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WAR BETWEEN FRANCE AND ENGLAND-TREACHERY OF HOLKAR
RETREAT OF COLONEL MONSON-SIEGE OF DELHI-BATTLE OF DEIG -SIEGE OF BHURT POOR-INIMICAL PROCEEDINGS OF SCINDIAH.
The treaty of Amiens lasted until May 1803, and hostilities between the French and English having recommenced, the factory at Bencoolen, and several vessels belonging to the latter nation, were captured by Admiral Linois. A fleet of richly-freighted Indiamen, coming from China, escaped him through the valour and skill of Commodore Dance, who might perhaps have taken possession of some of the enemy's ships
, if the wish to preserve the convoy committed to his charge had not been superior to all other considerations.
General Wellesley occupied himself during the early part of 1804 in settling some disputed points with respect to the treaty proposed between Scindiah and the English. All questions were definitively arranged, chiefly through the agency of Major, afterwards Sir John Macolm, who received on that occasion the warmest commendation from the governor-general. It was determined that Scindiah should allow a subsidiary force to be stationed near his frontiers ; and this concession, which he had hitherto opposed, being acceded to, the treaty received the ratification of the governor-general on the 23d of March. Soon afterwards a number of irregular troops and banditti, who, in consequence of the peace, found themselves discharged from the service of Scindiah and other Mahratta chiefs, established their
179 encampment on the banks of the Godavery, and made excursions from thence into the Carnatic. General Wellesley forthwith crossed the Godavery, and after a tedious campaign, finally dispersed them, capturing their artillery and baggage, and carrying off in triumph all their military stores. At the end of so much active service, the sepoys of his army suffered greatly from the want of clothing, and the government finances not being in a flourishing state, the general distributed the cloth to his soldiers by the piece. The men, being transformed on this occasion into a body of tailors, made up
their jackets and pantaloons in a very creditable and workmanlike manner, thus furnishing themselves with a defence against the inclement monsoon weather and the heavy rains.
The conduct of Holkar during this time tended to call forth many well-grounded suspicions as to his future intentions. This chief had originally promised to ally himself with Scindiah and the Berar Rajah against the English ; but old feelings of rivalry getting the better of his prudence, he remained undecided until the fall of the other confederates. Even then, he appeared more disposed to attack Scindiah than to oppose his conquerors, and the dread of a hostile movement on the part of Holkar, unquestionably induced his competitor to submit to the establishment of a British force upon his frontiers.
The triumphs of General Wellesley and General Lake, with perhaps some indignation at the measures taken for the security of Scindiah, inflamed the haughty and ambitious spirit of Jeswunt Row; he threatened to attack the Rajah of Julnapoor, an ally of the English, and demanded that some of the finest districts in the Doab should be delivered up to him. He endeavoured also to stir up the neighbouring rajahs to join him in making war upon the English, and wrote to General Wellesley an insolent and boasting epistle asking for
the cession of several provinces in the Deccan, and concluding with the following menace :- “ Countries of many hundred coss shall be overrun and plundered, General Lake shall not have leisure to breathe for å moment, and calamities will fall on lacs of human beings, in continual war, by the attacks of my army, which overwhelms like the waves of the sea.
The governor-general now began to prepare for a formidable campaign. The forces under Holkar's command rendered him by no means an insignificant foe.
His cavalry - the chief strength of a Mahratta host. amounted to about 50,000, while his infantry numbered 20,000 well trained soldiers. The artillery consisted of more than 100 pieces of cannon.
General Wellesley, being unable to leave the Deccan, General, now Lord Lake, assumed the command of the main army directed against Holkar.
He possessed himself of the fort of Rampoora, but unfortunately committed the fatal error of separating a large detachment from his army, and leaving it under the command of Colonel Monson, to watch the movements of Holkar, who had hitherto been retreating before the advancing English. As a mark of hatred to their nation and name, the savage
Mahratta murdered three British officers at the commencement of the war, who during the peace had taken service in his army, but wished to quit it after the governor-general's proclamation of hostilities became known to them. Their bleeding heads were carried about as trophies on lances, while the executioners cast their trunks to the jackals and vultures.
Simultaneous movements in Guzerat and Bundelcund were now taking place, in the latter instance with but little success. Soon after his arrival in the province, Colonel Powell, the original commander of the detachment, died, leaving Colonel Fawcett to carry on the sieges of the numerous rock fortresses in the Bundelcund region. That officer having despatched seven com
RETREAT OF MONSON.
panies of sepoys to invest a fort, the captain commanding them allowed himself to be surprised, and two companies of his men to be cut to pieces by the enemy. Several other disasters occurred in this territory, which seeming to imply lamentable inefficiency on the part of the commanding officer, excited the indignation of the governor-general, and induced him to supersede Colonel Fawcett by Captain Baillie, whose prudence and firmness soon retrieved the mistakes of his predecessor.
In the meantime Colonel Monson received instructions to effect a junction with Colonel Murray, who was advancing from Guzerat. The former had under his command five battalions of sepoys, some artillery, and about 3000 horsemen. He was personally brave, but lacked decision, and affected a degree of contempt for the enemy, which the most skilful officers rarely feel, and scarcely ever express. His supplies had failed, money was wanting to pay the troops, and, to crown all, intelligence reached the camp that Colonel Murray was contemplating a retreat. At this critical juncture messengers arrived, announcing the approach of Holkar with a numerous force. Monson, who was utterly unacquainted with fear, ordered an advance, but soon
gave directions for retiring to the Mokundra Pass. The step appears of all others the most imprudent one which he could have adopted. Holkar depended for success upon his desultory mode of conducting a campaign, and nowhere can this prove more advantageous than when the opponent is retreating. His men, wearied and dispirited, stray from their ranks, and in the disorder consequent upon a retrograde movement, a thousand points are left open to a nimble and indefatigable assailant, who may hover continually around the retiring host, and decline at pleasure every attempt to bring him to a decisive action. In the present instance the cavalry that had been designed to protect the rear were cut to pieces by Holkar, who even proceeded afterwards to attack
the infantry when drawn up near the Mokundra Pass. The Mahrattas found themselves unable to make any impression upon the solid squares, which awaited calmly, and repelled successfully, their frequent and furious charges ; but the elements had now come to their assistance, and the subsequent march of the English was impeded by the monsoon torrents and inundations.
After crossing the Banas river, Colonel Monson arrived at Khoorshull-Ghur, where a large number of the native troops deserted, and went over in a body to Holkar. Most of these, having been recently in Scindiah's service, still retained feelings of hostility to the British, which time and a better acquaintance with the advantages enjoyed in the Company's service had not yet overcome. The remainder entered Agra in August, 1804, disorganized and demoralised, having lost nearly the whole of the officers during their disastrous retreat.
Holkar immediately advanced to Muttra, and allied himself with the Rajah of Bhurtpoor. But Lord Lake had now resolved upon a more rapid mode of action, which, indeed, might have been adopted advantageously at an earlier period. In spite of the autumn monsoon, he reached Muttra by the 7th of October, Holkar continuing to retreat before him. The Mahratta determined to besiege Delhi, for the purpose of carrying off the Mogul, whose presence in his camp would, he was well aware, give a sanction to his cause that might eventually prove of considerable service. The defences of the city were in a most ruinous condition, while the garrison consisted merely of a very small number of sepoys, who, however, under the able direction of Colonels Ochterlony and Burn, resisted successfully, for several days, the repeated attacks of the besiegers. The guns of the Mahrattas daily made new breaches in the crumbling walls, but when the assailants attempted to force an entrance, they were forced back at the