Sir Colin was putting his last finishing strokes to his operations against Lakhnao (Lucknow). When, there occurred an event in the Azamgarh district which taxed very severely the resources immediately available to Lord Canning. On 27th March an express informed the Governor-General that, on the 22nd, Kunwar Singh, the famous chieftain of Western Bihar, had surprised the British force, under Colonel Milman, near Atraolia, 25 miles from Azamgarh. Singh had forced it to fall back in Azamgarh, and was besieging it. It was too true. Milman, whose force consisted of 206 men of the 37th foot and of 60 Madras Cavalry, had been caught off guard. They had fallen back, first on Koilsa, then on Azamgarh. The force had received reinforcements there of 46 men of the Madras Rifles (natives) and 280 men of his own regiment, the 37th foot, under Colonel Dames. Dames as senior officer, then assumed command. On the 27th, Dames had attempted a sortie, and had been beaten back.
The situation was a difficult one for Lord Canning, for Azamgarh was not very distant from Allahabad, where he was. And if Kunwar Singh were to compel the surrender of the force behind the walls of Azamgarh, the inferno might even reach Benaras. Realising to the fullest extent the possibilities which Kunwar Singh might utilise, while Oudh still remained un-subdued, Lord Canning took immediate and efficient measures to nip the evil in the bud.
There happened to be at Allahabad a wing of the 13th L.I., commanded by Lord Mark Kerr. Lord Canning sent for Lord Mark, explained to him the situation, and authorised him to take measures he might consider necessary to deal with it. That night Lord Mark started, with his wing, 391 strong, for Benaras. He picked up there a troop of the Queen's Bays, seventeen gunners and one officer, with two six-pounder guns and two 5-inch mortars, and set out for Azamgarh the night of the 2nd of April. His entire force consisted of twenty-two officers and 444 men. On the evening of the 5th, he had reached Sarsana, eight miles from Azamgarh. Kunwar Singh had notice of his arrival there, and prepared an ambush for him. Singh wanted to entrap him, while he should be pushing on in the wee hours of the next morning. Lord Mark did so push on, and became entangled in the ambush. But by a display of collective coolness and courage, he not only disentangled his men, but also inflicted upon the rebels a crushing defeat, and relieved Azamgarh. It was one of the most brilliant achievements of the war.
The Commander-in-Chief had received news of Milman's disaster on the 28th of March. Realising its full significance, he despatched at once General Lugard, with three English regiments, 700 Sikh sabres, and eighteen guns, to march, byway of Atraolia, to Azamgarh. There, Lugard was to deal with Kunwar Singh.
For the reconquest of Oudh, Sir Colin detailed one army corps under Hope Grant. They were to march to Ban, twenty-nine miles from Lakhnao (Lucknow). The troop was ordered to expel the rebels collected there under the Maulavi, to march eastward thence to Muhammadabad. Following the course of the Gogra, they were to reconnoitre Bitauli. From there, the battalion was to cover the return of the Nepal troops, under Jang Bahadur. Meanwhile, Hope Grant should be moving in that direction. Walpole, with a moveable column, was to march up the Ganga River, and await near Fathgarh the arrival of Sir Colin. Colin would draw to himself, as he advanced other columns converging to the same point.
Hope Grant carried out his instructions to perfection. He defeated the Maulavi at Bari, found Bitauli evacuated, saw Jang Bahadur on his way to the frontier, and then returned to protect the road between Kanhpur (Kanpur) and Lakhnao (Lucknow). That portion of the road was seriously threatened at Unao. Walpole was less successful. Obstinate, headstrong, and an indifferent soldier, he led his column against the fort of Ruyia, two miles from the Ganges, and fifty-one west by north from Lakhnao (Lucknow). He attacked it on its only unassailable face. After losing several men, and the most gifted soldier in the British army, the accomplished Adrian Hope, Walpole allowed the defenders to escape from the face which he himself should have assailed. He moved on from there and expelled the rebels from Sirsa. Walpole was joined on the Rohilkhand side of Fathgarh, on the 27th of April, by Sir Colin.
Seaton, who had been left at Fathgarh, took notice that the rebels had collected in considerable force in front of him. He thus had issued from that place on the 6th April, and had inflicted on them a crushing defeat at Kankar, between Aliganj and Bangaun. By this victory he secured the gates of Duab against an enemy emerging from either of the menaced provinces. Meanwhile, Penny, with another column, was moving down from Bulandshahr. Penny met Sir Colin at Fathgarh, on 24th April, then crossed the Ganges and marched on Usehat. He found that place deserted. Being told that his march to Budaun would not be opposed, Penny started on a night march for that place. But the rebels lay in ambush for him and surprised him. Although his column defeated them, Penny was slain. Colonel Jones of the Carabineers succeeded him. Under his orders the column marched to join Sir Colin at Miranpur Katra on the 3rd of May.
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