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THE 61ST FOOT AT NAJAFGARH

115 therefore, that if Delhi were to be taken at all, it must be taken quickly, before our augmented numbers should be again diminished by sickness and casualties.

The enemy knew our position as well as we did, and appreciating the great value the siege-train would be to us, they decided on making a supreme effort to intercept it. A few days before they had been foiled by Hodson in an attempt to cut off our communication with the Punjab, and were determined to ensure success on this occasion by employing a really formidable force. This force left Delhi on the 24th August, and proceeded in the direction of the Najafgarh jhil.

At daybreak the following morning Nicholson started with sixteen Horse Artillery guns, 1,600 Infantry and 450 Cavalry, his orders being to overtake the enemy and bring them to action. I hoped to have been of the party, but Nicholson's request to have me as his staff officer was refused, as I had not been taken off the sick-list, though I considered my wound was practically healed.

It proved a most difficult march. The rain fell in torrents, and the roads were mere quagmires. In the first nine miles two swamps had to be got through, on crossing which Nicholson heard that the insurgents were at Najafgarh, twelve miles further off. He determined to push on, and at 4 p.m. he found them occupying a strong position about a mile and three-quarters in length. In front was an old serai which was held in force with four guns, and on either side and in rear of the serai was a village equally strongly held; while running round the enemy's right and rear was a huge drainage cut, swollen by the heavy rain. This cut, or nulla, was crossed by a bridge immediately behind the rebels' position. Nicholson advanced from a side-road, which brought him on their right with the nulla flowing between him and them. Even at the ford the water was breast-high, and it was with much difficulty and not without a good deal of delay that our troops crossed under a heavy fire from the serai. It was getting late, and Nicholson had only time to make a hasty reconnaissance. He decided to attack the serai, drive out the mutineers, and then, changing front to the left, to sweep down their line and get possession of the bridge.

As the Infantry were about to advance, Nicholson thus addressed them: Men of the 61st, remember what Sir Colin Campbell said at Chilianwala, and you have heard that he said the same to his gallant Highland Brigade at the Alma. I have the same request to make of you and the men of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers. Hold your fire until within twenty or thirty yards, then fire and charge, and the serai is yours.' Our brave soldiers followed these directions to the letter, and, under cover of Artillery fire, carried the serai. Front was then changed to the left as had been arranged, and the line swept along the They enemy's defences, the rebels flying before them over the bridge.

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SKETCH TO ILLUSTRATE THE ENGAGEMENT AT NAJAFGARH IN AUGUST, 1857.

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the south. In a letter to Baird-Smith dated the 20th August, he discussed at length his reasons for not being in a position to hold out any hope of being able to take the place until supported by the force from below.' He now was aware that no troops could be expected from the south, and Sir John Lawrence plainly told him that he had sent him the last man he could spare from the Punjab. On the 29th August Lawrence wrote to Wilson: 'There seem to be very strong reasons for assaulting as soon as practicable. Every day's delay is fraught with danger. Every day disaffection and mutiny spread. Every day adds to the danger of the Native Princes taking part against us. But Wilson did not find it easy to make up his mind to assault. He was ill. Responsibility and anxiety had told upon him. He had grown nervous and hesitating, and the longer it was delayed the more difficult the task appeared to him.

Fortunately for the continuance of our rule in India, Wilson had about him men who understood, as he was unable to do, the impossibility of our remaining any longer as we were. They knew that Delhi must either be taken or the army before it withdrawn. The man to whom the Commander first looked for counsel under these conditions-Baird-Smith, of the Bengal Engineers-proved himself worthy of the high and responsible position in which he was placed. He too was ill. Naturally of a delicate constitution, the climate and exposure had told upon him severely, and the diseases from which he was suffering were aggravated by a wound he had received soon after his arrival in camp. He fully appreciated the tremendous risks which an assault involved, but, in his opinion, they were less than were those of delay. Whether convinced or not by his Chief Engineer's arguments, Wilson accepted his advice and directed him to prepare a plan of attack.

Baird-Smith was strongly supported by Nicholson, Chamberlain, Daly, Norman, and Alex. Taylor. They were one and all in communication with the authorities in the Punjab, and they knew that if 'Delhi were not taken, and that speedily, there would be a struggle not only for European dominion, but even for European existence within the Punjab itself."*

Our position in that province was, indeed, most critical. An attempted conspiracy of Mahomedan tribes in the Murree Hills, and an insurrection in the Gogaira district, had occurred. Both these affairs were simply attempts to throw off the British yoke, made in the belief that our last hour was come. The feeling that prompted them was not confined to the Mahomedans; amongst all classes and races in the Punjab a spirit of restlessness was on the increase; even the most loyally disposed were speculating on the chances of our being able to

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