Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

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Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 18 of 41)
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an open rupture, for his Highness proceeded in all
respects as if he were at open war ; and all his subjects
spoke of his declaring against us as an event in which
nothing was uncertain but the time.

' The effect of our withdrawing was to encourage the
Peshwa's people, who plundered our cantonments
without any obstruction from their own Government,
and also talked openly of the impending destruction
of our detachment. An officer on his road to Bombay
was also attacked, wounded, and plundered in open day,
about two miles from Puna, and as far from the
Eesidency; and the language of the Peshwa's Minister
was that of perfect estrangement and disregard. His
Highness also continued to push his troops up towards
ours, as if in defiance ; it was announced that he
intended to form a camp between our old cantonment
and our new position, and 1,000 or 1,500 horse moved
down for the purpose. On this I sent a message,
begging that the motives of our movements might not
be misconstrued, but that the Peshwa might forbid
these aggressions ; at the same time announcing that if
any troops attempted to press on us, as in our old
position, we should be obliged to treat them as enemies.
The Peshwa replied by a promise to restrain his troops.

' On hearing the first intelligence of the preparations
on our cantonments, and of our intended removal to
Kirkee, General Smith, who had been prepared for a
rupture on the Peshwa's part, concentrated his force on
Pultamba, recalling his detachments from the Ghats;
he likewise ordered the light battalion, which was on its
route to join him, to return to Sirur. These proceed-
ings having attracted the Peshwa's notice, and being


likely to bring on a crisis, which indeed was rapidlj^
approaching of itself, I wrote on the day before yester-
day to order the light battalion and 1,000 of the
auxiliary horse that were at Siriir to march to Puna.
They had made one ordinary march of fifteen miles,
when the intelligence of their approach reached the
Pesliwa ; his troops immediately got under arms, and all
preparations were made in the city. This sort of
agitation was by no means uncommon for the last ten
days, and I therefore merely sent a message to inquire
the cause, without making any corresponding pre-
parations. The answer brought by the Peshwa's
Vakil at the Residency was that our line at Kirkee had
been under arms from daybreak till sunrise (which I
found had been the case), and that his Highness was
making corresponding preparations. I sent to say that
from the distance of Kirkee I was not acquainted with
the circumstance ; that the Vakil saw that there wore
no preparations even for defence at the Residency ; and
that he might assure his Highness there should be
none in camp. The Vakil then assured me that the
Peshwa would immediately discontinue all his prepara-
tions. He went into the city to deliver my message,
and we remained quiet, although a battalion of Gokhla's
took up ground between the Residency and the canton-
ment, at the distance of half a mile from eacli place.

' At length the Vakil returned with Vittoji Naik
Gaikwar, an immediate servant of the Peshwa's, who
said that his Highness had heard of the approach of
General Smith, and the near arrival of the battalion
from Sirur ; that this was the third time that we had
assembled troops at Puna, and the last time we had
surrounded the city. His Highness was therefore de-
termined to bring things to an early settlement. His
Highness desired that the European regiment should



be sent away, and the native brigade reduced to its
usual strength ; that our cantonments should be removed
to a place to be pointed out by his Highness ; that the
Kesidency might remain ; and on these terms his High-
ness would maintain his friendship with the British
Government. Otherwise, that his Highness was actually
mounted, and would repair to some distance from Puna,
to which place he would never return until his terms
were complied with. I replied that I believed General
Smith was still at Pultamba, that the battalion was
certainly coming in, and that the great assembly of
troops by his Highness, and the positions they occupied,
were sufficient reasons for my wishing to strengthen the
brigade ; but that I could assure his Highness that it
was brought on by no design of attacking him, and he
must do me the justice to own that none of the former
proceedings against his Highness, of which he had com-
plained, were undertaken without full notice to his
Highness ; that it was out of my power to withdraw
the troops ; and that his Highness was not entitled by
any engagement to demand it ; that, on the contrary,
he had promised to send his troops to the frontier, and
that he ought to fulfil his promise, which would remove
every ground of disagreement. Yittoji Naik then
began to talk in a style of complaint and menace,
adverted to the former disputes, in which he said the
Peshwa had given way merely from friendship for the
Company ; and asked me if I imagined that his High-
ness was not a match for us on the day when Puna was
surrounded. He then repeated his message, and desired
a categorical answer. I replied as before, and asked
him if I was to understand that when his Highness
quitted Puna I was to consider him at war. Vittoji
Naik said he had no message on that head, but that
his Highness would square his actions by ours. He was


afterwards a great deal more distinct, for he repeated
his demand, declaring if I did not comply with it, the
friendship would not last ; and warning me of the bad
effects of a rupture. I then renewed my assurances of
our wish for peace, and said that if his Highness moved
to his army, I should withdraw to camp ; that if he
remained quiet, or receded, we should still consider him
as a friend, and should be careful not to cross the river
that separates our camp from tlie town ; but that if his
troops advanced towards ours, we should be obliged to
attack them. Immediately after Vittoji Naik quitted
me the Pesliwa left the town, and withdrew to Par-
batti ; and within less than an hour large bodies of
troops began to move in the direction of our camp, and
in such a manner as to cut off the Residency. On the
receipt of Vittoji Naik's message, I had withdrawn a
company that had been left in the old cantonments ;
and as soon as it reached the Piesidency, the detachment
there marched off to camp, keeping a river between
them and the Peshwa's troops, who were moving in the
same direction. The Residency was immediately plun-
dered and burned. As the Peshwa's troops advanced,
Lieutenant-Colonel Burr fell in, and very judiciously
moved out to meet them. He was joined by the bat-
talion formerly in the Peshwa's service, from Dapori.
As he advanced a cannonade was opened from the
Peshwa's guns, which did little execution, and soon
after the line was surrounded by vast bodies of cavalry
coming on at speed. The 1st, 7th Native Infantry,
which was drawn off from the left of the line, by the
eagerness of the men to attack a battalion of Gokhles,
was charged while separated, but completely beat oft'
the attack, and the derangement was promptly repaired
by Colonel Burr, who immediately joined the corps,
and by his coolness and promptitude speedily extricated


it from its perilous situation. The horse continued to
move round in large masses until the end of the affair,
but were deterred by Colonel Burr's skilful arrange-
ments from any more attempts to charge. After firing
some rounds from the field-pieces, the line moved for-
ward, the Peshwa's guns were drawn off, and soon after
the whole field was cleared of his troops, on which
Colonel Burr returned to this camp, it being now dark.
The loss of our brigade in this affair amounts to about
90 men ; that of the Peshwa's troops is said to be about
500. I am sorry to learn that Moro Dixit is among
the killed. The Peshwa is now on the hill of Parbatti,
immediately to the south of Puna ; and his troops are
on the side of the town opposite to this place, much
disheartened. There are so many objections to attacking
the town, and so little could now be done by pursuing
the Peshwa's troops without attacking it, that Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Osborne, who arrived yesterday evening
and took the command of the brigade, has determined
to remain in his present position until the arrival of
General Smith, who may be expected in a week or ten
days. Unfortunate as a quarrel with the Peshwa may
be at this moment, I have no doubt your Lordship
will think it was inevitable. It was evidently meditated
at the time of the Peshwa's promises of cordial aid, and
had lately been advanced too far to leave his Highness
any hope of averting it by professions or explanations.
It is, therefore, a happy circumstance that his Highness
should liave thrown off the mask before he had made
any progress in his intrigues with our native army.
Nothing could exceed the zeal of the Sepoys in the
affair of yesterday. I shall have the honour of trans-
mitting Lieutenant-Colonel Burr's report as soon as I
receive it. I beg leave to point out to your Excellency
the great. zeal and exertions of that officer, in removing


the ammnnitioii, stores, and provisions to the new

ground, and in all the preparations requisite for opposing

the Pesliwa's army. Your Excellency will judge from

his own report of his conduct in the action that followed,

and will, I have no douht, be of opinion that it was

owing to his great coolness and judgment that he was

enabled to give so serious a check to the Peshwa, and

so great a change to public opinion in this part of

India, with so little loss to our own troops.

' I have, etc.,

' (Signed) M. Elphinstone,

' Resident at Puna.
' Camp at Kirkee,
mh October, 1817.'

Extract Letter from the Honourable Mr. Elphin-
stone TO THE Governor-General, dated Camp,
Kirkee, 11th November, 1817.

' Since the brigade has been in this position we have
experienced the good effects of the forward movement
made by Colonel Burr on the 5tli, and of the
impression he then struck, in the timidity and from Mr.

, , -, , . , , . Elphinstone.

inertness ol the enemy, and the tranquillity
which we have in consequence enjoyed.

'The Pesliwa's army appears to have been in great
confusion. On the Gtli Moro Dixit* was certainly
killed, as was Sardar Khan, a Patlian chief, who had been
discharged from the Nizam's reformed horse, and whom
the Peshwa ordered to raise 2,000 men for his service;
Balwant Eav Paste Nana Kukarc, a relation of
Gokhle'sf and Narayan Dixit, the brother of Moro

* One of the Peshwas Ministers who generally transacted business
with the British Residents.

f One of tlie Peshwa's officers Avho has obtained an ascendency in
his councils.


Dixit, were wounded, and Abba Pnrandhare had a
horse killed under him. The Vinchurkar was sus-
pected of treachery. The Peshwa himself set off for
Purandhar, and was with great difficulty persuaded
to remain in camp by Gokhle, who declared that his
flight would be followed by the dispersion of his army.
In the course of the succeeding days the Mahratta army
was concentrated on the side of Puna most removed
from our camp, and his Highness encouraged the
Sardars,* paid for the horses that had been killed in
action, and bestowed presents and distinctions on such
men as had been wounded. Yesterdaj^ evening the
whole army moved out from behind the town and en-
camped to the east of our old cantonment, in open view
of this camp, at the distance of about four miles.

' The only signs of activity which the enemj^ has dis-
played have appeared in his attempts to cut off supplies
and to shut the roads ; in this he has in some manner
succeeded, as some officers and some convoys were
advancing, on the faith of our alliance, with little or no
escorts. Cornets Hunter and Morrison, escorted by a
Havildarf and twelve Sepoys, had arrived at Wuroli,
within twenty miles of Puna, when they were sur-
rounded by some Inuidred horse and some Arabs, and,
after a fruitless resistance, were compelled to lay down
their arms. The Sepoys were not detained, and one of
them has arrived in camp ; but the officers were made
prisoners, and arc stated by one report to have been
murdered in cold blood ; but more authentic accounts
represent them to have been carried into Puna.
Captain Vaughan and his brother wer(^ seized at Talle-
g;'im, on their way to Bombay, and although they
ofi'ercd no resistance, they are stated by a negro servant,
who brought an account of their capture, to have been
'■' Militiiiy chiefs. t A native sergeant.


put to death in the most ignominious manner. The
negTO is so distinct in his relation of their execution
that there is no reason to doubt the fact, except what
arises from the atrocity of the action.

' The Peshwa's conduct has in some instances borne
more of the character of civiHzed war. A conductor
and a Naik's* party belonging to the Peshwa's
battalion, that were in charge of some stores in a
suburb near the Piesidency, were induced by assurances
of safety to quit a defensible house which they occupied,
and the promises made to them were faithfully observed.
Mahomed Hariff, the Munshi of the Piesidency, had
also defended his house with Arabs, was invited to quit
it, and sent out of the city unmolested. He had an
interview with Gokhle before he came, which was inter-
esting in many respects, especially from Gokhle's
producing a paper under the Peshwa's seal, investing
him with all the powers of the Government, and from
the avowal of Vittoji Naik that the Residency and
cantonments were burned by the Peshwa's own orders.
I had before supposed this wanton outrage to be the
work of some of the rabble that compose his Highuess's
army. On the other hand, Gokhle had shown the utmost
activity in seizing and plundering all persons who are
themselves or who have relations in our service.'

* A corporal.










The whole extent of the country under the Commis-
sioner may be very roughly estimated at 50,000 square
miles, and the population may be guessed at 4,000,000;
but this does not include any of the detached territories
beyond the Nizam's frontier.

The grand geographical feature of this tract is the
chain of Ghats, which run along the western boundary
for its whole length. Between this range and the sea
lies the Konkan, now under Bombay. It extends from
40 to 50 miles in breadth, includes many fertile places
producing abundance of rice, but, in general, is very
rough, and much crossed by steep and rocky hills.
Towards the Ghats, the country is in most places
extremely strong, divided by hills intersected by
ravines, and covered with thick forest. The range
itself is from 2,000 to 4,000 feet high, extremely
abrupt, and inaccessible on the west. The passes are
numerous, but steep, and very seldom passable for
carriages. The table-land on the east is nearly as
high as many parts of the ridge of the Ghats, but in


general the liills rise above it to the height of from
1,000 to 1,500 feet. The table-laud is for a consider-
able distance rendered very strong, by numerous spurs
issuing from the range, among which are deep winding
rugged valleys often filled with thick jungle. Farther
east the branches from the Ghats become less frequent,
and the country becomes more level, till the neighbour-
hood of the Nizam's frontier, where it is an open plain.
The northern part of the chain of Ghats, and the
country and its base, especially to the west, is in-
habited by Bhils. The kolies, who somewhat
resemble the Bhils, but are less predatory
and more civilized, inhabit the part of the range to
the south of Baughhaud and the country at its base on
the west as far south as Bassein. They are also
numerous in Gujarat. The Bhils possess
the eastern part of the range, and all the
branches that run out from it towards the west, as far
south as Puna ; they even spread over the plains to the
east, especialty on the north of the Godavari, and are
found as far off as the neighbourhood of the Warda.
On the north, they extend beyond the Tapty and
Narbada, and are numerous in the jungles that divide
Gujarat from Malwa, as w^ell as in all the eastern parts
of Gujarat. They are a wild and predatory tribe ; and
though they live quietly in the open country, they
resume their character whenever they are settled in a
part that is strong, either from hills or jungles. The
Bhils differ from the other inhabitants in language,
manners, and appearance ; they are small and black,
wear little clothes, and always carry bows and arrows.
In appearance, they much resemble tlie mountaineers
of Baughalpur. The Bhils and kolies, when in the
hills or strong places, live under Naiks or Chiefs of their
own, who have some influence over those in the neigh-


bonring plains. These Chiefs have in general been
little interfered with by the Mahratta Government
more than was necessary to prevent the depredations
of their followers. South of Puna, the Bliils arc
succeeded by the Ramoshis, a more civilized and
subdued tribe. They do not inhabit the main range of
Ghats, but the branches stretching out to the east-
ward. They have the same thievish habits as the
Bliils, but have no language of their own ; are more
mixed with the people, and in dress and manners are
more like Mahrattas. They are of more conse-
quence than elsewhere, in the hills joining the Ghats
southward of Satara, where they lately acted so pro-
minent a part in taking forts, and plundering the
country, under the Mse Chittur Sing. They do not
extend farther south than Kolapur, or farther east than
the line of Bijapur.

Hill-tribes like those mentioned have generally
proved quiet when the Government was vigorous, and
while they were managed through their Native Chiefs.
We perhaps lose some hold on them by the destruction
of so many of the hill-forts, which were situated in the
midst of their mountains, and served to watch and curb
their disposition to plunder.

The districts belonging to the Pesliwa in Nemar,
being under charge of Sir J. Malcolm, I have
no opportunity of inquiring regarding them.
Their importance is small, yielding only
25,000 rupees ; and, if it is not found necessary for
securing the peace of Nemar that we should have
some territory there, they might be Avell disposed of in

Our most northern district would then be Khandesh.
This province is bounded on the north by the Khaadesh.
Satpura or Viudyadri range of mountains ; and on


tlie south by the range in which are the fort of
Chanclore and the Ghat of Ajanta : on the south-west
it is hounded by the range of Sahyadri, commonly
called the Ghats, at the termination of which south of
the Tapti is the hilly tract of Bagalan. The plain
of Khandesh descends towards the Tapti from the hills
on the north and south (especially from the south) : on
the east it is bounded by Scindia's and the Nizam's
territories on the plain of Berar ; on the west, the plain
along the Tapti extends, without interruption, from the
hills to the sea ; but it is divided from the rich country
about Surat by a thick and extensive jungle. Though
interspersed w'itli low ranges of unproductive hills, the
bulk of the province is exceedingly fertile, and it is
watered by innumerable streams, on many of which
expensive embankments have formerly been erected for
purposes of irrigation. Some parts of the j^rovince are
still in a high state of cultivation, and others, more
recently abandoned, convey a high notion of their former
richness and prosperity; but the greater part of Khandesh
is covered with thick jungle, full of tigers and other
wild beasts, but scattered with the ruins of former
villages. The districts north of the Tapti in particular,
which were formerly very populous, and yielded a large
revenue, are now almost an uninhabited forest. The
decline of this province, from the flourishing condition
which it had long since attained under its Mohammedan
masters, is to be dated from the year 1802, when it was
ravaged by Holkar's army. This blow was followed by
the famine in 1803, and its ruin was consummated by
the misgovcrnment of the Peshwa's officers. The Bhils,
wlio had before lived mixed with the other inhabitants,
and had, as village watchmen, been the great instru-
ments of police throughout Khandesh, withdrew to the
surrounding mountains, whence they made incursions,


and carried off cattle and prisoners from the heart of
the province. The Pindaries annually ravaged the open
country : various insurgents plundered at the head of
bodies of horse ; and parties of Arabs established them-
selves in some of the numerous fortresses and ghuries
with which Khandesh abounds, and laid all the neigh-
bourhood under contribution.

The expulsion of the Arabs was a natural consequence
of the war, and no parties of plundering horse were able
to keep the field ; but the settlement of the Bhils was a
work of more time and difficulty. Those in the Sat-
pura mountains were the most formidable, as that
range, though not perhaps above 1,500 feet high, is
deep and strong, and so unhealthy that no stranger can
long remain in it. The plan adopted by Captain
Briggs, and zealously executed by Lieutenant-Colonel
Jardine, was to stop the supplies of the Bhils, which
are all drawn from the plain ; to cut off any parties that
attempted to issue to plunder, and to make vigorous
attacks on the points in the hills to which the principal
Bliil Chiefs had retired. These measures soon reduced
the Bhils to accept the very favourable terms held out
to them ; which were to forbear their depredations, the
Chiefs receiving pensions, and allowances for a certain
number of men, and binding themselves to restrain the
excesses of their people.

The same plan was carried through, with less exer-
tion, Avith the Bhils of the Chandore range, and with
the Bhils and Kolies in Bao^alan. The terms have
occasionally been broken by some Chiefs, but on the
whole, they have succeeded beyond my most sanguine
expectations, and have effectuallj^ delivered the province
from this species of invasion. The only attacks of the
Bhils are now made in parties of three or four, who rob
passengers. These outrages have been resisted by the



police, and are stated by Captain Briggs to be greatly
on the decline. I have little doubt that a continuance
of this vigilance, together with the liberal provision
authorized by Government for the Bhil watchmen, will
soon completely extinguish the remains of these dis-

The effectual protection of the people is the first and
most important step towards restoring the prosperity of
Khandesh ; but, from the havoc that has been made
among the population, a long period must elapse before
it can show any great signs of improvement. A very
light assessment, and the favourable terms on which
waste land is granted to speculators, will, it is hoped,
accelerate this crisis, and not only draw back the natives
of Khandesh who have retired to Guzarat and other
countries, but even attract new settlers from places
where the population is over-abundant.

Captain Briggs has applied himself with great zeal to
the improvement of the district, and has adopted and
suggested various plans for that purpose : among these,
a principal one is the repair of the embankments, and
the fear of their falling into irretrievable ruin is a strong
motive for commencing on this undertaking early. But
at present the great want of Khandesh is in population ;
and where waste land is abundant, people are more
likely to be attracted by the easy terms on which that
is granted, than l)y the richness of lands irrigated by
means of dams ; where, from the necessity of repaying
Government for the expenses of erecting and maintain-
ing them, the condition of the cultivator has generally
been observed to be worse than on land which has not
the advantage of these costly improvements.

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 18 of 41)