Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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and which was only sixty miles from the Nuggur Ghat,
at which the Sikh army crossed.* The Sikhs might
have easily made a forced march on that important
place, reached, and burnt it on the evening of the 14th
of December, had not the Governor- General, by that
time, thus thrown in front of it the Loodiana force of
5000 men. The main column of the British army,
under the Commander-in-Chief, from Umballah, did not
reach Bussean till the 16th, and the importance of the
Governor- General's combination will be better under-
stood when we explain that if Bussean had been fired
by the enemy, the advance of the whole British army

* Among other instances of igno • have shown his eiTor, and consider-

rance of locahties, the Quarterly Re- ing that the whole army and all its

viewer increases the distance from suppHes moved by way of Bussean,

Loodiana to . Ferozepore by one- he might have taken thus much

fourth, and places Bussean between trouble. — H. M. L.
them. The commonest map would


would have been delayed ten days at least, until food
could have been brought from the rear ; and Perozepore
would have been all that time without relief ! On the
15th and 16th, as the Govemor-Grenerars camp passed
Rai ke Kote, it was disencumbered of its heavy baggage,
spare tents, &c., and the elephants and camels thus
rendered available were forthwith employed in bringing
up stores for the army. The elephants, in particular,
were most useful on the 19th December, in bringing
up the wearied men of the 1st European Eegiment and
Her Majesty's 29th Foot, who had made an extraordi-
nary march from the Hills to join the army, but, after
all, were too late for Mudki. This provision and appli-
cation of carriage was one of many instances which the
war afforded of the Governor- Greneral's happy manage-
ment and attention to details.

On the 1 5th, the Sikhs crossed their heavy artillery.
On the 16th they encamped at Lungiana, about three
miles north of Ferozepore; and Sir John Littler gal-
lantly marched out with two brigades, and offered them
battle, which the boasting enemy declined. On the
17th the Sikhs advanced a division, and occupied ihe
celebrated position of Ferozeshali, which they immedi-
ately entrenched. On the morning of the 18th, another
strong division of upwards of 30,000 men, horse and
foot, with 22 guns, was pushed on to within a few
miles of Mudki, where, concealed in the jungle, it
awaited the arrival of the British Generals, whose de-
struction they looked forward to with confidence, from
a belief that they were attended only by a small escort.

On that morning the British army had made a
fatiguing march of twenty-one miles from Churruk to
Mudki, where a Sikh picquet was on the watch, and re-
tired to inform Rajah Lai Singh and the tro'ops in am-
buscade that now was the time to make their spring.

MUDKI. 281

The British picqnets had hardly been planted ; scarcely
one of the soldiers had breakfasted ; and officers were at
their ablutions or snatching a little sleep upon the
ground, when Major Broadfoot, who was sitting at
luncheon with the Grovernor- General, received a scrap of
paper. Looking at it, he rose with the exclamation,
" The enemy is on us." He rode to the front, and
passed the word along. Some mistrusted his informa-
tion, and even when he showed the clouds of dust raised
by the advancing enemy, his warning was not implicitly
believed, and the dust attributed to skirmishers. " That
dust," he energetically exclaimed, " covers thousands ;
it covers the Sikh army." The story is differently told
in different quarters ; but though, like Plutarch's bio-
graphies, the anecdotes of Broadfoot may not be all
strictly true, yet they are all illustrative of his bold,
energetic, and able character. While the British troops
were yet forming, he returned from his reconnaissance,
gallopped up to the Commander-in-Chief, and gracefully
saluting him, pointed to the rising cloud of dust ahead,
and said, " There, your Excellency, is the Sikh army ! "
It was the political agent making over the frontier to
the soldier. The cannon shots that almost immediately
began to lob in from the still unseen guns soon told
their own tale.

The Commander-in-Chief at this time despatched an
aide-de-camp to the rear to hasten on H. M.'s 29th
and the 1st Europeans, still a march behind; and the
Governor-General had previously sent back his active
commissariat officer, Captain G. Johnston, with elephants,
as before mentioned, carrying food and water to assist
the movement.

The victory of Miidki has been well chronicled by
eye-witnesses; and its details need not here be re-
peated. Suffice it that, the battle won, every exertion


was made to improve it. Expresses were sent in every
direction with information; Sir J. Littler was, in the
first instance, warned to be ready to move by his right
to join head- quarters, and afterwards directed to com-
bine with it by mid-day of the 21st near Ferozeshah.
On the night of the 19th, H. M.'s 29th and the 1st
Europeans, accompanied by the 11th and 41st N. I.,
arrived in camp, and at daylight of the 21st, after
two full days of rest to the army, the whole force
moved, without baggage, in light marching order, on

During this halt of two days, the wounded and sick
were cared for, and secured in the fort of Mudki, a regi-
ment and a half being told off to protect them and the
baggage of the army. Regarding the latter arrange-
ment, we understand there was much difference of
opinion, but the Governor- Gleneral insisted that none
should be taken to the field. The decision was a wise
and a humane one. It was better in every sense to
place a strong detachment at Mudki, than, leaving
the wounded with a small one, to embarrass the column
with the care of the baggage train ; while the fort, de-
fended by a regiment and a half, was safe for a time
against the enemy's cavalry and loose plunderers, which
alone could penetrate to the rear of our army. Much
needless alarm, however, was caused by idle reports in
the camp at Mudki, which would have been more rea-
sonable had it been left less protected.

Leaving 5000 men to hold his position, and watch
Tej Singh, Sir John Littler prepared, early on the 21st,
to join head-qaarters, with 5500 men and 21 guns.
Permitting his division to snatch a hasty meal, at 8 a.m.
of the 21st he quietly moved off, by his right, leaving
his camp and picquets standing, and at mid-day had
effected his junction, without Tej Singh's being aware of


his departure from Ferozepore — so ably was the more-
ment conducted.* Sir John sent word of his approach
to the Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief, who
had arrived within a mile of, and opposite to, the in-
trenchment of Terozeshah, when the ever-active Broad-
foot, riding forward with a few horsemen, conducted the
General to the Commander-in-Chief. Arrangements
were now made for the struggle. A question has arisen
— the combination having been completed by mid-day —
why the attack was delayed till half-past three ? Time
was of the utmost importance : all the force expected
having arrived, it was vitally important to strike the
blow before Tej Singh could join : why, then, was there
a delay of nearly four hours? We have never heard
the question satisfactorily answered, and shall therefore
leave it, with other points of this battle, and of the war
generally, to be hereafter explained.

A few minutes before 4 p.m. the attack commenced,
Sir Hugh Gough leading the right, Sir Henry Hardinge
the centre, and Sir John Littler the left. The advance
was made partly in line, partly in echellon, the Go-
vernor-General preferring the first formation, as less
likely to create confusion, especially in difficult ground.
The right and centre were successful ; the left wing was
repulsed. Daylight failed and prevented complete
success. The loss on our side was severe : ten aides- de-
camp fell by Lord Hardinge' s side, five killed and as

* The intelligence department of of what was passing around him and
the Sikhs, during the war, has been to incapacity as a General in chief ;
as unduly trumpeted as that of the perhaps, also, in part to the conflict-
British has been depreciated. Their ing orders of his many masters in
information is proved on this as on his own ranks. Doubtless he, like
many other occasions to have been many others, had little inclination
very much worse than ours. Tej for the war ; but, once involved, he
Singh's conduct on the 21st and could not help himself : his life, then
again on the 22nd, though usually depended on his fidelity to the
attributed to treachery, may much Khalsa. — H. M. L.
more safely be imputed to ignorance


many wounded ; among the latter was liis nephew,
Eobert Wood. His two sons, though closely attend-
ing their father, escaped unscathed.

At the side of his chief, whom he refused to leave
when wounded by a shot from the Sikh tents, fell the
gallant and accomplished Broadfoot ; here the chivalrous
Somerset sank mortally wounded ; the young and pro-
mising Munro was lost to his country ; here the brave
Saunders Abbott received his wounds, and lay uncom-
plaining by the side of the Grovernor- General, during the
remainder of the night. The staff of the Commander-
in-Chief almost equally suffered; his Adjutant-General,
his Quartermaster- General, and most of his aides-de-
camp being wounded, either here or at Mudki. Pro-
videntially the two noble chiefs remained unharmed.

In his speech already referred to. Sir Eobert Peel
happily notices the night's events. We cannot do
better than quote his words : —

" The night of the 21st December was one of the most memorable in the
military annals of the British empire. The enemy were well defended
within strongly-fortified entrenchments — their guns were served with the
greatest precision, and told on our advancing columns with great effect.
The right of the British army was led by the Commander-in-Chief, whilst
the left centre was headed by Sir H. Hardinge. Our forces made an attack
on the enemy's camp during the three hours which as yet remained of day-
light ; but they had not sufficient time to complete that victory, which
was gloriously achieved on the following day. The British army, however,
made good their attack, and occupied a part of the enemy's camp. In the
middle of the night the camp took fire, and further couflict was for a time
suspended in consequence ; but as soon as it had ceased the army of Lahore
brought forward their heavy artillery, and poured a most desij^uctive fire
upon our troops. The details of those occurrences have been given with
admirable clearness in the despatches of both commanders ; but there have
been private letters received which speak of them with less of formality,
and perhaps give truer and more faithful accounts of these actions than
the official documents. Perhaps the House will excuse me if I read an
extract from a private letter from the Governor-General to a member of
his own family."

The right hon. Baronet then read as follows : —

"'The night of the 21st was the most extraordinary of my life. I bi-
vouacked with the men, without food or covering, and our nights are bitter
cold. A burning camp in our front, our brave fellows lying down under a
heavy cannonade, which continued during the whole night, mixed with the


wild cries of the Sikhs, our English hurrah, the tramp of men, and the
groans of the dying. In this state, with a handful of men, who had car-
ried the batteries the night before, I remained till morning, taking very
short intervals of rest by lying down with various regiments in succession,
to ascertain their temper, and revive their spirits.'

" My gallant friend, as you see, spent that eventful night passing from
regiment to regiment, cheering the men by his own example of constancy
and courage — doing all that human means could do to ensure victory to
our arms. ' I found,' my gallant friend goes on to say — ' I found myself
again \vith my old friends of the 29th, 31st, 50th, and 9th, all in good heart'
— regiments with which he had served in the Peninsula, and with them
that regiment which has earned immortal fame in the annals of the British
army- — Her Majesty's 80th Regiment. — ' My answer to all and every man
was, that we must fight it out, attack the enemy vigorously at daybreak,
beat him, or die honourably in the field. The gallant old general, kind-
hearted and heroically brave, entirely coincided with me.'

" Let the House observe how anxious my gallant friend is to do justice
to his companions in arms : —

" ' During the night I occasionally called on our brave English soldiers to
punish the Sikhs when they came too close and were impudent ; and when
morning broke we went at it in true English style. Gough was on the
right. I placed myself, and dear little Arthur (his son) by my side, in the
centre, about thirty yards in front of the men, to prevent their firing, and
we drove the enemy without a halt from one extremity of the camp to the
other, capturing thirty or forty guns as we went along, which fired at
twenty paces from us, and were served obstinately. The brave men drew
up in an excellent line, and cheered Gough and myself as we rode up the
line, the regimental colours lowering to me as on parade. The mournful
part is the heavy loss I have sustained in my officers. I have had ten
aides-de-camp hors de combat, five killed and five wounded. The fire of
grape was very heavy from 100 pieces of cannon ; the Sikh army drilled
by French officers, and the men the most warlike in India.'

" From my affectionate regard for this gallant man, I am proud to be
enabled to exhibit him on such a night as that of the 21st of December —
going through the camp — passing from regiment to regiment — keeping up
the spirits of the men — encouraging them — animating their ardour — and
having lost ten aides-de-camp out of twelve — placing his young son, a boy
of seventeen or eighteen years of age, in the front of the line, in order that
the British troops might be induced not to fire on the enemy, but drive
them back by the force of the British bayonet. It was characteristic of
the man to read these details. He had two sons present, one of whom
was a civilian, and the other in the army. On the afternoon of the 21 st,
he sent the civilian to the rear of the army, saying that his presence dis-
turbed him, and that, if he refused to retire, he would send him away in
arrest as a prisoner ; but the presence, he said, of his younger son, an
officer, whose duty called him to the field, only made the father more des-
perately resolute in the discharge of his duty. On the 22nd, after the
battle was over, he took his eldest son, when visiting the sepoys and the
wounded, and he showed them a Governor-General of India who had lost
his hand, and the son of a Governor-General who had lost his foot, and
endeavoured to console them in their sufferings by proving to them that
men in the highest rank were exposed to the same casualties as them-


The event of the night — that long, long night — was


doubtless the capture and spiking of the great gun,
which, within 300 yards, had been pouring death on
our harassed and recumbent ranks. But Her Majesty's
80th, supported by the 1st Europeans, at the Grovernor-
Greneral's word w^ere in a moment up, and spiked it ;
and for the rest of the night the enemy was silent. In
this attack. Sir Henry Hardinge's nephew and aide-de-
camp. Colonel Wood, advancing with his own regiment,
H. M/s 80th, was severely wounded. It is pleasing,
even still, to listen to the stories current regarding those
eventful hours. " And sure he talked to us as to ladies
in a drawing-room, so quiet and polite," is a frequent
remark of the soldiers of the artillery, of H. M.'s 29th,
31st, 50th, 9th, and of the 1st Europeans, who, lying
around the Governor- General, witnessed his composure
during the night. It must be remembered that Lord
Hardinge, during these perilous hours, not only person-
ated the Soldier and the General, but the Father and
the Viceroy. His thoughts then were not simply for
the army, but for the mighty empire in his keeping —
for his brave boys by his side ; and yet the rude men
around him could perceive no symptom of anxiety on
his brow — nay more, their own stout hearts were
encouraged and inspirited by his calm and cheerful

The " Quarterly Eeview" has disseminated much error
regarding the events of this momentous period. No
officer carried messages of retreat between the Governor-
General and the Commander-in-Chief, though some few
did take upon themselves to advise that course, and one
officer, by his inquiries for the road to Eerozepore,
showed what was passing in his own mind. The state-
ment bears absurdity on its face : the two chiefs lay
within a hundred yards of each other, and once or
twice, during the night, consulted together. There is not,


indeed, a doubt that neither for one moment hesitated
what should be done — " to die at their posts rather than
yield an inch to the enemy." It is not, however, to be
denied that this was a nigJit of danger — of great danger.
Darkness had covered our ranks, while the scarcely-
thinned foe, driven from his foremost entrenchments,
and with his formidable artillery still almost intact, fell
behind his second line, and strengthened it for the
morning's fight. And where were our battalions ?
Nearly two whole divisions were absent. Sir John
Littler had been repulsed, and Sir Harry Smith, in the
darkness and confusion, after having actually occupied a
portion of the village of Ferozeshah, in the heart of the
Sikh intrenchment, retired two miles from the field ; so
that of 17,500 men, not more than 7000 can have lain
that night before a foe still numbering 40,000 men and
60 guns — a situation such as might have daunted a
Eoman heart. Sir Henry Hardinge calmly prepared
for the worst ; he sent orders to his secretary, Mr.
Currie, at Mudki, to destroy his papers, in case of acci-
dent to himself ; he positively ordered his wounded
nephew into Terozepore, as well as the gallant Prince
Waldemar and his suite, who, with equal reluctance, left
the field.

By daylight of the 22nd all arrangements for renew-
ing the attack were made. Colonel Benson, accompa-
nied by Captain A. Hardinge, the Governor-General's
youngest son, had been despatched before dawn, to bring
up Sir John Littler ; but before they could reach, the
Governor- General and Commander-in-Chief had advanced
at the head of their line. On hearing the first shot,
Captain Hardinge spurred on to his father, saying that
as his aide-de-camp he must be in his place. Indeed
this young soldier was the only member of the Governor-
General's staff that remained unharmed. Colonel Birch,


Colonel Parsons, and the Hon. Captain West now offici-
ated as aides ; and taking them with him, Lord H.
advanced at the head of the left, as Lord Gough did of
the right, of the line, keeping thirty yards in front to
prevent the troops from firing, and desiring the stafi* to
tell them that if they fired, they fired on him. The
opposition was slight, most of the gnns were taken in
reverse, and now wheeling to the right, past the village
of Ferozeshah, the Commander-in-Chief and Grovernor-
General swept down the whole left and rear of the
enemy's position, halting when they had cleared the
works at the opposite extremity.

Not till now did Smith's and Littler' s division re-
join ; but there still remained work to do. Sirdar Tej
Singh had at length been roused to action, perhaps by
some of the early fugitives from the combat of the
night ; and scarcely had the tired troops united, before
his fresh battalions and squadrons, amounting to scarcely
less than 30,000 men and 60 guns, came in view —
showing how needful had been the dawn's attack, and
how dangerous would have been a single hour's delay.
Whether daunted by the defeat of the night, or suspi-
cious of a stratagem, in the flank movement of the
cavalry and part of the artillery, on Ferozepore, Tej
Singh, after little more than several demonstrations and
a distant though destructive cannonade, withdrew.

Thus was the Sikh invasion repelled. The Burchas
had found themselves overmatched ; accompanied even
as they were by thousands of their brothers, and of
wild Akalis, eager for war, and to wet their swords in
Feringi blood — for the savage soldiery and their kins-
men ruled not only the durbar of Lahore and the vil-
lages whence they came, but sought to have a share in
the supposed certain plunder of Delhi. Few of these
amateurs, however, were seen after Ferozeshah ; nor


were they much heard of again until after the terrific
rout of Sobraon, when they lay in wait for their dis-
comfited comrades, ready to cut down and rob all strag-
glers who might escape to the right bank of the Sutlej.
Thousands of the Sikh soldiers are understood to have
fallen by their hands.

But now that the first roll of the tide of invasion
had been resisted, how did Sir Henry Hardinge occupy
himself? His exertions seem to have redoubled. Night
and day his active mind was at work. Collecting infor-
mation, getting up supplies, urging on the indolent,
encouraging and cheering the active and willing, now
suggesting plans to the Commander-in-Chief and his
lieutenants ; now writing to Calcutta, to England, to
Delhi, Umballah, and Kurnaul, and now riding out to
army head-quarters to consult with the Commander-in-
Chief in person.

On the death of Major Broadfoot, Major Lawrence
was sent for from Nepal, although there were aspirants
to the vacant -office on the spot ; and he proved his zeal
by joining within a fortnight. In the interim Mr.
Currie carried on the duties of the frontier ; while
Major Mackeson was entrusted with the charge of the
Cis- Sutlej States.

A brief return to disputed points may be here excused.
It is not easy within the limits of a single essay even
to refer to all that has been said and written regarding
Lord Hardinge's acts. Their bare enumeration would
nearly occupy its entire space. Lord Hardinge is blamed
for the " defenceless state" of the frontier ; but we have
shown by figures that he doubled and trebled the
strength of posts. We may now add, that shortly after
his arrival in India, he seriously contemplated altogether
withdrawing the posts of Loodiana and Ferozepore, and
was only prevented from doing so by the knowledge


tliat the act would be misinterpreted. Eetrogression
is at all times difficult ; never more so than in the face
of a powerful and insolent enemy. No one at all
acquainted with Lord Hardinge can doubt that he is
the last man in the world who would have taken up
those positions. No one knows better than himself
that he who tries to defend everything defends nothing,
and that, in Major Broadfoot's admirable words, " the
defence of the frontier against aggression is the power of
Government to punish the aggressive nation ; and to-
wards the exercise of that power the frontier force will
contribute best by securing against all comers those
important stations," viz., Loodiana and Ferozepore.

If it had originally devolved upon Lord Hardinge to
have made provision for the defence of the frontier, he
would doubtless have simply watched the fords, and kept
in hand, in the neighbourhood of Sirhind, a strong field
force ready to meet any enemy that might cross. It
was idle to expect that two isolated posts could defend
a hundred and fifty miles of river, fordable at twenty
different points, and crowded with boats. Our readers
may rely upon it that Major Broadfoot only expressed
Lord Hardinge' s conviction when he said that the
Ferozepore force was meant for the protection of Feroze-
pore and the frontier in peace, and not for general war

On another point much discussion has arisen. On
one side it is asked why Lord Hardinge fought the
battle of Ferozeshah so late on the 21st December, and
on the other why he fought at all on that day. But
a fact which has been stated in previous accounts of
the war must not be forgotten, viz., that on the 19th,
Lord Hardinge had asked for and accepted the office

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 23 of 39)