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[1857

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Native troops preponderated, and in some there were no European soldiers at all.

Edwardes and Nicholson gave it as their opinion that the only chance of keeping the Punjab and the frontier quiet lay in trusting the Chiefs and people, and in endeavouring to induce them to side with us against the Hindustanis. They undertook to communicate, regarding the raising of levies and fresh troops, with their friends and acquaintances along the border, who had proved such staunch allies in 1848-49, when we were fighting with the Sikhs. How nobly these loyal men responded to the demand made upon them, and how splendidly the frontier and Punjab soldiers whom they brought to our assistance behaved, will be seen hereafter.

Amongst other matters of importance, it was proposed by those two able soldier-civilians, Edwardes and Nicholson, that General Reed, as the senior officer in the Punjab, should join the Chief Commissioner at Rawal Pindi, leaving Brigadier Cotton in command at Peshawar; that a Movable Column, composed of reliable troops, should be organized at some convenient place in the Punjab,* prepared to move in any direction

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The above figures show the troops at full strength. There were probably not more than 15,000 British soldiers in the Punjab available for duty in May, 1857.

The original proposal was that the Movable Column should be formed at Jhelum, and composed of the 24th Foot from Rawal Pindi, the 27th Foot from Nowshera, a troop of Horse Artillery from Peshawar, a Native Field Battery from Jhelum, the Guides from Murdan, the 16th Irregular Cavalry from Rawal Pindi, the Kumaon battalion from Murree, the 1st Punjab Infantry from Bannu, and a wing of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry from Kohat. But events developed so rapidly that before the column was formed every one of these troops was otherwise employed. It was thought unwise to unduly weaken the Peshawar valley; the troop of Horse Artillery, therefore, stood fast, the 27th

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and see them despatched myself; as they disclosed more or less the measures that had been decided upon, it was necessary to avoid any chance of their falling into the hands of Native clerks. One of the messages contained a summary of the proceedings of the council, and was addressed to the commanding officers of all stations in the Punjab, with the view of imparting confidence, and letting them know what steps were being taken for the protection of the British residents throughout the province. This duty having been carried out, I returned home in a not unpleasant frame of mind, for though the crisis was a grave one, the outlook gloomy, and the end doubtful, the excitement was great. There were stirring times in store for us, when every man's powers would be tested, and the hopefulness of youth inclined me to look only on the bright side of the situation.

My equanimity was somewhat disturbed later in the day by an occurrence which caused me a good deal of annoyance at the time, though it soon passed away. Nicholson came to my house and told me that the proceedings at the meeting that morning had in some unaccountable manner become known; and he added, much to my disgust, that it was thought I might perhaps have been guilty of the indiscretion of divulging them. I was very angry, for I had appreciated as much as anyone the immense importance of keeping the decisions arrived at perfectly secret; and I could not help showing something of the indignation I felt at its having been thought possible that I could betray the confidence reposed in me. I denied most positively having done so; upon which Nicholson suggested that we should proceed together to the telegraph office and see whether the information could have leaked out from there. The signaller was a mere boy, and Nicholson's imposing presence and austere manner were quite too much for him; he was completely cowed, and, after a few hesitating denials, *The full text of the message was as follows:

'From General Reed, Peshawar.

'To Sir John Lawrence, Rawal Pindi, the Commander-in-Chief, Simla, and officers commanding all stations in the Punjab respectively; to be forwarded by the assistant in charge of the telegraph office, or post, as the case may be.

'The senior military officer in the Punjab, Major-General Reed, having this morning received news of the disarming of the troops at Mian Mir, a council of war was held, consisting of General Reed, Brigadier Cotton, Brigadier Neville Chamberlain, Colonel Edwardes, and Colonel Nicholson, and the following measures were decided on, subject to the confirmation of the Commander-in-Chief. General Reed assumes the chief military command in the Punjab; his Head-Quarters will be the Head-Quarters of the Punjab Civil Government, and a Movable Column will be formed at Jhelum at once, consisting of [the troops were here detailed]. The necessary orders for this column have been issued. The column will move on every point in the Punjab where open mutiny requires to be put down by force, and officers commanding at all stations in the Punjab will co-operate with the column.'

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