"Chapters XL to XLVII" by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860).
VOYAGE FROM CAPE TOWN TO CALCUTTA–HARRY SMITH'S DISAPPOINTMENT AT NOT RECEIVING THE COMMAND IN THE AFGHAN WAR–HIS CRITICISM OF THE OPERATIONS.117
ON the voyage we encountered terrific gales of wind; one night a squall took us aback, carried away our topmasts, and shivered our sails into shreds in a moment. I never knew or could conceive before what the force of wind was capable of. This excessive violence lasted only twenty minutes, leaving us a log on the water. The gale continued three days, and on the 18th June, 1840,118 we had staring us in the face a watery grave. It was the anniversary of the day on which I and two brothers escaped the slaughter of the eventful field of Waterloo. The same Divine Hand, however, protected us, and the 91st Psalm was again read in devotion and gratitude to the Almighty and Eternal Lord God, "Who alone spreadest out the heavens and rulest the raging of the sea;" and we reached Madras Roads in safety after a most boisterous but quick passage.
I embarked six horses, one of which died at sea, and all the rest were much bruised and injured.
At Madras we had many friends. The Governor, Lord Elphinstone, whom we had known as a boy, and to whom we were of use at the Cape on his way out, was then in the Nilgherries. So soon as he heard of our arrival, Government House and all its luxuries were placed at our disposal; but we were already hospitably put up with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Dr. Murray, the Inspector-General, who had for many years held a similar appointment at the Cape, one of the most able professional men in the world, and as an officer in his department never surpassed. Poor fellow! in two years it was my melancholy duty to report his death at Kurnal, in the Upper Provinces of Bengal, where he fell a gallant victim to an epidemic disease. To his exertions to avert the progress of its fatal ravages, and the rapidity with which he travelled from Calcutta in the sickly part of the rainy season, may be attributed a loss irreparable to the service, to his family, and to his friends.
From Madras to Calcutta we had a beautiful passage, flying along the coast and passing the famous temple of Juggernauth with the rapidity with which its votaries believe they ascend to the Regions of Bliss. On reaching Calcutta we were surrounded by old friends of the army, and many civil servants and military officers of the Honourable Company's Service whom we had known at the Cape, where they had repaired for the recovery of health. Lord Auckland received us with every kindness, and his Lordship's amiable, accomplished, and highly educated sisters showed us the most marked attention, kindness, and hospitality. As to the Commander-in-chief, Sir Jasper Nicolls, we became, after some time, as it were members of his family.119
Sir Jasper Nicolls is a man of very strong common sense, and very wary of giving his confidence, or, indeed, of developing any of his intentions. At first I thought he was a rough, hard-hearted man. I soon discovered, however, he was one of the best men of business I ever served, with a warm heart and a degree of honesty of purpose never exceeded. His dear good wife is now, alas! no more–she died at Rome on their return to their native land after years of travel, toil, and burning suns. Her ladyship and daughters and my wife possessed a union of hearts and feelings which gradually increased until, on the death of Lady Nicolls, one important link of that chain of union was snapped, but is now riveted in the most fervent affection for the daughters.
In the career of military life, no man can reasonably expect that so rugged a path can be traversed without some personal disaster, and so it was with me, previously one of fortune's spoiled children. Lord Auckland, from report and a knowledge of my exertions and successes at the Cape, had imbibed a favourable opinion of me, and had the Burmese made war in 1842, as was expected, it was his Lordship's intention to appoint me to the command of the troops destined to repel invasion and re-establish our superiority. I had also a faithful friend in the Lieutenant-Governor of the Upper Provinces, Mr. Thomas Campbell Robertson–a man of superior ability and acquirement, and more versed in the history and affairs of India than any man I ever sought information from except Mr. Thoby Prinsep.120 As I was likely to spend some years in India if appointed Adjutant-General, as I had some reason to expect, I had, when at the Cape, read thirty-three authors, made copious notes, and generally studied the history and geography of this immense Empire. This acquired knowledge enabled me to converse with such practical and experienced men with great advantage to any information and knowledge I had previously obtained.
After the death of the celebrated Runjeet Singh, the state of our North-West Frontier, bordering on the seat of commotion, and ultimately bitter war, in Afghanistan, was far from settled, and it was contemplated that the Sikhs might interrupt our communication with our troops, so fearfully extended from any base of operations, and with the country of this doubtful ally intervening. Under these circumstances, I placed my ready services at the disposal of Lord Auckland and the Commander-in-Chief. Soon after this the insurrection at Cabool commenced. Poor Elphinstone and I had been friends for years,121 and I had frequently impressed upon him the difficulty of his position, the probability of an attempt on the part of the restless and independent-spirited Afghan to shake off that yoke so injudiciously imposed upon him (especially as our rupees were no longer so lavishly, so indiscreetly scattered to acquire an ascendency which, if necessary to acquire at all, should have been acquired by the sword, and maintained by the sword, sheathed in inflexible and uncompromising justice, equity, dignity, and honour), and the necessity of his ever considering himself in the greatest danger when he felt the most secure; but I must not set my foot on a field which to describe would require volumes. The war broke out. The energy of a Wellington or a Napoleon would have saved the destruction of that force; it was perfectly practicable, as I then pointed out. The Lieutenant-Governor and I were in hourly communication; I showed the military steps we ought to pursue, and he urged them on the Government, and offered to bear any responsibility with the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Auckland was a sensible but timid man, and the Commander-in-Chief, ever most judiciously and correctly averse to the occupation of Afghanistan, was reduced to defensive measures at the moment when the most vigorous and initiative steps ought to have been taken with the velocity of lightning. The moment was lost. If time, that irrecoverable engine in war, is neglected, disaster, as in this instance, must ensue. Before the outbreak at Cabool, when my dear friend Elphinstone, from the dire misfortune of sickness, was compelled to request his relief, the Lieutenant-Governor urged the Government and Lord Auckland to send me up. I offered my services on the condition that I had the supreme and uncontrolled military authority from the source to the mouth of the Indus and was aided by a civil servant; and Mr. George Clerk, the Political Agent for the Punjaub, a man of first-rate abilities and activity, most popular among the Sikhs, whose country and resources intervened between our distant operations and their base, offered nobly (for we were personally strangers) to serve with and under me.
Sir Jasper Nicolls, why I do not to this moment know, was opposed to my being employed, although Lord Auckland wished it, and Major-General Pollock was gazetted by the Government–"by the express recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief"–but only to the command of the Upper Indus, not the Lower, where Major-General Nott was senior officer. Consequently, when these two officers' forces united, they were like the Corps d'Armée of Napoleon in Spain, jealous of each other, the junior122 was disobedient to the senior, and that ensemble, on which success in war hinges, was lost.
The only reason I could ever suppose influenced Sir Jasper Nicolls in his reluctance to employ me–for I know he had the highest opinion of my activity–is that he apprehended, if I once got the command, the wealthy Persia would have been attempted, and my progress alone interrupted by the Caspian Sea. His thought day and night was to get back the army from its advanced and dangerous position. Whereas had the troops been rushed to the scene of action, as they might have been (for on the commencement of the outbreak, the Khyberies were with us), and Brigadier Wyld's Brigade moved by forced marches to Jellalabad, other troops rapidly following in succession, and when Wyld arrived at Jellalabad, the whole of the weakly men, women, stores, etc., been securely placed in a small Place d'armes constructed for the purpose during Wyld's approach, while General Sale's and Wyld's forces combined precipitated themselves on Cabool, the force then would have been saved, the spirits of the troops would have been sustained by the knowledge of succour approaching, the enemy proportionately depressed. Thus a want of exertion and decision in rendering support caused a disaster and a loss England never before sustained. It is needless here to enter into dates, number of marches, etc.; the thing I have described was a simple matter of activity and well within the scope of possibility. As soon as he arrived, Lord Ellenborough saw the necessity of withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan, but was precipitate in availing himself of the period so to do–which certainly was not at the moment when our military prowess, the prestige of our arms, and our national character for supremacy required to be re-established. A government proposed by the Afghans should have been set up by us; then the sooner we abandoned a nominal conquest, the better for the true interests of British India. So astonished was I at the immediate withdrawal, that I wrote the Memorandum No. 1. In the meanwhile the Governor-General had left it optional to General Nott to retire by Guznee, but had issued several peremptory orders to Pollock to retire. When Nott, however, proposed his forward movement, Pollock was also directed to move. I then wrote the Memorandum No. 2, and as the campaign developed, No. 3.123 The moment the Afghans were assailed and the invasion pursued, they quailed immediately and did not evince the courage and perseverance in the cause of their country of the Swiss and Vendeans. If they had done so, the three divisions of Pollock and Nott and England, moving as they were upon the falsest of military principles, would have been sacrificed; but in all wars the folly of one party is exceeded by that of the other, and that which is the least culpable succeeds. This example of the want of union and energy on the part of the Afghans shows how easy it would have been to have crushed the insurrection by adopting vigorous measures at the moment.
But to revert to my own command. If the Governor-General had selected me and given me the authority I desired, viz. the whole line of the Indus, with the aid of Mr. Clerk (whose popularity with the Sikh Government and nation was so great that the resources of the Punjaub would have been at his command, and consequently at my disposal for the use of the army, which stood so much in need of them), I would have waged war upon a great scale upon the Afghan, razed his forts and fortresses from one end of his country to the other, established a government, remained in the country until order, rule, and authority were firmly established; then when the invincible character of our arms had been maintained, marched out of the country triumphantly, and not have sneaked out of it, as we did, with our tail down, like a cur before a hound. That our national character for consistency, equity, and superiority has suffered by this melancholy attempt on Afghanistan is daily experienced throughout India. Would Scinde, Bundelkund, and Gwalior have dared to resist us but for the example afforded them in Cabool, that British troops could be not only beaten, but annihilated? The whole of the transactions of this period afford such a lesson to all Governors and Military Commanders, it is to be hoped posterity will never forget them. First principles in government and war can never be departed from: though success at the onset may attend irregularity, in the end disaster will assuredly prove that consistency, rule, and the true principles of strategy are indispensable to the achievement of conquest. To buy the good-will of the influential men of nations is folly and extravagance and the most temporary authority that can be attained. Conquest must be achieved by force of arms, by the display of irresistible power; then held by moderation, by a progressive system of amelioration of the condition of the people, by consistency and uncompromising justice. In this way the great movers of mankind, Fear and Self-interest, perpetuate subjection.
SIR HUGH GOUGH SUCCEEDS SIR JASPER NICOLLS AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN INDIA–AFFAIRS IN GWALIOR–BATTLE OF MAHARAJPORE–HARRY SMITH MADE K.C.B.
AT this period  the time of command of Sir Jasper Nicolls expired, and Sir Hugh Gough, the hero of Barossa and of China, was appointed Commander-in-Chief. Headquarters was at the time in the Himalaya Mountains at Simla, and, Sir Hugh having expressed a wish that I should meet him, I and my dear wife started in the middle of the rainy and unhealthy season on the 18th July for Calcutta by dâk.124 By this slow process you are carried at the rate of three and a half miles an hour in a sort of wooden box called a palanquin. You railroad flyers would regard it as slow indeed for a journey of 1300 miles. We reached Allahabad, and from thence proceeded by steamboat and found my new Commander-in-Chief. The parting with Sir J. Nicolls was as painful as affectionate. With every member of his highly educated and accomplished family we were on the most intimate and friendly terms, and he was kind enough by letter to say that he ever regarded me as a "most upright, straightforward gentleman and soldier." On parting, I could not fail to express regret that he had not appointed me to command in Afghanistan, the only time I ever agitated the subject. His answer was, "My reasons then are fully in force now, but it was no want of the highest opinion of your abilities." I shall ever entertain the highest respect for Sir Jasper Nicolls as a most shrewd and sensible man, laborious at papers, expressing himself by letter in as few words as the Duke himself, and possessing a clear and thorough knowledge of the affairs of India and its army. In his great error of command–I allude to Afghanistan–there he was ever consistent, always opposed to the occupation of that country, so distant from our resources, so ruinous to our Treasury, but, though right in principle, he should have yielded to the force of circumstances at the moment, restored the fight, and ultimately given back the country to its lawful owners.
We were both received by Sir Hugh Gough and family with every demonstration of a wish to cultivate that mutual friendship and good understanding which education dictates and the good of our service and the rules of the social compact demand. We were only in Calcutta from the 1st to the 12th September, but twelve more laborious days we never passed, what with an excess of correspondence, the meeting with innumerable old friends, the formation of new, the fêtes to the new Commander-in-Chief, a great military dinner to Lord Ellenborough, etc., and, added to it all, the muggy heat and damp of Calcutta. The twelve days accordingly appeared to us almost months, from excitement and fatigue mental and bodily.
His Excellency had no recreation from his labours and indefatigable exertion, exposing himself to sun, wind, and weather both by sea and land in the most enthusiastic manner. Such was the state of affairs in Scindiah's Dominions, it was evident that British interference alone could establish any peaceful order of things. It was therefore not only expedient, but necessary, to assemble an army for the purpose of supporting diplomacy or of acting in open war. Lord Ellenborough intimated this to Sir Hugh, who, with his characteristic energy, sought information on all points, and soon saw his position, his resources, and the means at his disposal to collect that army which should be irresistible if compelled to take the field, or adequate to making a demonstration which would no less surely bring about the required result. To assemble an army in India requires much arrangement and consideration. There are various points at which the maintenance of an armed force is indispensable; the extent of country in our occupation entails in all concentrations particularly long and tedious marches: lastly, the season of the year must be rigidly attended to, for such is the fickleness of disease and its awful ravages, that it would need an excess of folly to leave it out of the account.
Affairs at Gwalior were still in a most disturbed state. The country was divided into parties. One of them, since the death of the Maharaja Scindiah [5 February, 1843], had adhered to the widow, a girl of only fourteen, but intriguing, designing, and in the hands of a cunning fellow, a sort of Prime Minister. This party was the strongest, and was inimical to the British Government. Hence it became necessary, in virtue of existing treaties, to re-establish by force of arms that amicable relationship which the tranquillity of India demanded, as well as to support the interests of the Maharaja, Scindiah's heir by another wife, a boy of ten years old. An army with a very efficient battery train was accordingly assembled at Agra under the immediate command of His Excellency, while a large division under Major-General Grey was concentrated at and in the vicinity of Cawnpore. While negotiations were in progress, the troops were to move on Gwalior to menace the hostile party, so that we might secure the object in view by negotiation rather than at once appeal to arms. The headquarters army marched from Agra direct on Dholpore upon the Chumbul, while the division under General Grey was to create a diversion and threaten Gwalior by a march to southward. According to the rules of strategy and correct principles of military combination, this division of the threatening or invading forces may with great reason be questioned, when we reflect that the army of Gwalior consisted of 22,000 veteran troops and for years had been disciplined by European officers and well supplied with artillery, and thus an overwhelming force might have been precipitated on Grey and his army destroyed, for he was perfectly isolated and dependent on his own resources alone. This, however, had not escaped the observation and due consideration of the Commander-in-Chief. As we calculate on the power of an enemy, so may we estimate what, according to his system of operations, he is likely to attempt. On this occasion it was considered that if the enemy made a descent on Grey, his division was of sufficient force to defend itself, while our main army would have rapidly moved on Gwalior and conquered it without a struggle through the absence of the chief part of its army, (for strategy is totally unknown to a native army, which usually posts itself on a well-chosen position and awaits an attack).
The leading incidents which led to the outbreak of war have been so recently and so distinctly recorded, I have only to observe that the policy pursued by the Governor-General was of the most correct character. He gave the State of Gwalior full time for reflexion, and demanded only such an arrangement as could alone restore the youthful Maharaja to his birthright, and produce harmony within the State and peace and tranquillity without. It admits of considerable discussion whether or not the Governor-General was justified in crossing the Chumbul, and thereby invading the territory of a kingdom he was treating with, when one of the great preliminaries had been granted, viz. the surrender of the Dada Khasgee Wala, the adviser and lover of the young widow and the Prime Minister. However, the army under the Commander-in-Chief crossed the Chumbul by ford above Dholpore, while Grey's Division entered the dominion of Scindiah viâ Koonah and crossed the boundary, the river Scinde, in the neighbourhood of Kohee, avoiding, however, the Antree Pass, which would have exposed his advance to considerable interruption. The army, after crossing the Chumbul, moved into a position on the Koharee rivulet (the banks of which are intersected by small ravines so as to be impassable but by certain roads), and about eight miles from the ford of the Chumbul. The position was one rather chosen for the pomp and ceremony of a visit from the widow, the Maharaja, and the Court, which was expected in the then state of the negotiations. This meeting was all arranged,125 but never came to consummation. The army were so jealous of Grey's advance, they concluded, and naturally from their own Mahratta character (being the most fickle and deceitful people, and capable of any treachery to advance their desires), that while the Governor-General was encouraging this meeting, which was to be attended by a considerable body of the Mahratta army, Grey's division would move into the rear and seize the capital and the fortress of Gwalior. The suspicions of natives (naturally jealous and ready to impute evil to all around them) are not to be calmed, and the army prohibited this meeting (if the babe widow and her party ever seriously meditated it) and moved forward in a hostile attitude, crossing the Ahsin rivulet, which runs parallel to the Koharee at a distance of eight or nine miles.
I was in the habit of taking long rides every morning to make myself well acquainted with the country. When out riding on the 28th December, I fell in with a patrol which the Quartermaster-General of the Army had been directed to take out for the purpose of reconnoitring the enemy, who, according to information, had crossed the Ahsin and posted himself between the villages of Maharajpore and Chounda. The former is advanced on the plain between the two rivulets, the latter is below the Ahsin, the banks of which are also intersected by innumerable small and impassable ravines. I accompanied Colonel Garden, the Q.M.G. On my return I gave in the memorandum as follows:–
"Camp Hingonah, 28th Dec. 1843.
"Note on the position of the enemy on the left bank of the Ahsin River:–
"From what I saw this morning, I calculate the force of the enemy to be 10,000 men, and he fired from ten guns of small calibre. His position appeared to be on the plain in dense masses of troops, his left resting on the broken ground of the Ahsin River, his guns drawn out in front, his right 'en air,' as if more troops were coming up to occupy the position selected. The sooner, therefore, it is practicable for our army to occupy the right bank of the Koharee and place itself in front of the enemy's line, the better, not only to prevent a further advance of the enemy, but to enable a general action to be fought in two hours, when desired. This, however, is a single view of our army, as it does not take into consideration Major-General Grey's Division. It therefore rests mainly to be considered whether General Grey's troops should not be so brought into direct communication with the main body as either to attack simultaneously the enemy's left flank, or be so posted as to act upon the line of the enemy when 'en déroute' of our main body. To do this it is obvious that the exact position of General Grey must be ascertained. If the information of the strength of the enemy renders it expedient to await direct communication with General Grey, some little delay is involved. On the contrary, if a general action be at once desirable, it may be fought by eleven o'clock to-morrow, Friday the 29th inst. To effect this, the army should march, crossing the Koharee disencumbered of the 'impedimenta' of war, before daylight the 29th inst. The distance hence to the enemy's line is within eight miles. To fight this action early in the morning is most desirable, in order to enable the pursuit of the fugitives to be protracted, therefore effective, and to ensure the capture of every gun.
"The morning was very hazy, and the smoke of the camp combining with it made reconnaissance difficult."
The army marched before daylight on the 29th Dec.126 in three columns, all of which reached their ground with the utmost precision. The enemy was attacked [Battle of Maharajpore], every gun (54) taken, and the defeat general; but never did men stand to their guns with more determined pluck, every gunner being bayoneted or cut down at his post. It was the same at Puniar [General Grey's victory of the same day.] The result of these battles is well known. I was mentioned in the dispatches of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh Gough, and was rewarded with a step in the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, from C.B. (I had worn that decoration since Waterloo, twenty-nine years before) to K.C.B., the Great Captain of the Age writing to me as follows:–
"Horse Guards, 29 April, 1844.
"I have the satisfaction to acquaint you that the Secretary of State has, upon my recommendation, submitted to the Queen your appointment to be a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, of which Her Majesty has been most graciously pleased to approve.
"I have the honor to be, Sir,
"Your most obedient humble servant,
"Major-General Sir H. G. Smith, K.C.B."
To which I replied–
"Headquarters, Army of India, Simla, 23rd June, 1844.
"MY LORD DUKE,
"I have this day had the honour to receive your Grace's letter, 'Horse Guards, 29th April,' acquainting me with an expression of satisfaction that Her Majesty had, upon your recommendation, been graciously pleased to appoint me a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath While my gratitude to my Sovereign is unbounded, my heart dictates, it is to your Grace I am indebted for every honorary distinction, promotion, and appointment I have received during a long and an eventful period of the history of the world. Among the many thousands of the gallant soldiers who so nobly fought and conquered under your Grace, I may conscientiously hope none could desire more zealously to do his duty, or was ever more actuated by personal devotion or inspired with greater confidence throughout the numerous struggles of war, than he who now renders his grateful thanks for this mark of distinction so honourable to the soldier, and thus conferred by Her Majesty through the recommendation of his Commander-in-Chief, the Great Captain of the Age.
"I have, etc.,
"(Signed) H. G. SMITH.
"Field Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington."
I have now served my country nearly forty years, I have fought in every quarter of the globe, I have driven four-in-hand in every quarter, I have never had a sick certificate, and only once received leave of absence, which I did for eight months to study mathematics. I have filled every staff situation of a Regiment and of the General Staff. I have commanded a Regiment in peace, and have had often a great voice in war. I entered the army perfectly unknown to the world, in ten years by force of circumstances I was Lieutenant-Colonel, and I have been present in as many battles and sieges as any officer of my standing in the army. I never fought a duel, and only once made a man an apology, although I am as hot a fellow as the world produces; and I may without vanity say, the friendship I have experienced equals the love I bear my comrade, officer or soldier.
My wife has accompanied me throughout the world; she has ever met with kind friends and never has had controversy or dispute with man or woman.
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER XLI.
ON THE BATTLE OF MAHARAJPORE.
In a letter to Sir James Kempt, dated "Gwalior, 15th January, 1844," Harry Smith sketches the events which led to the battle and cites his memorandum of 28th December given above. He continues–
"The army did march as described in Sir H. Gough's dispatches in three columns, each arriving at its designated post in excellent time–which I freely admit was scarcely to be expected, having to disengage itself from a mass of laden elephants, camels, and bullocks and bullock carts, etc., resembling rather the multitudes of Xerxes than anything modern, and having to traverse ground on the banks of rivulets most peculiarly intersected by numerous and deep small ravines, the pigmy model of a chain of mountains, but even more impassable. On such ravines was posted the enemy's left flank; his right extended towards the village of Maharajpore, which he had filled with Infantry and ably supported by batteries enfilading its approach, his extreme right again thrown back upon the ravines of the Ahsin River, as described in the little pencil sketch enclosed, thus realizing the surmise in my report, 'his right "en air," as if other troops were coming up to complete the occupation of the position.' If we could have caught the enemy in the state he was when reconnoitred the previous day, easy indeed would have been the victory. These Mahrattas, nor indeed does any Indian Army, know no more than to occupy a strong position and hold it as long as able, sticking to their guns like men. Having observed the enemy's position the day before, it was obvious to me this morning that he had advanced very considerably, and that he held the village of Maharajpore in force, which I rode through the day previous. Upon a plain, and that plain covered with the high stalks of Jumna corn, not a mound of rising ground even to assist the view, reconnoitring is nearly nominal. However, so impressed was I from what a nearer view the day before had given me and what I then saw, that the enemy attached great importance to his left flank, the line of his retreat if beaten, I ventured to advocate that flank as the most eligible point for a weighty attack. However, things were differently conducted and as the heads of columns appeared, the enemy instantly opened a well-directed cannonade, particularly from the vicinity of the village of Maharajpore, and Sir H. Gough ordered an advance. His dispatch tells the tale, and the mode of resistance, the enemy's guns, etc. I need, therefore, only bear testimony to the gallantry of the enemy's resistance, which in my conscience I believe and assert would riot have been overcome but for our gallant old Peninsular comrades, the 39th and 40th Regiments, who carried everything before them, bayoneting the gunners at their guns to a man. These guns were most ably posted, each battery flanking and supporting the other by as heavy a cross-fire of cannon as I ever saw, and grape like hail. Our leaders of brigades in the neighbourhood and in the village had various opportunities of displaying heroism, Valiant, Wright 39th and my Assistant, Major Barr, remarkably so, and many gallant fellows fell in this noble performance of their duty. The enemy was driven back at every point with great loss, yielding to force, not retiring in haste. A more thorough devotedness to their cause no soldiers could evince, and the annals of their defeat, altho' an honour to us, can never be recorded as any disgrace to them. Turn we now to General Grey's division. For many days before the 29th our communication was totally interrupted, and the wisdom of the route and the disunited approach to Gwalior must be tested by the fortunate result, not by the established rules and principles of strategy. Grey's dispatch is not so well written as it might have been, I am led to understand, nor does he give full credit to the old Buffs for their gallant double allowance with which they contributed to the achievements of the day and the capture of the enemy's guns, every one of them. The old 50th had its share too, and the blockheads in the East, who 'haver' over their wine of India's being in a state to require no British troops, are wrong: for, liberally contributing the full meed of praise to the Seapoy Battalions, that praise is so rested on the British soldier's example, the want of that 'point d'appui' would entail a dire want indeed, that of victory! Now if we regard the victories recently obtained over the Mahratta force, 28,000 men whose discipline has gradually been improving under Christian officers since 1803 (the days of Lake and Wellington), well supplied with cannon and every implement of war, animated by a devotion to their cause not to be exceeded–in a military point of view they are achievements in the field which yield alone to Assaye and rank with Dieg, Laswarree, and Mehudpore, and in a political point of view, their importance is immense, struck in the very heart of India, within the hearing almost of the seat of government of our Upper Provinces, Agra. Remembering the disasters in Affghanistan, which still, as they ever will, hold their baneful influence over British India; reviewing the recent bloody murders, and present confusion and anarchy at Lahore; the still unsettled state of Bundelkund; the sickness in Scinde (that accursed Scinde), the grave of our army; the intrigues at the court of Nepaul, which have been rife and ready for mischief pending the late contest–then may my Lord Ellenborough and our country congratulate themselves upon the re-establishment of the 'Prestige of our Arms' as a sure foundation of our Indian Empire, the very base of which was tremulous, for it is well known that these Mahrattas have been advocating hostility in every court of the East. It is to be hoped, therefore, coupled with Lord E.'s moderation and the equity of his acts in thus re-establishing the youthful Maharaja on his throne, that our country and its Government will regard this as no war of foreign invasion, no war of conquest and unjust aggression, but one of absolute necessity to maintain the one Power paramount in India on the faith of old treaties of amity, and a demonstration to the present disturbed states of India, to the well-disposed, and to the World, that the British Lion will be ever triumphant; and that it will accordingly treat the soldiers who have achieved victories of such political magnitude with the liberality shown to the heroes exiled from Affghanistan, their discomfitures conjured into triumphs of valour, their miserable retreat through the Khyber Pass into deeds of glory inferior to none but the passage of San Bernardo by Napoleon. In this hope we may venture to trust a fair construction will be put on our acts, and that I may see my gallant comrades promoted as they deserve, and honoured in the manner recent services have been.
"I shall ever regard this battle as one of the most fortunate circumstances of my life, if the majority of its remainder is to be spent in India, by its having acquired me that experience in Indian warfare all require, and above all, to hold in just estimation your enemy, a creed I have ever advocated, and to a certain extent, in every instance practised. In the late conflict no one gave our foe credit for half his daring or ability; hence our attack was not quite so scientifically powerful by a combination of the different arms as it might have been, and the defects of the unwieldy machine called the British Indian Army rendered most glaring:–its appalling quantity of baggage, its lack of organization and equipment of the soldiers, its want of experience in Generals and in officers, the extreme willingness but total inexpertness and inaptitude of the soldier in the arts of war, in the conflict, on picquet, on every duty which a protracted campaign alone can teach effectually. In this country almost every war has been terminated in one or two pitched battles fought so soon as the one army comes in sight of the other, and accordingly all the science attaching to advance and retreat, the posting of picquets, reconnaissance of the enemy, the daily contemplating his movements, both when he is before you and on the march, are lost, and war is reduced at once to 'there are people drawn up who will shoot at you, so fire away at them.' You blindly and ineptly rush upon them, drive them from the field with considerable loss, take all their guns, and never see the vestige of them after. Thus we must judiciously and with foresight organize ourselves for a campaign in the Punjaub–a very probable event–for the armies of India are not now the rabble they were in Clive's time, but organized and disciplined by European officers of experience (many French), and the art of war has progressed rapidly among our enemies, whose troops are invariably far more numerous than those we oppose to them; thus by superior ability we could alone calculate on their defeat. As it is, we calculate alone on the bulldog courage of Her Majesty's soldiers, and our loss becomes what we lately witnessed.
"To obviate these deficiencies, apparent even to the most inexperienced eye, we must in the first place reduce our baggage, next give our Seapoys canteens and haversacks (a Regiment told me they were exhausted for want of water, the water-carriers having run away). We must then, every cold season, have divisions of the army assembled, and post the one half opposite the other, with outlying picquets, etc., and daily alarms, skirmishes, etc., then general actions with blank cartridges. Without this the British Indian Army will remain as it now is–a great unwieldy machine of ignorant officers and soldiers. The drill of the Seapoy is good enough, and that of his officer, and never will attain greater perfection, but unless the officers in their separate commands know how, as I call it, to feed the fight, to bring up or into action successively in their places their command, when the attack is ordered, I defy any general to defeat his enemy but by stupid bull-dog courage. It may be conceit in Harry Smith, but if 10,000 men were given him in one cold season, if by sham fights, etc., he did not make them practical soldiers, he would resign in disgust, for the material is excellent and willing, but now, like a dictionary, it contains all the words, but cannot write a letter.
"I have given you no account of the death of our gallant old comrade Churchill; he was game, and tho' not free from many errors he had virtues, and his loss cost Juana and me some honest tears.
"Young Somerset is a fine, gallant young fellow who received four wounds, three severe ones, but is doing well, thank God both for his sake and his father's. As I cannot write to all my many friends, if you think this letter would amuse any of my old comrades, soldiers such as I aim at making, Lord K.,127 Sir J. Lambert, Sir T. Reynell (if better), Sir A. Barnard, pray send it. Lord F. Somerset I do not name, as I know you show him all my effusions which meet your own approbation.
"Juana was under a heavy cannonade with Lady G., Miss G., and a Mrs. Curtis on their elephants. Juana had this command of Amazons, and as she was experienced and they young, her command was anything but satisfactory.128 This Gwalior is a very extraordinary place. I have had some long rides in every direction, and the débris of the army of Scindiah now disbanding are as handsome, well-clothed and appointed soldiers, as regular in their encampments, as Frenchmen, and inclined to fight in their gallant and vivacious style.
"Thus our credit in the victory is the more.
"Faithfully, dear friend,
(Signed) HARRY SMITH."
AFFAIRS IN THE PUNJAUB–SIR HENRY HARDINGE SUCCEEDS LORD ELLENBOROUGH AS GOVERNOR-GENERAL–OUTBREAK OF THE FIRST SIKH WAR –BATTLE OF MOODKEE.
Cawnpore, 7th September, 1846.
THE narrative by way of my history which ceased in 1843 must now be renewed, as it embraces the most important period of my eventful life, as far as public services go. In my capacity of Adjutant General of Her Majesty's forces at Headquarters (which in the cold weather moved about on the plains, in the hot enjoyed the cool and bracing atmosphere of the Himalayas at Simla), I had every opportunity of watching the gradually gathering storm in the Punjaub, until it was suspended over our heads in November, 1845, ready to burst, though where, when, or how no one dared venture a decided opinion. Most certainly, however, no one contemplated a powerful invasion, or imagined that the Sikhs were in communication with the [princes?] and influential men of British India so far as Delhi. At the period when this was written, the history of the rise of the Punjaub as a nation was well known to all, but ere these pages come to light it may be forgotten or partially so. A slight compendium of this history is therefore annexed.
The kingdom called the Punjaub extends from the Hindoo Koosh (a branch of the Himalayas) on the north, is bounded by that range on the east, by the Indus to the west, by the Sutlej, to its confluence with the Indus, to the south. However, a considerable portion of the territory south of the Sutlej was under the rule of the Lahore Government, and this became the seat of the great war in 1845-6.
This tract of country was consolidated by the conquest of various independent principalities by the ability, enterprise, and foresight of the celebrated Runjeet Singh, who raised himself to pre-eminence and absolute power from the middle class of society. Hence the old Sikh families, the ancient Rajpoots, although subdued into obedience, were ever distrustful of him and he was ever obnoxious to them; hence the seeds of discord which so rapidly sprung up on the decease of Runjeet Singh, and which concluded in this war so fatal to the Sikh.
The whole Punjaub contains about a quarter of a million of Sikhs, the chief part to be found around Lahore and the beautiful city of Umritsir. A Sikh cultivator is seldom seen. The Sikhs, although professing a religion of Brahmanical tenets and established by their great priest and prophet Govind Gooroo, drink to excess, eat opium and bangh (a species of wild hemp possessing narcotic and intoxicating qualities of the most enervating description), and regard the abstemious Hindoo and the sensual Mussulman with contempt. Hence the labour of the fields and every other labour fall upon the two latter races, and they have always been favourably disposed to the British.
MAP TO ILLUSTRATE THE SUTLEJ CAMPAIGN, 1845-6.
Runjeet Singh's great policy was a firm adherence to the rulers of British India. He had observed in 1811 [1808?] the discipline of some of our Seapoys who formed an escort to Mr. Metcalfe (ultimately Lord Metcalfe) on an embassy to the Court of Lahore. This escort, when treacherously attacked by a fanatical sect not then subdued to Runjeet's authority, called Akalies, so boldly and ably defended itself, that, observing the effect of discipline, the acute Runjeet instantly set to work to organize his own army on a similar footing. He invited foreigners, especially Frenchmen, to enter his service, and was liberal to many of them in the extreme. Under such instruction, a most powerful army sprung up, composed of Cuirassiers, Light Infantry most highly equipped, numerous Artillery (in which Runjeet had great faith), and beautifully appointed and organized Infantry. Runjeet spared neither expense nor exertion, and such a spirit of superiority and strength was infused into this army that it believed itself invincible and the most powerful in the world. Runjeet died in June, 1839, leaving this powerful army, estimated by us as of the following strength:–
From the death of Runjeet Singh in 1839 to 1845 a succession of revolutions and murders of Kings and Princes continued, first one party, then another, supporting a reputed son of Runjeet on the throne, who was as sure to be murdered in the sanguinary struggles of that Reign of Terror. A Hill family, elevated for their personal beauty rather than their talents (although some of them were far from wanting abilities), became conspicuous, and many fell with the puppets of their creation. This family received the soubriquet of Lords of the Hills, Jummoo being the fortified hold of the head of the family. Its most conspicuous members were Goolab Singh and Dhyan Singh. Dhyan and his son Heera Singh were both Prime Ministers, or Wuzeer, and both were murdered in 1844. Such was the power of the standing army, it acknowledged no other authority, set up Kings and deposed them at pleasure, and at the period of the commencement of the war, a boy (Dhuleep Singh), born of a Hill woman of great ability and reputed the son of old Runjeet, was the nominal King, Lal Singh was Wuzeer, and Tej Singh Commander-in-Chief of this rabble (though highly organized and numerous) army. It must be obvious that such a state of things could not last. The resources of the treasury were rapidly consuming, and with them the only power of the Queen Mother, the Rani or Regent, which consisted in her presents and consequent popularity. All the foreign officers had absconded except one Frenchman, a man of neither note nor talent, and a Spanish Engineer by name Hubon, a low-bred man, but clever, acute, and persevering.
The British Government of India had acknowledged this Regency, and was desirous to retain amicable relationship with the Punjaub, but in the middle of the year 1845, so unruly and clamorous for war was the Sikh army, all negotiations terminated, and a state of uncertainty ensued which made it necessary for British India, without declaring hostility, to place itself on a footing to resist it, should so mad an enterprise ensue.
Meanwhile in 1844 Lord Ellenborough was recalled, and succeeded as Governor-General by Sir Henry Hardinge, a statesman and a soldier of Wellington's, in either capacity celebrated for judgment, ability, and foresight. Upon his very arrival, he saw that a rupture with the Punjaub was sooner or later inevitable, and he drew up an able document on the prospects of British India in such an event, which he submitted to the Directors. Immediately afterwards he commenced moving every possible soldier, and commanded the material of war up to the North-West Frontier, while a large flotilla of boats was built at Bombay for the purpose of bridges, and sent up the Indus and thence into the Sutlej opposite Ferozepore, where they were sunk under the left bank of the river. By these arrangements, dictated by a perfect military knowledge and by that foresight which bears the stamp of prediction, Sir Henry Hardinge, in the autumn of 1845, had in readiness for coming events nine regiments of British Infantry, three regiments of British Cavalry, a most powerful train of Field Artillery (with upwards of 100 field-guns, 6 and 9-pounders, and a powerful battering train in progress), a large force of Regular and Irregular Cavalry, and forty regiments of Native Infantry. The isolated post and fortress of Ferozepore had been reinforced by twenty-four field guns, a regiment of British Infantry, and Cavalry and Native Infantry, until a force of upwards of 7000 men composed a Corps under Major-General Sir John Littler, for the double purpose of defending Ferozepore from insult and watching the ghauts, or fords, of the Sutlej. The assembling force was put into Brigades and Divisions, and equipped to take the field either on the initiative or defensive.
In December all negotiations and communications between the Regency and ourselves had ceased at the dictation of the Sikh army, which was clamorous for war with the British, and openly vaunted it would place the Rani and her son upon the Imperial Throne of Delhi, and a correspondence was actually established with that city and the line conducting to it, for the supply of provisions to the Sikh army. This act of treachery on the part of British subjects will show what would be the stability of British rule in India on any other basis than that of military power.
The means of obtaining information on the part of our political officers, as results prove, was defective; nor can any credit attach to Sir John Littler as a watchful outpost officer, when the enemy gradually crossed by boats (not a bridge) an army of 70,000 men of all arms, with an immense train of artillery and overwhelming force of cavalry, with stores enormous, and positively established themselves under the Commanders Tej Singh and Lal Singh, ere our authorities were aware of it, civil or military, fortified a strong position near and embracing the village of Ferozeshuhur, and made a demonstration as of attack in front of Ferozepore. This was in the middle of December. This development and invasion called for, and was met by, the most active and vigorous measures on the part of the Governor-General and Council. Every available regiment was pushed forward without waiting to assemble Divisions and Brigades, although all were in order, and a very able organization was effected, as far as the programme went. The troops made double or forced marches, with the result that the force of cavalry under Brigadier White, the 1st Division under Major-General Sir Harry Smith,129 and one Brigade of the 2nd Division under Major-General Gilbert, reached Moodkee much fatigued and exhausted on the morning of the eventful 28th December. One of the most able and enterprising movements at this stage of the war was the evacuation of Loodiana, except its fort, by order of the Governor-General, and the march of the troops thence on Busseean, which reinforcement, joining the troops on their hasty march on Moodkee, ensured the victory about to be contended for.
On the 18th December a considerable force of the British army had reached Moodkee, much exhausted, as has been said, by the necessary length of marches and a want of water and the power of cooking. Brigades were assembled, but not Divisions. The troops had some of them barely reached their bivouac, when the advance of the Sikh army with clouds of cavalry demanded an immediate turn-out in preparation to resist an attack of fresh and infatuated troops, excited by personal hatred, natural vanity, and the stimulants of spirits, opium, and bangh. In place of awaiting the coming storm, our united forces being compact, each arm in support of the other, the whole on an open plain ready to receive the onslaught, our troops were hurried unnecessarily into the field, and the cavalry and artillery rushed into action. Our cavalry and artillery had driven back the Sikh cavalry most gallantly into a very jungly or bushy country, when the enemy's infantry brought them up and occasioned a very considerable and most unnecessary loss. The infantry meanwhile advancing, the right Brigade of the 1st Division upon the right of the army under the command of Brigadier Wheeler, but under the eye of Sir Harry Smith, was fiercely assailed by an almost overwhelming force of Sikh infantry. These it boldly repulsed, and, continuing to advance, took six guns and caused the enemy an inconceivable loss. The dust was so darkening, the enemy could only be discovered by its density and the fire.
The first part of this action was on an open country with occasional large dense and thorny trees, into which the enemy climbed and caused the 50th Regiment great loss. This Brigade (H.M.'s 50th, and the 42nd and 48th Regiments Native Infantry) was more engaged than any other part of the army. Many officers and upwards of 150 soldiers of the 50th were wounded. Brigadier Wheeler was wounded severely; Major-General Sale, Q.M.G. of H.M.'s Forces, who had attached himself to Sir Harry Smith, mortally. On this occasion Sir Harry Smith greatly distinguished himself on his celebrated black Arab "Jem Crow," by seizing one of the colours of H.M.'s 50th Regiment and planting them in the very teeth of a Sikh column, and gloriously did the Regiment rush on with bayonet, and fearful was the massacre which ensued. The left Brigade of the 1st Division was engaged to the left of the line under Brigadier Bolton of H.M.'s 31st Regiment (who fell mortally wounded), while the Brigades of the 2nd Division under Major-General Gilbert and Major-General Sir John McCaskill occupied the centre. Sir John was shot through the heart.
It is a curious circumstance in this battle that so obscured was all vision by the dust, that it afterwards appeared that the bulk of the Sikh forces passed in column along the front of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, and when repulsed by the 2nd Brigade 1st Division and [ ] Brigade 2nd Division, were driven again across the front of the 50th, the advance of which was pushed by Sir Harry Smith. After the troops were halted, the dust dispelled and the moon was up and shining brightly. The 1st Brigade 1st Division then formed an obtuse angle with the rest of the army. This brigade had gone right through the Sikh repulsed columns. The 1st Division this day took twelve of the seventeen guns captured from the enemy.
The Division lost at Moodkee–
After the action the troops returned to their camp, which they reached about half-past twelve.
BATTLE OF FEROZESHAH (OR FEROZESHUHUR) 21ST DECEMBER, 1845, AND RESUMED BATTLE OF 22ND DECEMBER–THE ARMY MOVES INTO POSITION AT SOBRAON.
EARLY in the morning of the 19th parties were sent out to bring in the wounded, and our cavalry outposts pushed forward to cover this, as also to enable our artillery to bring in the captured guns, amounting to seventeen. The enemy having made a reconnaissance with a large body of cavalry, which created an alarm in the camp, the troops were turned out and took up a very faulty position in front of Moodkee. In this village there is a very tenable little fort, which was of great use to us. About one o'clock, the enemy making no forward movement, the troops were turned in to cook. During the afternoon all was quiet.
On the 20th every arrangement was made for the care of the sick, wounded, stores, etc., at Moodkee, and the troops, well completed in ammunition, prepared to march on the memorable 21st December. As yet no direct communication was established with Sir John Littler, in command of the 7000 men at Ferozepore. These were still isolated and subject to a weighty attack of the enemy, who could attack with facility and still hold his position around the village of Ferozeshuhur. This was strongly fortified and bristling with cannon, and there was plenty of water for both men and horses. Hence our object was to effect a combination with the Ferozepore force ere the enemy anticipated us, unless his correct information of our movements led him to attack either one or both of our columns moving mutually to a point of concentration, for Littler's force was ordered to move out and meet our advance. (This was by no means a difficult or dangerous movement, the distance from Moodkee to Ferozepore not exceeding that from the Sikh army at Ferozeshuhur.)
The troops marched from Moodkee in order of battle (almost crossing the front of the enemy's position), and moved in the direction of Ferozepore, from whence Littler's column was also moving to effect the junction, which took place about ten o'clock in the morning. Sir H. Hardinge, as Governor-General, had interdicted any attack upon the enemy's lines until the junction was effected, a most fortunate interdiction for British India.130 So soon as the army was collected, Sir H. Hardinge turned to Sir H. Gough and said, "Now the army is at your disposal."
Sir Hugh made immediate arrangements to attack, although much most valuable time was lost in those arrangements, nor were Generals of Division made the least aware of how or what or where they were to attack. The army was one unwieldy battalion under one Commanding Officer who had not been granted the power of ubiquity. My opinion may be called one after the result, but I formed it while the troops were arranging in order of battle. I now record it leisurely and most deliberately. Had I commanded, I should have moved in contiguous columns of brigades, my cavalry protecting my advance up to the enemy's position till within range of his guns, the troops so moving as to be able to anticipate any movement of the enemy to the discomfort of Ferozepore, and to enable me to throw the weight of the attack upon the right of the enemy, if, as I apprehended from all I had heard, he was as assailable upon his right as on any other given point. I say I would have thrown the weight of my attack upon his right, because he was most formidable in his entrenched position, and if that right was to be carried as I anticipated, my victorious troops could have acted on the line of his retreat, which, being comparatively left open, gave him an opportunity to avail himself of it, and not to fight with that desperation that even bad troops will show if they are hemmed in. So soon as my advancing columns had attained to barely within the range of the enemy's guns, I would have carefully reconnoitred him, and compared ocular demonstration with the accounts of the enemy's interior arrangements of defence afforded by spies, taking with me each General of Division as I passed the front of his troops. This reconnaissance would have enabled officers in command to see their way. The whole weight of my attack should have been on the enemy's right and right centre, which would have given me the advantage which the principles of war so justly and truly demand, "To be superior to your enemy on the point of attack." The enemy's position was his favoured one, semicircular, the centre near the village of Ferozeshuhur, where there were good wells, and also pond water for cattle. By a weighty attack on a given point, the half of the enemy's cannon in position would have been lost to him and innocuous to us. Whereas we attacked in what may almost be termed lines of circumvallation of the enemy's crescent, thus presenting ourselves as targets to every gun the enemy had. Our artillery was massed about the centre of the army; six-pounders opposed to the enemy's guns in embrasures, and of a calibre or weight beyond the range of our six-pounders; hence the mortality and wrongly imputed inefficiency of that arm, a noble arm when called forth in its legitimate field.
The 1st Division, mine, was separated, the 1st Brigade, under Brigadier Hicks, being to the right of the mass of artillery, the 2nd Brigade to the left of that arm, which covered from three-quarters to a mile of ground. The whole Division was regarded as the reserve to the centre of the army. Sir John Littler's, the Ferozepore force, was on the left. In this order the army advanced to the attack. There was plenty of daylight; the imputation of attacking too late in the day is unfounded, as I will plainly show, although I was not then, nor am I now, an advocate for so precipitate an attack, made without any knowledge of the enemy's position beyond the lies and contradictory stories of spies. An attack on a rear-guard ought to be precipitated coûte que coûte; an attack on an army delayed until science can be applied with the greatest decision.
Having posted my right Brigade, I joined the left and correctly posted it, strictly in obedience to the orders I had received from the Commander-in-Chief in person. My Division thus posted, I rode forward with a desire of having a look at the enemy's position, and came up to Sir H. Hardinge, who was in doubt what some guns were upon our left, which had just been brought into action. I galloped forward to ascertain, and reported they were of Littler's force, that his attack appeared to me one of no weight from its formation, and that, if the enemy behaved as expected, it would fail. Sir H. Hardinge said, "Then bring up your Division." I explained I had only one Brigade; I could bring up that. He ordered it up, and I pretty quickly had it on the move to the front, to the left of Gilbert's, or the 2nd Division, and to the right of Littler's.
At this moment Gilbert's left was not only checked in its advance, but actually falling back, and I had some difficulty in establishing myself on the front line in consequence of the broken troops falling back upon me. Scarcely was I firmly established, when Major Broadfoot, the Political Agent, rode up and said, "Be prepared, General. Four Battalions of Avitabile's131 are close upon you in advance; I have it from correct information–a man in my pay has just left them." The smoke and dirt rendered everything at the moment invisible. I saw, however, that to resist this attack, which was evidently made to take advantage of our check, and penetrate our line between Littler's right and Gilbert's left, I must bring up the right of my Brigade. I endeavoured to do so, and with H.M.'s 50th Regiment I partially succeeded, under a storm of musketry and cannon which I have rarely, if ever, seen exceeded. My native troops staggered and some receded, while the gallant old 50th bore the whole brunt, opening a rapid fire. At this moment poor Major Arthur Somerset132 was struck down, a most accomplished soldier for his experience, and of a promise to emulate his great ancestor the Duke, had Almighty God been pleased to spare him to his country. I never saw a more cool, judicious, and gallant officer than my dear and lamented friend, Arthur Somerset. If the tears of a veteran could decorate the hero's tomb, every vein upon it would be full. Poor youth! "Sic transit gloria mundi!"
The enemy was at this moment in his bearing noble and triumphant. So fast were officers and men falling, I saw there was nothing for it but a charge of bayonets to restore the waning fight. I, Colonel Petit, and Colonel Ryan put ourselves at the head of the 50th, and most gallantly did they charge into the enemy's trenches, where such a hand-to-hand conflict ensued as I had never before witnessed. The enemy was repulsed at this point, and his works and cannon carried, and he precipitately retreated. I pushed forward with the 50th in line until we reached the enemy's camp. All order was broken by the tents, but my orders and example were "Forward! Forward! Forward!" I saw a village occupied by the enemy full in my front, about 400 yards away. By this time I was joined by many stragglers of regiments from my right or Gilbert's Division, but no one from my left or Littler's. I was therefore apprehensive of my left flank, nor was I aware (from the obscurity created by the dust) whether the four Battalions of Avitabile's were repulsed, or indeed where they were. I resolved, therefore, to carry the village, which I soon did in gallant style with H.M.'s 50th and a detachment of the Honourable Company's 1st European Light Infantry under Captain Seaton and Lieutenant —. The colours of H.M.'s 50th were gallantly borne forward by Brevet Captain Lovett and Lieutenant de Montmorency. I was the first officer in the Head-quarters village of the Sikh army, Ferozeshuhur, and I planted one of the colours of H.M.'s 50th on the mud walls. A scene of awful slaughter here ensued, as the enemy would not lay down their arms. The village was full of richly caparisoned and magnificent horses, and there were camels around it innumerable.
After about half an hour the dust cleared away upon my left, and I saw that Avitabile's Battalions had been driven back by my charge, but Littler's Division had made no impression upon the enemy where he attacked. The victory appeared complete on my right; crowds of advancing, straggling officers and soldiers came up, and I resolved again to push forward. The evening was fast closing, but before dark I carried the enemy's camp half a mile beyond the village, and endeavoured to collect and form the stragglers upon H.M.'s 50th–amounting, I conceive, to near 3000 men. For the first hour, so excited were the men, I could make no formation, which I little regarded at the moment, expecting every instant to hear the victorious army upon my right. Not doing so, on the contrary, hearing the enemy in force close to my front and right (it was very dark), I saw at once I had pushed the victory far beyond [the ground held by our army], and that my position was critical in the extreme. I therefore made a vigorous and determined exertion to establish a formation, and I got the 24th Regiment Native Infantry–one of my own Division–in line upon my right under Major Bird, and about 150 of the 1st European Light Infantry under Captain Seaton, and proceeded to form the whole in a semicircle in front of the enemy's camp, my flank being well refused towards the village. Scarcely was this first formation effected, when the enemy made rather a sharp attack upon my right and drove back the formed troops. The darkness prevented the enemy continuing his success, and the noise and clamour of my troops in the endeavour to form indicated that I still held my ground. Thus I was compelled to reoccupy my right and contract the circle of formation. In this arduous duty I (and the Service still more so) was deeply indebted to Major Hull of the 16th Grenadiers, who, after he received a wound of which he died in a few hours, continued to do his duty, and aid me beyond my expression under a murderous fire of musketry, grape, round shot, and grisaille.
I at length got all the stragglers, consisting of some of H.M.'s 9th Regiment under Major Barwell,
The moon arose, and the night was as bright as day. The enemy soon discovered the weakness and isolation of my force, and gradually closed in upon me, keeping up a most destructive fire. My A.A.G. and Q.M.G. were both wounded, their horses killed–every officer and soldier dead-tired, so that many were killed fast asleep, both officers and men. I was fully aware of the importance of my post, in the very centre of and beyond the enemy's entrenched position, and although I could hear nothing of our army or see any bivouac fires, I resolved to maintain myself to the last. The loss, however, became every moment more heavy, and officers and soldiers were restless and sensible of their critically advanced position. The enemy got a gun to bear directly on my rear; my course was decided for me, and I at once saw indications of the impossibility of maintaining myself any longer.
It was now three o'clock in the morning. To withdraw without being compromised was a most perilous operation, for I was surrounded, while the enemy were shouting and cheering, beating up troops, and calling out to us in French and English, as well as Hindoostani, that we were in their power. I therefore feigned to attack, opened a fire and under the smoke quietly drew off, H.M.'s 50th leading. For the last arrangement, this was my reason–if I were opposed, the 50th would charge through such opposition; if pressed on my rear and the native troops rushed past me, I then had a rear-guard of H.M.'s troops which I could depend on. The enemy never discovered my retrograde movement until I was out of his power.
I then marched straight, leaving Ferozeshuhur to my left and continuing my route (guided by the moon and the dead soldiers on the line by which I advanced). I soon fell in with a vedette, and, concluding all was right and seeing a bivouac fire, regarded it as the picquet of cavalry from which he was posted. Upon reaching the fire, I found it belonged to the wounded men of H.M.'s 62nd Regiment and others, under some surgeons, who knew nothing whatever of our army. It was presumptuously urged upon me by several officers, who ought to have thought before they spoke, to move on Ferozepore. My answer was decided enough. "The Commander-in-Chief with his army is not far from us, meditating an attack as soon as it is daylight, and find him I will if in h–ll, where I will join him, rather than make one retrograde step till I have ascertained some fact." At the moment a large flame mounted up, as if soldiers were lighting a large fire. I exclaimed, "There's my point, friend or foe."
In about three-quarters of a mile I reached the fire, the village of Misreewalla, where I found a Brigade of Cavalry, some Irregular Horse, some Horse Artillery, and two or three thousand stragglers of every Regiment in the army. I halted my people and got hold of some spirits, which I issued to my gallant 50th and all the Europeans. Soon after I reached Misreewalla I met Captain Lumley, A.A.G. of the Army and at the head of the Department (General Lumley being sick, and Major Grant desperately wounded at Moodkee). I was delighted to see him, concluding he came direct from the Commander-in-Chief. He said, "Sir Harry Smith, you are the very man I am looking for. As senior officer of the Adjutant-General's department, I order you to collect every soldier and march to Ferozepore." I said, "Do you come direct from the Commander-in-Chief, with such an order? If you do, I can find him, for, by G—, I'll take no such order from any man on earth but from his own mouth. Where is he?" "I don't know, but these in my official [position] are the orders." "D— the orders, if not the Commander-in-Chief's. I'll give my own orders, and take none of that retrograde sort from any Staff officer on earth. But why to Ferozopore? What's the matter?" "Oh, the army has been beaten, but we can buy the Sikh soldiers." "What!" says I, "have we taken no guns?" "Oh yes," he says, "fifty or sixty." "Thank you," I said; "I see my way, and want no orders." Turning round to my A.G., Captain Lugard, I said, "Now get hold of every officer and make him fall in his men."
At this moment Captain Christie, in command of an irregular Corps of Horse, a most excellent officer, came up and said he knew the direction the Commander-in-Chief was in and could point it out. I was delighted, and I marched off every man able to move to join Sir Hugh Gough, sending forward my wounded A.G. to report my whereabouts and what troops I had with me. The Commander-in-Chief was as delighted to hear of me and my troops as I was to find His Excellency. His orders were to move up in support of the attack which I well and truly anticipated he meditated, when to my astonishment I saw the village of Ferozeshuhur full in my front two miles distant, the very post I had carried and occupied the night before, and from which, after having held it until three o'clock that morning, I was compelled to withdraw, or I should have remained there nearly by myself.133
The attack was made on the part of the enemy's camp he still held, namely, his right, which had repulsed Littler's attack on the afternoon of the 21st. It was now carried without a check. The 1st Brigade of my Division, especially H.M.'s 31st Regiment, greatly distinguished itself and suffered severely.
Scarcely was the victory of the 21st and 22nd December over, when a fresh body of the enemy (which had been watching Ferozepore or threatening an attack if the garrison was withdrawn, and had been deluded through Littler's very judiciously leaving his camp standing) came vaunting upon the left of our line and opened a fierce cannonade upon us, literally within what had been their own camp and entrenchments. The ammunition for our guns was fully expended, and our troops were literally exhausted, and we could not attack what would have been an easy prey under other circumstances. The whole of the enemy withdrew and recrossed the Sutlej unmolested, for our troops were in no condition to pursue. Our numerous wounded required to be collected, our stores to be brought up, our troops to be refreshed.
From the march of the troops from Umbala and Loodiana upon Busseean, our men had fought three actions, the battles of Moodkee, Ferozeshuhur, and that of the 22nd December, gained three victories, and endured great fatigue of marching and privations, especially of what is so important to the native troops, water.134 In a day or two the whole were fresh, and we moved forward on the line the enemy had withdrawn by. The 1st Division was on the right of the army, and subsequently Brigadier Cureton's Brigade of Cavalry (two troops of Horse Artillery, H.M.'s 16th Lancers, 3rd Light Cavalry, and a corps of Irregular Horse under a Captain Hill) were posted again to my right and under my command. My outposts were opposite the enemy. At Sobraon, which afterwards became so renowned, the enemy threw over a bridge and had a ford near it; they ably constructed tétes du pont, and showed an intention to cross. To do so was an act of madness which could not be contemplated by any reasoning faculties, although ultimately demonstrated.
It appeared to me that our army was not posted where it ought to be, and I strongly recommended to the Commander-in-Chief to move up the left bank of the Sutlej, so that his centre should be opposite Sobraon, and his left be kept in direct communication with Ferozepore by an intermediate corps under the command of Sir John Grey, which could also watch the reputed fords and ferries on that part of the river on his front,–the right of the army, namely, my command, Cureton's Cavalry and my own Division, to be posted opposite the ford and ferry of Hurreekee. The Commander-in-Chief called for the distribution of the army as I proposed, which I gave in, accompanied by an explanatory letter to His Excellency. In forty-eight hours it was adopted, and the army moved into the celebrated position opposite Sobraon. Here the enemy constructed a bridge of boats and pushed over his whole army, most strongly fortifying and entrenching himself on the left side of the river, a movement unparalleled in the history of war from time immemorial. It may be asked, Why was he permitted? Answer, Because we could not help ourselves. The right or enemy's bank was high and favourable for him in every way, and the bridge was judiciously thrown over at a bend of the river; hence the natural formation presented a formidable téte du pont, which the enemy entrenched and filled with cannon of the heaviest calibre. We could not contend with him, our heavy guns not having arrived, and the left bank of the river being nearly perfectly flat. Thus he could cross, and did, unmolested, and duly pushed his outposts forward and ours back, until it was deemed necessary to counter-fortify our camp in his front, which was done by bringing some of the heavy guns from Ferozepore. My Division and command being well to the right, I had a line of outposts from the confluence of the Beas and the Sutlej to within a mile of the enemy's entrenchments at Sobraon.
SIR HARRY SMITH DETACHED FROM THE MAIN ARMY–HE REDUCES THE FORTRESSES OF FUTTEYGHUR AND DHURMCOTE–COMBINES WITH COLONEL PHILLIPS AT JUGRAON, AND AFTER CHANGING HIS ROUTE TO LOODIANA ENCOUNTERS THE ENEMY AT BUDOWAL, AND LOSES SOME PART OF HIS BAGGAGE–HE RELIEVES LOODIANA, AND, BEING REINFORCED AND THE ENEMY HAVING RETREATED, OCCUPIES HIS POSITION AT BUDOWAL.
ON the 16th January the Commander-in-Chief sent for me, and told me the Governor-General was desirous that the small fortress of Futteyghur and the larger one of Dhurmcote, both slightly garrisoned by the enemy, should be reduced, as under their cover he was drawing supplies from the left bank and crossing them over. His Excellency said, "A Brigade will be sufficient to send, the 3rd Light Cavalry and some Irregular Horse; but who will you send?" I replied I had rather go myself. Sir Hugh Gough was much pleased with my offering to do so, for I subsequently ascertained it was the Governor-General's desire I should be ordered. The Commander-in-Chief said, "When will you march? there is no hurry." I said, "Soon after this time to-morrow I shall be writing my report that I have reduced them both." He laughed and said, "Why, the distance to Dhurmcote is twenty-six miles from your right." I replied, "I know that; still, what I say shall be, provided that the officer and the Engineers supply me in time with the powder I want to blow in the gates in the case of necessity." I said to myself, "However, powder or no powder, I march."
When I reached camp, I found that, without my knowledge, the Commissariat had sent almost all the tent elephants and other transport into Ferozepore for provisions; some, however, arrived in the night. These provisions I laid hold of, and I collected every animal in camp for the use of the troops ordered to move, and I marched two hours before daylight. On my approach Futteyghur was abandoned, and I pushed on to Dhurmcote, which I reached by two o'clock in the afternoon, and found it occupied, but without any gun deserving the name of cannon. I invested it immediately with the 3rd Light Cavalry and Irregulars (the infantry not being yet up), and summoned the garrison to surrender. It received my flag of truce, and the leader or killadar came out and made a variety of stipulations, which I cut short by saying, "You may march out with your arms, ground them on the glacis, and I will endeavour to secure all hands six weeks' pay. Go back to the fort. I give you 20 minutes to consider, after which I shall make no terms, but open my cannon upon you." I waited 25 minutes, and no communication being made, although I rode close to the works myself and beckoned to them, I ordered our 9-pounders and a howitzer to open a few shots. The Sikh flag was then hauled down, and a white one hoisted. I allowed the garrison to march out and lay down their arms as prisoners of war, and as the Infantry arrived, I immediately occupied the fortress and commenced improving its defences. I was thus able to report, as I had promised, to my Commander-in-Chief.
I had orders to reconnoitre the country around to ascertain its resources and the feeling of amity or hostility of the neighbourhood. Near me the villages were Mussulman and well disposed. Dhurmcote itself belonged to a Sirdar in the enemy's camp, but the people, when the hand of power was manifested, were civil and brought me all the supplies I required.
Having made so long a march on the 17th and being desirous to put the fortress in a state of defence, I had resolved to halt on the 18th, when I received a communication to say that on the 19th I should receive a reinforcement of two troops of Horse Artillery (viz. 12 guns), H.M.'s 16th Lancers, and the remainder of the corps of Irregular Horse under Brigadier Cureton. Upon these reaching me, I should have a Brigade of Cavalry, one of Infantry, and 18 guns. With this force I was to move on to Jugraon, thence open a communication with Busseean, the line nine miles to the interior of Jugraon, on which our enormous battering train, stores, treasure, and ammunition, covering an extent of ten miles of road, was marching. I was informed that I might get hold of H.M.'s 53rd Regiment at Busseean, and if so, they were to obey my orders. Under any circumstances, I was to open a communication with Loodiana (distant from Jugraon, by the direct roads viâ the little fortress of Budowal, twenty-five or twenty-six miles), it being threatened by Runjoor Singh's army of 50 guns and 30,000 men, which had crossed at Philour by boats and was in position at Baranhara, seven miles from Loodiana. The force at Loodiana, under Lieutenant-Colonel Godby, 30th Regiment N.I., consisted of one Regiment, the 5th Native Cavalry, the 30th and 36th Sermoor and Nusseeree Battalions, and four guns Horse Artillery.
On the 19th I marched the Infantry to Koharee, halfway to Jugraon, which divided the distance, and I left orders at Dhurmcote for Colonel Cureton to move on the 20th to Jugraon, where he was to join me, which was effected accordingly. On reaching Jugraon, I received a report from Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips, commanding H.M.'s 53rd Regiment, to whom I had sent orders to Busseean to move on without delay to Jugraon. He begged a day's halt, representing that his transport was done. I had opened a communication with Colonel Godby commanding at Loodiana. I received the most pressing and urgent reasons for my joining him, and I was equally urged by the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief to move on to save Loodiana and drive back the invaders under Runjoor Singh and the Rajah of Ladwa. Hence the necessity to concentrate every soldier I could lay my hands on for the purpose. I therefore sent Lieutenant Smith of the Engineers over from Jugraon to Busseean, with a written order for Colonel Phillips to march immediately–provided it were possible. He marched, and the 16th Lancers and guns had reached me.
I here annex a narrative written at the Period.
"When I reached Jugraon on the 20th January, all accounts agreed that the enemy was still at Baranhara, thirty miles from me, between Loodiana and Philour, a fortress of his on the right bank of the Sutlej, under cover of which he had crossed and perfected his invasion; but that he had also occupied with a small garrison the fortress of Budowal, which had been abandoned by the troops of a chief in amity with us, and that he had near it some two or three hundred Horse. He was also known to possess a fortress called Gungrana, regarded as very strong, to my right (that is, its parallel) about ten miles from Budowal into our interior, where there was also Cavalry.
"I got hold of the 5 3rd Regiment on the evening of the 20th, the day I arrived at Jugraon. My force therefore stood thus: eighteen guns, one Regiment of English Cavalry (16th Lancers), one Regiment of Native Light Cavalry, one Regiment of Irregular Horse, two Regiments of British Infantry (H.M.'s 31st and 53rd), 250 convalescents, and two very weak Regiments of Native Infantry (the 24th and 47th). At Jugraon was a very tenable fortress occupied by the troops of a Rajah considered to be friendly, but in time of war and doubtful success friendship is precarious. I therefore occupied the fortress (or rather its citadel) by two Companies of my Native Infantry, and resolved as soon as the moon was up, viz. at half-past twelve, to march on Loodiana, leaving Budowal to my right, i.e. by the best, shortest, and direct road, and I ordered all baggage which consisted of wheel-carriage transport, to remain behind under the protection of the fort of Jugraon.
"Meanwhile, every two hours I dispatched instructions of these my intentions to the officer who commanded at Loodiana, whom I ordered to meet me with his force of four Horse Artillery guns, an excellent and strong Regiment of Native Cavalry, and four good and fresh Regiments of Native Infantry. All the while I believed the enemy's force to be at Baranhara, thirty miles from me, but only seven from Loodiana. My order of march was in writing, also my instructions for the baggage and detail of its guards, and I read them on the afternoon of the 20th to all the officers in command. I marched in the most regular order at the hour appointed, with the desire to leave Budowal to my right, and not move by the interior line, i.e. between Gungrana and Budowal, two fortresses in the occupation of the enemy, distant only four miles from both my flanks, so that my march would be subject to double interruption. The large force nearly equal to mine was to have approached me from Loodiana, within three miles of Budowal on its own side, on a strong hill and position I well knew of, Sonnact. The natives here were most hostile, and it is an axiom, and a very just one, in the conduct of war, 'distant combinations are not to be relied on.' Hence, although I calculated upon this combination, I did not rely upon it, but adopted my own measures for advance with caution and circumspection, relying alone on my own resources.
"When I had marched some sixteen or eighteen miles in the most perfect order of advance to within two miles of Budowal, as day dawned, I received a communication from Colonel Godby that the enemy had marched from Baranhara and was encamped around Budowal with his whole force, and from some villagers I ascertained that the enemy had received considerable reinforcements. I found myself thus close upon him, and he in force. I had one of two alternatives, viz. to move on, leaving Budowal to my right and most probably the moving Sikh army on my left–in other words, to force my passage; or to leave Budowal to my left and make a détour towards Gungrana. To return to Jugraon I never contemplated, which would have exposed Colonel Godby as previously stated. The stake at issue was too great, hence I changed my order of march and proceeded with every precaution, leaving the fort of Budowal on my left, and with my troops in order of battle by wheeling into line to their left if required. Several times during our night march we had observed rockets firing, as if for signals, and at broad daylight we discovered the enemy preparing to interrupt my newly adopted line of march, though his most ample preparation, as I afterwards discovered, had been made for my reception on the more direct road by which I had originally intended to move, and upwards of forty pieces of cannon pointed there, so perfect was his information.
"So soon as the enemy had discovered that I had changed my line of march for the relief of Loodiana, he immediately attempted to interrupt my force by moving parallel to my column through a line of villages which afforded him cover and protection, and by providing him with good roads facilitated his march, while I was compelled to move in order of battle over ploughed fields of deep sand. Hence the head of the enemy's column, principally a large body of cavalry, rapidly outflanked me a mile at least, and his rear of guns and infantry equally so. With great celerity he brought to bear on my troops a considerable number of guns of very heavy metal. The cavalry moved parallel with the enemy, and protected from the fire of his guns by a low ridge of sandhills. My eighteen guns I kept together close in rear of the cavalry, in order to open a heavy fire on the enemy and to check his advance, thereby attracting his attention, so soon as the fortunate moment which I saw approaching arrived.
"This fire, which I continued for some ten minutes, had a most auxiliary effect, creating slaughter and confusion in the enemy's ranks. The enemy's cannonade upon the column of Infantry had been previously to this furious. I had reinforced the baggage guard, and sent orders that it should close up and keep well on the reverse flank and as much ahead as possible. A few round shot ricocheting among the camels, many of the drivers abandoned their animals, and our own followers and the hostile villages in the neighbourhood plundered a part of the baggage: little of it fell into the hands of the enemy's soldiers.
"As the column moved on under this cannonade, which was especially furious upon the rear of the Infantry, the enemy, with a dexterity and quickness not to be exceeded, formed a line of seven battalions directly across my rear, with guns in the intervals of battalions, for the purpose of attacking my column with his line. This was a very able and well-executed move, which rendered my position critical and demanded nerve and decision to evade the coming storm. I would willingly have attacked this line, and I formed up a part of the 31st Regiment as a base, when so deep was the sand and so fatigued were my men, I was compelled to abandon the project. I therefore, under this fierce cannonade, changed front on the centre of the 31st Regiment and of the 53rd by what is a difficult move on parade even–a countermarch on the centre by wings. Then became conspicuous the majesty of discipline and bravery. This move was executed as accurately as at a review.
"My Native Regiments were very steady, but I now directed the Infantry to march on Loodiana in échelon of Battalions, ready to receive the word 'Halt, Front' (when they would thus confront the enemy's line if he advanced), and the Cavalry to move in échelon of squadrons, the two arms mutually supporting, the guns in rear of the Cavalry. The whole were moving most correctly and the movement was so steady that the enemy, notwithstanding his overwhelming force, did not attack, but stood amazed, as it were, fearing to quit his stronghold of Budowal, and aware that the junction of my force with that of Loodiana was about to be accomplished.
"I was astonished, I admit, at hearing nothing from Colonel Godby. I had reason to hope some of my two-hourly dispatches had reached him, and when at daylight I changed the direction of my march on account of the enemy having anticipated me, I sent Lieutenant Holmes with a party of Irregulars, cautioning him to look as sharp to his right on account of Gungrana as to his left. I soon after sent off Lieutenant Swetenham of the 16th Lancers, and a short time later Lieutenant Band Smith of the Engineers. All these officers reached their destination. From the repeated and urgent requests made by Colonel Godby that I should advance to his relief, from his then knowledge that the enemy had anticipated me, I had every reason (supposing he had secured no positive information of my march from Jugraon or my orders) to expect some co-operation or demonstration in my support, as I moved towards him. On the contrary, my first messenger found his troops only turning out, he having only just received my instructions, and his force did not move off until the firing had commenced, about half-past seven or eight, at a distance of between eight and nine miles–another illustration of the truth of the axiom, 'distant combinations are not to be relied on.' The natural expectation, too, of Colonel Godby's move towards me cramped my manœuvres, for had I swerved from the line on which I expected his co-operation, his force would have been compromised and in the power of the enemy's weighty attack. The reinforcement of four guns, a strong and fresh Regiment of Cavalry, and four Regiments of fresh Infantry is a powerful reinforcement to a large army; to me it was nearly one-half of the whole. Decision, coolness, and determination effected the junction and relief of Loodiana, while it cut off the enemy from his line of communication with Philour, under which fortress he had crossed the Sutlej.
"A want of water in a position near the enemy compelled me to encamp in front of Loodiana, but I established my outposts close upon him, and frequently made strong patrols up to his position, intending, if he dared attempt to interrupt our line of communication viâ Busseean (which I did not, although I so closely watched him, anticipate, so close was I upon him, and the fortress of Jugraon before him), to move on, coûte que coûte, and attack under any circumstances. Indeed, my combined force would well have enabled me to do so, had I come up with him when on the march and out of his entrenchments.
"Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief, with great foresight and judgment, ordered the second Brigade of my Division, under Brigadier Wheeler, a Regiment of Native Cavalry, the Body Guard, 400 strong, and four guns Horse Artillery, to move from Hurreekee viâ Dhurmcote and Jugraon to join me, while a second Brigade under Brigadier Taylor was ordered in support to Dhurmcote, and the Shekawuttee Brigade was moving on Jugraon. Thus the enemy's position at Budowal was menaced on three points.
"He expected considerable reinforcements viâ the Tulwun Ghaut, eight miles lower down the Sutlej than Philour. He therefore, again with judgment, abandoned his position of Budowal, in which I was making vigorous preparations to attack him, and fell back upon the reinforcement of 12 guns and 4000 of Regular Infantry of Avitabile's Corps and a large addition of Cavalry. This movement, however, must have been premeditated, for the stores of ammunition and his fortifications around the ford were not the work of a day. I immediately occupied the enemy's position at Budowal, and as rapidly as possible concentrated my force coming from Dhurmcote and Busseean (viz.: Wheeler's from the former, and the Shekawuttee from the latter), while I dispensed with the service of Brigadier Taylor's Brigade in reserve at Dhurmcote, feeling myself now sufficiently strong, and being aware of the importance of Infantry to the Commander-in-Chief, who to reinforce me had considerably reduced his own means in the immediate front of the main army of the Sikhs. This is the précis of the campaign leading to the Battle of Aliwal, and from this period taken up in my report of that glorious battle, herewith annexed." 135
THE BATTLES OF ALIWAL AND SOBRAON–END OF SIR HARRY SMITH'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
Major-General Sir Harry Smith, K.C.B.,
to the Adjutant-General of the Army.
"Camp, Field of the Battle of Aliwal, Jan. 30, 1846.
"My despatches to his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief of the 23rd136 instant, will have put his Excellency in possession of the position of the force under my command, after having formed a junction with the troops at Loodiana, hemmed in by a formidable body of the Sikh army under Runjoor Singh and the Rajah of Ladwa. The enemy strongly entrenched himself around the little fort of Budhowal by breastworks and 'abattis,' which he precipitately abandoned on the night of the 22nd instant (retiring, as it were, upon the ford of Tulwun), having ordered all the boats which were opposite Philour to that Ghat. This movement he effected during the night, and, by making a considerable détour, placed himself at a distance of ten miles, and consequently out of my reach. I could, therefore, only push forward my cavalry as soon as I had ascertained he had marched during the night, and I occupied immediately his vacated position. It appeared subsequently he had no intention of recrossing the Sutlej, but moved down to the Ghat of Tulwun (being cut off from that of Philour, by the position my force occupied after its relief of Loodiana), for the purpose of protecting the passage of a very considerable reinforcement of twelve guns and 4000 of the regular, or 'Aieen' troops, called Avitabile's battalion, entrenching himself strongly in a semicircle, his flanks resting on a river, his position covered with from forty to fifty guns (generally of large calibre), howitzers, and mortars. The reinforcement crossed during the night of the 27th instant, and encamped to the right of the main army.
PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF ALIWAL, JAN 28th 1846.
"Meanwhile, his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, with that foresight and judgment which mark the able general, had reinforced me by a considerable addition to my cavalry, some guns, and the 2nd brigade of my own Division, under Brigadier Wheeler, C.B. This reinforcement reached me on the 26th, and I had intended the next morning to move upon the enemy in his entrenchments, but the troops required one day's rest after the long marches Brigadier Wheeler had made.
"I have now the honour to lay before you the operations of my united forces on the morning of the eventful 28th January, for his Excellency's information. The body of troops under my command having been increased, it became necessary so to organize and brigade them as to render them manageable in action. The cavalry under the command of Brigadier Cureton, and horse artillery under Major Lawrenson, were put into two brigades; the one under Brigadier MacDowell, C.B., and the other under Brigadier Stedman. The 1st Division as it stood, two brigades–Her Majesty's 53rd and 30th Native Infantry, under Brigadier Wilson, of the latter corps;–the 36th Native Infantry, and Nusseree battalion, under Brigadier Godby,–and the Shekawattee brigade under Major Forster. The Sirmoor battalion I attached to Brigadier Wheeler's brigade of the 1st division; the 42nd Native Infantry having been left at head-quarters.
"At daylight on the 28th, my order of advance was–the Cavalry in front, in contiguous columns of squadrons of regiments, two troops of horse artillery in the interval of brigades; the infantry in contiguous columns of brigades at intervals of deploying distance; artillery in the intervals, followed by two 8-inch howitzers on travelling carriages, brought into the field from the fort of Loodiana by the indefatigable exertions of Lieutenant-Colonel Lane, Horse Artillery; Brigadier Godby's brigade, which I had marched out from Loodiana the previous evening, on the right; the Shekawattee infantry on the left; the 4th Irregular Cavalry considerably to the right, for the purpose of sweeping the banks of the wet nullah on my right, and preventing any of the enemy's horse attempting an inroad towards Loodiana, or any attempt upon the baggage assembled round the fort of Budhowal.
"In this order the troops moved forward towards the enemy, a distance of six miles, the advance conducted by Captain Waugh, 16th Lancers, the Deputy Assistant Quarter-Master of Cavalry, Major Bradford, of the 1st Cavalry, and Lieutenant Strachey of the Engineers, who had been jointly employed in the conduct of patroles up to the enemy's position, and for the purpose of reporting upon the facility and point of approach. Previously to the march of the troops it had been intimated to me by Major Mackeson, that the information by spies led to the belief the enemy would move somewhere at daylight, either on Jugraon, my position of Budhowal, or Loodiana. On a near approach to his outposts, this rumour was confirmed by a spy, who had just left the camp, saying the Sikh army was actually in march towards Jugraon. My advance was steady; my troops well in hand; and if he had anticipated me on the Jugraon road, I could have fallen upon his centre with advantage.
"From the tops of the houses of the village of Poorein, I had a distant view of the enemy. He was in motion and appeared directly opposite my front on a ridge, of which the village of Aliwal may be regarded as the centre. His left appeared still to occupy its ground in the circular entrenchment; his right was brought forward and occupied the ridge. I immediately deployed the cavalry into line, and moved on. As I neared the enemy, the ground became most favourable for the troops to manœuver, being open and hard grass land. I ordered the cavalry to take ground to the right and left by brigades; thus displaying the heads of the infantry columns; and, as they reached the hard ground, I directed them to deploy into line. Brigadier Godby's brigade was in direct échellon to the rear of the right; the Shekawattee infantry in like manner to the rear of my left; the cavalry in direct échellon on, and well to the rear of, both flanks of the infantry; the artillery massed on the right and centre and left. After deployment, I observed the enemy's left to outflank me, I therefore broke into open column and took ground to my right When I had gained sufficient ground, the troops wheeled into line. There was no dust, the sun shone brightly. These manœuvres were performed with the celerity and precision of the most correct field day. The glistening of the bayonets and swords of this order of battle was most imposing; and the line advanced. Scarcely had it moved 150 yards, when, at ten o'clock, the enemy opened a fierce cannonade from his whole line. At first his balls fell short, but quickly reached us. Thus upon him, and capable of better ascertaining his position, I was compelled to halt the line, though under fire, for a few moments, until I ascertained that, by bringing up my right and carrying the village of Aliwal, I could with great effect precipitate myself upon his left and centre. I therefore quickly brought up Brigadier Godby's brigade; and, with it, and the 1st brigade under Brigadier Hicks, made a rapid and noble charge, carried the village, and two guns of large calibre. The line I ordered to advance,–Her Majesty's 31st Foot and the native regiments contending for the front; and the battle became general. The enemy had a numerous body of cavalry on the heights to his left, and I ordered Brigadier Cureton to bring up the right brigade of cavalry, who, in the most gallant manner, dashed in among them and drove them back upon their infantry. Meanwhile a second gallant charge to my right was made by the light cavalry and the body-guard. The Shekawattee brigade was moved well to the right, in support of Brigadier Cureton, when I observed the enemy's encampment and saw it was full of infantry: I immediately brought upon it Brigadier Godby's brigade, by changing front, and taking the enemy's infantry 'en reverse.' They drove them before them, and took some guns without a check.
"While these operations were going on upon the right, and the enemy's left flank was thus driven back, I occasionally observed the brigade under Brigadier Wheeler, an officer in whom I have the greatest confidence, charging and carrying guns and everything before it, again connecting his line, and moving on, in a manner which ably displayed the coolness of the Brigadier and the gallantry of his irresistible brigade,–Her Majesty's 50th Foot, the 48th Native Infantry, and the Sirmoor battalion,–although the loss was, I regret to say, severe in the 50th. Upon the left, Brigadier Wilson, with Her Majesty's 53rd and the 30th Native Infantry equalled in celerity and regularity their comrades on the right; and this brigade was opposed to the 'Aieen' troops, called Avitabile's, when the fight was fiercely raging.
"The enemy, well driven back on his left and centre, endeavoured to hold his right to cover the passage of the river, and he strongly occupied the village of Bhoondree. I directed a squadron of the 16th Lancers, under Major Smyth and Captain Pearson, to charge a body to the right of a village, which they did in the most gallant and determined style, bearing everything before them, as a squadron under Captain Bere had previously done, going right through a square in the most intrepid manner with the deadly lance. This charge was accompanied by the 3rd Light Cavalry under Major Angelo, and as gallantly sustained. The largest gun upon the field, and seven others, were then captured, while the 53rd Regiment carried the village by the bayonet, and the 30th Native Infantry wheeled round to the rear in a most spirited manner. Lieut.-Col. Alexander's and Capt. Turton's troops of horse artillery, under Major Lawrenson, dashed among the flying infantry, committing great havoc, until about 800 or 1000 men rallied under the high bank of a nullah, and opened a heavy but ineffectual fire from below the bank. I immediately directed the 30th Native Infantry to charge them, which they were able to do upon their left flank, while in a line in rear of the village. This native corps nobly obeyed my orders and rushed among the Avitabile troops, driving them from under the bank and exposing them once more to a deadly fire of twelve guns within 300 yards. The destruction was very great, as may be supposed, from guns served as these were. Her Majesty's 53rd Regiment moved forward in support of the 30th Native Infantry, by the right of the village. The battle was won; our troops advancing with the most perfect order to the common focus–the passage of the river. The enemy, completely hemmed in, were flying from our fire, and precipitating themselves in disordered masses into the ford and boats, in the utmost confusion and consternation; our 8-inch howitzers soon began to play upon their boats, when the 'débris' of the Sikh army appeared upon the opposite and high bank of the river, flying in every direction, although a sort of line was attempted to countenance their retreat, until all our guns commenced a furious cannonade, when they quickly receded. Nine guns were on the river by the ford. It appears as if they had been unlimbered to cover the ford. These being loaded, were fired once upon our advance; two others were sticking in the river, one of them we got out; two were seen to sink in the quicksands; two were dragged to the opposite bank and abandoned. These, and the one in the middle of the river, were gallantly spiked by Lieutenant Holmes, of the 11th Irregular Cavalry, and Gunner Scott, of the 1st troop 2nd brigade Horse Artillery, who rode into the stream, and crossed for the purpose, covered by our guns and light infantry.
"Thus ended the battle of Aliwal, one of the most glorious victories ever achieved in India, by the united efforts of Her Majesty's and the Honourable Company's troops. Every gun the enemy had fell into our hands, as I infer from his never opening one upon us from the opposite bank of the river, which is high and favourable for the purpose–fifty-two guns are now in the Ordnance Park; two sank in the bed of the Sutlej; and two were spiked on the opposite bank; making a total of fifty-six pieces of cannon captured or destroyed.137 Many jingalls which were attached to Avitabile's corps and which aided in the defence of the village of Bhoondree, have also been taken. The whole army of the enemy has been driven headlong over the difficult ford of a broad river; his camp, baggage, stores of ammunition and of grain,–his all, in fact, wrested from him, by the repeated charges of cavalry and infantry, aided by the guns of Alexander, Turton, Lane, Mill, Boileau, and of the Shekawattee brigade, and by the 8-inch howitzers;–our guns literally being constantly ahead of everything. The determined bravery of all was as conspicuous as noble. I am unwont to praise when praise is not merited; and I here most unavowedly express my firm opinion and conviction, that no troops in any battle on record ever behaved more nobly;–British and native, no distinction; cavalry, all vying with H.M.'s 16th Lancers, and striving to head in the repeated charges. Our guns and gunners, officers and men, may be equalled, but cannot be excelled, by any artillery in the world. Throughout the day no hesitation–a bold and intrepid advance;–and thus it is that our loss is comparatively small, though I deeply regret to say, severe. The enemy fought with much resolution; they maintained frequent rencontres with our cavalry hand to hand. In one charge, upon infantry, of H.M.'s 16th Lancers, they threw away their muskets and came on with their swords and targets against the lance.
* * * * * *
"The fort of Goongrana has, subsequently to the battle, been evacuated, and I yesterday evening blew up the fort of Budhowal. I shall now blow up that of Noorpoor. A portion of the peasantry, viz. the Sikhs, appear less friendly to us, while the Mussulmans rejoice in being under our Government.
"I have, &c.,
"H. G. SMITH,
My loss during the 21st January was, of killed and wounded and sick taken, upwards of 200 men, but many of our wounded and exhausted Infantry were brought off in the Artillery carriages and by the noble exertions of H.M.'s 16th Lancers, who dismounted and put the sick and wounded upon their horses. My orders to the baggage guard (composed of 400 Irregular Horse, to which I afterwards added one squadron of Regular Native Cavalry) were only half obeyed, or our loss of baggage would have been next to nothing; but young soldiers are excited under a heavy cannonade and apprehend more of its deadly effect than I have ever seen the heaviest cannonade (not grape and canister) merit.
This short but most eventful campaign was one of great difficulty and embarrassment for the General (or myself). The enemy was concentrated, whilst my force was to accumulate contingent on a variety of combinations distant and doubtful.
The political importance of my position was extreme. All India was at gaze, and ready for anything. Our army–truth must out–most anxious, the enemy daringly and exultingly regarding himself invincible, as the bold and most able and energetic move of Runjoor Singh with his whole force throwing himself between my advance from Jugraon viâ Budowal to Loodiana most fully demonstrated. It is the most scientific move made during the war, whether made by accident or design, and had he known how to profit by the position he had so judiciously occupied, he would have obtained wonderful success. He should have attacked me with the vigour his French tutors would [have displayed, and] destroyed me, for his force compared to mine was overwhelming; then turned about upon the troops at Loodiana, beaten them, and sacked and burnt the city–when the gaze I speak of in India would have been one general blaze of revolt! Does the world which argues on my affair at Budowal suppose I was asleep, and had not in clear perspective a full view of the effect such success of the enemy would have had upon the general features and character of the war? It must be remembered that our battering train, an immense treasure, our ammunition, etc., etc., were not ten miles from me, occupying a line of road of ten miles in length.
The end was accomplished, viz. the battle of Aliwal and its results. In a few days after the victory I received from my Political Associate, Major Murchison, a very clever fellow, a long report, of which this is an extract: "I cannot help mentioning to you that the result of your decisive victory of the 18th has been the abandonment by the enemy of all his posts south of the Sutlej from Hurreekee upwards to Nunapoor Mackohoorvara, and the submission to our rule of a country yielding an annual revenue of upwards of twenty-five lacs of rupees. The post of the enemy at Sobraon is now the only one held by the Sikhs south of the Sutlej." And again, in a letter from Colonel Godby after he had crossed into the Jullundur with Brigadier Godby, "I have no doubt the battle of Aliwal will be esteemed in England as it deserves; it finished a most painful crisis both in India and in England, and its moral effect in Hindostan and the Punjaub was greater than any other achievement of the war. In the Jullundur the natives speak of it as most unaccountable that the soldiers they thought invincible should be overthrown and driven into the river in two or three hours, and be seen scampering through the country before the people had heard of their defeat. The defeat was so cleanly and unquestionably done, that they ascribed it to supernatural intervention for the many atrocious crimes of the Sikhs, especially upon the oppressed followers of the true Prophet."
All men, especially Generals, reflect in times of peace and quiet upon their exertions, their enterprises, and the measures they adopted. Human life once extinct is in this world gone, and how gratifying it is under Divine Providence to feel that not a soldier under my command was wantonly, unnecessarily, or unscientifically sacrificed to his country! Had I adopted any other course at Budowal on the 21st of January than I pursued, had I not pushed the war entrusted to my conduct with vigour and effected a junction with the troops at Loodiana, they and the city would have fallen, and next our treasure, battering train, ammunition, etc., would have been captured or scattered and lost to the army; had I sustained a serious reverse, all India would have been in a blaze. I steered the course invariably pursued by my great master the Duke, never needlessly to risk your troops or fight a battle without an object. Hence the decisive victory of Aliwal and its wonderful results and important aid in repelling the Sikh army at Sobraon and seizing the capital of his vaunted glory.
Months have now passed since I conducted these operations,138 and although reflection as a guide for the future prompts me to find fault with any movement or march, I cannot, but with the blessing of the Almighty, I say, "Results even cannot dictate to me–if you had done this or that, it would have been better."
Having disposed of my captured cannon139(I sent forty-seven to the fortress of Loodiana, and took five with me to Head-quarters, the most beautiful guns imaginable, which will, I believe, be placed in St. James's Park, London), provided for my sick and wounded, replenished my ammunition and stores, given over to Brigadier Wheeler the troops he was to command on the Upper Sutlej, and furnished him and the Political Agent, Major Murchison, with my views of their operations as a guide, I marched on the morning of the 3rd February on my route back to the Commander-in-Chief.
I had with me three troops Horse Artillery, two 8-inch howitzers, the 16th Lancers, the 3rd and 5th Light Cavalry, one corps of Irregular Horse, H.M.'s 31st, 50th, and 53rd Regiments, and 200 convalescents, and of Native Infantry the 47th Regiment, and the Sermoor and Nusseeree Battalions. The rest of my Aliwal heroes remained with Wheeler.
I reached the right of the army on the 7th, and was received by the Commander-in-Chief with a burst of enthusiastic welcome140 to be equalled only by that of the army at large. His Excellency addressed each Corps in terms as gratifying to them as to me, and I, Staff, Commanding Officers of Corps, Prince Waldemar,141 etc., dined with the Commander-in-Chief, who again, in a speech when drinking our healths, bestowed upon us every encomium, and attached the utmost importance to the great cause–our signal victory. The Governor-General was at Ferozepore.
The ground I had been directed to occupy being filthy to excess, I begged to move my position, which I was permitted to do on the 8th. On this day the Governor-General arrived in camp. He sent for me, and received me with all the warmth of a long-standing friendship, and bestowed personally upon me all the praises he had so lavishly given me in his General Orders.
On the 9th, all Generals of Divisions, Brigadiers, and Heads of Departments were summoned in the afternoon to attend in the Commander-in-Chief's tent. I pretty clearly guessed the purport of such a summons. His Excellency explained to all that the enemy's most strongly fortified position was to be attacked at daylight, and he clearly detailed to each General and Commander his position and portion of the attack. In my own mind I very much disagreed with my gallant Commander-in-Chief as to the place of his attack being the most eligible one. I saw at once that the fundamental principle of "being superior to your enemy on the point of attack" was lost sight of, and the whole of our army, with the exception of my Division, which was reduced to 2400 bayonets, was held in reserve just out of the reach of the enemy's cannon. At daylight our heavy guns (which had been placed with the object of destroying or greatly impairing the enemy's defences) opened fire, and with apparent success where the fire was the most heavy, but to our astonishment, at the very moment of this success our fire slackened and soon ceased altogether, when it was ascertained that the ammunition was expended, the officer in command of the Artillery not having brought half the quota into the field which was ordered by the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief. Thus no time was to be lost.
* * * * *
At this point Sir Harry Smith's autobiography breaks off. He laid down the pen, probably through temporary illness, and never took it up again. In place of any fuller account of the battle of Sobraon, we have only the following passages relating to his individual share in the victory. The first occurs in a letter dated "Camp Lahore, 25th February, 1846," and addressed to his sister, Mrs. Sargant.
"Our last fight was an awful one. My reduced-in-numbers Division–only 2400 bayonets–was, as in other fights, placed in reserve, but pretty soon brought into action, and as at Ferozeshuhur again I had the good luck to turn the fortune of the day. In so doing I lost out of my 2400 men, 635 killed and wounded [100 more than out of 12,000 men at Aliwal]. My first attack on the entrenchments was repulsed. I attacked when I did not wish, and had to take ground close to the river on the enemy's left, consequently our right. [Never catch a butting animal by the horns, though, as a good soldier, obey your superior's orders.] By dint of the hardest fighting I ever saw (except Badajoz, New Orleans, and Waterloo) I carried the entrenchments. By Jupiter! the enemy were within a hair's-breadth of driving me back. Their numbers exceeded mine. And such a hand-to-hand conflict ensued, for 25 minutes I could barely hold my own. Mixed together, swords and targets against bayonets, and a fire on both sides. I never was in such a personal fight for half the time, but my bulldogs of the 31st and old 50th stood up like men, were well supported by the native regiments, and my position closed the fight which staggered everywhere. Then such a scene of shooting men fording a deep river, as no one I believe ever saw before. The bodies made a bridge, but the fire of our musquetry and cannon killed every one who rushed. The hand of Almighty God has been upon me, for I may say to you what all the army knows, I was foremost in the fight, and on a noble horse the whole time, which sprang over the enemy's works like a deer, neither he nor I nor my clothes being scratched. It is a miracle for which I am, I trust, even more grateful to my God than humble towards my comrades. You always so desired I should distinguish myself. I have now gratified you, although I so egotistically write it to my sister, and in every battle have I with my noble horses been exposed without a graze. The only thing was my stick shot out of my hand; my clothes are covered with blood in many cases. Poor Holdich142 got a bad wound in the shoulder and arm. He is a gallant and cool boy as ever lived. He is at Ferozepore, too far off for me to go and see, or I should do so and write to his mother."
The words in square brackets are inserted from a letter to Mr. Justice Menzies of the Cape. The following additional touches are taken from a letter to Sir James Kempt, dated 24th February.
"I never was in such a hand-to-hand fight; my gallant 31st and 50th literally staggered under the war of cannon and musquetry. Behind such formidable entrenchments I could not get in where I was ordered to attack, but had to turn my right close to the river, where, if left alone, I should have commenced. I carried the works by dint of English pluck, although the native corps stuck close to me, and when I got in, such hand-to-hand work I have never witnessed. For twenty-five minutes we were at it against four times my numbers, sometimes receding (never turning round, though), sometimes advancing. The old 31st143 and 50th144 laid on like devils. . . . This last was a brutal bulldog fight, although of vast political and definite results; but my fight at Aliwal was a little sweeping second edition of Salamanca–a stand-up gentlemanlike battle, a mixing of all arms and laying-on, carrying everything before us by weight of attack and combination, all hands at work from one end of the field to the other."
Sir Harry Smith's services at Aliwal were thus acknowledged by Sir Henry Hardinge:
"To Major-General Sir Harry Smith, and to the brave troops he commanded, the Governor-General conveys the tribute of his admiration, and the grateful acknowledgments of the Government and the people of India. The service tendered was most important, and was accomplished by the ability of the commander and the valour of the troops."
The following tributes were paid by sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough respectively to Sir Harry Smith's conduct at Sobraon:–
"The Governor-General has much satisfaction in again offering to Major-General Sir Harry Smith, K.C.B., commanding the 1st Division of Infantry, his best thanks for his gallant services on this occasion, by which he has added to his well-established reputation."
"In his attack on the enemy's left, Major-General Sir Harry Smith displayed the same valour and judgment which gave him the victory of Aliwal. A more arduous task has seldom, if ever, been assigned to a Division. Never has an attempt been more gloriously carried through."
HONOURS AND REWARDS, AND KNITTING OF OLD FRIENDSHIPS.
THE news of the victory of Aliwal reached London on 23rd March.145 It brought a sense of immense relief to the public mind, which had been as much disturbed as elated by the costly struggles of Moodkee and Ferozeshah. The relief was the greater inasmuch as exaggerated reports had already been received of Sir Harry Smith's rencontre with the Sikhs at Budhowal and the loss of part of his baggage. It was at once decided that the thanks of Parliament should be offered to the victorious General and his gallant army–and although a few days later came the news of the crowning victory of Sobraon, it was not allowed to affect the determination which had been arrived at. The victors of Aliwal were still to receive a special vote of their own.
None were so delighted at the news of Harry Smith's victory as the old Peninsular friends who had watched his career from the beginning, and while they loved the man, marked in him that military genius and gallantry which must bring him to the front if only fortune gave him his chance. At last the chance had come, and he had seized it according to their utmost hopes.
Captain Kincaid wrote on the 24th March to Mrs. Sargant–
"I congratulate you most heartily on the brilliant success of your gallant brother, who has nobly vindicated the opinion entertained of him by every one who has had the opportunity of judging of his rare professional qualities, for he is one of Nature's generals. History will no doubt do justice to his merits. The previous battles were won by the bulldog courage of the soldier, with the consequent unnecessary sacrifice of human life; here is a great victory, gained over superior numbers with comparatively little loss–the judicious proceedings throughout stamping it as a general's, and not a soldier's, victory."146
Sir James Kempt, the revered friend with whom Harry Smith had kept up a monthly correspondence from India, wrote in similar terms–
"You may well be proud, my dear Mrs. Sargant, of having such a brother as Harry Smith. . . . I have read many details of battles with real pleasure, but I felt something more than pleasure, I felt the highest gratification and delight in reading Harry's admirable dispatch. It is spoken of by every one whom I have seen in terms of the highest praise."147
The Times of 25th March, after speaking of Sir Harry's avoiding battle at Budhowal, continues–
"The judgment and caution of General Smith on this occasion may be advantageously contrasted with the headlong and indiscriminating valour which hurried our troops into the frightful conflicts of Moodkee and Ferozeshah. In these actions it may literally be affirmed that Sir Hugh Gough had never seen the enemy until he was in the heat of action. The Sikh position had not been reconnoitred; the strength of the Sikh army was unknown.148 . . . Sir H. Smith's action at Ulleewal is exposed to none of these animadversions."
The Aliwal dispatch in particular,149 excited unbounded admiration. Sir Robert Peel said of it, "The hand that held the pen used it with the same success with which it wielded the sword." And Thackeray's praise of it in the Book of Snobs is a proof that it appealed to a master of literary craft no less powerfully than it appealed to a statesman:
"Let those civilians who sneer at the acquirements of the army read Sir Harry Smith's account of the Battle of Aliwal. A noble deed was never told in nobler language."
After referring to Sir Henry Hardinge's conduct at Ferozeshah, Thackeray continues–
"No, no; the men who perform these deeds with such brilliant valour and describe them with such modest manliness, such are not Snobs. The country admires them, their Sovereign rewards them, and Punch, the universal railer, takes off his hat and says, 'Heaven save them.'"150
On the evening of April 2nd the thanks of both Houses were given unanimously by separate resolutions to the victors of Aliwal and Sobraon. In the House of Lords Sir Harry Smith received, to quote the Times, an "unreserved panegyric"151 from his worshipped master in warfare, the Duke of Wellington. It cannot be doubted that the proudest moment of Harry Smith's life was that in which he read these words of one so sparing of praise. Some of them were in later days inscribed on his tomb.
"The distant points of the frontier were threatened; Loodiana was threatened–I believe it was even attacked, and the cantonments were burned; and then it was that Sir Harry Smith was sent with a detachment of troops towards Loodiana, taking possession of various points on his road–Durrumkote and other places, of which the enemy had taken possession by bodies of troops which had crossed the Sutlej. And I beg your Lordships to observe that, when Sir Harry Smith was sent, he had three objects in view: one to give security to the post at Loodiana, already reinforced by the arrival there of General Godby after the battle; the others to keep up his communications with the rear by the town of Busseean, a point of great strength and importance, with a view to the communication between Ferozepore and Loodiana, in the front line, and Ferozopore and Delhi in the rear, the point from which the heavy train and the means of carrying on the siege in the ultimate operations were to come. These must have passed between twenty and thirty miles of the enemy, while the main body of the army at Ferozepore was not less distant than fifty. These were the objects, to secure which Sir Harry Smith was detached from the army. He marched upon Loodiana, and communicated with the British commander there, who endeavoured to move out to his assistance. While he was engaged with the enemy on this march, which he made in order to perform a part of his instructions–namely, to maintain the communication with Loodiana, they came out from the entrenched camp and carried off his baggage. I desire to explain that, because it was the only check which the gallant officer met with throughout the whole of this operation, and in fact it is the only misfortune, trifling as it is, which has happened during the whole operations that have taken place in that part of the country. This loss of the baggage, such as it is, has been written up as a great misfortune; but, in point of fact, it could not be otherwise. He was obliged to march within sight of the entrenched camp, from which the enemy had an opportunity of attacking him on his march. I beg your Lordships to observe that Sir Harry Smith had not only to secure his communication with Loodiana, but likewise to secure his junction with General Wheeler, who, alone, was not able to contend against the enemy. He performed all those objects, was joined by General Wheeler, and then moved on to attack the new position which the enemy had taken up near the river. And, my Lords, I will say upon this, I have read the account of many a battle, but I never read the account of one in which more ability, energy, and experience have been manifested than in this. I know of no one in which an officer ever showed himself more capable than this officer has in commanding troops in the field. He brought every description of troops to bear, with all arms in the position in which they were most capable of rendering service; the nicest manœuvres were performed under the fire of the enemy with the utmost precision, and at the same time with an energy and gallantry on the part of the troops never surpassed on any occasion whatever in any part of the world. I must say of this officer, that I never have seen any account which manifests more plainly than his does, that he is an officer capable of rendering the most important services, and of ultimately being an honour to this country."
Lord Hotham, who had himself served under the Duke, said that Sir Harry Smith had had the advantage of seeing an extent of service which it had been the fortune of few to witness; but besides, he had the natural advantages of a remarkably quick conception, unceasing activity, the most ardent zeal and devotion, and the most undaunted resolution.
In the House of Commons Sir Robert Peel moved the vote, with a recital of Sir Harry's many services to his country–
"Of the battle itself I will not speak; the victory was complete, and it has been so admirably described by the illustrious commander, that I will not weaken the effect of his narrative. And what, let me ask, have been the services of this gallant officer? These recent events have given new lustre to his glory; but he was at the capture of Monte Video–at the attack upon Buenos Ayres; he served during the Peninsular War, from the battle of Vimeira to that of Corunna. He was then wounded in another action, but he was at the battles of Sabugal and Fuentes d'Onor and the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos, at the battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, the Pyrenees, and Toulouse. He was at Washington and at New Orleans, and finally he was at Waterloo. What a series of noble services, and how rejoiced I am that there should be an opportunity, through this new and signal victory, of bringing before the gladdened eyes of a grateful country a long life of military exertion, and an unbroken series of military honours! After he had achieved that success for which we are about to give him our special thanks–after he had driven back the enemy across the Sutlej, he instantly returned to rejoin his commanding officer, Sir Hugh Gough. He arrived on the 8th, two days before the decisive victory gained by the forces under Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge. But for his services in the victory of the 25th of January, I propose that there should be a distinct and separate vote–distinct and separate from that which I shall recommend for that not more glorious, though perhaps more important achievement accomplished at a later date by the whole British army."
Sir De Lacy Evans, an old friend,152 took occasion to defend Sir Harry from the unfounded notion that he had suffered any sort of reverse at Budhowal.
On the 4th April Sir Robert Peel wrote to inform Sir Harry Smith that, on his recommendation, the Queen had bestowed on him a Baronetcy of the United Kingdom. To the title were appended, as a special distinction, the words "of Aliwal."153 At the same time Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough were raised to the peerage as Viscount Hardinge and Baron Gough. While, however, Viscount Hardinge was further granted an annual sum of £3000, and Lord Gough one of £2000, in each case for three lives, no such material reward was given to Sir Harry Smith.
On April 6th Sir Harry was appointed a Major-General on the staff of the army in the East Indies, vice Sir R. H. Dick killed in action; and on the 7th Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington wrote separately to acquaint him that the Queen had approved of his appointment to be a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath.
On April 2nd the General Court of the East India Company echoed the thanks already passed by the Board of Directors; and on April 6th the Court of Common Council of the City of London voted to Sir Harry Smith, along with Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough, their thanks and congratulations and the freedom of the city. The Council of the Borough of Liverpool passed resolutions of thanks on the same day.
Let us now turn to the recipient of these honours.
On 20th May Sir Harry Smith wrote to Sir Robert Peel to express his gratitude to Her Majesty for the baronetcy conferred upon him and to the House of Commons and Sir Robert himself for the honour paid him in that assembly. He could not forbear adding–
"I have been fortunate indeed to be reared in the military school of our great Duke. To meet His Grace's unqualified approbation in the face of the world is an honour, I must admit, I have ever contended for, but never hoped to have thus realized."
A week later he sent his thanks to the Duke himself, and also assured him "how grateful I and Juana, my Spanish wife, are, for the messages sent us."
On 16th June he wrote from Simla to his old Peninsular friend, Major George Simmons154–
"I have received," he says, "since the battle of Aliwal, more than 150 letters of heartfelt gratification. . . . From every old General I have served with left to us, from every old comrade of the Light and 4th Divisions, have I received every expression of their approbation, their happiness in my having realized their often-expressed anticipations. Your old friend Juana's good sense, which you so kindly give her credit for, keeps pace with her delight in all the congratulations of our friends. Then, George, comes the encomium of the Duke. Dear old Master, if I have done that which meets your approbation, then is the cup of glory full indeed, for it is to your example I have desired to apply any share of ability bestowed upon me. I have had, too, from him the kindest messages, and to his old friend Juanita, as he still calls her. . . . I have had a letter from Joe, who tells me your happiness was such that your nerves so thrilled through your desperate old wounds as to make you quite ill. . . . I begin to long to get once more to my native land; mine has been an awful banishment. I do so long to seize by the hand all those old friends who have so adhered to me notwithstanding my absence, and who thus so kindly feel my success and honours their own. . . . Our old dear and mutual friends, Sirs Kempt, Barnard, and Lord F. Somerset, have written in most enthusiastic terms."
To another old friend, Mr. Justice Menzies 155 of the Cape, he writes on 26th June. After recounting the story of the campaign, he tells of his coming movements–
"I and Juana start dak in the month of July for Cawnpore, my division. She will leave the hills before cold, contrary to sense, but in strict usage, with her unvaried attachment."
After the significant statement, "I am out of debt," he signs himself–
"one who, if affection can make him so, is worthy of your faithful friendship, hot-headed Harry Smith."
The following letters explain themselves:–
"To Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Barnard, G.C.B., K.C.H.,
"Colonel 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade.
"Cawnpore, India, 29th July, 1846.
"The honorary distinctions recently conferred upon me by our gracious Queen enable me to take supporters to my family arms. I have the honour, therefore, to acquaint you, and to request you to be so good as to make it known to my gallant comrades, the Rifle Brigade, both 1st and 2nd Battalions–having served with each Battalion from the storm and capture of Monte Video [through] the whole of the Peninsular War, and the crowning Battle of Waterloo–I have adopted a soldier of the Rifle Brigade, a 'Rifleman:' and out of respect to that immortal Light Division, of which the Rifle Brigade and 52nd Light Infantry formed for so many eventful years the 2nd Brigade, in which I was the Major of Brigade at the many affairs and battles this Brigade was so distinguished in, the Coa, Pombal, Foz d'Aruz, Sabugal, Fuentes d'Onoro, siege, storm, and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and of Badajos, Salamanca, San Millan, Vittoria, the heights of Vera, Irun, crossing the Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive, many affairs near Bayonne, Tarbes, Orthes, and Toulouse, involving many days' sharp fighting with each named battle, and as no officer in the army has posted so many outlying picquets of this Brigade as I have, and as I am indebted to it and the great school of the immortal Wellington for whatever knowledge of my profession I may have acquired, by which my most fortunate career has so prospered, I beg the support to my arms of a soldier of the 52nd Light Infantry and a Rifleman in token of my veneration for their Corps and as a connecting link of former times with my present fortune. I have, etc.
"H. G. SMITH,
"To Major-General Sir Edward Gibbs, K.C.B.
"Colonel 52nd Light Infantry.
"Cawnpore, India, 29th July, 1846.
"The honorary distinctions recently conferred upon me by our gracious Queen, enable me to take supporters to my family arms. I have, therefore, the honour to acquaint you and to request you would make it known to my gallant comrades, the 52nd Light Infantry, that in full remembrance of the period I was Major of Brigade to the 2nd Brigade of the immortal Light Division, of which the 52nd formed so prominent and distinguished a part, involving the glorious contests of the Peninsular War; I have adopted a soldier of the 52nd Light Infantry and a 'Rifleman'–my own regiment. The many affairs and battles the brigade so nobly fought in (no man better knows than yourself) include the Coa, Pombal, Foz d'Aruz, Sabugal, Fuentes d'Onoro; siege, storm, and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo; siege, storm, and capture of Badajos, where you lost an eye, as my brigadier; Salamanca, San Munos, San Millan, Vittoria, the heights of Vera, that most irresistible attack, although on a fortified mountain; Irun, the crossing of the Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive, the many affairs near Bayonne, Tarbes, Orthes, and Toulouse, with the numerous skirmishes each of these actions entailed upon light troops. To this Brigade and to the great school of the illustrious Duke of Wellington am I indebted for that knowledge of my profession which has led to my personal aggrandisement, and which has lately acquired me the approbation of the Queen, the Duke of Wellington, and an expression of thanks from my grateful country. I pray you, therefore, Sir Edward Gibbs, and the 52nd Light Infantry, to give me that credit for the feeling of a grateful comrade I desire to demonstrate, and that you and this renowned corps may regard me as not unworthy to take a soldier out of your ranks to support me, in conjunction with their brother-in-arms, a Rifleman, and as the means in declining life of remembering the gallant Regiment who taught me to fight for my country. I have, etc.,
"H. G. SMITH,
In the autumn at Simla Sir Harry Smith was invested with the Grand Cross of the Bath by the Governor-General, Lord Hardinge. In the speech he made on this occasion, he exhorted young soldiers to draw encouragement from his career–
"In 1805, now 41 years ago, I entered the army, one of a family of six sons and five daughters. I had two brothers in the hottest part of the battle of Waterloo, and as your Lordship kindly asserted, I may, with humility, affirm, I have fought my way through the four quarters of the globe to my present elevated position, unaided by the power of aristocracy or the influence of wealth. I cite this as an example to my younger comrades that in our free and unrivalled constitution, the paths of ambition are open to all."
On 18th January, 1847, he was appointed Colonel of the 47th Foot, but was transferred on 16th April to the command of the 2nd Battalion of his old Regiment, the Rifle Brigade, vacant by the death of Sir D. L. Gilmour.
In the letter written to Major Simmons on 16th June Sir Harry Smith had said, "I wonder if Charley Beckwith ever bestows a thought on me whom he once loved as a brother." In the course of the autumn came a charming letter from that noble man,156 and henceforth the flame of friendship burnt brightly till both gallant souls had passed away.
"La Tour, Turin, 26th September, 1846.
"MY DEAR HARRY,
"The noise of the guns at Aliwal and Sobraon having died away in the echoes of the Himalaya, and the éclat and movement of those brilliant days having melted into the calmer atmosphere of ordinary life, I have good hopes that the handwriting of one who has never faltered for one moment in the deep feeling of respect and affection which he will cherish to his dying day for all his old companions in arms, will not be unwelcome.
"From the hour in which I saw your name associated with the army of the Sutlej, you may imagine how carefully I followed all your movements, how I rejoiced in your success, how anxious I felt in the usual intervals of doubt and trial.
"I laughed heartily when you lost your baggage, I knew full well the hearty damns that you sent after Sikhs, coolies, syces, and the whole rabble rout; saw your keen face as you galloped on the sand, and admired the cool close order of your movements in the teeth of an enemy who held-in his very breath in anxious doubt and dread whether he should dare to touch you; saw the noble array of your clear decided movement of Aliwal, and went along with you pell-mell as you drove your enemy headlong into the waters of the Sutlej; triumphed in the crowning efforts of a long soldier's life, formed in the school of true science, common sense, and right-hearted action, and felt a secret pride that I had been formed in the same school and was able to estimate such men as Hardinge and Harry Smith. But what did Juana do in all this row? Was she on horseback abaxo de los cañonaços? Give my kind love to her and kiss her for me.
"Many years have now gone by, and our outward frames are but the shadows of what they were, but my mind continues of the same sort. Character never loses its indelible stamp. Thin and black, my hair is not yet gray, and you would yet be able to recognize the Charley Beckwith of the Light Division. . . . The last enemy has done his worst on very many of our Peninsular companions. Sir Andrew and some Riflemen still remain to dine together sometimes in Albemarle Street. Charley Rowan is letter A, No. 1. Old Duffy regulates the Club, Johnny Bell cultivates dahlias at Staines, Will Napier misgoverns the Guernseymen, Johnny Kincaid regulates the secrets of a prison-house, Jonathan Leach writes histories; thus each labours in his vocation, and has still a conceit left him in his misery. The chronicle of the out-pensioners of Chelsea is more spirit-stirring in its former than in its latter day. . . . Adieu, Harry, and believe me that you may always depend on the affection of
"Your old friend,
"CHARLES BECKWITH." 157
Harry Smith was raised on 27th February, 1847, to the full rank of Major-General, dating from 9th November, 1846. He received a further gratification in an address from his native town, Whittlesey, which had been prepared by the Rev. G. Burgess, his old schoolmaster, then in his 82nd year. His reply evinced that warm attachment to his birthplace and native land which had been shown in so many of his private letters during his long exile. At length he was to see them again. Already in November, 1846, he had told his sister that he had taken his passage in a steamer which was to leave Calcutta in the middle of March, and that he would not "go mooning about the continent," but "come straight home." He sailed as he had said, and reached Southampton after eighteen years' absence from his native land on 29th April, 1847.
IN ENGLAND ONCE MORE–A SERIES OF OVATIONS–LONDON, ELY, WHITTLESEY, CAMBRIDGE–APPOINTED GOVERNOR OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.
SIR HARRY SMITH was received at Southampton by the General commanding the South-Western District and a guard of honour. Salutes were fired, and bells set ringing, and he landed in the presence of thousands of spectators. The corporation presented an address, and had prepared a civic banquet. Next day he travelled to London in a special train, which was put at his disposal by the South-Western Railway Company.
On the 6th May he dined with Her Majesty at Marlborough House; on the 7th he received a deputation from the inhabitants of his native town of Whittlesey, who were desirous of making him a presentation. It consisted chiefly of old school-fellows.
A series of invitations poured in from Her Majesty the Queen, the Duchess of Kent, the Dukes of Wellington, Montrose, and Beaufort, the Earl of Ripon, the Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Peel; Sir J. Cam Hobhouse, Sir De Lacy Evans, etc.158 On the 18th May his old friend and commander, Sir Andrew Barnard, presided at a dinner in his honour given by the Senior United Service Club. On the 20th the freedom of the City of London was presented to Sir Harry at Guildhall. He returned thanks for the honour in stirring sentences such as came naturally to him.
"It has been my fate to call upon the British soldier to follow to victory, and never have I known him to fail. The fear of defeat never entered the bosom of any one man whom I have seen with the blood of John Bull in his veins" (great cheering). "So long as England is true to herself and loyal to her Sovereign, she will stand, as she now stands, the paramount power of the world" (immense applause).
In the evening of the same day Sir Harry was the guest of a memorable company, his old Peninsular comrades, the survivors of the Light Division. They included Sir Hew Ross, Sir Andrew Barnard, the Duke of Richmond, John Kincaid, Sir John Bell, Jonathan Leach, and Major Smith (Sir Harry's "Brother Tom"). Next day the Times wrote as follows:–
"A hundred soldiers dined yesterday together in this city, and all the gatherings of all the capitals of Europe for half a century to come will not produce so memorable a reunion. If the muster roll of the Old Guard could be called and answered, a rival parade might perhaps be formed, but from no other body whose services modern history records could another such company be raised. The survivors of the most renowned division of the most famous army of England's most famous war were yesterday once more collected to welcome an ancient comrade whose victories in more productive but not more honourable fields have gloriously terminated a career commenced amongst those who bear this grateful testimony to the fruits of a spirit and character which their own society and conduct so largely contributed to form.
" On all sides is Sir Harry Smith receiving the due congratulations of his countrymen and the well-earned meed of his courage. For once, at least, the metropolitan season is supplied with a reasonable object of admiration and amusement, but we are much mistaken in Sir Henry's disposition, if this, of all the festivities which greet his arrival, will not convey at once the greatest gratification and the highest compliment. The same recollections which led the newly created baronet to pass by the ordinary attractions of blazonry and to turn to the days and comrades of his youth, to Ciudad Rodrigo and the Pyrenees, to the 52nd and the 95th, for those figures which should support his shield and tell of the deeds by which it was won, will teach him also to value the tribute which he yesterday received above any more gorgeous or imposing testimony. His cordial countrymen, his gratified friends–appreciation of his service and admiration of his conduct, he may meet elsewhere; but at the festival in Willis' Rooms last night only, and there perhaps for the last time, could he meet his fellows and companions in that noble school in which he learnt his soldiership and to which he owes his fame. Well does it tell for England's justice that such merits are at length acknowledged, and that Sir Henry Smith comes back to find that his ancient comrades and his ancient deeds are no longer left without the decorations which have been lavished on more recent services.159
"It cannot be the least part of his satisfaction at this entertainment, to think that, but for him, a gathering so memorable would never have occurred. This was no anniversary of a recurring solemnity, no periodical festivity or customary reunion. It did not take place last year, and it will not take place next. The last rendezvous perhaps was in the plains of Vittoria, or under the walls of Toulouse, the next will probably never occur. Already is the circle of survivors closing rapidly in under a slower but more resistless enemy than even they ever faced before; the actors, like the deeds, must soon become subjects of history and examples for imitation, and it is but too likely that yesterday was sounded the last assembly of the old Light Division."
On the 30th June, Sir Harry with Lady Smith left London for Whittlesey, his native place, and by desire of the people of Ely stopped there on the way. The story is best told in the words of warm-hearted Adam Sedgwick.160
"I was called away [from Cambridge] by the Dean of Ely to meet my old friend, Sir Harry Smith. I could not resist the temptation. So next morning (the 30th) I went to the station, and there I met the hero and his family party, and joined them in a saloon fitted up by the directors for their special reception. The entry into Ely was triumphant.161Thousands were assembled, with flags, branches of laurel, and joyful anxious faces. The Dean had provided me a horse, so I joined the cavalcade. After going through triumphal arches, and I know not what, preceded by a regimental band of music–Sir Harry mounted on the Arabian charger he rode at the battle of Aliwal, and greeted by lusty shouts from thousands–we all turned in to a magnificent lunch.162 We then went on to Whittlesey, a similar triumphant entry. I should think not less than 10,000 men to greet the arrival of the hero at his native town. He was much affected, and I saw tears roll down his weather-beaten, but fine face, as he passed the house where his father and mother once lived."163
At the station an address was read by Mr. Thomas Bowker, to which Sir Harry replied that he felt proud to set his foot once more in his native place, and he was delighted to see the Whittlesey Cavalry164there before him, as he could not forget that in that loyal troop he commenced his military career.
A ball was given in the evening, at which Sir Harry joined in the set dances, but refused to dance the polka. Next day he was entertained at a dinner attended by three hundred persons, including Lords Fitzwilliam, Aboyne, and Hardwicke, Professor Sedgwick, and other leading men of the county, and an epergne of the value of £300 was presented to him by residents of the Isle of Ely. In reply to the chairman, the Rev. Algernon Peyton, who proposed his health, Sir Harry said that that day was his mother's birthday, and he recalled her parting injunction to him,165 which he claimed to have obeyed. He concluded, "Many of my playmates, schoolmates, fellow-townsmen are around me, and I trust that, with the other honourable gentlemen present, they will accept the grateful thanks of their townsman and countryman, Harry Smith." When Lady Smith's health had been proposed by Lord Hardwicke and drunk by the company, Sir Harry returned thanks for the kindness shown to one he loved so dearly, and who had followed him with the greatest devotion over many fields of battle and in every quarter of the world–a devotion not to him alone, but to the cause in which he was engaged. From Whittlesey166 Sir Harry proceeded to Cambridge, where an honorary degree was to be conferred upon him in connexion with the ceremony of installing Prince Albert as Chancellor.
"ALIWAL," SIR HARRY SMITH'S CHARGER.
(From a picture painted by A. Cooper, R.A., in 1847.) [Opposite p. 376.
Professor Sedgwick, it seems, told Prince Albert on Saturday, July 3rd, that Sir Harry Smith was coming to Cambridge on the following Tuesday. He writes–
"The Prince said that the Queen would wish him to be there on Monday to take an honorary degree. So I fired a shot to Whittlesey, not doubting that I should bring the hero down in time; for the Queen's wishes are, as you know a soldier's law. I returned to Cambridge on Saturday. On Sunday . . . after evening chapel, I was rejoiced to find Sir H. Smith waiting at my rooms; he took my bed, and I took Dick's. . . . I spent a delightful quiet evening with my hearty and gallant friend. We took a turn in the walks, but he was in plain clothes, and was not known by the multitude.
"Next day (Monday the 5th) began the great hurlyburly. On Monday John told me that more than one hundred people came to lunch at my rooms, no doubt partly drawn there in the hope of meeting Harry Smith, who (after the Duke of Wellington) was the most popular of all the visitors. I could not be there myself except at very short intervals, as I was officially in constant attendance on the Prince. . . . There was a grand cheer on Monday morning when Sir H. Smith had his degree. . . . The Vice-Chancellor that day had a dinner–the Queen attended–to a party of about sixty. I presided in Trinity College Hall over a party of more than three hundred; and a right merry party it was. Sir Harry Smith was at my right hand as the Vice-master's guest, and among the distinguished foreigners were Le Verrier and Struvé. If we had not as much dignity as the Vice-Chancellor, we had more numbers and more fun. . . .
"On Tuesday 167 we had the Installation Ode performed in full chorus, and of all the cheers I ever heard, the cheers after God save the Queen in full chorus, accompanied and joined by a thousand voices, were the most enthusiastic.
"When the Duke of Wellington was leaving the Senate House, a loud peal of cheers was raised for him; and, immediately after, Harry was caught sight of 'Cheers for Sir Harry Smith' were called for; and the Duke, turning back, laid hold of Sir Harry and turned him round, saying, 'There you have him.' Indeed, he is more like the Duke's son, so much is he attached to him." 168
On Thursday "the corporation brought an address to Sir Harry Smith, to which he read them an answer. Soon afterwards he went away."
Professor Sedgwick tells the romantic story of Lady Smith's early life, and ends, "And now she is a pleasant, comfortable-looking dame with mild manners and soft, sweet voice."169
But the intoxicating hour of honours and ovations was quickly to give place to another period of hard service to Queen and country. During a visit to the Rev. T. Holdich at Maidwell Hall, Northants, Sir Harry received the news that he had been appointed to succeed Sir Henry Pottinger as Governor of the Cape of Good Hope and High Commissioner, and in September he was to leave England again. Another Kafir war was in progress, and Sir Harry's nomination gave the greatest satisfaction to the country. Before his departure his old friends at Glasgow presented him with a piece of plate of the value of £400 and upwards. On the 16th September, in reply to an address presented at Portsmouth on the eve of his departure, Sir Harry said–
"I trust, if it should be my good fortune to render any additional service to my Queen and country, I may be able to do it through other instruments than that called war. . . . If I can avert war, I will. If I can extend the blessings of civilization and Christianity in a distant land, where, without any affectation of humility, I can say that some years ago I sowed its seeds, it will be a gratification to me beyond expression to do so."
In the evening of the preceding day the 43rd, 52nd, and 60th Regiments had entertained Sir Harry at the George (the inn which had so many associations with his arrivals in and departures from England in early life).
In replying to the toast of his health, Sir Harry referred to the dinner given him on his arrival in London by the survivors of the old Light Division; to his own participation in every action recorded on the colours of the 52nd before him; and to the special praise given by the Duke of Wellington to the Light Division:
"When I have set the Light Division to do anything which was difficult and dangerous, requiring enterprise, the next day I found that division, with scarcely any loss, ready again to fight."
Sir Harry drew the moral, "He is the best officer who does the most with the least loss of life." On the relation of officers to men, he continued–
"Believe me, the tone of courage is taken from the officers; whatever the conduct of officers is, such will be the soldiers. And, gentlemen, if you knew the feeling of the British soldier in the field, . . . then would your devoted service be for the comforts and happiness of your men. Do not let it be supposed, gentlemen, because I talk of the comforts and happiness of the men, that I am one of those officers who I regret to say exist in the present day, who have a kind of twaddle in talking about 'the poor soldier.' In the country I am going to, I regret to hear it said 'the poor soldier' sleeps here and sleeps there, 'the poor soldier' wants this and wants that. It is the duty of every officer to provide to his utmost for the comfort of his men, and when comforts are not to be had, 'bad luck to the shilling.' And, my gallant officers, believe me, our soldiers are equally gallant men, and where the comforts are not to be had, they don't call themselves 'poor soldiers'; they call themselves the glorious soldiers in the service of Her Majesty."
In a later speech, replying to the toast of "Lady Smith," Sir Harry returned thanks for the honour to his wife–a wife who had participated in the hardships of almost every one of the gallant actions recorded on their colours; who had been three times besieged in her native city, and after being finally rescued, had followed him through the four quarters of the globe; a wife who had been not only honoured by all his comrades, but respected by those of her own sex.
On the 24th September Sir Harry embarked on the Vernon amid a great demonstration, by which he seemed much moved.
117 With Chapters XL. to XLIV. compare the extracts from letters given in Appendix VI.
118 On this very day twelve months, this ship, the David Scott, was burned in harbour in the Mauritius, having previously buried her captain at sea on the voyage from Calcutta.–H. G. S.
119 Colonel Harry Smith was appointed on 21st August, 1840, to the rank of Major-General (in the East Indies only). Writing to his friend Captain Payne, 72nd Highlanders, on 17th January, 1841, he says, "I get on very well here with the public functionaries of all descriptions tho' they are odd fellows to deal with. But I have very much learned to restrain an impetuosity which never produces so favourable a result as moderation, for, if right, it frequently makes you wrong."
120 Henry Thoby Prinsep, Member of Council at Calcutta, 1835-1843; Member of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, 1850-1858; Member of the Indian Council, 1858-1874. Died 1878.
121 Elphinstone had commanded the 33rd Regiment during the years of the occupation of France, 1815-1818.
122 I.e. Nott.
123 In Memorandum No. 1, dated "Simla, 7th August, 1842," the policy advocated is, "strike a decisive blow which will maintain our prestige in India, and then abandon Afghanistan, which ought never to have been entered."
In Memorandum No. 2, dated "Simla, 29th August," he states that his policy has been adopted. But the method involved "A division of force; an advance into the heart of the enemy's country; the siege of two cities with no positive means, one the venerated city of the Prophet, Guznee, the other Cabool, the capital; a retreat; the destruction of the base of these operations, Candahar." The plan, therefore, involved too many risks.
In Memorandum No. 3, dated "Simla, 7th September," he says that the evacuation of Candahar before Cabool and Guznee had been reduced was contrary to all military science. "Nott's column is now a single ship in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by hostile fleets." "The science of war dictates that as rapid a concentration as can be effected of the forces of Nott and Pollock should be made to Guznee–reduce it, hence to Cabool. Thus the union of force ensures one of the primary objects in war–'one line of operations, one base, and a union of resources.'" "A kind of drawn battle with fluctuating advantages is worse to the general cause than if no attempt whatever had been made to 'strike a blow.'" "Our force is on the verge of winter in the prosecution of two sieges–having abandoned its base previously to the reduction of either, and it has a fair probability of being distressed for food and forage." "Our present base Jellalabad is of the most difficult and almost inaccessible character–and a whole country, the Punjaub, between it and our natural frontier." "If the enemy knew how to apply his means, he would fall upon either Nott or Pollock."
These Memoranda, marked "confidential," were sent to a number of Indian officers of high rank, civil and military, and their answers (preserved) show a general acceptance of Harry Smith's views. Among them is the following letter from Henry Havelock and note from Broadfoot to Havelock:–
"MY DEAR GENERAL,
"I have the pleasure to return the Minutes which Broadfoot, the most gallant and talented fellow that I met beyond the Indus, has read, as you will see by the accompanying note.
"I too, though all unworthy to be mentioned in the same day, have perused them, and agree with you in every point, excepting one or two minor matters which those only who were in Afghanistan could be correctly informed upon.
"I feel like a man worn out, which is perhaps not surprising after having had my mind pretty much on the stretch for four years, but will come and speak to you upon General Skelton's affairs to-morrow morning, by God's help, and try to get a look at the charges.
"I thought Sir R. S[ale] would not go home. He is to blame, but generally takes odd views of things and then is not easy to move He ought to make a personal fight for his pension.
"Ever yours very truly,
"MY DEAR HAVELOCK,
"The bearer will deliver to you General Smith's minutes. I have read them with much interest, and am much tempted to give you some of the reflections they have given rise to, but if I began I should run into a dissertation. Give the General my best thanks, and believe me,
"[G. BROADFOOT] [Signature cut off].
"Major Havelock, C.B."
124 "Dâk: post, relays of palanquins or other carriages along a road" (Anglo-Indian Dictionary).
125 For 26 December, 1843.
126 "The Governor-General, with the ladies of his camp, rode on elephants beside the advancing columns." (Trotter, India under Victoria, vol. i. p. 100).
127 Lord Keane.
128 Sir Charles Napier, writing to Harry Smith early in 1844, treats humorously of the presence of Lady Gough, Juana Smith, etc., under fire at this battle. "I congratulate you on your feats of arms. You had a tough job of it: these Asiatics hit hard, methinks. How came all the ladies to be in the fight? I suppose you all wanted to be gloriously rid of your wives? Well, there is something in that; but I wonder the women stand so atrocious an attempt. Poor things! I dare say they too had their hopes. They talk of our immoral conduct in Scinde! I am sure there never was any so bad as this. God forgive you all. Read your Bible, and wear your laurels."–W. Napier's Life of Sir Char1es Napier (1857), vol. iii. p. 45.
129 On Sir Harry Smith's appointment to the command of the 1st Division, his duties as Adjutant-General devolved upon Lieut.-Colonel Barr.
130 It will be noted that Sir Harry Smith, in spite of all that followed, supports Sir H. Hardinge's military judgment in the famous dispute on this occasion between him and Sir H. Gough. A contrary view is taken in Gough and Innes' The Sikhs, etc., p. 107.
131 General Avitabile, an Italian, had been employed by Runjeet Singh in training his troops.
132 Son of Lord Fitzroy Somerset, afterwards Lord Raglan, and great-nephew of the Duke of Wellington, his mother (a daughter of Lord Mornington) being the Duke's niece.
133 Sir Harry Smith's capture of the village of Ferozeshah and his retention of it during the night were vaguely referred to in Sir H. Gough's dispatch in these terms: "I now brought up Major-General Sir Harry Smith's Division, and he captured and long retained another point of the position. On this circumstance General Sir James Kempt, in a letter to Sir Harry Smith dated "5th April, 1846," makes the following comment, which I give for what it may be worth:–
"Sir H. Gough does not in his public Dispatches of the action mention your carrying the village of Ferozeshah, or allude to the difficulty in which you were placed, and my first impression was that he had written the Dispatch before he received your Report. But as Gilbert in his Report of the proceedings of his Division (which has been published in India) says that after driving the enemy from their position opposed to him, he was induced (from circumstances which he mentions) to withdraw from the position they had so gallantly won and to take up a position under instructions 400 yards in the rear where he bivouacked for the night–this, and Littler having also withdrawn on your left, fully accounts for the unprotected state in which you were left after carrying the village. But Sir H. Gough could not mention you in the way which your service deserved in the public Dispatch without telling the whole truth, and letting the public know how miserably the thing was managed."
134 Colonel T. Bunbury writes of the battle of Ferozeshah: "Everybody was so famished with hunger that Sir H. Smith, hearing that (one of our officers had secured a lamb), sent to beg of us a mutton chop. But he was too late. The sheep had been slaughtered, cooked, and devoured" (Reminiscences of a Veteran, iii. p. 289).
The same story is told in a letter of a private soldier, dated "January 5th, 1846" (printed in the Cambridge Chronicle, 25th April, 1846): "The Governor-General, the Commander-in-Chief, the General of Division, the A.D.C., and the whole of the staff–with this one exception, they rode and we marched–fared the same as ourselves–without food, without water." The same writer relates, "General Smith has command of the 1st Division. He exposed himself very much, too much in fact, for when the whole of the men were lying down to escape the shower of shot, the gallant General remained on his horse in front of the line, exhorting the men to lie still as they could not get up and live, and when they charged the guns, he led them in truly gallant style. His escape was truly miraculous." "The gallant General Smith has just passed–he looks somewhat thinner, and no wonder, for he has a very busy time of it. I hope to God he will come off unscathed, and may he receive the reward of his services from his sovereign."
135 Before sending the dispatch given in the next chapter, Sir Harry wrote in pencil from the field of battle the following short note to the Commander-in-Chief:–
"Bank of the Sutlej, 28th January.
"Hearing the enemy had received a reinforcement yesterday of twelve guns, and 4000 men last night, I moved my troops at daylight this morning to attack. I think I have taken every gun he had and driven him from the river. My guns are now battering him from the opposite bank. He came out to fight me. I expect fifty guns are on the field at least. My loss I hope not great. The Cavalry charged several times, both black and white, like soldiers, and infantry vied with each other in bravery. To the God of victory we are all indebted. God bless you, dear Sir Hugh. My staff all right. Mackeson and Cunningham, of the Political Department, bore heavily on some villages. The enemy required all I could do with such brave fellows to teach him to swim.
"H. G. SMITH,
136 Not received by the Secret Committee.
137 Eleven guns since ascertained to be sunk in the river, total sixty-seven; thirty odd jingalls fell into our hands.
138 He wrote these lines in September, 1846.
139 No one but those who have encountered it, can be aware of the difficulty there is in disposing of the stores and captured guns of your enemy. I had 52 to move, and most of their own draught animals had been killed in action or shot by the victors. The country yields no resources in aid, thus I had to use the transport of my own 32 guns to send on to Loodiana 47 of the enemy's, and this delayed my return to Headquarters three days.–H. G. S.
140 A trooper in the 16th Lancers, named Eaton, writing on 2nd Feb., 1846, of the battle of Aliwal, says, "As soon as the Commander-in-Chief received the dispatches, which he did on horseback while reconnoitring, he leaped from his horse and gave three cheers, a salute of eighteen guns was fired, and the line gave three hearty cheers for us, their gallant comrades, as they called us." The same writer gives a very characteristic picture of Sir Harry Smith: "The General told us that when our regiment was in Lahore in 1837, the King thought us all gentlemen, but had he seen us on that day, he would have proclaimed us all devils, 'for you charged their ranks more like them than anything else.' As he left us we saw tears in the poor old man's eyes, and he said, 'God bless you, my brave boys; I love you.'"–See Cambridge Independent Press, 4th April, 1846.
Of the above letter Professor Sedgwick wrote, "Excepting Harry Smith's dispatch, which nothing can reach, it is one of the most soul-stirring letters that has come from India."–Life of Sedgwick, ii. p. 102.
141 Prince Waldemar of Prussia, travelling as Count Ravensburg, was present with his suite at the battles of Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Aliwal, and Sobraon.
142 His aide-de-camp, now General Sir Edward A. Holdich, K.C.B.
143 A coloured print of the 31st Regiment at Sobraon was published afterwards by Ackermann. There is also a large engraving, "The triumphal reception of the Seikh guns" (at Calcutta), after W. Taylor in which Sir Harry Smith is a prominent figure.
144 The following extract from a letter from Lieut.-Col. Bellers who believes himself to be the only officer now surviving who served in the 50th during the Sikh War (during the greater part of which he was Adjutant), shows that the admiration expressed by Sir Harry for the 50th regiment was fully reciprocated. "With us Sir Harry Smith was ever most popular, I may say, beloved: a strict disciplinarian, but never exacting more than was necessary. His figure on 'Aliwal' with his cloak on in front of our Division is well in my memory."
Mr. B. Genn of Ely, who served in India in the 15th Hussars in 1846 under Sir Harry, gives us the soldiers' view of him. "He was about the most popular man in the army. He always had something jocose to say. He would gammon us by complimenting us in comparison with some other regiment–then we should hear from the men of the other regiment that he had complimented them in the same manner. He would stroll round the tents, and there would be a cry, 'Sir Harry Smith's coming!' Then he would call out 'Trumpeter, order a round of grog; and not too much water: what I call "fixed bayonets"!'"
145 The official dispatches not till March 26th.
146 Kincaid, in his generous enthusiasm, wrote a letter signed "Veteran" to the Times of March 30th, to acquaint the public with his friend's past services and military character. Speaking of Peninsular days, he writes, "Those only who have served under a good and an indifferent staff officer can estimate the immense value of the former, and Smith was one of the very best, for his heart and soul were in his duty. His light wiry frame rendered him insensible to fatigue, and, no matter what battle or march might have occupied the day or night, or what elementary war might be raging, Smith was never to be found off his horse, until he saw every man in his brigade housed, if cover could possibly be had. His devotion to their comforts was repaid by their affection. . . . No one who knew Harry Smith (his familiar name) in those days could doubt for a moment that whenever he acquired the rank, and the opportunity offered, he would show himself a General worthy of his illustrious preceptor. . . The battle of Aliwal speaks for itself, as the dispatch of Sir H. Smith would alone proclaim that he had been trained under Sir John Moore and finished under the master-mind of Wellington."
147 Sir James, writing to Sir Harry Smith himself on 5th April, said, "I well knew that you only wanted an opportunity to display the great military qualities which I knew you possessed in no common degree. . . . Most nobly did you perform your part and show how a battle ought to be fought when the troops are commanded by a skilful and brave General who feels himself 'at home' in the thickest of the fight, and who knows how to handle them, and how to make use of each arm at the proper time as an auxiliary to the other. The Great Duke in his speech in the House of Lords makes you the Hero of the day. . . . On the day that thanks were voted to you in Parliament, I invited Barnard, Johnny Kincaid, Rowan, Alex McDonald, and other of your old friends and comrades to dine with me, and we drank a bumper to your health and that of Lady Smith."
148 Compare an extract from the journal of Sir C. Napier (Life of Sir C. Napier, iii. p. 398): "[Hardinge's] army is for discipline the worst I have seen. . . . There were no picquets or patrols, not even when close to and in sight of the enemy! I am told, however, that Harry Smith's Division was an honourable exception." And another from the same journal, dated "July 9" (p. 434): "Harry Smith is a good-hearted, brave fellow, and it gladdens me that he has been rewarded, for he was the only man that acted with any science and skill as a general officer."
149 Written, as Sir Edward Holdich tells me, on the battlefield on the night of the battle, and hardly altered afterwards.
150 W. M. Thackeray, Book of Snobs: "Military Snobs."
151 Professor Sedgwick wrote similarly, "I do not believe the old Duke ever spoke so much praise in the course of his life before, and all he said was from the heart" (Life of Sedgwick, ii. p. 102).
152 See p. 329.
153 Sir Robert Peel, in a letter of 21st April, requesting Sir Harry's acceptance of a copy of his speeches of April 2nd, added, "Sir Robert Peel trusts that the special reference in the Gazette and the Patent for conferring a Baronetcy on Sir Henry Smith to the name of Aliwal (unusual in the case of a Baronetcy) will be acceptable to the feelings of Sir Henry Smith."
154 See p. 33. The letter has been printed by Col. Verner in A British Rifleman (George Simmons' diaries).
155 See p. 331.
156 Charles Beckwith, so often mentioned in the first volume, lost a leg at Waterloo. During his time of suffering he underwent a religious conversion. "I was carried away by the love of glory, but a good God said to me, 'Stop, rascal!' and He cut off my leg; and now I think I shall be the happier for it." Through casually opening a book in the Duke of Wellington's library, he became interested in the Vaudois or Waldensian Protestants, and from 1827 onwards spent a great part of his life among them as a father or apostle. He died in 1862 (see Dictionary of National Biography).
157 Sir Harry passed Gen. Beckwith's letter on to Col. W. Havelock, the "Young Varmint" of the Light Division (destined to die a soldier's death at Ramnuggur two years later), and received a characteristic letter of acknowledgment of the "treat" it had given to "yours affectionately, Old Will."
158 Lord Malmesbury wrote in his diary for May 8th, "Dined with the Eglintons. General Sir Harry Smith was the great lion of the evening. He is a little old man, very clever-looking. She is a Spanish woman, and has been very handsome" (see Memoirs of an Ex-minister).
159 The Peninsular Medal had just been granted.
160 For his early friendship with Harry Smith, see p. 5,'n.
161 On the opposite page is given a facsimile of the handbill issued for the occasion.
162 Dean Peacock, who presided, referred to the character he had received of Sir Harry from Sir John Herschel, as one not only valiant in the field, but able to conciliate a foe and turn the enemies of the British Empire into its friends.
163 Life of Sedgwick (Clark and Hughes), vol. ii. p. 124. The Illustrated London News of 10th July, 1847, has an illustration representing Sir Harry passing the house of his birth.
164 Then commanded by his "third Waterloo brother," Captain Charles Smith, with whom Sir Harry stayed during his visit.
165 See p. 158.
166 During his Whittelesey visit an address was presented to Sir Harry at Thorney, on behalf of the inhabitants of that village.
167 The Whittlesey troop of Yeomanry Cavalry, under the command of Captain Charles Smith, formed the guard of honour at the Installation.
168 A letter from the Rev. Canon Charles Evans tells us of an incident which took place within the Senate House. "I was present in the Senate House and stationed close to the platform on which Sir Harry was conversing with the Duke of Wellington, as we were waiting for the arrival of the Queen and Prince Albert, from whom I was to have the honour of receiving the Senior Chancellor's Medal. The undergraduates were loudly cheering the Duke, when laying his hand on Sir Harry's shoulder, he said, 'No, no, this is the man you ought to cheer; here is the hero of the day.' Sir Harry Smith burst into tears and said, 'I little thought I should live to hear such kind words as these from my old chief.' I distinctly heard every word."
169 Life of Sedgwick, ii. pp. 125-127 and 573.