Immagini della pagina




CHAP. fessed aim of which was to smooth away the subjects of

jealousy which had arisen between the two powers ; its 1803.

real object to gain time for Scindiah, till the preparations i Wel. Desp. iii

. 38, 41." of the Rajah of Berar were completed, and his approach Malcolm, 293, 300.

had enabled the combined forces to take the field.

At length, in the end of May, Scindiah being much War is at pressed to give an explanation of his armaments, or direct length de

the withdrawal of his troops, broke up the conference by May 27. declaring, “ After my interview with the Rajah of Berar,

you shall be informed whether we will have peace or war.” It was evident to the persons who conducted this negotiation, that the success of the Mahratta confederacy with Hyder in 1780, which had brought the Madras presidency to the brink of ruin, had inspired the chiefs of that nation with a most extravagant opinion of their own importance; that they were wholly unaware of the vast intermediate progress which the British power had made ; and deemed that the renewal of hostilities on their part would be immediately followed by the siege of Madras and expulsion of the English from India. Perceiving this, and being convinced that a rupture was

inevitable, Lord Wellesley committed full diplomatic July 22. powers to his generals in the field ; and General Wellesley

demanded, in peremptory terms, an explanation of Scindiah's intentions, and removal of his forces from the Nizam's frontier to a less threatening station. The rajah, in his

turn, insisted upon the withdrawal of the British forces, Aug. 3. 2Wel. Desp.

to which General Wellesley at once agreed ; but when ii. 38, 41. the time for carrying the mutual retreat into effect 344, 346. arrived, the Mahrattas showed no disposition to move,

and the British government received information that the combined chiefs had resolved not to retire from their threatening position.** Upon this, the resident quitted

* The substance of this important negotiation was thus pithily summed up by the Duke of Wellington, in a letter to Scindiah at this period :-“The British government did not threaten to commit hostilities against you, but you threatened to commence hostilities against them and their allies; and when called upon to explain your intentions, you declared that it was doubtful

Malcolm, 293, 307. Auber, ii.

Scindiah's court, and war began both on the Oude frontier CHAP.

XLIX. under Lord Lake, and that of the Nizam under General

1803. Wellesley General, afterwards Lord Lake, was born in 1744,

48. of an ancient and respectable family, which boasted Early his

tory of Lord of a descent from Launcelot of the lake, one of the Lake. chevaliers of the Round Table. At the age of fourteen he entered the army, and served with distinction both in the American and Flemish wars. In 1798 he was actively engaged in the contest with the Irish rebels : he took part in the decisive battle of Vinegar Hill, and though worsted at Castlebar by the French troops, who subsequently landed, he had his revenge at Ballynamuck, where he made prisoners a large body of the invaders. In 1800 he received the appointment of Commander-inchief of the British forces in India. It was there that his real career began : and his achievements in Eastern warfare far exceeded anything recorded of his ancestor of the Lake, or of Arthur's knights in European story. His first care on taking the command, was to improve the efficiency of the native cavalry; and such was the docility and emulation of those brave troops, that the desultory habits to which they had been accustomed, under their native chiefs, were speedily exchanged for the precision and regularity of European discipline. It was in this previous preparation that the foundation was laid for all his subsequent successes. It supplied the deficiency whether there would be peace or war, and, in conformity with your threats and declared doubts, you assembled a large army in a station contiguous to the Nizam frontier. On this ground I called upon you to withdraw your army to its usual stations, if your pacific declarations were sincere; but, instead of complying with this reasonable requisition, you have proposed that I should withdraw the troops which are intended to defend the territories of the allies against your designs; and that you and the Rajah of Berar should be suffered to remain with your troops assembled, in readiness to take advantage of their absence. This proposition is unreasonable and inadmissible, and you must stand to the consequences of the measures which I find myself obliged to adopt to repel your aggressions. I offered you peace upon terms of equality, and honourable to all parties; you have chosen war, and are responsible for all the consequences.”—GENERAL WELLESLEY to SCINDIAI, 6th Aug. 1803– Well. Despatches, iii. 277.



1 Biog.

Univ. xxiii. 211.



CHAP. which had hitherto been so painfully experienced by the

British, in the campaigns of Hindostan, in combating the Eastern horse ; and by engrafting the steadiness and obedience of Europe on the fire and celerity of Asia, reared up a body of cavalry superior to any that had yet followed the British standards in the East, and perhaps equal to any in the world, in vigour and warlike prowess. In a word, Lake accomplished in India what Napoleon projected in Egypt, when he said that, if he could unite the French infantry to the Mameluke horse, he would conquer the world."

Lord Lake was one of the greatest cavalry officers that His charac- Europe has ever produced. He had the vigour of mind

and fearless temperament which is essential to great achievement, and no one more thoroughly understood the great art of strategy—that of relinquishing lesser objects, and striking with an overwhelming force at the decisive points. But his boldness somtimes savoured of rashness ; his marvellous successes caused him to underrate his enemy; his constant triumphs made him think his troops equal to anything. By neglecting the suggestions of prudence, and overlooking the necessity of combination, he sometimes ran unnecessary risks, and brought the British empire in the East into serious danger. His imprudent advance of Monson's division, and attack of Bhurtpore with inadequate means, are examples of this tendency. But if his ardent spirit, sanguine disposition, and unbounded confidence in his followers, sometimes led himself and his troops into peril, no general was more felicitous in extricating himself from it; and none more frequently, by a quick decision and fearless advance, converted threatening danger into ultimate triumph. In rapidity of movement, determination of conduct, hardihood in difficulty, and endurance of fatigue, he never was surpassed. Alexander, at the head of his phalanx, did not throw himself with more intrepidity into the midst of the enemy's columns : Murat did not head a charge of



caralry with more chivalrous valour : Jugurtha, with his CHAP. Numidian horse, did not excel him in the rapidity with

XLIX. which he followed up the pursuit of a beaten foe. At the head of a chosen band of light-armed British and native dragoons, he fairly ran down Holkar and the Mahratta horse on their own territory. He did not, like former generals, alike in ancient and modern times, make the discipline of European foot withstand the assaults of Asiatic horse ; he combated Asia with her own weapons, and defeated her with the sword and the lance, on her own waterless plains. Generous, affable, considerate in private, he was alike beloved by his officers and adored by his men ; and nothing but his sudden death in February 1808, before the Peninsular contest began, prevented him from leaving a name immortal in European, as he had already done in Asiatic annals.

The campaign which followed, though it lasted only five months, was one of the most brilliant in the British Lord


lesley's plan annals, and conducted our Eastern empire, by an uninter- of opera" rupted series of victories, to the proud pre-eminence which it has ever since maintained. The instructions to General Lake, dictated by that clear perception of the vital point of attack which, as much as his admirable foresight, characterised all Marquess Wellesley's combinations, were to concentrate all his efforts, in the first instance, for the destruction of M. Perron's formidable force on the banks of the Jumna ; next to get possession of Delhi and Agra, with the person of Shah Aulum, the Mogul emperor; and, finally, to form alliances with the Rajpoots and other native powers beyond the Jumna, so as to exclude Scindiah from the northern parts of India. General Wellesley was directed to move against the combined forces of Scindiah and the Rajah of Auber, ii. Berar, on the Nizam's frontier, and distract their atten- Wellesley's tion by vigorous operations, while decisive blows were 210, 215. struck by General Lake at the centre of their power. Subsidiary operations at the same time were to be con






CHAP. ducted by Colonel Campbell against the province of

Cuttack, and the city of Juggernaut, with the view of adding that important district, the link between the Bengal and Madras provinces, to the British dominions.

General Lake's army commenced its march from the

ceded provinces of Cawnpore on the 7th August, and on force, and the 28th, as he drew near to Perron's force, he received a storming of letter from that officer, proposing to enter into an arrange


ment, by which he himself and the troops under his command might remain neutral in the contest which was approaching; but the terms proposed were deemed inadmissible, and the flag of truce returned without effecting any arrangement. On the day following, the English came up with the whole of Perron's force, drawn up in a strong

position, covering the important fort of Allighur. They Aug. 29.

were immediately attacked by the British army with the greatest vigour, and after a short resistance put to flight. The fortress of Allighur was next besieged ; and, as the extraordinary strength of its fortifications, armed with one hundred and eighty guns, rendered operations in form a very tedious undertaking, General Lake, after a few days' cannonading, resolved to hazard the perilous attempt of an escalade. The ditch, to use his own expression, was large enough to float a seventy-four, and the garrison, four thousand strong, both disciplined and resolute; but all these difficulties were overcome by the determined gallantry of the storming party, headed by the 76th regiment, led by Colonel Monson.

After a bloody Wel. Desp: iii. 291, 234. struggle, an hour in duration, the gates were blown

open, and the British colours hoisted on the walls of the fortress,

Brilliant as was this opening of the campaign, it was speedily succeeded by other successes still more important. Advancing rapidly towards Delhi, General Lake was met by General Perron, who entered into a separate negotiation, and soon passed through the British camp on his way to embark for France, with the large

Sept. 4.

i Lord
Desp. Sept.
4, 1803.

Auber, ii. 306.

52, Battle of Delhi.

« IndietroContinua »