« PreviousContinue »
BATTLE OF DEIG.
bayonet's point. At length, Lord Lake arrived at Delhi, and obliged the Mahrattas to raise the siege.
Holkar retired to the Doab with his formidable cavalry. An endless succession of burning villages marked their line of march. While pursuing the enemy, our troops encountered, for the first time, a Sikh host, which had descended from the north to plunder and lay waste the fertile province of Delhi. Colonel Burn sent them flying in all directions by a vigorous fire of grapeshot, and took up his position within the walls of a small fort called Shumlee. The Mahrattas still continued to retreat, while the English, impeded by their baggage and infantry, were unable to overtake them. At length Lord Lake moved on with his cavalry alone, from a village called Alligunge, which the enemy had recently set fire to. As he began his march, intelligence reached him that Major-General Fraser had been victorious at Deig. This officer engaged Holkar's lieutenant, Sirdar Kernaut Dada; and, although severely wounded during the early part of the action, his troops gained a complete victory, Colonel Monson having immediately succeeded to the command. The village of Deig was carried at the point of the bayonet, after which the British charged the advanced guard of the enemy, that had been drawn up behind a formidable line of artillery. As the English drew near, they received a furious discharge of round grape, and chain-shot, which inflicted on them a considerable loss. Finding, however, the resolution of their opponents unshaken, the Mahrattas abandoned their guns, and ultimately fled in every direction.
On the 17th, an action took place between Lord Lake's cavalry and Holkar's horse, the latter of whom were surprised in their camp, and many of them slain. The English army now marched to Furruckabad, where the Patans, who resided in the town and neighbourhood, had attacked one of the Company's detachments, and were carrying on an active correspondence with the Mahrattas. Lord Lake reached the city before daya break, after a march of thirty-four miles, and found the enemy drawn up beneath the walls. Victory once more declared in favour of the British, who captured a large number of horses and men, besides the greater part of the baggage and stores.
The exertions of the troops had been most arduous. During a period of eighteen days, they marched, without intermission, not less than twenty-four miles a day; and these rapid movements contributed greatly to raise the reputation of the army in the minds of the natives,
On the 19th, Lord Lake arrived at Delhi, but his advance was retarded by Colonel Monson, who fell back to Muttra for supplies, and thus led to a considerable prolongation of the campaign. His retreat gave en. couragement to Holkar's party, which had been joined recently by the Rajah of Bhurtpoor. The latter chieftain, Runjeet Sing, was of the Jaut race-an assemblage of predatory tribes noted for their turbulent character and love of war. Their fortress of Deig having been taken, the English troops proceeded to invest Bhurtpoor, the capital of the rajah, and his present abode. Its appearance seemed by no means formidable. A mud wall, about six or eight miles in circumference, rose from the inner bank of a broad ditch, that completely surrounded the city. The besiegers, who had scaled the rock forts of Gwalior and Aseerghur, felt disposed to undervalue the feeble defences which they saw before them. They soon discovered their mistake. The garrison of Bhurtpoor defended their fortifications with the most daring valour, and exhibited during the siege, a readiness of invention, and a fecundity of resources, not often found among orientals. When the assailants effected a breach, they found stockades and bulwarks springing up behind it without a moment's delay, while the advancing troops were repelled by vessels filled with combustibles, and burning cotton bales
SIEGE OF BHURTPOOR.
steeped in oil, that the besieged hurled upon them from the ramparts. Four times the British troops suffered an ignominious repulse. The spirits of all the
men began to droop, while those of the 76th regiment, who had honourably distinguished themselves during the past campaign, now refused to follow a sepoy regiment into action, although the latter had actually gained the summit of the breach, and planted there the British ensign.
In the meantime, Holkar's party daily acquired strength. One of his new adherents was Bapojee Scindiah, formerly in the service of Dowlet Row Scindiah, who actually received a pension from the Company. This ungrateful deserter was summoned, by proclamation, to repair, before a certain day, to Lord Lake's camp, upon pain of losing his pension, and being declared a traitor. He took no notice of the announcement, but, joining his forces to some infantry under the command of Ameer Khan, an officer of Holkar, the two fell upon a body of sepoys who had been sent out to guard a convoy of provisions that was hourly expected from Muttra. The noise of the firing reached the English camp, whence Lord Lake despatched to the rescue Colonel Weld, at the head of the 27th Dragoons, and a regiment of native cavalry.
As the troopers approached, and the scarlet uniforms and shining helmets caught the eyes of the sepoys, they raised a hearty cheer, and, with fixed bayonets, and irresistible fury, charged down upon the enemy's artillerymen. The cavalry then rushed forward to reinforce them, the Mahrattas deserted their guns, and their horse, unable to maintain their ground in a sword combat with the English dragoons, soon galloped off in the utmost confusion. The ground was covered with the spoils of the vanquished. Bapojee's palanquin fell into the hands of the victors; while Ameer Khan, throwing aside his ornaments and insignia, escaped in the dress of a common soldier. His splendid attire and armour,
forty banners, together with the whole of the artillery and the wagons, became the property of the British.
The siege of Bhurtpoor was still carried on with vigour, but the undertaking seemed interminable. The British loss amounted to 1 lieut.-colonel, 2 majors, 20 captains, 1 capt-lieutenant, 45 lieutenants, 1 adjutant, 1 cornet, 2 ensigns, with 2,205 non-commissioned officers and privates. The only plan that rendered success even probable, seemed to be the conversion of the siege into a blockade; and this measure was finally determined upon, notwithstanding several attempts on the part of Holkar and his lieutenants, to divert elsewhere the attention of the besiegers. Ameer Khan had again rallied his dispersed infantry, and, being reinforced by some detachments of cavalry from Holkar, broke into the Doab, which he proceeded to lay waste, hoping to draw off the main body of the English from the walls of Bhurtpoor. Lord Lake contented himself, however, with sending General Smith, at the head of a detachment of cavalry, to chastise the marauder. These troops came up with the enemy near Afzulghur, after a rapid and hasty march, through regions of the wildest and most savage character. The Patans of Ameer Khan displayed in the engagement their usual unflinching valour; but the English finally succeeded in routing them completely, many of their bravest officers being left dead on the field of battle.
The arms of England appeared to be everywhere successful except beneath the walls of Bhurtpoor. The besieging army had been joined by a reinforcement, under Major-General Jones; but they found all the fresh efforts which this new arrival called forth as utterly ineffective as the former ones.
Various causes have been alleged for these repeated' failures. The defenders were unquestionably both brave and skilful: they had learned from M. Perron and his officers the art of war, and their present resistance was directed by 1.804.) TREATY WITH THE RAJAH OF BHURTPOOR. 187 French engineers. Moreover, the English camp appointments seem to have been of a very inferior description ; the cannon were ill made, and the engineering part of the service inefficiently performed. It soon, however, became evident that every effort must be put forth, in order to bring this siege to a favourable termination. At every accessible station and point of communication, convoys and stores were assembled ; reinforcements arrived from all parts, while the attempts of Holkar to draw off the attention of the besiegers failed most signally. The rajah speedily found that he could expect no support or relief from his allies without, and that his own territories were suffering severely from the protracted warfare. The past successes of the British, their organized strength, and the manifold resources upon which they could rely, though, perhaps, only partially comprehended by the valiant oriental, forbade him to indulge any hope of being able to compete, singlehanded, with the white conquerors of Hindoostan. The great European power from whom alone an Indian enemy of England might have obtained sympathy or aid, was too busily engaged at home to succour a Mahratta potentate in the north of India, while all the coasts of that continent, wherever an invader could disembark, were guarded with the most jealous care. The fall of Bhurtpoor, therefore, sooner or later, could hardly be averted, and the rajah wisely determined at once to put a stop to the useless destruction of property, and the fruitless effusion of blood. The terms finally agreed upon were, the payment of twenty lacs of rupees, by the rajah, at different times, and in different sums, together with the surrender of Deig and its adjacent territory.