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having thus needlessly sacrificed his brave troops.
There was no breach, and the attempt to carry the fort
by scrambling in disorder up the walls of a bastion,
in which no firm footing could be found, and where
the party was exposed to a murderous fire, and to an
equally destructive shower of deadly missiles from a
numerous garrison, strong in position and exulting in
spirit, has been pronounced "an inconsiderate and
unjustifiable casting away of men's lives."

The British loss was proportionately heavy, and,
indeed, it is somewhat singular that the casualties at
each of the four assaults delivered between the 9th
January and the 22nd February were in a " crescendo "

72 Life of Sir George Pollock.

scale. On this, the last attempt to storm the fort, it
consisted of 69 Europeans and 56 natives killed, 410
Europeans and 452 natives wounded; in all, 987. The
folio wing were the names of the officers who fell Major
Menzies, aide-de-camp ; Captain Corfield and Lieute-
nant Templeton, of His Majesty's 76th Eegiment ;
Lieutenant Hartley, of the 2nd battalion of the 15th
Bengal Native Infantry ; Ensign Lang, of the 1st
Grenadiers, Bombay Native Infantry ; and Lieutenant
Go wing, of the Artillery. 28 officers were also wounded,
including Captain Pennington of the Artillery.

Young Pollock had a narrow escape from death
when his friend, Lieutenant George Gowing, of the
Artillery, was killed. During the crisis of the assault
the former quitted his battery, and, proceeding to
that of Lieutenant Gowing's which adjoined his, stood
on a limber box by his friend, and watched the
exciting scene. Suddenly he heard a dull, heavy,
smashing sound, and, looking round, saw the Artillery
officer by his side falling to the ground. He caught
him in his arms, when the first eager glance at his
face showed him where a musket ball had penetrated
over the right eye. The unfortunate young fellow
was carried up to camp, and George Pollock, when
the whole sad business was over, and 1,000 men had
fallen during those two hours, made his way to his
friend's side, but just in time to see him breathe his
last, after lying in a state of insensibility since he had
received the wound.

Thus ended the attempt to carry the fort of Bhurt-

Life of Sir George Pollock. 73

pore. The writer of the " Military Autobiography,"
adverting to the blame imputed to the Engineers for
the repeated failures of the attack upon Bhurt-
pore, remarks, " Who the commanding Engineer was,
I have met with nobody who could exactly tell ; I
believe the office passed through the hands of several
individuals during the siege, but no one of them was
of sufficient character, either in respect of influence
or experience, to take upon himself the responsibility
attached to so important a situation. He had
undertaken to besiege a large, populous, and strong
place with means that were totally inadequate for
such an enterprise, and in a military point of view he
was highly culpable." The writer proceeds to blame
the Government for not providing the means whilst
it enjoined the enterprise ; but admitting the neglect,
this does not exonerate a General left, as Lake was,
with large discretionary powers, from the culpability
of attempting objects which his utter want of means
rendered impossible of attainment. Lake, in a letter
to the Governor-General, dated 1st July 1805, re-
viewing the proceedings of the siege, directly imputes
to his engineers, " a want of ability, knowledge, and
experience in sieges;" though, as Mills says, no
" Commander-in-Chief is fit for his office, who is
not himself an engineer." General Lake was cer-
tainly not one; neither his education, nor his
experience, nor his temperament qualified him for
directing the operations of a siege. It is said
that he proposed to attack Bhurtpore as he had

74 Life of Sir George Pollock.

assailed Allyghur, by bio wing open the gates, in which,
according to the opinion of competent authorities,
there was great likelihood that he would have suc-
ceeded ; however, he was advised to the contrary, and
it was determined to attempt to breach with a very
ineffective battering train, with a great deficiency of
officers instructed or experienced in the art of military
engineering, and with a vast amount of ignorance as
to the strength of the fortifications. The despatches
of the Commander-in-Chief, regarding the details of
the unsuccessful assaults, are extremely meagre, but
he attributed the failures chiefly to the extent of the
place, the numbers of its defenders, the strength of its
works, and, lastly, the incapacity of his engineers.

The attempts to carry the fortress had cost the
army, which, exclusive of cavalry, numbered 10,000
bayonets, of whom only 1,800 were British, no less
than 3,100 men and 103 officers killed and wounded ;
and it is lamentable to think that nearly all this loss
might have been saved had not the first assault
miscarried through the delay occasioned by the dis-
order in advancing, and the troops losing their way.
At that time, the place, but for these accidents, must
have fallen ; for it is related that the inhabitants were
in the utmost confusion, and were using every effort to
effect their escape from a town, the fate of which,
remembering the capture of such hitherto impregnable
forts as Ahmednuggur and Asseerghur, they considered
as already sealed. The failure, therefore, of the first
assault, while it multiplied Lord Lake's difficulties,

Life of Sir George Pollock. 75

inspired the enemy with confidence, which increased
during the siege to such a degree that, in proportion
as the besiegers employed their energies for the re-
duction of the place, they quickened their ingenuity
in providing the means for its defence.

But our loss, severe as it was, did not end with the
death and maiming of 3,200 men ; a far more valua-
ble sacrifice was entailed by the abortive siege of
Bhurtpore than was represented by this terrible
casualty roll. We incurred a loss of prestige in the
eyes of all the native governments and peoples of
India that was not restored until, twenty-one years
subsequently, Lord Combermere (better known as Sir
Stapylton Cotton, of Peninsular renown) gained a
step in the peerage as Viscount Combermere of Bhurt-
pore, by storming the fortress which had defied the
utmost efforts of his predecessor, Lord Lake, the
victor of Laswarree. The native chiefs also began to
flatter themselves that our skill and our prowess were
on the wane. Marshman relates how the remem-
brance of our disgrace was perpetuated even in remote
districts by rude delineations on the walls of British
soldiers hurled from the battlements of Bhurtpore.

After the failure of the 22nd February, the siege
was converted into a blockade. The guns were ren-
dered perfectly unserviceable, by reason of the vents
having become blown ; so large were they, through
the incessant and protracted firing, that during the
latter portion of the siege George Pollock relates
that the gunners had to " serve " them with

7 6 Life of Sir George Pollock.

sandbags ! Only think of that, artillerymen and
seamen- gunners !

On the 24th February the army took up a fresh
position to the north-east of Bhurtpore, but not
without being much harassed by the enemy's horse,
who took advantage of the absence of the cavalry.
This, consisting of three regiments of Dragoons,
three regiments of Native Horse, and a division of
Horse Artillery, had been detached on the 8th
February by General Lake, in pursuit of Ameer
Khan, who had proceeded with his predatory horse
into Eohilcund, of which he was a native. Major-
General Smith, who commanded the force, effected
the deliverance of the English residents at Morada-
bad, who had taken refuge in the judge's house,
which had been prepared for resistance, and in which
they defended themselves for two days. The Mah-
ratta force then moved towards the hills, destroying
and plundering some insignificant villages. Fearing
that his retreat might be cut off, Ameer Khan re-
traced his steps, but was intercepted and brought to
action near Afzulgurh, on the 2nd March. Some
vigorous charges were made by the enemy, but the
latter were resolutely encountered and driven from
the field with great slaughter, among the killed being
three of their principal sirdars. Our loss was 35
rank and file, and 4 officers, killed and wounded.
After the plunder of some other towns in Eohilcund,
and some fruitless operations against detachments
and convoys of the British, Ameer Khan recrossed

Life of Sir George Pollock. 77

the Granges on the 13th March, attended, according
to his own account, by no more than 100 men. He
contrived, however, to collect some of his scattered
forces, with whom he rejoined Holkar on the 20th
March. General Smith returned to camp on the
23rd, having effectually frustrated Ameer Khan's
predatory designs.*

In the mean time, the greatest activity still pre-
vailed for the renewal of the siege of Bhurtpore, and
every preparation was made to carry to a successful
issue the great object, the necessity of effecting which
had now become imperative. Convoys, with sup-
plies of all kinds, from different parts, and battering
guns with ammunition from Futtyghur and Allyghur
arrived daily in camp. Here fascines were being
manufactured in large quantities, and the old guns,
which were unserviceable, were repaired and rendered
efficient. But a change had come over the views of
the Eajah, and he became alarmed at the perseverance
evinced by the British commander in the proposed
prosecution of the siege, as well as disgusted with
the exactions of Holkar and Ameer Khan, from
whom he had no longer anything to hope. He felt
also the loss of his territories and revenues, and,
impressed with these considerations, availed himself
of the intelligence of General Lake's advancement to
the peerage, notification of which had just been
received from England, to open up negociations with

* Life of Ameer Khan.

7 8 Life of Sir George Pollock.

a view to the establishment of peace. Runjeet
Singh accordingly sent a letter congratulating the
new peer, and offering to proceed in person to the
British camp. In consequence of this overture, the
"vakeels" of the Eajah were received on the 10th
March, and negociations for a treaty immediately

On the return of General Smith with the cavalry,
Lord Lake, who had not abated one jot of his accus-
tomed energy, marched out of camp on the 29th
March, with the view of beating up the quarters of
Holkar, who, with his remaining force, lay about
eight miles to the westward of Bhurtpore. Holkar,
however, managed to give his Excellency the slip,
and removed to a considerable distance south-west of
the city, where he doubtless thought himself very

On the 2nd of April, the experiment of a surprise
was renewed by the British General, and with com-
plete success. The cavalry and horse artillery came
up with the enemy at daybreak, before they had
time to mount their horses, and utterly routed
Holkar' s whole army, 1,000 of whom were left dead
on the field of battle ; while the Mahratta chieftain,
who so shortly before boasted of his power, and of
his intention to drive the Feringhees into the sea,
was himself forced to fly across the Chumbul with
the remnant of his army, once numbering 90,000

On the 8th April, the British force once more

Life of Sir George Pollock. 79

changed ground, marching round and taking up its
encampment nearly in the same place it formerly
occupied south-east of the town. The Eajah of
Bhurtpore, dreading the renewal of hostilities,
hastened to conclude the treaty, and on the 10th, the
preliminaries were signed. On the following day,
his third son arrived in camp as a hostage for
arranging the definitive terms, and was received by
Colonel Lake, the son of the Commander-in-Chief,
who went out to conduct him to head-quarters, where
two tents were pitched for his accommodation. The
prince, who is described as about twenty-five years of
age, was clothed in a plain white dress, and attended
by a small suite. There being few difficulties to
surmount, the treaty was soon provisionally executed;
and a few days after the arrival in camp of the son
of Eunjeet Singh, a duly qualified officer proceeded
with the treaty to Bhurtpore, where it received its-
formal ratification in the signature of the Eajah.
The terms of the treaty were to the following effect :
The fortress of Deig to remain in British hands until
the Government should be assured of the Eajah's
fidelity, who, on his part, pledged himself never to
hold any correspondence or have any communication
with the Company's enemies, nor to entertain without
its sanction any European in his service. He further
agreed to pay the Company twenty lacs of rupees, in
four instalments, and, as a security for the due
execution of these terms, to deliver up one of his
sons as a hostage.

8o Life of Sir George Pollock.

All hostilities being at an end, the battering guns,
with the sick and wounded, under escort of four
battalions of Native Infantry, were sent back to
Agra, and on the 21st April, the whole British army
broke up its encampment before Bhurtpore, after
lying three months and twenty days before that

While the siege was in progress, George Pollock
received a letter from his brother Frederick, then a
student at Cambridge, and with whom during his
long and adventurous life he ever kept up an unflag-
ging correspondence, in which occurs the following
passage, referring to his belief that he was going
into a decline : " While you are earning the bubble
reputation at the cannon's mouth, I am gaining the
bubble reputation in the jaws of a consumption."
He had met with a severe accident at college, which
caused him much suffering, and his health appeared
to him very precarious. It is strange to reflect how
both the brothers attained an extreme old age, and
in the year 1870, on the occasion of the last anni-
versary of his birth that Sir Frederick was permitted
to celebrate, (his 87th,) the subject of this Memoir, in
proposing the health of his brother to a large party
assembled at Sir Frederick's house, referred in
humorous terms to the forebodings of more than
sixty years before, and illustrated his remarks by
pointing to the distinguished lawyer the contem-
porary and friend of Peel sitting at the head of
his table.

Life of Sir George Pollock. 8 1

The British army marched from Bhurtpore to
Jettore, on the Chumbul, with the object of threaten-
ing Sindia, who had set up pretensions to the fortress
of Gwalior. At this time it mustered, with native
contingents, no less than 30,000 fighting men, swelled
by camp followers to an aggregate of 300,000 souls.
The Bombay division, under command of General
Jones, took the route towards Eampoorah on the 10th
May, and on the morning of the 20th the Bundel-
cimd column, under Colonel Martindale, began thoir
march towards Gwalior. During the course of the
following day, the quartermasters of the native corps
were ordered off to Muttra and Agra to construct
temporary buildings for their respective regiments ;
and on the 26th and 27th May, the remainder of the
army marched in divisions for Dholpore, where they
came together again on the 28th. Here they halted
till the morning of the 31st, when a portion pro-
ceeded to Agra, under General Dowdeswell, while
the remainder, with the Commander- in-Chief, were
quartered at Muttra and its vicinity.

George Pollock proceeded with his battery of 6-
pounder field guns, under the command of Captain
Eaban, to Murabad, a fort within sight of Gwalior,
and here he remained for some months during the
monsoon. Our relations with Sindia were, during
the months of April and May, in a very critical con-
dition. This restless and ambitious chief had formed
plans for the recovery of his power, and was in
treaty early in April with Ameer Khan, Holkar, and


82 Life of Sir George Pollock.

the Eajah of Bhurtpore, for an offensive alliance
against the common enemy, which indeed was only
rendered abortive by a deficiency of the sinews of
war ; and with this tightness in the money market
all three of these chiefs were afflicted, fortunately for

At this juncture there arrived in India, on the 30th
July, Lord Cornwallis, who had been appointed to
succeed Lord Wellesley by the Court of Directors,
that body not being satisfied with the policy of the
latter nobleman. That the closing portion of his
Yiceroyalty, owing to Lord Lake's failure at Bhurt-
pore, was not as successful as the first years, around
which was shed the halo of great victories, is in no
measure the fault of the brother of the Duke of
Wellington, who will go down to posterity as one of
the greatest of Governor-Generals, as will also his
administration as one of the most memorable in the
annals of British India. The Marquis Cornwallis,
being a military man, brought out a commission as
Commander-in-Chief, and thus Lord Lake found him-
self superseded ; but it was not for long, as, on the
5th October, death removed the venerable nobleman
from the scene of his former labours and successes.
The helm of affairs was now placed in the hands of
Sir George Barlow, of the Bengal Civil Service, who
became provisional Governor-General, while Lord
Lake returned to his post as Commander-in-Chief.
It was, perhaps, fortunate for the destinies of our
Indian empire that, the General who had succumbed

Life of Sir George Pollock. 83

to Washington at York Town did not long wield
supreme power ; but into the vexed question of the
peace-at-any-price policy the Marquis Cornwallis had
been sent out to inaugurate, we will not enter here,
as foreign to our purpose.

Much credit is due to Lord Lake, who, by his firm-
ness in insisting that Sindia should release the Bri-
tish Resident, Mr. Jenkins, and restore his plundered
property, threatening him with a renewal of hostili-
ties in the event df a refusal, caused that chief to
effect an adjustment of all existing difficulties with
our Government.

Early in August, Lieutenant Pollock proceeded to
Agra, and from thence went to Muttra, when he called
upon Lord Lake, with whom he was intimate. In
those days there was much less of that stiff etiquette
that now obtains, even in India, in the intercourse of
senior officers with their juniors : having once had an
introduction to the Commander-in-Chief, he always
found a knife and fork, together with a warm wel-
come, awaiting him at the table of the leader of so
many big battalions. On calling on his Lordship in
the early morning, he was met by Lord Lake, who
cordially shook him by the hand, and saluted him
with, " I can't do anything for you now, my dear
boy ; Lord Cornwallis has arrived in the country, and
I am no longer Commander-in-Chief." However, the
new Governor-General's death soon after enabled him
to place in a responsible position the young officer of
artillery, whose soldierly qualities he well appreciated,

6 *

84 Life of Sir George Pollocfi.

and in whose indomitable perseverance and energy of
character he doubtless recognised the qualities that
make a great and successful military leader. Lord
Lake sent for him to Muttra, and appointed him to a
command almost without precedent in the case of an
officer not yet out of his teens, that of the artillery
of a field-force under the orders of Colonel Ball,
which formed one of the columns ordered for
the pursuit of Holkar, who, after his flight,
retreated to Eajpootana, and, having collected some
artillery and a large body of followers, had formed
the determination to march northward in search
of plunder and conquest. According to his own
description of himself, he was now destitute of any
other estate or property than what he carried on his
saddle-bow, and, therefore, as an adventurer he was
resolved to seek both, either among friends or

Holkar managed to elude the columns under Gene-
ral Jones (who marched from Eampoorah) and Colo-
nel Ball in the Eewary Hills, which had been sent
to intercept him in his line of route to the Punjaub.
The detachment to which George Pollock was attached
consisted of three regiments of Native Infantry, one
of which, the 8th, considered among the finest corps
in the Bengal army, was under the command of
Major Lumley. The Artillery, which formed the
only European portion of the force, consisted of a
field battery of six 6-pounders. Soon after marching,
the Sepoys broke out into open mutiny, and refused

Life of Sir George Pollock. 85

to proceed any further until they had received the six
months' pay which was still in arrear, and, moreover,
complained that they had not sufficient to eat. So
serious an aspect did matters assume, that Colonel
Ball called out Lieutenant Pollock's guns, and, when
on parade, ordered him to open on the mutinous corps
if they continued to decline to obey orders. Fortu-
nately, matters were settled without having recourse
to measures that would probably have resulted in the
massacre of every European in the force. Colonel
Ball had a quantity of specie, in the shape of gold
mohurs, and he offered to hand over to the Sepoys,
for exchange into smaller coin, a sufficient sum to
enable them to receive all arrears. The mutineers
eagerly closed with the proposal, and the troops were
paid up, when they returned to duty and proceeded
in pursuit of Holkar. That chief, notwithstanding
his reverses, still exhibited a vigorous and daring
spirit, and collecting together the fragments of the
armies that had been broken up by our successes,
soon mustered to his standard 12,000 horse, 3,000
foot, and 60 guns. With these he pushed on past
Delhi, raising forced contributions on his route, and
closely pursued by Lord Lake, who, with all his
cavalry and a compact brigade of infantry with guns,
encamped, on the 9th December, on the classic banks
of the Beeas, the ancient Hyphasis, in the neighbour-
hood of the spot where, twenty-one centuries before,
the great Macedonian conqueror had erected altars to
commemorate the limit of his conquests. In this

86 Life of Sir George Pollock.

region, now for the first time penetrated by British
arms, but which was .destined exactly forty years
afterwards to be the scene of a sanguinary struggle
between the Christian and the Sikh, was received, on
the 25th December, the ratification of the treaty with
Sindia, when the British artillery roared forth a
double salute in honour of the sacred day and of the
conclusion of peace.

Holkar, now a helpless fugitive, sent an envoy to
Lord Lake to sue for peace, and a treaty, drawn up
under the instructions of Sir George Barlow, was
signed early in January, 1806, by which the
Governor-General, much to Lord Lake's disgust,
actually restored to Holkar all the family domains
south of the Chumbul. Our allies of Boondee and
Jeypore were, under circumstances of unparalleled ill
faith, left to their fate, and suffered every exaction at
the hands of the incensed Mahratta chieftain, who
had previously let loose his lawless soldiery on the
territories of the then young and rising Sikh Eajah,
Eunjeet Singh, who, four years later, indignantly de-
scribed him to an English envoy as a "pucka Hurum-
zada" a proper rascal.

So ended the war with the famous Mahratta chief-
tains, Jesvvunt Eao Holkar and Sindia ; but in
consequence of the ill-advised policy of Sir George
Barlow, the snake was scotched, not killed ; and within
twelve years, another Governor-General, the Marquis
of Hastings, had to set in motion an army of 100,000
men, in order to crush one of the most formidable

Life of Sir George Pollock. 87

hostile combinations with which our power in India
has ever been threatened.

After the unsuccessful pursuit of Holkar, and on the
conclusion of peace, Lieutenant Pollock was stationed
with his battery at Meerut,* then a frontier station.
There was not a bungalow when he arrived at this
place, which subsequently became the head-quarters
of his regiment; it was not until 1809, when canton-
ments were first erected at Meerut, that it became the
head-quarters of a General of division of the Bengal
army, and of a brigadier of the first class ; but since
those days, the name of this magnificent station bears
an evil sound in English ears, as the spot at which
was inaugurated, by a massacre and an act of whole-
sale incendiarism, the terrible scenes of the great
Indian mutiny.

George Pollock remained some few months with,
his battery at Meerut, until, early in 1806, Lord

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 7 of 40)