George Noakes.

A historical account of the services of the 34th & 55th regiments, the linked line battalions in the 2d or Cumberland & Westmorland subdistrict brigade, from the periods of their formation until the present time online

. (page 15 of 16)
Online LibraryGeorge NoakesA historical account of the services of the 34th & 55th regiments, the linked line battalions in the 2d or Cumberland & Westmorland subdistrict brigade, from the periods of their formation until the present time → online text (page 15 of 16)
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must now have seen they were playing a losing game.

* Now Lieutenant-GenenJ Sir P. M. N. Guy, E.C.6., Colonel
of the 55th Begimentr



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140 HlfiTOBICAt. AoCOtTNT OP THE

Large numbers of the rebels had, howevei', succeeded in
escaping from Lucknow, for Sir Colin could not with his force
invest a city nearly twenty miles in circumference, and these
spreading throughout Oude helped to swell the large bodies
of armed men which still kept the field, though for a hopeless
cause, and which cost both the Commander-in-Chief and the
Government much anxiety and trouble. However, as soon as
Lucknow was completely in the hands of the civil authorities,
and the aid of the troops no longer required. Sir Colin broke
up his army, and reorganizing the regiments into brigades
and divisions despatched the greater number of them to those
other places where their services were required. One portion
under Sir E. Lugard was sent in a south-easterly direction to
the relief of Azimghur, an important town two hundred and
^ eighty miles from Lucknow ; the infantry, comprising the
^ 10th, 34th, and §4th Regiments, under Brigadier Douglas.

This town had some time previous been cleared of all the
rebels, but as soon as the surrounding district had been
drained of troops by the concentration of the army around
Lucknow they reappeared in arms, and being afterwards re-
inforced by some of the ftigitives from Lucknow, boldly
marched to attack it. It was defended by the 37th Regiment,
with some cavalry and a few guns ; but these could not
prevent the rebels, who numbered four thousand men, under
their bold leader Koer Sing, from taking possession of the
town, which they occupied on the 26th March. As soon as
this news reached 'the city of Benares, from which Azimghur
was distant fifty-six miles, Lord Mark Kerr, with four hundred
and fifly men of the 13th Regiment, was despatched to their
aid, who also convoyed three hundred bullock carts containing
ammunition and stores for the garrison. After a heavy forced
march and much severe fighting in front of the town. Lord
Mark succeeded in reaching the intrenchments on the 6th
April, where he remained watching the rebels until the
arrival of the relieving force under Sir E. Lugard.

Sir Edward started from Lucknow on the 20th March, but
on nearing the Goomtee at Sultanpore he discovered the bridge
had been destroyed, and as he was unable to procure boats, he
proceeded down the right bank of the river towards Jaunpore,
which he reached on the 9th April. In the vicinity were some
three thousand rebels with two guns, but *' they had no stomach
for the fight," and retired before him ; but on ^e following day



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34th and 55th ReaiMBNTS. 141

he went after them with some horse artillery and cavalry, and
inflicted upon them a serious loss, captured their guns, and dis-
persed them completely. He then resumed his march towards
Azimghur, but these unforeseen occurrences had so retarded
his advance, that he did not reach that place until the 15th
April. Koer Sing seems to have thought it not prudent to
wait for Sir Edward, and on the 14th, when the General was
only seven miles distant, he quietly evacuated the town and
moved off towards Ghazeepore. His rear-guard had, however,
not yet left the banks of the Tonse when the British came up,
and an encoimter took place, in which the rebels fought des-
perately, and it was not until after a severe struggle had taken
place that they were defeated. Apprehensions now arose for
the safety of Goruckpore, which lay in their, line of retreat ;
and the 37th and 84th Regiments, with some cavalry and
guns, under Brigadier Douglas, were sent in pursuit, whilst
the 10th, 13th, and 34th Regiments, with the rest of the force,
remained at Azimghur, under Sir E. Lugard.

On the 7th January, 1859, Lord Clyde (for the Commander-
in-Chief had been in the previous August elevated to the
peerage with that title) reported to the Governor-General that
Oude was entirely cleared of the rebels, and that the people,
with their chiefs, having made due submission to British
authority, were settling down in all directions in a satisfactory
manner. A large number of the rebels had, however, again
escaped from his lordship by crossing the border and taking
refuge in Nepaul ; but the Rajah Jung Bahadoor would have
none of them in his territory, and applied to the British
Commander for assistance against them. Brigadier Horsford
was thereupon directed to enter Nepaul, and aid him in ex-
pelling or exterminating the last remnant of those many
thousands which had only a few months before held possession
of the entire country of Oude ; whilst Colonel Kelly, of the
34th, was despatched to the foot of the hills to prevent any
attempt of theirs to return into Oude proving successftd.

The 34th Regiment had moved with the Azimghur field
force from that town on the previous 12th September, but on
the 26th November the left wing, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Simpson, was detached to Fyzabad, whither they were followed
by the head-quarters on the 9th February, 1859. From, this
place the regiment, on the 14th, marched with a battery of
Royal Artillery, a wing of the 13th Regiment, the 3rd Sikhs,



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142 Hmtobioal Aocotjnt op the

and the Jat Horse for the Traaa-Gogra district, in order to
seize two passes through which the rebels might return to the
plains ; and by the 13th March, Colonel Kelly had taken up a
position with one half of his force at Boggah, on the east bank
of the river Gunduk, whilst across on the other bank, at
Nichnowl, he had posted Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson with the
remainder. After a time both forces crossed the ^ntier, and
on the 26th Colonel Kelly attacked the enemy at Bhootwul,
and drove them back into the jungles, with the loss of four of
their guns. Following them up closely, he again fell upon
them on the 28th, and in a sharp action completely routed
them, and captured three guns, six elephants, thirty camels,
and more than three hundred horses, together with a great
quantity of baggage. The rebels left four hundred dead on
the field, but the 34 th escaped without a single casualty. One
of the chiefs, Mirza Nadir, came in directly the action was
over and surrendered himself and fifty of his followers ; but
the others, with the Begum, the Nana Sahib, and Bala Rao,
sought safety beyond the second line of hills, on the Nepaul
territory. After these achievements Colonel Kelly returned
towards Fyzabad ; but learning that a party of rebels were at
Kewanie, he sent a wing of the 34th to disperse them, which
was effected on the 27th April, with the loss of only one man
wounded.* The head-quarters of the 34th entered Fyzabad
on the 26th, and the left wing, under Captain Puget, on the
30th May, where the regiment quietly settled down. It may
be here mentioned that, during the time the troops were in
Nepaul, the Commissariat fed the whole of them upon salt
provisions, orders having been issued that in deference to the
religious opinions of the Nepaulese, no animals were to be
slaughtered in their territory.

The great rebellion had now, as a national movement, been
entirely crushed ; a few rebels still held out in Central India,
but even they were dispersed shortly after. Their great leader,
Tantia Topee, who had so long baffled our best generals, was
captured on the 8th April, and on the 18th hanged at Sepree,
and by the end of that month tranquillity had been restored to



* This man, Private Greorge Bichardson, was awarded the Victoria
Cross for his determined courage in having, although severely wounded,
one arm being disabled, closed with and secured a rebel Sepoy, armed
with a loaded revolver.



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34th akd 55th RseiicxNTS. 143

India, and the reign of her Majesty the Queen, which had
superseded that of the old East India Company on the previous
3rd September, was now acknowledged throughout the whole
of the provinces and dominions, from the Himalayas to Gape
Gomorin. Honours and rewards were freely bestowed upon
the commanders of the different forces, and those officers and
men who had distinguished themselves during the two years of
the rebellion, while the 34th Begiment was directed to emblazon
on its r^mental colour the word " Lucknow," in commemo-
ration of its services during the operations which led to the
capture of that important city.

In December, 1861, the 34th proceeded from Fyzabad to
Seetapore and Eoy Barielly, a wing being at each station,
where they remained until December, 1864, when they
marched for Gwalior, the capital of the dominions of the
Maharajah Scindia, and under the shadow of its famous hill-
fortress they remained at the cantonment of Morar until the
29th January, 1867, when they marched for Calcutta, on their
having been ordered to return to Eng^d. On the following
23rd February the regiment embarked in two divisions, and
on the 10th July the head-quarters landed at Portsmouth, being
followed by the detachment shortly afterwards.

We must now return to the 55th, whom we left in 1857 in
Ireland. After the usual service in that part of the kingdom
the regiment, in June, 1860, moved across to England, and
was located in the camp at Aldershot, from whence, after a
twelve months stay, it proceeded to the Channel Islands, and
remained divided into detachments, which held the usual posts
on the islands of Jersey and Aldemey until May, 1862, when
it mo^^ over to Portsmouth. While stationed in this garrison,
the 55th received orders, in the autumn of 1863, to prepare for
service in India. They had not expected to have gone out
until the following summer, as the usual Indian rdiefi had
ah-eady embarked ; but certain events which had occurred in
New Zealand necessitated the withdrawal frx)m India of two
raiments to meet the pressing wants of the colony, and the
55th and 76th Begiments were ordered out to take tiieir places
in Bengal and Madras.

The 55th embarked in three divisions in October and
November, with a total strength of thirty-five officers, nine
hundi^d and eleven men, one hundred and ten women, and
one hundred and seventy-ihree children, and arrived at Calcutta



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144 HiSTOBIOAL AOGOUNT OF THE

in good health and spirits in February and March, 1864, where
they found one hundred and ten men, volunteers from other
regiments, awidting their arriyal. Their first station was
Hazareebaugh,* which was then considered a fine healthy
cantonment, aJthough it appears to have changed its character
lately, as it has since been condemned unfit for European
troops ; the 5dth, however, enjoyed the best of health whilst
there, and regretted leaving it in November, when after only a
few months stay they were moved up country to Lucknow.
This city they entered on the 13th December, and took up
their quarters in the new infantry lines at Dilkoosha. Here
they expected to have at least a three years stay, but to their
astonishment an order was received on Friday, the 17th.
February, 1865, ordering them to March on the following
Monday to join the Dooii field force acting against Bhootan.
Accordingly, on the 20th the regimeijt marched out of Lucknow,
with a strength of thirty-one officers and seven hundred and
thirty-two men (leaving the sick and all the women and
children behind), and having six officers and one hundred and
eighty-four men of the two companies from Berhampore to pick
up in Calcutta, and on the 23rd reached Cawnpore, the first
break in their journey.

Here it may be as well to explain the cause of this sudden
order to proceed on field service. On the north-eastern comer
of Bengal lay a tract of land called the Dooars, in the possession
of the Indian Government, which the ruler of Bhootan, the
country adjoining it on the other side, had disputed their right
to, and who gave vent to his feelings of animosity by making
frequent raids into the territory, burning the villages, levying
black-mail on their inhabitants, and often carrying th«m off
into captivity. These proceedings caused great alarm in the
tea-growing district of Gowhatty, which- was in close contiguity,
and the authorities, having at first tried peaceful measures by
sending an envoy to remonstrate with them, were astonished to
find their messengers publicly insulted by the Bhootea chiefs,
and their remonstrances ridiculed. They then determined to
chastise them, but forgetting that the hill tribes were never
puny foes, sent only a couple of Sepoy regiments, with a few
artillery and engineers, supposing these ^ould fiighten them

* A detachment of two companies also lay at Berhampore, whither
they had been sent soon after disembarkation.



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34th and 65th Rbqihbnts. 146

hito snbmisBion. But the Bbooteas, although 'tiieywere beaten
from a position in the mountains called Bewangiri, were de-
termined to stop if possible th^r fhrther advance, and they so
harassed them by night attacks and sorprises/ and e^cially
by cutting off their supjdy of water, that the force was at
kngth obliged to evacuate the position and retire down the
pass to their camp of operations. On the way down, the
Bhooteas attacked them in such numbers that the Sepoys lost
courage ; the retreat became a rout, and two Armstrong guns
were obHged to be cast down the hill side to prevent thehr
falling into the hands of the enemy. These, however, the
Bhooteas managed to get hold of, and carried them in triumph
to their capital.

Now liie eyes of the authorities were opened to 1^ im-
portance of their enemy, and to recover their lost prestige a
strong force of men and guns were forthwith despatched to the
Dooars. It had been determined to carry on the war from two
points ; one column was, therefore, directed to operate &om
Gooch Behar on the left, under Brigadier-G^ieral Tytler, and
the other from Gowhatty on the right, under Brigadier-Grenend
Tombs, to each of which a force of European infantry was
assigned. The regiments selected were the 55th and 80th, 'but
as the greatest amount of work was expected on the Oooch Behar
side, where there had already been some severe fighting, one
wing of the 56th was directed with the 80th Regiment to join
that force, whilst only the right wing of the 55li proceeded to
join General Tombs. The regiment, therefore, on its arrival at
Gawnpore, divided into wings ; and the left, •consLsrting'Of sixteen
officers and four hundred and twenty-'three men, under Major
Brown, proceeded by rail on its journey <m the evening of tiie
23rd February.

The right wing, under Colonel R. Htime, left Oawnpore
on the evening of the 251^ on their long railway journey
of seven hundred and thirty miles, and at about noon on
the 1st March marched into Fort William, Calcutta, and
was joined by the detachment from Berhampore. The 55th
remained in the Fort awaiting supplies until the evening oflihe
4th, during which time they were inspected by His Excellency
the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh Rose, who, addressing
them, said, " I can pay you no higher compliment, nor give a
greater proof of my confidence, 'Sian selecting you to settle
iim affair on ^e frootiers, which, I am «ure, you wiU cany



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146 HiSTOBICAL ACCOXJUT OF THE

out as successfully as you have done all other operations in
which you have been engaged." On the 4th the 65th moved
by rail to Kooshtea, from whence, on the 8th, they proceeded
in "flats" up' the river Brahmapootra, and after a slow
journey of thirteen days arrived off Gowhatty on the 2l8t, and
two days afterwards encamped on the opposite or right bank of
the river, where they remained three days. In this short time
sickness had appeared, including a fatal case of cholera, and
the Colonel had so sharp ^n attack of fever that when the wing
moved forwards, on the 26th, he had to be carried in a dhoolie,
but his heart was big enough for anything, and he gaUantly
led his men into the camp of operations at Koomreekhatta on
the 29th, where Greneral Tombs was awaiting his anival. The
General had quite a respectable force under his command,
composed of the following corps : — 14th Regiment of Native
Cavjdry, two batteries of artillery (one of Royal Artillery, the
other Eurasian or half-caste), Ave companies of H.M. 55th
Regiment, thB 12th, 29th (Sikhs), and 44th Regiments of
Native Infantry, a company of Native Sappers, and a force of
Native Police, under Captain Macdonald.

No time was lost in making arrangements for the attack, for
the season was already far advanced for European troops to act
in such malarious districts, and on the morning of the 1st
April the advanced column, consisting of Lieutenant-Colonel
Richardson and the 44th Native Infantry, covered by No. 1
company of the 55th, under Captain Rowland, moved out of
camp and proceeded towards the pass which led to the enemy's
stronghold Dewangiri. Through this pass flowed a mountain
stream, varying in depth from a few inches to four and five
feet, and for some part of the way with the water stretching
right across from the one side to the other. In the pass the
enemy had constructed three stockades, the second of which
was a very strong one, and had been built on the crest of a
ridge hidden by a sudden bend of the river, but they only
fired a few shots at the advanced column, and evacuating
their positions retreated into their block-houses at Dewangiri.
Having penetrated to a ridge opposite them Colonel Richardson
bivouacked for the night, awaiting the advance of the main
column. This, under Colonel Hume, of the 55th, left camp on
the aft;emooD of the 1st, halted for the night at the moudi of
the pass, and starting the next morning at daybreak joined the
advanced column at 8 a,m., which again was shortly after-



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34th and 65th Rboimints. 147

wards joined by the rear cdamn, under lieutenant-Colonel
Wroughton, of the 29th Sikhs.

The enemy's position consisted of eight block-houses,
strongly built of logs of wood, interspersed with laj-ge stones
placed along the crest of a long ridge of hills of very steep
ascent, the faces of which had been cleared of trees and brush-
wood in order that no cover might be afforded to an attacking
force. The attack was, however, confined to the two block-
houses on the enemy's left, they being the principal ones, and
commanding the greater part of the ridge. Greneral Tombs
having ordered the attack to be made, the artillery opened fire
from a position about seven hundred yards distant from the
block-houses, but they made such indifferent practice that afrer
a time they ceased firing to allow the iniantry to storm the
position. This was assaulted by two columns, one consisting
of the 12th Native Infantry and the 29th Sikhs, covered by
Captain Rowland's company of the 55th, moved against the
main block-house, the other comprising a strong body of the
Native Police, covered by half of Captain J. R. Himie's com-
pany of the 55th, attacked the block-house on the extreme left,
whilst the remainder of the regiment were held in reserve
under Major England.

The skirmishers opened fire at a distance of about seven
hundred and Mj yards, and gradually creeping up the side of
the hill effectually kept down the enemy's fire and prevented
them making any formation to repel the assaulting columns,
which were following as close in rear as circumstances would
permit. Their advance had, however, been slow, owing to the
steepness of the ascent and there being no cover but the little
afforded by the inequalities of the ground, while the Bhooteas,
who fought well, kept up a heavy and well dii'ected fire upon
them, and even attempted to charge them, but the precision of
the Enfield rifle was too much for their matchlocks and bows
and aiTows, and they were forced to re-enter their block-houses.
By-and-bye they reached a sort of natural trench, about sixty
yards in front of the position where the assaulting columns
took a brief rest ; presently the bugle sounded the " Advance,'*
and with a ringing cheer the troops rushed over the inter-
vening space, and afler a hand-to-hand fight of a few minutes
duration those of the enemy who could do so ran off to the
rear, leaving the whole ridge, at about twelve o'clock, in the
hands of General Tombs, for the defenders of the other sU



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148 HisTOEiOAL Aocorwr or the

block-houses bad liastily abandoned them on seeing lihe key of
their position captured. It was estimated that from four to
five thousand Bhooteas were in position at Dewangiri under
their noted chief the Tongsoo Penlow, who at the comipence-
ment of the action held the principal block-house, but shortly
afterwards he left it in charge of his second in command, the
Juggar Penlow, with whom there remained about five hundred
men. The Juggar was killed, and of his force two hundred
and fifty were killed or taken prisoners ; the large number of
one hundred and thirty being found dead in and about the
block-houses, and of tibe remainder who were taken prisoners
nearly all (there being very few exceptions) were severely
wounded, but the greater part of the wounded had been carried
off and had otherwise got away, so that their total loss could
not be ascertained. General Tombs' loss had been very severe,
considering the weapons the enemy were armed with, there
being twelve killed and about sixty wounded, of which number
the 55th had one man dangerously and two others severely
wounded.

Leaving two companies and Colonel Hume at Dewangiri,
the remainder of the 55th and the 12th and 29th Native
Infantry returned to camp on the 3rd, whither they were
followed by the remainder of the force on the 6th. During
this time Colonel Hume had made two reconnoissances, pro-
ceeding each time some seven or eight nules into the interior ;
but no one could be seen but a few villagers, and after having
destroyed the block-houses and the granaries and store-houses
in their vicinity, the whole force evacuated Dewangiri and
returned to Koomreekhatta. The rainy season had now set
in, and it became necessary for the Europeans to get away as
soon as- possible. On the 8th April the 55th commenced
their return march to Gowhatty, and on the 11th embarked
on board the same steamer and fiats that brought them up.
They went down the Brahmapootra much quicker than they
went up, the river being much swollen by the heavy rains,
and on the 17th the head-quarters and right wing marched
into Dum Dum, about eight miles from Calcutta, to remain
there for the season.

Here they found the left wing, which had been par-
ticularly unfortunate in their movements, for after having been
harassed by repeated counter-orders and counter-marches they
were finally sent from the Cooch Behar side to Calcutta to



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34iH AKD 55th Bbchhbnts. 149

follow the ligbt wing ; but on their reaching Gowhatly on the
29th March they were ordered to remain there in reserve, and
consequently had the mortification of not encountering the
enemy after all their privation and hardship. On hearing of
the ffJl of Dewangiri they left Gowhatty on tibe 4th April, and
on the 8th marched into Dum Bum and awaited the arrival of
the head-quarters.

The Bhootan or Assam fever had made its appearance in
the 55th before it left Koomreekhatta, and it increased so
rapidly that on the 25th April, eight days after its arrival at
Dum Dum, there were one hundred and eight men in hospital,
nearly all of whom belonged to the right wing. Scarcely a
man escaped. In one month there were more tiian four
hundred admissions to the hospital, and on the 12th June the
fever reached its culminating point wit^ one hundred and
thirty-three men in hospital, and from fifty to sixty men in
barracks convalescent firom l^e fever, but attending daily as
out-patients until fit to resume duty. The mortality was, as
might have been expected, very high; in &ct it was the
highest of any regiment in India for that year. In August
two companies were detached to Barrackpore, and in October
four others to Calcutta, where on the 5th January, 1866, the re-
maining four with head-quarters followed them preparatory to
returning up country to their old quarters at Lucknow. The
Bhootan war was not yet finished ; but the sickly state of the
55th precluded their rejoining the Dooar field force, consequently
we can say nothing of the operations which were aftmr^ards
carried on against ^e Bhooteas. A peace was, however, con-
cluded later in the year upon terms very advantageous to
them, upon which they returned the two guns which fell into


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Online LibraryGeorge NoakesA historical account of the services of the 34th & 55th regiments, the linked line battalions in the 2d or Cumberland & Westmorland subdistrict brigade, from the periods of their formation until the present time → online text (page 15 of 16)