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- In Times of Peril - 40/55 -
it was open, and through this the mutineers added a heavy fire to that which streamed from above. The sappers laid their bags against the gate, and slipped down into the ditch to allow the firing party to do their work. Many had already fallen. Sergeant Carmichael was shot dead as he laid down his powder bag; Havildar Mahor was wounded. As Lieutenant Salkeld tried to fire the fuse he fell, shot through the arm and leg; while Havildar Tilluh Sing, who stood by, was killed, and Ramloll Sepoy was wounded. As he fell Lieutenant Salkeld handed the slow match to Corporal Burgess, who lit the fuse, but fell mortally wounded as he did so. Then those who survived jumped, or were helped, into the ditch, and in another moment a great explosion took place, and the Cashmere gate blew into splinters, killing some forty mutineers who were behind it. Then Lieutenant Home, seeing that the way was clear, ordered Bugler Hawthorne to sound the advance, and the assaulting column came rushing forward with a cheer, and burst through the gateway into the city.
Of the six Englishmen who took part in that glorious deed only two lived to wear the Victoria cross, the reward of valor. Two had died on the spot, and upon the other four General Wilson at once bestowed the cross; but Lieutenant Salkeld died of his wounds, and Lieutenant Home was killed within a week of the capture of the city. Thus only Sergeant Smith and Bugler Hawthorne lived to wear the honor so nobly won.
General Nicholson, who was in general command of the whole force, concentrated the two columns which had entered in a wide open space inside the Cashmere gate, and then swept the enemy off the ramparts as far as the Moree bastion, the whole of the north wall being now in the possession of our troops. Then he proceeded to push on toward the Lahore gate, where he expected to meet Major Reed with, the fourth column. This column had, however, failed even to reach the Lahore gate, the enemy's position in the suburb beyond the wall proving so strong, and being held by so numerous a force, that, after suffering very heavily, the commander had to call back his men, his retreat being covered by the cavalry.
Thus, as General Nicholson advanced through the narrow lane between the wall and the houses, the column was swept by a storm of fire from window, loophole, and housetop--a fire to which no effective reply was possible. Then, just as he was in the act of cheering on his men, the gallant soldier fell back in the arms of those behind him, mortally wounded. He was carried off by his sorrowing soldiers, and lingered until the 26th of the month, when, to the deep grief of the whole army, he expired.
It being evident that any attempt to force a path further in this direction would lead to useless slaughter, and that the place must be won step by step, by the aid of artillery, the troops were called back to the bastion.
A similar experience had befallen the third column, which had, guided by Sir T. Metcalfe, who knew the city intimately, endeavored to make a circuit so as to reach and carry the Jumma Musjid, the great mosque which dominated the city. So desperate was the resistance experienced that this column had also to fall back to the ramparts. The reserve column had followed the third in at the Cashmere gate, and had, after some fighting, possessed itself of some strong buildings in that neighborhood, most important of which was a large and commanding house, the residence of Achmed Ali Khan; and when the third column fell back Skinner's house, the church, the magazine, and the main-guard were held, and guns were planted to command the streets leading thereto. One cause of the slight advance made that day was, that the enemy, knowing the weakness of the British soldier, had stored immense quantities of champagne and other wines, beer, and spirits in the streets next to the ramparts, and the troops--British, Sikhs, Beloochees, and Ghoorkas alike--parched with thirst, and excited by the sight of these long untasted luxuries, fell into the snare, and drank so deeply that the lighting power of the force was for awhile very seriously impaired.
On the 15th the stubborn fighting recommenced. From house to house our troops fought their way; frequently, when the street was so swept by fire that it was impossible to progress there, making their way by breaking down the party walls, and so working from one house into another. During this day guns and mortars were brought into the city from our batteries, and placed so as to shell the palace and the great building called the Selimgur.
The next morning the Sixty-first Regiment and the Fourth Punjaub Rifles made a rush at the great magazine, and the rebels were so stricken by their rapidity and dash that they threw down their portfires and fled, without even once discharging the cannon, which, crammed to the muzzle with grape, commanded every approach. Here one hundred and twenty-five cannon and an enormous supply of ammunition fell into our hands, and a great many of the guns were at once turned against their late owners.
So day by day the fight went on. At night the sky was red with the flames of burning houses, by day a pall of smoke hung over the city. From either side cannon and mortars played unceasingly, while the rattle of musketry, the crash of falling houses, the shrieks of women, the screams of children, and the shouting of men mingled in a chaos of sounds. To the credit of the British soldier be it said, that infuriated as they were by the thirst for vengeance, the thought of the murdered women, and the heat of battle, not a single case occurred, so far as is known, of a woman being ill-treated, insulted, or fired upon--although the women had been present in the massacres, and had constantly accompanied and cheered on the sorties of the mutineers. To the Sepoys met with in Delhi no mercy was shown; every man taken was at once bayoneted, and the same fate befell all townsmen found fighting against us. The rest of the men, as well as the women and children, were, after the fighting was over, permitted to leave the city unmolested, although large numbers of them had taken share in the sack of the white inhabitants' houses, and the murder of every Christian, British or native, in the town. It would, however, have been impossible to separate the innocent from the guilty; consequently all were allowed to go free.
From the time that the British troops burst through the breaches, an exodus had begun from the gates of the town on the other side, and across the bridge over the Jumna. Our heavy guns could have destroyed this bridge, and our cavalry might have swept round the city and cut off the retreat on the other side; but the proverb that it is good to build a bridge for a flying foe was eminently applicable here. Had the enemy felt their retreat cut off--had they known that certain death awaited them unless they could drive us out of the city, the defense would have been so desperate that it would have been absolutely impossible for the British forces to have accomplished it. The defense of some of the Spanish towns in the Peninsular war by the inhabitants, lighting from house to house against French armies, showed what could be effected by desperate men lighting in narrow streets; and the loss inflicted on our troops at Nujufghur by twenty Sepoys was another evidence of the inexpediency of driving the enemy to despair. As it was, the rebels after the first day fought feebly, and were far from making the most of the narrow streets and strongly-built houses. No one liked to be the first to retreat, but all were resolved to make off at the earliest opportunity. Men grew distrustful of each other, and day by day the desertions increased, the resistance diminished, and the districts held by the rebels grew smaller and smaller. It is true that by thus allowing tens of thousands of rebels to escape we allowed them to continue the war in the open country, but here, as it afterward proved, they were contemptible foes, and their defeat did not cost a tithe of the loss which would have resulted in their extermination within the walls of Delhi.
Up to the 20th the palace still held out. This was a fortress in itself, mounting many cannon on its walls, and surrounded by an open park-like space. On that morning the engineers began to run a trench, to enable a battery to be erected to play upon the Lahore gate of the palace. Before, however, they had been long at work, a party of men of the Sixty-first, with some Sikhs and Ghoorkas, ran boldly forward, and taking shelter under a low wall close to the gate, opened fire at the embrasures and loopholes. The answering fire was so weak that Colonel Jones, who was in command of the troops in this quarter--convinced that the report that the king with his wives and family, and the greater part of the garrison of the palace, had already left was true--determined upon blowing in the gate at once. Lieutenant Home was appointed to lead the party told off for the duty, which was happily effected without loss. The British rushed in, and found three guns loaded to the muzzle placed in the gateway, but fortunately the Sepoys who should have fired them had fled.
The news that the palace was taken spread rapidly, and there was a rush to share in the spoil. But few of the enemy were found inside; these were at once bayoneted, and then a general scramble ensued. The order had been given that no private plundering should be allowed, but that everything taken should be collected, and sold for the general benefit of the troops. Orders like this are, however, never observed, at any rate with portable articles; and Sikhs, Ghoorkas, and British alike, loaded themselves with spoil. Cashmere shawls worth a hundred pounds were sold for five shillings, silk dresses might be had for nothing, and jewelry went for less than the value of the setting.
The same day the headquarters of the army were removed to the palace of Delhi. As the Union Jack of England ran up the flagstaff on the palace so lately occupied by the man crowned by the rebels Emperor of India, the seat and headquarters of the revolt which had deluged the land with blood, and caused the rule of England to totter, a royal salute was fired by the British guns, and tremendous cheers arose from the troops in all parts of the city.
The raising of that flag, the booming of those guns, were the signal of the deathblow of the Indian mutiny. Over one hundred thousand rebels were still in arms against the British government, but the heart of the insurrection was gone. It was no longer a war, it was a rebellion. There was no longer a head, a center, or a common aim. Each body of mutineers fought for themselves--for life rather than for victory. The final issue of the struggle was now certain; and all the native princes who had hitherto held aloof, watching the issue of the fight at Delhi, and remaining neutral until it was decided whether the Sepoys could pluck up the British flag from the Ridge, or the British tear down the emblem of rebellion from above the palace of Delhi, hesitated no longer, but hastened to give in their allegiance to the victorious power.
Nothing has been said as to the part the Warreners bore in that fierce six days' fighting. They did their duty, as did every other man in the British army, but they had no opportunity for specially distinguishing themselves. As staff officers, they had often to carry messages to troops engaged in stubborn fight, and in doing so to dash across open spaces, and run the gantlet of a score of musket balls; both, however, escaped without a scratch. They had not been present on the occasion of the taking of the palace, for they had been at early morning on the point of going in to the headquarters for orders, when Captain Hodgson came out. They had dined with him on the day previous to the assault, and he came up them now.
"Now," he said, "I am just going on an expedition after your own hearts, lads. We have news that the king and queen have stolen away, and have gone to the palace at the Kotub Minar. I am going with my troops to bring them in. Would you like to go?"
"Oh, yes, of all things," the Warreners exclaimed. "But we have no horses."
"Oh, I can mount you," he said. "Several of my fellows slipped into the town in hopes of getting some loot, and three or four were shot; so if the general will give you leave, I will take you."
The Warreners at once went in to Brigadier-General Jones, to whom they had
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