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with them as soon as the green flag was waved before their eyes, and the shout of "deen deen!" (religion), with which the rebels always entered a town, reached their ears.
Shots were interchanged between the enemy and the citadel during the night, and General Roberts, in hopes they would give battle, pushed on in spite of the heat, and rejoined Holmes; but the cessation of firing in the Tonk direction soon warned him that the enemy had decamped, and Holmes made a fresh start with his light column.
The rebels do not appear to have received much encouragement from the emissaries they had despatched into Rajpootana, for on leaving Tonk, Tantia intended to recross the Chumbul by a ford at Indergurh, and push on to the Mahratta country south of the Nerbudda.
The Mahratta country was a mine of discontent hitherto unworked by any rebel leader, and no one could work it with such profit as a delegate of the Nana Sahib. To the English reader it seems incredible that, after the deed of atrocity at Cawnpore, the Nana should find any class influenced in his favour, even by the ties of compatriotism, or indignation at his supposed wrongs. But those Hindoos who wished to shake off our yoke viewed matters through a different medium. They felt no more horror at the worst scenes of the mutinies, than the Spaniards of the sixteenth century when they heard of the massacres of St Quentin, of Naardem, or of Maestricht.
The Deccan, especially Poona and Sattara, was full of intriguing Brahmins, lamenting the loss of their influence, which had departed with Bajee Rao. The peasantry, however, were by no means so decided in their desire of a revolution; indeed, when Tantia Topee actually crossed the Nerbudda above Hoshungabad, he had more difficulty in procuring supplies than he ever experienced in Malwa, and disputes ensued between his soldiers and the villagers, which did not always end without bloodshed. The reason why no demonstration had hitherto been made in the direction of the Deccan, is to be
attributed partly to the extraordinary want of energy and capacity to seize on the advantages of their position generally shown by the rebel leaders in India, and also to the disinclination of the sepoys from the north-west provinces to leave their own districts.
Tantia's plans were for the present foiled by the rains, which, long delayed, now fell plentifully, and the Chumbul became an impassable torrent, barring all passage to the eastward. He therefore marched to the walled town of Boondee, the capital of a Rajpoot state of that name. Whatever coquetting may have gone on between the authorities and the rebels, the gates remained closed, and Tantia passed on a few miles south, and then crossed the Bondee hills to the westward by the Keena Pass. The object of this probably was that the course due south led through a very wild uninhabited country, where his large force would have found great difficulty in procuring supplies, and his present route did not occasion any great detour. It would, moreover, lead near the important towns of Oodeypore and Saloombur, containing large garrisons, not unlikely to declare in his favour.
Holmes kept up a close pursuit from Tonk to Bondee, but did not do more than capture a few stragglers. He was misled (no doubt intentionally) at Boondee, by information that his guns would not get through the Keena Pass, and crossed the hills by another route from Boondee to Jehajpore.
During this operation the rain fell in torrents all over Rajpootana. Such floods had not been known for many years, and all movements were suspended for twelve days, till the raging streams, which intersected the country in every direction, had somewhat subsided.
When General Roberts heard that the rebels had crossed the Boondee hills, he moved westward to cover Ajmeer, and passed a week encamped about thirty miles from that place, on an elevated piece of ground near the village of Surwar. Some of the troops had marched through Surwar on their way to the siege of Kotah
in the month of March, and crossed the dry bed of a river which now rolled past their camp with a stream nearly a quarter of a mile wide.
It was extremely difficult at this time to obtain information: footmessengers alone were able sometimes to cross the swollen waters with gourds fastened to their waists to buoy them up. It was ascertained that the rebels showed a disposition to continue westward, influenced to some extent by a small party, which Brigadier Parke, of H.M. 72d Regiment, had sent out from Neemuch in anticipation of the General's orders to take the field with such troops as he could, and keep the rebels from getting south, especially covering Oodeypore.
On the 5th August the roads were reported again passable, and the General marched towards Neemuch. On the 7th, at Dabla, intelligence came that the rebels were at Sanganeer and Bheelwara, on the Neemuch and Nusseerabad road. A march was ordered for half-past one o'clock the following morning. The force reached Bunaira, through bad and winding roads, by half-past nine, and halted to breakfast. The scouts reported the enemy as still encamped to the front; so, leaving sick and baggage in a secure position, the march was resumed at a little before one by 500 of H.M. 83d, 200 of 13th Native Infantry, three 6-pounders, one howitzer, and 60 Irregular Horse. The General had stript himself of his cavalry and horse-artillery to render Holmes's column efficient; but while the enemy, with Holmes behind them, had gone round the are of a circle, the General with his infantry had cut across by the chord. He now resolved on an engagement, because the moral effect of it would be good, although not much actual loss could be inflicted on a body composed chiefly of cavalry and the lightest of infantry.
Just before the action, a Belooch scout brought in a prisoner, whose person of course he had well rifled. The rebel was shot by a firing party of the 83d. As he lay dead, a private went to examine the body, more from curiosity than the hope of finding any gleanings after a Beloochee's
harvest, and discovered £7 in his sleeve. The Beloochee's horror at this oversight was most ludicrous; not so much from loss of the money, as fear of the shame which in Belooch society attaches to a convicted bungler at looting.
The town of Sanganeer is on the left bank of the small river Kotaria. On the other side, and more than a mile up the stream, is the town of Bheelwara, in front of which the rebels were encamped. They sent their elephants and baggage to the rear, and the infantry and guns took up a position obliquely to the stream; the cavalry was thrown forward on their left flank across the Kotaria up to Sanganeer, and on the right to nearly opposite the town-the whole forming a horse-shoe figure of about a mile and a half, connected by skirmishers.
General Roberts kept his small body of infantry compact in presence of such a number of cavalry, skirmishers being merely thrown out a short way in front. After seeing that the town was cleared of the enemy, he passed it on his right, and sent the guns to the bank of the river, whence they opened fire on the enemy's right. Under cover of this fire the remainder crossed the stream; the rebels did not let their own guns remain silent, but played on our column as it crossed. Our infantry ascended a rising ground, and took up a position with their right on a village and left on a small tank. The guns, including the howitzer, also crossed the Kotaria and reopened on the rebels, who were already making preparations to retire, by withdrawing their guns and infantry, and massing the cavalry on the intervening plain to cover their retreat. There was only time to fire a few shells before they were out of range. The sun had been some time down, so no pursuit could be attempted; indeed, infantry who had marched thirty miles into action would have made but a poor figure pursuing a force which had five times its number in cavalry alone. They bivouacked in the field. Holmes joined next day with his cavalry, after a thirty-mile march. The horses had suffered much from wet and
want of forage. For the next three days the troops marched upwards of twenty miles a-day; their spirits were kept up by seeing the recent marks of gun-wheels and elephants. The rebels had heard of Brigadier Parke being in the field to the south, and intended crossing to westward of the Aravelli range of hills; but on finding this would involve the abandonment of their guns, they adhered to their original intention of going to Oodeypore or Saloombur. This indecision occasioned their making a detour of several miles, regarding which the General had information in time to permit his adopting the direct line instead of following their tracks.
The method which General Roberts adopted for obtaining information was to have about twenty cavalry in advance, close to the rebels. They left connecting-links of two or three men at every few miles, so as to keep up the chain of communication. The advanced party was composed half of Belooch horse, who had no sympathy with the rebels, but could not communicate very well with the villagers, and half of horsemen belonging to the Rajah of Jyepore, attached to the suite of Captain Eden, the political agent, who were supposed, as Rajpoots, to be on good terms and able easily to communicate with the villagers, but not to be very warm partisans of the British. By this mixed party correct and immediate intelligence was constantly supplied.
On the afternoon of the 13th, after a march of twenty-four miles, General Roberts reached Kunkrowlee, a town situated on a fine lake not far from the Aravelli hills-an advanced post of the enemy was driven in, and information received that the main body was seven miles distant on the Bunnas river.
The General was resolved not to attack late in the day, and allow the enemy to escape with little loss under cover of darkness, so he encamped at Kunkrowlee. Tantia Topee and his followers were piously devoting the day to a visit to Nathdwarra, a shrine in the vicinity, reckoned one of the most sacred in India. They returned at midnight,
and when they heard how near the pursuers were, ordered the reveillé to be sounded, and the troops to prepare for marching at once. But the infantry positively refused to stir. They sent their officers to say that it was all very well for the cavalry and artillery to go on at this rate, but they were done up. To lighten their burden on the march they had thrown away their cooking-pots, and everything but their muskets and ammunition, and never got a proper meal or a proper sleep. They declared they would march in the morning, and the guns should march with them; the cavalry might do as they liked. Tantia Topee would not probably have cared much about the infantry, whom he must have regarded as sheep destined for slaughter ere they could reach the Mahratta country. But all natives attach an extravagant importance to the possession of cannon. That Tantia himself discovered, by dire experience, that all he could hope from his guns was to discharge them two or three times in action before they fell a prey to the British, is likely enough. Still there was good policy in the pertinacity with which, to the last, he laid his hands on everything he could find in the shape of a cannon, and dragged them up hill and down dale, through swamps and jungles. Nothing could shake the faith of his followers in these mysterious engines. It mattered little whether the guns were only honeycombed tubes, with octohedral balls and damaged powder in the limbers-or specimens of Armstrong's rifled ordnance, warranted to pick off an elephant at five miles -so long as they were guns.
General Roberts marched at five o'clock in the morning, and at seven the enemy were discovered drawn up on the farther or right bank of the river Bunnas. Their right flank was protected by a deep bend of the river, their left by some steep hills. The ground they actually stood upon was a low, steep ridge, forming the right bank of the river; in front of them, on the left bank, was an open plain, 800 yards wide. The General formed up his troops behind some hillocks which bounded this plain, and then advanced across it.
The enemy first opened a brisk fire from their four guns. The horseartillery galloped forward and replied without much effect, for their opponents had skilfully placed their guns behind a natural parapet.
But it was of little consequence. The infantry, not without loss, marched in line across the plain, forded the river, and scaled the heights on the enemy's left and centre. The right, where the guns were, being thus unsupported, abandoned their pieces under a volley from the 13th Native Infantry. The cavalry under Colonel Naylor, which had been keeping near our guns as a support, now dashed forward across the stream. Colonel Naylor's Arab charger had been desperately wounded by a round shot in the breast, but lifted its head and neighed as the advancing squadron left it lying at the mercy of the vultures and jackals.
The cavalry found the rebels scattered over a level plain behind their first position. The order was given to disperse and pursue. The horsemen were seen riding furiously among the fugitives, the 8th Hussars dealing death with their sabres, and the 1st Bombay Lancers with their lances. After two miles' chase, Colonel Naylor collected his men, a good many of whom had fallen, including the sergeant-major of the 8th, killed by some rebels who had taken shelter among a cluster of rocks in the middle of the plain, and fired on the cavalry, till the British infantry came up and bayoneted them.
The horse-artillery had crossed the Bunnas river after the cavalry. While they were ascending a steep road, leading up to the position just abandoned by the rebels, a Mussulman sepoy stepped from behind a rock into the centre of the path. He had a single-barrelled rifle in his left hand, and a drawn sword in his right. When summoned to lay down his arms, he declined, and requested to be killed at once. Lieutenant Malcolmson and an artillery sergeant cut him down. He had plenty of powder and bullets upon him, and might, had he chosen to pick off some men or horses, have caused considerable confusion among the troop while struggling up the ascent. But it is a remarkable
feature of the Oriental character how calmly they take death, yet how seldom they sell their lives. An Englishman, if he must die, prefers to keep up his courage by struggling against fate to the last. It is only when physical exertion can no longer either save or avenge him, that his heart begins to sink; an Oriental finds it easier to lapse at once into a state of listless apathy. His power to face death (courage it cannot be called) begins where that of the other ends; it is of no use to his fellows, it may soften the last agonies to himself. The Englishman's spirit can, however, be inspired into the Orientals by an Englishman. There could easily have been selected a hundred men from the rebel army, burning with religious fanaticism, and as indifferent to life as the individual we have here described, but not one could have been found able to utilise this quality; whereas, in the British camp, you might have selected a hundred officers or soldiers, any one of whom, had he been engaged on the opposite side, could have inspired his own spirit into every man of such a band, and made them fight or die when and where he liked.
When the General saw that the infantry and artillery would have no further chance, he ordered a steady pursuit to be kept up with the cavalry alone. Colonel Naylor and his small force continued doggedly on the rebel tracks for fifteen miles, killing numbers of stragglers, and capturing three elephants and quantities of baggage.
At four o'clock the rebels began to make a stand in a village surrounded by jungle, through which Colonel Naylor had followed them for two miles on counting his men, he found he had only one hundred regulars and fifty Beloochees left; the country, moreover, being totally unfit for cavalry, he abandoned the pursuit.
The rebels fled east by prodigious marches. On the fourth day after the action General Roberts and Brigadier Parke met in pursuit at Poonah: the General gave Parke the 8th Hussars and Beloochees, intrusting the further operations to him. Tantia fled in a direction nearly due east, apparently trusting to his luck to find the river Chumbul less flooded than
when it hemmed him in before. Brigadier Parke, who was ordered above all things to prevent Tantia from getting south, did not follow exactly in his track, but marched to Neemuch, a British cantonment, where he was able to get about fifty fresh horses for Captain Clowe's troop of the 8th Hussars: the remainder of the hussars and Beloochees were knocked up. He was a good deal puzzled how to act: on the one hand, he was informed by a district officer that the rebels could never cross the Chumbul at that season, and meant to shoot past him to the southward; on the other hand, Captain Showers, the political agent at Oodeypore, had intimation sent him by a correspondent near the rebels, that they were resolved to get over the river somehow. The former appeared the most probable, but unfortunately was not correct. It delayed Parke for a few hours at a place called Moorassa, fifteen miles from Neemuch, and thirty miles from the Chumbul; and he only reached the river (after a hard march) to find it passable, but rising rapidly. A few disabled ponies were standing on the left bank, and the rebels disappearing among some mango-trees in the west horizon. He returned to Neemuch to refit a column, which will again shortly appear on the scene.
In the month of April preceding, General Roberts had been ordered to detach a brigade consisting of H.M. 95th, 10th N.I., one wing of 8th Hussars, one wing 1st Bombay Lancers, and Blake's troop Bombay Horse-Artillery, under Brigadier Smith, to co-operate with Sir Hugh Rose. This brigade played an important part in the capture of Gwalior, after which it was moved to Goonah, a town between Mhow and Gwalior, on the grand trunk-road which runs through these places from Bombay to Agra. General Roberts had early seen the importance of watching the east bank of the Chumbul, and sent to Brigadier Smith, who still nominally belonged to his division, to move to Jalra Patun (the capital of a Rajpoot state of that name), not far from the Chumbul, where there were considerable munitions of war, and some three or four thousand troops requiring to
be guarded and overawed; but Brigadier Smith had just commenced the siege of a small fort near Goonah, and remained where he was.
The only other place from which troops could move was Mhow. This is a British cantonment about fourteen miles from the large town of Indore, the capital of the Mahratta chieftain Holkar. The main road and telegraph from Bombay to Agra pass through these places. About eighty miles to the north-west of Indore is a large and wealthy town called Oojein, which it was supposed the rebels would have no objection to plunder.
On the 22d of August, a force consisting of 350 92d Highlanders, 450 19th Native Infantry, one squadron Bombay 3d Light Cavalry, and two guns, Le Marchand's battery Bengal Artillery, was despatched from Mhow, under Colonel Lockhart, to cover Oojein, followed shortly afterwards by another column under LieutenantColonel Hope. When Tantia crossed the Chumbul he found the coast clear, and, looking around for the next move, Jalra Patun, distant about thirty miles, naturally presented itself as a convenient place from which to replenish his army with men, money, and materials. The Rajah of Jalra Patun, an active and intelligent man, Iwas well inclined to the British for political reasons, which we need not here detail. His troops were drawn out on the hopeless chance of their being induced to fire on the rebels, with whom they fraternised at once. The Rajah escaped to Mhow after placing some barrels of powder handy for his wife and family to blow themselves up if threatened with insult : fortunately they were not compelled to avail themselves of their fugitive lord's last proof of affection. Tantia had taken no mean prize. Jalra Patun is not a first-class Rajpoot state, but the town is wealthy, and the Rajah had been at considerable pains in collecting warlike materials and drilling his troops.
A war contribution of £60,000 was levied on the town, while £40,000 more was collected from the Government property. The rebel army was paid up, and a large number of additional troops enlisted, completing the