Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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of second in command of the army. We have never
hesitated to approve of the arrangement under all the


circumstances of the case, and we liold to our opinion.
There are seasons when all secondary considerations
must be waived — when the post must be abandoned,
the detachment sacrificed, for the safety of the army.
Once in the field in this capacity, though the Grovernor-
General could suggest his wishes, he could not, with-
out going to extremities, issue or enforce orders. It
belongs not then necessarily to the province of Lord
Hardinge's biographer to enter into the details of the
difierent actions of the war, but we must remind those
who would have counselled a halt at Ferozeshah that
it could not have been made — neither supplies nor
water being procurable. Strategy is good : excellent in
its way ; but loater more than ground directs military
movements in India, where no general can succeed
who does not look minutely to this important point.
The wells near Ferozeshah were at intervals of miles ;
and hy them were the movements of the British army

The writer in the " Quarterly Eeview," however,
reversing the real state of affairs, gives Lord Hardinge
no credit for what he really did do in cases where he
acted with energy, and leaves him, at least by implica-
tion, to bear the blame of defects in operations over
which he had virtually little or no control. That
writer's remarks, and the strictures of others, on the
order of battle on the three difierent occasions, and on
the want of information of the enemy's movements, are
examples of the latter ; while, with regard to the former,
the reviewer, apparently ignorant that in India not a man
or a gun can move without the sanction of the Governor-
General, emphatically claims for the Commander-in-
Chief alone all credit for the bringing up of troops and
stores for the combinations which preceded Aliwal ; and
yet it was at Lord Hardinge's suggestion, and by his

u 2


orders, tliat tlie troops engaged there were assembled
from the four quarters and combined at Loodiana.
Brigade after brigade was pushed on from army head-
quarters : Wheeler went after Smith, Taylor after
"Wheeler ; Lawrence, at the last moment, to help on
Taylor ; all at the Governor- Greneral's suggestion ;
while the Shekawatti brigade westward and H. M/s
53rd from the southward were brought up by his direct
orders. All this was known, or should have been
known, by the historiographer of the war.

During the war, precise information was seldom pro-
curable. Many able and good men were employed in
procuring intelligence, but the Indian army, possessing
no establishment trained in time of peace to procure
the information required in war, can never be more than
partially successful in this respect. The thing is not to
be done in a day. A quartermaster-general or a political
officer may in himself be all energy and ability, but,
unaided, must inevitably fail to secure accurate and
precise information. All this requires hnoion and tried'
native agency — men who have a stake in the State.
Serving against Asiatics we can never have our Col-
quhoun Grants, who will enter the enemy's lines and
ascertain their state and preparation ; but there is no
possible reason why we should not have imitators of
him in our Native army. To pay men, teach them,
trust them in peace, and thus to have them ready for
war, is the true policy. We shall then have men whom
we can rely on, instead of chance-comers, who may be
honest, but if energetic and able are too often rather
serving the enemy than us. Thus has it ever been since
Hyder Ali sent his shoals of Hurkaras to deceive and
mislead our generals, down to the late war, when, as in
all previous campaigns, the intelligence arrangements
had to be made after hostilities had commenced. Lord



Hardinge, in a measure, has provided the nucleus of a
remedy, and in the small guide corps raised on the
north-west frontier under Colonel Lawrence's supervi-
sion, has given the means of acquiring information, and
has prepared a body of men to meet future contingen-
cies. We would have had him act on a larger scale, and
even in peace time attach several officers to the corps to
learn their duty and acquire information of roads and
rivers, wells and tanks, supplies, means of carriage, and
other milito-statistical details — so much required, so
little attended to in India. The very formation, how-
ever, of this corps is a sufficient answer to those who
charge Lord Hardinge with neglecting, during the war,
so important a point as that of procuring intelligence of
the enemy: while it proves equally that his lordship
felt during the campaign the necessity of some such
permanent establishment.

We entirely deny that during the Sikh campaign
there was anything like general ignorance of the enemy's
movements; or that the authorities were not kept at
least as well informed of what went on around them as
during any other war that was ever conducted in India.
But supposing the fact to be otherwise, is it not too much
to blame the head of a Government whose whole tenure
of office has been three and a half years, and who was
called into the field within less than half that time after
his arrival, for evils which arise only from the defective
institutions of an Asiatic system that has prevailed over
our European notions — a sj^stem that has existed from
the days of Clive and Hastings, and through every
Administration down to the present day? If the
Governor-General denied either the quartermaster-
general or the political agent the means of supplying
information, then, indeed, is he to blame ; but because,
with a thousand pressing matters before him, he did

294 LORD hardinge's Indian administration.

not, even before he could look around, reform and re-
model an important branch of the public service, he is,
forsooth, to be made the scape-goat for many imaginary
and some* real defects in the system bequeathed to him
by his predecessors !

But we digress, and should here rather detail how,
personally, the Governor-General at this time exerted
himself in all departments ; how he urged the reinforc-
ing of Sir Harry Smith, how he sent Lieut. Lake of the
engineers, Lieut. Clifford of the artillery, and finally
Major Lawrence, one after another to see to the
munitions and reinforcements in support of the Loo-
diana movement. Nothing escaped his attention ; not
even the minutest commissariat or ordnance details.
He thought of the brandy and beef for the European
soldiers, as much as of the grape shot for the artillery,
and the small arm ammunition for the infantry. All
this time the heavy train was winding its weary way
by the Bussean road from Delhi. The Governor- Ge-
neral was therefore intensely anxious that the seat of
war should not be moved from the Ferozepore side east-
ward, and consequently strained every nerve to crush
Bunjore Singh, and prevent even his light troops mov-
ing southward. To effect this object, the force before
Sobraon was greatly weakened, but the Commander-in-
Chief as well as the Governor-General saw the advisa-

* Our approval of the scheme of never heard that a sepoy was expect-
training a guide corps, such as is ed to know his way anywhere : if
here indicated and strongly recom- then Col. Lawrence can obtain faith-
mended, may appear to be at vari- ful guides of ordinary courage he
ance with the opinions elsewhere will do good service. One or two
expressed in this essay against na- hundred would have been invaluable
tives of India proving uscfiil in a to have carried despatches between
double capacity. In a measure it is the different posts of the army dur-
so : but the low castes of the north- ing the war. Col. (General Sir
west frontier are a bolder, and alto- George) Scho veil's guides, though
gether a different race from those of many of them French deserters,
Hindoostan. In India, sowars are were often thus employed during
notoriously blind guides, and we the Peninsular war. — H. M. L.


bility of the measure. An excellent brigade under
Colonel Taylor of H. M.'s 29tli, which was detached to
reinforce Sir Harry Smith, had reached Dhurmkote
within 20 miles, and would have been up next day,
when on the repeated and urgent suggestions of the
Grovernor-Greneral and Commander-in-Chief to attack,
Sir H. Smith on the 28th January fought the battle of
Aliwal. This action secured the communications, and
the authorities could now await without anxiety the
arrival of the siege train. Lord Hardinge had visited
the army head- quarter camp on the 28th January, and,
riding back, his horse fell under him and so severely
bruised his leg that he was a cripple during the rest of
the campaign. Suffering great pain, and for a month
scarcely able to sit on horseback, he yet did not forego
his labours, nor did he fail to sit out the whole action of
Sobraon, though he went to the field in his carriage,
and only mounted his horse when the batteries opened
on both sides.

On the 8th February Sir H. Smith's division rejoined
head-quarters ; on the 9th the train reached camp ; on
the 10th the Sikhs were driven across the Sutlej. As
far back as the middle of January, the Governor-Greneral
had in his home despatch contemplated the probability
of coming to action by that day. We do not purpose
again to fight the battle of Sobraon in these pages, but
will offer a few briefs words on some hitherto unex-
plained points. The question has been often asked why
were not the entrenchments at Sobraon and Ferozeshah
turned ; why attacked in the fiice of the formidable Sikh
artillery ? The same question might be asked of almost
every Indian battle. The Duke of Wellington wisely
counselled taking an Asiatic army in motion, but he him-
self with half his numbers attacked them at Assaye, in
position and by a forward movement. At Mehidpiir,


where perhaps the next most formidable display of
cannon was encountered by an Anglo-Indian army,
Hyslop and Malcolm, — the latter at least accustomed to
Indian warfare, and trained in the school of Wellington,
— not only attacked the long array in front, but crossed
a deep river under fire. But the fact is that Ferozeshah
was not to be outflanked ; its oblong figure was nearly
equally formidable in every direction, and had Sir Hugh
Gough attacked on the northward face, he might have
subjected himself to the double fire of Tej Singh in his
rear and the works in his front ; besides having aban-
doned the line of communication with his wounded and
baggage at Mudki.

As matters turned out at Sobraon, perhaps the cavalry
and Grey's division, with some horse artillery, might
have crossed the Sutlej simultaneously with the attack,
and completed the destruction of the panic-striken
Sikhs. We say jjerhaps, for even now we are not
satisfied that the move would have been a safe one.
The Nugger and Uttari fords are deep and uncertain;
our troops on the other side must have been for at least
two days without any certain supplies ; and above all,
with the experience of Ferozeshah before us, we did not
know that every man's services might not be required
on our own bank of the river. No man in camn, not
even the Commander-in-Chief and Governor- General
(and there were no two more sanguine of victory),
expected such complete success as crowned our efforts
on the 10th February.*

* Major General Sir Robert Dick's loss incurred than otherwise would

column, as one powerful wedge, was have been the case. This is to be

alone intended to attack ; but by lamented. Too much, however, has

some mistake it was left weaker been said of the casualties during

by a full brigade than was contem- these battles, and we have only to

plated. Smith's and Gilbert's feints look to the returns of the Peninsular

were converted into real attacks on war or to those of Assaye, Argaum,

Dick's repulse, and thus it was that Laswari, Delhi, Mehidp^r, and Ma-

a larger front was exposed and more harajpore, to find that the loss in


Here again the Grovernor- General was attended by
both his sons, and his nephew ; and the same cahn col-
lected demeanour was on this occasion observable by
those around him, as under more trying circumstances
at Ferozeshah. The artillery fire did much execution,
and cleared the whole area except the immediate breast-
works in their front ; but as the Sikh gunners stood
manfully to their guns, and rather than otherwise in-
creased their fire, there was some hesitation whether the
column of attack should be brought forward. About
9 o'clock the Commander-in-Chief and Grovernor-General
held a few words of converse. Councils of war do not
usually fight; but their's was not of such sort. The
gallant Gough was all fire, and confidence ; and the
equally gallant Hardinge bade him by all means proceed
to the assault, if he felt satisfied of success. He told
him that loss must be expected, but should not prevent
attack if it was likely to prove successful. It is well
known how both chiefs simultaneously ordered up
Smith's and Gilbert's divisions, how those generals as
well as Dick, reeling before the shock of the Sikh bat-
teries, retired ; but only to re-form and again on all
sides to renew the attack ; — the best proof of discipline
that soldiers could give ; and one which the Portuguese,
to whom Sir Henry Hardinge was often accustomed to
liken the sepoys, seldom evinced. It has been narrated

former campaigns averaged at least hand, promptly confronted and well

as much as that of the Sikh battles, beaten in a hand-to-hand fight,

and generally — indeed, in India seldom renews the conflict. We are

always — from the same cause, the far from advocating bull-dog mea-

enemy's artillery. It must ever be sures or the neglect of science, but

so. Assaults are not to be made on we would impress on our readers,

positions, bristling with heavy guns, that we hold India at least as much

without loss ; and if more cautious by the conviction of our prowess

measures, involving delay, might in and our pluck as by our civil insti-

the first instance save some lives, it tutions, and, therefore, that deeds

must also be borne in mind that which at first sight may appear

such delays tend to give confidence brutal and sanguinary, in the end

to the enemy, who, on the other may actually save life. — H. M. L.


elsewhere how the Governor- Greneral, at the very com-
mencement of the attack, had three troops of horse
artillery brought up by their drivers and kept in reserve
at Eodawala, until their gunners, employed with the
heavy guns, had fired away all their ammunition and
could retire to bring these field-pieces up to complete
the destruction of the Sikh army. This may seem a
small matter, but is in keeping with all Lord Har-
dinge's military conduct. Though an infantry ofiicer
himself he saw at once what no artilleryman appears to
have perceived, and evinced his sense of its importance
by despatching three several ofiicers to bring them up.
In this manner, with a view of ensuring the execution
of his orders, he detached the ofiicers of his staff" so
rapidly one after the other that he was repeatedly left
almost alone during the heat of the action.

Our tale is of the Governor-Greneral and our narrative
must keep him constantly in sight ; but we would not
for a moment imply that the Commander-in-Chief did
not throughout the day do all that a soldier could do.
Never indeed, on India's fertile field of glory, fought a
braver spirit than Lord Gough; and we believe that
no British general in the East has ever won so many

By 1 P.M. the battle and the campaign were over, and
not a Sikh in arms remained south of the Sutlej. The
moment was a proud one for both the Commander-in-
Chief and Governor- General, but we doubt whether, in
the mind of either, there was elation, and whether the
first and saddest thought was not the heavy cost of
victory : recollections of the noble soldiers who had
fallen, the brave who had suffered, the widows and the
orphans who survived. Such men as Lords Hardinge
and Gough can appreciate peace, can separate the tinsel
from the gold, and in the parade and panopoly of war


picture also to their minds its horrors, with a force and
vi^ddness which can hardly be appreciated by an amateur

By half-past 1, Colonel Wood, the ever-active aide-
de-camp, now military secretary, of the Governor-Gre-
neral, scarcely recovered from his wound received at
Ferozeshah, was off with the tidings of victory to Feroze-
pore, which though twenty-five miles distant he reached
in an hour and a half, and returned half way to meet
the Governor- Greneral at 5 p.m. That night the passage
across the river commenced, and by the incredible ex-
ertions of Colonel Abbott and the engineers, the whole
army was at Kussiir, one march in the enemy's territory,
and thirty-five miles from the scene of action, on the
13th, the third day after the battle !

We noto know that the Sikh power was completely
broken by the repeated heavy blows of Mudki, Feroze-
shah, Aliwal and Sobraon ; but such was 7iot then the ge-
neral opinion ; and there were not wanting many, even
in high places, to solemnly warn the Governor- General
against crossing the Sutlej, as some of them said, " only
to be driven back with disgrace." Better men declared,
that we had not the means to lay siege to both Gobind-
gurh and Lahore, and that without such means it would
be injudicious to cross. While thus pressed on the spot,
there had been for some time as impressive suggestions
from irresponsible persons elsewhere to advance and to
hazard all in the Punjab de/ore the enemy were broken
and de/ore our train and ammunition had come up. The
Governor- General's practical common sense steered him
safely between these extremes. He waited not an hour
beyond the arrival of the siege train : he felt that all
now depended on time, on closing the war before the
hot season could set in on our European troops, entail-


ing death in a hundred shapes on all ranks, and the
expenses of another campaign on the Government.

Some have blamed Lord Hardinge for the partition
of the Punjab, and above all for raising Eajah Golab
Singh to a throne and independent principality. We
will here add a few " last words," briefly commenting on
the other courses which were open to the Governor-

It was out of the question to annex the Punjab.
The lateness of the season, the weakness of our army,
especially in what constitutes its pith and essence, the
Europeans, — who, after four pitched battles and the
skirmish at Buddawal, were reduced to barely 3000
men, forbade it. In this view the Governor-General
was supported by the opinion of the best soldiers in
India, among whom was Sir C. Napier. Our occupa-
tion of the country, even if successful, would have been
expensive and dangerous. It would, for years and
years, have interfered with useful projects in India ;
perhaps, like Scinde, have entailed another debt. Under
any circumstances, it would have brought us into re-
newed contact with Affghanistan and its difficulties —
our sepoys into collision with the fierce and hardy
mountaineers of the north, with whom a struggle
which can bring neither glory nor gain could not fail
to be unpopular. This is the matter-of-fact view of the

The exaltation of Golab Singh is a part of the same
question. Those most hostile to this act of the Go-
vernor-General have founded their chief objections on
the badness of his character. He is represented as a
monster, as an unholy ruffian who delights only in
mischief. We admit that he is a bad man: we fear,
however, that there are few princes in India who are


much better, — few, who, with his provocation, have not
committed equal atrocities. And let it not be forgotten
by those who justly execrate his worst act, that the
victims of his barbarity were also the victims of their
own. They had not merely rebelled against his autho-
rity, but had cut in pieces his police officers and thrown
their fragments to the dogs. We go as far as any
of our readers in execrating Golab Singh's conduct
even on such provocation : we but ask that it he re-

From this chief let -us turn not only to almost any
leading member of the Lahore durbar, but to any
independent chief at present alive in India, or to any
that have passed away during the last hundred years ;
and then let us decide if Golab Singh is a worse man
than they were. Is he worse than his rival Sheikh
Imam-ud-din, who with no personal animosity, but
simply out of zeal for the powers of the day, cut up, and
removed in pots, the late Treasurer of Lahore and his
brother ? Is he more vile than Eajah Lai Singh, an-
other rival, who was one of the chief parties to the
murder of Hirah Singh, of Kashmera Singh, and of
many others ? Compare him with the Eajah or ex-rajah
of Nepal and the present minister of that country,
with their hands dyed deep with blood ! If we go back
to the Nawabs of Oude and to the Nizams of Hydera-
bad, to Tippoo or his father Hyder Ali, or to the deeds
of our protege. Amir Khan, is there a man among
them all at whose hands not only blood, but innocent
blood, could not be required, or who, taking him all
in all, is morally preferable to Golab Singh ? It is not
so much what he formerly was, as what he has been
during the last eigMeen months, that ought, in fairness, to
be considered. Has his new career been cruel and
tyrannical, or otherwise ? He certainly has not gained


the ear of the press, and especially of the Lahore
scribes. Watched as he is, by a hundred Argus-eyed
enemies, what single atrocity has been brought home to
him ? The general tenor of the reports of the score of
English travellers who have visited his country during
the years 1846 and 1847, is, that though grasping and
mercenary, he is mild, conciliatory, and even merciful ;
that he indulges in no sort of sensuality, and that he
has permitted himself to be guided by the advice of the
British political officers employed with him.

Grolab Singh, then, is morally no whit inferior to other
Native princes, and in intellect vastly the superior of
all. We may, therefore, conclude that if a Sovereign
was to be set up, it would not have been possible to have
found a better; certainly not among the princes and
ex-rajahs of the Hills, than whom a more dissolute and
despicable race it would be difficult to lay hands on.
Besides the re-enthroning them would have been re-
turning to the system which took us to Affghanistan,
and it .must be always borne in mind that we gave, or
rather confirmed, to Golab Singh little that lie did not
either possess at the time, or over which he had not some
authority. The Blue Book proves that even Sheikh
Imam-ud-din and his father had been creatures of Golab
Singh, and had held Cashmere by his influence. The
Eajah's power and means, it is true, were overrated, but
that again was not the fault of Lord Hardinge ; who
could but judge from the information before him. It
was not then sufficiently understood how much Eajah
Dhyan Singh's death, the exactions of the Sikhs during
the past two years, and perhaps his own penuriousness,
had weakened his military power. Had terms been
refused to Golab Singh, and he had proved an Abdul
Kadir, where would have been the end of the vitupera-
tions levelled against Lord Hardinge? Insurrection,


however incurred, would have excited instant attention,
while measures which ensure tranquillity are received
with silence or treated with indifference and contempt.

One very inconsistent portion of the clamour against
Lord Hardinge has been, that he has given up a Native
population to a ruler alien to their own faith. The
charge is an unreasonable one. As a tolerant Eajptit,
Grolab Singh must be more acceptable to his subjects
than can be intolerant Sikhs. A large proportion of
them are Eajputs; there are few or no Sikhs in the
Hills, and even of the majority who are Mahommedans,
most are of Hindoo lineage, men whose ancestors in the
proselytising days of Mahommedan power were forced
to change their religion. Such races of Mahommedans
are very different from those of pure descent.* They

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 24 of 39)