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Lake, as a reward for his good services, appointed him
quartermaster of one of the battalions of artillery
stationed at Dumdum, to which place he accordingly
proceeded. Soon after he was selected for this post,
he became adjutant and quartermaster to the artillery
in the field at Cawnpore, which somewhat lucrative

* Meerut was one of the early in history, Tamerlane, which sig-

conquests of Mahmoud of Ghuz- nines the "lame" Timour and

nee, the founder of the Ghuzni- was rehuilt afterwards, though

vade dynasty, who took it in 1018; Nadir Shah, Gholaum Caudir,

it was destroyed in 13!>9, by Ti- and Sindia, successively desolated

mour or, to speak of him by the it.
name by which he is best known

88 Life of Sir George Pollock.

staff appointment he held until his promotion to
full captain.

In those days the officers of the East India Com-
pany received two commissions ; one from their more
immediate masters, the East India Company, signed
by the Governor-General, and a second from the King,
which gave them relative rank with the royal troops,
but only in India. Young Pollock received a com-
mission as Captain-Lieutenant, signed by the Gover-
nor-Greneral so far back as the 17th September, 1805,
and as an officer of the same rank, his King's commis-
sion was dated the 1st December, 1809. On his
promotion to full captain in the Company's service,
on the 1st March, 1812, he was ordered once more to
head-quarters at Dumdum ; and the brigade-major of
his regiment falling sick, and being ordered to sea to
recruit his health, Captain Pollock was appointed to
the very responsible post, for so young an officer, of
brigade-major to the whole of the Artillery.* While
at Dumdum he met with a severe accident, breaking

* By additions made to the officers. The regiments of infantry

strength of the artillery in 1809, had been increased since George

1812 and 1814, the regiment, in Pollock's arrival in India, from

1815, consisted of one horse bri- twenty-five to thirty-one, with a

gade of three troops, three Euro- due promotion among the officers,

pean battalions of seven compa- yet though the artillery, between

nies each, and one Native battalim 1802 and 1815, had been raised

of sixteen companies, together from twenty-one to forty troops and

with forty-two companies of lascars companies, only a lieutenant-colo-

and twenty-six companies of ord- nel and major had been added to

nance-drivers. But these addi- each of the three foot-battalions

tions were made without any in 1806. (Buckle's History of the

corresponding increase to the Bengal Artillery.)
numbers of the commissioned

Life of Sir George Pollock. 89

his leg while riding on horseback ; but this, which
would have incapacitated some men, did not induce
him to discontinue his duties. Sir John Horsford, the
distinguished Commandant of Artillery, expressed his
satisfaction at the efficient manner in which he carried
on the duties of the office, which he continued to
transact until the return of fche officer for whom he was
officiating obliged him to fall back to the command of
his company. For some few years after the submis-
sion and death of Holkar, who came to a miserable
end as a raving lunatic on the 20th October, 1811,
there was peace in India, only broken by expeditions
against the French islands of Mauritius and Java in
1810-11, and the Portuguese settlement at Macao in
1 809. With these we have no concern here, nor with
the serious Sepoy mutiny at Yellore in 1806, or that
of the European officers of the Madras army three
years later.

On the supersession of Sir George Barlow, Lord
Minto was appointed Governor-General, and this high
office he held until 1812, when, in spite of the great
success of his administration, he was, through an un-
worthy court intrigue, himself superseded, though it
was thought proper to qualify the indignity by the
conferring of a step in the peerage a sort of sop
which has been not inaptly described as being " kicked
up-stairs." His successor, Lord Moira, known in
Indian history as the Marquis of Hastings, did not
reach Calcutta before October, 1813; the period of his
government was one of the most eventful and glorious

90 Life of Sir George Pollock.

in Indian history, as it is likewise one of the longest,
extending from October, 1813, to the 1st January,
1823, the date of his embarkation for Europe. It
was remarkable for the successful prosecution of the
Nepaulese war of 1814-16, and of the great struggle
with the Pindarrees and Mahrattas, extending from
the 16th October, 1817, to early in the following
year a struggle which placed the power of the Com-
pany at a higher pitch than had been attained by
Akhbar or Aurungzebe, or any former occupant of
the throne of the Moguls.

When Lord Hastings arrived, he found himself
under the necessity of undertaking hostilities against
the Nepaulese, a course which had indeed been be-
queathed to him by his predecessor, who tried every
peaceable means of settling existing differences.
During the twenty-five years preceding the com-
mencement of the war of 1814, the Nepaulese, or
Goorkhas, as they are more generally called, not con-
tent with the possessions they had acquired in the
hills by a policy of encroachment on their neighbours,
began to look with a covetous eye at the fertile low-
lands lying at their feet, and at length had the pre-
sumption to lay claim to, and seize, the two districts
of Bootwul and Seoraj, in Goruckpore, though they
had been ceded to Lord Wellesley by the Nabob Vizier
in 1801. An inquiry was held into the merits of the
question, and the Goorkha envoys, being unable to
establish their, claim, Lord Minto forwarded a
demand to the Nepaul regency in June, 1813, for the

Life of Sir George Pollock. 91

immediate restitution of the districts, and intimated
that, in case of a refusal, they would be occupied by

The new Governor-General was constrained, on his
arrival, to carry out the policy of his predecessor, in
the justice of which he moreover fully concurred. A
refusal by the Goorkha Cabinet to resign the districts
was followed by an imperative demand for their ces-
sion within twenty-five days. This period expired
without any communication from the Nepaulese
regent, and the magistrate of Goruckpore was directed
to expel the Goorkha officers, and establish police sta-
tions in the two districts. Meanwhile, at Katmandoo,
their capital, a council of war, composed of twenty-
two chiefs, had been held, at which Umur Singh,
their most renowned general, advocated a conciliatory
course, saying, " We have hitherto been hunting deer,
but if we engage in this war we must be prepared to
fight tigers/' Several other chiefs offered similar
wise counsel ; but the regent and his party, swelling
with conceit of their national prowess, and instancing
our repulse at Bhurtpore as a specimen of our pusil-
lanimity, carried the day, and the council resolved on
war. A large force was accordingly hastily sent down
to Boot wul. The European police officer of the district
was murdered in cold blood on the 29th May, and
eighteen of his men were put to death ; the gauntlet
was thus thrown down, and the Government of India
found themselves involved in hostilities.

9 2 Life of Sir George Pollock.


Nepaul, 1814-16. Burmah, 1824-26.

IN forming the plan of the approaching campaign
with the hardy mountaineers of Nepaul, Lord
Hastings considered it of paramount importance that
a bold assault should be made on the strongest of
the enemy's positions, as it would be highly impolitic
to confine our operations to the almost impossible
task of defending an immense line of frontier. With
a view, therefore, to distract the attention of the
Nepaulese regency, and divide their force, he planned
four simultaneous attacks on as many points the
western, on the Sutlej ; the eastern, on the capital ;
and two others on intermediate positions.

Marshman, in his " History of India/' sums up
the resources of the Nepaulese at this juncture, and
their ability to wage a war with the conquerors of
Hindostan, as follows : " The whole Groorkha army
did not exceed 12,000 men, and it was scattered over
an extensive frontier ; their largest gun was only a
4 -pounder, and it appeared an act of infatuation in
the Nepaul regency to defy the British power, but
the uninterrupted successes of a quarter of a century

Life of Sir George Pollock. 93

had turned the hardy little mountaineers into an
army of skilful and courageous veterans, confident in
their own strength, and animated with a strong
feeling of national pride. Their troops were equipped
and disciplined like the Company's Sepoys, and their
officers adopted the English military titles. They
moved ahout without the encumbrance of tents.
They had no sooner taken up a position than they
set to work to fortify it ; every soldier worked at the
entrenchment, and a strong stockade of double pali-
sades, filled up with earth and stone, was completed
in almost as little time as the English soldier re-
quired to rear his tent. But the chief strength of
the Nepaulese consisted in the impracticable nature
of their country and our entire ignorance of its

Of the Goorkha army, one-third, under Umur
Singh, guarded the fortresses on the Sutlej ; 2,000
were distributed between the Jumna and the Kalee
rivers, and the remainder protected the capital and
its neighbourhood. The combined force of the four
British divisions numbered 30,000 men, with sixty
guns. Major-General Sir Eobert Gillespie, who had
quelled the mutiny at Yellore, and had earned a
brilliant reputation in Java, was first in the field,
and on his way to lay siege to the fortress of Nahun,
assaulted, with characteristic impetuosity, the forti-
fied post of Kalunga without waiting for his
artillery. His troops were repulsed with the loss of
twenty officers and 240 men ; and the brave General

94 Life of Sir George Pollock.

himself, while leading them on to a second assault,
was shot through the heart. At length, when the
garrison had heen reduced from 600 to 70, the survi-
vors sallied out and escaped. Major-General Martin-
dell, who succeeded to the command, blundered
terribly, and, though having a force of 1,000
Europeans and 5,000 natives^ allowed himself to be
held at bay for four months before the fort of Jytuk by
2,300 Goorkhas. Major- General Marley, who com-
manded the principal division, 8,000 strong, behaved
in a still more discreditable manner. After losing a
month in doing nothing, two detachments he had
sent to assault two points far apart from each other,
were simultaneously attacked on the 1st of January
by the Goorkha troops, and, being without any sup-
ports, were beaten with the loss of guns, stores, and
magazines. The General then fell back to guard the
frontier, and representing that he was overmatched
by the enemy (who, however, never exceeded 1,200
in number), Lord Hastings reinforced him so as to
raise his total strength to 13,000 men. "But,"
says the historian, " General Marley could not be
persuaded to enter the forest, and, on the 10th of
February, mounted his horse before daylight and
rode back to the cantonment of Dinapore, without
delegating the command to any other officer, or
giving any intimation of his intentions."

His successor, Major- General George Wood, though
not so pusillanimous, was little more successful. An
encounter was accidentally brought on with the

Life of Sir Gcoryc Pollock. 95

Goorkhas, in which 400 of their number perished,
and though, dismayed hy this reverse, they left the
road to the capital open, the General had not the
spirit to take advantage of his opportunity, and his
division was likewise lost to the object of the cam-
paign. But the disgraceful incompetence which
seemed to paralyze the leaders in this war, happily
without parallel in our annals, was not confined to
these divisional commanders.

Major-General John Sullivan Wood, who led a
third column, was smitten with a like imbecility.
His division, which was appointed to retake Bootwul,
and penetrate Nepaul through Palpa, did not take
the field until late in December, when, without
making any reconnoissance, and trusting to a
Brahmin guide who played him false, he allowed
himself, on the 14th of January, 1814, to be brought
unexpectedly on the stockade of Jeetpore. In spite
of a heavy and galling fire that was opened upon
them by the garrison of 1,200 men, the British
troops, numbering some 4,500 soldiers, attacked the
works in front, and, while a detachment of the 17th
regiment carried a hill to the right, seven companies,
under Major Comyn, effected a passage between the
stockade and Bootwul, and approached the eminence
on which the latter was situated. But General
Wood, though success was almost within his grasp,
apprehensive that it would be impossible to drive
the Goorkhas from the thickets at the back of the
stockade, the possession of which rendered the post

96 Life of Sir George Pollock.

untenable, determined to prevent what he consi-
dered a fruitless waste of lives, and sounded a retreat.
Nor did his distrust of his chances of success end
here. Conceiving his force to be inadequate for
offensive operations, he confined his measures to
arrangements for the defence of the frontier, concen-
trating his troops at Lantan, covering the road to
Goruckpore ; the border line was, however, too exten-
sive and too vulnerable to be thus protected, and the
Goorkhas penetrated repeatedly at various points,
inflicting serious injury, and spreading alarm through-
out the whole district. As the division moved to
repress incursions in one direction, depredations were
committed in another. The town of Nichoul was
burnt to ashes, and at one time Goruckpore was not
considered safe. Reinforcements were pushed up to
the British General without delay ; and with these
arrived Captain Pollock, who, being the senior officer
of artillery, took command of that arm of the

It was while he was in command of the artillery
at Futteyghur that he heard more guns were
required, and, with characteristic ardour, imme-
diately wrote to the Adjutant-General, volunteering
his services at the seat of war. These were at once
accepted, and Captain Pollock marched forthwith to
the front with the 7th Company 3rd Battalion, and
3rd Company 2nd Battalion. Arriving after the
miserable business at Jeetpore, he was spared the
mortification of seeing a British force return when

Life of Sir George Pollock. 97

victory was almost within its grasp ; but he was
destined to witness, without the power of con-
trolling, the imbecility which characterized the con-
duct of General Wood. This officer, whom Pollock
described as a gentlemanly, pleasant man to have
dealings with, and one well suited to command in
cantonments during the piping times of peace, but
without a single qualification to lead an army in
war, now chiefly employed the large reinforcements
he had received in the retributive destruction of the
enemy's crops in the lowlands ; and the only plan
of operations he appeared competent to devise con-
sisted in thus counteracting the irruptions of
the enemy, and in removing the population of the
British territory to a greater distance from the

But the gallant leader of the fourth division re-
trieved the honour of the British name, and prevented
it from becoming the laughing-stock of all the bazaars
throughout India. This General was none other
than David Ochterlony, the same soldier who so bril-
liantly held Delhi against the forces of Holkar, when
he sought to capture the capital of the Moguls
by surprise. His division, which was destined to
operate against the Goorkhas from the territories
they had acquired on the higher Sutlej, was pitted
against picked troops under their redoubtable leader,
Umur Singh, who, by his skill, courage, and resource,

* " History of British India." By Horace Hayman Wilson.


98 Life of Sir George Pollock.

was a worthy opponent of the ablest of British, gene-
rals in the field. It would not be easy to imagine a
more difficult field for military operations, but General
Ochterlony was equal to the occasion. The campaign
which he conducted during five months, was carried
on with the utmost skill at an elevation of more than
5,000 feet above the level of the sea, at the most in-
clement season of the year, and amidst falls of snow ;
in such weather, men and elephants were employed
day after day in dragging the 18 -pounders up preci-
pitous crags. The genius of the General conquered
every natural obstacle, and his gallant troops cheer-
fully engaged in overcoming difficulties which have
only more recently had their counterpart in the
Abyssinian campaign. At length, by a series of bold
and skilful manoeuvres, every fortress was mastered
save one, called Malown, situated on a mountain ridge,
with a steep declivity of 2,000 feet on two sides.
This was held by Umur Singh with conspicuous gal-
lantry, and after an ineffectual assault on the British
works, in which he was defeated with the loss of 500
men, the fortress was surrendered, together with its
garrison of 200. The province of Almora, in the
centre of the Nepaul conquests, was also wrested from
the Goorkhas by Colonel Gardner, an officer of great
merit, and on the 27th of April the strong fortress
of the same name fell to the arms of Colonel

* Afterwards General Sir Jasper Nicolls, Commander-in-Chief in

Life of Sir George Pollocfc. 99

These losses induced the council of regency at
Katmandoo to sue for peace ; but after the negocia-
tions had been brought to a close, and the treaty had
been actually signed by the Goorkha commissioners
on the 2nd December, the veteran chief, Umur Singh,
induced the council to reject its provisions and con-
tinue the war. Lord Hastings took decisive steps to
strike a blow at the capital, and General Ochterlony,
who had been created a baronet, rapidly advanced
with an effective force of 20,000 men. By a brilliant
stroke of generalship, Sir David turned the flank of
the enemy at the first pass on the 14th of February,
and on the following morning the astonished Goor-
khas found the British army posted on the Chorea
heights, which commanded their position. There the
force bivouacked two days without food and shelter,
and, on the arrival of the other detachment, the
General advanced to Mukwanpore, within fifty miles
of Katmandoo, where the Goorkhas made a last stand,
but were completely defeated. The treaty was now
once more sent down in hot haste, and a peace, by
which they ceded certain lowlands termed the Terai,
and the territory of Sikkim, and consented to receive
a resident at their capital, was finally concluded on
the 2nd of March, 1816. From that day to this the
Goorkhas have been our fast friends, and have formed
the elite of our Indian army ; while as our allies during
the great mutiny, these hardy little mountaineers did
good service before Lucknow.

On the conclusion of hostilities, George Pollock

TOO Life of Sir George Pollock.

returned to Dumdum, and on the promotion of the
brigade-major to his regimental majority, Lord Hast-
ings appointed him, in 1818, to the vacant post of
brigade-major to the whole of the Bengal Artillery.
He saw no further service until hostilities broke oat
with the kingdom of Burmah in 1824. During the
intervening years Captain Pollock received, on August
1 2th, 1 819, the brevet of major, and on the 4th of May
following was gazetted to the same substantive rank ;
this promotion, however, was anything but desirable,
for, according to the rules of the service, he had
to relinquish the post of brigade-major. He had
married, in 1810, Miss Frances Webbe, daughter of
J. Barclay, Esq. ; and having to support a family of
young children, who, according to the custom among
Indian officers, had been sent to England for their
health and education, the pecuniary loss entailed by
thus vacating a somewhat lucrative appointment
was a serious consideration. However, Major Pollock
had a friend at head-quarters, Colonel Young, the
military secretary to Government, who went to Lord
Hastings and pithily pointed out to his Lordship
that the artillery officer had not yet paid for the
gilt of his full-dress coat.

" What can I do ?" said the Governor-General,
who, being a military officer of high rank, and hav-
ing distinguished himself in America, was also Com-
mander-in-Chief, " there are the rules of the service."

" Why, your Lordship," replied the military secre-
tary, "appoint him Assistant Adjutant- General to

Life of Sir George Pollock. 101

the Artillery ; " and it was not many days before Major
Pollock found himself in orders. This appointment
he held with credit to himself and advantage to his
distinguished regiment until he received his commis-
sion as lieutenant-colonel, which was dated the 1st of
May, 1824.

A short time before this, a change had taken place
in the supreme direction of affairs in India. In con-
sequence of a despatch from the Court of Directors to
Lord Hastings, in which they insinuated that he was
mixed up with some not very creditable transactions
of the banking firm of Palmer & Co., at Hyderabad,
an insinuation which was indignantly repelled by his
Lordship, and subsequently, after his death, repudiated
by the Honourable Court themselves, the Grovernor-
General resigned the post he had filled for nine years
with so much honour to himself and glory to his
country, as well as profit to his more immediate
masters, and embarked for Europe on 1st of January,
1823.* Mr. Canning! was first appointed to succeed
to the vacant post, but the death of the Marquis of
Londonderry, better known as Lord Castlereagh,
induced him to join the Ministry instead. Lord

* His Lordship, who came to f It is a singular circumstance

India as Lord Moira, though he will that, thirty-three years afterward^,

live in history as the Marquis of the son, Lord Canning, succeeded

Hastings, was the last Governor- to the* viceregal chair the father

General who combined in his own was so near occupying. What a

person also the office of Comman- mark the latter great statesman

der-in-Chief. He subsequently held would have left in Indian history,

the post of military governor of with his genius and strong indi-

Malta, where he expired. viduality of character !

IO2 Life of Sir George Pollock.

Amherst was then selected for the office, and he landed
in Calcutta on the 1st of August, 1823. He had not
been long in the country, when, with the evil fate of
most Governor-Generals on their arrival, he found
himself embroiled in hostilities with Burmah.

The Burmese had been engaged for several years
before the war of 1824 in extending their conquests
to the north-west of Ava ; disputes also having
arisen in the royal family of the kingdom of Assam,
the Burmese king interfered, and in 1815 established
a paramount influence in the kingdom. Seven years
afterwards, Maha Bundoola, the great national hero,
completed the reduction of Assam, and annexed it
to the Burmese crown. A little later the valley of
Munipore, lying to the east of Bengal, was absorbed
in the kingdom of Ava, and then, flushed with these
continued successes, this aggressive people entered
the principality of Cachar, but were checked by the
supreme Government. Thus it happened that, in
seventy years, the reigning dynasty had succeeded in
establishing its authority over a territory 800 miles
in length, and extending from the frontiers of Bengal
to China. At length the time for their chastisement
drew nigh. The people, inflated with their easy
successes, entertained an overweening idea of their
own invincibility.

1 ' The English," said the royal councillors, "have
conquered the black foreigners, the people of castes,
who have puny frames and no courage. They have
never fought with so strong and brave a people as

Life of Sir George Pollock. 103

the Burmese, skilled in the use of the spear and

They very soon found a pretext for aggression.
At the southern boundary of the Chittagong district,
at the estuary of the Naaf, lies the little island of
Shahporee, which had always been considered a part
of the Company's territory, and to this the Governor
of Arracan laid claim, as appertaining to Burmah.
A small guard had been posted in it by the Bengal
Government in 1823, and on the Governor-General
declining to cede the island, but proposing the
appointment of a joint commission to investigate

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone LowThe life and correspondence of Field Marshall Sir George Pollock ...(constable of the Tower) → online text (page 8 of 40)