Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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gents as part of his 32,000, and as regular battalions of dive's time,

being on the same footing with the and indeed differ little from the

Gwalior and Hyderabad contingents ; regulars except in having only three

but such is not the case. The two officers instead of tw'enty-four. Few

latter are disciplined bodies, officered of them can correctly be called

by English gentlemen ; the others, local, — H. M. L.


of country, and protects and overawes about 150 mil-
lions of people. There is, therefore, about one soldier
to 465 of tlie population, but so unequally divided, that
in the Punjab the proportion is one to 200, whereas in
Bengal it is one to 3000. Intermediately and in the
south, it varies according to the circumstances of the
country, a single regiment being here and there sta-
tioned at long intervals, but more frequently a brigade
with cavalry and guns being located together.

The army as above detailed, does not include the
Punjab Police battalions, the Scinde, and other orga-
nized Police, altogether numbering at least 16,000
drilled, and well armed, soldiers; most of them quite
equal to average Irregulars.* To these may be added
about one hundred thousand ordinary Police and Ee-
venue peons, the " Idlers '' of Sir Charles Napier. He
estimated the number in the Bengal and Agra Presi-
dencies at 158,000; but the correct number is 59,000,
and in the Punjab 11,000. In somewhat similar pro-
portion 30,000 will be the number for Bombay and
Madras. If to this hundred thousand, we add the vil-
lage police throughout the country, an array of numbers
equal to the whole strength of the army might be
made. And if we count, as our predecessors the
Moguls would have done, or as any European Grovern-
ment but our own would do, the armies of Native States
situated loitliin our limits, we may nearly complete the
full million, and rival Xerxes of old, or the Czar of to-
day. That we allow the village police of Bengal to be
breakers, instead of conservators of the peace, is surely
our own fault. If they commit dacoitees and overawe
landholders and planters, and act energetically against
the law, for a motive, they can also, for a motive, fight

* We have taken no account of Bengal Police battalion.— H. M. L.
the projected Oude contingent and


dacoits to maintain tlie Hw. Whole districts in the
North- Western Provinces filled with t^F15rethren of

^ilie lightih^ classes of Oude have never, during the
last seventy years, seen a British sepoy. Sir George

"Xlerli, no mean conservator of the peace, in his evi-

^dencp before Parliament, Qonsidered it c[uit^,ffiasihla ta
make use of the^30,000 to 40,000 hereditary village

"^police oP iBom'Eajj now ^et aside, though still enjoyiiig

■"^ service lands.

In regard to natiye armies, when we were compara-
tively weak, They fought on our side. The Mzara

■^'teeipedrt^ordittlly at Seringapatami less cordially dif-
ferent Mahratta chiefs have at times done so. The
Eajpoots were more true to us th^n we were to our-

^""selves during Monsoxi's r^tre^tr ,.Sikh contingents
served at Bhurtpore, and in the Nepal bills. The Sikh
army, iix its "\vorst days, helped us to force the Khyber,
and a portion even accompanied us to Cabiil. The
Goorkha^ periodica]^, offiir . thmr. ^ Golab

Singh's regiments have, on two occasions, fought
valiantly by our side in Hazara. Above all, the Bhau-
walpore Nawab fought our battle when, the weather was
thought too hot for us to fight it ourselves. Bearing
these facts in mind, we would ste§;^. a meaij. isaursaie-
tween those who would have made over Delhi and Aora
to the Eajpoots during the Sikli war, and Sir Charles
ISTapicr's aliiun ai tlxc GoQrlvhus,.of Hyderabad, Golab

.^ Sijigh, and .ikaJBl^^inese. Indeed, we arp of opinion,
that all but the last might without difiiculty be induced
to ajd in the conservation of the public peace.

The expense of the army, including the dead-weight,
is eleven millions ^ year, or nearly one-half the revenue
of India. To increase it, as many suggest, would be to
risk bankruptcy. It already exceeds, by 158,000, the
strength when Lahore and Gwalior had large hostile


armies at our very doors ; and is 30,000 in excess of
tlie highest numbers during the Burmah and Sikh wars.
Allowing, then, the police in all its branches to do ordi-
nary police work, as in good hands it is amply able to
do, we have the army to support it and to watch a sea-
girt frontier, whence nothing can touch us, the Nepal
and north-west borders where we are scarcely less safe,
and to owerawe the rabble portions of the Hyderabad
army, and deal with Sonthal and other half-armed sa-
vages, and even less-formidable discontented chiefs.

Eor these purposes our means are most ample, if we
are true to ourselves. In the words of t h^^ ^ T^ fi T^^^nlgjl.
Beport ; — -

intrigue, and outbursts of small bands of desperate men : against the first,

"*•' thg'bfflt"' r emedy is a mixtur e of the different arms, with a large spriukliiig

^ of Europeans ; i'or the otlierpllTUgLiltfrtoYse, and such infiintry as;, luioi!-

~ cumbered with baggage, can be under arms and in movement at an hour's


" One thousand (1000) men (half cavalry, half infantry), and two guns,
put in motion within two hours of the news of a disturbance reaching any
of our stations, and able to traverse the country at the rate of twenty or
thirty miles a day, will do more to secure the peace of the Punjab than
the tardy assemblage of armies. Indeed, we do not hesitate to state that
our anxiety is rather on account of the number of troops, and the system
on which we understand they are to be located, than of any deficiency of

The above passages entirely express our opinion.
There is nothing in the length or breadth of the plains
of Indi^; th^-t could for an hour stand against such a
force. Had such an one beeu put ix^ motion at the out-
set of the Sonthal insurrection, the whole affair would
not have lasted as many weeks as it has months. Had
the ten thousand men that had been told off on the north-
west frontier to meet disturbance promptly marched
on Mooltan, in 1848, there would probably have been
no siege, or, at least, the affair would have been as in-
significant as it proved momentous. Pecisive and ener-
getic measures have neyer yet failed;, though contrary


courses have often brought us very near destruction.
Arcot, Plassey, Buxar, Assaye, and Laswaree, tell their
own tales, as do Baillie, Monson, and Elphinstone theirs.
With less means than Monson, Goddard successfully
performed twice his task. By a bold front Goddard
marched across the continent of India, and carried
everything before him. Monson, by distrusting his
troops, by retreating when he ought to have advanced,
drew Holkar after him, and lost his army. A few
hours' stand, or a single march in the right direction,
would have saved Baillie. A three-mile movement
would have preserved Elphinstone, even after months
of insane delusion. The very first day he taught the
Affghans their game. Instead of attacking the rabble,
who had murdered Burnes in the city, he called in his
detachments and kept close within his intrenchments,
letting nothing but hunger move him. A single regi-
ment would have dispersed the mob on the first day.
For three days the very men who afterwards destroyed
our army supported Mackenzie and Trevor in the city,
and eventually aided their retreat. Thus it will always
be. Providence helps those who help themselves.
Those who don't, need not look for friends anywhere,
especially in the East. Lords Hardinge and Grough
won Eerozeshah by holding their ground during the
night. Lord Gough lost the fruits of Chilianwalla by
not following the same course.

Eome conquered the world by never yielding a foot,
by never confessing herself beaten, by rising with re-
new^ed courage from every defeat. We require such
fortitude more than Eome did. As yet our tents are
only pitched in the land. We have a numerous and a
noble army, but six- sevenths of it are of the soil. We
have one fortress in all India. We offer no inducement
to extraordinary fidelity, even while we place our maga-


zines, our treasuries, and our very throats at tlie mercy
of any desperado. While we English, are thus reckless,
we, both at home and in India, are more easily panic-
stricken than, perhaps, any brave people in the world.
Not only does a Cabul, or a Chilianwalla, strike terror
from one end of the country to the other, but a simple
murder, a Sonthal or a Moplah outbreak, has scarcely
less effect. With few exceptions there is no preparation
to meet sudden danger. There is the most helpless alarm
zvhen it does occur.

Eussia did not wait until she was attacked, to fortify
Sebastopol, Bomarsund, and a hundred other points.
She will noio lose character if, at the present juncture,
she fortify St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Let us profit
by experience. Let us put our house in order. We
know not how soon a coalition may press Britain as
Eussia is now pressed. While the war lasts there will
be no undue economy; but should peace occur to-
morrow we run the risk of reverting to the old apathy,
that left the whole coast of England undefended, and
only thirty guns in the isles available for field service
at the very time we were expecting war with France.

Let us not be misunderstood; we are no alarmists.
We only testify to what we have witnessed during the
last twenty years. Our disgust was often great at what
we did so witness. History testifies to the preceding
eight years. We have vividly before our eyes the
terror of Madras when Hyder All's horsemen swept
its suburbs. The alarms caused by the failures of the
first Nepal campaign ; also those by supposed Mahratta
combinations, and by Pindaree incursions, by Murray's
and by Monson's retreats, by the occupation of Eur-
ruckabad, and the beleaguerment of Delhi, and, lastly,
by our four failures at Bhurtpore. Even greater,
though utterly without reason, was the panic at Cal-


cutta at the outset of the first Burmah war. Chitta-
gong was reported in flames. Bankers asked to be
allowed to send their cash to Fort William, and Bur-
mah war-boats were reported on the ^salt-water lake ;
and all this because the Calcutta militia ran away at
Eamoo, These are historical facts. Nor were the
whisperings of alarm less loud on the occasions of the
murders in 1848^ or when, in the ensuing year, six
Malay-like ^ikhs sold their lives in an onslaught on 9.
whole European regiment at Lahore. Or, on each
Moplah affair, though the number of fanatics con-
cerned was scarcely more numerous than iia that of
Lahore. Finally, our readers will remember how the
murders of Mackeson and Connolly, and the attack on
Mackenzie, were received. The first was supposed to
be connected with a simultaneous rise at Peshawur and
invasion from the Khyber ; the others, as the forerun-
ners of the assassination of all Europeans.

It must be pleasant to our enemies, and amusing to
others who watch our arrogance and insolence in ordi-
nary times, to observe the dastard fear with which many
of our numbers receive such events. The loud talk,
even in mess-rooms, of general insurrection, the loading
pf pistols, and the doubling of sentinels. Such acts are
all wrong. They tend to produce the very danger that
is feared. It is right always to bear in mind that we
are but encamped in the land. We are dwelling " in
the tents of Shem." We have yet to prove the perma-
njence of the encampment, whether it is to be rudely
broken up in blood, whether to be a Mogul, ^' Oordoo,"
a Mahratta, or 9, Sikh "Lushkur," or "Chaonecj" or
whether, after a fertilizing and blessed rule of centuries,
we are voluntarily to hand over regenerated India to
her own educated and enlightened sons. But whatever
be our and India's destinies, our obvious duty is to


avoid all unnecessary occasion of danger, at tlie same
time always calmly and unostentatiously to stand to our
arms. The spirit of Wellington's and Cromwell's words
should be our motto, and always in our hearts, " Trust
in God," " Keep your treaties," and " Keep your powder

To such of our readers as are disposed to tax us with
exaggeration in the above rough sketch, we recommend
a glance at recent newspaper statements regarding
Connolly, Mackenzie, and the Sonthal disturbances.
Above all, let them read Sir William ISTapier's pamphlet
of 1854 on the Dalhousie and Napier controversy.
They may then blush for British officers. It is difficult
to kno^v whether Williaui ISTapier believed those incen-
diary and dastardly reports. If he did he was ^s cre-
dulous as his gaUant brother when the latter perceived
danger from Hyderabad, 13urmah, aud Cashmere. Such
records of our shame, however, abound in the newspaper
correspondence of the Affghan, Scinde, and Sikh wars.
Wellington and Baglau were equally molested by scare-
crows ; and according to the accounts from our own
ranks, Spain should have been lost, and the army before
Sebastopol destroyed. The public enunciation of such
opinions is by few ; tl^e talkings and murmuriugs are by
many. Even brave men — men ready to lead the storm-
ing party, or to die at their posts — consider themselves
privileged to talk in strains they would nevey permit in
the ranks under them ; strains that uiust weak^ii their
owu iptflueiice, and might even endanger their own

We freely admit that, with the march of civil ina-
proven^ent, much has been done, during the last few
years, to improve our military position. But, in the
words of Napoleon, moral is to physical force as three
to one, and moral strength is uot altogether at the bid-


ding of Governor-Generals, Commanders-in-Chief, or
subordinate leaders. But, to a great extent it is.
The army at Candahar never lost heart, because Nott
kept his. MacLaren s brigade, intended for Ghuznee,
failed even to reach Khelat-i-Ghilzie, because MacLaren
never expected to carry out his orders. It did not
require a Xenophon to do so. Havelock, Monteith,
Eichmond, Mayne, MacGregor, Broadfoot, Pottinger,
MacKenzie or Backhouse, with many others engaged in
Aifghanistan, would have saved not only Ghuznee but
Cabul. The futile attempt of MacLaren did mischief.
It added to the previous discouragement of our own
people ; it gave courage to the Affghans. The fact is
notorious. Mahomed Akbar had failed in an attack on
the citadel of Cabul held by Shah Soojah ; but the same
night, hearing of MacLaren's retreat, he renewed the
assault, and succeeded. "With Cabul also fell Ghuznee,
and Khilat-i-Ghilzie was left to its fate, for Craigie to
make a defence not often surpassed. The counsel of a
few brave hearts saved Jellalabad after their own Go-
vernment had abandoned them.

It was the moral depression of Wilde's brigade, added
to the shameful manner in which it, a body of four
sepoy battalions with a hap-hazard brigadier and bri-
gade-major, taken from their own ranks, without a
single other staff ofhcer, without carriage, commissariat,
guns, or cavalry, was sent to Peshawur, that not only
prevented its reaching Jellalabad, but nearly caused its
own destruction in the Khyber. The Blue Book records
Sir Jasper NichoU's opinion — " I have yet to learn the
use of guns in a pass." On this wondrous conclusion,
a general who, four -and- twenty years earlier, had him-
self done good service in a mountain country, or rather,
we suspect, on the preconceived opinion that Jellalabad
mmt be lost, acted. It would have been more honest,


sensible, and humane, to have boldly refused to permit
a man to cross the Sutlej. That chapter of Indian
military history has yet to be written. Kaye's work,
admirable as it generally is, has not done justice to
those concerned, but has done very much more than
justice to the Commander-in-Chief. Tew officers have
been worse treated than the gallant and unfortunate
Wilde. As brave a soul as ever breathed, he was driven,
broken-hearted, to his grave.

We might adduce scores of such examples, bad and
good, from past Indian history, of the effect of prestige
and of leading; of good and of bad conduct, by the
very same men, aU induced by individual example, or
by the moral effect of circumstances. No soldier is
more open to the influence of all the above causes than
the sepoy. He has a wonderful opinion of the " Ikbal "
of the Company. He has also a keen perception of the
merits or demerits of his officers. He loves the memory
of the commander who has led him successfully ; and,
in extreme old age, will talk of the subaltern who was
kind to him and shared his dangers.*

In the track of Monson's retreat, we have repeatedly
heard an old subadar recount the doings of his own
corps, going over not only the names of his own officers,
but of others with whom he was not immediately con-
nected. TeUing how nobly Lucan died in covering the

* Malcolm's anecdote of the old accompany him, and every man

native officers, always taking their stepped out. Such an officer must

sons to salaam to the pictures of everywhere be loved, but probably

Coote and Medowes in the Town he could not talk to natives, and

Hall of Madras, but of their making therefore lost one important engine

a distinction in favour of the former, of influence. Sir Eyre Coote was

is an example of the advantage of perhaps as badly off in regard to

long intimacy with sepoys. Sir Wil- the languages, but he had more

liam Medowes was an admirable knowledge of the habits of sepoys,

soldier. On the breaking out of the Let us not be told that Hastings

American war, being transferred and Clive could not converse with

from a corps he had long com- natives. They were giants: rules

manded, he called for volunteers to are not for such. — H. M. L.


retreat through the Molmndra Pass ; how the l2thH. I.
was destroyed in covering the passage of the Bulinas
Eiter. History corroborates the old man's tale, and
tells how the sepoys bade their officers keep heart ; " we
will take you safe to Agra." Captain Eafter records
that "out of 12,000 men, scarcely 1000 entered Agra,
without cannon, baggage, or ammunition." The guns
dragged by bullocks were, of course, lost in a country
which in the rains is a quagmire ; but our author %'as,
unintentionally no doubt, exaggerated the tale of misery
and disaster. Never was more devotion shown by a
mercenary army. With Holkar at their heels, slaying
them like sheep, or sending them in noseless, or other-
wise maimed, to terrify their comrades, and on the other
hand, offering them service with the prospect of high
command in his own ranks ; there were scarcely more
desertions from the sepoys' battalions than there have
been from the British ranks at Sebastopol.

Monson s affair v/as one, entirely, of trust and of pres-
tige. Affairs were ill-managed, but the sepoys stood by
him as by Matthews and Baillie, because they looked
to the Company's Star; because in all points they
trusted and respected the Government. In those days
it was not unusual for the pay of the troops to be six,
twelve, and even twenty months in arrears. The army
was then numerically not half its present strength ; but
our character as soldiers was superior to what it is at
present. Strange, that after we have conquered all
around, we should have lost weight with our own
people. Monson was a brave man and somewhat re-
trieved his own personal character at Bhurtpore ; but
the effect of his retreat nearly negatived all Lord Lake's

Hector Munroe, Coote, Ochterlony, Adams, Malcolm,
and Munro were men of a different stamp. With them


there was confidence on both sides. In full reliance oil
his troops, Ochterlonj, with sepoys alone, succeeded
where royal officers and royal troops had failed. G^il-
lespie's prompt gallantry rescued Yellore, though the
same general, by impetuosity at Kalunga, sacrificed hig
own life and virtually lost the campaign. It would be
a pleasant task to tell of Arcott, Onore, Masulipatam,
Korigaum, and Setabuldee. We point to them simply as
illustrations of the happy effects of mutual trustfulness.
We might also with advantage glance at other and
naore recent affairs of opposite complexions. We shall,
however, not, on this occasion, do so.

The moral of our dissertation is to take advantage of
the present crisis in Europe, and, while we have no
present cause of alarm in India, to take warning from
the past. Much we repeat has been done. Much rot-
tenness has been swept away. Many departments have
been reformed. Some portions of the empire have
been put in good state of defence. Less expensive but
equally efficient bodies of troops have been raised, thus
combining economy with efficiency. Above all, some
steps have been taken to give us Commanders-in-Chief,
having the use of their limbs and with their senses
about them. We are not henceforward to have the
dregs of the lives of gallant veterans who, during
health and strength, were never entrusted with im-
portant command; nor are we to have as generals of
division and brigade, men whose only guarantee of
efficiency is old age, whose very existence is often a
token of their never having earned command, who have
kept themselves in clover, during the legitimate years
of working life, and thus, while generous souls have
sunk in the struggle, survive to win the prizes.

Another and more urgent step is wanted. There
must be a bar against the command of regiments being


the reward of thirty and forty years of incompetence.
We can even do better with bad generals, than with bad
regimental officers. Inkermann was won by the indi-
vidual action of regiments, not by the strategy or tactics
of generals. Most of our Indian battles have been so
won. The appointments of Generals Anson and Grant
are auguries of good. There may be abler and more
experienced commanders, but both have common sense,
the use of their limbs and of all their faculties. Let
them see that their subordinates enjoy similar advan-
tages. Neither Wellingtons nor Washingtons are ex-
pected, but it is not therefore necessary we should wait
till the quantity of sense and strength that officers have
been endowed with, has evaporated, before they are
employed in command. No such absurdity is per-
petuated in ordinary life. 'No brewer or baker waits
till his workman is superannuated before he promotes
him to the post of foreman ; a pension is the fitting
reward for old age. Some officers now in command, to
the injury of the service, were good men and true
twenty years ago, — others were never fit for a corporal's
charge ; and only in a seniority service could have
escaped from the subaltern ranks. Chief Judges, Eesi-
dents, and Commissioners, are not the oldest men in
the service. Metcalfe, Jenkins, Elphinstone, Clerk, and
Munro performed good service when under thirty years
of age. On the bench, if anywhere, age is wanted, or
at least is not an incumbrance. We reverse the order
— we have young judges and old divisional and even
regimental commanders. We have boys on magisterial
benches, hoary age commanding Light Horse.

We implore the attention of all the authorities at
home and in India, to these glaring inconsistencies.
Lord Hardinge, Sir Charles Napier, Lord Gough, all
testify to the necessity of a change. No one denies it.


Honour will be to him who, notwithstanding the outcry-
that will follow, will change the system that has
brought irregular troops into fashion, to the disparage-
ment of Eegulars, thus averring that three selected and
comparatively young officers are preferable to a dozen
or sixteen haphazard ones, commanded by such men
as are generally found at the head of regiments of
the line. Some system must be devised, by having
the whole army in one general list; or by having
regiments of two, three or four battalions, or by strik-
ing off inefficients, and by admitting the transfer of
officers from one corps to another, to secure the com-
mand of regiments to those, between the ages of
thirty and fifty, who have at least not given ^proofs
of incompetency. There are men now commanding
reginients known to have greatly injured, if not ruined,
more than one corps, and who are working hard to
destroy the credit of their present charges. We have
heard the new Commander-in-Chief of the Madras

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 31 of 39)