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HOME > Short Stories > In Times of Peril A Tale of India > CHAPTER XX. THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW.
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 On the 6th of November Captain Peel, with five hundred of his gallant bluejackets, marched from Cawnpore, taking with them the heavy siege guns. Three days later they joined General Grant's column, which was encamped at a short distance from the Alumbagh, and in communication with the force holding that position. On the 9th Sir Colin Campbell, who had come out from England with all speed to assume the chief command in India, arrived in camp, and his coming was hailed with delight by the troops, who felt that the hour was now at hand when the noble garrison of Lucknow were to be rescued.  
The total force collected for the relief were: Her Majesty's Eighth, Fifty-third, Seventy-fifth, and Ninety-third regiments of infantry; two regiments of Punjaub infantry; and a small party of native sappers and miners. The cavalry consisted of the Ninth Lancers, and detachments of Sikh cavalry and Hodgson's Horse. The artillery comprised Peel's naval brigade, with eight heavy guns, ten guns of the Royal Horse Artillery, six light field guns, and a heavy battery of the Royal Artillery. A total of about twenty-seven hundred infantry and artillery, and nine hundred cavalry.
On the morning of the 10th Mr. Kavanagh, a civilian, came into camp. He had, disguised as a native, started the evening before from the Residency with a native guide, named Kunoujee Lal, had swum the Goomtee, recrossed by the bridge into the city, passed through the streets, and finally made his way in safety. He was perfectly acquainted with the city, and brought plans from Sir James Outram for the guidance of the commander-in-chief in his advance.
After an examination of the plans Sir Colin Campbell determined that, instead of forcing his way through the narrow streets as General Havelock had done, he would move partly round the town, and attack by the eastern side, where there was much open ground, sprinkled with palaces and mosques and other large buildings. These could be attacked and taken one by one, by a series of separate sieges, and thus the Residency could be approached with far less loss than must have taken place in an attempt to force a way through the crowded city.
On the 15th the troops marched to the Alumbagh, defeating a small rebel force which attempted to stop their way.
At the Alumbagh Dick Warrener—for Ned was with his regiment, which, to his great disgust, had remained at Cawnpore—had the joy of meeting his father again, as Warrener's Horse had not shared in Havelock's advance to the Residency, but had remained as part of the garrison of the Alumbagh. It is needless to tell of the delight of that meeting after all that the lads had gone through since they parted from their father, nearly four months before, at Cawnpore. Colonel Warrener had heard of the safe arrival of his sons at Delhi before he marched up from Cawnpore, but since then no word had reached him. Captains Dunlop and Manners were also delighted to meet him again; and the whole of the troop vied with each other in the heartiness of the welcome accorded to him. Disease and death had sadly lessened the ranks; and of the one hundred men who had volunteered at Meerut to form a body of horse, not more than fifty now remained in the ranks. It was very late at night—or rather, early in the morning—before the party assembled in Colonel Warrener's tent separated, to seek a few hours' sleep before the réveillé sounded for the troops to rise and prepare for the advance.
Soon after daybreak the column were under arms. The Seventy-fifth Regiment, to its intense disappointment, was ordered to stay and guard the Alumbagh, with its immense accumulation of stores and munitions; and the rest of the troops, turning off from the direct road and following the line the boys had traversed when they made their way into the Residency, marched for the Dil Koosha, a hunting-palace of the late king of Oude.
The enemy, who had anticipated an advance by the direct line taken by Havelock, and who had made immense preparations for defense in that quarter, were taken aback by the movement to the right, and no opposition was experienced until the column approached the beautiful park, upon an elevated spot in which the Dil Koosha stood.
Then a brisk musketry fire was opened upon them. The head of the column was extended in skirmishing order, reinforcements were sent up, and, firing heavily as they advanced, the British drove the enemy before them, and two hours after the first shot was fired were in possession of the palace. The enemy fled down the slope toward the city; but the troops pressed forward, and, with but slight loss, carried the strong position of the Martinière College, and drove the enemy across the canal. By this time the enemy's troops from the other side of the city were flocking up, and prepared to recross the canal and give battle; but some of the heavy guns were brought up to the side of the canal, and the rebels made no further attempt to take the offensive.
The result of the day's fighting more than answered the commander-in-chief's expectations, for not only had a commanding position, from which the whole eastern suburb could be cannonaded, been obtained, but a large convoy of provisions and stores had been safely brought up, and a new base of operations obtained.
The next day, the 15th of November, is celebrated in the annals of British military history as that upon which some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting which ever took place in India occurred. At a short distance beyond the canal stood the Secunderbagh (Alexander's garden), a building of strong masonry, standing in a garden surrounded by a very high and strong wall. This wall was loopholed for musketry; the gate, which led through a fortified gateway, had been blocked with great piles of stones behind it, and a very strong garrison held it. In front, a hundred yards distant, was a fortified village, also held in great force. Separated from the garden of the Secunderbagh only by the road was the mosque of Shah Nujeeff. This building was also situated in a garden with a strong loopholed wall, and this was lined with the insurgent troops; while the terraced roof of the mosque, and the four minarets which rose at its corners, were crowded with riflemen.
The column of attack was commanded by Brigadier Hope; and as it crossed the bridge of the canal and advanced, a tremendous musketry fire was opened upon it from the village which formed the advanced post of the enemy. The column broke up into skirmishing line and advanced steadily.
"The guns to the front!" said an aide-de-camp, galloping up to the naval brigade.
With a cheer the sailors moved across the bridge, following the Horse Artillery, which dashed ahead, unlimbered, and opened fire with great rapidity. It took somewhat longer to bring the ponderous sixty-eight-pounders of the naval brigade into action; but their deep roar when once at work astonished the enemy, who had never before heard guns of such heavy metal.
The rebels fought obstinately, however; but Brigadier-General Hope led his troops gallantly forward, and after a brief, stern fight the enemy gave way and fled to the Secunderbagh.
The guns were now brought forward and their fire directed at the strong wall. The heavy cannon soon made a breach and the assault was ordered. The Fourth Sikhs had been directed to lead the attack, while the Ninety-third Highlanders and detachments from the Fifty-third and other regiments were to cover their advance, by their musketry fire at the loopholes and other points from which the enemy were firing.
The white troops were, however, too impatient to be at the enemy to perform the patient role assigned to them, and so joined the Sikhs in their charge. The rush was so fierce and rapid that a number of men pushed through the little breach before the enemy had mustered in force to repel them. The entrance was, however, too small for the impatient troops, and a number of them rushed to the grated windows which commanded the gates. Putting their caps on the ends of the muskets, they raised them to the level of the windows, and every Sepoy at the post discharged his musket at once. Before they could load again the troops leaped up, tore down the iron bars, and burst a way here also into the garden.
Then ensued a frightful struggle; two thousand Sepoys held the garden, and these, caught like rats in a trap, fought with the energy of despair. Nothing, however, could withstand the troops, mad with the long-balked thirst for vengeance, and attacked with the cry—which in very truth was the death-knell of the enemy—"Remember Cawnpore!" on their lips. No quarter was asked or given. It was a stubborn, furious, desperate strife, man to man—desperate Sepoy against furious Englishman. But in such a strife weight and power tell their tale, and not one of the two thousand men who formed the garrison escaped; two thousand dead bodies were next day counted within the four walls of the garden.
The battle had now raged for three hours, but there was more work yet to be done. From the walls and minarets of the Shah Nujeeff a terrible fire had been poured upon the troops as they fought their way into the Secunderbagh, and the word was given to take this stronghold also. The gate had been blocked up with masonry. Captain Peel was ordered to take up the sixty-eight-pounders and to breach the wall. Instead of halting at a short distance, the gallant sailor brought up his guns to within ten yards of the wall, and set to work as if he were fighting his ship broadside to broadside with an enemy. It was an action probably unexampled in war. Had such an attack been made unsupported by infantry, the naval brigade would have been annihilated by the storm of fire from the walls, and Dick Warrener's career would have come to a close. The Highlanders and their comrades, however, opened with such a tremendous fire upon the points from which the enemy commanded the battery, and at every loophole in the wall, that the mutineers could only keep up a wild and very ineffectual fire upon the gunners. The massive walls crumbled slowly but surely, and in four hours several gaps were made.
Then the guns ceased their fire, and the infantry with a wild cheer burst into the garden of the Shah Nujeeff, and filled the mosque and garden with the corpses of their defenders. The loss of the naval brigade in this gallant affair was not heavy, and Dick Warrener escaped untouched.
Evening was approaching now, and the troops bivouacked for the night. The Ninetieth and that portion of the Fifty-third not engaged in the assault of the Secunderbagh and Shah Nujeeff were now to have their turn as leaders of the attack.
The next point to be carried was the messhouse, a very strong position, situated on an eminence, with flanking towers, a loopholed mud wall, and a ditch. The naval guns began the fray, and the heavy shot soon effected a breach in the wall. The defenders of the post were annoyed, too, by a mortar battery in an advanced post of the British force in the Residency—for the space between the garrison and the relieving force was rapidly lessening. The word was given, and the Ninetieth, Fifty-third, and Sikhs dashed forward, surmounted all obstacles, and carried the position with the bayonet; and the observatory, which stood behind it, was soon afterward most gallantly carried by a Sikh regiment.
In the meantime the garrison of the Residency was not idle. On the day of the arrival of the British at Dil Koosha flag-signals from the towers of that palace had established communication with the Residency, and it was arranged that as............
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