(Last Updated on : 27-03-2012)
No sooner had the siege of Delhi
been thoroughly assured than Wilson despatched a corps of 2790 men, under the command of Colonel Edward Greathed of the 8th foot, to open the country between Delhi
. The corps was also ordered to join Sir Colin Campbell at Kanhpur (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
) or its vicinity.
Greathed set out on the morning of 24th September, crossed the Hindan, and marched, by way of Dadri and Sikandarabad, to Bulandshahr. On his way, he punished the inhabitants proved to have committed barbarities and reassuring those who had remained loyal. He arrived in Bulandshahr on the 28th. There, Greathed attacked and completely defeated a rebel force which attempted to cover that town. Then pushing on, he occupied the town and Malagarh. While destroying the fortifications of the latter he had the misfortune of accidentally losing Lieutenant Home of the Engineers. Home was one of the survivors of the gallant men who had blown up the Kashmeri gate
on the 14th. From there, still pushing on, Greathed reached Khurja, a considerable town. Here the passions of the troops were roused to severe fury by the sight of the skeleton of a European female. The troops were contemplating taking instant vengeance on the inhabitants. But, Greathed spared Khurja in deference to the remonstrances of the civil officer accompanying the force.
From Khurja, Greathed marched to Aligarh
. There, he defeated a body of the rebels who had so long dominated the district. Marching in the direction of Agra, he then reached Bijaigarh on the 9th October. There he received the most pressing solicitations from the authorities at Agra to hasten to their relief. A frightening body of rebels, he was told, was threatening the sandstone fort. Greathed was but forty-eight miles from Agra. He accordingly despatched that night the cavalry and horse-artillery with instructions to hurry on by forced marches. Four hours later he followed with the infantry, mounting his men on elephants, carts, and camels to get over the ground more quickly.
Agra had already been under scanner for several months. British forces had been rendered highly unsuccessful in front of the incredible natives. The generals posted there were Polwhele and Colvin. Polwhele was defeated mercilessly and Colvin had to give his life in the rebellion. Ever since that time, life within the fort had been dull and monotonous. The country around had been occupied and reoccupied by roving bands of rebels. The mutineers from Mau and other parts of Central India, though detained for a time at Gwaliar (Gwalior), had broken loose early in September and marched on to Dholpur. From that time on, they had gradually spread detachments over the districts of Khairagarh, Fatehpur Sikri
, Iradatnagar, and Fathabad. The news of the doubtful success of the British in the storming of Delhi, on the 14th October, had not discouraged them. The success of the British on the following days even had the effect of releasing from Delhi a considerable body of men who hoped to replenish their tactics elsewhere. A number of these had reached Mathura
, on the 26th October. The rebels were joined there by a large body of mutinied sipahis (soldiers). This band affected a day or two later a junction with the rebels from Central India. These were the men whose threatening attitude was now causing Agra to be in dismay. The Intelligence department was managed so indifferently that no one within the fort knew exactly where they were.
Meanwhile, Greathed, pushing on with speed, crossed the bridge of boats under the walls of the fort at sunrise on the morning of the 10th October. Once there, he enquired about the position of the rebels. He was told by the authorities within the fort that the insurgent force from Dholpur was ten miles away from cantonments. It was also difficult for the force to cross Dholpur. The same authorities wished Greathed to camp within the gardens thick with brushwood where the rebel guns would not have a range of fifty yards. Thus, the cavalry could not possibly act. But Greathed was too good a soldier to consent to such a proposition. He insisted on camping on the parade ground. It was a brilliant grassy plain, with not an obstacle within three or four hundred yards of it. At a distance the ground was only occupied with some high crops. There the camp was pitched. Between the camp and the fort a lively communication was opened. Conscious of security, the authorities took few precautions regarding the characters they admitted.
But the rebels were in the cantonment itself. They lay hidden from the sight of the troops by the long crops which bounded the view of Greathed's force. Taking advantage of the security into which the men of that force had been lulled, four of them, dressed as conjurors, came strolling up to the advanced guard of the 9th Lancers. The sergeant in charge of the post ordered them off, whereupon one of them drew his sword and killed him. Another rushed to the officer's rescue. Eventually these four men were despatched by the troopers. But before the occurrence had become known to everyone in the camp, round-shot from the leafy screen in its front, came pouring in. The alarm sounded but there was scarcely need for it. The soldiers of Delhi, accustomed to sudden attacks, turned out with all possible speed. But though they used every despatch, before they were ready, the rebel cavalry sprang forth from nowhere.
They had charged the still motionless artillery and had sabred the gunners of one gun. A squadron of the 9th Lancers, which had formed up very rapidly, dashed on them and drove them back in disorder. The charge cost the squadron severely. French, who led it, was killed. Jones, his subaltern, was dangerously wounded and several men were killed or wounded. But it gave the respite that was needed. It allowed Greathed, who had hurried from the fort, to deploy his line and to despatch Watson. Watson was to lead a portion of his cavalry and turn the left flank of the rebels. Greathed, in the meantime advanced from the centre. He was joined, as he advanced, by a battery of artillery, which Pearson had manned experimentally. The artillery consisted men of Eurasian extraction and which on this occasion rendered excellent service. The prompt advance of the force upset the calculations of the rebels. The British cavalry, gallantly led by Ouvry, Probyn, Watson, and the guns, resplendently managed by Bourchier, Turner, and Pearson, completed the confusion which this rapidity had produced.
The rebels fell back in disorder. They were pursued in front by the infantry, which had been joined by the 3rd Europeans from the fort and on the flanks by the cavalry and artillery. The infantry was manned under Colonel Cotton, who, by virtue of his seniority to Greathed, took the command. The infantry followed them as far as their camp, which was found standing midway between Agra and the Kari Nadi. There the soldiers halted, dog tired. But the pursuit was continued as far as that stream by the other two arms. Only once did the rebels attempt to make a stand but then a few round of grapeshots sent them flying. They were unable to carry a single gun across the stream. For seven miles the road was one continual line of carts, guns, ammunition wagons, camels, and baggage of every description.
The whole of this fell into the hands of the victors. Much that was useless was destroyed by the English. But they brought back into camp thirteen pieces of ordnance and vast quantities of ammunition. No victory could have been more speedy or decisive. It was a magnificent performance, especially if the circumstances under which the battle was fought are taken into consideration. Bourchier's nine-pounder battery had marched thirty miles without a halt before the feat began. From first to last Greathed's cavalry and artillery had marched over sixty-four miles. The infantry marched fifty-four, in less than thirty-six hours. It was a great performance indeed.
The whole of this fell into the hands of the victors. Much that was useless was destroyed by the English. But they brought back into camp thirteen pieces of ordnance and vast quantities of ammunition. No victory could have been more speedy or decisive. It was a magnificent performance, especially if the circumstances under which the battle was fought are taken into consideration. Bourchier's nine-pounder battery had marched thirty miles without a halt before the feat began. From first to last Greathed's cavalry and artillery had marched over sixty-four miles. The infantry marched fifty-four, in less than thirty-six hours. It was a great performance-well marched, well fought, and well followed up. The force did not return to its camping ground till seven o'clock in the evening. The victory secured the restoration of law and order around Agra. The return of law and order, again, was illustrated by a change in the command. It was contrived and carried out in a very hush-hush manner. Greathed had not given satisfaction either to the Agra authorities or to the representative of a very powerful military clique in his camp.