Imatges de pàgina

can be brought, without harshness or punishment, to the highest discipline, we neither can nor ought to have any toleration for those who pursue a different system ; and the Commander in Chief is unfit for his station who grants bis applause to the mere martinet, and forgets, in his intemperate zeal, that no perfection, in appearance and discipline, can make amends for the loss of the temper and attachment of the native soldiers under his command.

We discover in the pages of Orme many examples of that patient endurance of privations and fatigue, and that steady valour which has since characterised the native infantry of Fort St. George. Their conduct in the war against Hyder Ally in 1766 was such as justly to entitle them to admiration. In the battle of Trinomalee and Molwaggle they displayed all the qualifications of good and steady soldiers, and it was during this war that the filth battalion of native infantry, commanded by Captain Calvert, distinguished itself by the defence of Ambore, and obtained the honour of bearing a representation of that mountain fortress on one of its standards. To the campaigns of Sir Eyre Coote we have already alluded, and have spoken of the unshaken tidelity wbich the sepoys of Madras evinced at that trying juncture; but if a moment was to be named when the existence of the British power depended upon its native troops, we should fix upon the battle of Portonovo. Driven to the sea-sbore, attacked by an enemy exulting in recent success,* confident ju bis numbers, and strong in the terror of his name; every circumstance combined that could dishearten the small body of men on whom the fate of the war depended: not a heart shrunk from the trial, Of the European troops it is of course superfluous to speak; but all the native battalions appear, from every account of the action, to have been entitled to equal praise on this memorable occasion ; and it is difficult to say whether they were most distinguished when suffering with a patient courage under a heavy cannonade, when receiving and repulsing the shock of the flower of Hyder’s cavalry, or when attacking in their turn the troops of that monarchi, who, baffled in all his efforts, retreated from this field of anticipated conquest with the loss of his most celebrated commander, and thousands of his bravest soldiers.

The defeat of Colonel Baillie's detachment which occurred at the commencement of this war. This defeat has been variously attributed to bad arrangements in the general plans of the campaign, to mismanagement on the part of the commanding othcer, and to the misconduct of the native troops. It is probable all these causes combined to produce this great misfortune ; but we must recollect that the native battalions that were chiefly accused of bad behaviour on this occasion were raw levies who had never before seen service, and most of whom had hardly been in the army a suffcient time to be disciplined. The men composing these corps had been bastily raised in the Circars, or northern possessions of Madras, and their conduct created a prejudice (which experience has since proved to be unjust) against recruits from this quarier,

It would exceed our limits to dwell upon the different actions in the war against Tippoo and the Mahrattas, in which the Madras sepoys signalized themselves; we shall therefore content ourselves with some anecdotes of corps and individuals which appear calculated to give a fair impression of the general character of this class of the defenders of our empire in India.

The natives of India have, generally speaking, a rooted dislike to the sea; and when we consider the great privations and hardships to which Hindoos of high cast are subject on a long voyage, during which some of them, from prejudices of cast, subsist solely on parched grain, we feel less surprize at the occasional mutinies which have been caused by orders for their embarkation, than at the zeal and attachment they have often shewn upon such trying occasions.

A mutiny had occurred in the 9th battalion when ordered to embark for Bombay in 1779 or 1780, which however had been quelled by the spirit and decision of its conımandant Captain Kelly. A more serious result had accompanied a similar order for the embarkation of some companies of a corps in the northern Circars, who when they came to Vizayapatam, the port where they were to take shipping, had risen upon their European officers, and in their violence shot all, except one or two who escaped on board the vessel appointed to carry their men.

. These events rendered government averse to a repetition of experiments which had proved so dangerous: but in the year 1795, when the island of Ceylon and the possessions of the Dutch in the eastern seas were to be reduced, Lord Hobart,* who was then governor of Fort St. George, made a successful appeal to the zeal and attachment of the native troops, who volunteered in corps for foreign service.

A still greater call for men was necessary when an army was formed in 1797 for the attack of Manilla, and many of the best battalions in the service shewed a forwardness to be employed on this expedition. Among these, one of the most remarkable for its appearance and discipline, was a battalion of the twenty-second regiment. This fine corps was commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Jaines Oram,f an officer not more distinguished for his personal zeal and gallantry than for a thorough knowledge of the men under

Lord Hobart (afterwards Earl of Buckinghamsbire) was very successful in inspiring zeal in every branch of the government under his charge, and his attention was peculiarly directed to the conciliation of the natives. The local information he acquired at this period was subsequently matured by a study of the general interests of the Indian empire, and the life of this virtuous nobleman terminated at a moment when his services, from the high station he had attained of President of the Board of Controal, were most valuable to his country. + This officer has been dead upwards of fifteen years.

[ocr errors]

his command; whose temper he had completely preserved, at the same time that he had imparted to them the highest perfection in their dress and discipline. When he proposed to his corps on parade to volunteer for Manilla, they only requested to know wheiher Colonel Oram would go with them : the answer was, · He would. Will he stay with us?' was the second question: the reply was in the affirmative, the whole corps exclaimed “To Europe, to Europe !' and the alacrity and spirit with which they subsequently embarked, shewed they would as readily have gone to the shores of the Atlantic as to an island of the eastern ocean. Not a man of the corps deserted, from the period they volunteered for service till they embarked; and such was the contagion of their enthusiasm, that several sepoys who were missing from one of the battalions in garrison at Madras were found, when the expedition returned, to have deserted to join the twenty-second under Colonel Oram. We state this anecdote with a full'impression of the importance of the lesson it conveys. It is through their affections alone that such a class of men can be well commanded.

We meet in the Madras native army with many instances of unconquerable attachment to the service to which they belong. Among these none can be more remarkable than that of Syud Ibrahim, commandant of the Tanjore cavalry, who was made prisoner by Tippoo Sultan in 1781. The character of this distinguisbed officer was well known to his enemy, and the highest rank and station were offered to tempt him to enter into the employment of the state of Mysore. His steady refusal occasioned bis being treated with such rigour, and was attended, as his fellow prisoners (who were British officers) thought, with such danger to his life, that they, from a generous feeling, contemplating his condition as a Mahomedan and a native of India, as in some essential points different from their own, recommended him to accept the offers of the Sultan; but the firm allegiance of Syud Ibrahim would admit of no compromise, and he treated every overture as an insult. His virtuous resolution provoked at last the personal resentment of Tippoo; and when the English prisoners were released in 1784, the commandant was removed to a dungeou in the mountain fortress of Couley Droog, where he terminated his existence. His sister, who had left her home, the Carnatic, to share the captivity of her brother, was subsequently wounded in the storming of Seringapatam. She however fortunately recovered, and the government of Fort St. George granted her a peusion of fifty-two pagodas and half per month, or £250 per annum, being the full pay of a native commandant of cavalry. A tomb was also erected at the place where Syud Ibrahim died, and government endowed it with an establishment sufficient to maintain a fakeer or priest, and to keep two lamps continually burning at the shrine of this faithful soldier.

maintain * This corps, some years before the period of which we are now speaking, attained very high reputation under Captain Dunwoody, an officer wbose memory continues to be respected and cherished in the native army of Fort St. George.

Among the many instances of the effect which pride in themselves, and the notice of their superiors, inspire in this class of troops, we may state the conduct of the first battalion of the Sth regiment of infantry, which became, at the commencement of his career in India, a favourite corps* of the Duke of Wellington. They were with him on every service, and the men of this corps used often to call themselves • Wellesley ka Pulten,' or Wellesley's Battalion, and their conduct on every occasion was calculated to support the proud title they had assumed. A staff officert after the battle of Assaye saw a number of the Mahoniedans of this battalion assembled apparently for a funeral; he asked whom they were about to inter? they mentioned the vames of five commissioned and non-commissioned officers of a very distinguished family in the corps. We are going to put these brothers to into one grave,' said one of the party. The officer, who was well acquainted with the individuals who had been slain, expressed his regret and was about to offer some consolation to the survivors, but he was stopped by one of the men—There is no occasion,' he said, for such feelings or expressions: these inen (pointing to the dead bodies) were sepoys, (soldiers,) they have died in the performance of their duty: the government they served will protect their children, who will soon fill the ranks they lately occupied.'

Though sensible we have dwelt too long upon this part of our subject, we cannot forbear recording an example of that patience with which the native troops meet privation and distress. In 1804 the subsidiary force in the deckan, commanded by Colonel Hali-' burton, was inclosed between two rivers, which became suddenly so swollen as to cut off their supplies of provisions. It was a period of general famine, and the communication was cut off with the grain dealers, from whom alone they could expect a supply. All the rice in camp was found to be barely sufficient for five days allowance, at a very reduced rate, to the European part of the force. Issues to the sepoys were stopt, but while they were left to the

+ The respectable and distinguished officer to whom we owe this, and the following anecdote of the Madras troops, concludes a note he has been kind enough to send us on the subject, with the following remark.

• I have seen (he observes) the Madras sepoys engaged in great and triding actions more than fifty times ; I never knew thein behave ill, or backward, but once, when two havildars (or serjeants) that were next to me, quitted their post from seeing the fire chiefly directed at me, but it is (he adds) but justice to state that, on other occasions, I have owed my life to the gallantry of my covering havildar.' * The term Brothers' extends in India to first cousins.

scanty subsistence they might be able to procure for themselves, they were appointed the sole guards over that grain, from all share in which they were from necessity excluded. This duty was performed with the strictest care, and the most cheerful submission. Fortunately the waters subsided, and an ample supply prevented their feeling that extreme of famine, the prospect of which they had contemplated with an attention to discipline, and a composure of mind, which even astonished those best acquainted with their habits of order and obedience.

We have before stated that it was at Bombay that the first native corps were disciplined by the English. Of the exact date we are ignorant, but regular sepoys are noticed in the account of the transactions of that part of India some time before they were embodied at either Madras or Bengal. A corps of one hundred sepoys from Bombay and four hundred from Tellicherry is mentioned as having joined the army at Madras in A. D. 1747; and a company of Bombay sepoys, which had gone with troops from Madras to Bengal, were present at the victory of Plassey. The sepoys at Bombay continued long in independent companies, commanded by subadars, or native captains. As the possessions and political relations of that settlement were enlarged, its army increased. The companies were formed into battalions under European officers, and during the war with the Mahrattas, A. D. 1780, we find the establishment consisting of fifteen battalions. These, at the termination of the war with Tippoo, 1783, were reduced to six, and one battalion of marines. In 1789, its numbers were augmented to twelve battalions. In 1796, it was reformed into an establishment of four regiments of two battalions each, from which it has been progressively raised by the acquisition of territory and subsidiary alliances to its present establishment of nine regiments of native intantry of two battalions each, one battalion of marines, and a small corps of native cavalry. · The men of the native infantry of Bombay are of a standard very near that of Madras. The lowest size taken is five feet three coches, and the average is five feet five, but they are robust and hardy, and capable of enduring great fatigue upon very slender diet.

This army has, from its origin to the present day, been indiscriminately composed of all classes; Mahomedans, Hindoos, Jews, and some few Christians. Among the Hindoos, those of the lowest tribes of Mahrattas, and the Purwarrie, Soortee, and Frost* sects, are much more numerous ihan the Rajpoots and higher casts. Jews have always been favourite soldiers in this army, and great

The Purwarrie are generally from the southward of Bombay; the Frost and Soor. tees from the northward. These are men of what is termed very low cast, being hardly above what are called Pariahs on the coast of Coromandel.


« AnteriorContinua »