The removal of William Tayler from the administration of the affairs of Western Bihar had given a striking impetus to the rebellion. The feeble men who succeeded him, Samuells and Alonzo Money, were as shuttlecocks in the hands of Kunwar Singh and his drumbeaters. The difficulties of the situation were considerably aggravated by the action of the landowners of Azamgarh and Gorakhpur. Difficulties were also aggravated by the exposure of the districts of Chapra, Champaran, and Muzaffarpur, to the incursions of rebels from Oudh. The arrival of the 5th Irregulars, and, a little later, of the two mutinied companies of the 32nd N. I., from Eastern Bihar, still further heightened the difficulties of the situation. Vainly did Rattray, with his Sikhs, pressed by Alonzo Money, attempt to bar the way to the 5th. He was compelled to fall back on Gaya. The victors would have massacred all the residents at that station. After that there was a minor change of fortune, and Rattray avenged his defeat. The assault was made on the 5th October, by annihilating a body of rebels at Akbarpur (October 7) and by compelling the retreat of the two companies of the 32nd at Danchua (November 6).
The Government of India had, in the meantime, accepted the offer of the able ruler of Nepal, Jang Bahadur. In collaboration, they were to despatch and cooperate with their own troops in the Azamgarh districts and in Eastern Oudh, a division of Gurkhas, led by their own officers. The Government had also raised a regiment of cavalry composed for the most part of European adventurers and commanded by Major J. E Richardson. They had, further, directed Brigadier Rowcroft to cooperate, with a force under his command, on the eastern frontier of Oudh. The government had ordered under him Richardson and his yeomanry corps, fresh from aiding George Yule in his pursuit of the Dhaka mutineers. The Naval brigade of Captain Sotheby had likewise been directed to join Rowcroft.
The Nepal troops, 3000 in number, had entered the Gorakhpur division at the very end of July. They had disarmed the sipahis (soldiers) stationed at Gorakhpur on the 1st of August, had occupied Azamgarh on the 13th, and Juanpur on the 15th of the same month. Joined there by three officers deputed for that purpose by the British Government, by Venables, and by the highspirited Judge of Gorakhpur, William Wynyard, they had surprised and defeated the rebels at Manduri. Later, the battalion had followed up their victory by occupying Mubarakpur and Atraolia. They beat them again at Kudya on the 19th of October and at Chanda on the 30th. After a while, they were joined by a small European force, composed of 320 men of the 10th foot, two guns, and 170 men of the 17th Madras N. I. The whole unit was commanded by Longden of the 10th.
Three days later the Oudh rebels again crossed the border. But again were they driven back. By this time the conclusion had forced itself on the Government that to combat the rebellion in those mutinous districts successfully, more troops were required. The government then arranged with Jang Bahadur for the cooperation of a further body of 9000 picked Gurkhas. The force was to be commanded by Jang Bahadur in person, but to which a British officer, Colonel Mac-Gregor, should be attached as Brigadier-General. They arranged, likewise, to increase Longden's force, and to place it under General Franks, C.B., an officer of tried merit. After these two united bodies have cleared the ground to the north of Benaras and to the east of Oudh, they were to march to Lakhnao (Lucknow). From then on, they were to co-operate with Sir Colin Campbell in the operations against that city. The force under Rowcroft, should then move from Tirhut along the Gandak River towards Gorakhpur, and remain in observation on the frontier.
Rowcroft's force was composed of thirty men of the Royal Marines, 130 of the Sotheby's Naval brigade, 350 Nepal troops, fifty of the police battalion, and four twelve-pound howitzers. The regiment was, in December, at Mirwa, 49 miles from Chapra. Seven miles distant from him, at Sobanpur, was a force of 1200 regular sipahis (soldiers), supported by 4000 armed adventurers. These Rowcroft attacked on 26th December, defeated them and followed up to Mijauli. The rebels were then driven across the Gandak. From there, in obedience to orders, Rowcroft marched to Burhat-ghat, on the Gogra, to await further instructions.
On the approach of Jang Bahadur with his army (December 23 to January 5) he was directed to ascend the Gogra and to co-operate with the Nepal leader. Jang Bahadur had signalised his advance to him by defeating the rebels at Gorakhpur. Rowcroft reached Barari, in close vicinity to Jang Bahadur's camp, on 19th January, and was joined by a brigade of Nepal troops the day following. The next day, to ensure the passage of the river by the main body of the Gurkhas, he drove the rebels from Phulpur. Joined then by the Yeomanry Cavalry, Rowcroft proceeded to enter upon the second part of his instructions. Meanwhile, he was to keep open the communications, while Jang Bahadur should march to Lakhnao (Lucknow).
The task was no mere one, for the surrounding districts were billowing with revolters. Rowcroft and his comrades, however, displayed a skill and energy not to be surpassed in the carrying out of their duties. Captain Sotheby, on the 18th February, captured the strong fort of Chandipur. On the 28th, Rowcroft defeated the rebels at Gorakhpur. The force then crossed the Oudh frontier and occupied Amorha. There the regiment rebuffed with great loss an attack made upon it by a greatly superior body of rebels. In this battle the Yeomanry Cavalry greatly distinguished themselves.
|More Articles in Sepoy Mutiny 1857 (61)|