Sir Herbert B. Edwardes, K.C.B., K.C.S.I.:
The Christian Knight
How many of England's heroes would be missing if we had maintained the celibacy of the clergy! When human wisdom begins to improve upon Divine forethought, as the Roman Catholic Church has done in the matter of enforced celibacy, the result is not surprising. From Sir Herbert Edwardes to Cecil Rhodes there have been many men of heroic mould whose lives began in an English Rectory.
Herbert Benjamin Edwardes was the second son of the Rector of Frodesley, a pretty village in Shropshire not far from the Caradoc hills and Shrewsbury. His grandfather was Sir John Cholmondeley Edwardes, eighth baronet of Shrewsbury. They were of Welsh descent, and connected with the ancient kings of Powysland. In the time of Henry VII, John-ap-David-ap-Madoc assumed the name of Edwardes: like so many other Welsh families they foolishly discarded their own poetic names for such names as Edwards and Jones. Herbert, born in 1819, lost his father at the age of four, and was sent to school at Richmond in Surrey, where he soon showed the grit in him by becoming the champion of all that were bullied or too weak to defend themselves.
As a boy he was fond of a joke, quick in wit and ready in repartee, a writer of poetry and romance: he had been adopted by relatives, Mr. and Mrs. John Hope of Netley in Shropshire, where he used to pass his summer holidays. Here he was left much to solitude and his own thoughts and to reading, an education from within which serves to strengthen the will for the great conflict of life.
In 1837 he was attending classes at King's College. His friend Cowley Powles writes: "Edwardes' principal forte lay in what would now be called the 'Modern Side.' In classics he did not distinguish himself, nor in mathematics: his taste was more for modern literature. At that he worked hard: he was then amongst the leaders of the college, and in the Debating Society was one of the very foremost speakers."
In those days he excelled in drawing caricatures, but in later life, as he grew more tolerant and tender, he gave up that habit; because, he said, it led to dwelling on the weaknesses or bad points of another, while he preferred to dwell on the good qualities of his neighbour.
Amongst his friends at college were Charles Kingsley, Fitz-James Stephens, Nassau Senior and Benjamin Shaw, with whom he used to carry on wordy duels in their dusty lodgings.
When some one advised him to take more sleep for the sake of his constitution, he replied, "Constitution indeed! Life is nothing, time is nothing, but the things for which we live are all that is to be regarded."
Edwardes wished to go to Oxford and study for the Bar, but his guardians did not approve of this, so he went at once to Sir Richard Jenkins, a member of the old Court of Directors of the East India Company and a friend of his father, and asked for a direct appointment to India.
Sir Richard consented, and years after, when the fame of Herbert Edwardes in Bunnu came to England, Sir Richard wrote to a kinsman in Salop, "I congratulate you upon the high name young Edwardes has gained for himself by exploits so brilliant and so advantageous to his country. I feel much elated with the thought that I have been the means of placing such a man in the Company's service."
In October 1840, Edwardes set sail for Calcutta, feeling all the sorrow of an exile, for he did not relish a mere soldier's life. A fellow-passenger thus describes him: "His figure was slim and his general appearance gave the impression of delicate rather than robust health. He did not often join in the active games and amusements in which young men on board ship generally engage . . . the expression of his face was bright and intelligent . . . in amateur theatricals he was the leading spirit and was editor of a witty weekly newspaper."
On arriving at Calcutta, Edwardes was appointed to the 1st Bengal Fusiliers (since the Royal Munsters) and went by boat to Dinapur. An amusing letter to his friend Cowley thus describes the daily routine: "On the Ganges, March 1841 . . . . Well, a black rascal makes an oration by my bed every morning about half an hour before daylight. I wake and see him salaaming with a cup of hot coffee in his hand. I sit in a chair and wash the teaspoon till the spoon is hot and the fluid cold, while he introduces me gradually into an ambush of pantaloons and wellingtons. I am shut up in a red coat, and a glazed lid set upon my head, and thus carefully packed ride a couple of hundred yards to the parade. Here two or three hundred very cold people are assembled and we all agree to keep ourselves warm with a game of soldiers, and we wheel and turn about till the sun gets up to see what the row is about; then, like frightened children, we all scamper off for our home. If there be no parade, I take a gallop with my dogs: then comes breakfast, after which the intellectual day begins to dawn; for from this till 4 or 5 p.m. your occupation must be among your books, pen, pencil, etc."
Edwardes employed much of this leisure in learning Hindostani and Persian; in November 1845 he passed the "Interpreter's Examination."
At Kurnal he caught fever and had to get "leave" and go to Simla: whence he writes, after explaining his many theatrical triumphs to amuse the men, "I know how it will all end, so write you this last letter—I shall be going to pieces like barley-sugar in a teacup, and be swabbed up carefully and sent home to my afflicted relations in a pail."
Edwardes had plenty of friends, for he was the life and soul of every society in which he found himself. His chief pleasure was in showing kindness and sympathy to any who needed it, and many were the prayers that went up to bless him, even when he was only a subaltern.
In 1845 he began to write for the Delhi Gazette a series of letters, called "the Brahininee Bull letters," dealing critically with the mistakes and follies of the military events of the day.
He was inwardly amused to hear them discussed at mess, pronounced to be written by some general who had long experience in the field. These letters were the first step to promotion: for Henry Lawrence, then resident at Nepal, was deeply interested in them: he sought out the author and persuaded Sir Henry Hardinge to appoint him as one of his assistants at the Sikh Court of Lahore.
But before he went to Lahore he saw, as aide-de-camp to Sir Hugh Gough, two victories won over the Sikhs, the battles of Moodkie and Sobraon.
Lahore was the capital of the Sikh kingdom of the late Runjeet Singh: his heir, Dhuleep Singh, was a child, and the Queen Mother as Regent pretended to govern through her corrupt sirdars.
Henry Lawrence, as Resident at this court, was surrounding himself with a band of earnest and vigorous young men who should help him in his endeavour to guide the government and protect the oppressed. Amongst these assistants were John Nicholson, James Abbott, Reynell Taylor, Hodson, George Lawrence and other worthy men who did great things for India's good in the years to come.
Out of these Henry Lawrence chose Edwardes as his private secretary: his opinion of his secretary was given after five months of close companionship: "Taking him all in all, bodily activity, mental cultivation and warmth of heart, I have not met his equal in India."
Herbert Edwardes had now found the work which he loved: heart and soul he threw himself into his chief's chivalrous and philanthropic work—all in the highest interest of the natives. The Punjab had been misgoverned, and Lawrence was bent on steering the ship of State into less troubled waters.
When at last annexation was found to be necessary, Lawrence became the President of a Board of three members appointed by the Governor-General, who was sent out by the Court of Directors and was more autocratic than our modern viceroys.
So with Lawrence there was no "red tape," no acting according to law and rule; but he sent out his assistants into wild districts, leaving it to their wisdom and discretion to settle the country and make the people happy. That was the early history of our Punjab.
Thus, in February 1847, Edwardes was sent in command of a Sikh force to make an amicable settlement with the people of Bunnu, an Afghan valley west of the Indus, who had for twenty-five years failed to pay their annual tribute to Runjeet Singh, the "lion of the Punjab." How he succeeded in his bloodless conquest of these wild Mahommedan tribes Edwardes has described in A Year on the Punjab Frontier, and Ruskin has immortalised his deeds in A Knight's Faith: "I have asked you to hear this story, not that we may learn only how battles may be won, but that we may learn the happier lesson, how man may be won; what affection there is to be had for the asking; what truth for the trusting; what lifelong service for a word of love."
But we cannot follow Edwardes in this enterprise, nor in his services in saving Multan, for which he was made by the Queen a C.B. Little (lid England then know how important Edwardes' services had been: we may say that he and John Lawrence were the chief agents in rendering the Punjab loyal and true to us when the Mutiny broke out. His brave and generous nature made the natives love him; his confidence in them bred confidence in return; and when the storm of revolt surged about Peshawur, and Edwardes and Nicholson called for levies to fill the place of disarmed mutineers, readily the faithful wild men sprang up to answer to the call, and joyfully they marched to help us in the siege of Delhi.
Edwardes had gone through great exposure in the summer heat and had defeated the traitor Moolraj in two pitched battles; he had had many hairbreadth escapes in battle and from assassination; a price had been set on his head, and his servants had been bribed to poison him. An attack of fever made a change of climate necessary, so in the close of 1849 Edwardes left Lahore with John Nicholson and the two little girls of John Lawrence and dropped down the Indus in boats to Bombay, stopping every night to give the children a run on the sandy shore. In that long boat journey the two heroes cemented a friendship already begun, and from papers left it is clear they discussed the coming storm of revolt and the conspiracy that occurred in 1857. The Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gough, was going home in the same steamer to England, and as Edwardes stood on the paddle-box watching his countrymen cheer his Chief, he was surprised to hear, "Edwardes, come down; you are called for."
The people on the English shore were cheering the hero of Bunnoo!
His modesty comes out again a few weeks later, when he was being feted at the Mansion House and was returning thanks in the presence of the Duke of Wellington and other distinguished officers. For, turning to his friend John Nicholson seated at his side, he said, "Here, gentlemen, here is the real author of half the exploits which the world has been so ready to attribute to me." The effect on the company was almost electrical; they felt that if Edwardes was extolling the bravery of his friend, he was unconsciously revealing his own moral greatness: they were all deeply moved. The Duke said it was impossible to speak too highly of that young officer Major Herbert Edwardes; and the Court of Directors had a special gold medal struck and presented to Edwardes in full Court.
In July 1850, Edwardes married Emma Sidney, the daughter of James Sidney, Esq. of Richmond Hill, and he finished his book on the Frontier in happy months of peace and quiet at Festiniog in North Wales.
In March 1851, Edwardes and his wife returned to India: he was soon appointed Deputy-Commissioner of Jalandur, a fertile and beautiful country, and here the people soon felt the power of his sympathy and justice. It was their first home together: fifteen months spent in a charming house with a large garden full of orange trees and flowers, with congenial work, protecting the weak and punishing the oppressor—these soon sped by; for they were startled at breakfast one morning by a letter from Lord Dalhousie ordering Edwardes to take charge of Hazara, a wild hill country near the frontier of Cashmere.
In ten days they had to start, after selling house and furniture, and in their new abode there was no house and an Englishwoman had never been seen there before. The Commissioner much regretted his departure: "It is not his ability that I admire so much as his weight of character, high tone and principles. There is not a corner of the district where his impress has not been already felt—I grieve over his departure more than I can tell."
Rice fields four thousand feet above sea-level sounded healthy, while in the hedges grew wild roses, oleander, clematis and blackberries.
One Sikh regiment with four officers, two of whom were married, formed the whole society of the place; but sorrow and trouble came to them. The Sikhs on being ordered to build their own huts, refused; they were not coolies, they said. This looked like mutiny, and the Government called for a court-martial upon the commanding officer. He was only twenty-seven, and, fearing disgrace, shot himself, leaving a young wife and two little children.
Next, the medical officer, Dr. Keith, died of fever: his intended bride in Scotland was then preparing to join him, and the news of his death only just came in time to stop her.
The Sikhs were ashamed of what they had done, and began to build their huts before the new commander arrived.
In October 1853 the news came that Edwardes' commissioner, Colonel Mackeson, had been assassinated at Peshawur, as he was hearing appeals in the verandah of his house. For a very devout man, to all appearances, had spread his carpet near the commissioner's house, and had engaged in devotions through the day. Towards evening he went up and presented a petition: as Colonel Mackeson raised his arm to receive it, the fanatic stabbed him through the chest. As Peshawur was full of armed Afghans, the excitement was great; officers slept with their boots on, ready for an immediate call, and the Europeans felt as though they were living on the verge of a volcano.
In a few days Edwardes received a letter from Lord Dalhousie, offering him the commissionership of Peshawur. "In the whole range of Indian charges, I know none which at the present time is more arduous—holding it, you hold the outpost of Indian Empire . . . you have a fine career before you. God speed you in it; both for your own sake and for the sake of this Empire."
Edwardes began by putting down the spies formerly employed and trusted the chiefs of the wild tribes, warning them that swift punishment would be meted out to marauders and disturbers of the peace.
Whenever a plundering party raided the district, Edwardes barred the whole tribe from dealing at the Peshawur market until restitution was made: by this means he got the feeling of the tribe against all marauders, for plundering did not pay.
His next stroke of policy was to bring about a friendly feeling with Kabul, and to get a treaty signed with the Ameer.
He wrote to Lord Dalhousie on the subject, and received in his reply these words: "I give you carte blanche, and if you can only bring about such a result as you propose, it will be a feather even in your cap."
This treaty took a long time to negotiate, but with his wonted patience, wisdom and kindness, Edwardes won over Post Mohamed and his chiefs to sending his son and heir to sign the treaty.
Sir John Lawrence, the chief commissioner at Lahore, wrote to Edwardes: "I so far agree with the Governor-General that I think all the merit of the affair, whatever it may be, is yours."
General Monro asserted: "Often have I been told by Khans and Afghans that we should never have kept Peshawur (and with it the Punjab) without Edwardes. They would say, 'Yes, yes, Nicholson was undoubtedly a great man, but he would not have kept us true to government. He was so stern; we feared him, but we did not love him. Edwardes compelled us to like him better than any other Feringhee.'"
This treaty was signed first in March 1855 and subsequently consolidated under Lord Canning on 26th January 1857.
To the honour of Dost Mohamed Khan we must record that all through the Sepoy war he remained true to the treaty, and abstained under great temptations from raising the green flag of Islam and marching with his wild legions into the Punjab.
Had he done so, it is doubtful if we could have kept India. Such power had the moral force of Edwardes to stay the great mutiny!
In February 1856, John Nicholson, who had been holding the post of deputy-commissioner at Bunnu, had had some differences with Sir John Lawrence, and, feeling himself aggrieved, had asked to be removed.
"I only knocked down the walls of the Bunnu forts," wrote Edwardes. "John Nicholson has since reduced the people to such a state of good order and respect for the laws that, in the last year of his charge, not only was there no murder or burglary, but not an attempt at any such crime."
So strongly did some of these wild men admire Nicholson's prowess that a brotherhood of fakirs in Hazara established a worship of his genius. Often they fell at his feet as their guru, or religious teacher, and though Nicholson flogged them soundly for doing it they remained as devoted as ever, and at his death some of them pined away and died.
After having the charge of Cashmere for six months Nicholson was sent to Peshawur as deputy-commissioner, and the two friends once more were together, sympathising in each other's views and working in accord.
In March 1857, Edwardes had to take his sick wife to Calcutta for England: he took advantage of this to commend Nicholson to the notice of Lord Canning. "If your lordship ever has a thing of real difficulty to be done, I would answer for it, John Nicholson is the man to do it."
Whilst Edwardes was in Calcutta, conferring with the Governor-General on frontier questions, the first signs of the Mutiny appeared—the disbanding of the 19th N.I. at Barrackpur.
On his way back to the north-west Edwardes visited his spiritual father and friend, Sir Henry Lawrence, at Lucknow. He wrote home to his wife: "Sir Henry is happy in this new appointment . . . .he comes in as a peacemaker and is already winning golden opinions among the nobles and people by his kindness and sympathy: . . . this morning he read a chapter of the Bible to his nephew George and me: then he prayed with great earnestness. He laid great stress on, ' Enable us to live in love with many and charity to all.' I left Lucknow with regret."
The two friends never met again; for Sir Henry was sent to Dude too late to undo the mischief already made. On 11th May the telegraph brought the news to Peshawur that sepoys had mutinied, killed European officers, and gone to Delhi. Edwardes advised Sir John Lawrence, by wire, to collect a movable column in order to march on any disaffected station and put down revolt with the bayonet. Sir John had not yet awoke to the danger of the revolt and did not wish any new troops to be raised!" We are amply strong enough in the Punjab," he writes, "to put down all mischief."
But General Reed, Brigadier Cotton, Herbert Edwardes and John Nicholson were alive and prompt to make ready; and orders were issued for the assembly of a field force of irregular troops to march anywhere: the Guide Corps too under Captain Daly made surprising efforts. Neville Chamberlain went down, at their request, to see Sir John, for already time was being lost; but Sir John summoned Edwardes down to Rawul Pindee, where he stayed two days. After this friendly meeting Lawrence opposed the raising of levies no more, and indeed became most eager to sanction any number.
We may be surprised to find that it was the gentle, peace-loving Edwardes who first rose to the height of daring resistance, while the iron-willed and colder chief commissioner needed spurring on. The time lost had operated in discouraging the chiefs in sending in levies of horse and foot for the purpose of overawing the disaffected Hindoos: for news soon came that the Delhi magazine had fallen into the hands of the mutineers, and that four guns had been captured and awful atrocities committed on all Europeans, male and female.
Edwardes and his friends in the Punjab were aghast at the failure of the Meerut division to strike a blow, and at the delay of the commander-in-chief at Umballa. "Lord Lake would have been at the gates of Delhi by this time, and the recreant mutineers swimming the Jumna for their lives."
Suddenly in the night came an express to Peshawur announcing that the 55th Native Infantry, on duty at Nowshera, thirty miles away, were in open mutiny, and all the women and children of the 27th Queen's Regiment were at the mercy of the sepoys.
But there was another Mutiny hero up and doing: Lieutenant Alexander Taylor of the Engineers cut away the bridge of boats, and thus prevented the 55th Native Infantry from joining the rest of the mutineers.
"We must disarm the whole of the native troops," said Edwardes.
The commanding officers were summoned and a painful scene followed: for they one and all protested their men were faithful.
But Nicholson and Edwardes had persuaded General Cotton over to their views, and he settled the question by saying, "Gentlemen, no more discussion. These are my orders, and I must have them obeyed."
The military council had lasted till 6 a.m., and at 7 a.m. the two regiments of European Infantry, the 70th and 87th, with guns, were ready on parade to enforce the command given to the sepoys, "Lay down your arms!"
They glanced at the guns and the stern white faces, and obeyed without a word. To their officers it was a most affecting sight to see their men putting their firelocks into the artillery waggons: some of the cavalry officers threw in their own swords with those of their men, and even tore off their spurs. But the good result was instantaneous. On the return from the disarming parade hundreds of Khans who had stood aloof the day before, watching which way the cat would jump, now offered their service: but their services were not wanted so much now, and they were treated rather coldly.
The sepoy regiments were in revolt, but the people of India—the patient, industrious millions—never stirred! and yet foreigners have asserted that the English rule in India was oppressive.
When we went to India we found the Hindoos being oppressed by the Mahommedans: we put down the oppressor and tolerated both. The Hindoo was deceived into believing that his religion was being menaced by us: but so soon as he saw a Mahommedan king set up in Delhi he knew that the hour of persecution would strike again.
Nicholson set off to bring the 55th Regiment, at Murdan, to order. When his column came in sight of the fort, all but a hundred and twenty men had mutinied and gone off towards Swat.
Colonel Spottiswood, their commander, had blown his brains out with a pistol: for he had known and loved his men many years.
The mutineers were pursued, after the fort had been secured; but only the cavalry could hope to catch them.
Nicholson on his big grey charger rode in front, was twenty hours in the saddle and rode seventy miles. Here and there the cavalry hunting the enemy in villages and ravines overtook desperate parties of mutineers, of whom a hundred were killed, a hundred and fifty taken prisoners, and about four hundred got clear away into the hills: the regimental colours were also recovered.
The news came to Peshawur on 19th June that General Anson was dead, and General Reid had succeeded to the command-in-chief. But he had only half as many men and guns as the enemy, and succour could not arrive from home for three months or more.
Fortunately Dost Mahomed Khan was true to his friendship and treaty of peace, and the chiefs of all the hill tribes were eager to send levies: if we had been on bad terms with Kabul, we must have lost all the Punjab, and in all probability India would have gone too.
And we must remember that it was Herbert Edwardes who won over the Ameer. One day while Edwardes sat in his study, busy with reports and orders and letters, one of his men ran in and cried, "O Sahib, armed hill men are coming into the cantonment and calling out for your house."
And Edwardes looked and saw nearly three hundred Afreedees, laden with arms of all sorts and sizes, and asking to be enlisted as regular soldiers. They were mostly outlaws who had done evil deeds and had taken to the hills to escape English justice: they doubtless thought that now was the time to clear off old scores, and get reward instead of punishment. Edwardes made them sit down on the lawn and seated himself in their midst: then he ordered his moonshee to bring out the records. Each man who had done a wrong or injury was adjudged to pay a fine to the injured party before he was allowed to put his name down as a recruit.
"What a scene it was!" says Edwardes: "it might have been an ambush as easily as anything else: They might have cut me in pieces and dispersed themselves immediately . . . but the great secret of association with these utter barbarians is to take them as they come, like wild beasts, and show no fear of them. Habit has taught me this: so I went among them and picked out their young men and enrolled them as recruits: then I brought the older men into our willow-walk in the garden, set them down in the shade, and after a good talk dismissed them to their hills again with a rupee each, quite satisfied that they had been honourably treated."
In June, Nicholson started for Delhi, and on his way visited Sir John Lawrence and urged upon him the advisability of holding the frontier of Peshawur. Edwardes himself had told the chief commissioner that if the order to retreat came from Lahore he should resign his post at once, and inform Lord Canning of his reasons: so strongly did he feel that disaster must follow the abandonment of Peshawur. Meanwhile 700 Multanee horse and foot, voluntary levies, were being fitted out to reinforce Nicholson. These men had fought against us in the war of 1848, and had been liberally treated after their defeat: that liberality now brought in its reward—in the alacrity with which they rushed to our assistance. On 6th August, Sir John Lawrence telegraphed to Edwardes: "My brother Henry was wounded on 2nd July, and died two days afterwards." In his letter to his wife Edwardes writes:—
"We have really lost our dearest friend, and India her greatest public servant. What a blow it is! it is like a good king dying. What a number of hearts loved him, at home and here, black as well as white. He was our master, friend, example, all in one; a father to us in the great earnest public life to which he led us forth . . . for him, dear fellow, we happily have no grief. Trials and mercies, storm and sun, had ripened him for a better world, and poured that drop of the love of Christ into his heart which hallows the love of our neighbour."
And in a letter to Nicholson, commenting on the fine spirit in which Sir Henry Lawrence bore his dismissal from Lahore in favour of his younger brother, Edwardes writes:—
"Cruelly was he removed from the Punjab, which was his public life's stage. But he was equal to the trial: his last act at Lahore was to kneel down, with his dear wife, and pray for the success of John's work . . . . nothing but Christian feeling could have given them the victory of that prayer.
And in reply Nicholson wrote: "If it please Providence that I live through this business, you must get me alongside of you again, and be my guide and help in endeavouring to follow dear Sir Henry's example; for I am so weak and unstable that I shall never do any good of myself." So wrote the "Tower of Strength," John Nicholson, the leader of the wildest men in Asia, the hope of all the British forces round Delhi! He clung to Herbert Edwardes spiritually, as a child to his mother!
It was very trying to Edwardes to have to stay at Peshawur collecting levies, disarming traitors, and arming the faithful for the conflict, while his greatest friends were risking their lives in the struggle. But no less was he working for the crushing of the Mutiny, almost exhausting the Punjab of troops in order to strengthen the Delhi force.
Nicholson wrote to Edwardes: "Delhi, 12th August 1857—I came into Wilson's camp ahead of my own column by mail-cart from Umballa and spent three days there, looking over our position." Of the camp at Delhi he says: "Our position is a perfectly providential one . . . the Ridge with the strong buildings on it in front, and the river and canal protecting our flanks and rear, has saved us."
Nicholson with his movable column had fought on his way to Delhi, and crushed whatever force he attacked; he had destroyed the Sealkote mutineers and taken their guns; then, arrived at Delhi, he had gone round quietly and unbeknown to examine daily every battery, breastwork, and post: often at night he would ride round the outer line of sentries, to see if the men were on the alert. He did not forget his wounded friends, but visited them, or escorted them when convalescent. "No woman could have shown more consideration," wrote Sir Neville Chamberlain.
In October, Edwardes heard that Agra had been relieved. For after the capture of Delhi, General Wilson dispatched a corps of 2800 men, under the command of Colonel Edward Greathed of the 5th Foot, to open the country between Delhi and Agra.
Greathed started on the 24th of September in a south-east direction and punished where he found the natives had committed atrocities.
He took Bulanshahr and Malagarh. In the latter he had the misfortune to lose, by an accident, Lieutenant Home of the Engineers, one of the survivors of the gallant officers who had blown up the Kashmir gate at Delhi. On reaching the next town, Khurja, the fury of the troops was roused by the sight of a skeleton stuck up on the roadside for all to see—the medical officers pronounced it to be the skeleton of a European female. There was a cry for instant vengeance, but the civil officer accompanying the force contrived to calm the troops and spare the city.
When forty-eight miles from Agra, Greathed received a letter from the authorities at Agra imploring help. He therefore sent off that night of the 9th October, the cavalry and horse artillery, and four hours later followed with the infantry, mounting his men on elephants, carts, and camels.
Pushing on rapidly, he crossed the bridge of boats under the walls of the fort at sunrise on the 10th and encamped on the parade-ground. It was a spacious grassy plain having some high crops about 300 yards distant. The camp was pitched, the horses picketed, and the men threw off their accoutrements and betook themselves to breakfast.
Greathed had been informed that the rebels were ten miles away, so few precautions were taken. He did not know they were lying hidden in the tall crops close at hand.
Presently four of them, dressed as conjurers, came strolling up to the advanced guard of the 9th Lancers. They were ordered off by the sergeant in charge of the post, whereupon one of them drew his tulwar and cut him down; the others gave a signal to their men in the crops, and while the troopers were running to dispatch them, round shot came pouring in. Our soldiers needed no further alarm: they turned out at once, but the rebel cavalry now started up as if by magic and charged the guns, sabring the gunners of one gun, when a squadron of the 9th Lancers dashed on them and drove them back in disorder. But French, who led the Lancers, was killed, and Jones, his subaltern, was dangerously wounded.
Still, this gave Greathed time to deploy his line, covered by a battery of Eurasian soldiers under Pearson, which rendered excellent service. The sudden transformation of a sleeping mass of men into an organised army scared the rebels, and they fled to their camp seven miles away. They were pursued by horse and guns to the river; thirteen guns and vast quantities of waggons full of ammunition were brought back. The weary victors had done over sixty miles in thirty-six hours before this battle; so splendidly was Agra saved and law and order once more established.
Edwardes at Peshawur heard the news with a feeling of relief. "By God's mercy," he writes in his diary, "Delhi, Agra, and Lucknow are recovered, and it only remains to settle the country."
We have chosen this Christian knight as a hero of the Mutiny, because it was primarily owing to him that the Mutiny was crushed. Edwardes made the Afghans our friends, and so rendered the Punjab secure and able to send all its troops down to Delhi.
Men in India understood this, but away in England his services were for a long time overlooked.
Lumsden wrote from Kandahar in January 1859:
"The honours have begun to come out, but where is So-and-so? . . . Will England never learn to recognise the right men? Taylor took Delhi; and some people we know saved the Punjab."
Edwardes was one of those men who cannot push themselves to the front, and who out of modesty keep silent about their own merits. Such men are apt to be over-looked by the distributors of honours.
It was not until 1860 that Edwardes received the honour of knighthood, I.C.B., for his services. In January 1862, Sir Herbert and his wife again set sail for India to take up his new appointment of Commissioner of Umballa, whence he returned in 1865. They were both worn out with work and anxiety, and when Lady Edwardes told the doctors she was strong enough to stay on in India for his sake, they replied: "If you wish Sir Herbert not to go home on your account, you must go with him on his own, for he needs rest as much as you do."
Sir Herbert passed away on 23rd December 1868, towards midnight. Among his last words were: "I am quite happy. I love God: I trust entirely to Jesus: I put full confidence in Jesus, and I couldn't do more if I lived a thousand years."
A monument was placed in Westminster Abbey to his memory by the Indian Secretary of State and Council: it is close to that of Warren Hastings, and all that was mortal of him was laid in the Highgate Cemetery.
The "Edwardes Gateway" at Peshawur and the well-fountain at Bunnu, now called Edwardes-a-bad, commemorate his services in India.