Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]
[graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

1857]

MORE DISARMAMENTS

77

panied by the Deputy-Commissioner of the district, I rode to Philour to choose a place for the disarming parade. The next morning we started early, the Europeans heading the column, and when they reached the ground we had selected they took up a position on the right of the road, the two batteries in the centre and the 52nd in wings on either flank. The guns were unlimbered and prepared for action. On the left of the road was a serai,* behind which the officer commanding the 35th was told to take his regiment, and, as he cleared it, to wheel to the right, thus bringing his men in column of companies facing the line of Europeans. This manoeuvre being accomplished, I was ordered to tell the commanding officer that the regiment was to be disarmed, and that the men were to pile arms and take off their belts. The sepoys and their British officers were equally taken aback; the latter had received no information of what was going to happen, while the former had cherished the hope that they would be able to cross the Sutlej, and thence slip off with their arms to Delhi.

6

I thought I could discover relief in the British officers' faces, certainly in that of Major Younghusband, the Commandant, and when I gave him the General's order, he murmured, Thank God!' He had been with the 35th for thirty-three years; he had served with it at the siege of Bhurtpore, throughout the first Afghan war, and in Sale's defence of Jalalabad; he had been proud of his old corps, but knowing probably that his men could no longer be trusted, he rejoiced to feel that they were not to be given the opportunity for further disgracing themselves.† The sepoys obeyed the command without a word, and in a few minutes their muskets and belts were all packed in carts and taken off to the fort.

As the ceremony was completed, the 33rd arrived and was dealt with in a similar manner; but the British officers of this regiment did not take things so quietly-they still believed in their men, and the Colonel, Sandeman, trusted them to any extent. He had been with the regiment for more than two-and-thirty years, and had commanded it throughout the Sutlej campaign. On hearing the General's order, he exclaimed: 'What! disarm my regiment? I will answer with my life for the loyalty of every man!' On my repeating the order the poor old fellow burst into tears. His son, the late Sir Robert Sandeman, who was an Ensign in the regiment at the time, told me afterwards how terribly his father felt the disgrace inflicted upon the regiment of which he was so proud.

It was known that the wing of the 9th Light Cavalry was in communication with the mutineers at Delhi, and that the men were only waiting their opportunity; so they would also certainly have been dis* A four-walled enclosure for the accommodation of travellers.

† It will be remembered that this was the regiment in which two men had been found with loaded muskets, and blown away from guns at Lahore.

[graphic]
[graphic][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1857

GEORGE RICKETTS AT LUDHIANA

79

cantonment, but important from the fact of its containing a fair-sized magazine, and from its situation, commanding the passage of the Sutlej. It was garrisoned by the 3rd Native Infantry, which furnished the sole guard over the magazine-a danger which, as I have mentioned, had fortunately been recognized by the Commander-in-Chief when he first heard of the outbreak at Meerut. The men of the 3rd remained quiet, and even did good service in helping to drag the guns of the siege-train across the river, and in guarding the treasury, until the mutineers from Jullundur arrived on the 8th June. They then gave their British officers warning to leave them, saying they did not mean to injure them or their property, but they had determined they would no longer serve the Sirkar. Twelve British officers (there could not have been more), confronted by 3,000 sepoys, felt themselves powerless, and retired to the fort.

Ricketts had with him at that time an assistant named Thornton,* who had gone to Philour to lodge some money in the treasury. This officer had started to ride back to Ludhiana, when he suddenly became aware of what had happened, and how perilous was the position. Had he consulted his own safety, he would have returned and taken refuge in the fort, instead of which he galloped on, having to pass close by the mutineers, until he reached the bridge of boats, which, with admirable coolness and presence of mind, he cut behind him, then, hurrying on, he informed Ricketts of what had taken place; and that the rebels might shortly be expected to attempt the passage of the river. Fortunately the 4th Sikhs from Abbottabad had that very morning marched into Ludhiana, and Ricketts hoped, with their assistance, to hold the sepoys in check until the arrival of the British troops, which he believed must have been despatched from Jullundur in pursuit of the mutineers.

The garrison of Ludhiana consisted of a detachment of the 3rd Native Infantry, guarding the fort, in which was stored a large amount of powder. The detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Yorke, who, on hearing Thornton's story, went at once to the fort. He was much liked by his men, who received him quite civilly, but told him they knew that their regiment had joined the rebels from Jullundur, and that they themselves could no longer obey his orders. Ricketts then understood that he had but the 4th Sikhs and a small party of troops belonging to the Raja of Nabha to depend upon. There were only two officers with the 4th Sikhs-Captain Rothney, in command, and Lieutenant Williams, the Adjutant. Taking three companies of the regiment under Williams, and two guns of the Nabha Artillery, one dragged by camels, the other by horses, Ricketts started off towards the bridge of boats. Galloping on alone, he found that the gap in the bridge made by Thornton had not been repaired, which proved that the Thomas Thornton, Esq., C.S.I., afterwards Secretary to the Government of India in the Foreign Department.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »