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had for me an intense interest. As a boy they made my
pulse throb quickly when I read them in Peter Parley^s
Annual, and they excite me still in no small degree. I
always loved to hear old soldiers talk about their daring
comrades in long forgotten fights. I still remember many
of their exciting stories. Here is one about Meeanee,
the battle fought by Sir Charles Napier, which gave us the
province of Scind. It may be truthfully said that it was
won by the 22nd, now known by its older title of the Cheshire
Regiment. It was the only British regiment present. Its
colonel was then a fighting gentleman from Tipperary, a
man of the old school, who knew little of strategy, and whose
tactics consisted in going straight for his enemy to knock
him down. He was afterwards well known at Aldershot
as Sir John Pennyfather, " the swearing general." The
day after he assumed command at Aldershot, an officer
quartered there was asked in a London club if Sir John
had yet appeared there. The reply was : " Yes, he swore
himself in yesterday." He seldom expressed any decided
opinion without the accompaniment of an oath, although
the real kindness of his disposition — well known to his
soldiers — was on a par with his daring courage. His
regiment was his home, and all ranks in it were to him his
children. It had lost heavily in the battle, and as he

I?.



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

looked upon its thinned ranks that evening, he fairly broke
down. Intensely proud of what they had done that day,
and with tears coursing down his cheeks, he said to them :

" I can't make you a speech, my lads, but by , you

are all gentlemen."

Never, I believe, in classical or in modern times, has a
more effectivje speech been made by a leader to his men after
a battle. It was just the praise they valued most, for they
believed it to be the highest compliment any man could
pay them. They felt it ; they were proud of it. Un-
premeditated, it went straight from the colonel's feehng
heart to the hearts of the gallant soldiers he commanded.

At the time I write of, all the troopships and most of the
East-Indiamen sailed from Shecrness. During the last
week of June, 1852, I embarked in the Maidstone, a full-
rigged ship of between 800 and 900 tons, quite a respectable
sized vessel in those days. She belonged to the Wygram
Company of shipowners, the rival of the still greater com-
pany of Green and Co. Captain Peter Roe commanded
her, an experienced and able sailor, and socially a very
superior man in all respects. He kept up the reputation
of the old class of vessels known as East-Indiamen, a class
then fast disappearing, and entirely unknown to the present
generation. His officers were men of good manners, and
the ship's crew were all good British sailors, except the
boatswain, a first-rate man all round, who was either a
Dane or a Swede, I forget which. The carpenter was a
character — a Highlander — who knew the history of Scotland
well, and who could have passed with credit an examination
in Sir Walter Scott's novels. He might have been the
original " Chips " of Captain Marryat's manly stories.

The anchor weighed ; we were towed down the rixer until

14



EMBARK FOR INDIA

our sails could be of use, and we were under all sail before
nightfall. We made good weather throughout the follow-
ing day, and I can well remember my thoughts and feelings
as I gazed earnestly upon the green fields and white cliffs
of dear old England, not knowing whether I should ever see
them again, or at least when I might do so. How I thought
of my mother, all through life my first care. Poets imagine
that men sa}^ to themselves the night after a battle : " What
will they say in England ? " I beheve that by far the
largest proportion of men think of their mother, and of her
valued love for them. x\t least so it has been all through
my life. But then I had the best and dearest of mothers ;
happily, most men think that also.

I had never been a good sailor, so I kept my hammock,
or rather swinging cot, for a couple of days, and then
struggled on deck. It was my apprenticeship to the sea,
and I have scarcely ever been seasick since. In those days,
all passengers had to furnish their own cabins. I had
another ensign as my cabin companion, Mr. Grahame,
22nd Regiment, whose younger brother subsequently
joined what I have always called " My Regiment," the
90th Light Infantry, as it was the only one with whose head
quarters I ever did duty. He spoke with a Scotch accent,
and had all the proverbial qualities of his race. His brother,
who was killed at the Alum Bagh, was one of the very
bravest men I ever knew : I shall refer to him later on.
Our cabin was spacious enough, with a large square port-
hole, which in ordinary weather, when we were on the lee
side, we were usually able to keep wide open. The first
warning we generally had of bad weather coming on was
the appearance of the fine old Scotch carpenter to screw
up this port. When so fastened down in the tropics the

15



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

cabin became unbearable, and I for one could not sleep
below, for the cockroaches flying about and settling at
times on nose or face made me bound out of my cot to
hurry up into the delightful air and quiet of a night at sea
when near the Line.

We had onboard about 150 soldiers, and some women and
children belonging to them. There were a few old sergeants
and a small number of old privates who, having been in-
valided from India and restored to health at home, were
returning — without any doubt to die with their regiments
in the Bengal Presidency. The man allotted to me as a
servant was one of these. He was an Irishman of the
loth Foot, and upon my asking him why he had been
sent home, said he was invalided from Die-sentary. I
said inquiringly, " from where ? " He repeated that he had
nearly died from Die-sentary in India. His meaning then
da\\Tied upon me, and I realized how much accentuation
had to do with our language. How difficult it must be for a
foreigner to understand us, when a misplaced accent in
our pronunciation of a well-known disease renders its
meaning unintelligible amongst ourselves.

Our commanding officer on board was a tiny little man,
an old lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment, who had
taken part in the Sutlej campaign of 1846. At the head of
that regiment was an Irishman named Franks — well known
in the Army then as a terrible martinet — who was hated
by all ranks under him. No officer in the regiment would
accept the position of adjutant, so harsh was he even to
his officers. A lieutenant was at last found in another
regiment who was willing to accept it, namely young Henry
Havelock, the most daring of men in action and full of
military ability. He often told me stories about the strange

16



VOYAGE TO INDIA 1852

colonel he had then to serve with — a man as rigorous and
uncompromising towards his officers as he was in all his
dealings with the rank and file. Just before the battalion
moved into action the day of Sobraon, the colonel said to
his men : "I understand you mean to shoot me to-day,
but I want you to do me a favour; don't kill me until
the battle is well over." It was quite true ; they
had meant to shoot him, but the coolness with which the
request was made, the soldier-like spirit and indifference
to death it denoted, the daring and contempt for danger
he displayed throughout the battle, so won their admiration
that they allowed him to live. But history tells us he
never reformed.

Life on board an East-Indiaman, before steamers went
round the Cape, or a railway had been made across the
Isthmus of Suez, has been often told by more graphic pens
than mine. It was a wearisome monotony usually spent,
I think it is Macaulay who says so, in making love and in
quarrelling. Our doctor was a Hercules in strength, and
a sad story was told of him which, in its main features was,
I believe, true. He, with his wife and child, were upset from
a boat in some river ; he took one under each arm, and swam
vigorously for shore. Becoming exhausted, he had to
drop his child to save his wife, whom he brought safely to
land.

We had but few books, and they were of little count,
but it was amusing to watch the idiosyncrasies and study
the characters of those around one. The captain held him-
self very much aloof from all of us, but if I had had to pick
out the man who had most in him and was made of the best
stuff, I should have selected him. There seemed to be
so much reserve force about him that ^he was a problem

VOL. I. 17 c



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

to me, little as ever he deigned to say to me during the
voyage. However, I was very independent of others, for
I pored over a Hindostani grammar and phrase book, and
without any Moonshee to guide me, tried to read fables
and little stories in what was then known in India as " the
vernacular." This with drawing, keeping an elaborate
journal, and revelling in the few military works I possessed,
enabled me to get through the long days of sunlight more
easily, I think, than my companions. I roamed about the
yards and upper rigging, the main top in fair weather being a
favourite reading place. I have sat there for hours with a
book in my hands, and many were the visits I paid to the
main truck. The most trying thing for the nerves, however,
was to go out along the bowsprit and then back on board,
hand-over-hand along the bobstay under the dolphin-striker.

This running about the rigging supplied me with the
bodily exercise that is so necessary for muscular vigour,
and was an outlet for my pent-up energy, which, on board
ship, required a safety-valve to prevent an explosion.
When approaching squalls led to the order, " all hands,'*
or even "' watch shorten sail," I usually took my place
with the reefers on the mizzen-top-sail-yard, and enjoyed
the fun and excitement immensely. To lean far over the
yard and pick up the reef points whilst the luffed sail flapped
violently about your legs with the seeming object of striking
your feet from the rope you stood on, was pleasantly ex-
citing. But though I was the only passenger who thus
amused himself, the daily occupations of all were more
muscular than mental.

We sighted Madeira and some small islands and rocks
during our voyage to the Cape, all of which I sketched.
Their outlines with a bright sky above and a very blue sea

i8



CROSSING THE LINE

beneath gave us something to talk about, and provided me
with objects for my sketch book.

We had some of the amusing ceremonies then usual when
crossing the Line, but in a modified form, for I believe there
was a rule against their being played at on board troopships
with all their old-fashioned formalities. The week or fort-
night during which sailing-ships were usually becalmed
in the neighbourhood was then about the most tedious and
temper-trying period of a voyage to India. For hours,
sometimes for days, your vessel drifted about, with flapping
sails and not enough wind to enable you to keep your
course. The rubbish thrown overboard from the ship's
galley after breakfast floated about your taffrail all day,
and you were lucky if you did not see it still there next
morning. There were generally at this season of the year
other Eastern-bound ships in sight in those latitudes.
Sailors never liked to get their vessels too close then, for
on this calm and, as it were, painted sea, when they ap-
proached very near one another, they were apt to close in,
being drawn together by the afiinity which bodies of loose
matter have one for the other when no counteracting force
is there to keep them apart. We often signalled to other
ships situated as we were, but we never communicated by
boat, as we were told was not an uncommon practice under
like circumstances in those latitudes. Sometimes boats
were had out, I understood, to tow the becalmed ships,
but we patiently awaited the very light winds which every
now and then enabled us to keep steerage way on the good
ship. Shark catching afforded us occupation and subject
for conversation, but altogether it was a dull time, and
taking us all in all, we were a dull, uninteresting lot on
board the old Maidstone.

19



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

The one ardent hope that cheered me tlirough the long
monotonous days spent amidst uncongenial companions
on board this ship was that I might reach Burmah in time
to see some active service there. I thought then, I think
still, that this was a manly, elevating aspiration, for surely
war with all its horrors exercises a healthy influence on all
classes of society. There is an epoch in the history of nations
when man becomes so absorbed in the pursuit of wealth
and the enjoyment of ease, that the drastic medicine of
war can alone revive its former manliness and restore the
virility that had made its sons renowned. Storms, we are
told, drive away noxious vapours injurious to bodily health.
War may cause havoc, but the ruins of Thebes, of Carthage,
of Greece and of Rome, remind us that unmanly vices killed
the races which built these once famous and powerful cities.
It is man's wrong-doing, not his desire for glory, which
destroys his efforts to be great. Conquering races may be
inferior as poets, artists and writers to those they subdue,
but the latter would not have been subdued had they
retained the manly virtues that made their forebears great.
National greatness can only continue to thrive whilst it has
fighting strength for its foundation. War, though it may
mean a hard struggle for national existence, is the greatest
purifier to the race or nation that has reached the verge
of over-refmement, of excessive civilization. That verge
is the edge of a precipice at whose base lie millions in every
form and phase of mental and bodily decrepitude,

A favourable voyage of fifty days, devoid of all striking
incidents, found us at last anchored in Table Bay, the port
of Cape Town. That capital of our South African Colonies
was then a very small but most picturesque place, com-
pared with the very dusty smoky city of to-day. We

20



CAPE TOWN

sailed into the bay in the early morning when the view
was both striking and delightful. The now overbuilt
hill, known as the Lion's Rump, was richly green, some
few villas scattered over it, whilst the town itself was
brilliantly lit up with the rays of the morning sun. Between
it and the base of the steep and rocky Table Mountain
behind, was a rich belt of trees into which seemed to run
all the main streets leading up from the sea. The Bay
faces the north-west, and as the worst wind blows from that
quarter, no year then passed without some ships being
driven ashore. The consequence was, that on the beach
at the south-eastern end of the Bay, we saw the remains
of what were once noble ships, that, having dragged their
anchors or parted their cables, had been wrecked there at
various times. We came in for one of these hurricanes, as
I shall describe a little further on.

We had no sooner anchored than the ship was surrounded
with boats manned by Malays, and laden with fruits of
many kinds.

Trips to Wineburg and places in the neighbourhood were
now the order of the day. I pitied the poor rank and file,
in whom, at that period, sufficient trust was not placed to
be allowed ashore. Even now, I may say in parenthesis,
if the old school were allowed their way, they would receive
very much the same treatment. We were asked out, and
whether it was from being so long on board ship, or that the
Dutch girls at the Cape were pretty, we found them very
pleasant and attractive. A short time after our arrival,
when it was my day of duty on board ship, the signal was
made from shore to look out for a nor'-wester. The wind
grew rapidly higher and higher, and the sea came rolling
in with great violence. Some of the smaller craft drifted

21



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

past us towards the fatal beach at the upper end of the Bay,
where several went ashore. All the big ships, riding with
double anchors, had already paid out most of their cables
when the signal was made to us from Fort Amsterdam,
'* prepare to land troops ; boats will be sent," All the men
at once paraded on deck, and I was told off to take charge
of the first boatload. A very fine and capacious sort of
open yawl was soon alongside, into which about thirty
men or more were packed as best we could. It was a
matter of serious danger in such a sea to get from our ship
on board this large cargo boat. We shoved off, but the sea
was too much for us, although my boyish yachting experi-
ence told me how admirably she was handled by her Dutch
crew. Every moment I thought she must go over, so
much so that I kept my hands on the buckle of my sword
belt, ready to cast it off the moment she did so. Reason
told me I could do very little to save myself in such a sea,
but I was at any rate determined to make a fight with it
for my life. The skipper struggled hard to make the shore,
but at last gave it up. He said the wind and sea had risen
so much since he had left the landing place that even if
we had succeeded in making it the men could not have been
landed. We accordingly headed back to the ship, and
were mostly slung on board. I was much struck with the
quiet manner in which the young soldiers behaved, obeying
with alacrity all orders given to them.

Having stayed about ten days at the Cape, we set sail
for Calcutta, sighting the little islands of St. Paul's and
Amsterdam in the very stormy seas of that far-off parallel
of southern latitude. In those days all ships bound for
the Bay of Bengal followed the western trades as far as
those islands, and making " a new departure " from them,

22



CALCUTTA 1852

turned northwards towards the mouth of the sacred Ganges.
Before the end of October, we had sighted the low-lying
mudbanks near the mouth of the river Hooghley. We
anchored more than once, after taking a pilot on board
at the " Sand Heads," and successfully passed the very dan-
gerous reach of the river, known as the " James and Mary."

As we neared Calcutta we heard minute guns being fired
from Fort William, and wondered and asked one another
for whom they could be, I can remember as it might have
been yesterday the shock, the thrill, I experienced — I am
sure those around me felt it also — when a voice from the first
boat alongside cried out, " The Duke of Wellington is dead."
As we had speculated upon whom it could be who had
passed away, strange to say, the great Duke's name had
occurred to none. From earliest childhood we had been
so accustomed to hear him referred to as the greatest of
living men, that my generation had grown up to regard
him as an Immortal, and as a national institution. Every
voice was hushed, and in a moment all was silence on deck.
Had we been told a king was dead, we should in duty bound
have cried, ''Vive le Roi.^^ But where was another Welling-
ton to be found ? There were many kings and heirs-apparent,
but the world possessed only one " Iron Duke," the great
conqueror of Napoleon, who had at Waterloo freed many
prostrate nations, and restored peace to an exhausted
Europe.

England's mainstay had parted, and the nation had so
much forgotten how long its noble purpose had been ful-
filled, that when the catastrophe came it was unexpected.
It seemed for the time to be a knock-me-down blow past all
recovery. Our national influence abroad, as well as our
security at home , was felt to be no longer what it had been

23



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

whilst our great captain and pilot lived. There was no one
who could take his place in the Councils of our Sovereign.
She had lost her most valued friend, the strongest support
of her throne, the statesman, honest, truthful, and frank
as he was wise, to whom she could at all times turn for ad-
vice with the fullest confidence. Wellington was dead.
And all on that deck who heard the news as it was called
out, felt that England was no longer what she had been.

We have since had many able ministers, devoted to their
country's interest, and also a host of self-called statesmen
devoted to politics, but to compare the best amongst them
all with the great soldier and patriot then taken from us
would have been as ridiculous as to have spoken of the
wherry alongside with all the importance and admiration
usually bestowed upon a three-decker.

His was no churchwarden-like policy, and his reputa-
tion for general sagacity, as well as for military leader-
ship, was as fully recognized abroad as it was with us. Not
very many years before his death war between Prussia
and France was believed to be inevitable. As the Prussians
had no great general then, their king turned to Wellington
and asked him to take command of the Prussian army
should war be forced upon him. His answer was very
characteristic of the man. He said he was the Queen's
servant, and would do as she ordered him. This is a fact
little known, for the expected war was postponed for
another generation.*

* The negotiation in this matter was carried on by Lord WiUiam
Russell, then our Minister in Berlin, and copies of the correspondence
were in the hands of Lord Arthur Russell, his son, who showed them
to me.



24



CHAPTER II

Land in India — On Active Service in
Burmah in 1852-3

ALL the soldiers on board the Maidstone were sent by
river from Calcutta to Chinsura, an old Dutch
settlement, where the English drafts for regiments in the
Bengal Presidency were then annually collected before being
sent to their respective destinations. There we were lodged
in a long range of officers' quarters, an unusual thing in
India, and every room was crowded with cornets and
ensigns awaiting their marching orders. It was a dull
dreary mildewy-looking place, without any possible amuse-
ment, except snipe-shooting in the neighbouring rice fields,
where snakes abounded, and bad fever was to be easily
caught. However, neither snakes nor dread of fever
deterred boys like myself from the sport, for the snipe were
plentiful. I wish all our amusements had been as harmless.
The church stood within twenty yards of our verandah,
and its tower was adorned with a clock whose dial terribly
and temptingly resembled a target. Idling all day, it was a
frequent amusement to use it for pistol practice, until it
became so plastered with bullets that either the works were
injured or the hands were prevented from moving. At
least something of the sort took place one day, for the

25



THE STORY OF A SOLDIER'S LIFE

clock suddenly stopped, and thenceforward during the
remainder of our stay at Chinsura the hands pointed to
11.15.

One evening a party of young officers started to pay a
visit to the French settlement of Chandernagore. It was
within an easy drive for a one-horse buggy, along a level
road. The party dined at the inn there, and all partook
freely of French wines. Having paid the bill they started
to return, and a very jovial and a somewhat too noisy lot
they were. As luck would have it, before leaving the
settlement — it is only about a mile square, one side being
the river — they had to pass a guardhouse of French sepoys.
Not thinking much of any native soldiers, and having a
thorough contempt for those in the French service, the
Devil prompted one of the party to propose they should
stop and disarm this guard. No sooner said than done —
they seized the arms of the guard and dispersed the sepoys,
who fled for their lives.

The poor clock had been destroyed and did not remon-
strate, but the governor of this French settlement did,
and there was a terrible uproar. His flag had been insulted !
However, before anything serious could come of it, the
young perpetrators of this silly joke were on their way to
join their regiments in the North- West Provinces, the
Punjaub, etc., etc. I think what most led to this mad
incident was a British contempt for this ridiculous little
settlement, not larger than a good kitchen garden in the
midst of our great Indian Empire.

While I was at Chinsura, one of the great annual Hindoo
festivals came off. Such beating of tom-toms and pictur-
esque processions to the river ghats ! A native who supplied
us with all we needed in the way of beer and wine, invited

26



CHINSURA

me to his house to see the god he had had built for the holy
function. Each family of any note or fortune in the place
had their idol made for the solemn rite. It looked somewhat
like the images of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic churches,
except that instead of being draped in a satin costume of



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