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borough and Milton.

Greorge Pollock left the school at Yauxhallin 1801,
and proceeded to the famous military academy of
Woolwich, which has, for so many years, been an alma
mater to the scientific services of the Crown.

He quitted Woolwich in the midsummer of 1803,
and, though he passed the higher standard for the
Engineers, selected the Artillery* on the Bengal
Establishment, as affording a better chance for mili-
tary advancement. In September of that year, he
embarked from Portsmouth on board the East India-
man Tigris, commanded by Captain Graham. His
first commission, in which he was designated " Lieu-
tenant Fireworker," was dated November, 1803, when
the good ship Tigris was knocking about off the Cape
of Grood Hope ; but though, on his arrival in India,
he was called upon to pay for the parchment that
conferred upon him a designation that was, doubtless,

* The Court of Directors, ac- of Directors in 1797, though the

ceding to a request made by Lord number of students never exceeded

Mornington in a letter to Mr. twelve or fourteen at one time.

Dundas, dated June, 1799, had, It was not until 1809 that Ad-

shortly before, consented to aug- discombe was founded for the ex-

ment the Bengal Artillery ; and at elusive education of the East India

the beginning of 1802, the regi- Company's Artillery and Engineer

ment consisted of three battalions, cadets ; the number admitted

of seven companies each, with during that year was fifty-seven,

thirty companies of Lascars. A increasing in 1820 to 110. (See

scientific education at Woolwich al- "Memoir of Services of Bengal

so became a necessary qualification Artillery," by Captain Buckle, and

for officers entering the Artillery. " British Indian Military Reposi-

by a resolution adopted by the Court tory.")



Life of Sir George Pollock.



due to the employment by the Artillery of rockets for
warlike purposes, and' though George Pollock did pay
for it when so called upon, he never received the docu-
ment in question. This sharp practice on the part of
the " some one" in authority who had the preparation
of the East India Company's commissions was not
uncommon, I may say, at a much later date.

The Tigris made a quick passage of four months,
and, on her arrival in India, young Pollock proceeded
to Dumdum, then the head-quarters of his regiment,
and, soon after his arrival, received his commission as
Lieutenant of Artillery, dated 19th April, 1804.

At this time the Marquis of Wellesley, without
question one of the greatest of the Company's
Viceroys, was Governor- General, and was involved in
hostilities with the Eajah of Nagpore, and Sindia,*
the great Mahratta chief. When, therefore, George
Pollock arrived in India, he found the Government
and all the officers, civil and military, in its employ,
straining every nerve to subdue one of the most
powerful combinations yet brought against British
domination in the East. A few words as to the
course of this war, prior to the time when our hero
found himself an active participant in its glories,
are here necessary.

The names of Major-General Arthur Wellesley,
the Governor- General's brother, and afterwards so






* The first Maharajah of Gwa- put, in 1764, after which the Mah-
lior rose to power and importance rattas, disciplined by French oni-
on the overthrow of the Moslem cers, became the virtual masters
supremacy at the Battle of Panee- of Hindostan.



io Life of Sir George Pollock.

well known as the illustrious hero of Waterloo, and
of General (afterwards Lord) Lake, were in every
one's mouth. The former defeated the Mahrattas at
the decisive battle of Assay e, on the 23rd September,
1803, and followed up his victory by another over
the Nagpore army, at Argaom, on the 28th No-
vember, while the latter captured the almost im-
pregnable fortress of Allyghur, and fought the battles
of Delhi and Laswarree, (the latter on the 1st
November in the same year,) by which the humi-
liation of Sindia was completed, and he was forced to
agree to a treaty of peace, which was signed on the
4th December.

No sooner were these formidable enemies subdued
than another was thundering at the gate of the
Company's raj. This was the famous Mahratta
chieftain and prince of freebooters, Jeswunt Rao
Holkar, better known under the last of his three-
fold names. While Sindia and the Eajah of Nagpore
were involved in hostilities with the British, Holkar
was employed in the congenial occupation of under-
taking predatory expeditions into the neighbouring
states, and on the conclusion of peace plundered the
city of Muhesur, on the Nerbudda, of wealth of the
estimated value of one million sterling. He now
took into his pay the disbanded troops of the late
confederates, so that his army was soon augmented
to a force of 60,000 horse and 15,000 foot soldiers.
The Marquis of Wellesley had sedulously avoided
any hostilities during the five months of the war



Life of Sir George Pollock. 1 1

recently concluded, but it now became evident that
peace was clearly incompatible with the safety of the
territories under his government. Letters were in-
tercepted from Holkar to the British allies, inciting
them to revolt ; while it was notorious that he
sought an alliance with the brother of Zemaun Shah,
who had seized Cabul, styling himself, on a new seal
which he had engraved, " the slave of the Mahomed
Shah, king of kings."

In the month of March, 1804, the Mahratta chief
demanded of General Wellesley, then in the Deccan,
the cession of certain districts, which he said had
once belonged to his family, adding that " if they
were not restored, countries many hundred miles in
extent should be plundered and burnt, and the
English General should not have time to breathe,
and calamities should fall on lacs of human beings
by a continued war, in which his armies would over-
whelm them like waves of the sea." * He likewise
despatched two envoys to General Lake, with claims
of a similar character. During their communications
with the General, some allusions happened to be
made to the friendly disposition manifested by
Sindia, when they affirmed that Sindia had within
a few days requested the co-operation of their master
in a war with the English, as a large French force
had arrived on the Coromandel coast, and was about
to come to his assistance. The envoys also de-

* Marshman's " History of India."



1 2 Life of Sir George Pollock.

manded the restoration of twelve of the finest dis-
tricts in the Dooab, which they affirmed were part
of Holkar's family possessions.

These insolent demands were followed up by an
inroad into the territories of our ally, the Eajah of
Jeypore. * General Lake wrote to Lord Wellesley :
" If Holkar should break into Hindostan, he will
be joined by the Eohillas. I never was so plagued
as I am with this devil. We are obliged to remain
in the field at an enormous cost. If we retire, he
will come down upon Jeypore, and exact a crore
(1,000,000 sterling) from the Eajah, and thus pay
his own army, and render it more formidable than
ever. If I advance and leave an opening, he will
give me the slip, and get into our territories with
his horse, and burn and destroy."

At length the patience of the Governor- General
was exhausted, and on the 16th April, 1804, he
directed Generals Wellesley and Lake to take the
field against the Mahratta chieftain. Accordingly,
the former ordered Colonel Murray to advance with
a force of 5,800 men from Guzerat into Malwar, and
take possession of Holkar's capital, while Lake moved
with his army into the Jeypore territory, from which



* These' princes trace their their intellectual attainments,

descent from Rama, the fabled Rajah Jyesing, who flourished at

and deified hero of the Ramayana. the close of the 17th century,

Their ancestors were leaders of erected the famous observatories

armies under the emperors of of Delhi and Benares, and was

Delhi, and were not less distin- himself a mathematician and as-

guished for their valour than for tronomer of no mean attainments.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 13

he forced him to withdraw. Eampoora was captured
by Colonel Don with a large detachment on the 1 6th
May, when Holkar retreated in haste and confusion
across the Chumbul. Instead of continuing the pursuit
with vigour, a course he was strongly recommended
to adopt by his coadjutor, Arthur Wellesley, General
Lake broke up his encampment, and withdrew his
army into cantonments, sending Colonel Monson to
pursue Holkar with a single brigade. This imprudent
step entailed a terrible disaster, that cost the British
name a heavier loss of prestige than perhaps any catas-
trophe in our Indian history, until the subsequent
destruction of General Elphinstone's army in the
defiles of Afghanistan taught the natives of India
that we were not invincible.

After Monson had put 200 miles between himself
and his nearest support, he received, on the 7tTi July,
the alarming intelligence that Holkar was advancing
against him with his entire force ; at the same time
he learned that Colonel Murray, who was proceeding
to his aid from Guzerat, had retired ; and, to crown
his misfortunes, the commandant of Sindia's contin-
gent, which accompanied his force, after advising him
to retreat, treacherously went over to the enemy with
all his troops. After fighting a successful action with
Holkar' s army on the 10th July, Monson continued
his retreat, which, notwithstanding that he was rein-
forced at Eampoora by three Sepoy battalions, ulti-
mately degenerated into a disorderly rout, a disastrous
consummation chiefly owing to the defection of a large



14 Life of Sir George Pollock.

friendly force of Mahrattas. On the 26th of August,
Colonel Monson spiked his last gun, and on the last
day of the month, fifty days after the retreat had
commenced, the last Sepoy had straggled into Agra.
This reverse cheered up the fainting courage of our
enemies, and induced the Eajah of Bhurtpore to
throw himself into the arms of Holkar.

Thus matters stood when young Pollock, having
passed the ordinary course of gunnery at Dumdum, left
Calcutta in August of the year 1804, in company with
Lieutenant T. D. Smith, of the Artillery, for Cawn-
pore, to join the army in the field. He travelled by
palanquin dawk, and on his arrival at Cawnpore, then
the principal military station in the upper provinces,
went to the station paymaster who in those days
was always a civilian to get cashed a hoondee, or
bill, on" a native banker. As Holkar was at this time
between Cawnpore and Agra, the paymaster placed a
bungalow at the disposal of young Pollock, who re-
mained at Cawnpore for three or four days until the
coast was clear. He then started for Mynporee, and
had a narrow escape of falling into the hands of the
remorseless Mahratta chief ; for hardly had he dined
at this place and set off on his journey to Agra, when
that very night Holkar' s army swept through Myn-
poree, and utterly desolated the station. Thus it
must be owned that George Pollock's initiation into
the chances of war was not of a cheerful or inspiriting
character ; and on his arrival at Agra his eyes were
further daily regaled by the sad spectacle presented



Life of Sir George Pollock. 15

by the mutilated Sepoys of Colonel Monson's army,
who straggled into the city one by one with their
hands and noses cut off; while burning villages and
cantonments, and mutilated bodies and starving vil-
lagers, must have quickly undeceived the young subal-
tern as to the stern realities of :t glorious war ;"
however, he lived to see at Ferozepore, thirty-eight
years afterwards, something of its bright side its
" pomp and circumstance/' as well as its unspeakable
horrors and desolation.

While at Agra, young Pollock and his friend asked
leave of the commandant to inspect the world-famous
Taj, which is some distance outside the walls of the
fort. Permission was granted, and it will sound
somewhat curious to those of my readers who have
been quartered at Agra, and have picnicked in the
cool shades of this incomparable building, that he
was under the necessity of taking a guard with him
to ward against a surprise, as the country was ravaged
by Holkar's incendiaries ; though, indeed, only fifteen
years ago an English officer, desirous of paying a visit
to this marble mausoleum, was not safe even with a
guard, indeed, was safer without a native guard
than with one.

From Agra Lieutenant Pollock went to Muttra,
and joined a company of artillery. Soon after his
arrival, hearing that a party of the enemy were
laying waste the territories across the Ganges, he
offered to go over the river with his guns, but the
commandant declined the proposal, and the young



1 6 Life of Sir George Pollock.

artillery officer was denied the opportunity of earning
distinction " at the cannon's mouth/' But his pro-
fessional aspirations were not destined to be thwarted
for any length of time.

Upon the escape of Colonel Monson with the
remnant of his force to Agra, Holkar advanced with
the whole of his army, estimated at 90,000 men, to
Muttra, situated on the right bank of the Jumna,
about thirty miles from Agra ; the British detach-
ment stationed there retired upon Agra when the
Mahratta chieftain took possession of the place.
The Commander-in-Chief, with his accustomed energy,
marched from Cawnpore on the 3rd September,
arrived at Agra on the 22nd, and proceeded imme-
diately to Secundra, where he lost no time in sum-
moning the various corps from their cantonments to
assemble under his personal command, with the
object of repelling this new and daring irruption.
On the 1st October, General Lake marched with his
army towards Muttra, from which, as he advanced,
Holkar retired. But the wily Mahratta was plan-
ning a scheme which, had it been successful, would
have exercised a baleful influence on the fortunes
of the Company. This was to seize the city of
Delhi, and obtain possession of the person of the
Emperor.

It was truly a critical time in our Indian history,
a time when defeat or a false move would have
entailed most serious consequences upon the English
garrison of Hindostan. Fortunately, the false step



Life of Sir George Pollock. 17

was taken by Holkar, and the accompanying defeat
was also sustained by him. Leaving the greater
portion of his cavalry to blind General Lake as to
his real intentions, Holkar started in great secrecy
with his infantry and guns, and suddenly appeared
before the capital of the Moghuls on the 7th October.
But here he encountered the genius and resource of
Colonel David Ochterlony, the Eesident, a Company's
officer, who, ably seconded by Colonel Burn, the
Commandant, defended the city, though ten miles in
circumference, and filled with a mixed population, for
nine days against the utmost efforts of the enemy,
20,000 strong, with 100 pieces of artillery.

The defence of Delhi is worthy to rank with that
of Arcot by Clive. The defending force consisted of
only 800 reliable men, with eleven guns. They
consisted of the 2nd battalion of the 14th and four
companies of the 17th Native Infantry two weak
battalions which had come over from Sindia in
the preceding war, and three battalions of irregular
infantry. These last had mutinied on the approach
of the enemy, but the mutiny was immediately
suppressed by vigorous measures; the ringleaders
were secured, a native court-martial was held upon
them, nine were severely flogged, and two blown
away from the muzzles of the guns. Small confi-
dence could therefore be placed in these troops, but
they behaved well. So little did General Lake
anticipate the possibility of Delhi being defended,
that he had instructed the Kesident to withdraw

2



1 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

all the regular troops into the fort of Selim Ghur for
the protection of the person of Shah Alum, the
titular Emperor of Hindostan, leaving for the defence
of the city such irregular troops as could be collected.
The chief assault was delivered on the 13th of
October, but the enemy were received with such
steadiness and gallantry by the handful of Sepoys,
that they were driven back with considerable loss,
leaving their ladders behind. At length Holkar,
despairing of success, drew off his army, and sending
back his infantry and guns into the province of his
new ally, the Eajah of Bhurtpore, set out with his
cavalry to wreak his revenge on the British territories
in the Dooab.

General Lake also divided his force, and while he
placed himself at the head of six regiments of cavalry,
European and native, and his mounted artillery, left
the main body, under General Eraser, to watch the
Mahratta infantry. With this latter force remained
the battery of artillery to which Lieutenant Pollock
was attached.

Lake left Delhi on -the 31st October, and General
Eraser marched from thence on the 5th November
with the following troops : His Majesty's 76th (then
a Highland regiment), the Company's European
Eegiment, and six battalions of Sepoys, with the
park of artillery, under Colonel Horsford, in all
about 6,000 men. On the 12th of November he
arrived at Goburdun, a place some few miles from the
fort of Deig, and pitched his camp within a short



Life of Sir George Pollock 1 9

distance of the enemy, who were at first discovered
from the surrounding heights, encamped between a
large deep tank and an extensive jheel or morass,
their right covered by a fortified village, and their
left extending to the neighbouring fort of Deig.
The Mahratta force was understood to amount to
twenty-four battalions of infantry, a large body of
horse, and 160 pieces of cannon. As the hour was
late, and the General had little information of the
enemy's position, he delayed the attack till morning.
The night was passed in preparation. The force
was divided into three brigades, each having a pro-
portion of guns : one consisted of the 76th and two
native corps ; the second, of the Company's European
regiment, also with two Sepoy battalions; and the
third, which was held in reserve, and for the protec-
tion of the baggage, under Colonel Ball, comprised
the two remaining battalions of Native Infantry,
with the irregular cavalry. The first two brigades,
being destined for the attack, were formed up in two
lines, and marched to the front at three o'clock on
the morning of the 13th November. The column
had to make a considerable detour to avoid the morass,
and, moving round a village where the enemy had a
picket, arrived about daybreak at a second fortified
village on the hill, which covered their right. The
British troops now wheeled into two lines, the 76th
and two native battalions forming the first line, and
the remaining troops the second; at once the gallant
Highlanders, unassisted, took possession of the forti-



2 *



2O Life of Sir George Pollock.

fied village with charged bayonets, and, running down
the hill, went at the first range of guns, " under a
tremendous shower of round, grape, and chain shot."
Their nohle impetuosity was irresistible, and the
enemy abandoned the guns as they came up to them
and retired to fresh batteries. When the second line
arrived at the village, the Company's European
regiment, seeing the 76th so far ahead in the thickest
of the enemy, advanced rapidly to their support,
followed by the Sepoys ; while two battalions of
native infantry, with some 6-pounders, watched from
under cover of a bank or hillock the enemy's brigades
and guns to the eastward of the lower end of the
morass, and kept them in check.

Having captured the first range of guns, our troops
found themselves opposed to a most destructive fire
from the enemy's second range. Here a cannon-shot
carried off General Eraser's leg, when the command
devolved upon the Honourable Colonel Monson, who,
although he had been unfortunate when in inde-
pendent command, was greatly respected in the
service as a most brave and zealous leader. Nothing
could withstand the dauntless bearing of the troops,
who, with charged bayonets, carried the second line
of guns, and, still advancing, took one battery after
another in magnificent style for a distance of nearly
two miles, until, coming close up to the ramparts
of the fort of Deig, which belonged to the Eajah of
Bhurtpore, they were fired upon from the guns on its
walls, and had several men killed. In the mean time



Life of Sir 'George Pollock. 2 1

a body of the enemy's horse came round, retook the
first range of guns, and turned them against our
troops. But the 76th were equal to the occasion.
Captain Norford his name ought to be remembered
putting himself at the head of only twenty-eight
men, gallantly charged and retook them a second
time; but in the performance of this exploit the
heroic officer met with a soldier's death. Our troops
having pursued the flying foe as far as they could,
now returned to attack the force which had been kept
in check by the two battalions and the battery of guns
under Major Hammond, which latter, in the face of a
most destructive fire from a superior force of artillery,
consisting of 12 and 18 pounders, had steadily main-
tained its position.

George Pollock was serving at this time as one of
the subalterns of Captain Marmaduke Brown's bat-
tery of 6-pounders, and his guns were pushed out
into the open in front of the Sepoy battalions,
whence they maintained a hot fire against the enemy's
cavalry and guns, which were assembled in great force
in this part of the field.

Thus while the infantry were earning unfading
laurels by the brilliant manner in which, at the point
of the bayonet, they mastered the vista of guns op-
posed to them, battery behind battery, Captain Mar-
maduke Brown's light 6-pounders were carrying on
an unequal combat with the heavy 18 and 12 poun-
ders of the enemy. These in overwhelming force
kept up a hot and very destructive fire against the
Bengal artillerymen, who, however, never thought of



22 Life of Sir George Pollock.

retiring a gun, but stubbornly maintained their posi-
tion. At length a large body of horse, which had
been menacing them for some time, swooped down
upon the devoted band, but were well and promptly
met by our native cavalry, the artillery also turning
their guns upon the advancing horsemen, who, in
dense masses, offered a fair mark. This completed
their discomfiture, and they retired under protection
of their batteries. Colonel Monson, having ordered
up some more 6 -pounders, moved round, under cover
of their fire, upon the enemy's left flank, which now,
panic-stricken at the rapid overthrow of the main
body, made a precipitate retreat into the morass in
their rear, where numbers perished, amongst them
being two principal leaders of Holkar's infantry. At
the same time, Colonel Ball, with the 3rd brigade,
which had been left in charge of the baggage,
arrived to secure the captured guns, and assist in the
removal of the wounded, protected by the 2nd and
3rd Regiments of Native Irregular Cavalry, under
Colonel Browne, who during the action had been em-
ployed in watching and keeping off the enemy's horse.
The British then encamped on the field of battle,
with a cavalry picket on some rising ground half-way
between them and the fort of Deig, as one of their
outposts to watch the enemy's garrison.

All the troops behaved with great gallantry, but
the 76th Highlanders carried off the palm of victory,
and covered themselves with glory. The Company's
European regiment (lately the 1st Bengal Fusiliers,
and now known in the British army as the 101st)



Life of Sir George Pollock. 23

likewise earned distinction. The artillery, also, though
inferior in numbers, and in the power of their guns,
those of the enemy being of greater calibre than their
6 -pounders, yet made up for this deficiency by the
spirit and accuracy of the fire they maintained through-
out this glorious day. The example of the European
soldiers had the happiest effect, and was zealously
emulated by all the native corps. Our loss was severe
for the small force engaged, and numbered 643 killed
and wounded, including twenty-two officers. That
of the enemy was also very great, and 2,000 men
were supposed to have been killed or drowned while
seeking to effect their escape ; while our troops cap-
tured eighty-seven pieces of artillery, all mounted on
field carriages with limbers, having also elevating
screws and every requisite apparatus. Among the
iron guns were six 18-pounders, formerly presented
to the Mahrattas by the Marquis Cornwallis at Se-
ringapatam ; but the most gratifying circumstance,



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 3 of 40)