The Saviour of Lucknow
It was not until 11th July that tidings of the death of General the Hon. George Anson reached the War Office. On that afternoon Lord Panmure sent for Sir Colin Campbell and offered him the chief command in India.
"I accept it," said Sir Colin, not in the least surprised. "When will you be ready to start?" said Lord Panmure. "To-morrow! I can get my outfit in Calcutta."
Sir Colin was sixty-five; his soldiers called him "Old take care!"
Lord Dalhousie and Lord Panmure had both deemed him too cautious; but when Britain was in danger, the Queen pointed to the man.
Sir Colin left London by the night train after being bidden to Buckingham Palace. In his journal he wrote:
"Her Majesty's expressions of approval of my readiness to proceed at once were pleasant to receive from a Sovereign so good and so justly loved."
In Paris he took breakfast with his "dear old friend General Vinoy"; and reaching Marseilles on the 14th July, he embarked on the Vectis, which was awaiting him with its steam up.
On the 13th of August the new commander-in-chief landed at Calcutta. General Sir Patrick Grant met him, and Lord Canning invited him and his military secretary, Major Alison, to stay at Government House.
We may here quote a few lines on Sir Colin from Holme's history of the Mutiny: "He had not the wonderful dash, the power to put everything to the hazard for a great end . . . which belonged to some other well-known leaders of that time. Yet for any work requiring methodical and precise movements extraordinary care for details, few were better fitted. . . . No commander-in-chief more acceptable to the mass of Anglo-Indian officers could at that moment have been selected. Many of them already knew his appearance well—his strong spare soldierly frame, his high rugged forehead crowned by masses of crisp grey hair, his keen, shrewd but kindly honest eyes, his firm mouth with its short trim moustache, his expression denoting a temper so excitable yet so exact; so resolute to enforce obedience yet so genial; so irascible and so forgiving."
As Sir Colin had to wait at Calcutta until 27th October, he had time to gather up the threads of what had occurred. We know from previous chapters most of the events: Havelock, with less than 2000 men, had fought his way from Allahabad to Cawnpur, but arrived just too late to save the women and children. Then his gallant attempt to relieve Lucknow failed in August, and he had to fall back on Cawnpur.
But the country between Calcutta and Cawnpur was seriously disturbed: Allahabad, placed on a tongue of land at the junction of the Ganges and the Jumnah, had been the scene of a revolt of sepoys on the 6th of June. Many officers were shot, and the rest, with sixty-five invalided white soldiers and some sepoys, took refuge in the fort.
Fortunately the senior officer on the spot, Lieut. Brasyer, who had been promoted from the ranks for gallantry in the Sutlej campaign of 1846, saw from the looks of the sepoys in the fort what he must do. He promptly, with the help of some Sikhs, disarmed the rebels and drove them from the fort.
Allahabad was saved by Colonel Neill on the 12th of June, though he had only a few men under him. Thus one of the most important cities in India was saved by Brasyer, still only a lieutenant, and Neill of the 1st Madras Fusiliers, both true heroes of the Mutiny.
But there were two other weak points between Calcutta and Allahabad: namely, Dinapur, 344 miles distant from Calcutta, and Patna, which was twelve miles nearer to the capital.
The commissioner, William Tayler, had preserved the province from revolt by his splendid energy and foresight.
Colonel Malleson says in his History: "His services have never been acknowledged, he has been treated with contumely and insult, but he contributed as much as any man, in that terrible crisis called the Indian Mutiny, to save the Empire."
We must not forget William Tayler when we recall the brave heroes who fought for Britain and her Empire in those troublous days.
There were 3000 disaffected sepoys at Dinapur, and Tayler asked the authorities at Calcutta if he might disarm them. It was most important that this should be done, because reinforcements could not be sent to Havelock with this danger left in the rear.
Lord Canning, Sir Patrick Grant, and Mr. Halliday, Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, hesitated. The leading merchants sent a deputation to Canning, stating that a favourable opportunity now occurred for disarming the sepoys. Canning listened, and curtly replied, "I cannot comply with your request."
Later they threw the responsibility of the disarming on General Lloyd; if he thought it desirable, he might take that step!
On the 25th of July, Lloyd took away their percussion caps. Three hours after the sepoys broke out into open mutiny and started westward in the direction of Arah. No attempt was made to stop them.
They marched to Arab, opened the goal, plundered the treasury and hunted for Europeans. But Vicars Boyle, a civil engineer, had provisioned and fortified his house, foreseeing the catastrophe which Canning and his advisers had neglected to prevent. With fifteen Englishmen and fifty Sikhs, sent by William Tayler, this heroic band resisted sternly on the 27th, 28th, and 29th; then came a lull in the fighting: the- sound of firing was heard in the distance! But Dunbar, sent by Lloyd with 415 men at Taylor's instigation, had fallen into an ambush, and only fifty-three were left alive.
The effect of this repulse at Patna and Dinapur was alarming: the whole province would rise and all would be massacred.
But another unknown hero started up, Major Vincent Eyre of the Artillery. This man had served in the first Kabul war and had been kept there a prisoner: since then he had served in Gwalior and Burma. He was bringing a battery on a steamer from Calcutta to Allahabad, and had reached Dinapur on the evening of the day on which the mutineers had gone off to Arah.
Next day he went up the river, persuaded Captain d'Estrange to bring 150 men of the 5th Fusiliers, and started for Arah.
Thereby he risked his commission, for his orders were to proceed to Allahabad, and a march to Arah was fifty miles out of his way. But Eyre risked all that, and with 220 men and 3 guns and 40 gunners he set out on the 31st of July, a fortnight before Sir Colin landed at Calcutta, and at his first halt the news came to him of Dunbar's defeat. That made no difference: next day they came within six miles of Arah, and found the rebels entrenched in a wood.
By fierce bayonet charges and flank movements and good gun-fire, the British at last drove the enemy from cover. Eyre pressed on, hoping to be in Arah that night: but a raging torrent stopped them, and they spent the whole night in making a causeway. Next morning they crossed the torrent, entered the city and rescued the brave little garrison, which for eight days had defied an enemy fifty times more numerous than themselves.
But some of the rebels had fled to the stronghold of Kenwar Singh, a disaffected landholder: this fort Eyre stormed and captured on the 11th of August.
In a moment the despair of the British residents in West Behar was changed into unexpected relief, hope, and even triumph. Such is the magic of brave deeds done by a heroic soldier.
Eyre's action was of course upheld by the Indian Government: what would have been dealt to him if he had been unsuccessful, we better not inquire. For William Tayler, who had done so much to save his province, was removed from his office and ruined; he had advised his subordinates to bring all their men and treasure to Patna before Vincent Eyre's arrival: and was deemed at Calcutta to have been acting too much on his own initiative!
But the failure of the Government to disarm the three regiments had wasted a month and prevented Havelock from reaching Lucknow with any chance of success.
Sir Colin must have been encouraged by the stories that came to Calcutta of British pluck and patient resistance in many quarters: but he was full of business troubles, buying up stores and sending small reinforcements to Allahabad.
The men went by bullock-train, which took ninety daily: they had their knapsacks and blankets with them, ammunition and rifles. They travelled day and night, halting only for two hours at noon. Food was scanty, but the men were eager to get to the front.
"I am delighted with Lord Canning," wrote Sir Colin; "he has never looked black at any event which has occurred. He is such a nice person to do business with. Very clever and hard-working . . . . with the highest courage, so simple and gentlemanly; and so firm and decided that I cannot be too thankful for the good fortune which has placed me under such a chief."
In October, Sir Colin received a letter from Sir John Lawrence, in which he wrote: "We have indeed had a terrible storm: and it is only, I am persuaded, by the mercy of God that a single European is alive on this side of India. At one time I began to think that all must be lost. We have now, as far as I can judge, weathered the gale; but until the troops arrive from England, our position must continue to be precarious . . . I only know that Havelock has done nobly. In fact he and his troops have exceeded all our hopes and expectations. I was rejoiced to see that Outram did not supersede Havelock . . . my brother's death has indeed been a great calamity. There were few, perhaps none, who would have proved more useful with his counsel and experience than he."
On the night of the 27th of October, Sir Colin, attended by the headquarters staff, left Calcutta by rail for Ranigunj.
Then he went on by carriage-dak up the Great Trunk Road, and a terrible catastrophe nearly occurred.
For as they drove along some peasants held up their hands and cried out, "Stop, sahib! sepoys all in front!"
"Nonsense!" said one of the officers, "I can't believe that."
"There they are, sahib; some of them on elephants."
Then the Englishmen saw through their glasses nine elephants crossing the road about 1000 yards ahead.
Sir Colin was in the second carriage, and word was sent to him to stop, as some 400 mutineers were ahead.
The carriages in the rear heard an exaggerated rumour and a panic seized the drivers, who turned round to flee: one carriage was upset in the act of turning. Two officers got upon country ponies and galloped back for the nearest detachment.
All the time Sir Colin was quietly tracing the route of the mutineers on the map. Fortunately these gentlemen had no idea they were so near to the commander-in-chief and continued calmly on their way. The headquarters staff prudently drove back some miles, and then with a proper escort retraced their steps in the cool of the evening. So what might have been a tragedy came to be regarded as a comic interlude. At Allahabad, Sir Colin heard that Outram could hold out in Lucknow till the end of November: this gave him some satisfaction and a few spare days to complete arrangements. On 3rd November they reached Cawnpur, and remained a few days to forward the Engineer park.
But to a cautious general like Sir Colin, who liked to make war according to rule and principle, the state of affairs was very disadvantageous. For his line of communications from Allahabad to Cawnpur was threatened by the Gwalior Contingent and other rebel bodies who were concentrating at Calpi on the Jumna, forty miles only from Cawnpur. He knew that his first duty should have been to clear this line of communication; but the call of Lucknow seemed imperative, and he had no alternative but to leave Cawnpur open to attack by superior numbers. However, he did all that was possible to strengthen the post of Cawnpur, as it covered the bridge of boats, his only line of retreat from Lucknow. Early on the morning of the 9th, Sir Colin left Cawnpur and reached the camp of Buntera after a forced march of thirty-five miles. Here he met his old friend, Hope Grant, and placed him in divisional command of the force.
On the morning of the 10th, Kavanagh came into camp with his attendant native: and some hours were spent in working out the safest route to the Residency. It was resolved to give the city a wide berth this time and swerve away to the right. A letter written in Greek character was sent to Outram: "I have come only to hand out the wounded, women and children." Outram was to make all preparations for their departure on the 16th. In the afternoon Sir Colin reviewed his troops in brigades, ad-dressing each separately: as we have stated before, when the war-worn, anxious commander had reviewed the 9th Lancers, the Sikh horsemen in their loose dress and red turbans, the 8th and 75th Queen's worn with fighting, with never a word or cheer from any—he rode on to his old Crimean friends, Highlanders of the 93rd, a massive body of veterans in tartan and waving plume: and then there burst forth such a rapturous welcome as took all the lines from his face and gave him strength for his mission.
"Aye, aye, Sir Colin; we'll bring the women and bairns oot o' Lucknow, or we'll leave oor ain banes there."
We will not dwell at length on the fortunes of war in this second relief of Lucknow: it has been given in a former chapter. On the morning of the 14th of November they reached the Dilkoosha Park, and then on to the Martiniere College they forced their way helped by Travers' heavy guns.
Next day, by the advice of Kavanagh, Sir Colin chose a long detour to the right, approaching the Secundra Bagh by the open ground near the river.
The latter part of their way lay through a narrow lane, where the cavalry got jammed, and Sir Colin rode to the front and thrust them in his impetuous way into the side alleys of the village: then he ordered up the 18-pounders to batter a breach in the south-west bastion of the Secundra Bagh.
While three companies of the 93rd were clearing the Serai of the enemy, the rest of the infantry were lying down behind an embankment. At the end of an hour a Sikh native officer, without waiting for the order, sprang up sword in hand, his men following. The Highlanders followed, and it became a race who should get into the Secundra Bagh first. Some say that Sir Colin called to Colonel Ewart, "Ewart, bring on the tartan," and then they dashed from behind the bank.
Many were killed as they crept through the narrow breach, and for hours the conflict raged; 2000 sepoys were found slain. We must remember that these soldiers had recently seen Cawnpur and the house of massacre, and had heard all that gruesome story. So they never dreamt of taking prisoners: the only penalty was death. After the Secundra Bagh came the Shah Nujeef, a great mosque and tomb: this was held so strongly in spite of Peel's gun-fire that once more Sir Colin had to call upon his Highlanders. But a high wall loopholed brought them to a standstill, and the fire of the rebels was making havoc with the regiment and Sir Colin's staff when Sergeant Paton of the 93rd came running up to Colonel Hope saying, "I have found a breach, sir, near the river."
Sergeant Paton was the hero of the Shah Nujeef. It was by his plucky examination of the defences that the mosque was taken. The relief of the Residency, which before had been very uncertain, now seemed assured. The men lay down to rest and sleep, and next day, the 17th, Captain Wolseley, the Field-Marshal, attacked and took the mess house, and Lieutenant Roberts, V.C., our Field-Marshal and honoured General, raised the British flag on the top of the Motee Mahal, the signal that our troops were near the Residency.
It was now that Outram and Havelock crossed an open space half a mile wide intervening between the Motee Mahal and the Residency, though they were exposed to fire from the Kaiserbagh. Indeed three of their staff were wounded during the transit. Warm greetings were exchanged, and plans quickly proposed.
Sir Colin was firm in his resolve to waste no time in getting back to Cawnpur to meet the Gwalior Contingent and guard the bridge across the Ganges. But, said he, we must take back the wounded, the women and children, and the garrison. Five days were occupied in making preparations, and the whole British force simply held the positions they had won, like a vast outlying picket.
At midnight of the 22nd the garrison filed out from the Residency in the deepest silence. The rebels never suspected what was doing; before dawn they had all reached the Martiniere in safety.
We have already seen how Sir Colin hurried back to the bridge, crossed the Ganges, and heartened Windham's garrison by his presence. It was a narrow escape for both forces. Windham had been beaten back to his fortified camp at Cawnpur by Tantia Topee, after a march of six miles down the Calpi Road to attack the rebels. On the morrow Windham saw the bungalows at Cawnpur all in flames, and the clothing and stores left by Havelock's force being burnt.
Sir Colin was only just in time to prevent the bridge of boats from being destroyed by placing Captain Peel's heavy guns to cover the crossing. He placed his convoy of women and children near the riddled walls of Wheeler's encampment, and spent two days preparing for the dispatch of his large convoy to Allahabad. He sent them off on the night of the 3rd of December, and then turned his attention to the 25,000 rebels in front of him.
These rested their centre on the town, being separated from the British force by the Ganges Canal. Their right was covered by limekilns and mounds of brick; their left rested on the Ganges.
Sir Colin had with him 5000 infantry, 600 cavalry, and thirty-five guns; with this force he attacked the rebels on the 6th of December.
During the days of waiting our men had been chafing and fretting at the delay, while the enemy kept bowling round-shot into the camp. But the cautious Scot was making victory secure for them, planting heavy gun batteries to command the canal bridges.
Early in the morning Sir Colin called the commanding officers together and explained his plans with clearness from a written paper. All knew that only one week's supplies of food were left in camp, and that no more could be procured unless the rebels were beaten! But the men were like greyhounds straining on the leash!
Greathed was directed to make a false attack on the centre, whilst Walpole, Hope, and Inglis turned the enemy's right. These latter drove the rebels from mound to mound despite a fierce resistance. At length they reached a bridge strongly fortified and held by artillery. There was a long and terrible struggle, the 4th Punjab Rifles and the 53rd gallantly attempting to carry the position. All of a sudden a rumbling was heard, and up came William Peel and his sailors, dragging a heavy 24-pounder, placed the gun on the bridge, and opened fire.
The British cheered again and again as the rebels fell back under the storm of shot: and then with a shout Highlanders, Sikhs, and 53rd dashed at the foe and drove them back in wild disorder.
At this moment Lieutenant Bunny, H.A., rode back at a gallop and shouted to Captain Bourchier, "Come along; they are bolting like the devil."
Away rattled the battery of field-guns along the Trunk Road. The infantry made way for them, as if so many fire-engines were coming, and after galloping a mile and a half they saw the rebels' camp, and at four hundred yards poured round-shot into the flying masses.
Major Turner rode up and ordered, "Go to grape distance."
Again the battery limbered up and at two hundred yards range poured a shower of grape into the camp.
Bourchier writes: "The men were yelling with delight. They actually stood upon the gun-carriages as we advanced. The drivers cheered, and such a scene of excitement was never known." Then Sir Colin himself rode up to the battery and said, "Well done, my men, well done. Now go hot in pursuit of the rascals."
"Hurrah! Hurrah! we are on their track. Gun after gun is passed and spiked, cartloads of ammunition lie strewed along the road; Pandies are bolting in all directions."
Without a check that battery pursued for two miles, Sir Hope Grant and his staff riding in the dust behind.
Four times they came into action after that, to clear front and flank. Then General Grant said, "We are getting too far away from our supports. Halt! Wait till the cavalry come up."
The cavalry had been taken by their guides far too much to the left, and only arrived late. But ten minutes' rest for the horses did good service; for, highly trained though they were and in racing condition, the pace had been killing. With lowered heads and frames shaken by the quick panting of exhausted lungs they awaited the next call upon their stamina and muscle. And the gunners rubbed them down and spoke cheery words to them.
Presently a small cloud of dust was seen on their left coming nearer and nearer: it is lost in a grove; soon the head of a cavalry column appears—they arrive: a quick order is given. Like lightning the horsemen spread over the plain at a gallop and in skirmishing order; Sir Colin is riding at the front. One might have thought it was a fox-hunt, and indeed more than one fox did break cover, and the men merrily roared out a "View halloa": so they rode on for fourteen miles, catching whom they could and making many prizes.
So at last came the defeat of that Gwalior Contingent that had given Sir Colin so much anxiety and nearly wrecked his plans. Sixteen guns, 350 cartloads of ammunition, huge stores of grain, tents, bullocks, etc., fell into our hands.
The return to Cawnpur was rendered almost comic by an offer made to the men of three rupees for every bullock the men could bring in. So the guard left at Cawnpur saw three or four pairs of bullocks tied at the tail of each gun, while the Lancers were driving their prisoners before them in hundreds, lowing as they went.
The next few weeks were spent in defeating rebel rajahs in Rohilkhand; but Lord Canning strongly insisted on Lucknow and Oudh being brought to subjection before any other attempts were made to sweep Rohilkhand.
By the 23rd of February 1858, Sir Colin had collected near Bunnee, 17 battalions of infantry, 28 squadrons of cavalry, 54 light and 80 heavy guns.
Outram at the Alumbagh had been left alone for some time after the last severe handling by Sir Colin of the sepoys at Lucknow. But the Maulavi, one of the chief authors of the Mutiny, was now in Lucknow, and made two or three attacks which Outram repelled, though it was said that the rebels had 100,000 men to Outram's 4000.
We need not dwell again on the storming of Lucknow, which was carried out so gallantly with the help of Outram at the cost of 800 of all ranks. At this time Sir Colin received a letter from the Queen written by her own hand, thanking him for his devotion, and the troops for their gallantry.
After his next clearance of Rohilkhand in June, Sir Colin retired to Allahabad, where he found a letter from Lord Derby: "Her Majesty deems the present a fitting moment for marking her high sense of your eminent brilliant services by raising you to the dignity of a peer of the United Kingdom."
Sir Colin was disposed to run restive at strange titles, but was at last reconciled to the honour: though he continued to sign his letters to friends as before C. C., and not Clyde.
When he met the 93rd, of which he was colonel, the first time after becoming Lord Clyde, he called the pipe-major to the front. John MacLeod saluted, saying, "I beg your pardon, Sir Colin, but we dinna ken hoo tae address you noo that the Queen has made you a Lord!"
The chief replied, with a touch of humorous sadness, "Just call me Sir Colin, John, the same as in the old times: I like the old name best."
Mr. Russell relates a story of Lord Clyde—an incident which he witnessed in the campaign in Central India in December. It was dark and cold: the men had made blazing fires of straw and grass in houses lately occupied by Nana Sahib's followers.
"At one of these fires, surrounded by Beloochees, Lord Clyde sat with his arm in a sling (his horse had fallen with him) upon a native bed. Once he rose to give an order, when a tired Beloochee flung himself on the crazy charpoy, but was jerked off by an indignant comrade with the loud exclamation, 'Don't you see, you fool, that you are on the Lord Sahib's charpoy?' Lord Clyde broke in, 'No—let him lie there; don't interfere with his rest,' and himself took his scat on a billet of wood."
It was not until June 1860 that the old general was able to sail home, after taking a touching farewell of Lord Canning. Everybody now, from the French Emperor to the Court of the City of London, was eager to welcome the man who had saved India at the cost of the fewest lives possible. There was no more talk of being over-cautious, or too old: honours were poured upon him: in November 1862 he was promoted to the rank of field-marshal. His last appearance at the head of troops was on Easter Monday 1862, when he commanded 20,000 men. His health had begun to fail, and he died at Chatham on the 14th of August 1863, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Fifty years of arduous service had raised him from a carpenter's son to the peerage, but he always remained a simple, God-fearing Scot, beloved by the rank and file of his army.