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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Holkar. The Pindaree freebooters were spreading desolation
through a region five hundred miles in length, and four him-


dred in breadth, and a new power on the northern frontier of
the Bengal Presidency had matured its strength, invaded the
border districts, and bid defiance to the British Government.
The Company's army, which had been subjected to large
reductions, in a spirit of unwise economy, was found to be
inadequate to the defence of our extensive frontier. The
treasury was empty. The island of Java was an expensive
acquisition. The Mauritius and Ceylon had been permitted to
draw on Calcutta, and had not allowed the privilege to remain
idle. The supercargoes at Canton were pouring their bills for
the Company's China investment on the Indian treasury, and
the Court of Directors were importunate for cash remittances.
Lord Hastings, at length, succeeded in overcoming the reluct-
ance of his colleagues in Council to the transmission of thirty
lacs in gold, which, at the premium of the day, gave relief to
the India House to the extent of forty-five lacs, but it left the
cash balances in India so low as to be barely sufficient for the
current expenditure.

Description of The first and immediate difficulty of Lord
Nepal, 1813. Hastings arose out of the encroachments of the
Nepalese, or Goorkhas. The war into which he was forced
with them was bequeathed to him by his predecessor, who left
him no option but to draw the sword, or compromise the cha-
racter of the Government by abandoning the interests of its
subjects. The valley of Nepal is embosomed in the Himalaya
mountains, and bounded on the north by some of its loftiest
and most majestic elevations, and on the south by the first and
lowest range. That range is skirted by a magnificent forest,
from eight to ten miles in depth, which presents an unvaried
aspect of gigantic trees ; no breath of wind reaches the inte-
rior, which is littered with rank and decayed vegetation ; no
animals inhabit it, and no sound of a bird is heard in its
recesses. An open plain, called the teraee, stretches to the
south of the forest, five hundred miles in length, and about
twenty in breath. The soil is watered by the various streams
which descend from the mountains, and, when cultivated, pro-


duces the most luxuriant crops, but during the greater portion
of the year it is as pestilential as the Pontine marshes. It is
dotted at considerable intervals with little hamlets, but the
population, which is chiefly migratory, is composed of herds-
men, who annually bring their flocks and herds, in some cases
from the distance of many hundred miles, to graze on its rich

Rise and progress About the middle of the fourteenth century,
of Goorkha various colonists of Rajpoots entered the country

power, 1813. . J S

and subdued the aborigines, the Newars, a Mon-
golian race, professing the creed of Boodh. The princi-
palities which the Rajpoots established in these hills generally
included a strip of the adjacent forest and of the low lands.
In the course of time, the weaker chiefs were absorbed by the
stronger, and the country came to be partitioned among three
families. In the middle of the last century, Prithee-Narayun,
the chief of the mountain tribe of Goorkha, gradually raised
himself to power, and having subdued the other rajas, founded
a new dynasty, about ten years after the battle of Plassy.
He was succeeded by his sou in 1771, and his grandson, an
odious tyrant, was put to death in open durbar by his half
brother, in 1805. His infant son was proclaimed raja by
Bheem-sen, who assumed the office of chief minister, and
formed a council of regency of the principal military officers.
The strength of the Goorkha dynasty consisted in its militaiy
organization, and the impulse of conquest which the founder
communicated to it, was maintained with increasing vigour
after his death. An expedition was sent across the northern
mountains to Llassa, and the living type of Boodh was sub-
jected to the humiliation of paying tribute to his Hindoo
conqueror. But the Emperor of China, the secular head of
Boodhism, resolved to avenge the insult, and invaded Nepal
with a large army. The Goorkhas were signally defeated,
and obliged to acknowledge the supremacy of China by sub-
mitting to the deputation of a mission to Pekin, with tribute,
once every three years. Foiled in their projects in the north,


they pushed their conquests four hundred miles, on the east,
to Sikkim, and on the Avest to the Kalee river. Their most
renowned general Umur Sing, who acted to a great extent
independent of the regency, carried his arms beyond that river,
which brought him in contact with the rising power of Runjeet
Sing, and the two ambitious chiefs confronted each other in
the mountainous region of the higher Sutlege. Umur Sing
entered the Punjab, and invested Kote Kangra, a fortress in
a position so strong by nature, that in the opinion of the ablest
French engineers, it might be rendered impregnable by science
and art. After an unsuccessful siege of four years, he was
obliged, in 1813, to retire, with no little damage to his military
reputation. He made several attempts to engage the British
Government in- a crusade against Runjeet Sing, but was, soon
after, obliged to look to the defence of his own country
against an invasion from Hindostan.

Goorkha en- The Goorkhas, not content with the possessions

SS"t, the y had Acquired in the hills, pushed their
1809-1813. encroachments into the low lands, and during the
twenty-five years preceding the war we are about to describe,
had usurped more than two hundred British villages. The
subjects of the Company were thus exposed to perpetual
aggression along the whole line of frontier, and there ceased to
be any security for life or property. At length, the Goorkhas
had the presumption to lay claim to the two districts of Boot-
wul and Seoraj which they had seized in Goruckpore, though
they had been ceded to Lord Wellesley by the Nabob Vizier
in 1801. Lord Minto was anxious to avoid a war with the
Nepalese, and suggested that delegates should be sent from
the capital, Catmandoo, to meet the British representative,
and investigate the merits of the question. The inquiry occu-
pied more than a twelvemonth; the Goorkha envoys were
unable to establish their claim, and Lord Minto forwarded a
demand to the Nepal regency in June, 1813, for the immediate
restitution of the districts, and intimated that in case of
refusal they would be occupied by force. The Government


in Calcutta was thus bound to support the demand, even at the
hazard of hostilities. The Goorkha cabinet distinctly refused
to resign the districts, and again asserted their right to them.
Their reply did not, however, reach Calcutta till after Lord
Hastings had assumed the government, when, on a careful
examination of all the documents, he deemed it indispensable
categorically to demand their surrender within twenty-five
days. The period expired without any comnmnication from
the regent, and the magistrate of Goruckpore was directed to
expel the Goorkha officers, and establish police stations in the
two districts.

The Goorkhas Lord Hastings's letter created a profound sen-
determine on sation at Catmandoo, and convinced the regent that
the local dispute regarding these border lands was
rapidly merging into a question of peace or war with the
British power. A national council, composed of twenty-two
chiefs, was held at the capital, in which the subject of their
future policy was discussed with great animation. Umur
Sing said his life had been passed amid the hardships of war,
and he was not ignorant of its risks. He deprecated a collision
with the British power, and maintained that the lands in
dispute were not worth the hazard. " We have hitherto," he
said, " been hunting deer, but, if we engage in this war, we
must be prepared to fight tigers." Several other chiefs offered
similar advice ; but the regent and his party, filled with an
overweening conceit of their national prowess, treated it with
scorn. "Hitherto," they said, "no power has been able to
cope with us. The small fort of Bhurtpore was the work of
man, yet the English were worsted before it, and desisted
from the attempt ; our hills and fastnesses are the work of
the Deity, and are impregnable. Even the mighty Secunder,
Alexander the Great, who overthrew many empires, failed to
establish his authority in these mountains." They talked
of the futility of debating about a few square miles, since
there could be no real peace between the two states until the
Company resigned the provinces north of the Ganges, and


made that river their boundary. The council resolved on war,
and, as if to render it inevitable, sent down a large force to
Bootwul ; the police officer was murdered in cold blood on the
29th May, and eighteen of his men were put to death. The
Goorkhas had thrown down the gauntlet, and no course was left
to the Government but to take it up promptly, without waiting
a twelvemonth by a reference to the Court in Leadenhall-street.
The whole Goorkha army did not exceed 12,000 men, and
it was scattered over an extensive frontier ; their largest gun
was only a four-pounder, and it appeared an act of infatuation
in the Nepal regency to defy the British power, but the unin-
terrupted successes of a quarter of a century had turned the
hardy little mountaineers into an army of skilful and coura-
geous veterans, confident in their own strength, and animated
with a strong feeling of national pride. Their troops were
equipped and disciplined like the Company's sepoys, and their
officers adopted the English military titles. They moved about
without the encumbrance of tents. They had no sooner taken
up a position than they set to work to fortify it ; every soldier
worked at the entrenchment, and a strong stockade of double
palisades, filled up with earth or stones, was completed in
almost as little time as the English soldier required to erect
his tent. But the chief strength of the Nepalese consisted in
the impracticable nature of their country, and our entire igno-
rance of its localities.

Loan from Lord Hastings found himself dragged into a

Lucknow, 1814. difficult war with an empty exchequer. On pre-
vious occasions the usual resource was to open a loan, but this
was now out of the question, the Government notes being at
a discount of nine or ten per cent., and the merchants in Cal-
cutta paying twelve per cent, for money. In this dilemma he
cast his eyes on the hoards of the Nabob Vizier, who had
amassed a private fund of eight crores of rupees. The treaty
of 1801 contained a loose engagement on the part of the
Vizier to attend to the advice of the Resident regarding the
amelioration of his system of government, which was vicious


in the extreme. Various remonstrances had been made to
him during Lord Minto's administration, but he had no mind
for reforms which would embarrass his arrangements, and
curtail his savings. These representations were rendered
still more unpalatable by the bearing of the Resident, who
assumed a dictatorial tone, which lowered the Nabob in the
eyes of his Court and his subjects, and broke in upon him at
all hours when he had anything to prescribe. He interfered
in the private, and even personal, arrangements of the Nabob,
and went so far as to raise objections "to the beating of the
nobut, the great drum, the exclusive and most cherished
privilege of royalty, because it disturbed his morning
slumbers. Lord Hastings, who had resolved to treat the
native princes with every consideration, ordered these irri-
tating demands for reform to be discontinued, and the Vizier,
who had. been informed of the embarrassment of the treasury
in Calcutta, offered the Company a gift of a crore of rupees,
*' to mark his gratitude," as Lord Hastings said, " for my
having treated him as a gentleman." Lord Hastings left
Calcutta early in 1814, on a tour through the provinces, and
a visit to Lucknow. The Nabob died during the journey, but
his son renewed the offer, not without a latent hope that it
might conduce to the appointment of another Resident, which
was the supreme wish of his heart. Lord Hastings was
unable to receive the money as a gratuity, but agreed to
accept it as a loan. He was now furnished with the sinews
of war, but he was destined to a severe disappointment. Of
the old eight per cent, loan which the Government in Calcutta
had been endeavouring to convert into six per cents., a sum
of fifty -four lacs was still unredeemed, and the members of
Council, without giving a hint of their design to Lord
Hastings, took upon themselves to advertise the payment of
this sum, which absorbed more than half the Lucknow
loan. This was regarded in Calcutta as a clever stroke of
economy, but it was an act of supreme political folly. It
completely deranged the plans of the Governor-General, and


would have produced the most disastrous effect on the cam-
paign if he had not submitted to the humiliation of soliciting
a second crore, which was granted with no little reluctance.
With regard to the plan of the campaign,

Plan of the f . . .f .

Goorkhacam. Lord Hastings considered it highly impolitic to
paign, 18H. con f} ne our operations to the defence of an im-
mense length of frontier, which it would be found impossible
to guard effectually against the inroads of a hostile, vigorous,
and rapacious neighbour. He felt confident that our military
character could be sustained only by a bold and successful
assault on the strongest of the enemy's positions in the hills.
With a view to distract the attention of the regency, he
planned four simultaneous attacks on four points the western
on the Sutlege, the eastern on the capital, and two others on
intermediate positions. Of the Goorkha army, one-third, under
TJmur Sing, guarded the fortresses on the Sutlege ; two thou-
sand were distributed between the Jumna and the Kalee
rivers, and the remainder protected the capital and its neigh-
bourhood. Four British armies were accordingly assembled
in the field, comprising in all about thirty thousand men with
sixty guns.

The division under General Gillespie, who had

General Gil- '

lespie's division, acquired a brilliant reputation in quelling the
mutiny at Vellore and in Java, was the first in the
field. He advanced at the head of 3,500 men into the Dhoon
valley to lay siege to the fortress of Nahun. On the route he
came upon the fortified position of Kalunga, defended by six
hundred Goorkhas, under the command of Captain Bulbuddur
Sing. On receiving the summons to surrender late in the day,
the Goorkha chief coolly replied that it was not customary to
carry on a correspondence at such an hour, but he would pay
his respects to the General the next morning. Lord Hastings
had repeatedly enjoined General Gillespie to avoid storming
works which required to be reduced by artillery, but this order
was totally disregarded, and in the impetuosity of his reckless
courage, he determined to carry the fort by assault. His


men were staggered by the murderous fire which the Goorkhas
skilfully directed against them as they advanced up to the
wicket, when the General, irritated by the repulse, placed
himself at the head of three companies of Europeans and
rushed up to the gate, but was shot through the heart as he
waved his hat to his men to follow him. A retreat was im-
mediately sounded, but not before twenty officers
lespie killed, and two hundred and forty men lay killed and
wounded. A month was lost in waiting for heavy
ordnance from Delhi. On the 27th November a breach was
reported practicable, and a second attempt was made to storm
the fort, but after two hours' exposure to a galling fire the
troops were withdrawn, with a loss of six hundred and eighty
in killed and wounded. The sacrifice of men in these two
futile assaults exceeded the whole number of the garrison,
and it was at length resolved to bring the mortars into play.
The place was little more than an open space surrounded by a
stone wall. Three days of incessant shelling rendered it un-
tenable, and reduced the garrison from six hundred to seventy,
when the brave Goorkha commander sallied forth at the head
of the survivors and escaped. If the positive orders of Lord
Hastings had been obeyed in the first instance, the Govern-
ment would have been spared a lamentable loss of life and
the disgrace of two failures, which, at the opening of the cam-
paign, disheartened their own troops as much as it em-
boldened the enemy. The reputation of this division was
not retrieved by General Martmdell, who succeeded to the
command, and laid siege to Jytuk at the end of December.
It was situated on a lofty and almost inaccessible mountain,
and strengthened by extensive and substantial stockades and
breastworks. The whole district was under the command of
Colonel Runjoor Sing, the son of Umur Sing. Two powerful
detachments were sent to occupy two important positions,
but owing to the blunders of the General, they were both
overpowered and cut up. With a force of 1,000 Europeans
and 5,000 natives he allowed himself to be held at bay


by 2,300 natives. Then, despairing of success he turned the
siege into a blockade, in which the rest of the campaign
was entirely wasted.

The division under General J. S. Wood was

Division of

General j. s. appointed to re-take Bootwul, and penetrate
Nepal through Palpa, but its efforts were para-
lyzed by similar imbecility. After much unnecessary delay
the General took the field in the middle of December, and,
without making any reconnoissance, allowed himself to be
brought unexpectedly on the stockade of Jeetpore by the
treachery of a brahmin guide, on the 14th January, 1814.
It might have been expected, however, that a British army of
4,500 men, fully equipped, would have been a match for 1,200
Goorkhas, but the General, after fighting his way to a posi-
tion which commanded the entrenchment, and placed it within
his grasp, sounded a retreat just as the enemy had begun
to abandon it. The opposition he had encountered, although
insignificant, made so deep an impression on his feeble mind
that he retired within the British frontier, and confined his
exertions to an attempt to defend it ; but the Goorkhas, em-
boldened by his pusillanimity, penetrated it in every quarter,
and scarcely a day passed in which some village was not
pillaged and burnt. Eeinforcements were sent to him
without delay, but he had neither the spirit nor the skill to
eriiploy them, and his division was rendered worse than use-
less throughout the season. The chief reliance of Lord
Hastings for the successful issue of the campaign was placed
, on the army entrusted to General Marley, 8,000

General Mar- '

ley's division, strong, which was destined to march directly on
the capital, only a hundred miles from our frontier,
but he proved to be more incompetent than even Wood and
Martindell. After reaching Puchroutee on the 20th December,
he lost a month in devising the best mode of advancing to
Catmandoo. Two detachments were sent to two points, east
and west, twenty miles distant from head-quarters, without
any support. No military precautions were adopted in these


isolated positions, and the Goorkhas simultaneously surprised
both corps on the 1st January. The officers were deserted by
the sepoys, but fell fighting with their usual valour, and all
the guns, stores, and magazines fell into the hands of the
enemy. The skill and audacity manifested by the Goorkhas in
these encounters confounded the wretched General, and he
made a retrograde movement to guard the frontier against an
enemy, magnified by his fears to 12,000 men, but who never
exceeded even a tenth of that number. As he declared that
his army was inadequate to the object assigned to it, Lord
Hastings strained every nerve to reinforce him, and, including-
two European regiments, raised its strength to 13,000 a
force sufficient to have disposed completely of the whole army
of Nepal. But General Marley could not be persuaded to
enter the forest, and on the 10th February mounted his horse
before day light, and rode back to the cantonment of Dina-
pore, without delegating the command to any other officer,
or giving any intimation of his intentions. General George
Wood was then sent to assume the command. An en-
counter was accidentally brought on with the Goorkhas, in
which four hundred of their number perished, and their com-
rades, dismayed by this reverse, abandoned all their positions
in the neighbourhood, and left the road to the capital open ;
but General Wood had as little spirit as his predecessor, and
this division was likewise lost to the object of the war.

This was the first campaign since the Corn-
Effect of these r

reverses in pany took up arms in India in which their own
troops outnumbered those of the enemy, and in
the proportion of three to one. The plan of operations appears
to have been skilfully and judiciously adapted to the novel
character of this mountain warfare. It was the unexampled
incompetence of four out of five of the generals which
rendered it abortive, and enabled the enemy to hold our
armies in check outside the forest from the frontier of Oude to
the frontier of Bengal. " We have met," wrote Mr. Met-
calfe, the Resident at Delhi, " with an enemy who decidedly


shows greater bravery and steadiness than our own troops.
In some instances Europeans and natives have been repulsed
with sticks and stones, and driven for miles like a flock of
sheep." " The successes of the Goorkhas," wrote Lord
Hastings, " have intimidated our officers and troops, and
with a deeply anxious heart I am keeping up an air of indif-
ference and confidence ; but were we to be foiled in this
struggle, it would be the first step to the subversion of our
power." The reverses which our arms had sustained were
published throughout India, and served to revive the dormant
hopes of the native princes. For several months the country
was filled with rumours of a general confederacy against us.
Mahrattas, Pindarees, and Patans appeared for a time to
suspend their mutual animosities, under the impression that
the time had come for a united effort to extinguish our supre-
macy. The Peshwa took the lead in these machinations, and
sent envoys to all the Mahratta courts, not overlooking the
Pindaree chiefs. A secret treaty of mutual support was con-
cluded, the first article of which bound the princes to obey
and serve him in this crusade. The army of Sindia was
organized on our frontier to take advantage of our difficulties.
Ameer Khan, with a body of 25,000 horse and foot, thoroughly
organized and equipped, and one hundred and twenty-five
guns, took up a position within twelve marches of our own
districts, and insulted our distress by offering to march to
Agra, and assist us in combating the Goorkhas. Runjeet Sing
marched an army of 20,000 men to the fords of the Sutlege,
and 20,000 Pindarees stood prepared for any opportunity of
mischief. To meet the emergency Lord Hastings ordered
the whole of the disposable force of the Madras Presidency
up to the frontier of the Deccan, and despatched a Bombay
force to Guzerat. The Court of Directors were importunate
for retrenchment and reductions, but he considered the public
safety paramount to obedience, and raised three additional
regiments of infantry, enlisted bodies of irregular horse,
remodelled the whole of the Bengal army, and by these and
n. x


other arrangements increased its strength to 80,000 soldiers.
But, as the natives observed, the Company's ikbal good
fortune was still in the ascendant. The clouds began to
break. Runjeet Sing was recalled to his capital by a threat-
ened irruption of Afghans ; Sindia's two principal commanders,
after long discord, attacked each other ; Ameer Khan found
more immediate employment for his bands in the plunder of
Joudhpore, and the Pindaree leaders quarrelled among them-
selves. The cloud was completely dispersed by the brilliant
success of General Ochterlony, to which we now turn.

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 27 of 38)