Charles Rathbone Low.

The life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) online

. (page 34 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 34 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

guinary battles of the Sutlej, on the tactical skill
displayed in which we will not descant, though, in
justice, we should remark that military men are
divided in the views they entertain regarding the
engagement at Ferozeshuhur. However this may be,
there can be little variety of opinion on the merits of
the Chillianwallah business. In this engagement, the
noble and gallant lord notably carried into practice
his favourite axiom of military tactics, that every-
thing, including the heaviest batteries manned by the
most desperate and devoted artillery men in the world,
should be carried with the bayonet. Lord Gough
received further advancement to a viscountcy for the
brilliant victory of Goojerat, which was gained by his
agreeing to abandon for once his favourite axiom

Sir Walter Gilbert, as gallant a soldier as ever drew
sword, received a baronetcy for his pursuit of the
debris of the Sikh army, after their final overthrow at
Goojerat. Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor-General,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 463

well earned his peerage beyond any possibility of cavil,
for his services during the Sutlej campaign. Lord
Combermere received a step in the peerage for the
capture of Bhurtpore. Sir David Ochterlony gained
a baronetcy (and never were knightly spurs more
worthily earned) for his brilliant generalship in ]STe-
paul. Sir Harry Smith was created a baronet for
the victory of Aliwal. Sir Archibald Campbell was
also rewarded with the cognizance of the " red hand/'
for the admirable manner in which he conducted the
first Burmese war, and that he well earned the dis-
tinction, those who have followed us thus far in the
career of Sir George Pollock need not be told.

Then we come to the times of that great convul-
sion, the Indian Mutiny of 1 8 5 7 . Those distinguished
paladins of war, Colin Campbell, Hugh Eose, Outram,
and Henry Havelock, were worthy recipients of
hereditary honours, the first two as peers, the others
as baronets. Archdale Wilson, who commanded at
the latter part of the siege and the storm of Delhi,
received a like reward, which was certainly a fitting
recognition of the unsurpassed gallantry of his little
army, if not for his own pertinacity in declining to
abandon the siege. The services of General Mans-
field, as chief of Lord Clyde's staff, were not inade-
quately rewarded by the ribbons of the Bath and
Star of India, and the lucrative and exalted post of
Commander-in-Chief in India, though we will not
hazard an opinion whether Lord Sandhurst owes his
title to his past military services, or to an expectation

464 Life of Sir George Pollock.

(not fulfilled we believe) that lie might prove useful
on the Liberal benches of the Upper House. This
military prophet, like the seer of old, was sent to bless,
but lo ! when the governmental scheme for Army Ee-
form came up for consideration, he rewarded those
who ennobled him by anathemas and " cross-voting."

In viewing the relative value of the services of
some of these officers, and the distinctions they
received, one is compelled to place the former in
juxtaposition with the forcing of the Khyber, the
arduous conflicts of Mamoo Khail, Jugdulluck, and
Tezeen, and the release of prisoners, some of high
rank and social position, including the head-quarters
of a British regiment ; as regards a comparison of
rewards, Her Majesty's Government of that day con-
sidered Sir George Pollock adequately honoured by
the bestowal of the ribbon of the Bath.

But Sir George Pollock enjoyed the satisfaction of
receiving the approval of all public men whose good
opinion was valuable. Among other letters of con-
gratulation was one from that noble-hearted soldier,
the late Sir James Outram, then Political Agent in
Upper Scinde, and who, by the untiring energy he
had displayed in forwarding every man available for
duty, and still more in collecting supplies, was chiefly
instrumental in enabling Brigadier England to take
the field and advance to reinforce Nott at Candahar.
Outram had also ever been one of the most ardent
supporters of the manly policy enunciated by George
Pollock, and bitterly inveighed against those who

Life of Sir George Pollock. 465

would have pusillanimously consented to sacrifice
British honour.

He had written as follows on the 15th March, 1842,
to his friend, Sir Eichmond Shakespear, then with
Greneral Pollock as military secretary, on the subject
of withdrawal :

"As this is not a time to mince matters, no sooner did I see
the orders of Government to General Pollock to withdraw the Jel-
lalabad garrison, and to retire to India under any circumstances
(except the Sikhs rising against us, which, by-the-by, that
measure would have brought about most probably), than I wrote,
in the most earnest manner I was capable of, pointing out that
our bitterest foe could not have devised a more injurious measure,
whether viewed politically or in a military light ; but expressing
my trust that Mr. Clerk would act on the responsibility vested in
him to prevent so ruinous a step. My mind is now set at rest by
General Pollock's determination, now gleaned from your letters.
I honour the General therefore, and should he be allowed to carry
out his views, we shall have mainly to thank him not only for retriev-
ing our honour in Afghanistan, but for saving India to us, the loss
of which would ultimately result from disgracefully succumbing to

the Afghans now Nothing is easier than to retrieve

our honour in Afghanistan previously to finally withdrawing,
should the Government so determine ; and I pray God, Lord
Ellenborough may at once see the damnable consequences of
shirking the undertaking, and order accordingly, otherwise the
disaster of Cabul will be but the commencement of our mis-

On the conclusion of Greneral Pollock's campaign,
this chivalrous soldier wrote to the same correspondent
a letter now before us, in which occurs the following
passage :

" Pray convey my humble congratulations to General Pollock,


466 Life of Sir George Pollock.

and my sincere thanks, which are equally due to him from every
Englishman, for the glorious manner in which he has retrieved
the honour of our arms, but especially for rescuing the British
name from the lowest depths of infamy to which it had been eon-
signed, and would have fallen, but for the noble stand he made
against the degrading retreat which, it will hardly be believed in
future ages, could have been contemplated by Britons under such

Lord Hardinge, after his return from India in 1848,
in a letter to Sir George Pollock, speaks

" Of the high sense I entertain of your public services, which,
although performed before I became Governor- General of India,
were so eminently distinguished by their importance to the State
and their ability in a professional point of view, that I have con-
sidered myself justified in pronouncing a strong opinion of their
transcendent merit"

In the Session of 1843, the thanks of both Houses
of Parliament were voted to the participators in these
memorable events, and they were moved in the House
of Lords by the Duke of Wellington, and in the
Commons by Sir Eobert Peel, then Prime Minister.
The thanks of the Legislature were couched in the
following terms :

" That the thanks of this House be given to the Right Hon.
Lord Ellenborough, Governor- General of the British possessions
in the East Indies, for the ability and judgment with which the
resources of the British empire in India have been applied in the
support of the military operations in Afghanistan.

" That the thanks of this House be given to Major-General Sir
George Pollock, G.C.B.,to Major-General Sir William Nott,G.C.B.,
to Major-General Sir John McCaskill, K.C.B., to Major-General
Sir Robert Henry Sale, G.C.B., to Major-General Richard En gland,
and the other officers of the army, both European and native,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 467

for the intrepidity, skill, and perseverance displayed by them in
the military operations in Afghanistan, and for their indefatigable
zeal and exertions throughout the late campaign.

" That this House doth highly approve and acknowledge the
valour and patient perseverance displayed by the non-commis-
sioned officers and private soldiers, both European and native,
employed in Afghanistan, and that the same be signified to them
by the commanders of the several corps, who are desired to thank
them for their gallant behaviour." *

The Duke of Wellington, in introducing the vote
of thanks in the House of Lords, after descanting
upon the great services of Lord Ellenborough in the
commissariat department, and there can be no doubt
that his Lordship exerted himself to the utmost in
supplying cattle for the transport of the armies in the
field, merely referred to the forcing of the Khyber
Pass in the following terms : " It was found that the
troops could not move until the end of the month of
March, and, in point of fact, our force entered the
Khyber Pass on the 6th of April, and arrived in due
course of time at Jellalabad, where they formed a
junction with General Sale." After some encomiums
on that gallant officer, the Duke went on to say :
"Thus General Sale relieved himself, and General
Pollock, marching through the Khyber Pass according
to orders, arrived at Jellalabad." No word of mention

* It is a strange commentary Jellalabad, and the Khyber; that

on the peculiar system that ob- the officer who drew down on

tains in these " thanks of Parlia- himself the just and indignant

ment," and robs them of much of rebuke of Nott (see his despatch

their value, that the vanquished of 18th April, 1842) should be

of Hykulzye should be coupled coupled in the same eulogium

with the victors of Candahar, with his censor.


468 Life of Sir George Pollock.

is here made of the difficulties General Pollock had
to contend against at Peshawur with a dispirited army,
with 1,800 Sepoys out of 4,000 feigning illness, after
having been driven back from the pass, and with
many of the officers unwilling to advance. The
Duke's statement of the victories on the advance on
Cabul was equally meagre, and no credit is assigned
to General Pollock for the release of the captives,
which, as we have seen, was his especial handiwork.

Lord Auckland, who followed the Duke of Welling-
ton, was more just, and said that " it would be super-
fluous for him to dwell upon the brilliant qualities
for command which had been displayed by General
Pollock." But it required the eloquence of the late
Marquis of Lansdowne, then the leader of the Opposi-
tion in the Upper House, to place in their true light
the eminent services he had rendered to the State.
The noble Lord said :

" General Pollock was left for several months at Peshawur to
prepare for the advance, which was finally made. I do not mean
now to enter into the circumstances which induced the Governor-
General to hesitate for a considerable period as to the permission
to General Pollock to advance, as detailed in the despatches on
your table, and in one despatch not on the table, one unaccount-
ably not received, though I can prove from a subsequent despatch
that it must have reached the hands of the Governor- General."*

* This was General Pollock's February, three days previously,

famous letter of the 13th of May, requested information regarding

which has been already trans- this missing letter, and had been

cribed in full, together with the informed by Sir Robert Peel that

Governor-General's explanation, the Government had no traces

Lord Palmerston had, in the whatever of its existence.
Lower House, on the 17th of

Life of Sir George Pollock. 469

Lord Fitzgerald, President of the Board of Control,
here broke in with the statement : " There is no such
despatch in this country."

Lord Lansdowne continued,

" I am perfectly well aware of that, and I allude to these des-
patches, not for the purpose of condemning the course which the
Govern or- General took, or of condemning the hesitation which
seems to have lasted for two or three months, but for the pur-
pose of doing full justice to the officer who took on himself the
resolution to march, and ultimately assisted in ending the war."

The Marquis of Lansdowne asked how it was that
General Nott did not retire from Candahar, according
to the Governor- General's instructions. At that time no
one in the House of Lords or out of it could answer
the question ; but the reader, who has attentively
perused this memoir, will not require to be reminded
that it was in consequence of the receipt of a letter
from General Pollock, requesting him (Nott) to stand
fast until he heard from him again. This document
has never been made public, and General Pollock did
not possess a copy of it,* though doubtless, the
original letter exists among the archives of the India

The Duke of Wellington had characterized Lord
Ellenborough's letter to General Nott, authorizing
him to advance to Cabul via Ghuznee, but throwing
all the onus of the responsibility upon him, as con-
taining the " handsomest instructions he had ever
seen given by any authority to any officer whatever ;"

* See foot-note on page 297, with letter from Sir George Pollock.

47 Life of Sir George Pollock.

but the Marquis of Clanricarde, who followed Lord
Fitzgerald in the debate in the Lords, reflected the
bulk of European and Indian public opinion, when
he said that,

" If they were called upon to thank Lord Ellenborough for
anything else than sending supplies to the army, he should say
that they were thanking him for successes which had been
achieved contrary to his opinions and orders. He might read
this despatch wrong, but he could only say that in reading it in
a common simple way, he defied any man, if General Nott had
failed in his advance, to attribute any blame to Lord Ellen-
borough ; and if no blame could attach to him in case of failure,
surely no merit should accrue to him from success."

Lord John Kussell, as leader of the Opposition in
the House of Commons, also testified to Sir George
Pollock's brilliant generalship in the following passage
in his speech :

" I mentioned the other night that with respect to General
Pollock, I could conceive nothing more deserving of praise and
emulation than his conduct, and the perusal of the papers now
before the House only confirms the impression I then entertained.
That he should have paid immediate attention to all the wants of
the soldiers under him that he should have exercised all care to
make the force efficient, and afterwards that he should have con-
ciliated as much as possible those troops whose resistance might
be most protracted and difficult to conquer and that he should
take advantage of the peculiar arms which the natives have, to
form and strengthen his own troops for the purpose of forcing
the passes, that he might relieve General Sale at Jellalabad
that he should have viewed with caution the advantage of
pressing forwards that, in weighing the difficulties to be
encountered, he should have shown that he was not a man to run
our troops into unnecessary dangers and that he should, after
having overcome those difficulties, and encountered those dangers
which he had well considered, have reached Cabul victoriously

Life of Sir George Pollock. 47 1

that General Pollock should have accomplished all this will place
his name, equally with the names of General Sale and General
Nott, high in the military annals of the country."

Lord John disagreed even more than the Marquis
of Clanricarde with the terms of the vote of thanks,
so far as they concerned the Governor-General. His
Lordship, after reviewing the contradictory orders
issued by the latter, and stating his belief that " all
the men of the force under General Pollock were
prepared under the orders of Lord Auckland," pro-
ceeded to say :

" Upon the whole it seems to me, with respect to Lord Ellen-
borough, that no case has been made out for the thanks of the
House of Commons exactly similar to any precedent on its
journals. In all previous instances Governor- Generals have had
a greater share in the transactions ; they have either originally
projected the military operations, or they have furnished the
means out of the resources of India for the conduct of the
military operations. At the same time, although the motion of
thanks to Lord Ellenborough is not precisely in conformity with
any precedent, I do not wish to take upon myself the invidious
task of giving a negative to the proposition. I have already
stated my opinion, founded upon facts as detailed in the papers
in this volume, that Lord Ellenborough 's merit is merely this :
First, that Lord Auckland having collected all the troops, and
given orders for the supplies, Lord Ellenborough gave additional
orders for additional supplies; and, secondly, that he did not
prevent the forward operations against Ghuznee and Cabul, but
gave General Nott liberty, if he thought right, to relinquish the
attempt. That, as it seems to me, is the whole sum of the merit
of Lord Ellenborough."

. Mr. C. Wood (now Lord Halifax) also quoted Nott's
letter of 21st May, in which he stated that he had
abandoned his intention to advance on Ghuznee and

472 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Khelat-i-Ghilzye in consequence of Lord Ellen-
borough's letter of 19th April.

It was reserved, however, for Sir Eobert Peel, then
the head of Her Majesty's Government, to place Sir
Gleorge Pollock's services in their true light, and, by
the exhibition of his eloquence and classical attain-
ments, to cast a glow upon a debate rather barren
of those qualities. That eminent Minister said :

" With respect to the claims of the gallant officers under whose
directions these exploits have been performed, I am perfectly
convinced that upon that head there can be no difference of
opinion. It is impossible to read these details of service it is
impossible to read the accounts of General Pollock, of General
Nott, and of General Sale without being inspired by all those
feelings which are connected with the honour and military glory
of our country. I am sure the House will excuse me, if with
respect to each of these officers, and their claims upon public
gratitude, I make some remarks. I begin with General Pollock :
General Pollock took command of the force intended to
rescue General Sale early in the month of February, 1842. He
arrived at Peshawur on the 5th February, 1842. He had
then, of course, heard of the failure of Brigadier Wild. On the
day that he arrived at Peshawur he found that in Brigadier
Wild's brigade there were not less than 1,000 sick. The day
after he arrived he went to the camp at once. He found that
the number of sick in the camp on the 12th February was 1,800
men. What was the course he pursued? On the day after
his arrival, postponing every other concern, he visited all the
hospitals, and saw all the surgeons, with the view of ascertaining
from them, if possible, the cause of this sickness. He says and
these things do him honour this is the way to inspire confidence;
this is the way to show that you are not merely contemplating the
means of obtaining the thanks of Parliament by brilliant exploits,
but that you are attending to the comforts of your men ; this, I
say, is the way to inspire confidence ; and I mention these things
for the honour of the great man by whom they were performed

Life of Sir George Pollock. 473

I would even rather dwell upon them than upon his military
success, because they are, in truth, the elements of future success.
This, I repeat, is the way to inspire confidence. General Pollock,
writing on the 12th of February, says, 'I shall visit their
hospitals frequently, and, by adding in any way to their comforts,
show that I feel an interest in them.' General Pollock adds,
There has been some unpleasant feeling amongst them, which
I hope has entirely subsided.' He had heard of the dejection
which prevailed amongst some of the Sepoy regiments. What
was the course he took ? He saw every officer ; he visited the
regiments ; he determined not to act with harshness towards the
men. Not calling them to courts-martial, he depended upon the
influence of reason with them, and in the course of a very short
time he succeeded in completely re-establishing the confidence
which had been so deeply shaken. The Sepoy regiments were
for a time depressed by the expected difficulties of the Khyber
Pass, when they found some of their countrymen coming from
Cabul, with dreadful stories of the cruelties to which they had
been exposed when they declared their readiness to meet any
enemy in the open field when they said, ' We will advance to
Jellalabad for the rescue of General Sale, but we tell you fairly
that the idea of advancing to Cabul presses upon our spirits.'
I hope the House will not think too harshly of these men, when
it considers the noble manner in which they retrieved their
character. If we wanted anything else to add to the interest of
these scenes, it would be found in their association with the
ancient history of the world. I was struck by the recollection
that it was in the self-same region, and in the midst of similar
scenes, that one of the greatest of ancient conquerors, 2,300
years ago, was displaying his power and encountering the same
difficulties that for a time depressed the spirit and damped the
courage of our Sepoys. And I was struck by the account given
by the Roman historian of the dejection which prevailed even in
the ranks of the Macedonian phalanx, when they had to
encounter and overcome the difficulties of the same terrible
region, to cross the very same rivers, to force the very same

"Amidst these very rivers of the Punjaub amidst these very
Afghan passes, Alexander pursued a course similiar to that which

474 Life of Sir George Pollock.

at another period was adopted by another military commander
he attempted, not by severity, not by enforcing the rigid rules of
war, but by reasoning with his men, to raise their drooping
spirits ; and he succeeded. If the Macedonian phalanx needed
such an address frorn the mighty conqueror who led them, let us
not judge too harshly of our Sepoys, if, in the midst of similar
difficulties, they yielded for a moment to a sense of depression.
Now, what were the military services of General Pollock? He
forced the Khyber Pass by a series of operations carried on from
the 7th to the 16th of April. He reached Jellalabad on the 16th
of April, although in the pass 10,000 men had been opposed to
him. He remained with General Sale for a time, then advanced
towards Cabul, reached Gundamuck in August, and on the 8th
of September defeated the Ghilzies. On the ] 2th of September
he was met at Tezeen by Akbar Khan with a force of 16,000
men, on the very field of action where lay the bodies of those
who had been massacred with ferocious cruelty and gross breach
of faith. On that very spot, General Pollock, aided by General
Sale, was completely successful in vindicating the honour and
invincibility of the British arms; and on the 16th September
General Pollock entered Cabul, the British flag was hoisted on
the Bala Hissar, and the national anthem of ' God save the
Queen ' resounded through the streets of the re- captured city.
In whatever point of view his services are regarded whether as
relates to his conduct in the field, his judgment, his discretion, or
the happy skill with which he revived the drooping spirits of his
soldiers I think the House will unanimously award to General
Pollock the highest distinction which a military man can receive,
and record their public acknowledgment to him for his gallantry
and perseverance in the face of such serious difficulties."

This handsome recognition of services from so
eminent a man as Sir Eobert Peel, was ever a source
of gratification to Sir George Pollock.

In the course of the debate, Mr. Hume made a
most damaging attack upon the Governor- General,
stating in conclusion that,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 475

" He therefore thought that Lord Ellenborough did not deserve
any credit for the success which attended the subsequent transac-
tions. On the contrary, it appeared that the success was achieved
contrary to the orders as well as the wishes of the noble lord."*

And he concluded by moving an amendment to
the original motion, which was to the effect that the
consideration of the vote of thanks to Lord Ellen-
borough be deferred until certain documents (which
he specified) be before the House, to enable them to
judge why, after repeated positive orders addressed to

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 34 of 40)