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CHAP. all, four thousand infantry and three thousand five hundred horse-into two columns, and when the time allowed had expired, moved on to the attack. The 76th regiment headed the array, and was directed to move against the enemy's flank, and assault the village of Laswaree; the second column of infantry and all the cavalry were to support the onset of the first, and take advantage of any confusion which might appear in the hostile line. With an undaunted step, the 76th, with General Lake and all his staff at their head, advanced against the terrible line of cannon which was planted along the enemy's front: so admirable was their steadiness that a staff officer observed at the moment, as they approached the fire, that an arrow discharged at one end of the line would go through half the feathers of the regiment. No sooner, however, were they arrived within range of canister-shot than they were received by so tremendous a fire, that in a few minutes a third of their number were struck down; and at this awful moment a large body of the enemy's horse bore down to the charge. Rapidly, however, the men closed to the centre. A close and well-directed volley from this heroic regiment repulsed the attack; but as they retired only to a little distance, and still preserved a 2, 1803. menacing attitude on the flank of the advancing column, iii. 435, 436. General Lake ordered them to be charged by the British
1 Lord Lake's
tory of the English.
This momentous duty was instantly and ably performed Final vic- by the 29th regiment of English dragoons, who by a brilliant charge overthrew the Mahratta horse, and, by clearing the flank of the column of infantry, enabled the successive regiments, as they came up, to deploy. The whole now moved forward at a rapid pace against the enemy's batteries, and, sustaining without flinching the continued and terrific fire of his artillery, at length, by a sudden
I received this striking anecdote from the adjutant-general of the army, Lieutenant-colonel Gerard, to whom the words in the text were addressed by Major Lake, the gallant son of the coinmander-in-chief.
rush, made themselves masters of the guns. Even then CHAP. the left wing did not fly, but commenced, in admirable order, a regular retreat; which, however, was ultimately changed into a rout by the repeated and impetuous charges of the British and native horse, under Colonel Vandeleur. So obstinate was the resistance, so complete the victory, that of seventeen regular battalions who had engaged in the battle, the whole, with the exception of two thousand prisoners, were either killed or wounded; all the gunsseventy in number-forty-four colours, and the whole ammunition and baggage, taken. By this decisive overthrow, not only was the power of Scindiah in the northern provinces completely broken, but the French influence and authority on the banks of the Jumna, which had suddenly grown up to so formidable a height, finally destroyed. But the success was dearly bought by the British army: above eight hundred of that band of heroes had fallen, or were wounded in the fight; the battle was the most severe that had yet been fought in India; Lord Lake avowed, in his secret despatches to the governor-general, that, if the 1 Lord enemy's sepoys had had an adequate appointment of Lake's French officers, the result would have been extremely 2, 1803. doubtful, and that the victory was owing entirely to the iii. 435,446. incomparable valour of the native English troops.1 *
Successes of a subordinate kind, but nevertheless mate- 58. rial to the issue of the campaign, at the same time took Conquest of place in the eastern provinces. In the beginning of September, a British force under Colonel Harcourt broke up from the Bengal frontier, invaded the Cuttack, and a short time after reached the far-famed city of Jugger- Sept. 7. naut. Heavy rains for some weeks afterwards prevented Oct. 14. further operations ; but in the end of the month they iii. 432, 433. again advanced, and occupied without resistance the town
* "The action of yesterday has convinced me how impossible it is to do anything without British troops; and of them there ought to be a very great proportion. The returns of yesterday will, I fear, prove the necessity of what I say too fully."-LORD LAKE to LORD WELLESLEY, Secret Despatch, 2d Nov. 1803-Well. Desp. iii. 446.
CHAP. of Cuttack, and some days afterwards stormed the citadel; and this rich and highly important province was permanently added to the British dominions.
in the Dec
While this succession of victories was establishing the Operations British power in the north of India, triumphs of an equally can under brilliant kind signalised their efforts in the western provinces. Operations commenced in the Deccan with the invasion of the territories of the Rajah of Berar, by General Wellesley, at the head of one army, and by Colonel Stevenson with another, on the 8th August.* On the following day Wellesley arrived at the town of Ahmednuggur, a strong fortress defended by lofty walls of masonry, supported by towers. He at once directed an escalade, which was bravely executed, and proved successful without any very serious loss. Batteries were immediately erected against the citadel, and it surrendered at discretion in two days. Scindiah and the Rajah of Berar now advanced towards the invader, who soon after took possession, without resistance, of the noble city of Aurungabad. Scindiah, upon that, moved as if to threaten Hyderabad ; but General Wellesley, by marching eastward along the banks of the Godavery, effectually frustrated his design, and, at the same time, covered the advance of two important convoys. Jalna, an important fort on the frontier of the Mahratta territory, was soon after carried by Colonel Stevenson; and a few days after, he surprised a considerable detachment of the enemy by a nocturnal attack, and routed them with very heavy loss; while, on the side of Bombay, the fortress of Baroach was carried by storm by Colonel Woodington. But more decisive events were approaching. The confederate chief
* Wellesley's army consisted of the 74th and 78th British infantry, 1368 strong; five sepoy battalions, 5631; one regiment of British dragoons (the 19th), 384; and three of native horsemen, 1347.—Total, 8903 sabres and bayonets, besides 2400 Mysore and about 3000 Mahratta horse.
Stevenson's force was composed of the subsidiary army maintained in the Nizam's territories, and amounted to 7920 men.-See WELLESLEY'S Despatches, iii. 372.
tains, who hitherto had merely hovered round the British CHAP. troops with clouds of horse followed by a few thousand irregular foot, were now joined by the flower of their forces; sixteen battalions of Scindiah's regular infantry, and a train of artillery, under French officers, entered their camp, and they exhibited an imposing array of fifty 366, 370. thousand men, of whom thirty thousand were horse, with 55, 56. a hundred pieces of cannon.1
which led to
This formidable concentration of force demonstrated the necessity of combined operations by the British generals; Movements and, with a view to these, a conference took place between the battle of them on the 21st September. It was then agreed that Assaye. a joint attack should be made on the enemy, who were about a day and a half's journey off, and reported to be encamped at Bokerdun. The two generals separated on the day following, and advanced by different routes— Sept. 22. Colonel Stevenson by the western, General Wellesley by the eastern road, having a range of hills between them. The motive for this separation, though it may be doubted whether it was a sufficient one for a division in the neighbourhood of so great a force, was the difficulty of getting forward the united army through the narrow defiles by which both roads passed, and the chance that, if the two divisions moved by one line, the enemy would retire by another, and the opportunity of striking a decisive blow be lost. In moving forward thus parallel to each other, the two corps were not more than twelve miles asunder; but the intervening hills rendered any mutual support impossible. In presence of an able and enterprising enemy, their position offered the same advantages which the division of the Austrian army by the lake of Garda presented to the blows of Napoleon.* Upon arriving a Gurw. i. within five miles of the enemy, General Wellesley received 36, 401. intelligence that their horse had retreated, and that the 57, 58. Wel. infantry alone remained, exposed to the chance of defeat 372. if quickly assailed. As the chief strength of the Mah
CHAP. rattas lay in their cavalry, the English general resolved upon an immediate attack, and despatched orders to Colonel Stevenson to co-operate in the proposed enterprise.
When he arrived, however, in sight of the enemy, he Danger of found their whole army, infantry and cavalry, with an the British. immense artillery, drawn up in a strong position, with the river Kaitna, which could be crossed only by a single ford, flowing along their front. The sight was enough to appal the stoutest heart: thirty thousand horse, in one magnificent mass, crowded the right; a dense array of infantry, including seventeen regular battalions, powerfully supported by artillery, formed the centre and left; the gunners were beside their pieces, and a hundred pieces of cannon, in front of the line, stood ready to vomit forth death upon the assailants. Wellington paused for a moment, impressed but not daunted by the sight. IIis whole force, as Colonel Stevenson had not come up, did not exceed four thousand five hundred men, of whom twelve hundred were cavalry: the effective native British were 1, 1803, and not above sixteen hundred; and he had only seventeen Sept. 24, 1803. Wel. pieces of cannon.* But, feeling at once that a retreat in 372. Gurw. presence of so prodigious a force of cavalry was imposi. 386, 401. sible, and that the most audacious course was, in such circumstances, the most prudent, he ordered an immediate attack.1
1 Gen. Wellesley's
Scherer, i. 57, 58.
Wellington wisely determined to direct his attack against the Mahratta left, as the infantry, which was there crowded
* The numbers actually under fire were 4520—viz. :
Infantry.-H.M. 74th, 570; H.M. 78th, 600; European artillery, 150.— Total European infantry, 1320. Four sepoy battalions, about 500 each, 2000.Total bayonets, 3320.
Cavalry.-H.M. 19th L. Dragoons, 350; three native regiments, 850.—Total sabres, 1200.
Guns brought into action, 14.
To these must be added one sepoy battalion left in the camp, 600; and 100 men from each regiment left as a baggage-guard, about 700.-Total out of fire, 1300.-Grand total of Wellesley's column, 5820, besides the Mahratta and Mysore horse, who were nearly useless.
For these interesting details, derived from official sources, I am indebted to my esteemed friend Mr Montgomery Martin.