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class of which three fourths of this army was then composed) proved fully equal to the contest. In a partial action, which took place in a sortie made by the French, they were defeated with severe loss; and the memory of this event continues to be cherished with just pride both by the officers and men of the Bengal native army. Had the result of this affair, and the character of these sepoys been more generally known, some of our country. men would have been freed from that excessive alarm which was entertained for the safety of our eastern possessions, when the late despot of continental Europe threatened them with invasion. We trust that every event that can seriously disturb the peace of our Indian empire is at a great distance; but if we even heard that an European army had crossed the Indus, we should not tremble for its fate. We well know that the approach of such a force would strike no terror into the minds of the men of whom we are writing, and that acting with British troops, and led by British officers, they would advance with almost as assured a confidence of victory against a line of well-disciplined Europeans as against a rabble of their own untrained countrymen. They might fail; but they are too bold, and too conscious of their own courage and strength ever to anticipate defeat.
We should feel hesitation in stating our sentiments so strongly on this subject, if we did not know them to be those which have been entertained and avowed by many eminent commanders,* who have had opportunities of forming a judgment upon this question. When Colonel Pearse's detachment, which had been reduced by service from 5000 to 2000 men, returned to Bengal after an absence of four years, the policy of Mr. Hastings heaped every distinction upon them that he thought calculated to reward their merits, or to stimulate others to future exertion of a similar nature. He visited this corps, and his personal conduct towards both the European officers and natives gave grace to his public measures. A lasting impressiout was made on the minds of all; and every favour was doubled by the manner in which it was conferred, The rebellion of Cheyt Singh, the rajah of Benares, in 1781,
We may particularly quote the late Lord Lake. No officer ever saw troops under more varied and severe trials than he did the Bengal sepoys. He never spoke of them but with admiration; and was forward to declare, that he considered them equal to a contest with any troops that could be brought against them.
+ An officer of rank and distinction, who, when a young subaltern, was an eye-witness of this scene, observes in a letter which he has written to us on the subject, · Mr. Hastings, dressed in a plain blue coat, with his head uncovered, rode along the ranks. The troops had the most striking appearance of hardy veterans. They were all as black as ink contrasted with the sleek olive skins of our home corps. The sight of that day, (he concludes,) and the feelings it excited, have never been absent from my mind: to it, and to the affecting orders (which Mr. Hastings issued) I am satisfied I in a great degree owe whatever of professional pride and emulation I have sincm possessed.'
must be familiar to most of our readers. Our
in tioning it is limited to the object of shewing the conduct of the Bengal sepoys under one of the severest trials of fidelity to which they were ever exposed.
The numerous followers of the rajah had risen upon panies of sepoys appointed to guard the house in which he was placed under restraint, and killed and wounded the whole of them. The rashness of an European officer had led another party to slaughter in the streets of Ramnagur. Mr. Hastings, who was at Benares when these events occurred, had only a few companies of sepoys to guard his person, and even these he had no money to support. He summoued corps from different quarters to his aid: but when we reflect on the impression which the first success of Cheyt Singh had inade, and consider that by far the greatest proportion of the troops with whom Mr. Hastings had overcome the dangers with which he was surrounded, were men of the same tribe and country as those against whom they were to act; and that the chief who was declared a rebel had long been considered by many of them as their legitimate prince, we must respect the mind that remained firm and unmoved at so alarming a crisis. The knowledge Mr. Hastings had of the sepoys, led him to place implicit trust in them on this trying occasion, and his confidence was well rewarded. Their habits of discipline and their attachment to their officers and the service, proved superior to the ties of cast and of kindred. Not an instance of defection occurred, and the public interests were preserved and restored by their zeal and valour.
Before we make any remarks on the more recent parts of the history of the Bengal native infantry, we shall offer some observations on the composition of the army of that presidency. The native cavalry are not mentioned in the work before us; the authors having strictly adhered to the original intention of giving an account of the native infantry only. This corps, which now consists of eight regiments, is comparatively young. Its formation on the present establishment was only just completed when the Mahratta war of 1803 commenced. The conduct of the Bengal cavalry however in the severe service that ensued has justly raised their reputation, and they at present form a most efficient and distinguished branch of the army to which they belong. * The men
* We have only to peruse the dispatches of the late Lord Lake in 1803 and 1804, to be sensible of the excellence this corps very early obtained. We know few military exploits of cavalry more extraordinary than that which he performed with a column of three regiments of British light dragoons, and three of native cavalry, supported by some horse artillery, and a small reserve of infantry. With this corps his lordship pursued Jeswunt Row Holkar from Delhi through the Douab, till he came up with
are rather stouter than those in the same corps at Madras. The latter are almost all Mahomedans, and three fourths of the Bengal cavalry are of the same race. The fact is, that with the exception of the Mahratta tribe, the Hindoos are not, generally speaking, so much disposed as Mahomedans to the duties of a trooper; and though the Mahomedans may be more dissipated and less moral in their private conduct than the Hindoos, they are zealous, and highspirited soldiers, and it is excellent policy to have a considerable proportion of them in the service, to which experience has shewn they often become very warmly attached. In the native infantry of Bengal the Hindoos are in the full proportion of three-fourths to the Mahomedans. They consist chiefly of Rajpoots, who are distinguished race among the Khiteree or military tribe. We may judge of the size of these men when we are told that the standard below which no recruit is taken is five feet six inches.* The great proportion of the grenadiers are six feet and upwards. The Rajpoot is born a soldier. The mother speaks of nothing to her infant but deeds of arms, and every sentiment and action of the future man is marked by the first impressions that he has received. If he tills the ground, (which is the commou occupation of this class,) his sword and shield are placed near the furrow, and moved as bis labour advances. The frame of the Rajpoot is almost always improved (even if his pursuits are those of civil life) by martial exercises. He is from habit temperate in his diet, of a generous, though warm temper, and of good moral conduct. He is, when well-treated, obedient, zealous, and faithful. Neither the Hindoo nor the Mahomedan soldier of India can be termed revengeful, though both are prone to extreme violencet in points where they deem
and defeated him at Futty-ghur. Lord Lake, in a dispatch dated 18th November, in which he gives an account of this operation, observes, the troops have daily marched a distance of twenty-three or twenty-four miles. During the night and day previous to the action, they marched fifty-eight miles, and from the distance to which they pursued the enemy, the space passed over before they had taken up their ground must have exceeded seventy miles.'
* Before 1796 it was always five feet six inches and a half. By an order in 1809 men may be taken for light infantry corps, as low as five feet five inches.
+ One instance is given in the work before us of the action of this violent spirit. In 1772 a sepoy of the now first battalion of the 10th regiment, who had suffered what he supposed an injury, fell out of the ranks when the corps was at exercise, and going up to Captain Ewens, the commanding officer, with recovered arms, as if to make some request, took a deliberate aim, and shot him; then patiently awaited the death he had merited. We could give, from our own knowledge, several examples of similar feeling-two will suffice. Captain Crook, formerly of the Madras cavalry, struck a sentry for allowing a bullock that brought water to his tent, to step over the threshold and dirty it. The man took no notice of what had occurred till relieved from his post: he then went to his lines, and a short time afterwards sought his captain, and, taking deliberate aim at him, shot him dead upon the spot. He made no attempt to escape. He had avenged his honour from the blows he had received, and met with calmness and fortitude the death that was awarded as the punishment of his crime.
their honour, of which they have a very nice sense, to be slighted or insulted. The Rajpoots sometimes want energy, but seldom, if ever, courage. It is remarkable in this class, that even when their animal spirits have been subdued so far as to cause a cessation of exertion, they shew no fear of death, which they meet in every form it can present itself with surprising fortitude and resignation. Such is the general character of a race of men whose numbers in the army of Bengal amount to between thirty and forty thousand, and of whom we can recruit in our own provinces to any amount. But this instrument of power must be managed with care and wisdom, or that which is our strength may become our danger.
Minds of the cast we have described are alive to every impulse, and from similarity of feeling will all vibrate at the same touch. If we desire to preserve their attachment, we must continue to treat them with kindness, liberality, and justice. We must attend to the most trifling of their prejudices, and avoid rash innovations; but, above all, those that are calculated to convey to their minds the most distant alarm in points connected with their usages, or religion. A detachment of Bengal native troops shared in the glory acquired by Lord Cornwallis in his war against Tippoo Sultan in 1790 and 1791. From that time till 1803 the only operation of any consequence in which they were engaged was a short campaign, in Rohilcund, in 1794. The rude and untrained, but fierce and hardy enemies against whom Sir R. Abercrombie had to act, were perhaps too much despised, and they took advantage of a confusion caused in his right wing, by the bad behaviour of the English commandant of a small body of half disciplined cavalry, to make a furious charge, by which a most destructive impression was made on two battalions of sepoys, and a regiment of Europears.
Their desperate career was checked by the fire of the English artillery, by whose good conduct, and the steady valour of the other parts of the line, a victory was ultimately gained. The native troops never, perhaps, displayed more courage than on this trying
An officer (still living) was provoked at some offence the man had committed, to strike a Madras native trooper under his command. On the night of the same day, as he was sitting with another officer in his tent, the trooper came in, and taking aim at him, fired; but owing to the other officer striking his arm, the ball missed. As, however, he fell in the confusion, and the light was extinguished, his companion, who considered him killed, ran to obtain aid, and to seize the murderer, who had another pistol in his hand. The moment he was out of the tent, he heard the other pistol go off ; and on returning with a guard of men and some lights, he found that the trooper, conceiving that the first shot had taken effect, and that his honour was avenged by the death of the person who had insulted him, had, with the second pistol, shot himself through the head.
occasion, * The name of this officer was Ramsay. He escaped by desertion from the punishment he had so amply merited.
occasion, and all regretted that the infamous* conduct of one man had caused such serious loss of officers and men in some of the most distinguished corpst of the army.
The campaigns of 1803 and 1804 present a series of actions and sieges, in every one of which the Bengal sepoys showed their accustomed valour. At the battles of Delhi and Laswarree they were as eminently distinguished as at the sieges of Agra and Deeg; and we may, perhaps, safely assert that in the only two great reverses which occurred during the war, the retreat of Colonel Monson and the siege of Burtpore, the courage, firmness, and attachment of the native troops were more conspicuous than in its most brilliant periods. We know sufficient of the former operations to regret that no full and faithful account of them has been vet published; nor does the work before us sufficiently supply this blank. We can only express our conviction, founded on a perusal of a private journal kept by an officer of the detachment, that in this disastrous retreat, the native troops (with the exception of a very few, who, after suffering almost unparalleled hardships, were deluded by the offers of the enemy to desert) behaved in the most noble manner. They endured the greatest privations and distresses, during the march from the banks of the Chumbul in Malwah, where the first retrograde movement was made, till their arrival at Agra, a distance of nearly four hundred miles. They had at once to combat the elements (for it rained almost incessantly) and the enemy. Scenes of horrorf occurred which were hardly ever surpassed. Yet, though deprived of regular food and rest, and harassed with continual attacks, their spirit was unbroken.-They maintained throughout the most severe discipline. We are assured that on many occasions, when their European officers, worn down by the climate and fatigue, appeared faint or desponding, the men next
+ The corps on the right of the army was the 13th battalion, which had been emipently distinguished against the French at Cuddalore. It had earned more laurels under its well-known commander, Captain Norman Macleod, in the campaigns of Lord Cornwallis. Captain Ramsay's cavalry rode unexpectedly over this fine battalion, and five thousand Rohillas charged it before it could recover from the confusion into which it was thrown.
| Particularly at the Chumbullee Nullah, a rapid torrent, at which the elephants were employed to carry the troops over. The animals, becoming wearied or impatient, shook off those on their backs, numbers of whom were drowned. But a still more liorrid scene ensued.—The fatigued elephants could not bring over the followers. The Bheels, a mountain banditti, encouraged by Holkar, came down upon the unprotected females and children, whom they massacred in the most inhaman manner. this extreme trial that some of the gallant fellows, who had before suffered every bardship with firmness, gave way to despair. Several of them, maddened with the screants of their wives and children, threw themselves, with their firelocks, into the rapid stream, and perished in a vain attempt to aid those they loved more than life.
It was on