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HOME > Short Stories > In Times of Peril A Tale of India > CHAPTER XXII. THE LAST CAPTURE OF LUCKNOW.
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 The women and children brought from Lucknow once sent off from the British camp, the commander-in-chief was able to direct his attention to the work before him—of clearing out of Cawnpore the rebel army, composed of the Gwalior contingent and the troops of Koer Sing and Nana Sahib, in all twenty-five thousand men. Against this large force he could only bring seventy-five hundred men; but these, well led, were ample for the purpose.  
The position on the night of the 5th of December was as follows. The British camp was separated from the city by a canal running east and west. The enemy were entirely on the north of this canal, their center occupying the town. Outside the city walls lay the right of the rebel army, while his left occupied the space between the walls and the river. In the rear of the enemy's left was a position known as the Subadar's Tank. The British occupied as an advanced post a large bazaar on the city side of the river.
The operations of the 6th of December were simple. A demonstration was made against the city from the bazaar, which occupied the attention of the large force holding the town. The main body of the British were quietly massed on its left, and, crossing three bridges over the canal, attacked the enemy's right with impetuosity. These, cut off by the city wall from their comrades within, were unable to stand the British onslaught and the thunder of Peel's guns, and fled precipitately, pursued by the British for fourteen miles along the Calpee Road. Every gun and ammunition wagon of the mutineers on this side fell into the hands of the victors.
As the victorious British force swept along past the city, Sir Colin Campbell detached a force under General Mansfield to attack and occupy the position of the Subadar's Tank—which was captured after some hard fighting. Thus the British were in a position in rear of the enemy's left. The mutineers, seeing that their right was utterly defeated, and the retreat of their left threatened, lost all heart, and as soon as darkness came on, fled, a disorganized rabble, from the city they had entered as conquerors only six days before. The cavalry started next day in pursuit, cut up large numbers, and captured the greater part of their guns.
The threatening army of Gwalior thus beaten and scattered, and Cawnpore in our hands, Sir Colin Campbell was able to devote his whole attention to clearing the country in his rear, and in preparing for the great final campaign against Lucknow, which, now that Delhi had fallen, was the headquarters of the mutiny.
The next two months were passed in a series of expeditions by flying columns. In some of these the Warreners took part, and both shared in the defeats of the Sepoys and the capture of Futtyghur and Furruckabad—places at which horrible massacres of the whites had taken place in the early days of the mutiny. During these two months large reinforcements had arrived; and Jung Bahadoor, Prince of Nepaul, had come down with an army of ten thousand Ghoorkas to our aid.
On the 15th of February the tremendous train of artillery, ammunition and stores, collected for the attack upon the city, began to cross the river; and upon the 26th of the month the order was given for the army to move upon the following day.
The task before it was a difficult one. From all the various points from which the British had driven them—from Delhi, from Rohilcund, and the Doab, from Cawnpore, Furruckabad, Futtyghur, Etawah, Allyghur, Goruckpore, and other places—they retreated to Lucknow, and there were now collected sixty thousand revolted Sepoys and fifty thousand irregular troops, besides the armed rabble of the city of three hundred thousand souls. Knowing the storm that was preparing to burst upon their heads, they had neglected no means for strengthening their position. Great lines of fortifications had been thrown up; enormous quantities of guns placed in position; every house barricaded and loopholed, and the Kaiserbagh transformed into a veritable citadel. In hopes of destroying the force under General Sir James Outram, at the Alumbagh—which had been a thorn in their side for so long—a series of desperate attacks had been made upon them; but these had been uniformly defeated with heavy loss by the gallant British force. On the 3d of March the advanced division occupied the Dil Koosha, meeting with but slight resistance; and the commander-in-chief at once took up his headquarters here. The next three days were spent in making the necessary disposition for a simultaneous attack upon all sides of the town—General Outram on one side, Sir Hope Grant upon another, Jung Bahadoor, with his Nepaulese, on the third, and the main attack, under Sir Colin Campbell himself, on the fourth.
Great was the excitement in the camp on the eve of this tremendous struggle. Colonel Warrener and his sons met on the night before the fighting was to begin.
"Well, boys," he said, after a long talk upon the prospects of the fighting, "did you do as you talked about, and draw your pay and get it changed into gold?"
"Most of it," Ned said; "we could not get it all; and had to pay a tremendous rate of exchange for it."
"Here are the twenty pounds each, in gold, lads," Colonel Warrener said, "that I told you I could get for you. Now what do you want it for? You would not tell me at Cawnpore."
"Well, father, at Delhi there was lots of loot taken, quantities of valuable things, and the soldiers were selling what they had got for next to nothing. I had some lovely bracelets offered me for a few rupees, but no one had any money in their pockets. So Dick and I determined that if we came into another storming business, we would fill our pockets beforehand with money. They say that the palaces, the Kaiserbagh especially, are crowded with valuable things; and as they will be lawful loot for the troops, we shall be able to buy no end of things."
Colonel Warrener laughed.
"There is nothing like forethought, Ned, and I have no doubt that you will be able to pick up some good things. The soldiers attach no value to them, and would rather have gold, which they can change for spirits, than all the precious stones in the world. I shall be out of it, as, of course, the cavalry will not go into the city, but will wait outside to cut off the enemy's retreat."
The fighting began with General Outram's division, which worked round the city, and had on the 7th, 8th, and 9th to repulse heavy attacks of the enemy.
On the 9th Sir Colin Campbell advanced, took the Martinière with but slight opposition, crossed the canal, and occupied the Secunderbagh—the scene of the tremendous fighting on the previous advance. The Begum's palace, in front of Bank House, was then attacked, and after very heavy fighting, carried. Here Major Hodgson, the captor of the king of Delhi, was mortally wounded. General Outram's force had by this time taken up a position on the other side of the river, and this enabled him to take the enemy's defenses in flank, and so greatly to assist the advancing party.
Day by day the troops fought their way forward; and on the 14th the Imaumbarra, a splendid palace of the king of Oude, adjoining the Kaiserbagh, was breached and carried. The panic-stricken defenders fled through the court and garden into the Kaiserbagh, followed hotly by the Sikhs, Ghoorkas, and Highlanders. Such was the terror which their appearance excited that a panic seized also the defenders of the Kaiserbagh, and these too fled, deserting the fortifications raised with so much care, and the British poured into the palace. For a few minutes a sharp conflict took place in every room, and then, the Sepoys being annihilated, the victors fell upon the spoil. From top to bottom the Kaiserbagh was crowded with valuable articles, collected from all parts of the world. English furniture, French clocks and looking-glasses, Chinese porcelain, gorgeous draperies, golden thrones studded with jewels, costly weapons inlaid with gold, enormous quantities of jewelry—in fact, wealth of all kinds to an almost fabulous value. The wildest scene of confusion ensued. According to the rule in these matters, being taken by storm, the place was lawful plunder. For large things the soldiers did not care, and set to to smash and destroy all that could not be carried away. Some put on the turbans studded with jewels; others hung necklaces of enormous value round their necks, or covered their arms with bracelets. None knew the value of the costly gems they had become possessed of; and few indeed of the officers could discriminate between the jewels of immense value and those which were mere worthless imitations.
As soon as the news spread that the Kaiserbagh was taken the guns fired a royal salute in honor of the triumph; and all officers who could obtain an hour's leave from their regiments hurried away to see the royal palace of Oude.
The Warreners were both near the spot when the news came; both were able to get away, and met at the entrance to the palace. Already soldiers, British and native, were passing out laden with spoil.
"What will you give me for this necklace, sir?" a soldier asked Ned.
"I have no idea what it's worth," Ned said.
"No more have I," said the soldier; "it may be glass, it may be something else. You shall have it for a sovereign."
"Very well," Ned said; "here is one."
So onward they went, buying everything in the way of jewels offered them, utterly ignorant themselves whether the articles they purchased were real gems or imitation.
Penetrating into the palace, they found all was wild confusion. Soldiers were smashing chandeliers and looking-glasses, breaking up furniture, tumbling the contents of chests and wardrobes and caskets over the floors, eager to find, equally eager to sell what they had found.
Bitter were the exclamations of disappointment and disgust which the Warreners heard from many of the officers that they were unprovided with money—for the soldiers would not sell except for cash; but for a few rupees they were ready to part with anything. Strings of pearls, worth a thousand pounds, were bought for a couple of rupees—four shillings; diamond aigrettes, worth twice as much, went for a sovereign; and the Warreners soon laid out the seventy pounds which they had between them when they entered the palace; and their pockets and the breasts of their coats were stuffed with their purchases, and each had a bundle in his handkerchief.
"I wonder," Dick said, as they made their way back, "whether we have been fools or wise men. I have not a shadow of an idea whether these things are only the sham jewels which dancing girls wear, or whether they are real."
"It was worth running the risk, anyhow; for if only half of them are real they are a big fortune. Anyhow, Dick, let's hold our tongues about it. It's no use making fellows jealous of our good luck if they turn out to be real, or of getting chaffed out of our lives if they prove false. Let us just stow them away till it's all over, and then ask father about them."
It was calculated that twenty thousand soldiers and camp-followers obtained loot of more or less value, from the case of jewelry, valued at one hundred thousand pounds, that fell into the hands of an officer, to clocks, candelabra, and articles of furniture, carried off by the least fortunate. The value of the treasure there was estimated at ten millions of money at the lowest computation.
The fall of the Kaiserbagh utterly demoralized the enemy; and from that moment they began to leave the town by night in thousands. Numbers were cut off and slaughtered by our cavalry and artillery; but large bodies succeeded in escaping, to give us fresh trouble in the field.
Day by day the troops fought their way from palace to palace and from street to street. Day and night the cannon and mortar batteries thundered against the districts of the city still uncaptured; and great fires blazed in a dozen quarters, until gradually the resistance ceased and Lucknow w............
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