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together, presented less formidable obstacles than the im- CHAP. mense mass of horse which glittered on the right. With this view, the British troops were moved off to their own right the lateral movement being covered by the cavalry Battle of and the Mysore horse; and the whole crossed the Kaitna Sept. 23. at the ford, and immediately formed in two lines, with the cavalry in reserve, on the enemy's extreme left. The confederates upon this altered their front, and, instead of remaining parallel to the Kaitna, formed a diagonal line across the plain from that river to the village of Assaye, on the Juah ravine. The guns were disposed along the whole front, and presented one immense battery, formidable alike by its numbers and the weight of its metal. With the pickets and whole 74th in front on the right, and the 78th on the left, the British line marched swiftly forward to the attack; but, when they came within range, their guns were almost immediately dismounted by the superior fire of the enemy's artillery. Nothing, however, could arrest the steady advance of the pickets and 74th regiment, who moved direct upon Assaye with the utmost intrepidity. But as they approached the enemy, and got within reach of their grape-shot, the execution became so severe that frightful chasms were soon made in their 1 Wellesranks, and a large body of Mahratta horse, which had ley's Letter got round the village unperceived, taking advantage of Munro. the openings thus made, dashed through with fearful 401, and effect, and a forest of uplifted sabres was seen in the i. 391, 394. centre of the British line.1*
The extraordinary loss sustained by the 74th on this occasion was chiefly owing to the officer who led the pickets not having followed out Wellington's instructions, which were to make the attack on Assaye by a circuitous sweep, which would have kept the men for the greater part of the way out of the reach of cannon-shot; instead of which, carried away by a heroic courage, he moved direct upon the village, over a space swept like a glacis by the cannon of the enemy. "I lament," said Wellington, "the consequences of this mistake; but I must acknowledge, it was not possible for a man to lead a body into a hotter fire than he did the pickets on that day against Assaye. One company of the pickets alone, consisting of one officer and fifty men, lost the officer and forty-four rank and file."-WELLINGTON'S Mem. 24th Sept. 1803; GURWOOD, i. 393, 403.
to Sir T.
All seemed lost; but at that critical moment Wellington ordered up the British and native cavalry, under Colonel Maxwell. On they came at the gallop the galImminent lant 19th dragoons, headed by their heroic leader, bore down upon the Mahratta horse, now disordered by sucthe English, cess, with irresistible force, and drove them off the field
ultimate victory of
headlong into the Juah. The 74th and pickets, relieved from their assailants, now rallied with admirable discipline; and the second line coming up, a great part of the guns which had spread such havoc through the field were taken. Still, however, the enemy held Assaye with a large body of infantry; and the cannon placed around it thundered on the attacking corps with terrific effect. But at that important juncture Wellington, having taken the guns on his left, assailed it with the 78th and a regiment of native horse, with such resolution that that important post was at length carried by storm. In this desperate conflict, Wellington, who led on the gallant 78th regiment in person, had a horse shot under him. The enemy resisted to the very last the artillerymen being bayoneted at their guns; the infantry in many places lying in files on the 1 Gurw. i. ground, as they had stood in their ranks. During the retreat a large body of foot-soldiers collected together, Wel. Desp. and for a short time showed a determined front; but Gen. Wel- they were dispersed by a brilliant charge of Colonel MaxT. Munro, well with the unconquerable 19th, in which that gallant officer lost his life.1
lesley to Sir
Some of Scindiah's gunners, when the flight was general, Results of fell on the earth and feigned to be dead, to avoid the
sabres of the cavalry; but no sooner had the horsemen passed than they started up, turned the guns about, and opened a destructive fire on the backs of the advancing enemy. Indignant at the fraud, the British soldiers wheeled about, again stormed the batteries, and bayoneted the treacherous gunners at their pieces. At length the enemy fled on all sides, just as night set in, leaving in the
1 Gen. Wel
Desp. to Sir
and i. 386.
hands of the British ninety-seven pieces of cannon, and CHAP. almost all the ammunition and stores of the army. The Mahrattas had two thousand men slain on the field, and six thousand wounded; but the British loss was very lesley's severe, and the victor found himself weakened by above T. Munro. fifteen hundred killed and wounded, embracing more than 401, 403; a third of the whole British force.1 "Never," says Wel. Desp. Southey, "was victory gained under so many disadvan-669. tages. Superior arms and discipline have often provided 60, 61. against as great a numerical difference, but it would be describing the least part of this day's glory to say that the number of the enemy was as five to one; they had disciplined troops in the field, under European officers, Quarterly who more than doubled the British force; they had a 225. hundred pieces of cannon, which were served with fearful skill, and which the British, without the aid of artillery, twice won with the bayonet."**
After this decisive overthrow, the confederates retired twelve miles from the field of battle, where they passed operations the night; but no sooner did they hear of the approach battle of of Colonel Stevenson, who, with eight thousand men, was advancing against them, than they fled headlong down the Ghauts, and reached the bottom in great confusion, without either cannon or ammunition. These losses, however, were soon restored, and the exhausted state of both corps of the British army rendered any effective pursuit of an enemy still so immensely superior in cavalry altogether impossible. Colonel Stevenson soon after reduced Assee- Oct. 21. ghur, an important fortress in the Rajah of Berar's dominions; while Wellington, by a series of masterly manœuvres, defended the territories of his allies, the Nizam and the Soubadar of the Deccan, and threw back the clouds
"Their fire," said the Duke of Wellington," was so heavy, I much doubted at the time whether I should be able to prevail on the troops to advance; and all agree that the battle was the fiercest that has ever been seen in India. Our troops behaved admirably-the sepoys astonished me."-WELLINGTON to MAJOR MALCOLM, October 3, 1803; GURWOOD, i. 437.
CHAP. of the Mahratta horse on their own territories. After some weeks' marching and countermarching, Scindiah, disgusted with a war in which no plunder was to be obtained, and of which the burden as well as dangers fell entirely on his own dominions, made proposals for peace. An armistice, on certain terms, was agreed to by the British general; but the conditions not having been complied with by the Mahratta chiefs, he resolved not to lose the opportunity which presented itself of determining their indecision, by striking a decisive blow against their united forces before they were thoroughly recovered from their late defeat. Having effected a junction with Colonel Stevenson, the whole moved against the enemy; and late on the evening of the 28th, after a fatiguing march in a sultry day, when the Mysore horse, which were skirmishing with the Mahratta cavalry in front, cleared away, a long line of cavalry, infantry, and artillery could be distinctly perceived, extending about five miles in length, in the plains in front of ARGAUM. Though the men were much exhausted by the heat, Wellington deemed the opportunity too favourable to be lost; for he had fourteen battalions of infantry, and six regiments of cavalry-in all about fourteen thousand men-besides four thousand irregular horse; and the enemy did not exceed forty thousand. Rapidly, therefore, the formation was made: the infantry in the first line, with the 74th and 78th on the right, and in advance, so as to enter first into action; the cavalry in the second line following the first in echelon; the Mysore and Mogul horse on the left, tou's Desp. thrown back, so as rather to protect the rear than enter into the fight, and opposite to the immense mass of Mahratta horse which crowded the enemy's right wing.1
Gurw. i. 528, 531.
As the British line advanced, the European regiments in front on the right were received by a heavy fire from the batteries placed along the front of the enemy's line; and shortly after they were assailed in flank with the utmost fury by a large body of Persians, who engaged in
a close conflict, hand to hand, with the British. After a CHAP. fierce struggle, however, the Asiatic scimitar yielded to the European bayonet, and the assailants were almost wholly destroyed. Three battalions of sepoys, who came next in the line, then advanced in echelon in good order, but no sooner came into cannon-shot than they disbanded and fled, though they had advanced bravely through a much heavier fire at Assaye. Wellington, however, was at hand to repair the confusion. Rallying the fugitives, and advancing at their head himself, he soon restored the day a disorderly charge of Scindiah's horse on the left of the line was repulsed by the steadiness of another battalion of the native troops; and the British regiments in advance having carried the principal batteries which played upon their line, the whole Mahratta force went off in confusion, leaving in the hands of the victors thirtyeight pieces of cannon, and all their ammunition. Had there been an hour more of daylight, or the delay consequent on the breaking of the sepoy regiments not occurred, the whole of the enemy would have been destroyed; as it was, the pursuit was actively continued for many miles by the British cavalry, by moonlight, and all their elephants and baggage taken. But the singular failure of the three native regiments, albeit veteran soldiers who had formerly distinguished themselves, demonstrates the neces- 1 Wellingsity of a large proportion of European to native troops in ton to Major all Indian campaigns; for we have the authority of 2, 1803. Wellington for the assertion, that if he had not been at 529, 534. hand to repair the disorder, the day would have been lost.1
On the very day after the battle, Wellington marched 67. to invest Gawilghur. This celebrated fortress is situated Siege and in a range of mountains between the sources of the rivers Gawilghur. Poorna and Taptee, and stands on a lofty pile of rocky eminences, surrounded by a triple circuit of walls, rising from the edge of inaccessible precipices. The entrances are by three narrow and steep paths, winding for a long ascent through the cross-fire of batteries, and intersected