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General Lake issued the following general order to
the troops :

" The Commander-in-Chief returns his best thanks
to the officers, soldiers, and natives, for the gallantry
and steadiness they displayed in the attack of yester-



56 Life of Sir George Pollock.

day, which, though ultimately unsuccessful, reflects
the highest credit on the courage and intrepidity of
the troops employed, and demands, in his Excellency's
opinion, this public testimony of his approbation.

" The Commander-in-Chief cannot sufficiently la-
ment the number of brave men who have suffered in
this service ; when the utmost exertions of their
intrepid valour were unequal to surmount the unex-
pected obstacles which were opposed to them. The
Commander-in-Chief trusts that, in a very few days,
those obstacles, which have hitherto rendered all
attempts fruitless, will be completely surmounted;
and that the good conduct and bravery of the
soldiers of this army will be rewarded by the posses-
sion of the place, and by the opportunity of proving
to the enemy and the country that although hitherto,
from unforeseen difficulties, success has not crowned
their attempts, their spirit is undaunted, and that their
gallantry and discipline must ultimately triumph.
His Excellency feels infinitely indebted to Lieutenant
Colonel Macrae, for the judgment and ability with
which he arranged and conducted the attack. Extra
batta is to be served out to the Europeans to-day,
and 200 rupees are to be given to each native corps
of cavalry, infantry, gun lascars, and pioneers."

Whatever chance of victory the first two assaults
offered, from the courage of the troops and the
timidity of the enemy, was now immeasurably
diminished, as our soldiers had lost, and their oppo-
nents gained, that confidence so necessary to success.



Life of Sir George Pollock. 57

The necessity of more regular approaches having
been now brought home to the mind of General
Lake, it was essential that fresh supplies of stores
and artillery should be procured from Agra and
other depots. The day after the second unsuccessful
assault, the 1st Eegiment of Native Cavalry and the
15th Native Infantry were detached, under the com-
mand of Captain Walsh of the former corps, for the
protection of a convoy of provisions from Muttra.
The detachment, having joined the convoy, consisting
of 12,000 bullocks, was attacked by a body of- 8,000
of the enemy under the command of Ameer Khan,
a predatory chief of Bundelcund, who, bribed by a
sum of six lacs of rupees, and the prospect of
unlimited plunder, had joined his forces with those
of the Eajah of Bhurtpore, after the first unsuccess-
ful storm of that fort, and had co-operated with
Holkar in harassing the British camp and columns.
The small force of 1,400 Sepoys gallantly resisted
the attacks of this overwhelming body of horse, foot,
and artillery, until they were reinforced by Colonel
Need with the 27th Dragoons and the 2nd Native
Cavalry, when Ameer Khan was repulsed and driven
from the field with the loss of 600 men.

On the 24th January, a strong detachment, con-
sisting of the 29th Dragoons, two corps of Native
Cavalry, and three, battalions of Sepoys, marched out
of camp, for the protection of supplies from Agra,
and, on the 28th, set out from that city with the con-
voy, amounting to 50,000 bullocks, carrying grain,



58 Life of Sir George Pollock.

and about 800 bullock "hackeries," laden with
stores and ammunition, 8,000 rounds of 18-pound
shot for the battering guns, and six lacs of rupees.
The next day the convoy encountered the entire
cavalry force of the confederate chiefs, but General
Lake opportunely arriving with the whole of his
remaining cavalry, and two corps of infantry, the
enemy shunned a conflict, and on the 30th the whole
column reached the camp before Bhurtpore in safety.

On the 6th February, the British army changed
ground, moving a little to the south-eastward or to-
wards the right, and after driving the enemy's horse
from the vicinity, succeeded in establishing a strong
chain of posts. Every preparation was now made for
the continuance of the siege ; indeed, ever since the last
failure, the utmost exertions had been used for bring-
ing to a successful conclusion the object all had equally
at heart. Fascines were made for use in the batteries,
and wicker-work boats, covered with bullocks' hide,
were constructed to serve as pontoons, besides a
portable raft, about forty feet long and sixteen broad,
buoyed up by oilskin casks, for the passage of the ditch.

On the 12th, the British army before Bhurtpore
was cheered by the arrival of a Bombay division,
which, under the command of Major-Greneral Jones,
had traversed the heart of the Mahratta empire from
Gruzerat. This division consisted of two 12-pounders,
2 howitzers, and twelve 6-pounders ; four battalions
of Sepoys, His Majesty's 86th Eegiment, and eight
companies of the 65th ; with a troop of Bombay



Life of Sir George Pollock. 59

Cavalry, and about 500 Irregular Horse. In all 700
European, and 2,400 native troops.

It was at this time that George Pollock first met a
man with whom he was much associated in after life
in the political management, as member of the Court
of Directors, of the vast fabric of British valour and
genius, in the building-up of which the two young
soldiers were then actively engaged. Colonel Wil-
liam Sykes, subsequently so well known and much
respected as the Chairman of the East India Company,
Member of Parliament for Aberdeen, and Fellow of
numerous learned societies, was, in 1805, a subaltern
of one of the Bombay Native Infantry Eegiments,
and made the acquaintance of the young Bengal
Artillery officer in the trenches before Bhurtpore.

The greatest harmony prevailed between the troops
of the two Presidencies, and among the component
parts of the force. The Bengal and Bombay divi-
sions strove which should have the precedency in the
honourable task of reducing this stubborn fortress.
With a laudable zeal the soldiers of the western
Presidency solicited immediate employment in the
perils of the impending assault ; while their brothers
of Bengal, though exhausted by previous exertions
and losses, no less earnestly petitioned for permission
to give the finishing stroke to the hitherto unsuccess-
ful operations of the siege. Among the troops more
peculiarly animated with this noble emulation, the
military historian of the war particularly notices the
branch of the service to which the subject of this
Memoir belonged. He says :



60 Life of Sir George Pollock.

"In this application the Bengal Artillery dis-
tinguished themselves by their solicitude ; for though
few in number, and fatigued beyond conception by
working the guns ever since the commencement of
the siege without ever having been relieved, the very
thoughts of being deprived of their post distressed
them exceedingly, and they entreated permission to
discharge the duties of their station alone."

It was now determined to carry on regular ap-
proaches, and to form batteries within 400 yards of
the walls, the distance of 700 yards, at which the
batteries had been previously erected, being much too
great. Accordingly, on the llth of February, a
battery of six 18-pounders, and another carrying one
10-inch, three 8-inch, and four 5-^-inch mortars, being
completed, opened their fire ; while a battery of two
1 2-pounders was in progress of erection still nearer,
to play on the defences on the right bastion.

These batteries kept up an incessant fire until, on
the 20th, the breach being as practicable as it was
supposed to be capable of being made with the ex-
ceedingly limited means at General Lake's disposal,
a storming party was ordered to the trenches at an
early hour, so as to be in readiness for the attack as
soon as the repairs and stockades made in the breach
during the night should have been demolished again.
Approaches were carried on to the brink of the ditch
at which extremity a mine was intended to be made
for the purpose of blowing up the counterscarp, and of
thus effecting a sloping ascent. The storming party,
under the chief command of Lieutenant-Colonel



Life of Sir George Pollock. 61

Don, was formed into three columns. The first,
consisting of 200 men of the 86th Eegiment from
the Bombay division, and the first battalion of the 8th
Eegiment Bengal N. I., the whole under the command
of Captain Grant of the former corps, was ordered to
carry the enemy's trenches and their guns outside the
town; a second column, composed of 300 of the 65th
Eegiment, and two battalions of Bombay Sepoys,
was to attack the Beem Narain gate, which, according
to report, was easily accessible for guns ; while the
third column, headed by Colonel Don himself, was
formed of the principal portion of the European
troops in the Bengal division, and three battalions of
Sepoys, and was to ascend the breach. But an un-
fortunate occurrence happened, which postponed the
assault for some hours, and gave the besieged confi-
dence. Major Thorn thus describes the details of a
sally made by the enemy during the previous night,
and the subsequent attempt to storm :

"In the course of the night the enemy made a
sally, and several crept into the approach at daybreak
without being perceived, as our men always left the
place before that hour. Here they remained some
time, demolishing the preparations that had been
made for the chamber, and carrying off the imple-
ments and utensils. Our storming party had but just
reached the trenches, when the sounds of tom-toms
or small drums announced a sally ; soon after which,
the enemy were seen rushing from their concealment,
and running along the top of the approach, armed



62 Life of Sir George Pollock.

with long pikes and tulwars, with which they killed
and wounded several of our men below ; but being
met by the 22nd flankers, under Lieutenant Wilson,
a number of the assailants were bayoneted, and the
rest fled in the utmost disorder. This affair being
over, our batteries renewed their fire, in order to
complete the breach, and about half-past three in the
afternoon the attack began.

" Captain Grant's assault was the signal for the
whole to move out, which took place a little before
four. It was arranged that the storming party
should be preceded by fifty men, carrying fascines,
which they were to throw into the ditch, then wheel
outwards, and keep up a fire of musketry to the right
and left, while the foremost were to cross over and
ascend the breach. Unfortunately, however, our men
were prevented from advancing according to the
original plan, owing to the imperfect construction of
the approach, and their being exposed to an enfilading
fire on the right and left from the enemy's guns,
which were previously drawn behind the parapet on
the narrow neck joining the curtain to the bastions.
To increase these impediments, the knowledge which
our men had that the enemy were in possession of
the extremity of the approach for a considerable time
in the morning, diffused a general damp, lest the
chamber should be loaded, and the whole be blown
up the instant of their advance. Thus a gloom was
spread over the party, which became still more dismal
and discouraging from the groans of the wounded,



Life of Sir George Pollock. 63

and the convulsions of their dying comrades, who,
after their sally, had been unavoidably left exposed to
the fire of the enemy. Our whole party had to pass
through the approach, which, being narrow, the
troops in the rear could not possibly get on till the
foremost moved out and made way for them.

"These, however, refused to advance in spite of
all the exertions and entreaties made use of by Colonel
Don, who then called to the troops behind to follow
him, on which the brave remains of the 22nd flankers,
assisted by the 12th Eegiment, stepped out at once,
supported by two 6 -pounders, under Lieutenant
Swiney. These guns, being run out upon the plain,
were to keep up a fire of grape on the walls and
bastions whilst our troops attempted the assault. A
tall Sepoy, in running into the ditch near the breach,
showed that it was impassable ; but some others dis-
covered a bastion on the right, of so rough an appear-
ance as to present the chance of climbing up by it,
which several tried and succeeded. In this daring
adventure one of the 22iid flankers was blown from
the muzzle of a gun just as he was entering the
embrasure. The colours of the 12th Eegiment of
Native Infantry, however, were planted on the top of
the bastion, but the ascent was so difficult, only one
man being able to mount at a time, that sufficient
numbers could not get up to support each other, and
maintain possession of the advantage that had been
gained. At this period the enemy, under an idea
that our party was near, sprung their mines in the



64 Life of Sir George Pollock.

breach, of which mistake had our men, who were still
in the approach, availed themselves, dashing instantly
out after their officers, the place would in all proba-
bility have been taken, especially as the enemy had
no more mines to spring, and the breach was now
become much larger and easier of access by the ex-
plosion. Fourteen officers succeeded in climbing up
very near the summit of the bastion, and would have
tried to carry it at the most imminent risk, had not
Colonel Don, who saw the uselessness of the attempt
without support, recalled the whole party. The
column under Captain Grant was more fortunate, by
gaining immediate possession of eleven of the enemy's
guns, all of which were brought off to the camp.
But the column from the Bombay division, under
Lieutenant -Colonel Taylor, notwithstanding the
exertions which they made, failed in effecting their
object, owing to their being delayed by a large body
of the enemy's horse, and to the mistake of their
guide ; so that they were very early exposed to a most
destructive fire from the town, which, by destroying
the ladders, rendered the attempt on the gate impracti-
cable, and obliged the Colonel to draw his men under
cover, until he received orders to return to camp."

The whole business was more disastrous and more
humiliating than either of the previous assaults,
indeed, almost more so than any event in our Indian
military history. For the first time in that history
the British soldier showed the white feather, and
would not even follow where the despised Sepoy led



Life of Sir George Pollock'. 65

the way. Where so much poltroonery was exhibited,
it is pleasant to reflect on the cool courage displayed
by that handful "of 22nd flankers," and on the gal-
lant little band of fourteen British officers, who,
thank God ! did not belie the reputation that English
gentlemen have, all the world over, acquired for
holding life cheap when weighed in the balance with
honour.

Lieutenant Pollock, in common with every officer
and soldier, from the Command er-in- Chief down-
wards, watched with feelings of mortification and
shame the progress of the momentous drama enacting
before his eyes.

Some interesting particulars regarding the siege,
and strictures on its conduct, in a series of anony-
mous articles, under the title of "Military Auto-
biography," understood to have been the composition
of a distinguished Bengal officer, appeared, in the
years 1833 and 1834, in the columns of the East
India United Service Journal, published in Calcutta.
From these and other sources some further details
may be gleaned. It appears that on the morning of
the day appointed for the storm, the courage of the
garrison had been elevated to the highest pitch by
the slow progress of the siege and the impunity with
which they had murdered the wounded and mutilated
the slain left behind after each assault; thus animated,
they made a desperate sally upon the head of the
trenches, gained possession of them for a time, and
were only repulsed after they had killed many men

5



66 Life of Sir George Pollock.

and the officer of His Majesty's 75th commanding
the advance. They gained and retained possession
also of a trench in advance of the lines, from which
it was proposed to dislodge them and follow them
closely into the breach. Then it was that the men
of His Majesty's 7 5th and 76th Eegiments, who were
at the head of the column, refused to advance, and
the few gallant fellows of the 22nd who obeyed the
order, being wholly insufficient for the service, were
recalled. The entreaties and expostulations of their
officers proving of no effect, two regiments of Native
Infantry, the 12th and 15th, were summoned to the
front, and gallantly advanced to the storm. General
Lake, in his despatch, which is of a very meagre
nature, merely says the troops were delayed by cir-
cumstances, the nature of which, however, he does
not mention. The " circumstances " above detailed
explain the unhappy character of the delay. Much
may be said in palliation of conduct so unaccountable
in British soldiers, and which, it is pleasant to dwell
upon, was subsequently nobly redeemed. The men
were tired and disheartened by the conflict in which
they had been engaged during the forenoon, and were
imbued with the notion that in the advanced trench,
which had been occupied by the enemy, a mine was
laid by which they would be blown up. In this state
of exhaustion and panic it would have been judicious
to have deferred the assault, as persisting in it
paralyzed so large a portion of the storming force.
General Lake, however, thought otherwise. When



Life of Sir George Pollock. 67

the column reached the ditch it was, as before, im-
passable ; but some of the men, inclining to the right,
contrived to turn it and clamber up the rugged slope
of the flanking bastion, and the colours of the 12th
Eegiment of Native Infantry waved from the summit
of the slope. There was, however, still a perpen-
dicular parapet of some height to be surmounted, and
as this was resolutely defended by the garrison, all
efforts to scale it were productive only of the destruc-
tion of the assailants ; two or three men did get in
at the front embrasure of the wall, but they were
instantly cut to pieces by the enemy.

Our loss in this disastrous affair was very severe,
amounting to 49 Europeans and 113 natives killed ;
176 Europeans and 556 natives wounded; total, 894
casualties, and 28 officers, of whom Captain Nelly and
Lieutenant Swiney of the Artillery, were wounded.
The latter gallant officer lived for more than half a
century after that 21st February, to talk over the
dangers of this disastrous siege with his comrade and
intimate friend, the subject of this Memoir.

Notwithstanding the reverses already sustained, so
apparent an approximation to success induced Lord
Lake to direct a repetition of the attack. As it was
supposed that the bastion up which some of the
storming party had climbed, might be rendered per-
fectly easy of ascent by more battering, he resolved
to renew the attempt on the following day. " Im-
pressed with deep concern," says the historian of
the war, " at what had happened, the Connnander-in-

5 *



68 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Chief appeared on the parade the next morning and
addressed them in terms of affectionate regret rather
than stern severity. He expressed his sorrow that
by not obeying their officers yesterday they had lost
the laurels which they had gained on so many occa-
sions, but that, being yet willing to give them an
opportunity of retrieving their reputation, he now
called for such as chose to volunteer in another effort,
to step out. Overpowered with shame and remorse,
they all volunteered to a man, and Lieutenant Tem-
pleton, with a noble fervour of patriotic zeal, offered
to lead the forlorn hope."

The same morning the battering guns, having been
traversed a little to the right, opened a hot fire, with
the little ammunition that was left, on the portion of
the works to be assailed, and made so large a gap at
the bottom of the bastion that it was supposed the
weight of the superincumbent part would bring the
whole down to the ground. This expectation failed,
and yet General Lake adhered to his fatal resolve to
storm a bastion that had not yet been breached.
The assaulting column was strong enough numeri-
cally, and was inspired with sufficient ardour to carry
any work that human courage and determination
could master ; but here was placed before them an
impossible task, and their numbers, as multiplying
the amount of food for powder, simply tended to
increase the slaughter. The storming party consisted
of the whole of the European portion, and two bat-
talions of Native Infantry, of the Bengal division, the



Life of Sir George Pollock. 69

greater part of His Majesty's 65th and 86th Begi-
ments, the Bombay Grenadier battalion, and the flank
companies of the first battalion of the 3rd Eegiment
of Bombay Native Infantry, the whole under the
command of a gallant soldier, the Hon. Brigadier
Monson. The column moved to the assault about
three o'clock in the afternoon, and the men, on pass-
ing the Commander-in- Chief, cheered him lustily as
an expression of their confidence in him, and their
determination to carry the place and avenge their
slaughtered comrades or die in the conflict.

" Nor," it has been well observed, " did their con-
duct in the onset discredit the resolution which they
manifested at setting out." The bastion to be
attacked was extremely steep, and though the gap
that had been made in it below sheltered those that
could avail themselves of its protection, the stormers
could do no more than cower at its foot. The
military writer whom I have before quoted, prefaces
his account of the assault with a statement that
appears almost incredible were its veracity not proved
by the sequel he goes on to describe, and by the
statements of other eye-witnesses. Speaking of the
gap in the bastion made by the fire of the breaching
batteries, he adds, " There was no possibility of
getting from thence to the summit." What en-
sued is best told in his own words. Surely never
were the lives of British soldiers more uselessly
sacrificed.

"Several soldiers drove their bayonets into the



jo Life of Sir George Pollock.

wall, one over another, and endeavoured by these
steps to reach the top, hut were knocked down hy
logs of wood, large shot, and various missiles from
above. Others attempted to get up by the shot-
holes, which our guns had here and there made ; but
as only two at the most could advance in this
dangerous way, they who thus ventured were easily
killed ; and when one man fell he brought down with
him those who were immediately beneath. All this
time the enemy on the next bastion kept up a sweep-
ing and most destructive fire on our men, and made
them suffer extremely. That gallant young officer,
Lieutenant Templeton, who so nobly volunteered to
lead the party, was killed just as he had planted the
colours near the summit. Major Menzies, the aide-
de-camp of the Commander-in-Chief, obtaining leave
from the General, had flown to the scene of action,
where, by his animating language and heroic ex-
ample, he greatly encouraged the troops ; but he, too,
fell, after having actually gained that perilous
eminence.

" During this tremendous struggle and scene of
death, several efforts were made on the curtain and
other places, wherever the soldiers thought they could
discern an opening that promised them the chance of
success. While our troops were in this distressing
situation, the enemy kept up an incessant fire of grape
shot against them, and the people on the walls con-
tinually threw down upon their heads ponderous
pieces of timber and flaming packs of cottoD, pre-



Life of Sir George Pollock. 71

viously dipped in oil, followed by pots filled with
gunpowder and other combustibles, the explosion of
which had a terrible effect. The struggle was, indeed,
carried on with the most determined resolution on
both sides, and our men evinced throughout the
fearful conflict an astonishing and almost desperate
degree of valour. Colonel Monson strained himself
to the utmost in maintaining the unequal struggle ;
but at length, seeing that the case was hopeless, after
two hours' arduous and almost unparalleled exertion,
he was reluctantly compelled to relinquish the attempt
and return to the trenches."

The Commander-in-Chief, in his despatch, attri-
buted this disastrous failure to the steepness of the
ascent, and the inability of the assailants to mount
except by small parties at a time ; but the fault lay
entirely with himself, and he cannot be justified for



Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 6 of 40)