(Last Updated on : 31/01/2009)
In 1857 the British forces were gradually becoming successful in reconquering the previously unconquered princely states of India. The reconquest of Rohilkhand and Western Bihar was one such feat. In addition to this the British East India Company
also restored Lucknow, Allahabad
, Delhi, Kanpur, Azamgarh
, Oudh, Rajputana and Central India. Rohilkhand and parts of Bihar
were awaiting their fate. Azamgarh and Oudh were given top priority when it came to reconquering the strong force of natives. Azamgarh was won under the able guidance of Sir Colin Campbell. Oudh also followed suit and was incredibly assisted by Hope Grant in every move made by the British.
Several columns of armed forces were congregated under the guidance of Penny and Colonel Jones. These columns, united under Sir Colin, were to invade Rohilkhand from its eastern side. It had been arranged that a brigade, under Colonel Coke, should enter it from Roorkee. Coke had arrived at Roorkee on 22nd February. But the country was so disorganised that the month of April soon approached before he could wrap up his commissariat arrangements. When he was ready, Sir Colin made the command a divisional one. He sent Colonel John Jones to lead it. The change, however, did not affect the order of the proceedings due to the good understanding between Coke and his superior.
The division crossed the Ganga
on the 17th of April. They defeated the rebels at Bhogniwala (17th), and at Naghina (21st), and reached the vicinity of Muradabad on the 26th of April. Entering that place, Coke was able to seize the people of several notorious rebels. Then he pushed on to take part in the operations which Sir Colin was directing against Bareilly
Sir Colin was joined by Walpole on the 27th of April. They entered Shahjahanpur on the 30th. He had hoped to find the Maulavi and Nana Sahib there. But both had fled before they arrived. Leaving there a small detachment, under Colonel Hale, he moved then on Miranpur Katra. He picked up the brigade there, but recently commanded by Penny, and marched to Bareilly. There Khan Bahadur Khan was still tyrannising. It seemed as though he had resolved to strike a blow for the stability of his sway.
It was seven o`clock on the morning of 5th May when Sir Colin led his troops to attack the rebel chieftain. In his first line he had the Highland brigade, composed of the 93rd, 42nd, and 79th. They were supported by the Sikh regiment, the 4th Punjab Rifles and the Baluch battalion. The brigade was commanded with a heavy field-battery in the centre and horse-artillery and cavalry on both flanks. The second line of the brigade protected the baggage and the siege-train. The enormous superiority of the rebels in cavalry required such a precaution.
It was apparently the object of the rebels to entice the British to the position they had selected. The British had abandoned their first line as Sir Colin advanced and fell back on the old cantonment of Bareilly. Their movement was covered with their cavalry and guns. Sir Colin, anxious only to bring the rebels to action, crossed the Nattia rivulet. He was advancing beyond it, when the Ghazis, men who devoted their lives for their religion, made a desperate onslaught on a village which the 4th Punjabi battalion had just entered. With the dash of their rush they swept the surprised Sikhs out of the village and then dashed against the 42nd, hastening to their support. Sir Colin happened to be on the spot. He had just time to call out, and alert the 42nd battalion, when the Ghazis were upon them. Vain was their rush against that wall of old soldiers.
They killed some indeed, but not a single man of the Ghazis survived. Some of them, however, had got round the British army and inflicted some damage. But they, too, met the fate of their comrades. The first line then advanced and for about a mile and a half swept all before it. Just then the information reached Sir Colin that the rebel cavalry had attacked his baggage but had been rebuffed. He halted to enable the second line with the baggage and heavy guns to close in. This attempt led to fresh fighting with the Ghazis, which, however, ended as had the previous attacks. The halt made by Sir Colin was unfortunate. It had enabled the rebel chief to withdraw, with his troops, from the town. It would even have been better had the attack been delayed for a single day. On the following morning, as Sir Colin entered the evacuated town on the one side, the division commanded by Jones and Coke entered it on the other. Khan Bahadar Khan eventually escaped into Nepal.
Meanwhile, the Maulavi, who had evacuated Shahjahanpur on the approach of Sir Colin, had no sooner learnt that the British general was approaching Bareilly, than he turned back from Muhamdi. He resolved to surprise Hale at Shahjahanpur. It is more than probable that, had he marched without a halt, he would have succeeded. But when within four miles of the place he stopped to rest his men. This halt gave to a loyal villager the opportunity to hasten to notify Hale of the Maulavi`s approach. Hale gained ample time to take measures to meet his enemy. Giving up the town, he fell back on the prison. The Maulavi, who had eight guns, followed him to that place. From the 3rd to the morning of the 1lth of May, he kept up against Hale.
On ten other hand information of the position of Hale reached Sir Colin on the 7th of May. He at once despatched John Jones with the 60th Rifles, the 79th, a wing of the 82nd, the 22nd Punjab Infantry, two squadrons of the Carabineers, the Multani horse, and guns in proportion, to dispose of the rebels. Jones started on the 8th and reached the vicinity of Shahjahanpur on the 11th of May. He drove the rebel outposts before him and met at a junction with Hale. But the Maulavi was too strong in cavalry to permit of his being attacked with any chance of success. Jones halted, then, until he should receive from Sir Colin troops of the arm of which he stood in need. The Maulavi, meanwhile, occupied the open plain, where the rebels who had been elsewhere confounded, flocked to him from all sides. Matters continued so till the morning of the 15th, when the Maulavi attacked Jones with an increased following.
The fight lasted all day without the Maulavi having been able to make the smallest impression on the British. Sir Colin, meanwhile, deeming the campaign at an end, had distributed his forces. He was himself on his way to Fathgarh, with a small body of troops, when he received Jones`s message. Sending then for the remainder of the 9th Lancers, he turned his course towards Shahjahanpur. He met at a junction there with Jones on the 18th of May.
Even then Jones was too weak in cavalry to force the rebels to a decisive battle. A skirmish, however, brought on a partial action near the village of Panhat. It resulted in the rebuff of the rebels and nothing more. But the Maulavi, realising that he could make no impression on the British infantry, fell back into Oudh. There he was awaiting his better fortune. Sir Colin then distributed the troops and closed the summer campaign. He had reconquered Rohilkhand but a great part of Oudh still remained defiant.
A fortunate chance relieved him, a few days later, of his most dangerous and persistent enemy. The Maulavi had learned that Sir Colin had put his troops in summer quarters. With a small following, then, he attempted on the 5th of June to forcibly enter into the town of Powain. The Raja, a loyalist of the British, had refused him entry. When the Maulavi, seated on his elephant, pressed forward to force the gate, the Raja`s brother seized a gun and shot him dead. Thus dishonourably, by the hands of one of his own countrymen, the life of one of the principal fomenters of the Mutiny was terminated.
Sir Colin, after the capture of Lakhnao (Lucknow), had distributed his forces for the pursuit of the rebels. For this purpose, he despatched a strong column, under General Lugard, to Azamgarh to dispose of Kunwar Singh. Lugard left Lakhnao (Lucknow) on the 29th of March, and made straight for Juanpur. When approaching that place he learned that the rebels had collected a few miles off, to the number of 3000. He reached Tigra on the afternoon of the 1lth of April, after a march of sixteen miles.
Lugard attacked the rebels the same evening. He defeated them with the loss of eighty killed and two guns. The victors lost but with one killed and six wounded. The man killed was the gallant Charles Havelock. Lugard then marched for Azamgarh, still empowered by Kunwar Singh with 13,000 men. That devious chieftain was resolved not to stake the issue of the campaign on a single battle. While ranging his troops, therefore, so as apparently to guard the Tons, he really left there a widely spread-out screen. With the main body, Singh hastily retreated towards the Ganga River
. Lugard forced (April 15) the passage of the Tons, but the army left by Kunwar Singh had made so resolute a defence that the main body had advanced some twelve miles before they were overtaken.
The band consisted of mostly old sipahis (soldiers). On this occasion they did credit to the training they had received. Forming up, on the approach of the British, like veterans, they rebuffed, while still retreating, every attack. Finally they forced the pursuers to cease their efforts. The latter had to mourn the death this day, from wounds received in the fight, of the illustrious Venables, the famous indigo planter. On this day, Middleton belonging to the 29th foot greatly distinguished himself by the rescue from crowds of the rebels of young Hamilton of the 3rd Sikhs. Hamilton was lying seriously wounded, and who ultimately succumbed to his wounds.
Lugard, on entering Azamgarh, had found for the moment sufficient occupation cut out for him in the district. He therefore entrusted the pursuit of Kunwar Singh to Brigadier Douglas. But before Douglas could make much way, the rebel chief had reached the village of Naghai. There, in a strong position, he awaited his pursuer. Douglas attacked him there on the 17th of April. But though he forced the position, it was only to find himself dumbfounded. Kunwar Singh had defended it long enough to secure two lines of retreat to his troops. By these his divided army fell back, misleading the pursuers and re-uniting when the pursuit ceased. On the 20th, however, Douglas succeeded in catching the rebels whilst halted at Sikandarpur. But again they disappeared by several paths, to re-unite again at another fixed spot.
Not only did the rebels reunite but also succeeded in putting on a false scent the officer who had been charged to pounce upon them should they attempt to cross the Ganges. They actually crossed that river and reached Jagdishpur unharmed. There Kunwar Singh received a large addition to his force. His first explicit act was to completely defeat a party of troops led against him by Captain Le Grand of the 35th foot (April 23). Once again Western Bihar seemed at the clemency of the rebels. Expresses were sent across the river urging Douglas to come to the rescue. Douglas at once crossed into Shahabad. But before he could act, the veteran chieftain was no more. Kunwar Singh died three days after he had defeated Le Grand.
From that date till the pacification at the close of the year, the contest in Western Bihar assumed all the character of guerrilla warfare. The rebels were circumvented, they were beaten and they were pursued, only to reappear again. From the end of April to the end of November they kept the district in constant turmoil. To the genius of the Sir Henry Havelock-Allan finally the Indian rebels were expelled. The British officer invented a system of mounted infantry who should give them no rest. In three actions, fought on the 19th, 20th, and 21st of October, he killed 500 of them, and drove 4400 across the Kaimur hills. In those hills, on the 24th of November, Douglas surprised them, killed many of them, and seized all their arms and ammunition. Before the close of the year he could boast that the districts he had been sent to pacify had been completely cleared.