« AnteriorContinuar »
far as related to the temper and attachment of the native army of Fort St. George^ have been questioned by an officer of that establishment, who was from local experience well qualified to judge.*— That the appearance and discipline of these troops have been improved, there is no doubt; atid they have in the campaign against Seringapatam in 1799, and in the recent war with the Mahrattas, shewn their usual patience and courage; but events have occurred to prove that their affections were not only capable of being alienated from their European officers, but that they could become their murderers. It is not here meant to enter into the particulars of the mutiny at Vellore, which came like a shock to dispel the charm of half a century, and to shew by what a tenure our empire is held; but we are certainly disposed to think, with the officer to whom we have alluded, that this event could not have taken place, had the ties which formerly existed in the native army not been much weakened, if not entirely broken;—of what has since occurred, we forbear to speak, but we are assured that time, and the efforts of great wisdom, can alone afford a hope of a radical cure to the deep wounds that have been inflicted.
The general history of the native army of Fort St. George is short. Sepoys were first disciplined, as has been stated, on that establishment, in 1748; they were at that period, and for some time afterwards, in independent companies, under subadars or native captains. Mahomed Esof, one of the most distinguished of those officers, rose by his talents and courage to the general command of the whole; and the name of this hero, for such he was, occurs almost as often in the page of the English historian f of India, as that of Lawrence and Clive. As the numbers of the native army increased, the form changed. In A.D. \76(i, we find ten battalions of 1000 men each, and three European officers to each corps. In 1770, there were eighteen battalions of similar strength; and in 1784, the number of this army had increased to 2000 native cavalry, and '28,000 infantry: a considerable reduction was made at this period—but subsequent wars and conquests have caused a great increase, and the present effective strength of the native army of Fort St. George consists of eight regiments of cavalry, and twenty-four regiments or forty-eight battalions of native infantry. There are besides several troops of horse artillery, some battalions of gun lascars, and a very large invalid establishment.
A few remarks on the appearance and conduct of this army, with some anecdotes of remarkable individuals, will fully illustrate iti character, and convey to the uninformed reader a just idea of the elements of which it is composed.
The native cavalry of Fort St. George was originally raised by
* Vide Malcolm's Pelitiral History of India, p. 49di 't Orme.
B B 3 «\e the nabob of the Carnatic. The first corps embodied into a regiment under the command of European officers, on the suggestion of General Joseph Smith, served in the campaign of 1768, in the Mysore. From 1771 to 1776, the cavalry force was greatly augmented, but then again declined both in numbers and efficiency. The proportion that was retained, nominally in the service of the Nabob, but actually in that of the Company, served in the campaigns of 1780, 81, 82 and 83, and was formally transferred, with the European officers attached to it, to the Company's service in 1784. The prospect of fortune which the liberality of an Indian prince offered, attracted to this corps many active aud enterprizing European officers, and the favour which a native court extended to its choicest troops, filled the ranks of its regiments of regular cavalry with the prime of the Mahomedan youth * of the Carnatic. When this corps was in the service of the nabob of the Carnatic, though it was often very highly distinguished, the intrigues of a venal court, and irregular payments, caused frequent mutinies. Since it has been transferred to the Company's establishment, a period of more than thirty years, its career has been one of faithful service, and of brilliant achievement, unstained by any example that we can recollect of disaffection or of defeat. The two severest trials of the courage and discipline of this corps were at Assaye and Vellore;—in both these services they were associated with the 19th dragoons.
The distinguished commander f of that gallant regiment had, from the day of its arrival in India, laboured to establish the ties of mutual and cordial regard between the European and native soldiers. His success was complete—his own fame, while he remained in India, was promoted by their combined efforts—and the friendship which he established and which had continued for many years, was, after his departure, consummated upon the plains of Assaye. At the most critical moment of a battle which ranks amongst the hardest fought of those that have been gained by the illustrious Wellington, the British dragoons, when making their extremes! efforts, saw their Asiatic fellow-soldiers 'keep pace for pace, and blow for every blow.' A more arduous task awaited the latter, when the battalions of native infantry which formed the garrison of Vellore were led by the infatuation of the moment to rise upon and murder the Europeans of that garrison. The fidelity of the native
* There cannot be men more suited from their frame and disposition for the duty of light cavalry, than those of which this corps is composed. They are, generally speaking, from five feet five to five feet ten inches in height, of light but active make. Their strength is preserved and improved by moderation in their diet, and by exerciiei common to the military tribe, and which are calculated to increase the muscular force.
t The present General Sir John Floyd, Bart.
cavalry «avalry did not shrink from this severe trial, and after the gates of the fortress were blown open, their sabres were as deeply * stained as those of the English dragoons with the blood of their misguided and guilty countrymen.
But a few authentic anecdotes of some of the most distinguished individuals of the native cavalry of Madras will shew better than volumes the high spirit which pervades that corps.
In the campaign of 1791, when Secunder Beg, one of the oldest subadars of the native cavalry, was riding at a little distance in the flank of his troop, two or three horsemen of Tippoo's army, favoured by some brushwood, came suddenly upon him; the combat had hardly commenced, when the son of the subadar, who was a liavildar or Serjeant in the same regiment, flew to his father's aid, and slew the foremost of his opponents; the others fled, but nothing could exceed the rage pf the old man at his son's conduct;—7 he put him instantly under a guard, and insisted upon his being brought to condign punishment for quitting his ranks without leave. It was with the greatest difficulty that Colonel Floyd, who commanded the force, could reconcile him to the disgrace he conceived he had suffered (to use his own expression) ' from his enemy being taken from him by a presumptuous boy in front of his regiment.'
Cawder Beg, late subadar of the fourth regiment, may be deemed throughout his life as one of the most distinguished officers of the native cavalry of Madras. In 1790, he was attached to Colonel Floyd as an orderly subadar, when that officer, who had been reconnoitring with a small detachment, was attacked by a considerable body of the enemy's horse. Nothing but the greatest exertions of every individual could have saved the party from being cut off. Those of Cawder Beg were the most conspicuous, and they received a reward of which he was proud to the last hour of his life; an English sabre was sent to him, with the name of Colonel Floyd upon it, and an inscription stating that it was the reward of valour.— But personal courage was the least quality of Cawder Beg—his talents eminently fitted him for the exercise of military command. During the campaign of 1799, it was essential to prevent the enemy's looties, a species of Cossack horse, from penetrating between the columns and the rear guard, and plundering any part of that immense train of provisions and luggage which it was necessary to carry to Seringapatam.—Cawder Beg, with two or three of his relations from the native cavalry, and a select body of infantry, were placed under the orders of Captain Malcolm, f who was then political representative with the army of the subah of the Deckan,
* We state this fact upon the high authority of a respectable officer, who belonged k• the 19th dragoons, and was with them on this memorable occasion, t Now Sir Jehn Malcolm.
Bii4 and and commanded a considerable body of the troops of that prince. Captain Malcolm, who had applied for Cawder Beg on account of his reputation, prevailed upon Meer Allum, the leader of the subah's forces, to place a corps of 2000 of his best regular horse under the subadar's orders. Two days after the corps was formed, an orderly trooper came up to Captain Malcolm, and told him that Cawder Beg was engaged with some of the enemy's horsemen. Captain Malcolm hastened to the spot, with s6me alarm for the result, and determined, if Cawder Beg was victor, to, reprove him most severely for a conduct so unsuited to the station in which he had been placed. The fears he entertained for his safety were soon dispelled, as he saw him advancing on foot with two swords in his hand, which he hastened to present to Captain Malcolm, begging at the same time he would restrain his indignation at his apparent rashness, till he heard his reasons; then, speaking to him aside, he said,—
'Though the general of the Nizam's army was convinced by your statement of my competence to the command you have entrusted me with, I observed that the high born and high titled leaders of the horse he placed under my orders looked at my close jacket,* straight pantaloons, and European boots, with contempt, and thought themselves disgraced by being told to obey me—I was therefore tempted, on seeing a well mounted horseman of Tippoo's challenge their whole line, to accept a combat, which they declined. I promised not to use fire arms, and succeeded in cutting him down; a relation came to avenge his death, I wounded him, and have brought him prisoner. You will (he added, smiling) hear a good report of me at the durbar (court) of Meer Allum this evening—and the service will go on better for what has passed,— and I promise most sacredly to fight no more single combats.'
When Captain Malcolm went in the evening to visit the Nizam's gurwal, he found at his tent a number of the principal chiefs, and among others, those that had been with Cawder Beg; with whose praises he was assailed from every quarter. 'He was, ' they said, 'a perfect hero, a Rustum ;t it was an honour to be commanded by so great a leader.' The consequence was, as the subadar had anticipated—that the different chiefs who were placed under him vied in respect and obedience; and so well were the incessant efforts of this body directed, that scarcely a load of grain was lost: hardly a day passed that the activity and stratagem of Cawder Beg did not delude some of the enemy's plunderers to their destruction.
It would fill a volume to give a minute account of the actions of this gallant officer; he was the native aide-de-camp of General
* The native troops in the English service wear a uniform very like that of Europeans.
f The Persian Hercules.
Dugald Campbell, when that officer reduced the ceded districts ;*— he attended Sir Arthur VVellesley (the present Duke of Wellington) in the campaign of 1803, and was employed by that officer in the most confidential manner. At the end of this campaign, during which he had several opportunities of distinguishing himself, Cawder Beg, who had received a pension from the English government, and whose pride was flattered by being created an omrah f of the deckan by the Nizam, retired, but he did not long enjoy the distinction he had obtained,—he died in 1806, worn out with the excessive fatigue to which he had for many years exposed himself.
The body guard of the governor of Madras, which consists of about one hundred men, has always been a very select corps, and the notice and attention with which both the native officers and men of the corps have invariably been treated, may be adduced as one of the causes which have led to its obtaining distinction in every service on which it has been employed.
On the 13th of May, 1791, Lord Cornwallis returned his thanks in the warmest terms to this small corps and its' gallant commanding officer, Captain Alexander Grant, for a charge made upon the enemy. It obtained still further distinction under Captain James Grant, the brother of its former commander, when employed in the year 1801 against the Poligars, a race of warlike men who inhabit the southern part of the Madras territory. There are, indeed, few examples of a more desperate and successful charge than was made during that service by this small corps, upon a phalanx of resolute pikemen, "more than double its own numbers; and the behaviour of Shaikh Ibrahim, the senior subadar,(a native captain,) on that occasion, merits to be commemorated.
This officer, who was alike remarkable for his gallantry and unrivalled skill as a horseman, anticipated, from his experience of the enemy, all that would happen. He told Captain Grant what he thought would be the fate of those who led the charge, at the same moment that he urged it, and heard with animated delight the resolution of his commander to attempt an exploit which was to reflect such glory on the corps. The leaders of the body guard, and almost one-third of its number, fell, as was expected; but the shock broke the order of their opponents, and they obtained a complete victory. Shaikh Ibrahim was pierced with several pikes, one was in the throat; he held his hand to this, as if eager to keep life till he asked the fate of Captain Grant. The man of whom he
* These districts, which were, ceded to the English government by the treaty of Seringapatam, in 1799, lie between Mysore proper, and the territories of the Subah of the Deckan.
-\ He received the title of Cawder Nuaz Khan, or Cawder the favoured lord.