Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

fortune which he had made in the Mahratta service. CHAP. But he was succeeded in the command of the French

XLIX. subsidiary force by M. Louis, who, instead of showing 1803.

Sept. 11. any disposition to come to an accommodation, advanced in great force, and with a most formidable train of artillery. The British army, after a fatiguing march of eighteen miles, on the 11th of September found the enemy, twenty thousand strong, including sixteen thousand disciplined in the European method, with a hundred pieces of cannon, posted on a strong ridge which covered the approaches to the city of Delhi. The troops which General Lake had at his immediate disposal, as the whole of the army had not come up, did not exceed five thousand men ; but with this handful of heroes he did not hesitate instantly to advance to the attack. When the men came within range, they were received by a tremendous fire, first of round and chain shot, and afterwards of grape and musketry. Advancing, however, without flinching, through the dreadful storm, the British waited till the order was given, at the distance of a hundred yards, to fire ; and then, after pouring in a close and well-directed volley, rushed forward with the bayonet, and in a few minutes drove the enemy from their guns and from the field in the utmost confusion. Sixty-eight pieces of heavy artillery, thirty-seven tumbrils, and eleven standards were taken ; but such was the severity of the fire to which they were exposed during their rapid advance, that in that short time four Lord

Lake'sDesp. hundred of the British army were killed and wounded, Sept: 12 and it was to the steady intrepidity of the 76th regiment 1803. Wel. that General Lake mainly ascribed the glorious result of 308, 313. the battle.1*

The following passage in Lord Lake's private despatch to Lord Wellesley on this occasion, contains a remark of permanent interest, more especially in Lord Lake's anticipation of the future progress of events in the Indian peninsula :-“ I strong opis cannot avoid saying, in the most confidential manner, that, in the event of a necessity of foreign foe coming into this country, without a very great addition of force in European Europeans the consequences will be fatal; as there ought always to be at least India.

CHAP.
XLIX.

1803,

53. Alliance

chiefs.

The immediate consequence of this victory was the capture of Delhi, the ancient capital of Hindostan, and seat of the Mogul emperors, which was taken possession

of without resistance on the following day, and the liberaMogul em. tion of the Emperor Shah Aulum from the degrading purrender of servitude in which he had long been retained by the the French Mahratta and French authorities. The English general Sept. 16.

was received by the descendant of Timour, seated on his throne with great pomp, in presence of all the dignitaries of the empire. Experience in the end proved that he had made a most beneficial change for his own interest; for if the original Tartar conqueror would have had much to regret in the deprivation of real power with which the change in his circumstances was attended, his enfeebled successor found much to envy in the perfect security and unbounded luxury which he enjoyed under the liberal protection of his generous allies. The British power derived great moral influence and consideration from this auspicious alliance; and the name of the Emperor of Delhi proved of more service in the end than ever his arms could have been. But an event of more immediate importance to the success of the campaign soon after occurred. M. Louis, and five other chiefs of the French subsidiary force, despairing of their

cause, delivered themselves up to the British, and were 1. Wel. Desp. marched off to Calcutta ; while the remainder of the iii. 316, 318,

troops under their orders, in a great degree destitute of leaders, retired, though in good order, towards Agra.

319.

one European battalion to four native ones: this I think necessary. I have seen a great deal of these people lately, and am quite convinced that, without King's troops, very little is to be expected : in short, the infantry of this army, as well as cavalry, should be remodelled.”—Confidential Despatch, Sept. 12, 1803. -Well. Desp. iii. 312. This wise advice has been since entirely thrown away; because the English government have not since ventured, in the face of popular clamour, for reduction and retrenchment, to keep up the British troops in India at their former level, far less to augment them to double their amount, as they should have been, to preserve the proper balance between the European and native forces. It was immediately after the battle of Austerlitz that Napoleon, gifted with the sagacity which amounts to prescience, formed his designs for the fortifications of Paris ; and it was immediately after the battle

1

1803. 54.

fall of Agra.

Thither they were speedily followed by General Lake CHAP. with the British army; and, on the 10th October, a gene

XLIX. ral attack was made on their strong positions, intersected by ravines, covering the city from the south. The gallant Battle and sepoy troops, emulating the conduct of their European Oct. 10. brethren in arms, under the guidance of Lieut.-Colonel Gerard, the adjutant-general of the army, drove the enemy in the finest style from the rugged ground which they occupied, and pursuing their advantages hotly, ascended the glacis, and gained possession of the outworks, though not without sustaining a heavy loss. Two days afterwards, Oct. 13. two thousand five hundred of the enemy came over and entered the British service; and the breaching batteries having been completed, and the fire opened with great Oct. 17. effect on the ramparts, the garrison, six thousand strong, soon after surrendered at discretion. By this decisive blow, the last stronghold and great arsenal of the enemy fell into our hands. The stores captured were immense : one hundred and sixty pieces of brass and iron cannon were taken, with all their equipments and ammunition; while the discipline observed by the troops in the midst of their triumphs was so extraordinary, and afforded such Llor a contrast to the license and devastation usually attend- Desp: Oct, ant on military success in Hindostan, that it contributed, 18, 1803. even more than their astonishing victories, to the belief iii. 393, 408, that they were, and the wish that they should continue 670. to be, invincible.1 *

This early and unparalleled series of successes secured

and App:

of Delhi that Lord Lake impressed upon government the necessity of a great augmentation in the European forces in India. The future to the one has passed; and Napoleon, as we shall see in the sequel, fell, because dread of offending the Parisian populace prevented him from carrying into execution what he felt to be essential to the salvation of their independence. The future to us is still to come, though the prospect is enveloped in clouds, and sinister omens may already be discerned in the heavens; but posterity will be able to judge whether the British empire is to be an exception to the rule, and stability is to be given to our power by concessions to popular and ignorant clamour, which have proved fatal to the greatest of those who have preceded

* “ All the inhabitants of this place (Delhi), who for a time fled, perceiving

XLIX.

1803. 55.

Oct. 21.
Nov. 1.

CHAP. the submission or alliance of all the native potentates in

the north of Hindostan ; and a treaty of alliance was

concluded with the Rajah of Bhurtpore, and another with Battle of Runjeet Sing, the Rajah of Lahore, the strength of whose Oct 10. military power was afterwards so seriously experienced

in the Punjaub ; in consequence of which fifteen hundred of the latter's horse joined the British camp. Meanwhile, however, Scindiah moved up fourteen battalions of his best regular infantry from the Deccan by forced marches into the northern provinces ; and these troops, having joined some regiments which had escaped from the wreck of Delhi and Agra, and received an ample supply of artillery, formed a formidable force, which it was of the last importance to destroy before its numbers were still further augmented by additions from other quarters. Leaving behind him, therefore, his artillery, and the greater part of his infantry, General Lake set out with the cavalry and light infantry, by forced marches, in pursuit of the enemy. After several fatiguing days' journey, he reached the spot they had quitted the day before, and received intelligence that they were not more than forty miles from the British camp. Setting out at midnight, he accomplished that distance at the head of his cavalry, in the next twenty-four hours, and about noon, on the 1st November, came up with the enemy, sixteen thousand strong, with seventy pieces of cannon, advantageously posted with their right upon a rivulet, which required to be crossed before their position was reached, and their that no ravages had been committed by the troops, returned to their habitations last night. I am informed from all quarters that the inhabitants beheld

with astonishment this proof of the discipline and good conduct of the army, troops. and declare that hitherto it has been unknown in Hindostan, that a victorious

army should pass through a country, without destroying by fire, and committing every excess the most injurious to the inhabitants; but on the contrary, from the regularity observed by us, our approach is a blessing, instead of bringing with it, as they at first feared, all the horrors of war, attended by rapine and murder; that their cattle remain in the fields without being molested, and the inhabitants in their houses receive every protection.”—LORD LAKE to LORD WELLESLEY, 2d Oct. 1803— Wel. Desp. iii. 426, 427.

On this occasion, also, Lord Lake reiterates his observation of the indispensable necessity of having a large proportion of British troops to achieve success

Oct. 30.

Nov. 1.

Humane conduct of the British

XLIX.

left resting on the village of LASWAREE. The dust, which CHAP. obscured all the ground in advance of the enemy as soon as the rivulet was crossed, prevented the English general

1803. from seeing the extent of the formidable array of guns which protected their front; and in his anxiety to cut off their retreat to the neighbouring hills, he resolved upon an immediate assault with the cavalry alone, before any part of the infantry had come up. The attack was made, and at first with brilliant success. Wearied as they were, the British and native cavalry forced the enemy's line at several points, penetrated into the village, and even carried a part of the artillery; but being unsupported by infantry and cannon, these gallant horsemen could make no reply to the severe fire of artillery and musketry with which 1 Lord they were assailed ; the taken guns could not be with-Lake's

Desp. Nov. drawn for want of bullocks, and, after sustaining a severe 2, 1803. loss, they were obliged to evacuate the ground they had ii. 441, 442. gained, and retire to a short distance from the field.

Encouraged by this success, but yet fearful of the onset of the British infantry when it came up, the enemy sent to Desperato say, that if certain terms were allowed them, they would ensued. deliver up their guns. General Lake, being doubtful of the issue of a second attack, acceded to the proposal, and gave them an hour to carry it into effect; which, however, they took no steps to do. During this interval he formed his little army, consisting of the 76th regiment and seven weak battalions of sepoys, with a few galloper guns, and three regiments of British and five of native cavalry — in

56.

in India. “ The Sepoys,” says he,“ have behaved excessively well; but from my observations on this day, as well as every other, it is impossible to do great things in a gallant and quick style without Europeans; therefore, if they do not in England think it necessary to send British troops in the proportion of one to three sepoy regiments, which is, in fact, as one to six in actual numbers, from the superior strength of the native battalions, they will stand a good chance of losing their possessions in India, if a French force once get a footing in India. You may perceive, from the loss of European officers in sepoy regi. ments, how necessary it is for them to expose themselves ; in fact, everything has been done by the example and exertions of the officers, without which we had not been where we are."-LORD LAKE to LORD WELLESLEY, Oct. 10, 1803 -Well. Desp. iii. 396.

« IndietroContinua »