Page images
PDF
EPUB

Its high walls and buttresses are built with such compactness and strength, that, even now, not a trace of decay is noticeable in them; and they possess, moreover, all the freshness of new-built structures. In the direction of the city the fort is almost contiguous to a multitude of houses, the interval being but slight. The interior of the fort is spacious, and is sufficient to accommodate a large body of men.

The two companies of sepoys who had charge of the Raja were quartered within the walls, a circumstance which, seeing that they were in possession of the fort, would have mattered little, had they had sufficient ammunition with which to defend themselves. Strange to say, these troops had been dispatched through a hostile city, on a most perilous errand, without ammunition. It is impossible to comprehend the cause of such astounding and culpable neglect. There is reason for believing that the Raja's followers were acquainted with this circumstance, and, consequently, hastily formed their plans for surprising the garrison and rescuing the Raja. In the afternoon, intelligence reached the Governor General, that large bodies of armed men were crossing the river from Rámnagar, another fort belonging to Cheit Singh, situated on the opposite side of the river, but lower down. The apartments which the Raja was at this time occupying opened on a small square, in which the troops were stationed. Another detachment of sepoys was dispatched “with ammunition, to reinforce and support the first party. When the latter arrived at the Raja's house, they found it surrounded, and all the

avenues blockaded by a multitude of armed men, who opposed their passage. The minds of this tumultuous assembly becoming soon inflamed, some of them began to fire upon the sepoys within the square; and, immediately, as if this had been the concerted signal, made an instantaneous and fierce attack on the sepoys, who, wanting their accustomed means of defence, were capable of making but a feeble resistance, and fell an easy sacrifice to the superior numbers of their assailants, who cut almost every man of the unfortunate party to pieces. The officers, it is supposed, were the first victims to their fury, but not until they had, by astonishing efforts of bravery, and undismayed amidst the imminent dangers which surrounded them, involved a much superior number of their enemies in their fate. In the midst of this confusion, the Raja found means to escape through a wicket which opened to the river; and, the banks being exceedingly steep in that place, he let himself down, by turbans tied together, into a boat, which was waiting for him, and eonveyed him to the opposite shore. Those who had effected his escape followed him across the river, in the same tumultuous manner in which they had assembled, leaving the party of our sepoys which had arrived, in possession of the house. On the first intelligence of this commotion, I had directed Major Popham to repair immediately to his camp, which was about two miles from the Resident's, and at the same distance from the Raja's house, and to march instantly, with the remainder of his detachment, to the support of the party. The order was executed with all possible ex

[ocr errors]

pedition ; but Major Popham arrived too late, and had the mortification to be a spectator of the effects of a massacre which he could neither prevent nor revenge.

In this massacre no less than two hundred and five persons were either killed or wounded. On the upper part of the northern wall of the fortress are five small windows, or wickets, in a row, from one of which,—but which one I was unable to learn,-Raja Cheit Singh escaped. In the dry season the wall stands at some distance from the bed of the river; but in the rains the stream reaches the wall, and rises to a considerable height above its foundations. As it was the middle of the rainy season when the Raja escaped, he could have found no difficulty whatever in dropping down from the wicket into a boat below. On the west side of the small square, which was occupied by the unfortunate troops, the pinnacles of eleven temples are

These were, doubtless, frequented by Cheit Singh's family, but are now employed as storehouses by the Mohammedans residing in the fort. Temples, also, are found in other places in the interior of the fort; but in none of them, I believe, is any religious service ever performed. The entire building is the property of the Government, and is inhabited by a branch of the old Taimur family, the head of which was the late king of Delhi. These Delhi princes have resided in Benares for years past, and are permitted to occupy the extensive range of buildings formerly known as Cheit Singh's fort. In the recent rebellion they remained faithful to the British Govern

1 Insurrection in Benares, pp. 24, 25.

seen.

ment, and have, consequently, been saved from the ruin which has involved the other branches of the family.

The situation of Warren Hastings, at the time of the flight of Cheit Singh, was perilous to the last degree. He had, as before remarked, made Mádhodás' garden his head-quarters. This was a quadrangle surrounded by high walls, and containing several separate buildings, which are still standing, but in a dilapidated state. The garden is in the suburbs of the city, on its western side, and is encompassed by houses on all sides. It was never intended for defensive purposes; and the walls which surround it could never have been able to resist a determined attack made by a numerous foe. Warren Hastings says: “If Cheit Singh's people, after they had effected his rescue, had proceeded to my quarters, at Mahadew Dass's garden, instead of crowding after him in a tumultuous manner, as they did, in his passage over the river, it is most probable that my blood, and that of about thirty English gentlemen of my party, would have been added to the recent carnage; for they were above two thousand in number, furious and daring from the easy success of their last attempt; nor could I assemble more than fifty regular and armed sepoys for my whole defence.” It is a wonder that the inhabitants of the city did not rise and invest the garden; for they might easily have done so, and have slain every man in it. The Governor General remained in this garden for several days; but his position, instead of improving, became more critical. The Raja had, first of all, entered his fort at Rámnagar, but, subsequently, quitted it, and proceeded to another fort, at

Latífpúr, leaving a strong force behind him. Unfortunately, the troops sent from Chunar against the fortress of Rámnagar became prematurely engaged with the enemy, and, after a loss of one hundred and seven killed and seventy-two wounded, were obliged to beat a retreat.

This was a most disastrous circumstance at such a time, for it damaged greatly the already waning prestige of the British arms in these parts. The enemy were rendered enthusiastic and daring by it, and began to assume the offensive. Intelligence reached Warren Hastings of a plan they had formed to cross the river on the night of the 20th of August, and to attack him at his quarters, in Mádhodás's garden. He thus describes the difficulties in which he was placed :“Successive notices,” he says, were brought to me, by various channels, of preparations making at Rámnagar for an assault on my quarters, which stood in the midst of the suburbs of Benares, and consisted of many detached buildings within one large enclosure, surrounded by houses and trees, which intercepted every other prospect. The whole force which I had left amounted to about four hundred and fifty men. The reports of an intended assault, which was fixed for that night, grew stronger, as the day advanced; the boats on the other side of the river were seen to be in motion; and, besides the moral certainty of the real existence of such a design, the obvious advantages which it presented to the enemy, who had nothing left to fear, and nothing else to do, precluded all hesitation but on the choice of expedients for defeating it. There

« PreviousContinue »