Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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was postponed by the vacillation of Sher Singh and the
lateness of the season, until at last it was prevented
altogether by the Cabul catastrophe. On the return of

* We refer the curious reader to mucla food for reflection in the mode

the AfFghan Blue Book, No. 89, for Colonel Wild was first sent up to

Sir Jasper NichoU's own expression Peshawur, and General Pollock, and

of his "extreme unwillingness" to then Colonel Bolton, successively fol-

part with his brigades. There is lowed. — II. M. L.


Generals Pollock and Nott from AfFghanistan, Lord
EUenborough, at tlie head of 40,000 men and 101 guns,
met them at Ferozepore. Early in 1843 the assembled
thousands dispersed, and the frontier station was left
with only 2500 men, and so remained until after the
battles of Maharajptir and Punniar, when it was strength-
ened by two regiments. Lord EUenborough contem-
plated the erection of a strong fortress at Ferozepore,
but the foundations were never laid ; and the intrench-
ment that was substituted scarcely, if at all, strength-
ened the position.

We may take this opportunity of stating the opinion
to which mature consideration, and the gradual disclo-
sure of facts, has led us ; that, — ^whereas the War Estab-
lishment of the Indian army, including 33,000 British
soldiers, as also irregulars and contingents, did not ex-
ceed 300,000 men, and had to defend a frontier of 12,000
miles, and protect as well as coerce a population of not
less than 100,000,000* souls, a large proportion being of
warlike habits, and ill habituated to our yoke, — so far
from Lord Hardinge having failed to bring up to the
frontier in 1845 every soldier that was available, his error
lay, if anywhere, in having denuded the provinces by
hringing up too many. But the result justified the mea-
sure, and showed that the statesman had not been forgot-
ten in the soldier. At Gwalior, by Lord Ellenborough's
arrangements, a hostile army of 30,000 men had merged
into a friendly contingent of 6000. Nepal was quiet,
or at least engrossed in its own petty domestic broils ;
Burmah was somewhat similarly situated; Oude, the
Deccan and Mysore preserved an obedient subordina-
tion ; and from Eajputana Colonel Sutherland is said to
have written that 100,000 gallant Eajputs were ready

* With a population of 34,000,000 than four to one of the Indian, in
the French army is 450,000, or more reference to population.— H. M. L.


to march to the support of Government. There re-
mained then only the chances of domestic insurrection,
and of disaffection in our own army. How well the
native soldiery resisted all appeals from the Lahore in-
cendiaries ; how true they were to their salt, when
douhle pay with unlimited licence was oifered them ;
is hest shown by the fact that not above thirty men
deserted from the Ferozepore garrison of 10,472 ; and
that after hostilities commenced not an individual among
them abandoned his colours; nor are we aware that
twenty did so from the whole army during the war.

Domestic insurrection was a more probable contin-
gency. There is no denying that much alarm was felt
in Bengal, and in those parts of the Agra presidency
which were farthest from the seat of war ; but a crude
conspiracy at Patna, which injured only the few desperate
men concerned in it, was the only treason of which we
ever heard.

If, however, partial commotions had been the conse-
quence of the withdrawal of troops from the lower pro-
vinces ; it was perhaps wise to hazard them for the great
purpose of bringing the war to a rapid and glorious
close. The rising of a mob, or even the tumultuous
gathering of armed men without discipline, or means, is
a small matter when compared with the approaching
tide of a regular army of 60,000 men, well supplied
with artillery, and daily swelled by numberless recruits
of its own creed from the very country it invaded.

To combine the defence of the frontier with the
defence of the provinces, one other alternative presented
itself to Lord Hardinge. He might have increased the
army. But he rejected the idea for reasons sufficiently
obvious and cogent. Already the expenses of the State
were more than a million above the income ; already the
Government was threatened with bankruptcy.


Let us do justice therefore to the all but overwhelm-
ing difficulty of the Grovernor- General's position; and
honour to the firmness with which he met and overcame
it. It was, we may rely upon it, no easy task — no
light responsibility — to defend a wide frontier with a
scanty army, await a war with an empty treasury, and
so cautiously prepare for hostilities as not to give cause
for offence. The latter was hardest of all. The
threatening rupture with the Khalsa might not come in
a day, or a year, or might even be staved ofi* for the du-
ration of Lord Hardinge's administration ; but in all
human probability it was nigh at hand, could not be
avoided, and yet in goodfaitU could not he anticipated.

Yes, it is our opinion that up to the date of the actual
invasion we had no " casus belli ;" and had we invaded
the Punjab, because the mad Sikh soldiery, as they had
often done before, threatened to invade us, the princes
of India would have supposed that our long and patient
forbearance had been merely an untiring ambush, — a
lying in wait till dissension had thinned the ranks of
the Sikhs, in order that when they were exhausted with
intestine strife, we might come forth and spring upon
the prey. The press of Europe too would have found
in such a questionable policy another theme for ca*
lumniating " perfidious Albion," and in all probability
that very portion of the Indian Press, which has syste-
matically assailed Lord Hardinge's " want of prepara-
tion " might have then been loudest in vituperating his

Native States have, at any rate, appreciated the
chivalrous good faith which marked his conduct. Cha-
racter, we can assure our friends, is as useful, and " ho-
nesty" as " good policy" in Asia as in Europe. The Duke
of Wellington, with reference to GrwaHor, well said that
he would prefer giving up any advantage to bringing by

272 LORD hardingp:'s indtan administration.

implication a stain upon our name. We would desire
that our forbearance and good faith should ever prove
to the millions who so closely watch our actions that we
have come among them as messengers of peace, protec-
tion, and good- will; that we are slow to take offence,
and abhor the subterfuges of the aggressor, — though
when injured, we have the power and the spirit to
avenge ourselves. This train of thought pervades Lord
Hardinge's policy, and we honour him for it.

Having now fully discussed the Governor- General's
preparations for defensive war upon the North-Western
frontier, let us pass to the war itself, — first pausing a
little to see what reason there was to expect invasion in
1845 more than in any other year since the death of
Shere Singh, and next to add a few words as to how
we had been prepared in former times to resist agres-

Mr. Metcalfe's veto, rather than Ochterlony's batta-
lions, stopped Eunjit Singh's southward career in 1808 ;
and when the station of Loodiana was established and
left, with three or four regiments, 150 miles in advance
of all support, the British authorities must have either
estimated the Sikhs very lightly or confided in them
very implicitly. Thus Loodiana remained for thirty
years, until strengthened by Lord EUenborough. But
more extraordinary still, Ferozepore, though the base of
the grand movement of Afighanistan, was, after the
first few months, left with a garrison of three, four, and
sometimes of even two regiments.

How jealously Bunjit Singh watched British move-
ments in Afighanistan is well known : how he forbade
the passage of the Punjab, obliging the army of the
Indus to proceed by the wide circuit of Sindh and the
Bolan Pass ; how, after the Lion's death. Sir J. Keane's
return to the provinces, during the cold weather of


1839-40, was only not opposed through the extraordi-
nary personal influence of Mr. Clerk and the estimation
in which he was held by the Sikhs, — is also no secret.
Those who were with Sir John may remember, that
when he arrived at Shahdurra with the mere skeleton of
a brigade, and saluted the fort of Lahore, his compli-
ment was not returned; and barely the commonest
personal civilities paid to himself. Some at least of his
companions may also remember that an official notice
then reached him from Captain Nuthall, an intelligent
commissariat officer, who had been for months employed
in collecting supplies in the Punjab, that a treacherous
attack on his camp was intended, and that simultane-
ously with it the Sikhs purposed to cross the river, burn
Ferozepore, and march on Delhi. Whether there was
any truth in the information is perhaps not now ascer-
tainable ; but one thing is certain, that, about the same
time the British kafila for Afighanistan, on which our
very existence in that country depended, was refused a
passage ; and not till after a month's delay, and aj/ain
through Mr. Clerk's personal influence, was it permitted
to pass.

The reader of the Delki Gazette will also remember
how, during the next year, 1840-41, Major Broadfoot's
progress with Shah Sujah's family to Cabul was im-
peded as much by his own Sikh escort as by the muti-
nous soldiers on his way; and how, but for his own
indomitable courage, he probably never would have
reached his destination. It is also well known how
cordially, in 1841-42, that ill-fated and ill-used officer
Brigadier Wilde, was supported by his Sikh allies, and
how, on General PoUock's arrival at Peshawur and
during his two months* stay there, they were considered
more as enemies than as Mends ; and yet, by entrusting
them with the escort of our treasure and our supplies,




tlie safety of the army was virtually placed in their

But still more to the point are the little-remembered
facts, that, in the year 1843, and again in 1844, the Sikh
army actually left Lahore with the declared purpose of
invading the British provinces : the frontier authorities
considered it possible they would come, and Greneral
Vincent, commanding at Ferozepore a force scarcely
half the strength of that of Sir John Littler, received
his orders how to act in case they should. And yet,
after all these threats, all these symptoms for years
disregarded by two successive administrations, that of
Lord Hardinge, which alone took all the steps that could
with propriety be taken, has been recklessly accused of ne-
glect and supineness.

We offer Sir Eobert Peel's opinion in regard to the
course pursued by Lord Hardinge as expressed in the
admirable speech already referred to : —

" It is quite clear that my gallant friend the Governor-General did take
every precaution to ensure the safety of the British dominions in India, in
case of sudden and unprovoked attack. In the early part of the year, at
the time when he was occupied with his functions as Governor-General, and
when it was most material that he should perform them in conjunction with
his Council at Calcutta ; in a minute, dated on the 16th June, he submitted
to the Council his opinion that our relations with the Court of Lahore
became so doubtful, that, great as was the inconvenience of separating the
Governor-General and his Council, it was desirable, with reference ex-
clusively to Indian interests, that he should proceed to the left bank of the
Sutlej, in order that on the spot he might be enabled to give such directions
as appeared necessary, and which, if given at the distance of a thousand
miles, might be inappropriate. The unanimous opinion of the members of
the Council was, that it was for the public interest that the Governor-
General should proceed to join the army ; and, in conformity with this ad-
vice, in the month of October he took his departure for the left bank of
the Sutlej. Up to an early period in December, the opinion of my gallant
friend (Sir Henry Hardinge) was, that there would be no irruption from
the right bank of the Sutlej into the British territory. He felt confident
that the Sikhs must be convinced that such an attempt could only end in
signal defeat, and, therefore, that it would not be made. So far as he could
reason from experience, he had a right to arrive at this conclusion. In
1843, the army of Lahore left the capital and advanced to the Sutlej ; but
after remonstrance on our part it retired again and abandoned the enter-'
prize. In 1844, exactly the same conduct was observed ; the Punjab army,
eager for pay, or for booty if pay could not be obtained, and, instigated by
the Government and the chiefs, appeared to contemplate an irruption ; but,


in 1844, as in 1843, the army withdrew to the interior. Accounts, however,
reached my gallant friend towards the end of November last, which led him
to believe that an invasion of the British territory was seriously menaced.
The House will find by the Papers recently presented by command of Her
Majesty, that on the 20th November, Major Broadfoot addressed a letter
to the Commander-in-Chief, and another to the Governor-General to this
effect : —

" ' Governor-General's Agency, Nov. 20, 1845.
" ' Sir, — Since I had the honour of waiting on your Excellency to-day, I
have received Lahore letters of the 18th instant (morning). During the
night of the 17th, the chiefs had agreed on, and the durbar had ordered in
writing, the following plan of operations. The army was to be divided
into seven divisions, one to remain at Lahore, and the rest to proceed
against Eoopur and our hills, Loodiana, Hureekee, Ferozepore, and Sindh,
while one was to proceed to Peshawur ; and a force under Kajah Golab
Singh was to be sent to Attock.*

" The decision then taken by the Lahore durbar was, that four divisions
were to be employed in an attack upon the British territory, but they were
not to make a concentrated or simultaneous movement ; and the policy of
the course adopted by the Governor-General was thus demonstrated. The
Lahore army, in four divisions, was to make four separate attacks on dif-
ferent points along the river — ^the first division was to force the eastern
extremity of the line ; another to attack Loodiana ; a third pass the river at
Hureekee ; and the fourth attack Ferozepore. Those divisions were to
consist of about 8000 men each. The House will see by reference to the
Papers laid before them how difficult it was for any person, even the most
experienced, to speculate on the decision to which the governing powers at
Lahore might arrive. They will see, too, that the Ministers, or those who
held the reins of government, spent their days in such continuous drunken-
ness and debauchery, that no resolution of theirs could be depended on.
An account written by the Agent at Lahore, to the Secretary to Govern-
ment, dated Umballah, November 21st, founded on information received
direct from Lahore, presents this picture of the councils of the Punjab ; —
*The Eanee (that is, the regent, the mother of the infant Maharajah) com-
plained that whilst the troops were urging the march, they were still going
nome to their villages as fast as they got their pay ; and Sirdar Sham
Singh Attareewallah declared his belief that unless something was done to
stop this, he would find himself on his way to Ferozepore with empty tents.
The bait of money to be paid, and to accompany them was also ofiered,
and at length the durbar broke up at 2, p.m. Great consultations took
place in the afternoon ; but I know only one result, that the Ranee had to
give her lover his formal dismissal, and that he (Rajah Lai Singh) actually
went into the camp of the Sawars he is to command, and pitched his tent.
What the Ranee says is quite true of the sepoys dispersing to their houses ;
the whole affair has so suddenly reached its present height, that many of
the men themselves think it will come to nothing, and still more who had
taken their departure do not believe it serious enough to go back. On the
day after this scene took place, ^. e. the 19th, the usual stream of sepoys,
natives of the protected States, who had got their pay, poured across the
Sutlej, at Hureekee, on the way to their home.'

"There appears also an account of another conversation, in those papers,
which took place between the Rajah Lai Singh, and Bhaee Ram Singh, one
of the principal ofl&cers and advisers of the Lahore Government, and who
seems to have been the only one of them in whom, from his character and
wisdom, the slightest confidence could be placed. In a letter from Lahore,

T 2


dated the 24th day of November, the following conversation was detailed :
Bhaee Ram Singh, addressing Lai Singh, said —

" ' The English have interfered in no affairs of the Khalsa ; what is the
wisdom of your making religious war at the bidding of the soldiery 1 None
of the nobles have discovered the real intentions of the English. The
Governor-General's agent, who is a steady friend, has written in the
plainest terms, that the English Government desires only friendship like
that of the late Maharajah Runjeet Singh ; but that if anything wrong is
done by the Sikh army, the rulers of the kingdom will be held responsible,
for rulers must account for the acts of their troops and subjects. Be
cautious how you march to Hureekee with the troops.' The Rajah said,
' Bhaee Sahib, what can I do ? if I remain, the soldiery seize me by the

"7*1 a word, the councils of the durbar seem to have shifted from day to day,
and no one could speculate with any degree of confidence on the probable

" On the 9th of December, the Governor-General, thinking our relations
with the Punjab very critical, and that it was desirable to take every pre-
caution against any sudden irruption, gave orders that the division of troops
at Umballah, consisting of 7500 men, should move towards the Sutlej. On
December 11th, the very day on which the Lahore army crossed the Sutlej,
the British and native troops of that division were on their march from
Umballah to the frontier. The whole proceedings of the Governor-General
and the Commander- in-Chief, subsequently to that day, as well as before
it, were characterized by the greatest prudence, skill, and foresight. From
Umballah the troops marched to a place called Busean, where, owing to the
prudent precautions of the Governor- General, they found an ample supply
of food and stores. It was resolved that a junction should be effected with
the Loodiana division, and that it would be better to incur some risk at
Loodiana, rather than forego the advantage of a junction with the Loodiana
division of the army. Those troops advanced accordingly towards Feroze-
pore, and learned by the way that the army of Lahore, amounting to not
less than 60,000 men, had crossed the river, and were prepared to attack
the British army. The expectations of the Governor-General were entire-
ly justified by the result."

Our extract is long, but to the purpose. Sir Eobert
Peel under-estimating the force at Ferozepore at only
7500, but over-estimating the number of heavy guns in
position, correctly states that "the army of Lahore
shrunk from the attack of so formidable a post," and
moved down to give battle to the army advancing from
Umballah. There is much in the extract quoted by Sir
Eobert Peel from Major Broadfoot's despatch to induce
belief that, whatever were the insane intentions of
some wild spirits among the Sikh army, there was still,
even late in November, no general intention of invasion.
** On the 19M {of November) the usual stream of sepoys,
* The Italics are ours.


natives of the protected States^ who had got their pay,
poured across the Sutlej, at Hureekee, on the way to their
ho7)ie'' This in itself was justly considered a pacific
symptom. These men were not emissaries sent to
mislead our sepoys. Such did not come in streams, but
stole over one by one, and were, without exception,
Hindustanis, who had relatives in our ranks.

So late as during the month of October, 1845, the
tenor of the Governor-General's conversation and cor-
respondence was sanguine as to peace for another year
at least ; to the Commander-in-Chief alone did he urge
preparation for a defensive war, and it was at this time
that confidential orders were issued for two-thirds of
the force at and above Meerut to be prepared by the
12th of November, with the means of moving on the
shortest notice.

On the 22nd of November, the first authentic intelli-
gence reached Major Broadfoot, and through him the
Governor-General, that invasion was intended ; and the
very same day the report was contradicted. The
greatest indecision prevailed at Lahore, in the Camp as
well as in the Court. Both felt that they were on the
brink of greater events than in their worst revolutions
they had ever shared in — greater too than they felt able
to direct and guide to their own profit. Astrology was
now called in ; as if the perpetual stars would shed down
firmness upon such miserable mortals and be accomplices
in their plots ! But the soothsayers themselves declared
that a fortunate day would not arrive before the 28th
of November ; and the soldiery who would have hailed
''^To-morrow'' as an oracular response from Heaven, now
called the interpreters of fate, impostors. The majority
of voices was for an immediate march. The Banee and
her advisers, who felt that all authority was lost, urged
them to be gone at once; but this very impatience


roused tlie suspicions of the soldiers. Hesitation again
fell upon them ; and Lahore became like a sea without
a tide, agitated by opposing winds. Thus doubtful did
matters remain for more than twenty days : the whole
Sikh army, it is true, at last left Lahore ; but, as on
former occasions, they still hesitated to " cross the Eu-
bicon," and finally commit themselves. The great delay,
however, was in persuading the sirdars. TJiey had
property to lose. The rabble had only property to gain.
Sirdar Tej Sing, who ultimately was Commander-in-
Chief of the invading force, consented only when openly
and loudly taxed with cowardice, and even threatened
with death.

In the " Calcutta Eeview," No. XI., September, 1846,
appeared as truthful an account as could be given of
the military events which followed ; of the rapid
march of the British army from Umballah and Loo-
diana ; of the hard-contested and glorious battles of the
Sutlej. We shall only now add what seems deficient
in that account ; or correct what we may have since
discovered to be inaccurate ; keeping in view more par-
ticularly, as we are bound in this memoir, those personal
exertions of the Grovernor-Greneral, which would have
been out of place in a history of the war and its many

Her Majesty's 80th Foot marched from Umballah on
the 11th December, for Ferozepore, or a day before the
invasion took place ; and so little did the military autho-
rities expect that it was running into danger, that the
families of the men actually moved with them. On the
2nd December, the Governor- General had dismissed
the Lahore Yakeel because he had given no satisfactory
answer to the Political Agent's demand for an explana-
tion of the reason of the advance on the Sutlej. A
week was allowed him to satisfy the Governor-General


that hostility was not intended. That week was re-
quired to complete the commissariat arrangements.
The Deputy Commissary-Greneral had required six weeks
for preparation, and received for answer that it must be
done in as many days. The energetic Broadfoot volun-
teered to undertake the task, and was ready within the
time. The army of the Sutlej is indebted to him for

On the 12th of December the Commander-in-Chief
moved with his head-quarters from Umballah. On the
evening of the same day the Sikhs commenced crossing
the Sutlej. On the 13th the Grovernor-General pro-
claimed the Cis-Sutlej States at once invaded and incor-
porated with British India. Sir Henry, being some
days' march in advance of the Commander-in-Chief,
rode over to Loodiana, inspected the fort, and, deeming
it secure, withdrew the Loodiana troops to Bussean, the
great grain depot on which the British army depended,

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 22 of 39)