspect of the country was
very barren, not a blade of grass or spot of verdure
was anywhere discernible, so that the horses and
bullocks were nearly starved. These latter animals
were in a particularly evil plight, for the ground was
so hilly and broken by ravines that it was with the
utmost difficulty the guns could accompany the force.
However, British energy and pluck overcame all diffi-
culties, and both Madras and Bengal artillerymen vied
with each other in the honourable task.

On this day (the 31st January) Drs. Sandford (of
the Eoyals), and Price, an American missionary, to-
gether with three European soldiers and a seaman, who
had been captured at the commencement of the war,
made their appearance in the camp, for the purpose of

Life of Sir George Pollock. 171

once more opening negotiations on the part of the
proud and arrogant monarch who, now that the Bri-
tish were actually marching on his capital, had been
rudely awakened out of his dream of invincibility.
Dr. Price stated that they had been sent for to the
palace a few nights previously between the hours of
eleven and twelve, and were requested to undertake a
mission to the British general, to express the sincere
desire of the Burmese monarch for peace, and to bring
back the terms that would be granted. On the 1st
February, Drs. Price and Sandford returned to Ava
with an intimation that the army would not advance
beyond Pagahm Mew for twelve days, within which
time it was expected that the ratified treaty, together
with all the remaining prisoners and twenty-five lacs
of rupees, should be delivered to them.

On the same day the force passed through Yaynang-
heoum, and moved on to Tantabain, a large village,
situated in a valley on the banks of a river which
unites with the Irrawaddy. Here a deputation from
the inhabitants, who had fled into the jungle on the
approach of the British, waited on the Commander-
in-Chief, and were reassured of their safety. This
village, as well as all those lately passed, is described
as surrounded by a railing, into which a prickly
shrub had been interlaced, so as to form a capital
defence against the intrusion of cattle; and if pro-
perly defended, would afford a species of fortifica-
tion which, though rude and barbarous, could not
easily be forced. The air in the neighbourhood of

172 Life of Sir Georye Pollock.

the wells, which are scattered over an area of about
sixteen square miles, was strongly impregnated with
the smell of petroleum, and in the vicinity of the vil-
lages were stored piles of jars, intended to receive the
mineral oil. This is generally met with at a depth of
from thirty-seven to fifty-three fathoms, floating on
the surface of the water, which exudes from the sides
of the well. Some of these are said to yield a daily
average of from 130 to 185 gallons of oil.

The army pressed on, allowing no respite. " Offi-
cers' chargers were put in requisition to drag the
guns ; " the horses of the rocket troop were similarly
employed, and their place supplied by Burmah ponies.

Pakangyeh was reached on the 3rd of February ;
at Sembeghewn, on the opposite shore, where the
road from Arracan reaches the Irrawaddy, the General
expected to form a junction with a column, which Sir
E. Paget, in forming the plan of the campaign, had
intended should march thither from Arracan. How-
ever, this had been countermanded, owing to the
sickly state of the troops in that province, and the
supposed difficulties attending a march across the
mountains. At Pekangyeh, Prince Memiaboo had
commenced a series of entrenchments, which, how-
ever, the rapid advance of the British force compelled
him to evacuate ; information was also received that
the force under Prince Menzaghee, near Chalain Mew,
had likewise fallen back and concentrated at Pagahm
Mew, for the purpose of making one final effort for
the integrity of the kingdom. During Dr. Price's

Life of Sir George Pollock. 173

"absence from Ava a change had come over the coun-
sels of the king. That vacillating monarch was per-
sonally inclined to treat with the victorious invaders,
should they advance as far as Pagahm, distant about
sixty miles from his capital ; but the queen strenu-
ously opposed such pusillanimity, and recommended
him, rather than negociate with the outer barbarians,
to fly from Ava, and take refuge at Monchaboo,
situated about forty miles to the north of the former
city on the opposite side of the river. Every prepara-
tion was made for flight, when Prince Memiaboo, who
knew better than any mere courtier the invincibility
of the English, pressed upon him the necessity of
peace on the terms now offered.

At this juncture, while the king still hesitated, a
savage and renowned warrior, of the name of Tayeah
Soogean, who held a high office about the royal per-
son, offered in the insolent language of his court
and nation to free the empire from the presence of
the invading army of "rebellious strangers," as he
styled the British, and requested that a force might
be placed at his disposal. His offer was instantly ac-
cepted, the title of Naiwoon Barein, which has been
variously translated as " Prince of the Setting Sun/'
"King of Hell," "Prince of Darkness," was conferred
upon him, and he was directed forthwith to assume
the command of a force of between 15,000 and
20,000 men, assembled at Pagahm Mew, These
troops formed a portion of a levy of 40,000
raised after the fall of Mellown, and upon whom

174 Etf e f Sir George Pollock.

the monarch, in order to raise their spirits to the proper
patriotic pitch, had conferred the flattering and ani-
mating appellation of Grong-to-doo or, Eetrievers of
the King's Grlory. But though the bounty was high,
and the title to be gained by each private soldier who
combated in defence of the country and the throne, of
an inspiring character, the people exhausted by the
previous levies did not respond to an extent beyond
half the requirements of the unlucky potentate, who,
besides bearing the designation of the Golden Foot,
arrogated to himself as " lord of the sea and land,"
the control of two of the elements. After the
newly- appointed " monarch of the infernal regions "
arrived at Pagahm Mew, and assumed command of
the army, Prince Memiaboo and our old friends, the
Khee Wonghee and Kollein Mengie, passed through
it on their return from Mellown ; and it is stated,
that as the first-named prince still considered himself
the commander-in-chief, he sent for the upstart gene-
ral to confer with him. This order, however, the
latter, inflated with a high sense of his invincibility,
and of the distinguished nature of the titles recently
conferred upon him, refused to obey; sending back
word to the king's half-brother that he was now
supreme, and would hold no communication with
him. The three disgraced chieftains thereupon left
the camp, and nursing their revenge at this slight,
proceeded to a small village above Pagahm, where
they awaited the result of the action.

On the 8th of February, all doubts upon the sub-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 175

ject of further opposition were set at rest from the
certain intelligence then received, that Naiwoon
Barein had made all his preparations for the contest.
On that day, leaving 8,000 men within the walls of
Pagahm Mew, he took post himself with the re-
mainder about three miles in advance, near the
Lodagunga Pagoda, amidst innumerable ruined
temples and buildings, some of which were suscep-
tible of defence. Here he awaited with his army the
approach of the British. It was the first time the
enemy had dared to encounter the disciplined legions
of their invaders in the open plain. The issues now
to be put to the ordeal of battle were tremendous.
A kingdom would lie at the feet of the British
general did victory crown his efforts ; but, on the
other hand, were he overwhelmed, nothing but an-
nihilation awaited the force he commanded, distant
as it was hundreds of miles from its base of opera-
tions, the sea, whence supplies or reinforcement could
alone be brought. And what a handful of men Sir
Archibald Campbell could muster for this, the final
encounter with the choicest troops of the empire I
His and General Cotton's combined brigades, the
latter, which was twelve miles in the rear, having
joined him at daylight on the morning of the 9th,
only mustered 900 European soldiers, and half that
number of Sepoys, for the 47th and 87th Eegiments,
under Brigadier Shawe, had not yet arrived from
Toundwain, whither they had been despatched to
collect grain and cattle.

176 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Sir A. Campbell marched from Yebbay, with his
two brigades, at nine o'clock on the morning of the
9th of February, and four miles from camp came
upon the Burmese general, whose disposition of his
troops, and plans for receiving the British attack,
exhibited considerable judgment and military skill.
The road from Yebbay to Pagahm led through a
country much overgrown with, prickly jungle, which,
whilst it rendered it difficult for regular troops to
diverge to either side from the direct course, was in
some places so thick as completely to mask the
formation and other manoeuvres of large bodies.
The Burmese commander, availing himself of these

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 13 of 40)