Three days before that happened, the rebels, encouraged undoubtedly by Havelock's retreat from Bashiratganj, made their second grand assault on the position of the Residency. It began around half-past ten in the morning, by the successful rebounding of a mine. This explosion made a great breach in the defences. Against this, they marched in considerable numbers, and with great resolution. But the men of the garrison were on the alert. A heavy musketry fire from the roofs of the adjacent houses was kept on the advancing antagonist, while a severe opposition met their front attack. Eventually they were driven back with tremendous loss. A second attack on another point, Sago's house, and a third, on Innes's, Anderson's, and Gubbins's posts, met with a similar result. But the attacks had lasted twelve hours. Again the loss of the garrison was small.
Two days later a sortie made by the garrison was rebuffed. Six days after that, the 18th, the besiegers made their third grand assault.
The rebounding of the mine on this occasion, under one of the Sikh squares, was most effective. It made a breach, roughly twenty feet wide, in the defences. Against this the rebels came with unexpected enthusiasm. Again, however, the men of the garrison were ready for them, and again did they drive them back with profound loss.
Still the rebels hung on. They believed it was but a question of time. They knew about the sufferings of the garrison to some extent. The crusaders then, kept up a fire almost unceasing, varied by sudden rushes on points which they regarded as weak or likely to yield under pressure. In one sense the sincerity they held as to the wearied condition of the garrison was true. Their ranks were thinning swiftly. They had to mend the defences daily, to remove supplies from the buildings which had either fallen in or which succumbed to the enemy's shot. They also had to subvert the rebels' mines, to remove guns, to erect barricades, to bury corpses, to serve out the daily rations, and, with the weak and daily receding garrison, to supply fatigue parties of eight or ten men each to do work. The garrison, however, performed all these duties with cheerfulness and resolution.
Their hopes of relief were becoming less bright by each hour. On 28th August a letter from Havelock informed them that he had no hope of being able to relieve them for the next twenty-five days. Much might happen in that period. One result of the letter was a reduction of the rations.
Eight days later the rebels made their fourth assault. They attacked two points simultaneously, but in vain. Again were they compelled to turn their backs. On this occasion the loyal sipahis (soldiers) of the 13th N. I. behaved magnificently.
That these repeated failures demoralised the assailants was shown by the relaxation of their efforts on the succeeding day of their rebuff. They never tried a grand assault after the 5th of September. On the contrary, they contented themselves with pouring in an unceasing fire of guns and musketry, with mining, with attempting surprises, and with attacking isolated points. But the labour of the garrison was by no means diminished. The season was the unhealthiest season of the year. Hardly a day passed but some portion of one or other of the posts fell apart under the enemy's fire. On 8th September, 280 round-shot (cannonball), varying in size from a twenty-four to a three-pounder, were gathered from the roof of the brigade mess-house alone.
On the 16th, the messenger Angad was again sent out for news. He returned, on the night of the 22nd, with information that help from outside would certainly arrive within a fortnight. The next day a smart cannonade was heard in the direction of Kanhpur (Kanpur). Firing was again heard the following morning. That night a messenger who had gone out, returned with the information that the relieving force was in the outskirts of the city. The next day it was clear that a tremendous struggle was going on within the city. About half-past one, people were noticed leaving the city with bundles on their heads. Half-an-hour later, sipahis and other armed bodies were observed to follow them. It became evident that end was at hand. The garrison brought every gun and mortar to bear on the retreating antagonist. At four o'clock the report arose that some English officers, dressed in shooting coats, and some soldiers, wearing blue pantaloons, had been seen in the vicinity of the Moti Mahal.
An hour later fusillades of musketry, rapidly growing louder, were heard in the city. Soon, the bullets were whistling over the Residency. Five minutes later the British troops were seen fighting their way through one of the main streets. The long pent-up feelings of the garrison found vent in a succession of deafening cheers. Even many of the wounded crawled forth from the hospital to join in that shout of salutation.
But the Residency had been relieved, or, to speak more precisely, had been reinforced. For, after the frenzy of joy had given place to sober considerations, it was distinguished that the combined troops were not strong enough to guard the non-combatant portion of the garrison through the city. It was still thronged with armed rebels, and from there to Kanhpur (Kanpur). The strengthened garrison was awaiting the arrival of the new Commander-in-Chief, Sir Colin Campbell.
Havelock had just returned to Kanhpur (Kanpur), on the 13th of August. He gave his men a rest on the 14th and 15th. Then on the 16th, they marched against Bithor, where almost 4000 rebels, mostly revolted sipahis (soldiers) of various regiments, had congregated in Havelock's absence. Havelock attacked and defeated them, though only after a very stubborn fight. However, the victory was complete, the position was captured, and two guns were taken. But the British loss was heavy. It amounted to between sixty men killed and wounded, and twelve who succumbed to sunstroke.
It was on the day following that Havelock read in the Calcutta Gazette the appointment of Outram to the command of Kanhpur (Kanpur). Outram's arrival could not be very distant. This nomination removed Havelock from the position of independent commander. In such a case, a sense of responsibility must necessarily weigh upon a commander. The position at Kanhpur (Kanpur), with a small force, was not, in a military sense, defensible except by a large force. It however possessed one merit, that it was centrally located. In the eyes of Havelock that fact alone almost overcompensated for the other disadvantages. He wrote, then, to the Commander-in-Chief to announce that if hopes of hasty reinforcements were held out to him he would continue to hold Kanhpur (Kanpur). Or else, he would be forced to retire to Allahabad. The reply of Sir Colin was of a nature to decide him to remain at Kanhpur (Kanpur).
Since the 3rd of August, reinforcements in small parties had been gradually arriving at that station. Outram himself came only on the 16th of September. This celebrated man had reached Allahabad on the 2nd of that month. He had despatched thus, on the 5th, to Kanhpur (Kanpur) the 5th Fusiliers and Eyre's battery of eighteen-pounders. Outram then started for himself the same evening with the 90th. On the way up, Eyre, with 160 infantry and two guns, crushed a body of insurgents who had crossed over from Oudh with the view to cut Outram's communications. This action completely cleared the road, and enabled Outram to reach Kanhpur (Kanpur) with the much-needed reinforcements on the 16th.
The force now at Havelock's disposal consisted of 3179 men of all arms. It was constituted as follows: The first infantry brigade, composed of the Madras Fusiliers, the 5th Fusiliers, the 84th, and two companies of the 64th, was commanded by Neill. The second, composed of the 78th Highlanders, the 90th, and Brasyer's Sikhs, was led by Colonel Hamilton of the 78th, with the rank of Brigadier. The artillery brigade, composed of Maude's battery, Olpherts' battery, and Eyre's battery of eighteen-pounders, was commanded by Major Cooper. Barrow led the cavalry, consisting of 109 volunteers and fifty-nine native horsemen. Crommelin was the Chief Engineer.
Havelock crossed the Ganges, on the 19th, with approximately 400 men, to hold Kanhpur, under cover of Eyre's heavy guns. He left behind Colonel Wilson of the 64th, with the headquarters of his regiment. The guns of Eyre's regiment followed the next day. On the 21st, Havelock drove the rebels from Mangalwar, then halting at Undo, and pushed on to Bashiratganj. The place was already the scene of three contests. There, Havelock encamped for the night. However, the impedimenta (baggage and equipment carried by an army) arrived two hours later, and with it the luxury of dry clothes and a dinner. Rain was still falling as the little force set out at half-past seven the next morning. Marching sixteen miles, it came in sight of the bridge of Banni. Havelock then crossed the bridge, and encamped for the night on its further bank. He then fired a royal salute to intimate the defenders of the Residency the near approach of relief.
The 23rd was to be a day of action. Lakhnao (Lucknow) was but sixteen miles distant. The wind no longer bore to the British Camp the routine sound of the blasting of heavy guns against the Residency. It was clear that the rebels were concentrating their resources for an uncompromising defence of the city. Havelock gave the men their breakfasts, and then moved forward. It was half-past eight. For some time no enemy was visible. But as the troops approached the Alambagh, some infantry appeared on their flanks. They soon had evidence that the rebels were prepared to receive them at and near the walled garden. Havelock then halted his men, changed the order of his march from right to left in front, bringing Hamilton's brigade to the left front.
Eyre's heavy battery then opened fire on the enemy's batteries, which occupied a canopy of trees in front of his centre and left. Olpherts was despatched to the left to cover the movement of the second brigade (Hamilton's) against the right, Barrow's cavalry leading. Overcoming every obstacle, Olpherts' battery took a position on the rebels' right flank and opened fire. The rebels on the left and centre, crushed meanwhile by the play of Eyre's guns, then broke down. Alambagh still remained to be captured, and two guns were firing on the British force from portholes in its wall. To capture these Neill sent forward a wing of the 5th Fusiliers. The 5th, with their customary gallantry, stormed the wall. While they were engaged in a fierce fight for the two pieces, Captain Burton of the 78th had forced the main entrance, and rushed to their aid, taking the defenders of the guns in reverse.
The Madras Fusiliers followed. The men of the three regiments did their work so well that in ten minutes Alambagh was cleared of its defenders. Barrow and Outram and their companions were galloping in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. As they were returning from pursuing the rebels to the Yellow House, near the Charbagh Bridge, a despatch was placed in Outram's hands. It told him that the crusading band had stormed Delhi. He galloped to Havelock with the news a few minutes later. Outram announced the joyous news to the hurriedly collected soldiers.
No tents were up, no food was coming, but the day's work had been exceedingly satisfactory. The men, inebriated by their triumph and by the news, were happy to wait until food should arrive. The next day they rested, as their general made his final arrangements for the advance of the following day. The rebels kept up a heavy fire all day in their direction, but Havelock had thrown back his line so as to be beyond its range.
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First Relief of Lucknow Residency, Indian Sepoy Mutiny