(Last Updated on : 22-03-2012)
Lucknow was a place of foremost importance in the ongoing Sepoy Mutiny
of 1857. Various attempts had been made previously to storm and capture the regal state. But, native fighters had thwarted every move made by the British vigorously. Sir Colin Campbell along with his band of trusted battalion, including the still-loyal Punjab Rifles and the Sikh Regiment, had started out to relief the Lucknow Residency twice before. He had succeeded partially.
In the meantime, Lord Canning
had arrived from Calcutta to these provinces, extremely alarmed by the state of affairs. Lucknow was a place, which had completely baffled the ruling class. Yet again, Sir Colin had charted out a plan to oust Lucknow, commencing from the siege of the Residency. His route, meandering by the Gomti River
, Kaiserbagh, Alambagh, Moti Mahal, Imambarah, Dilkhusha, Chatar Manzil, had led him to the last lap of victory. Owing to the city's extremely fortified structure, both the warring sides found it difficult to plunder in a whole. Although, under the able guidance of Outram, Franks, Adrian Hope and Havelock, the rebels were forced to retreat towards the outskirts of the city. During the last nights of March, the British had successfully seized the palaces of Kaiserbagh, Farhatbakhsh and Shesh Mahal.
The plundering which followed the capture of this newest of the palaces of Kings of Oudh, were tremendous. In the morning of that 14th of March, the British line had stretched from the Shah Najaf to Hazratganj. That evening it ran from the Chatar Manzil to the Residency side of the Kaisarbagh. Two strong defensive lines of works, including the Citadel, on which the second line rested, defended by nearly 40,000 men, had been stormed.
The complete destruction of the rebels, and whole of Lakhnao (Lucknow) lying helpless the next morning at the feet of Sir Colin would easily have been feasible. However, that did not come about but for a sole cause. The situation had every chance of possibility, if Outram had crossed by the iron bridge and cut off those who escaped from the several places as they were stormed. Franks and Napier were storming the Kaisarbagh during this time. That this did not happen was no fault of Outram. He realised the advantage to be gained, and applied during the day for permission to execute such a manoeuvre. The reply was the most extraordinary ever received by a general in the field. It consisted of a short note from Mansfield, chief of the staff, telling him he might cross by the iron bridge. However, that was permitted on the condition that the move would not result in the loss of life of any soldier. Such a proviso was a prohibition. Not only were guns posted there to defend the bridge, but the bridge also was commanded by a mosque and several loopholed houses. The loss, then, would have greatly exceeded that of one man. The ultimate pursuit of the rebels, who escaped because Outram did not cross, would have caused an infinitely greater loss of men to the British army. It would amount to a severe loss compared to the storming of the bridge and taking of the rebels in rear would have occasioned.
On the right bank Gomti River
, Sir Colin devoted the 15th of March to the consolidating of the position he had gained. On the left bank, he despatched Hope Grant with his cavalry, and Campbell, with his infantry brigade and 1500 cavalry, to pursue the rebels on the Sitapur and Sandila roads. But the rebels had taken neither of these roads. The pursuit, hence, was fruitless. It was not till the 16th that Sir Colin directed Outram to cross the Gomti, near the Sikandarabagh. He was also ordered to join with Douglas's brigade, at the Kaisarbagh. Walpole was retained with Horsford's brigade, to watch the iron and stone bridges. Outram crossed as directed, was joined by the 20th and Brasyer's Sikhs, and was then ordered by Sir Colin in person to push on through the Residency. Then, he was to take the iron bridge in reverse, and then, advancing a mile further, storm the Machchi Bhawan and the great Imambarah. Outram carried both places without much opposition. But, before he had accomplished his task, the rebels, with the design of retreating to Faizabad, had made a strong attack on Walpole's pickets. They had been unable to force these. But, Outram's force held them in check, while the bulk of their comrades made good their retreat on to the Faizabad road.
The rebels attempted another diversion on 14th March, by suddenly attacking the Alambagh. But Franklyn, who commanded, Vincent Eyre, with his heavy guns, Robertson, with the military train, and Olpherts completely disappointed them.
Jang Bahadur and the Nepalese had, meanwhile, on the 14th and 15th of March, moved up the canal and taken in reverse the positions which, for three months, the rebels had occupied in front of Alambagh. Jang Bahadur performed this task with ability and success. One after another the positions held by the rebels, from the Charbagh up to the Residency, on that side, fell into his hands.
On 17th of March, Outram, pursuing his forward course, occupied without resistance the Huseni Mosque and the Daulat Khana. In the afternoon, he caused to be occupied a block of buildings known as Sharif-ud-Daula's house. The rebels evacuated it hastily. But an accidental explosion, caused by the careless unpacking of gunpowder found there, caused the death of two officers and some thirty men. On the 18th, Outram proceeded to clear the streets in front of the position he had secured. But suddenly, he received Sir Colin's orders to drive the rebels from the Musabagh. While he was to march against that place, Campbell of the Bays was to take 1500 cavalry, and a due proportion of guns, and be ready to pounce upon the rebels as Outram should drive them from the Musabagh. The Nepalese were likewise so placed as to disrupt their retreat in the other direction.
Outram, as usual, did his part thoroughly. He captured All Naki's house and the Musabagh. The rebels fled from Musabagh by the road which Campbell should have guarded. But Campbell was not to be seen. He had engaged a part of his force in a small operation which had given Hagart, Slade, Bankes, and Wilkin, all of the 7th Hussars, an opportunity of displaying courage of no ordinary character. But as to the main object of his mission Campbell did nothing. It was officially stated that he had lost his way. The rebels, consequently, escaped.
Not all however could accomplish this feat. Outram was there to repair Campbell's error to a certain extent. Noticing that the rebels were preparing to escape from the Musabagh, he had despatched the 9th Lancers to cut them off. The Lancers were followed by some infantry and field-artillery. These killed approximately 100 of them, and captured all their guns.
This was the concluding act of the siege of Lucknow
. The following day Lord Canning
's proclamation was issued confiscating the entire proprietary right in the soil of Oudh. Six comparatively inferior chiefs were excluded from this confiscation. To rebel landowners who should at once surrender, exemption from death and imprisonment was promised. However, they had to prove the condition that they were guiltless of unprovoked bloodshed. To those who had protected British fugitives, special consideration was promised. The principles embodied in the proclamation were just. When the time came, they were acted upon with such consideration as to secure the loyalty which had been alienated by the enforcement of the stern code which had immediately followed the annexation. At the moment the effect was to poison the hearts of those against whom the proclamation was directed.
It had been determined that the famous Maulavi was still in Lakhnao (Lucknow), and from Shadatganj, he still bade defiance to the conqueror. Hence, Lugard was sent, on the 21st of March, with the 93rd and 4th Punjab Rifles, to attack him. The Maulavi and his followers were effectively dislodged, and were pursued by Campbell, this time without delay. But the Maulavi escaped. Two days later Hope Grant was sent after the rebels who had fled by the Faizabad road. He caught a considerable number of them at Kursi. Grant injured many mortally, and captured thirteen guns. Lakhnao (Lucknow) finally had fallen, and seized by the British.