« AnteriorContinuar »
our observations on that of Bengal; but that is of less consequence, as those who desire to have complete information on this part of the subject can have recourse to the work before us. We shall, therefore, not dwell on details connected with the progress of this armv, from a few companies who landed with Lord Clive in 1756, to its present number, which is upwards of sixty thousand effective native soldiers, commanded by about fifteen hundred* European officers; but content ourselves with noticing those facts which appear best calculated to illustrate the disposition and character of the materials of which it is composed.
The narrative of Captain Williams, though not perhaps altogether calculated to please the fastidious reader, is throughout simple and intelligible: and the authenticity of his facts is confirmed bj the manner in which they are related. His plan evidently was to give the history of each corps from the period in which it was raised till its dissolution, or till it was formed into a regiment of the present establishment, but having been an actor in many of the scenes he describes, he is insensibly led into digressions, which, though sometimes tedious, the reader will generally pardon, from the curious and interesting matter they contain.
The first battalions raised in Bengal were ten companies of 100 men each, commanded by a captain with one lieutenant, one ensign, and one or two Serjeants. Each company had a standard of the same ground as the facings, with a different device, (suited to its subadar, or native captain,) of a sabre, a crescent, or a dagger. The Company's colours, with the Union in one corner, were carried by the grenadiers. The first battalions were known by the name of the captain, by whom they were commanded, and though, in 1764, nineteen corps received a numerical rank corresponding with the actual rank of their commandants at that period, this did not prevent them from continuing to be known under their former appellation, or from assuming the name of a favourite leader; and it is under these names (which Captain Williams has faithfully preterved) that he gives the history of some of the most distinguished corps in the service. He commences with an account of the 15th battalion, which he informs us was raised at Calcutta in 1757, and called the Mathews, from the name of its first commander. This corps was with Colonel Ford, in 1759, when that able officer, with three hundred and forty-six Europeans and fourteen hundred Sepoys, besieged and took by storm the strong fortress of Masulipatam, .making prisoners a French garrison, who, both in Europeans and natives, were nearly double his numbers. In this
* This is independent of the officers of artillery and engineers, and of invalid corps. In 1760, the whole of the European officers in the service of the Company in Bengal amounted to eighteen captains, twenty-six lieutenants, and fifteen ensigns.
daring and arduous enterprize we are told by the historian of India that ' the Sepoys (who lost in killed and wounded on the storm two hundred men) behaved with equal gallantry as the Europeans both in the real and false attacks.'* In 1763, in the wars with the vizier of Oude, the ' Mathews,' which was with the force under the command of Major Adams, is stated, when the Company's European regiment was broken by cavalry, to have nobly supported His Majesty's 84th regiment, whose courage restored the action. Major Adams died shortly afterwards, and a general mutiny of the whole force took place, in which the Sepoys at first joined, but were soon after reclaimed to their duty. Captain Williams at this part enters into a long digression respecting the events of the period. He gives an account of the battle of Buxar, which was fought in 1764, and in which all the native corps appear to have behaved well, though the action was chiefly gained by the courage and discipline of the European part of the force.
In 1782, the Mathews was one of three Bengal corps who mutinied, under an apprehension of being embarked for foreign service; and though the conduct of these corpsf was remarkable for the total absence of that spirit of general insubordination and disposition to outrage by which mutinies of soldiery are usually marked, they were in the ensuing year broken, and drafted into some other battalions. 'Thus fell the Mathews;' (says Captain Williams;) ' a corps more highly spoken of during the twenty-six years it existed, than any battalion in the service; and at this day, (he adds,) if you meet any of the old fellows who once belonged to it, and ask them what corps they came from, they will erect their heads and say, "Mathews ka pultan," or Mathews' battalion.'
* Orme's History of India, vol. iii. p. 489.
f We cannot refrain from giving the following account of this mutiny, which is written by an officer who witnessed it. It is very characteristicai of the Bengal Sepoys. The mutiny, (this officer observes,) excepting a general spirit of murmur and discontent, was confined to the single instance of refusing the service, and whilst in that state preventing the march of two companies which were ordered to protect stores, &c. preparing for the expedition. The men were guilty of no violence of any description, and treated their officers with the usual respect. The discipline of the corps was carried on »s usual; and notwithstanding some of the native officers, and men who had acted the most conspicuous part, were confined in the quarter-guards of their respective regiments, no attempt was made to release them. After a lapse of several weeks, a general courtmartial was held, and two subadars, and one or two Sepoys, were sentenced to death by heing blown away from the mouth of cannon. The sentence was carried into execution in the presence of those troops which had mutinied, excepting one other regiment, which was at the station, without the smallest opposition, or even murmur; and the troops were marched round the spot of execution amidst the mangled remains of their fellowsoldiers, without any other apparent feeling than the horror which such a scene was calculated to excite, and pity for their fate.'
The intended service was given up, and the regiments which had mutinied were pardoned in General Orders; but on the return to the Bengal provinces of General Goddard's detachment, the officers and men of the regiments which had mutinied were urafted into those old battalions.
c c 3 The
The present second battalion of the 12th regiment appears, from Captain Williams's account, to have been raised some months before the Mathews. He indeed calls it the first raised battalion. This corps was at the battle of Plassey. It was named by the Sepoys the Lai Pultan, or the Red* Battalion, and afterwards Gallis,f from the name of one of its first captains. It was associated with the Mathews in allits early service, particularly at Masulipatam,Gheretty, 8cc. but in 1764, it mutinied, on the pretext of some promises which were made to it having been broken. Having no apparent object, it was easily reduced to obedience; but Major Munro,(afterwards Sir Hector Munro,) who then commanded the army, thought a severe example necessary, and twenty-eight of the most guilty were tried by a drum-head court-martial and sentenced to death. Eight of these were directed to be immediately blown away from the guns of the force then at Choprah. As they were on the point of executing the sentence, three grenadiers, who happened to be amongst them, stept forth and claimed the privilege of being blown away from the right hand guns. 'They had always fought on the right, (they said,) and they hoped they would be permitted to die at that post of honour.' Their request was granted, and they were the first executed. 'I am sure (says Captam Williams, who then belonged to the Royal Marines employed in Bengal, and who was an eye-witness of this remarkable scene) that there was not a dry eye among the Marines, although they had been long accustomed to hard service, and two of them had actually been in the execution party which shot Admiral Byng in the year 1757.'
This corps subsequently distinguished itself in 1776, at the battle of Korali. It had been known originally as the first battalion. It was afterwards numbered the 9th, from the rank of its paptain. In a new arrangement of the army it was made the 16ththen the 17th. 'By the regulations of 1796, it has become the 2d of the 12th regiment; and it has of late years, as we shall hereafter have occasion to mention, far outdone its former fame. But we have said enough to shew the style and object of Captain Williams's Memoir; we now proceed to the second part, or supplement pf that work.
There is sufficient internal evidence to satisfy us that the author of this part of the volume is an officer of experience and talent in the army which he describes. He is evidently possessed of the fullest information, and treats the subject like one who has made it the study of his life. The affection and admiration which he evinces
* Probably from its dress.
t The name pf this oflicer (who is still alive) is Galliez. The natives of India often corrupt English names in an extraordinary manner; Dalrymple is made into Daldnffit; pehterlony, Lonyoichfer; Littlejohn, John Litton; Shairp, Surrup; &c. &c.
in every page for the native soldiery of Bengal made us peruse his account with an impression that he was a partial narrator of their deeds, but it is no more than justice to state that we have not discovered an instance in which his warm, and we may add enthusiastic, feelings have betrayed his judgment, and we have found throughout that his accuracy hardly ever admits a fact that is not supported by official record.
Though this part of the work professes to give an account of events subsequent to 1796, the author takes a retrospective view of the changes in the numbers and formation of the Bengal native army, from the earliest date till the publication of the regulations of that year.- He also brings under our view the most remarkable military operations of the latter years of the administration of Mr. Hastings, of whose character and genius he speaks in a strain of eulogium the justice of which we are not disposed to question. When the standards of Hyder Ally floated over the desolated fields of the Carnatic, which the inert rulers of Madras had left exposed at every point to invasion; when a league of Mahratta leaders brought combined disgrace and discomfiture on the immature efforts of the government of Bombay; when internal rebellion threatened the peace of Bengal, and the opposition and violence of his colleagues embarrassed and impeded all his measures, the mind of Hastings derived energy from misfortune and fire from collision, and no one, we are convinced, can dispassionately read the history of the period to which we allude, without being satisfied that, to his intimate knowledge of the interests of the government which he administered, to his perfect acquaintance with the characters of every class of the natives, and to his singular power of kindling the zeal and securing the affections of those he employetl, we owe the preservation of the British power in India. Among the wisest and boldest of the measures he adopted at this moment of public emergency was the sending of two great detachments from the native army of Bengal to Bombay and Madras. A general account of both these is given in the work before us. We shall first notice that which is prior in date.
'At the commencement of the year 1778/ says our author, ' the presidency of Bombay having been seriously embarrassed by the pressure of the Mahratta war which then prevailed, the governor-general felt the necessity for effectual succour, both in specie and troops, being afforded to that quarter of the Honourable Company's possessions, with as little delay as possible. Supplies of the former had been, and would again he, sent by sea, in the course of a six weeks' or two months' voyage, (as well as by bills through the native bankers of Benares), but no such rer source presented itself with regard to troops. On this emergency, the comprehensive mind of Warren Hastings formed the resolution (pn his own responsibility, when opposed, as it was understood, by a majority
c c 4 of of his colleagues in the government) to order a compact yet efficient detachment of native troops from the Bengal army to march across the continent of India " through the hostile and unknown regions from the banks of the Ganges to the western coast of India," to create a division in the councils and operations of the enemy, and eventually to co-operate with the Bombay government and forces in the prosecution of the war in which they were involved.'
This detachment, which was composed of six native battalions, a corps of native cavalry, and a proportion of artillery, all together amounting to 103 European officers, 6624 native troops, with 31,000 followers, including the bazar, carriers of baggage, servants of officers, and families of Sepoys, had to march upwards of eight hundred miles through countries where every obstacle and opposition were to be overcome. It has been well observed by an excellent military author,* that an army in India has the appearance of 'a nation emigrating, guarded by its troops.' To the mere European it would appear that this immense proportion of followers must encumber instead of aiding the progress of a corps on a long march, but those better instructed in Indian warfare know that it is, generally speaking, the number of followers which gives efficiency to an army in the east, as every person with it contributes (if the machine be well managed) in some manner or other to its support. The composition of an Indian army, and the scene of its operations, are so different from any thing that is known in other countries, that we cannot be surprised at the erroneous judgment which those unacquainted with the subject so often form. They forget that every luxury which they impute to the European in India originates not in a habit of indulgencies but in an endeavour to obtain relief from severe suffering; and that if an Indian officer carries as great a quantity of wine, or other articles, which custom has rendered necessary, as he can, it is because he has little prospect after once the campaign has commenced of ever receiving another supply. The country in which he operates furnishes nothing, and the communication with European settlements is in general, from the enemy's superiority in light cavalry, cut off. If he has a large and commodiousf tent, it is because he cannot, from the nature of the climate, exist in a small one, the heat often rising, even in the best tents of the camp, to 110° of Fahrenheit's thermometer. If when ill he is carried in a dooly or palanquin, it is because there are no hospitals, or even dep6ts, to which he can be sent, and there
* Lieutenant General Dirom.
+ We are assured that the Duke of Wellington, when he commanded the army in the Deckan, in 1803, actually ordered a corps to remain in garrison, and refused to allow it to advance with his army, because the officers had neglected to furnish themselves with tents of sufficient texture and size. His experience had taught him how essential such tents were to preserve their health and to enable them to do their duty.