Page images

exposed to a heavy fire of musketry in that direction. This obliged me to bring the second line sooner into action than I intended, and to employ the cavalry-the 19th Dragoons-early in the day, in order to save the 74th from being cut to pieces. But whatever mistakes my officers committed, they more than made up for by their bravery. I lost an enormous number of men: 170 officers were killed and wounded, and upwards of 2000 non-commissioned officers and privates; but we carried all before us. We took their guns, which were in the first line, and were fired upon by the gunners afterwards, who threw themselves down, pretending to be dead, and then rose up again after our men had passed; but they paid dearly for the freak. The 19th cut them to pieces. Scindia's infantry behaved admirably; they were in support of his cannon, and we drove them off at the point of the bayonet. We pursued them as long as daylight lasted, and the exhausted state of the men and horses would allow, and slept on the field."

Mr. Gleig intersperses his work with many portions of conversations, or descriptions, or opinions, from the Duke's lips; but the effect, as might be expected, is generally disappointing. We have selected the one just cited as one of the best instances; but the practice is hardly fair; and speaking was never the Duke's forte. No man can be expected always to talk like a book; and to ensure strict accuracy in pages of conversation, it would be necessary to employ a short-hand writer. The following extract from another conversation shows, if it be trustworthy, what good use he made of his habits of observation, and how the fate of a battle may turn upon the display of such qualities in simple matters by a commanding officer:

'There was one band in particular, under a very daring leader, which gave us a good deal of trouble. The fellow broke into the Deccan, defeated the Nizam's troops, and was growing formidable, when I set out in search of him. I was suffering at the time from boils, a not uncommon complaint by-the-by in India, and riding was disagreeable, but I got upon my horse, and, after a march of sixty miles, ascertained that he had managed to put a river between him and me, which the guides assured me was impassable. We pushed on across a large plain, and presently saw the river, which certainly had no bridges upon it, and looked very much as if it were too deep for

Mr. Gleig makes a mistake here. It was the heavy fire of the enemy's cannon, not of his musketry, that caused so much havoc amongst Wellesley's troops. He says in his despatch, 24th Sept. 1803 (Gurwood, vol. i. p. 324)—' We attacked them immediately, and the troops advanced under a very hot fire from cannon, the execution of which was terrible. The picquets of the infantry and the 74th Regiment, which were on the right of the first and second lines, suffered particularly from the fire of guns on the left of the enemy's position near Assye.' See also the Mem. vol. i. p. 390, Gurwood, &c., and Lieutenant, afterwards Sir Colin, Campbell's account, Supplementary Despatches,' vol. iv. p. 184; also General Wellesley to Colonel Munro, ‘Supplementary Despatches,' vol. iv. p. 210.



fording. I noticed, however, that two villages stood directly opposite to one another, looking like a single village with a stream running through, and I said to myself, "These people would not have built in this manner, unless there were some means of communication from side to side." I made no halt, therefore, and found, sure enough, that a very good ford allowed the inhabitants of one village to visit their neighbours in the other village at all hours of the day. We crossed by that ford greatly to the disgust of our guides, who intended the robbers to get away; and, overtaking the marauders, we attacked ard dispersed them, taking all their guns and baggage. I knew that, without guns and broken up as they were, they would be cut to pieces in detail by the armed villagers, and it was so.'

But that which follows in the same conversation is a striking instance of the danger of the system. One principle of General Wellesley's campaign against the Mahrattas was to choose a season of the year when the rivers were not fordable. He says at p. 140, vol. i., Gurwood,' in his report to the GovernorGeneral: First, because if we are to have a war, we shall carry it on with great advantage during the rainy season.' And again, at p. 169, in a letter to General Stuart, the rivers that rise from the Western Ghauts will soon fill; crossing them, to the native armies, will be dangerous, if not impracticable, but safe and easy to the British forces.' He then made use of boats and pontoons, with which his enemies were unprovided; and his despatches contain minute directions for the construction of pontoons


[ocr errors]

The following references to, and quotations from, the Supplementary Despatches,' show how General Wellesley in the course of his campaigns against Dhoondiah in 1800, and against the Mahrattas in 1803, first collected boats, then experienced the want of, and afterwards employed, bridge-equipments for the transport of his troops across the rivers. At p. 317, vol. i., he begs Captain Malcolm to see that boats are prepared for the passage of the river. At p. 519 he says to Colonel Sartorius-These rivers are not fordable during the rainy season. It will be proper to have a jungar upon each of them, platformed as is that between Tellicherry and Cotaparamba.... and it will be proper that a certain number of boats, platforms, &c., should be laid up in Cotaparamba.' At pp. 538, 576, he mentions to Colonel Stevenson and Colonel Pater that he has given directions that a large number of boats may be collected at Hoonelly, and that it will be necessary to protect them. At p. 91, vol. ii., he tells Colonel Stevenson 'to halt also somewhere near Cadnully till some boats to pass your corps over can be got together.' At p. 96 he writes to the Governor of Bombay, 9th August, 1800 (while still chasing Dhoondiah)-'He is on the left bank of the Malpoorba. A detachment is now employed in crossing that river, and I am here constructing boats for the same purpose which I propose to use at Sungoly. At p. 133 he writes to General Brathwaite, 13th August, 1800- It would be of considerable advantage to warfare in these countries if the army were provided with pontoons. If you approve of the idea, I could easily get some made at Seringapatam. If I had had pontoons on the Malpoorba, Dhoondiah could not have escaped; and it is inconceivable the advantage they would give us over all the native armies.' At p. 506, vol. iii., he writes to General Stuart from Seringapatam, 31st December, 1802- It will be necessary that you should look forward to the establishment of


pontoons and basket-boats, and bridges, as well as for the protection of ferries. But in direct continuation of the conversationextract above quoted, Mr. Gleig remarks to him: The rivers must have puzzled you at times, for you probably did not carry pontoons with you;' and he makes the poor Duke reply:

'No; we had no pontoons in those days. We crossed the rivers either by fords, or when these failed us by bridges resting upon inflated skins. In fact, we made war pretty much as Alexander the Great seems to have done, and as all men must do in such a country as India then was.' 'It was thus that the Duke used to speak of his own operations against the Mahrattas, and of his Indian wars generally.'

It is highly improbable that such a mistake could have been made by the Duke himself. It is equally out the question that Mr. Gleig should have invented a conversation directly contrary to the facts of the case, and to the principles involved in the particular war referred to. Although the Duke certainly had not cylindrical pontoons of the kind now in use, yet he took great pains to obtain, and evidently did obtain, pontoons of a different kind, and he unquestionably made large use of basketboats covered with skins. Rafts resting on inflated skins have been employed in the East time out of mind,-indeed there is reason to believe that they were used by the Sikhs in their latest struggle with the British army, and Sir Howard Douglas tells us in his work on military bridges that he was prepared to use rafts of that kind, if necessary, in Spain; but we do not find any evidence of the Duke's troops in India having availed themselves of such an expedient.

boats on each of the rivers Toombuddra, Werdah, Malpoorba, Gutpurba, and Kistna, in the beginning of the month of June; and I had turned my mind to Capt. Cunningham as the officer to superintend these establishments. He did this duty before for me, and understands it. At pp. 54-56, vol. iv., he writes to Major Doolan on the 27th March, 1803-The sooner we begin to make boats to keep up our communication the better, and I look to the Station of Hallihall and to the Province of Soundah for a large supply. The number which I shall require from thence, to be placed on the rivers which I shall mention hereafter, is forty basket boats.' He adds a detailed memorandum respecting the construction of such boats, which are made of bamboo lath, jungle wood (the best is called Souri, a tough thorn) country rope, leather. At p. 80 he writes from Poonah, 14th May, 1803, to General Nicholls-The rivers will fill between the 14th and 20th June, and at that time we ought to have the bridge in order to be able to carry on the war in any style. . . . . I should think that, if all the hands in the marine yard were applied to this object only for the next fortnight or three weeks (and they cannot have a more important one), it might still be possible to supply the pontoons in good time. At pp. 88, 89, he considers, in a letter to Colonel Dallas, 19th May, 1803, the mode in which these pontoons will be fixed in the rivers,' and the carriages on which they will be conveyed; and asks respecting their weights when loaded, and the number of bullocks which will be required to draw them.' At pp. 106, 107, and 109, he writes further on the 5th June, the 9th June, and the 10th June to Mr. Jonathan Duncan on the same subjects.


We know, however, that the Duke indulged at times in dry humour and practical jokes. Mr. Gleig tells excellent stories of them, to which we shall hereafter advert. Can he have unwittingly afforded another illustration of the same sort?


In 1804 our Sepoy General, if not sighing like Alexander for more worlds to conquer, began at all events to think seriously of something beyond an Indian career;' and he advised Lord Mornington, who had been receiving disagreeable despatches from England, to resign. His advice was not followed; but Lord Mornington persuaded him, on the other hand, to return once more to Seringapatam. In the beginning of 1805, however, 'no considerations were strong enough to keep him in the country. On the 1st February, he renewed his application to the Madras Government; on the 13th he arrived at Fort St. George, packed and ready for the voyage; on the 16th he took possession of a cabin in H.M.S. "Trident," and India saw him no more.'

Though much dissatisfied at the treatment which he had received, he was gratified in as much as the Order of the Bath was conferred upon him at the same time that his brother was created Marquess Wellesley. And he received an address from the natives of Seringapatam, a magnificent banquet at Madras, a valuable sword from the English at Calcutta, and a gold épergne, commemorative of the battle of Assaye, from the officers of the Deccan.


But in studying the Duke's real character and motives we gain more from private letters than from either despatches or reports-always more or less doubtful-of conversations. those with whom he corresponded when in India there was no one to whom he was so little reserved, or of whom he had a higher opinion than the late Sir John Malcolm. A remark that once dropped from him, to the effect that he was never so much inclined to think himself wrong as when he differed from Sir John Malcolm,' is still remembered in the Malcolm family; and he expressed his own opinion of their respective characters, in one sense, when he said, in writing to Colonel Malcolm on the 14th Sept. 1804, from Fort William : *

'You and I have frequently had discussions upon military and political subjects, the result of which has generally been that we don't much differ in opinion. You generally see what is right and what is desirable, I what is practical. In this instance I think I have taken a correct view of the subject. Nothing shall induce me to stay in India one moment after Holkar will be defeated.'

Malcolm fully reciprocated his feelings of esteem and appre

*Kaye's 'Life and Correspondence of M.-Gen. Sir J. Malcolm.' 1856.


ciation, and about the same time he received a series of letters from General Wellesley from Calcutta, of which Mr. Kaye says, 'There was not another man living to whom Arthur Wellesley would have written such letters. To say this is to say that they are sacred.' But of other letters which passed between them, Mr. Kaye has published several bearing upon the subject of General Wellesley's return home from India, and his views. respecting both his own advancement and that of Malcolm, which Mr. Gleig appears not to have seen. On the 4th of September, 1804, Malcolm wrote an excellent letter to Wellesley, pressing upon him the necessity for his taking part in operations which were then pending, and pointing out to him what assistance he would be able, if he were in the province, to afford to the Commander-in-Chief, both in the conduct of military operations and in effecting a political settlement. He said in the course of this letter,—

'I know circumstances might arise, which would make your situation in the subordinate part it might fall to your share to act unpleasant; but a sense of duty and zeal for the public service would prevent such feelings having weight; and after the principles of the line to be followed being clearly laid down, as they will be while you are at Calcutta, I can see no chance of a difference of opinion in any of those employed. At all events, we should not decline a station in which we are positive we can do a great deal of good, from a fear of not having it in our power to do all the good we might wish or intend ;' and towards the close of it, referring to the then President of the Board of Control and Chairman of the Court of Directors,

It is, therefore, against these that the great effort must be made, and the action, which is to decide the destiny of our Indian empire, must be fought upon the banks of the Thames, not on the banks of the Ganges.'

And the General replied to that letter at length in the most candid manner. He said,

'But I acknowledge that I don't exactly see the necessity that I should stay several years in India in order to settle affairs, which, if I had been permitted, I should have settled long ago; or any reason for which I should involve myself in fresh troubles and difficulties, with which I have hitherto had no concern. I look to England, and I conceive that my views in life will be advanced by returning there. I don't conceive that any man has a right to call upon me to remain in a subordinate situation in this country, contrary to my inclination, only because it will suit his views, and will forward objects for which he has been labouring. If an officer in my situation is the proper person to be entrusted with the execution of the measures to secure those objects, there must be many equally capable with myself of performing


« EelmineJätka »