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We shall glance very briefly at the events which preceded the capture of Gwalior. In the beginning of 1858, a force composed of troops from the Bombay presidency was collected at Mhow, and placed under the orders of Major-General Sir Hugh Rose. Marching eastward, he captured the fort of Ratgurh, and relieved the garrison of Saugor. He then turned north, took several forts, including Garrakota and Chendaree, forced the Mudenpore pass against seven thousand men, and on March 25th laid siege to Jhansi, where, in the month of June preceding, sixty Europeans who had surrendered to the Ranee (or chieftainess) on promise of their lives being spared, were tied in two rows, males and females separate, and deliberately massacred. After four days of open trenches, matters were nearly ready for the assault, when intelligence arrived that an army was marching from Calpee under Tantia Topee, to raise the siege.
This is the first occasion on which Tantia Topee's name comes prominently forward. A Mahratta Brahmin by birth, he commanded a company of the Nana's body-guard at Bittoor before the rebellion, and was an active instigator of the outbreak. He became the Nana's agent with the Gwalior Contingent, by far the most important rebel force south of the Jumna. This body was, agreeably to treaty, paid by Sindiah, and stationed in his district, but commanded by British officers. It was quite distinct from Sindiah's own army, over which we had no control. The Contingent mutinied in June 1857, and collected at Gwalior, where Sindiah rendered immense service to the British Government (which Lord Canning has since munificently rewarded) by keeping them in play with threats and promises till Delhi had fallen. In October they marched with six regiments, four batteries, a siege-train, and many irregular followers, towards Cawnpore. The well-known disas trous action with General Wyndham, subsequently retrieved by Lord Clyde, followed; and the Gwalior Contingent retired with diminished ranks, but still very formidable both in numbers and organisation, to Calpee. Here they established a foundry and
gun-carriage manufactory, and collected warlike stores of all kinds. Many mutineers from other broken forces joined them, and Tantia Topee led ten thousand men, with twenty guns, to relieve Jhansi.
On their approach, Sir Hugh Rose left one brigade in the trenches, and led the other against Tantia Topee. The rebels were defeated on the 1st April near the river Betwa, with the loss of all their guns. Jhansi was taken with fearful slaughter on the 3d, but the Ranee escaped to Calpee. In May, Sir Hugh Rose advanced on Calpee, and expelled the rebels after several days'fighting, capturing fifteen guns and large stores of ammunition. They escaped in a westerly direction, and made for Gwalior, whither Tantia Topee preceded them in disguise, and so effectually tampered with Sindiah's troops, that when the Ranee of Jhansi and the Rao Sahib appeared with the fugitive Calpee garrison on the 1st June, Sindiah's body-guard alone made any resistance, and he fled to Agra, leaving his capital in the hands of the mutineers. Hugh Rose arrived before Gwalior on the 17th, and after three days' fighting (during which the Ranee of Jhansi was killed), expelled the usurpers and replaced Sindiah on his throne. Tantia Topee fled westward, followed by Brigadier Napier of the Bengal Engineers, with a troop of Bombay Horse-Artillery, one troop 14th Dragoons, and four hundred native cavalry. The rebels were overtaken on the 21st June at Jowra Alipore, and all their guns, twentyfive in number, captured by this small force in a brilliant engagement. But Brigadier Napier could do little execution on the mutineers themselves; an army of four thousand cavalry and three thousand infantry, well armed and accoutred, with abundance of money and jewels from Sindiah's treasury, escaped unhurt across the Chumbul, and had to be pursued by column after column for eight months, till they were finally dispersed or exterminated.
The leaders of this army were Tantia Topee, the Rao Sahib, and the Nawab of Banda. The Rao as well as Tantia had belonged to the band of ruffians in the Nana's household
at Bittoor. The Nana, as is generally known, was the adopted son of Bajee Rao, the last Peishwa of the Mahrattas. Bajee Rao's brother, Imrut Rao, had a son, Bimruk Rao, who adopted the Rao Sahib. Owing to this connection, he exercised the delegated authority of the Nana, in whose name he carried on his intrigues. Tantia, who was considerably older than the Rao, and had, moreover, acquired a not very well deserved military reputation, acted as commander-in-chief, while the Rao's name, as a relation of the Nana's, appeared in all political documents.
The operations against them took place in Rajpootana and Malwa, adjacent districts which cover an immense extent of country in Central India. In no other part of India has so much remained of the old dynasties. The red line which marks on the map the British boundary, generally runs parallel to the coast and to the principal rivers; for the dominant race require easy communication with the sea. A person sailing down the Ganges from its source to Calcutta, and continuing by the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean to the mouth of the Indus, and again up the Indus to Peshawur, would pass but a few leagues of coast belonging to native princes; but the inland province of Rajpootana contains twenty-two independent states, while Malwa is almost entirely held by the Mahratta chieftains Holkar and Sindiah. The former reigns at Indore, the latter at Gwalior.
The British only possess a few square miles in this immense district, which stretches from the Nerbudda to the Jumna, and from near the Indus to the Betwa.
Government is represented by an officer called the Governor-General's agent, in both Malwa and Rajpootana; subordinate to him, a political agent resides at the capital of each of the principal rajahs.
The mutinies found most of these princes discontented with the height to which British power had risen, and well-wishers to the revolted sepoys. In some respects the present holders of paramount power contrasted favourably with the Mogul emperors. Unlike the iconoclas
tic hordes of the latter, our troops had always left images and temples untouched. Often had the longdescended Rajpoot chieftains shed oceans of blood ere they consented to send a daughter to Delhi as bride to an imperial but Mohammedan bridegroom. From such tyranny they were now free. But the great superiority of the British was a restraint and incubus to which they unwillingly submitted. The political agents tendered advice regarding the conduct of their affairs more frequently than was necessary, certainly more frequently than was wished. In former days the states used constantly to be fighting among themselves, and the lands were divided by feudal tenure among nobles who boasted a long descent from warlike ancestors, and delighted in these petty wars. A quarter of a century was not sufficient to eradicate old habits and traditions, and to teach these men to appreciate the advantages of civilisation. The political agent's advice to grow cotton and open up the country, was listened to in much the same mood that William of Deloraine would have received an assurance of safety for life and property, with the offer of a government loan to drain the lands of Deloraine.
The Rajpoots could no longer make war on one another as formerly, for all disputes were settled by a power whose little finger was thicker than the loins of Akbar or Arungzebe, and to whom all, when it chose, must bend. But they understood our strength too well, and too fully appreciated the solid portion of wealth and power which they actually enjoyed, to think of prematurely staking it on the chance of being entirely. their own free masters by our overthrow.
Most of the Rajpootana and Malwa chieftains from the first made loud professions of loyalty and attachment to the British. To the rebels they sent secret promises and intelligence, and having thus secured themselves for whichever turn events might take, they passively awaited the result of the arduous struggle going on around them. In the month of June the forces in Rajpootana were stationed at the two cantonments of Nusseera
bad and Neemuch, under the command of Major-General Roberts. The forces in Malwa consisted of a brigade at Mhow, under Brigadier Honner, and were shortly after reinforced from Bombay, and formed into a division under Major-General Michel. The rebels, as we have already mentioned, after their defeat at Gwalior by Sir Hugh Rose on the 19th June, and by General Napier at Jowra Alipore on the 21st, crossed the river Chumbul into Rajpootana. Sir Hugh Rose's troops were too much worn out by their long hotweather campaign to continue the pursuit. The Rao Sahib and Tantia, finding themselves free for the present, cast around for the best direction in which to proceed, and sent secret emissaries to several of the capitals in Rajpootana, especially to Jyepore, where a considerable party was ready to join them. Indeed, they could scarcely be wrong in marching on the capital of any native state. All the rajahs had as large a body of troops in their service as they could afford to pay; these troops were entirely in favour of the mutineers, and ready to play the same part as had been taken by Sindiah's troops at Gwalior.
It was on the 28th of June that General Roberts set out from Nusseerabad, having reliable intelligence of the rebels' advance on Jyepore from the political agent, Captain Eden, an officer who through the whole of the mutinies had remained at his post, which the proximity of the disturbed districts rendered an extremely dangerous one. The force consisted of 900 H.M. 72d and 83d, 900 12th and 13th Bombay N.I., 3d company Sappers and Miners, 150 8th Hussars, and 120 1st Bombay Cavalry; 2d troop Bombay HorseArtillery and 3 guns, No. 8 Light Field-Battery, afterwards joined by 300 Belooch Horse under Lieutenant Macaulay. The want of cavalry was severely felt from first to last through these operations.
The Belooch Horse require a special notice. Macaulay had raised them among the Beloochee tribes on the frontiers of Affghanistan and Scinde. These turbulent hordes profess themselves followers of the pro
phet, but their practical tenets are to murder and rob mankind in general; that Hindoos especially are sent into the world for Beloochees to plunder, and Indian Mussulmans are little different from Hindoos. Macaulay had power of life and death over his followers, and certainly kept them in tolerable order; but they came to Rajpootana with such a frightfully bad name, that it was scarcely possible to avoid hanging them. The presence of such convenient scapegoats was an incentive to crime. Every rascal among the camp-followers, when accused of pillage, threw it on the Beloochees. If a peasant missed his sheep or grain, he came straight to camp and confidently said, "A Belooch has done this thing." They were mounted on small ponies (chiefly mares), and their intelligence made them very useful as light cavalry.
By a rapid advance General Roberts was close to Jyepore before the rebels had matured their plans. Foiled in this quarter, they marched in a southerly direction toward the small state of Tonk, which alone, of all the Rajpootana states, is governed by a Mussulman. Towards this point General Roberts now turned, as he would thus always be covering Jyepore, and the large British town of Ajmeer, which, with a small adjoining district, is the only ground we hold in Rajpootana.
The heat, which had been great from the commencement of the campaign, became intolerable about the 4th, and twenty-two Europeans died of sunstroke in three days; on the 8th, therefore, the General resolved to send a light column forward under Colonel Holmes, consisting of the cavalry, horse-artillery, some native infantry, and 200 72d Highlandersthe latter were to receive an occasional lift on artillery waggons.
This same evening the Rao and Tantia entered the town of Tonk. The Nawaub had no idea of joining a party of rebels with an English army close at their heels, and shut himself up in his citadel with such men as he could depend upon. The remainder of his troops and four guns were drawn up outside, with orders to face the rebels, but fraternised