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CHAP. passage, had to sustain an arduous conflict, and experi
enced a frightful loss.
Meanwhile Captain Nicholl, with the treasure of the
army and six companies of sepoys, who had been first the close of ferried across, proceeded to Khoshalghur, where they were the retreat, attacked by a large body of Scindiah’s troops, who,
with the characteristic faithlessness and rapacity of Mahrattas, assailed their allies in their distress in hope of plunder ; and, being beat off, openly joined Holkar's camp. Almost all the irregular horse, which had come up to Rampoora, soon after deserted to the enemy; and even some companies of sepoys, shaken by the horrors of the retreat, abandoned their colours and followed their example, though in general the conduct of these faithful troops was exemplary in the extreme. Abandoned by his horse, Colonel Monson, on his route from Khoshalghur to the British frontier, formed his whole men into a square, with the ammunition and bullocks in the centre, and in that order retreated for several days, almost always fighting with the enemy, and surrounded by fifteen thousand indefatigable horsemen, who were constantly repulsed with invincible constancy by the rolling fire of the sepoys. At length, however, this vigorous pursuit was discontinued; the firm array of the
British dissolved as they entered their own territories ; Desp. Sept. great numbers perished of fatigue or by the sword of the Wel. Desp. pursuers, others allowed themselves to fall into the hands imke's Deard of the enemy; and the sad remnant of a brilliant divi
Desp. July 4,1805. sion, which had mustered in all, with its reinforcements v. 289, 292. on the retreat, six thousand regular and as many irregu
lar troops, now reduced to a thousand or twelve hundred men, without cannon or ammunition, arrived at Agra in a scattered and disorderly manner about the end of August.1
Then was seen in clear colours the precarious tenure by which our empire in India is held, and the indispensable
i Colonel Monson's
Lord Wellesley to Secret Com mittee, v. 333, 343. Aug. 28.
necessity of those vigorous measures in former times, CHAP. which, to an inexperienced observer, might wear the XLIX. aspect of rashness. The overthrow of Monson's division resounded through Hindostan from sea to sea. Great as Alarming had been the disasters of the retreat, they were magnified tion through by the voice of fame, ever ready to augment the extent of the whole of public and private calamity, and by the sinister reports of the native powers, whose wishes, father to their thoughts, represented the British empire in Asia as tottering to its fall. The general consternation was increased by the cruelties exercised by Holkar on the prisoners of all descriptions who fell into his hands ; the Europeans were immediately put to death, and the natives who refused to enter his service, mutilated in the most shocking manner. Everywhere an alarming fermentation was apparent. The conduct of several of the allied states was such as to afford just grounds to distrust their fidelity; that of others was verging on open hostility. Scindiah, so far from acting up to the spirit or even letter of his alliance, was secretly intriguing with, and even publicly assisting, the enemy; the Rajah of Bhurtpore, already repenting of his recent treaty, was supporting him with his treasures and his arms; the spirit of disaffection was 1 Lord Lake found to have spread to some of the chiefs of the newly Wellesley, acquired British provinces ; even the fidelity of the sepoys Lord wel.
July 1,1805. was not everywhere proof against the seductions or threats to General of the enemy; and that general despondency prevailed 11, 1804. which is so often at once the forerunner and the cause of 205. public calamity.
But the British government in India was at that period in the hands of men whom no reverse could daunt, Generous whose energy and foresight were equal to any emergency. able resoluGenerously resolving to take their full share in the tions of Lord
Wellesley responsibility of all the measures which had turned out and Lord so unfortunately ; determining to screen the commander from all blame, even for those details of execution which
were necessarily intrusted to himself ; they set themselves vigorously to stem the progress of disaster. * The cause which had led to it was obvious; it was the reversing the principles which had produced the triumphs of Delhi and Laswaree. These glorious days had been the result of striking with an adequate force at the heart of the enemy's power, and suspending, or even neglecting, all minor considerations to accomplish that grand object : the present misfortunes were the consequence of attacking from four different quarters at once, with forces inadequate to victory, if singly brought into action ; trusting for success to their combined operation, and
cing one column, alone and unsupported, into the heart of the enemy's power. The British victories had been the result of the strategy which caused Napoleon to triumph at Ulm and Jena : their misfortunes, of the
system which, for twenty years, had chained disaster to 1 Lord Wel- the Austrian standards. Wellesley resolved instantly to Lord Lake, return to this enlightened plan of operations, from which,
in an evil hour, under the influence of undue contempt Desp. ix of the enemy, his lieutenants without his orders had 191, 192. departed. 1 “ The success of your noble triumphs of last
year,” said he to Lord Lake,“ proceeded chiefly from
Sept. II, 1804. Wel.
iv. 207, and
*“ From the first hour of Colonel Monson's retreat," said Marquess Wellesley to Lord Lake, “I always augured the ruin of that detachment : if any part is saved, I deem it so much gain. Whatever may have been his fate, or whatever the result of his misfortunes to my own forces, I will endeavour to shield his character from obloquy, nor will I attempt the mean purpose of sacrificing his reputation to save mine. His former services and zeal entitle him to this indulgence; and however I may lament or suffer from his errors, I will not reproach his memory if he be lost, or his bravery if he survives. We must endeavour rather to retrieve than to blame what is past; and, under your auspices, I entertain no doubt of success. Every hour, however, which shall be left to this plunderer will be marked with some calamity; we must expect a general defection of our allies, and even confusion in our own territories, unless we can attack Holkar's main force immediately with decisive success. I perfectly agree with you; the first object must be the defeat of Holkar's infantry in the field, and to take his guns. Holkar defeated, all alarm and danger will instantly vanish. Even a doubtful battle would be perilous : we must therefore look steadfastly at that grand object, and if we accomplish it, every other will be easy.”—Lord WELLESLEY to Lord LAKE, Sept. 11, 1804 ; Well. Desp. iv. 205.
At the same time Lord Lake wrote to Lord Wellesley :-" The first object, in
your vigorous system of attack. In every war the native CHAP. states will always gain courage in proportion as we shall allow them to attack us ; and I know that you will always 1804. bear this principle in mind, especially against such a power as Holkar.”
Proceeding on these principles, every exertion was made to reinforce the main army under Lord Lake, then lying Advance of at Cawnpore, and put it into a condition speedily to take Delhi. the field. It was full time that some decisive effort should be made to retrieve affairs, for the British empire in Hindostan was in a very critical situation. Rapidly following up his success, Holkar pursued the remains of the beaten army to the banks of the Jumna ; and on the British cavalry under Lord Lake (who had crossed that river at Agra) approaching his position near Muttra, he drew off—the infantry and guns taking the direction of Delhi, while the horse engaged the attention of the English troops by endeavouring to cut off their baggage. On the 8th of October the enemy's main force arrived Oct. 8. before the imperial city, and summoned the garrison, consisting only of one battalion and a half of sepoys, Wel. Desp. with a few irregulars, to surrender ;' while his emissaries iv. 343, 318. used every exertion to excite the native chiefs in the
v. 293, 297;
my opinion, is to destroy Holkar : I shall therefore do everything in my power to bring him to action at an early period, which, by his bringing his guns, and having met with success, I think very probably may soon take place. The taking a large force with me will, of course, leave our provinces in a weak and defenceless state; but as it appears the whole of India is at stake, some risk must be made to accomplish this, our principal object. Despondency is of no avail ; we must therefore set to work, and retrieve our misfortune as quickly as possible. Here, my dear Lord, I must remark, that whatever may be said upon the subject, you surely cannot be implicated in the business ; for all blame ought to fall upon me for detaching the force in the first instance, when I thought I had selected a corps, with an officer to command them, who would have accomplished all my wishes, and obtained the end proposed. This being the case, I certainly became responsible, in the first instance, and shall upon every occasion, both here and at home, declare publicly that you had nothing to do with the march of that detachment, and that all censure for that measure must be attributed to me, and me alone."-LORD LAKE to LORD WELLESLEY, Sept, 21, 1804; Well. Desp. iv. 216. These are the principles by which empires are won and saved : here is, on the part of both these great men, the eye of Napoleon and the heart of Henry IV.
and retreat. Oct. 10.
CHAP. Doab to revolt against their European masters, and with
such success as seriously embarrassed the operations of the British army, especially in the vital article of obtaining supplies.
For seven days Holkar continued before Delhi, batterHis repulse ing its walls with the utmost vigour ; but such was the
resolution of the little garrison under Colonels Ochterlony and Burn, that they not only repulsed repeated assaults, but, sallying forth, carried a battery which was violently shaking the rampart, and spiked the guns. At length the Mahrattas, intimidated by the approach of Lord Lake, raised the siege, and retired by slow marches and a circuitous route through the hills in the direction of Dieg. The English general had now the fairest prospect of bringing the enemy's whole force to actions for the train of artillery which accompanied him rendered his retreat very slow; and ten thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry followed the British standards. But a total failure of supplies, arising from the disaffection or treachery of the native chiefs, by whom they were to have been furnished, rendered it impossible to continue the pursuit for some days; and during that time Holkar got out of the reach of immediate attack, and, leaving his infantry and artillery to proceed to Dieg, put himself at
the head of his whole cavalry, with which he crossed the to Lord Wel. Jumna above Delhi, and proceeded to ravage the country, lesley, July 1803 W.1
. and stir up resistance to the English beyond that river. 293, 297. Suddenly, a few days after, he advanced by forced Lord Wol. marches to attack Colonel Burn, who, with a detachment, Committee
. consisting of a single sepoy battalion, had been sent to iv. 345, 318. Seranhunpore, after the retreat of the enemy from the
neighbourhood of Delhi."
Lord Lake upon this made a corresponding division of his force. Putting himself at the head of the horseartillery, two thousand cavalry, and fifteen hundred light infantry, he pursued in person IIolkar’s horse on the one side of the river ; while General Fraser, with
82. Battle of Dieg.