HL Deb 02 April 1846 vol 85 cc412-35

I flatter myself, my Lords, that you will pardon me, if, in the course I am about to take this evening, I do that which is not altogether conformable with the usual practice of your Lordships' House, and proceed to submit to your Lordships a Motion of which I have not previously given notice. My Lords, I am sure you will believe that I could have no desire improperly to deviate from the rules of the House; and still less will you consider that if I propose to add to the Motion of which I have given notice, another of which I have not given notice, I have done so on any notion on my part, or any conception on your Lordships' part, that the splendour of the achievement which I am about to bring under your notice, without previously informing you of it, could possibly dim the original brightness of that glorious achievement to which I shall first refer. But I did think that on an occasion like the present—considering the intimate connection between these two events—between the successes and honours that belong to them—it might seem reasonable and proper that they should be considered together; and that the very fact of your Lordships recording on one and the same day your sentiments in regard to two such bright achievements of war would show, not only to the people of India, but to the whole world, what are the resources, the power, and the energy of this country, and how grateful you are to those who develop them to the world in whatever quarter of it they may be called into action. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will pardon me for the course I am about to pursue. I will, in the first place, advert to that portion of the subject of which I have given notice, and which refers to the battle of Aliwal. I am, my Lords, very sensible that it does not require any eloquence on my part to inspire your Lordships with those feelings which would naturally arise in contemplating such a display of skill and courage on the part of our army; and it is impossible that any description I can give of the operations of that glorious day could bring them before your Lordships in a manner more clear, precise, and intelligible to the least scientific or the least professional person, as the very account given by the conqueror himself—a specimen, I think, of composition which would do honour to the most literate Member of your Lordships' House. Possessing, therefore, my Lords, this advantage, I am sure I need not trouble you by entering into any detailed description of that which has been already so admirably described, and which must still be vividly present to the minds of your Lordships, who have, no doubt, read the despatches. But I will advert shortly to some of the circumstances which preceded this distinguished action—circumstances, a thorough comprehension of which may perhaps be necessary to demonstrate more particularly the admirable skill and judgment with which, from beginning to end, Sir Henry Smith's operations were conducted. Your Lordships will recollect that when our army first advanced to meet the invasion of the Sikhs, it was deemed necessary, as it was doubtless prudent, to withdraw a great part of our forces which were assembled for the purpose of protecting Loodiana, for the purpose of effecting a combination with that portion of the army which was advancing from Umballah, and thus to proceed to meet the Sikhs at Ferozepore with a larger and more concentrated force. No doubt the effect of that was to leave Loodiana exposed to an attack by any force the Sikhs might have in that quarter; but the chief object was to attack their main army at Ferozepore, and therefore points of secondary importance were unattended to, in order, by every effort, to concentrate a powerful army, and by these combined forces to strike the decisive blow. No sooner, however, had the enemy been driven across the Sutlej, after the battles of the 21st and 22nd of December, and our army placed in a position that was unassailable by the enemy on the opposite side, than it was deemed advisable to strengthen our force at Loodiana, not only to guard against contingencies, but to displace any force of the enemy that might have appeared in that quarter. It was clear, that although it was expected that any force the enemy could collect at Loodiana would not amount to such a number as he had on the lower part of the Sutlej, yet still the position which he occupied on that point would be such as to cause extreme inconvenience by cutting off our communications, by intercepting the arrival of detached reinforcements; and above all, by causing to diverge, if not capturing, the heavy battering train, the arrival of which at the camp of the Commander in Chief was indispensably necessary to enable him to carry on his future operations. It was, therefore, determined to detach a force to Loodiana with the view of effecting that object. Sir H. Smith was selected to command this force; and on or about the 7th of January, I think, various corps had moved in that direction from our camp near Ferozepore, and other points; and by the 15th of January a large force was assembled there, and was quite prepared against any sudden attack of the enemy. About this time intelligence was received at headquarters to the effect that the enemy had collected a very large force at Phulloor opposite Loodiana—larger than was originally supposed, and was moving across the river, and that it was supposed he would entrench himself in a position between the main body of our army and the reinforcements assembled in the fort. It then became necessary to take further measures to increase our forces, to meet these new circumstances; and according the 53d Regiment of Her Majesty's infantry, which was moving up, was ordered to join Sir H. Smith's division, which was afterwards increased by a body of cavalry, including the 16th Lancers. Sir H. Smith's force was directed to attack a fort called Durrumkote, which interrupted the communication between our position on the Sutlej and Loodiana. Sir H. Smith proceeded to execute this movement; the enemy abandoned the fort immediately, it only requiring a few shots to induce them to surrender; and, as a consequence, some guns and a quantity of grain fell into our hands. The general then advanced in the direction of Loodiana, being in the meantime to be joined by the 53d Regiment and a corps of Native troops, the Shekawattee brigade, which was arriving from another point, and expected to be in that vicinity by the 22nd of January. It was also determined to send to General Smith another division, viz., the brigade under Brigadier Wheeler. On proceeding on his march, the 53d Regiment was found at the point mentioned; the Shekawattee brigade was also advancing according to the calculations which had been made; and he proceeded on the 21st on his march from Jugraon to Loodiana. In the interim the enemy's forces were making a forward movement towards Loodiana, and it was also discovered that they had taken up a position at the village of Buddowal, which was situated on the direct road to Loodiana. That road passes through several villages, all defensible, and by that position the enemy had placed themselves exactly on the line of march between Jugraon and Loodiana. When he arrived at a certain distance from Loodiana, he found them in position, moving in a line parallel to that he had taken. Many a man might have been tempted, by that spirit which belongs to him in common with other British officers, to have availed himself of the opportunity of making an attack on the enemy; but he was too wise to deviate from his instructions, or to lose sight of the object of his march. He was not led away, by the hope of making a successful attack, to deviate from the line prescribed to him, or to forget the important object of concentrating his forces on Loodiana. He therefore, with admirable coolness, moved to the right, leaving the enemy in a position which it was not prudent to assail, but moving onwards in a parallel line towards the point of Loodiana. He had in the meantime communicated to Brigadier Godby that he was advancing, and had directed him to quit the fort of Loodiana to meet him on the road. The enemy endeavoured to intercept him, but he formed his men in such a way as to enable him at once to continue his march, or, if necessary, to wheel up and fight them. The enemy, with great skill, as it appears to me, confined themselves in the first instance to a distant cannonade; they had an excellent road to move upon, but Sir H. Smith was obliged to move the whole of his force through very deep sand, which necessarily impeded his progress and fatigued his troops: but he still adhered resolutely to the object he had in view; and although the enemy was much more numerous than our troops, and strong enough, had they concentrated their whole strength, to have enveloped them, yet he was not dismayed; he went on exactly as he had started, and effected the junction at Loodiana with comparatively trifling loss; although there were some brave men undoubtedly who fell under the effect of the cannonade, and he lost some of the baggage of the rear guard, which, compared with the main object, was a matter of insignificance. He gained his object, and concentrated his force at Loodiana. Whoever looks at the maps of the country will see that, by placing himself in the position in which he did, he was almost in the rear of the enemy's position at Buddowal; and therefore, although he had avoided an action, and sustained comparatively no loss, he had put himself in such a position with regard to the enemy's force that it was almost impossible they could maintain themselves without fighting him in the position of Buddowal. In the meantime Brigadier Wheeler had advanced to join him. He was informed that an action had been fought on the 21st, in which the British troops had been entirely successful, and that the enemy had been driven back. In consequence of this he proceeded in the direct road from Dhurrumkote to Loodiana. When he had advanced a certain distance he received other intelligence of an opposite tendency, describing an action and defeat; and, therefore, he felt it impossible to push on in that direction; if he had done so, he felt that he might have been compromised, and have fallen into the midst of the enemy's army. He then retired, and took a more circuitous course, in order to join Sir Harry Smith; but this movement, although it originated in erroneous information, brought the heads of his column so far to the position of the right of the enemy, that they, finding themselves with Sir Harry Smith's corps on their left, and Brigadier Wheeler on the right, deemed their position untenable, and decamped in the middle of the night. The position which Sir Harry Smith occupied made it impossible for the enemy to retire at the point at which he had crossed the river; and he was, therefore, obliged to make a longer march to cross at a lower part. On the 26th, Sir Harry Smith was joined by Brigadier Wheeler, and he proceeded to attack them. He had collected a strong force, although considerably inferior, undoubtedly, to that of the enemy, which had been reinforced from time to time, and at the very last had been reinforced by the Avitabile Regiment, which may be assumed to be the flower of the enemy's infantry. His duty and orders were to drive the enemy across the Sutlej. He knew he could do it, and he did it. He proceeded, having made his arrangements, to execute the beautiful manœuvre—if such a phrase is applicable to such a case—which ended in the total defeat and discomfiture of the Sikh army. I cannot think it necessary for me, my Lords, to enter into any detail of the skilful manner in which he arranged the order of his march, and provided, as it appears, against every possible attack that could be made upon him; while the disposition of his own forces was such as to give him every facility for making the attack himself: all these are beyond my praise, and certainly require no explanation or illustration from me. Such, my Lords, was the order of his advance; and no man can read the account which he gives of the commencement of the action, without seeing in his conduct signs of a great master in the art of war. The most perfect coolness and self-possession; no uncertainty, no indecision, no wavering, nothing omitted, no precaution neglected, a reserve where a reserve was necessary, in every part; and all arranged with a degree of beautiful precision and a skill that I believe never were exceeded by the arrangement of the most distinguished commander. He moved on to the attack under a heavy fire; then halted for a few moments—and why did he halt? To see, with the eagle eye of a great captain, whether he could not discover which was the key to the enemy's position; and he found it in the village of Aliwal. He immediately made, under fire of the enemy, such a disposition of his troops as enabled him to force the position; and by forcing that position on the left, he enveloped the wing, and drove it back in confusion on their right. That was what he anticipated, and what he effected. I believe it was one of the most complete operations of the kind that ever was undertaken under fire of the enemy. The success was most complete. Our troops had indeed a gallant enemy to deal with, who were not slow in making their own arrangements, and they withstood them with the greatest courage and fortitude; but nothing could finally withstand the irresistible attack that our gallant soldiers made; and the result, as your Lordships know, was that the enemy was driven helter-skelter over the river, with a loss which must have made them repent having invaded our soil in such an unrighteous cause. In this contest, my Lords, all vied with each other. There seems to have been not one moment of confusion, not a moment of doubt, not a moment of hesitation. It was not the European recovering what might have been lost by the Native; but it was the Native vying with the European in every attack that he was called on to make; and it is one of the most gratifying circumstances in all these transactions to know that these Native troops have shown themselves not inferior to our own; and that they deserve equally well of the country, and equally well with our own countrymen, the approbation and applause of your Lordships. I will not fatigue your Lordships by entering into every detail of this battle; but I will allude to one little circumstance which strikes me as worthy of notice, as exhibiting strongly the spirit with which our troops were animated. Your Lordships may recollect that in Sir Henry Smith's account he states, that Brigadier Cureton's cavalry, when the line of infantry deployed, were on the right flank. It consisted of Her Majesty's 16th Lancers, of the 5th and 1st Native Cavalry, and the Body Guard. Brigadier Cureton directed a charge to be made in front of the enemy's entrenchments, by two of these regiments, the 16th and the Body Guard. The 1st Regiment of Native Cavalry, which was a weak regiment, was left in reserve, waiting for orders to act. Brigadier Cureton, after the charge of the other regiments, came up to this regiment, and said, "Now, my brave boys, charge the camp." They heard the word, and they did charge the camp; they charged the entrenchment; they got over it; they forced their way through it: the first salute they received was a volley of grape shot. They had the greatest possible difficulties to encounter, because the enemy's tents were so near that there was little or no room for the cavalry to pass or to form. Nevertheless, in spite of all these difficulties they passed on: they saw before them infantry and cavalry whom it was their duty to attack, and they pressed on in spite of these obstacles. There was a young officer in the regiment, of the name of Ellice, the son of a right hon. Gentleman who is very well known, I believe, to some of your Lordships; he headed that attack. He had not joined his regiment for more than a few months; he certainly never saw any fighting of the sort in his life; but Mr. Ellice knew what he had to do, and that his duty was to press on; and in spite of all these obstacles and difficulties he galloped on for the purpose of attacking those whom he saw within the entrenchments. He turned round and found that such had been the difficulties in the way that he had only eight men with him; the rest had been unable to keep up. When he saw that, he saw at the same time a body of the enemy's cavalry before him, and this boy at the head of these eight men charged the cavalry. They did not stand to let him bring his forces to bear against them, but they opened their ranks and afforded him a passage through, firing on them as they passed. This discharge killed four of his eight men, and there he was left alone with four followers. What became of the enemy? They were all driven at last into the river, not by this boy and these few men; but they must have been panic-struck with the gallantry of the attack, and by the pressure that was afterwards made upon them. I mention this incident as an example of the fiery spirit with which the troops were animated, and the thirst of glory with which they were all actuated; of this spirit this incident may be taken as a not unreasonable illustration; and it was with that view that I took the liberty of adverting to it. When such a spirit prevails amongst young and inexperienced men, what may it be expected to produce on those of more mature years, and greater experience and knowledge of the art of war? The trophies of the day, my Lords, were all the cannon that the enemy had brought across the river, all their ammunition, and stores of every kind, that had been accumulated in their camp; and the waves of the Sutlej carried down to the ford of Hurreekee, the tête de pont in front of the bridge, and encampment of the Sikh army, the bodies of those men who were drowned in their attempt to escape from the slaughter with which they were threatened. Not long after the fort of Phulloor, on the opposite bank, seems to have been taken by us. The immediate consequence of this victory was, that the Governor General and the Commander-in-Chief felt that the time had now arrived when their task was to be performed. They had received, what was so necessary to them, the division of heavy artillery that was coming up from Delhi. They were themselves posted in such a way as to be unassailable by the enemy, and in just reliance on the courage of their troops, and the skill of the officers who were to act under them, they felt that what they had to do was to drive the enemy across the river. Accordingly orders were immediately sent to Sir Henry Smith, directing him to return with that portion of the force towards the camp from which he had originally been sent. A sufficient number of troops were left in Loodiana to cover that position, and to secure it against the possibility of a renewed attack. Sir Henry Smith arrived on the 8th February, and on his arrival the plan for the attack of the tête de pont was determined on by the Commander-in-Chief. And then began the other glorious battle, which I call upon your Lordships to honour with your thanks upon the present occasion. And here, again, I must say that I should be wasting your Lordships' time if I were to attempt to describe that battle. It is described by those who conducted it, who arranged the plan, and who have gained to themselves immortal honour in its execution, in words which will be a far more imperishable memorial than any language that may fall from me, of the noble deeds of that glorious day. I therefore abstain from weakening the force of the despatch, from a fear of confusing its clearness if I were to attempt to enter upon it; and I leave your Lordships to form your own opinions as to the disposition of the attacks, the skill with which they were made, and the energy and success with which they were crowned. All who were present shared equally in the glory, from the Commander-in-Chief to the Sepoy. They all deserve your Lordships' thanks. But there was a heavy loss sustained upon that occasion—men of great renown, of distinguished services, fell; and whilst we glory in the success of those who survive, we may lament, deeply lament, the fate of those who fell. The Commander-in-Chief mentions, amongst those to whom he was indebted for assistance on that great day, the name of the Governor General; and, my Lords, I know not whether it is generally known, but I am sure it was not known when the first despatch was published, that that gallant officer had, ten days before, met with a very severe accident—a fall from his horse—which for some days incapacitated him from attending at head-quarters. So eager was he to do everything in his power in order to facilitate the Commander-in-Chief in the execution of his plans, that, one night, something having occurred to him which he thought it necessary he should communicate to the Commander-in-Chief, he set off without delay in the middle of the night, and rode to the Commander-in-Chief's head-quarters; and it was on his return from thence that this accident happened. At the time of this battle, although his energies were never broken down, his body was comparatively weak; and they who know what fighting is, and what the feelings of a general must be upon such occasions, will, I think, understand what must have been the feelings of Sir Henry Hardinge when he was obliged go to down to battle in a carriage. In a carriage, however, he went; but when he was there, his carriage was not his post. He mounted his horse, or rather he was lifted upon it, for he could not mount it himself; and there, most probably under bodily suffering of an acute kind, he was ready to assist and to take his share, if he was called on so to do, in rendering those services which have been so nobly and honourably attested by the language of the Commander-in-Chief. The moment the battle was over, Sir Henry Hardinge immediately proceeded to superintend the other part of the plan, which was the passage of the river by two of the divisions at a lower point, to which boats had been brought, and where a bridge had been constructed. The boats were brought up the Indus, and were used for the purpose of passing over the whole of our army after this success had been won. Accordingly the army was moved over that very night. Two divisions of infantry and a portion of the cavalry were moved over in the course of that night. The whole of the remainder of the army was moved over in the course of the following days, and they immediately advanced on the road to Lahore, to a place called Kussoor, which was a strong and defensive position, if the enemy had been in any condition to defend it. They were not; for the losses they had sustained had demoralised their army, and deprived them of all means of active movement. The remainder of the march of the Commander-in-Chief to within sixteen miles of Lahore, from whence the last despatch is dated, was made without the smallest obstacle, or even the appearance of an enemy. This, my Lords, closes the scene, up to the period of the last despatch. I forbear, as it is my duty to do, from noticing many things with respect to that which your Lordships now know to be the nature of the terms proposed between the Governor General and the Court of Lahore. That might involve political considerations, into which it is not for me to enter on the present occasion. Whatever my opinions and feelings may be, all I call on your Lordships now to do is to testify, by what I am sure will be the unanimous sense of the House, the high esteem in which you hold those gallant men who have fought so bravely in the service of their country. When your Lordships feel how much is due to the Governor General, and the responsibility that was thrown upon him—and give me leave to say that those who are not thoroughly aware of the nature of that responsibility cannot adequately appreciate it, but those who are ignorant of it may learn the weight of it by perusing the letters which are on the Table of the House—they will then fully acknowledge the energy, the activity of mind which characterized him in providing for every contingency that might arise, so as to enable him to meet it with effect. I could, my Lords, produce many of those letters of the description referred to, which would show the comprehensive view of the Governor General's mind in providing for these operations, and which, I think, may be taken as a fair parallel to the similar correspondence of Napoleon, or to that of the illustrious commander who now sits near me (the Duke of Wellington), under whom he had once served, and which in every line exhibit that clear and distinct understanding which is one of his characteristics. It was in that school, too, that Sir Hugh Gough had learned fighting. That gallant Officer had at a former period shared, in a humbler sphere—for I do not know that he had arrived at the rank of general when he served with the illustrious Duke—in the glories of the Peninsula. It was, however, no doubt true that Sir H. Gough had there learned a lesson under the same master—the greatest master in the art of war. It must indeed afford matter of gratification to the feelings of that illustrious Commander to find that those who have served under him, even in inferior capacities, and have taken their lessons of war from his precepts and example, come, in after times, to serve their country in great and responsible commands, and by fresh achievements of their own, add to his claims on the admiration of his countrymen, and thus come to be looked upon as noble inheritors of the fame which he has left them, but which, thank God! he yet lives to enjoy. [Loud cheers.] The victories we now propose to commemorate have been achieved in that same hemisphere where the noble Duke's career commenced—where he first displayed those great qualities which will rank him among his countrymen—ay, and among the enemies of this country—as one of the greatest names that have adorned the annals of history. I will not, my Lords, waste your time any longer in descanting further upon the subject of our recent exploits, but will proceed to read the Motions with which I propose to conclude my observations. The first Motion I mean to introduce to your notice relates to the battle of Aliwal, and the other to the battle of Sobraon. I feel that there is some apology due from me, because I have not taken on myself to specify the acts of those whose names are recorded in those despatches, and whom, I am aware, you are fully entitled to honour. I can hardly say I feel that I have occupied too much of your time in speaking upon this subject; but I am induced to abstain from making further observations on the conduct of those other gallant officers who have behaved so gloriously, from the consciousness that I shall be followed by noble Lords who are so much better qualified to do justice to their merits. I felt that I could not have done justice to them. It only remains, then, for me to move— That the Thanks of this House be given to Major General Sir Henry George Smith, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, for his skilful and meritorious Conduct when in Command of the British Troops employed against a large Portion of the Sikh Army of greatly superior Numbers, and for the signal Valour and Judgment displayed by him in the Battle of the 28th of January 1846, when the Enemy's Force was totally defeated, and a new Lustre added to the Reputation of the British Arms. That the Thanks of this House be given to the several Officers, European and Native, under the Command of Sir Henry Smith, for the distinguished Services rendered by them at the Battle of Aliwal. That this House doth highly approve of and commend the Intrepidity and exemplary Discipline displayed by the Non-commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, on the 28th of January 1846, in their Attack on the Enemy's Position, by which the Sikhs were completely routed and driven in Confusion across the Sutlej, with the Loss of all their Artillery and Military Equipment; and that the same be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps, who are desired to thank them for their gallant Behaviour. That in requesting the Governor General of India to communicate these Resolutions to the several Officers referred to therein, this House desires to acknowledge the Zeal and Judgment evinced by The Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Governor General of India, and also by General Sir Hugh Gough, Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in India, in supplying Major General Sir Henry Smith with such Reinforcements and Military Means as enabled him, under Divine Providence, to overcome all the Obstacles thrown in his Way by a brave and determined Enemy. That the Thanks of this House be given to The Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Governor General of India, for the Judgment, Energy, and Ability with which the Resources of the British Empire in India have been applied in repelling the unjust and unprovoked Invasion of the British Territory by the Sikh Nation; and for the Valour and indefatigable Exertions which he displayed on the 10th of February 1846, at the Battle of Sobraon, when, by the Blessing of Almighty God, which we desire most humbly to acknowledge, this hostile and treacherous Invasion was successfully defeated. That the Thanks of this House be given to General Sir Hugh Gough, Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in India, for the signal Ability and Valour with which, upon the 10th of February 1846, he directed and led the Attack, when the Enemy's Entrenchments were stormed, their Artillery captured, their Army defeated and scattered, and the Punjab laid open to the Advance of our victorious Troops. That the Thanks of this House be given to Major General Sir Henry George Smith, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath; Major General Walter Raleigh Gilbert; and Major General Sir Joseph Thackwell, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath; and to the other Officers, European and Native, for the distinguished Services rendered by them in the eminently successful Operations at the Battle of Sobraon. That this House doth highly approve of, and commend the invincible Intrepidity, Perseverance, and steady Discipline displayed by the Non-commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, on the 10th of February 1849, by which the Glory of the British Arms has been successfully maintained against a determined and greatly superior Force; and that the same be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps, who are desired to thank them for their gallant behaviour.


said: I am requested by my noble Friend the Marquess of Lansdowne to express his regret at his inability to be present this evening, and to take a part in this discussion. Had he been here, I have no doubt he would have felt himself called upon to give his warm support to the Motion of the noble Lord opposite. In the absence of the noble Marquess, I venture to offer myself to your Lordships' attention, for the purpose of seconding the Motion which has just been read by my noble Friend. I do so with great reluctance. I feel how ill I can supply the place of my absent Friend, and how incapable I am of doing justice to the subject. But I take the deepest interest in it; and I feel that no deficiency of expression on my part can take anything from that intense and universal feeling of admiration and gratitude which is felt in this House and throughout the country towards our army in India, for the wonderful successes which they have recently achieved. [Cheers.] It cannot be necessary for me to do more than refer to those clear and distinct despatches which have been laid upon the Table of the House, or, after the full and eloquent description which has been given of the recent exploits of our army in India by my noble Friend opposite, to enter into any details connected with those operations. The admirable despatch of Sir H. Smith, of the 30th of January, is sufficient to show the whole operations of the British troops at the battle of Aliwal. We see in that despatch how well the reinforcements had been prepared by the Governor General and Commander in Chief; we see what a fixed determination of purpose characterized the conduct of Sir H. Smith; how under circumstances of great provocation and danger he persevered in movements necessary for the collection of his forces; and how he awaited the proper time for interference and action. We also see described the orderly array of battle with which the forces under his command entered into the field. The contest at Ferozeshah was, no doubt, severer and more fearful. In that battle the enemy, vastly superior in numbers, had the advantage of fortified entrenchments. At Aliwal, with the same disproportion of numbers, the field was fair and open; and brave as was the resistance of the enemy, success was not for a moment doubtful. Our troops conducted themselves as they always do conduct themselves; and I rejoice for them that they have gained this additional title to our gratitude. But I rejoice also on account of Sir H. Smith, towards whom, from long and intimate acquaintance, I have learnt to bear the greatest respect and regard. He has by his conduct in this battle superadded to the fair fame, acquired in many a hard-fought field, of a brave and excellent soldier, the high character of a skilful and consummate commander; and I would not omit to point out to the attention of your Lordships the care which, under his directions, was after the battle taken of the wounded, and the protection and shelter which were afforded to them. In conferring this vote of thanks, I would have your Lordships consider the importance of the victories that have been obtained; for not only was the division of the Sikh army which Sir H. Smith encountered destroyed, but the way was prepared for their final defeat. One detachment of the army of Sir H. Smith was the first to invade the territory of the Sikhs, under Brigadier Wheeler; and he himself was ready to take a part in that great and glorious battle which concluded the operations. Of this latter battle, I will not further occupy your Lordships' time by reminding you of the exploits there exhibited, after the description that has been given of it by my noble Friend, than to observe, that it was well directed, well contested, and bravely won; and I rejoice for Sir Hugh Gough that one who has rendered so many important services to his country should have been present to direct these operations. Before I sit down, I shall be glad to point out one or two minor circumstances which, at the present moment, I think of much interest. We have been in the habit of praising our European soldiers, who, no doubt, deserve all our thanks for the manner in which they executed their difficult duties in the battles in which they were engaged. [Cheers.] They have never failed to exhibit their high and soldierlike qualities in every service in which they were employed. [Cheers.] We have also been in the habit of praising the Sepoy troops—led as they are on these occasions by European officers; and they also, in these battles, have confirmed the character they have long sustained. It may not be, however, generally known that part of the force under Sir H. Smith was almost exclusively composed of natives. The regiments of irregular cavalry—the Shekawattee brigade, the Nusseeree and Sirmoor battalions—have indeed a European commander, second in command, and adjutant; but every other officer, as well as every soldier in the force, is native Indian. The Shekawattee brigade has not even an European commander. It was raised, equipped, and disciplined by Major Forster, than whom the Company has no braver or more excellent officer. He is a native, the son of a European father, and does not even bear a commission in our service; the brigade consists of artillery, cavalry, and infantry, and took a chief part in the conflict. These irregular corps were ranged in line with our European corps and the regular Sepoys. They are described as contending with these for the front; and, having taken a full share in the struggle, they bore away a fair share of the trophies, and they are entitled to a fair share of the praise. They showed themselves not daunted by loss. The Nusseeree corps of not more than 640 men, in the two battles, lost upwards of 140, in killed and wounded, and to the end were forward in the onset. I am also anxious to draw attention to the services of another body. After the battle of Ferozeshah, an unfavourable opinion prevailed as to the equipment of the Bengal Artillery, and various discussions have arisen as to whether it is not of lighter calibre than it ought to be. Opinions were expressed on the one hand in favour of the celerity and facility of movement which attended the use of the light gun; and other opinions were expressed in favour of a heavier gun. On these points I can give no opinion; but, assuredly, opposed as this artillery was against the artillery of the Sikhs in entrenchments at Ferozeshah, it was not in its proper place, and success could not be expected. But if your Lordships ever had any doubt as to the efficiency of this branch of the Indian army, I beseech you to read the despatch of Sir H. Smith, in which you will see it stated that this artillery, in its proper place on the plains of Aliwal, was at all times ready to disperse masses of the enemy wherever they were collected; that it ensured the defeat, and was forward in the pursuit of the enemy, and was ready to cross the river had such a movement been necessary. [Cheers.] Sir H. Smith closes his eulogium on them by saying, "Our guns and gunners, officers and men, may be equalled, but cannot be excelled, by any artillery in the world." I leave others to make their own observations on the great events which have lately occurred in the East. And yet these events may, after all, be summed up in a few words. An attack was made upon the British territories by an army better equipped and more numerous in amount than the British; I might say, they were almost better directed than any army which the British Government in India has ever before had to contend against. Its movements, however, were marked by treachery and a breach of honour. The British Government was in some degree taken by surprise, and the preparations were not, consequently, as advanced as they might have wished. Notwithstanding these circumstances, in the space of seven weeks there had been four fiercely contested battles fought, and four victories obtained; the strength of the Sikh army had been dispersed and annihilated, and for the apprehension of danger security has been substituted. The British Government in India stands now on a pinnacle of glory and in a position of security such as it has scarcely ever before enjoyed. Further, it has been in the power of the Indian Government, with a just sense of honour and its own dignity, and with a due regard to the vast Empire which is committed to its care, to impose upon the offending Power such terms as the circumstances of the case demanded. Of the exact nature of those terms we are not as yet so precisely informed as to come to any clear opinion upon them; but we may well rest with confidence on the forbearance, and wisdom, and justice of Sir Henry Hardinge. I am glad, therefore, on my own part, as well as on that of my noble Friend who is absent, and of my noble Friends near me, to express our cordial concurrence in the Motion brought forward by the noble Earl opposite. There is one other point upon which I wish to touch before concluding—namely, the loss of so many of our brave men which has accompanied those great successes. I deeply lament this loss; nevertheless, we must bear this consolation in mind, that if the measures of the Governor General and the Commander in Chief had not been prompt, energetic, and successful, we might have been engaged in a protracted warfare—we might have had to encounter, not the enemy only, but the hot and rainy seasons, and have sustained even a heavier loss than that which we have incurred. [Loud cheers.]


My Lords, I certainly lament the absence of the noble Marquess who spoke on a similar subject about a month ago, and who on that occasion so eloquently applauded the conduct of the army. I should have been delighted to hear his eloquent applause of the operations which my noble Friend has brought under your Lordships' attention. But, my Lords, I must say, I am consoled for the absence even of the noble Marquess by the statement of my noble Friend opposite. My noble Friend has stated that the vote of your Lordships will be unanimous, and thus it will correspond with the universal feeling of satisfaction which prevails throughout the country. It is unnecessary for me—and in this respect I shall follow the example of my noble Friend—it is unnecessary for me, at the same time that I pronounce my warmest applause of the actions in which the army has been engaged, to enter on any particular detail on the subject of those actions. But I wish just to remind your Lordships generally of the course of these events. My Lords, the campaign commenced under extraordinary circumstances. The Governor General had purposely avoided giving any cause of uneasiness to the Sikh Government. He was anxious, to a degree, to prevent collision with that Government. He wished to preserve it; and in conformity with the policy of the British Government, which was that it should remain in strength, he took measures for the preservation of peace by forming an additional barrier against invasion on the north-west frontier. He was aware of the irregularities of the Sikh army, of the uneasiness it gave, and of the anxiety of the Government that measures should be adopted in order to restore discipline; but he hoped, by giving no cause for uneasiness to that Government, that he would prevent the collision he was so anxious to avoid. With this view he did no more than provide for the security of the most prominent points on the frontier, Ferozepore and Loodiana. He had, besides, a reserve at Umballah, just sufficient to defend the positions which he intended to preserve in case they should be attacked. Under these circumstances, this great attack was made, and your Lordships have already pronounced your opinions upon the first operations which took place in consequence of the invasion. The operations which my noble Friend has detailed as regards Loodiana, were taken in order to strengthen our position, and open communication with Ferozepore. Battles were fought on the 18th of December, and on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd; and the enemy was obliged to recross the Sutlej. A position was then taken on the Sutlej, and war having been commenced by the Sikhs, arrangements were made to enable the Commander-in-Chief to carry on military operations with energy, and with eventual success and honour. Troops were ordered from the rear, infantry and artillery, and commenced arriving from an early period in January. An artillery train was ordered up from a distance of 250 miles, before the arrival of which it would have been useless to cross the Sutlej. In the mean time the distant posts on the Sutlej, and especially Loodiana, were threatened. That place was even attacked and the cantonments burnt; and then it was that Sir H. Smith was sent towards Loodiana, taking possession of various posts on his road—Dhurrumkote and others, of which the enemy had taken possession by sending bodies of troops across the Sutlej. I beg your Lordships to observe that when Sir H. Smith was sent on the expedition with which he was intrusted he had three objects in view. One was to give security to the posts at Loodiana, which had been already reinforced by the arrival there of Colonel Godby. Another object was to secure our communication with the rear by Busseean, a point of great importance to the communication between Ferozepore and Loodiana in the front line, and between Ferozepore and Delhi in the rear, the point from which the heavy train and the means of carrying on the siege and the ultimate operations of the war were to come, and which must have passed within between twenty and thirty miles of the enemy, while the main body of the army at Ferozepore was at a distance of not less than fifty miles. These were the points to secure which Sir H. Smith had been detached from the army. My Lords, he immediately directed his attention to Loodiana. He marched on Loodiana, first endeavouring to effect a communication with Brigadier Godby. I must, however, here observe to you, my Lords, having myself carried on operations in that country, that one of the greatest difficulties of those operations consists in securing the communications between different bodies of troops engaged in conjoint operations on account of the clouds of light troops that attend all the native armies. Communication under such circumstances is hardly possible by any means except with strong bodies of troops. In this instance, owing to these circumstances, the communication failed, and Sir H. Smith was under the necessity of marching within reach of the intrenched camp occupied by the enemy. He knew that he must effect the objects he had in view, namely, maintain the communication with Loodiana; and it was under these circumstances that his baggage was carried away by the enemy, who came out from his intrenched camp. My Lords, I thought it necessary to make these remarks with regard to the difficulty of keeping up communications in that country, because the loss of this baggage was the only check that the gallant officer met with during his operations; and in fact, the loss of this baggage, trifling as it is, is the only misfortune which has happened during the whole of the operaations which have taken place in that part of the country. But this loss of baggage has been written up as a great misfortune, when in point of fact it could not be otherwise than as it was. Sir H. Smith was obliged to march within sight of that intrenched camp which the main body of the enemy had left, which gave their light troops the opportunity of cutting off his baggage. Well then, my Lords, Sir H. Smith arrived at Loodiana. My noble Friend has described his operations, the circumstances attending his conduct, and his seizure of the enemy's intrenched camp at the very moment they had abandoned it, having retired in consequence of the presence of the force commanded by Brigadier Wheeler, who had been sent from the main army to reinforce him and enable him the better to contend with the immense force to which he was opposed. I beg your Lordships to observe that Sir H. Smith had not only to secure his communication with Loodiana, but likewise his junction with Brigadier Wheeler, who alone was not able to stand against the enemy. He performed all these objects, and having been joined by Brigadier Wheeler, he then moved on to attack that new position which the enemy had taken up near the river. My Lords, I will say with regard to the movements of Sir H. Smith, that I have read the accounts of many battles; but I never read an account of an affair in which more ability, energy, and discretion were manifested than in this case, of one in which any officer has ever shown himself more capable than this officer did of commanding troops in the field. Every description of troops was brought to bear with all arms in the position in which they were most capable of rendering service; everything was carried on most perfectly—the nicest manœuvres being performed under the enemy's fire with the utmost precision; nor, my Lords, have I read of any battle, in any part of the world, in which at the same time energy and gallantry on the part of the troops were displayed to a degree that surpassed that exhibited in this engagement. [Cheers.] I must say of this officer that I never saw any case of ability manifested more clearly than in this; it has been shown that Sir H. Smith is an officer capable of rendering the most important services, and of ultimately being an honour to this country. My Lords, before I conclude I must advert to a particular corps, composed of Rajpoots, one of the principal castes of India, and commanded by a father and three sons. It is impossible that any corps whatever, however formed and organized, could have rendered more services, or have conducted itself better than that corps did on this occasion. I also quite concur, my Lords, with my noble Friend in what he said as to the Bengal Artillery. Really we must not notice reports and observations made by a parcel of ignorant persons. Mistakes and false movements may be made on every occasion; but see what this corps did. How did they behave on all occasions? And how in this very action? My Lords, the Bengal Artillery is one of the most scientific corps in that arm which exists in any part of the world. It is composed of men, not natives, but like ourselves, Englishmen; and, rely on it, whenever they are opposed to an enemy they will conduct themselves as they have ever conducted themselves, as Englishmen ever do, and as becomes their country. They behaved admirably on this occasion; and it is quite clear that they must have been very severely engaged against odds vastly superior in guns. My Lords, I must once more refer to Sir H. Smith. After having performed the feat I have described, he set out on his return to join the army. He arrived there on the 7th. [A noble LORD: On the 8th.] Well, on the 7th or the 8th, the battle having been fought on the 28th previously. At that time, my Lords, nearly on the same day the heavy train for siege reached the army, and then a plan was formed for the attack of the great position from which the enemy had been engaged in intrenching from the 22nd of December to that time, nearly six weeks. Not only was that position strongly intrenched, armed with ordnance of the largest calibre, on the left bank of the Sutlej; but, my Lords, the right bank also was intrenched, so that when the intrenchments on the left bank should be carried, the assailants would become exposed to the fire from the intrenchments on the right bank; therefore the attack on this position was no small affair. Preparations were made for it, and all the arrangements adopted to secure its success that such men as Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge were able to make. First, the heavy artillery brought up to the army for the purpose I have described was brought to the ground, and placed in such positions as in some degree to got the better of the fire of the enemy's intrenchments. Under the protection of their fire and that of the field artillery attached to the army the attack was made, and, as it is so clearly stated in the despatch of the Commander-in-Chief, the enemy was entirely defeated. It is impossible to read these accounts without perceiving what was the gallantry of our troops, and admiring the manner in which they were directed and led by our officers. [Cheers.] My Lords, we have to lament the loss of some men highly distinguished, who, if they had lived, would have been an honour to their country; but, my Lords, in considering the services that have been rendered, I think it is wonderful that the loss has been so small. I can only account for it when I see the energy, activity, and gallantry with which the attack was made; the regularity and order of the plan; and the energy, activity, and precision with which it was carried into execution. My Lords, the result of these operations has been to enable this army, in a very short space of time—under two months from the period of the invasion—to pass this great river, probably one of the most difficult in the world to pass, followed by a train of battering artillery, which will probably enable the Governor General to bring this contest to a conclusion on honourable terms in a short space of time. My Lords, in conclusion, I must say, that never was there an army which deserved more highly the approbation of your Lordships; and I sincerely trust you will agree in the Motion of my noble Friend, and that your vote will be unanimous. [Cheers.]


did not rise in the slightest degree to impede the unanimity of their Lordships' decision. He rose merely to express a wish and a hope that those who had fallen in these engagements, and who were now beyond the reach of their Lordships' praise, would not be forgotten. He referred, among others, to Major General Sir Robert Dick, to Brigadier Taylor, and Captain Fisher. Nor need he remind their Lordships that the same tribute was due to Sir Robert Sale. He only mentioned this in hope that while thus thinking of the survivors they would remember, at the proper time and place, those who had fallen, and that a tribute would be paid to their memory similar to that which was offered to those who died in the late war.


My Lords, I have neither the presumption nor the bad taste to detain your Lordships with my opinion on the merits of the late glorious victories, when you have just heard that of the noble Duke, the first professional authority existing; but I am desirous to bring before you some details which you will all like to hear, as they are so highly creditable to individuals; and, in particular, to one of high rank, whose death in the last action has deprived the country of one of the best, most devoted, and gallant officers that have graced the annals of military service: I mean the late Brigadier General Taylor of the 29th Regiment. When appointed to the command of that corps in India, he was in Canada; and such was his zeal to hasten to his post, that in three consecutive months he was in America, Europe, and Asia. From the period of his joining the regiment of which I have the high honour of being Colonel, I have been in constant and confidential correspondence with that excellent man; and I never knew one more thoroughly devoted in thought and act to the interests of the service of which he was so distinguished an ornament. I have had applications from him to serve others who were under his command; but a single request for any benefit to himself I never had. I knew that his health had suffered: a change of station and relaxation from duty would have been beneficial; but he saw the prospect of hostilities commencing, and no thought for himself could remove him from what he considered his post of duty; even the declining health of his wife and the loss of his children could not alter that decision. I heard from great authority, but not from himself, that his conduct in command of the brigade, in which was his own regiment, was conspicuously good. His letter to me respecting it simply stated— It was a glorious sight to see the 29th move in line, steady, under a heavy cannonade of nearly 100 guns from the entrenchments. My good brigade major was killed. I had a slight wound; but, thank Heaven, not of sufficient consequence to take me from my command. My Lords, I heard from others that his wound was not so trivial—it was severe; but they all agree he never left them for a moment. My Lords, I have so many further instances of devoted gallantry of officers, that I cannot ask you for the time and attention requisite for their narration; and I am more inclined to desist, lest from haste or inadvertence I should omit a single one of them. I have often reflected on the heroism of your officers, of which I have been an eye-witness. I have not the power of eloquence sufficient to do them anything like justice; but I do truly think nothing can be more deserving of your admiration. Those who survive the late glorious victories will have the proud gratification of receiving your thanks and the distinction of a medal, which they justly deserve; and I feel sure that the Government and the country will not forget those left behind, dearly and nearly connected with those gallant men who fell upon these occasions. Let all that can be fairly asked be done for the bereaved widows, the parents, and the orphans.


, in reference to what had just been suggested by his noble Friend (Lord Colchester), begged to state that the Government would feel it their duty, with the assistance of Parliament, to testify in the usual and proper manner every posthumous sense of regard for the memory of the deceased officers to whom his observations applied.

The several Resolutions where then put and agreed to, nem. dis.

House adjourned.

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