(Last Updated on : 27-03-2012)
The occupants of the Lucknow Residency had increased in numbers since 25th September, by the arrival of the troops so gallantly led by Outram and Havelock. This was the historic attempt to the first relief of Lucknow Residency
These troops had barely entered the defences, when it was universally recognised that their advent had constituted not a relief but a reinforcement. Means of transport for the ladies and children, the sick and wounded, were required. An enormous addition had been made to the hospital list. Even had transport been available, the combined force was not strong enough to escort them to Kanhpur (Kanpur
). Compelled thus, by necessity, to remain, Outram devoted all his enterprises to providing accommodation for the increased force. With this view he the palaces along the line of river, the Tarawala Kothi, the Chatar Manzil, and the Farhatbakhsh. These he consigned to the newly arrived troops under the command of Havelock. The old troops, meanwhile, continued to occupy their former posts. The care of the important post of the Alambagh he consigned to Major Mclntyre of the 78th, with 250 men fit for duty. Others, although sick at the time were entrusted with duties, were speedily becoming convalescent. The orders to Mclntyre were to hold the place as long as he could. Only in case of absolute necessity he was to fall back upon Kanhpur (Kanpur).
The six weeks that followed have not incorrectly been termed a blockade. The rebels no longer made those desperate assaults from posts which dominated the defences. The attacks rather came now from the defenders. They came in the shape of sorties, of countermining, of extending their borders. The raids were frequent and successful. An attempt was made on 3rd October and one or two following days, to open communications with Alambagh, past the intermediate houses. It was relinquished. But even this attempt resulted in a certain advantage to the garrison. Drilling through a number of houses, they seized a large mosque just beyond them and made of it a permanent outpost.
This was held successfully and with great advantage, until Sir Colin Campbell arrived. By these and similar means, the limits of the British position became steadily extended. Extension meant relief to the old garrison from all torments on its east, north-east and south-east faces, i.e., from the Kanhpur (Kanpur) road to the beginning of the river front. Meanwhile, the defences of the original Residency were mended and new batteries were constructed. The incessant musketry fire was no longer heard from a distance not outdoing the width of the Strand. From the posts occupied in the vicinity, the rebels had been driven so far that their musketry fire could no longer cause mischief within the entrenchment. But they did not even then feel bewildered. The rebels withdrew to a convenient distance. They so planted their guns that the balls were sure to clear the outer defences and charge within the entrenchment. To further annoy the garrison, the rebels constantly shifted their point of fire. They apparently were unaware of the deadly result to the garrison of this mode of attack, for they displayed no continuity in the working of it.
On 9th October the garrison was cheered by the news of the complete success obtained at Delhi and of the successful march of Greathed's column as far as Bulandshahr. Realising that Sir Colin's march to his relief had now become a question of three or four weeks, Outram set to work to formulate a plan to communicate with him. He had forwarded to Alambagh a despatch for Sir Colin, containing plans of the city and the approaches to it. Outram's own idea as to the best mode of effecting a junction was also added. But though written despatches might tell much, something more, something in the shape of personal communication with Sir Colin, by an intelligent man who knew every point of the position of the blockaded garrison, seemed to Outram to be almost essential.
But, Outram could prepare no way how to secure to Sir Colin such personal communication. It could be accomplished only by one of the garrison and by that one having recourse to disguise. But for a European to disguise himself and to attempt to penetrate in that disguise the hostile masses which surrounded the blockaded position, was apparently to court certain and inglorious death. No one could be asked to incur such a risk.
The anxiety of Outram for such personal communication was greater when he learned that Sir Colin was on the point of uniting the force between Alambagh and the Banni Bridge. His anxiety on this head became generally known. Amongst others it reached the ears of one Thomas Henry Kavanagh, a clerk in one of the civil offices. Kavanagh immediately communicated to Outram his readiness to assume the role. To all appearance there were few men less-qualified than Kavanagh to escape detection. Kavanagh was a fair man, much taller than the general run of the natives of Oudh, and his red hair glittered like gold. On the other hand, he possessed a courage that nothing could daunt and a perfect knowledge of the native language. The offer made by Kavanagh was an offer close to Outram's heart. But, humane beyond the ordinary run of men, he hesitated to expose a fellow-creature to almost certain death. Whatever doubts he may have entertained on this head were dissipated after his first interview with Kavanagh. In him Outram distinguished a man whose natural gutsiness would sail him through all dangers. He accepted, therefore, his offer, and bade him prepare for his enterprise.
Kavanagh then had his hair and skin stained with lamp-black. He also cut his hair short. Donning the dress of a native swashbuckler or 'Badmaash', Kavanagh set out on his journey in the evening of 9th November. Kavanagh was accompanied by a native spy of proved fidelity, Kanauji Lai by name.
Kavanagh journey was not without its alarms. He did not reach Alambagh that night. But, on the morning of the 10th November, he fell in with a party of the Punjab
cavalry. This party conducted him to Sir Colin, who had reached the plain beyond Banni Bridge the previous evening.
Sir Colin Campbell had, on his arrival, despatched Adrian Hope of the 93rd, with a large convoy of provisions to Alambagh. On the 10th, he halted to confer with Kavanagh and to complete his arrangements. On the 11th November his engineer park arrived and he issued orders for an advance the following day. At sunrise on the 12th the troops marched. Sir Colin's plan, based mainly on that which Outram had sent him, was to move to Alambagh, and store all the impedimenta there. Then drawing to himself the detachments still in the rear, Colin was to make with a wide sweep, a flank march to the right on the Dilkhusha Park and the Martiniere. He was then to force the canal close to its junction with the Gomti River
. Covered by that river, he was finally to advance on the Sikandarabagh.
This point once secured, Sir Colin would detach a portion of the force to seize the barracks to the north of Hazratganj. The force was to plant batteries there to play on the Kaisarbagh. During that time he would move, with the main body, towards the Shah Najaf and Moti Mahal. Forcing these, Colin would eventually effect a junction with Outram. Outram would support this operation by opening a heavy fire on all the intermediate positions held by the rebels. Forcing these, he would then move out, with all his sick and wounded, women and children, and effect a junction with Sir Colin.
The first day's march had the object of placing the force solidly in communication with Alambagh. The garrison was still commanded by the gallant Mclntyre. The strength of the garrison had been gradually increased to 930 Englishmen, a few Sikhs, and eight guns. This having been effected, Sir Colin proceeded to arrange for his decisive advance on the succeeding day. First, he despatched Hope to seize the fort of Jalalabad, to the right rear of Alambagh. He then stacked within Alambagh the entire camp equipage not required for the hard work in prospect. Sir Colin's last reinforcements arrived that evening. He placed the 75th, which had suffered much, and the strength of which had been reduced to something under 300, within the Alambagh. He gave them, also, a few Sikhs from Brasyer's regiment and some guns.
Counting up his men, Sir Colin found that after deducting those sent back with sick and wounded and the garrison of Alambagh, he had around 4700 men fit for service. These he divided into 6 brigades. There constituted the Naval brigade, commanded by William Peel; the Artillery brigade, comprising the batteries of Blunt, Remmington, Travers, Bridge, and Bourchier, commanded by Brigadier Crawford; the Cavalry brigade, led by Brigadier Little and comprising two squadrons of the 9th Lancers, one each of the 1st, 2nd, and 5th Punjab Cavalry, and Hodson's Horse; the 3rd Infantry brigade, commanded by Greathed, and composed of the remnant of the 8th, of a battalion formed of detachments of the three regiments shut up in the Residency, and the 2nd Punjab N. I.; the 4th, led by Adrian Hope and consisting of the 93rd, a wing of the 53rd, the 4th Punjab Infantry and a battalion also formed from men proceeding to join the regiments to be relieved; the 5th, led by Russell, and comprising the 23rd Fusiliers and a portion of the 82nd. Hope Grant, with the rank of Brigadier-General, directed the operations, under the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief.
The following morning the troops set out at nine o'clock, and after some skirmishing, carried the Dilkhusha. Not halting there, they pushed on to the Martiniere and carried that also. Sir Colin proceeded to secure the position thus gained by placing in the gardens of the Martiniere Hope's brigade and Remmington's troop. He placed Russell on the left, in front of the Dilkhusha. While he directed Little with the cavalry to occupy a line drawn from the canal on his right to a wall of the Dilkhusha Park on his left he posted himself at Bourchier's battery. Somewhat later in the day, Russell, under Colin's orders, occupied two villages on the canal covering the left of the advance.
But the rebels had no intention to allow the British general to remain in undisturbed occupation of his line of attack. No sooner had they realised the exact nature of his dispositions, than they amassed their troops towards their centre. They had the intention to make a grand assault. Little, noticing the gathering sent Grant to survey. On receiving Grant's report he despatched to the front the gallant Bourchier, supporting him with his cavalry. It was seen that the rebels had lined the opposite bank of the canal. They had only been prevented from making their forward movement by the timely occupation of the two villages by Russell. Bourchier's guns quickly sent back their skirmishers. His fire reached the rebels' supporting masses and these in their turn also fell back. A second attempt was made on the Martiniere. It was foiled by the vigilance of Adrian Hope and the successful practice of Remmington's guns. Here, again, Bourchier's battery and Peel's guns rendered splendid service. They literally crushed the rebels out of their position by their flank fire.
The troops encamped for the night in the places they had acquired. The next day, the 15th November, was devoted to preparations. The day was not altogether free from random skirmishing. In the evening Sir Colin signalled to Outram, by a code previously arranged, that he would advance the next day.
Accordingly, early on the morning of the 16th, a strong body of cavalry, with Blunt's horse-artillery and a company of the 53rd, forming the advance guard, marched from the right. They crossed the canal, then dry and followed for about a mile the bank of the Gomti River
. Then, turning sharply to the left, the cavalry reached a road running parallel to the Sikandarabagh. Sir Colin had so completely deceived the enemy as to his line of advance that this movement was absolutely unopposed. Situations remained like this, until the advance, making the sharp turn, entered the parallel road. Then an incredible fire from enclosures near the road and from the Sikandarabagh, opened on their flank. Their position was extremely dangerous, for they were literally broadside to the enemy's fire. It served, however, only to quicken the determination to bewilder the rebels. The first to employ the impulse was the gallant Blunt. He observed that there was a plateau from where he could attack Sikandarabagh on the further side of the road. Apparently, it was impossible for the artillery to mount. He then turned his horses' faces to the right bank, galloped up it, and gained the open space on the plateau. Unlimbering, Blunt unfolded his guns on the Sikandarabagh.
When Blunt was drawing on himself the fire of the rebels by his daring act, the infantry of Hope's brigade had come up with a rush. The brigade cleared the enclosures bordering the lane and a large building near them. There remained only the Sikandarabagh itself. Against the massive walls of this building the light guns of Blunt's battery, and the heavier metal of those of Travers', who had joined him, were doing their best to effect a breach. No sooner was this breach believed to be viable, than there ensued one of the most marvellous scenes witnessed in that war.
Suddenly and simultaneously there dashed towards it the men of the wing of the 93rd and the Sikhs, running for it at full speed. A Sikh of the 4th Rifles reached it first, but he was shot dead as he jumped through. A young officer of the 93rd, Richard Cooper, was more fortunate. Flying, as it were, through the hole, he landed unhurt. Cooper was closely followed by Ewart of the same regiment, by John I. Lumsden, attached to it as interpreter, by three privates of the same regiment, and by eight or nine men, Sikhs and Highlanders. Burroughs of the 93rd had also accomplished an entrance for he was in the enclosure before Ewart. But he was almost immediately wounded. The enclosure in which these officers and men found themselves was 150 yards square, with towers at the angles, a square building in the centre, and was held by 2000 armed men. It seemed impossible that one of the attackers should escape alive.
The revolutionaries rushed forward and maintained an equal contest till reinforcements poured in through the gate. Lumsden was killed. Cooper received a slash across his forehead at the moment that he laid his antagonist dead at his feet. Ewart, attacked by numbers, preserved his impressive presence of mind and slew many. He was still holding his own against enormous odds, when the front gate was burst open and reinforcements dashed in. Then the struggle increased in intensity. It was a fight for life or death between the rebels and the masters against whom they had risen. After all, the defenders were all sipahis (soldiers) who had rebelled. Nor did the struggle cease so long as one man of the 2000 remained alive.