John Clark Marshman.

The history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) online

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close of the day, without waiting for the junction of Colonel
Stephenson. On ascending an eminence, he beheld the Mahratta
armies stretched out before him, consisting of 50,000 men, of
whom 10,000 were trained sepoys, and supported by a hundred
pieces of cannon.

Battle of Assye, The handful of British troops which now moved
Sept. 23, 1803. (J own to attack this formidable host did not exceed
4,500. The Mahrattas had taken up a strong position, as they
were always famous for doing, with their left resting on the
village of Assye, and their infantry entrenched behind formi-
dable batteries. General Wellesley had given the most posi-
tive injunctions to the officer commanding the pickets to avoid
the cannon planted in the village, but he led his troops directly
up to the muzzle of the guns, which poured an incessant shower
on the assailants. The 74th, which supported them, was thus
exposed to a hotter fire than any troops had ever before en-
countered in India. To save that gallant regiment from utter
destruction, it was necessary to bring up additional corps ; but
so tremendous was the cannonade, that General Wellesley was
at one time doubtful whether he could prevail on any regiment
to advance and face it. The indomitable courage and energy
of British troops, however, bore down all resistance, and
Sindia's splendid infantry, who stood to their guns to the last


moment, were at length overpowered and dispersed. The vic-
tory was the most complete which had ever crowned British
valour in India, but it was dearly purchased by the loss of
one-third of the army. The slaughter would not have been
half so severe but for the blunder of the officer commanding
the pickets, for which the strategy of the General was not
responsible. The raja of Nagpore fled at the first shot, and
Sindia was not slow to follow his example. He lost all his
guns, ammunition, and camp equipage. His army was com-
pletely and irretrievably disorganized, and he retreated with a
small body of horse along the banks of the Taptee. He then
made a rapid movement southward, vigorously followed
Ca ture of ^ v General Wellesley, while Colonel Stephenson
soorhanpore, successively besieged and captured the flourishing
seergnr! 218*1 town of Boorhanpore and the strong fortress of
Oct., 1803. Asseergur. These were the last remaining pos-
sessions of Sindia in the Deccan, and General Wellesley was
now at liberty to direct his undivided attention to the raja of
Nagpore, who was the most determined enemy of the Com-
pany, and the prime mover in this war.

Capture of During the month of September, the army

Cuttack, 1803. un d e r Colonel Harcourt advanced into the maritime
province of Cuttack, abutting on southern Bengal, of which the
Nagpore family had held possession for more than hah 1
a century. It lay between the Bengal and the Madras Presi-
dencies, and the Court of Directors had always cast a longing
eye upon it, and pressed the acquisition of it, if necessary, by
purchase, on successive Governors-General for twenty years.
It was now to be added to their dominions by the fortune of
war. The whole country was occupied without even the
semblance of opposition. As the British army approached the
temple of Jugunnath, which is considered to sanctify the whole
province, and render it " the land of merit," the brahmins has-
tened to the camp to inform the Colonel that on the preceding
night they had inquired of the god whether he would rather
live under the protection of the English than of the Mahrattas,


and he had replied that he greatly preferred the English. This
very sagacious and prudent determination was considered of
such importance as to be communicated by express to

Armistice with Sindia, stripped of the last of his possessions
smdia, 1803. in Candcsh, by the capture of Asseergur, made
overtures of peace to Genera] Wellesley, which, after a weari-
some negotiation, resulted in a provisional armistice on the
23rd November. It stipulated that he should keep his army
to a position forty miles east of Elichpore, and that his
camp should not approach within the same distance of either
of the British armies, then operating against the raja of Nag-
pore. Colonel Stephenson was marching to the siege of
Gawilgur, a strong and important fortress in the Nagpore
territories, in which the royal treasures were said to be depo-
sited. The raja and his troops who had been for some time
moving about in the southern districts, closely followed by
General Wellesley, now moved up to the defence of the fort.
The General, who had been separated from Colonel Stephenson
for two months, opportunely joined him in time to support and
cover the siege. On the 28th November, the British force,
after a long and fatiguing march, came up with the Nagpore
army, on the plain of Argaom. Siiidia, who was
Argaom, 28th waiting for the result of circumstances, had not
fov., i8i ratified the armistice, or observed its conditions,
but was encamped within four miles of his confederate, and, in
the engagement which ensued, did not hesitate to send his
cavalry to aid him hi charging the British regiments. Though
it was late in the day, General Wellesley resolved to engage
the enemy, but his troops had no sooner come within range of
their guns than three entire battalions, who had behaved with
distinguished gallantry on the field of Assye, under a far hotter
fire, broke their ranks and fled. Fortunately, the General hap-
pened to be at no great distance, and succeeded in rallying them,
and re-establishing the battle, or it would have been inevit-
ably lost. The raja abandoned all his cannon and ammunition ;



and few of his troops would have escaped if there had been
an hour of daylight left. On the 15th December the fortress
of Gawilgur surrendered to Colonel Stephenson, and General
Wellesley prepared to march on the city of Nagpore. The
raja, reduced to despair by these rapid reverses, and trembling
for his capital and his throne, hastened to sue for peace. The
of negotiation was entrusted to Mr. Mount Stuart
aom, Dec. Elphinstone, a young civilian of great talent and

18th, 1803. , , , ,

promise, who subsequently rose to great eminence
in the public service, and had the honour of twice declining
the post of Governor-General, for which not even an English
statesman could have been better qualified. The treaty, known
as that of Deogaom, was completed in two days. The pro-
vince of Cuttack was ceded to the Company, and a letter-post
was established without a break between Calcutta and Madras.
The districts of Berar west of the Wurda, had belonged in
part to the Nizam, but the raja of Nagpore, who owned the
other portion, had collected the revenues of the whole, and
appropriated the lion's share to himself. This territory, which
includes the " cotton field of the Deccan," was now entirely
transferred to the Nizam. Half-a-century later he assigned
it to the Company for the pay of his contingent, and they
immediately endowed it with the inestimable blessing of a
railway. The raja likewise engaged to refer all his differences
with the Nizam and the Peshwa to the arbitration of the
British Government, and to exclude all Frenchmen and all
Europeans of any nation at war with England from his king-
dom. The large cessions of territory which the raja was thus
constrained to make comprised the most valuable of his pos-
sessions, and reduced him to a secondary rank among the
princes of India ; and the power of another member of the
Mahratta pentarchy was effectually crippled.

General Wellesley had deprived Sindia of all

Stadia i posses-
sions in Hin- his possessions in the Deccan. Colonel Murray
dostan, 1803. ^ ^ game fi me ^ ca pt ure( j Broach, his only sea-
port, and occupied all his districts on the western coast in


Guzerat ; but it was in Hindostan that he experienced the
most overwhelming disasters. The valuable possessions of
his crown in that quarter, which formed, in fact, an opulent
kingdom, had been gradually enlarged and consolidated by the
incessant labours of the late Mahdajee Sindia, and chiefly
through the army raised and disciplined by De Boigne, on
whose retirement to his native town in France, in 1796, the com-
mand devolved on General Perron. Dowlut Rao Sindia, from
the period of his accession in 1792, had been continually
encamped in the neighbourhood of Poona, coercing and
fleecing the unfortunate Peshwa, and had never so much as
visited his northern dominions. The governor of Delhi, em-
boldened by his master's absence, had the temerity to set his
authority at defiance. General Perron was directed to invest
the city, and it was surrendered under the threat of a bom-
bardment. The aged and blind emperor, who had been treated
by the native warden of the palace with great severity, and
often left without the common necessaries of life, was now
transferred, after ten years of suffering, to the charge of
Perron, and as every effort was made to alleviate his wretched
condition, he had good reason to congratulate himself on the
change of masters. The continued absence of Sindia had
thrown the whole administration of his dominions in Hirido-
stan, both civil and fiscal, as well as the command


Pen-on's power, of the army, into the hands of General Perron,
who exercised this extensive power with great
ability and moderation. He had succeeded in establishing the
complete authority of Sindia throughout Rajpootana, and was
gradually extending it over the Sikh states between the Jumna
and the Sutlege. His advanced posts approached the Indus in
one direction, and Allahabad in another, and throughout this
wide expanse of country his power was paramount. The terri-
tory under his management yielded a revenue of two crores
of rupees. The troops under his command consisted of
28,000 foot, not inferior in discipline or valour to the Company's
Sepoy army, and 5,000 horse, with 140 pieces of artillery.

H 2


The jeopardy in which the Company's interests were placed
by the establishment of this powerful force essentially French
in its tendencies along the whole line of their western fron-
tier, was self-evident, and Lord Wellesley naturally considered
the extinction of this danger an object of the highest import-
ance. Happily for the accomplishment of his wishes, Sindia's
native officers entertained great jealousy of General Perron's
power, and Sirjee Rao represented to his master the indignation
felt by his great sirdars at the confidence which he thought fit to
repose in this foreigner. So strong was the adverse current
that in April, 1802, the General repaired to Sindia's camp,
and endeavoured to avert danger and to strengthen his
position by a nuzur of fifteen lacs of rupees. But the inces-
sant murmurs of his ministers at length induced Sindia to
divest Perron of the management of all the districts under
his charge, with the exception of those allotted for the main-
tenance of his troops. He was therefore contemplating a
retirement from Sindia's service at the time when General Lake
was preparing to take the field against him. The Governor-
General, anxious to take advantage of this feeling of disaffec-
tion, directed the Commander-in-chief to offer him a reasonable
consideration, if he would transfer his military power and
resources, together with the person of the emperor, to the
British Government. But, though he had received the greatest
provocations from Sindia, he honourably rejected every induce-
ment to betray his trust.

General Lake was invested with the same

Capture of Ally- .

gur, 29th civil, military, and political powers in Hindostan.
August, isos. which had been conferred on G eneral Wellesley

in the Deccan, and he took the field as soon as it was known
that Colonel Collins had quitted Sindia's camp. He advanced
towards General Perron's encampment on the 29th August,
but the enemy, though 15,000 strong, retreated without
firing a shot. The French General retired with his body
guard towards Agra, leaving Colonel Pedron in charge of
the important fortress of Allygur, the great military arsenal


and depot of the array in Hindostan, with orders to defend
it as long as one stone remained upon another. Every appli-
ance which science could suggest had been adopted in
strengthening the fort ; it was protected by ten bastions and
a ditch, a hundred feet wide, and thirty deep, containing
ten feet of water. Throughout Hindostan it was deemed
impregnable, and it was considered questionable whether any
amount of military strategy would have been sufficient to
secure its surrender. But it was captured at once by the
irresistible gallantry of the 76th Highlanders, commanded by
Major Macleod, who blew open the gate, and forced their way
in through the most intricate and loop-holed passages, raked
by a destructive fire of grape, wall-pieces, and matchlocks.
The number of guns captured amounted to 281. Our loss in
killed and wounded was 217, of whom 17 were officers. This
was one of those master strokes which served to confound
the native mind, and which essentially promoted the submission
of the native powers. General Wellesley, on hearing of it,
remarked, that he had often attempted to blow open a gate,
but had never succeeded, and that he considered the capture
of Allygur one of the most extraordinary feats he had ever
heard of. Yet, it was aUowed to pass without any recogni-
tion for forty-eight years, and it was only in the reign of
Queen Victoria that a medal was struck to commemorate the
achievement, and presented to the few heroes who still sur-
vived. A week after, General Perron, having heard that his
enemies in Sindia's court had at length succeeded in pro-
curing an order for his dismissal, informed General Lake
that he had resigned the Maharaja's service, and requested
permission to retire with his family, his suite, and his pro-
perty, through the British territories, to Lucknow. He was
received in the British camp with the distinction due to his
talents and position.

Battle of Deiw After the capture of Allygur, General Lake

iitn September' advanced toward Delhi, and Bourquin, who had

succeeded to the command of Perron's army,


crossed the Jumna to oppose his progress. The British
force, 4,500 strong, after a fatiguing march of eighteen miles,
reached its encamping ground, within sight of the minarets
of Delhi, and found the enemy posted in such force that the
General, after a reconnaissance, deemed it advisable to begin
the attack without delay. Bourquiri's army, consisting of
sixteen battalions of regular infantry and 6,000 cavalry, in all
about 19,000 men, with a large train of artillery, was drawn
up with its rear resting on the Jumna. The position appeared
impregnable and General Lake ordered his cavalry, which
was advancing in front, to feign a retreat; the enemy,
deceived by the movement, immediately abandoned all the
advantages of their position, and rushed forward with their
guns, shouting and yelling after the peculiar fashion of native
troops. The British infantry, led by the ever ready 76th
Highlanders and by the Commander-in-chief in person,
advanced steadily, amidst a storm of grape and chain shot,
and after delivering one round charged with cold steel. The
shock was irresistible, the ranks of the enemy reeled and
then broke up in disorder, flying down to the river in which
great numbers perished. The British loss was comparatively
small, only 409, but one-third of the casualties fell on the
noble Highlanders. Three days after, Bourquin and three of
his officers surrendered to General Lake.

The city of Delhi was immediately evacuated
the emperor, by the troops of Sindia, and the British standard
leos. 8 * 1 ^ ber ' was hoisted on its battlements, forty-seven years
after the sack of Calcutta by Seraja Dowlah had
extinguished the British power and name in Hindostan.
The emperor, in a previous communication with General Lake,
had expressed a strong desire to obtain the protection of the
British Government ; Lord Wellesley was no less desirous of
granting it, and thus securing to the Company the advantage
which was connected with the possession of his person. The
Mogul throne had not lost all its prestige. The emperor,
though a prisoner and sightless, was still considered the


fountain of honour throughout India, equally by the Hindoos
and Mahomedans, and a patent of nobility under his seal was
as highly prized in the remotest provinces of the Deccan, as
it had been in the days of Aurungzebe. Tippoo was the only
Mahomedan prince who had ventured to discontinue the
homage due to the royal house, and the day after his fall, the
Nizam's general solicited General Harris's permission to pro-
ceed in state to the great mosque, and resume the reading of
the khootba in the emperor's name. It was, therefore, con-
sidered important to the interests of the Company to be
identified with the house of Timur. It was arranged that
the heir apparent should arrive with his suite at the General's
tent at midday, but natives, and more especially native
princes, consider that punctuality lessens their dignity. The
General was kept waiting more than three hours, and it was
nearly sunset before the cavalcade reached the city, where, to
borrow the magniloquent diction of the Governor-General,
" in the magnificent palace built by Shah Jehan, the Com-
mander-in-chief was ushered iuto the royal presence, and
found the unfortunate and venerable emperor, oppressed by
the accumulated calamities of old age, and degraded authority,
extreme poverty, and loss of sight, seated under a small
tattered canopy, the remnant of his royal state, with every
external appearance of the misery of his condition." The in-
habitants of the city manifested great enthusiasm at the change
of masters, and the courtly news writers affirmed, that the
emperor not only shed tears, but had actually regained his
sight, in the excess of his joy. Lord Wellesley formed the
judicious resolution of removing him and the royal family
from the dangerous associations of Delhi, and proposed
Monghir for their future residence, but the emperor clung
with such tenacity to the spot which had been for six cen-
turies the capital of Mahomedan greatness, that Lord Wel-
lesley was reluctantly compelled to abandon this design.
But the wisdom of it was abundantly vindicated half a
century later, when the residence of the royal family at



Delhi, entailed a bloody tragedy, which terminated in
sweeping every vestige of the Mogul dynasty from the
soil of India.

Leaving Colonel Ochterlouy in command at Delhi,
Agra, Oct. 17, General Lake marched down to Agra, which was
still held by Sindia's troops. In the exercise of
the political powers with which he was invested, he concluded
a treaty with the raja of Bhurtpore, who sent a body of 5,000
horse to co-operate with his army. He was the first to seek
an alliance with the'British Government in the flood tide of its
success, and the first to repudiate it when the tide appeared to
be ebbing. Agra capitulated, after a protracted siege, on the
17th October, and the treasure found in it, twenty-eight lacs of
rupees, was promptly and wisely distributed among the officers
and men, in " anticipation of the approval of the home autho-

On the outbreak of the war- Sindia sent fifteen of

Battle of Las-

waree, ist NOV., his disciplined battalions across the Nerbudda to
protect his possessions in Hindostan. They were
considered the flower of his army, and usually designated " the
Deccan Invincibles." But before their arrival the battle of Delhi
had extinguished Sindia's army in the north, with the exception
of two battalions which joined the southern force, and raised
its strength to 9,000 foot, 4.000 cavalry, and 72 pieces of
artilleiy. No attempt was made to relieve Agra, but it hung
on the skirts of the British army. General Lake did not fail
to perceive that while so formidable a fort;e continued unbroken
it would be impossible to obtain the general confidence of the
province, and he determined to attack it without delay. He
had received an unfounded report that the Mahratta army was
endeavouring to avoid him, and, with his usual impetuosity,
started at midnight in search of it with his cavalry alone,
leaving orders for the infantry to follow. He came up with the
encampment of the enemy at daybreak on the 1st November, at
the village of Laswaree, and found them, as usual, entrenched
in a formidable position, with their guns drawn up in the


front. The General led his cavalry up in person to the attack ;
a fearful discharge of grape and double-headed shot mo\ved
down column after column, and rendered the fiery valour of the
troops useless. To prevent their utter extinction, the General
was obliged to withdraw them from the conflict, to await the
arrival of the infantry, who had marched sixty -five miles in
the preceding forty-eight hours, and twenty-five miles since
midnight. After a brief rest and a hasty meal, they were
launched on the enemy's guns and battalions. The engage-
ment was the severest in which the Company's troops had ever
been engaged, not excepting that oif Assye. Sindia's sepoys
fought as natives had never fought before. They defended
their position to the last extremity, contesting every point inch
by inch, and refusing to give way while a single gun remained
in their possession. But they were at length overpowered, and
lost their ammunition and camp equipage, together with 71
pieces of cannon. It was even reported that one-half their
number was left on the field, killed or wounded. On the
British side the casualties amounted to 824, one-fourth of
which belonged to the 76th Highlanders, who bore the brunt
of the action. The General himself conducted every operation
throughout the day, with more credit to his personal gallantry
than to his military talent. Though a dashing soldier, and
adored by his men, he was only a second-rate general ; but
the flagrant defects of his arrangements were covered, as has
frequently been the case in India, by the undaunted valour of
his men, at the sacrifice of their own lives. The battle of
Laswaree served to exhibit the high state of efficiency to which
the French generals in the Mahratta service had brought their
native troops. It does not appear that there was a single
European officer with them during the engagement, yet so
complete had been their training, that when left to themselves
they exhibited a degree of skill and intrepidity which stag-
gered General Lake himself, and constrained him to remark
that if they had been led by their French officers the result of
the day would have been exceedingly doubtful.


This defeat completed the humiliation of Sindia.

Treaty of Sirjee

Anjengaom, In the course of twelve weeks the French batta-
Dec. 4, 1803. jj onSj ^he bulwark of his power, had been anni-
hilated, and all his territories in the Deccan, in Guzerat, and in
Hindostan, the rich patrimony bequeathed to him by his
uncle, had been wrested from him. Seeing no alternative
between the entire annihilation of his power and submission to
the severe terms dictated by Lord Wellesley, he yielded to
necessity, and within a fortnight after the raja of Nagpore had
made his peace with the British Government, signed the treaty
of Sirjee Anjengaom. It was negotiated on the one part by
General Wellesley, on the other by Wittul Punt, Sindia's chief
minister, who, though advanced in years, was still considered
the first native diplomatist of the age, and was designated by
General Wellesley the Talleyrand of the east. By this treaty
Sindia ceded all his territories in Hindostan, lying in the
Dooab between the Ganges and the Jumna, as well as those
north of the Rajpoot principalities of Jeypore and Joudhpore ;
the fortress and territory of Ahmednugur in the Deccan, and
Broach with its dependencies in Guzerat. He relinquished
all claims on the Peshwa, the Nizam, the Guickwar, and the
British Government, and agreed to recognize the independence
of the rajas and feudatories in Hindostan with whom treaties
had been concluded by General Lake, and a list of whom was
to be delivered to him when the treaty was ratified by the

Online LibraryJohn Clark MarshmanThe history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 38)