Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

not merely overawed the Peishwa at Poona, his troops held practically captive the Mogul Emperor at Delhi. Virtually supreme both at Delhi and Poona, he naturally thought that Wellesley should court his assistance rather than that either of emperor or raja, and that, in arrangements affecting the Mahrattas, his own voice—the voice of the most powerful native in India-should not be ignored. 1

There was, however, one reason which made Wellesley dislike

any

alliance with Scindia. This officer had availed himself of French assistance for the organisation of his army, and had also helped to place French officers over the forces of the Mogul Emperor. The French, therefore, had a voice both in Scindia's camp and in the councils at Delhi; and the same considerations which had previously urged Wellesley to destroy Tippoo drove him into a fresh struggle with Scindia.

From Wellesley's standpoint, the best means of reducing Scindia's influence was to strengthen the Peishwa's authority, and the easiest method of assisting the Peishwa was to place a British force at his disposal. But the Peishwa showed little inclination to admit troops organised and officered by the Company into the heart of his dominions, and the negotiation wore on without producing any results. Suddenly, however, an unexpected turn was given to the matter. The GovernorGeneral had been so jealously scrutinising Scindia's power, that he had omitted to pay equal attention to Hoikar's battalions. In October 1802 Holkar suddenly made his influence felt. He marched upon Poona, defeated the combined armies of the Peishwa and Scindia, and forced the Peishwa to take shelter in British territory.2

Defeat naturally affected the Peishwa's policy. He asked Wellesley to send him six battalions of sepoys, and offered to cede territory to the Company in payment for the force.

Holkar.

i Grant Duff's History of the Mahrattas is the standard authority on these subjects. But Lord Wellesley himself wrote a history of the war of 1803 which contains a great deal of information. It seems hardly known to historians. The rise of Sevajee in Grant Duff's History of the Mahrattas, vol. i. pp. 119-300; cf. the account of the Mahrattas in Malcolm's Central India, vol. i. p. 59 seq.

2 Thornton, vol. iii. p. 277.

The first Mahratta war.

A treaty embodying this arrangement was signed at Bassein on the last day of 1802, and Scindia was subsequently invited to become a party to it. But Scindia, though he had nothing to urge against the arrangement, hesitated to adopt it. He watched with evident dislike the steps which Wellesley took to carry out his policy. While the Governor-General's brother -Arthur—entered the Peishwa's dominions with an army and replaced the Peishwa on his throne, Scindia, in the immediate

neighbourhood, accompanied by the Raja of Berar, held his forces ready for any eventuality. An armed

peace is distateful to every Government. Wellesley was the last man who would have tolerated it. He directed his brother to arrange for Scindia's withdrawal ; and Colonel Wellesley, in obedience to these orders, proposed that Scindia should withdraw into Hindostan, that the Raja should retire to Berar, and that he himself should return into the Company's territory. Scindia, after a long negotiation, refused the offer, and the first Mahratta war immediately began.2

A reader who has not an intimate acquaintance with the geography of India must refer to the map if he desire to gain an idea of the operations which then ensued. One force was at once despatched from Bengal to take possession of Cuttack; another force seized Scindia's territory in Gujerat; the Governor-General's brother advanced from Poona, crossed the Godavery, and defeated Scindia in the great battle of Assaye ; while Lake, marching at the same time from Cawnpore, defeated M. Perron, the emperor's French general, at Allyghur, took Delhi and Agra, and stamped out all further resistance in the battle of Laswaree. A war which commenced on the 8th of August was practically over on the ist of November. In that short period the British had won the great battles of Assaye and Laswaree; they had taken Cuttack, Gujerat, and the valuable territories of Scindia between the Jumna and the

1 For the treaty of Bassein, see Grant Duff, vol. iii. pp. 225, 229.

2 Grant Duff's History of the Mahrattas, vol. iii. p. 234, and Wellesley, History of Events and Transactions during the Late War, p. 65 et seq.; Malcolm's Political History of India, vol. i. p. 249 seq. For the rise of the family of Scindia, see Malcolm's Central India, vol. i. p. 116 seq.

The war of

Holkar.

Ganges; they had captured the cities of Delhi and Agra; they had seized the forts Ahmednugger, Allyghur, and Baroach. 268 pieces of ordnance, 57 stands of colours, were among the minor prizes of their victory.

These achievements naturally led to fresh annexations. Cuttack had hitherto broken the British communication on the east coast of India. It was added to the Company's possessions, and the whole of the east coast of India from Travancore to Chittagong remained thenceforward under the sway of the Company. The territory of Delhi and the Upper Dooab, between the Jumna and the Ganges, was annexed at the same time, and the seat of the Mogul Empire was accordingly transferred to the East India Company.

But war occasionally begets war, and the triumphs of 1803 involved a fresh struggle in 1804. The defeat of Scindia left Holkar more powerful than before. During the negotiations with Scindia in 1803, Holkar had 1804 with been suspected of combining with the rest of the Mahrattas against the British. He was not, however, prepared for the rupture which Scindia eventually precipitated, and he thought that the Mahratta policy should have been based rather on delay than on warfare. He had not, moreover, foreseen the easy defeat of Scindia, and he saw with concern the rapid victories of the British armies. The arrangements to which Scindia submitted seemed subversive of his own authority. Rival chieftains, members of the same State, Scindia and he had not nicely defined the boundaries of their own dominions, and Holkar claimed a portion of the territory between the Jumna and the Ganges which Scindia had ceded to the East India Company.2

His claim made any permanent understanding between Holkar and the Company unlikely. Wellesley met it by requiring him to withdraw from the menacing position which he occupied in the neighbourhood of British territory, and on

1 The Dooab, literally two waters, is the country between the Jumna and the Ganges. Malcolm, Political History of India, vol. i. p. 389, note.

2 Grant Duffs History of the Mahrattas, vol. iii. p. 273; cf. Thornton, vol.

iii. p. 422,

The retreat of Monson.

his refusal at once commenced war. But the war which thus began, in April 1804, was attended with very different consequences from those of the campaign of the previous autumn. Holkar understood much better than Scindia the conditions of the contest. Instead of precipitating actions, he hurriedly retreated ; and Lake, fancying that the contest was over, and seeing that his men were suffering and his cattle dying from the heat, withdrew into quarters, and left only a small detachment under Colonel Monson to watch the movements of Holkar.

North of the Nerbudda, a little more than half-way from its source to the sea, two rivers rise in a high range of mountains.

One of these, the Mhye, or Mahie, flows first in a

northerly direction, till suddenly meeting with higher land its waters are turned, and hold a south-westerly course till they lose themselves in the Gulf of Cambay. The other river, the Chumbul, rising to the east of the Mahie, flows from the first in a north and north-easterly direction, till it finally falls into the Jumna. Holkar's retreat practically abandoned all his territory to the north-west of the Chumbul, and Monson followed him along the right bank of that stream towards its source. Another officer, Colonel Murray, was instructed to march through the Mahie valley from the west, and effect a junction with Monson near the sources of the Chumbul.

Up to the beginning of July all went well with the two forces. In July, Murray, alarmed at reports of forces gathering around him, fell back across the Mahie. His retreat made Monson's position full of danger. He was in an enemy's country, short of supplies, with an active foe before him and a difficult mountain pass in his rear. He decided to retire; but his decision was at once followed by an attack on his rearguard, which was cut to pieces. Monson fell back in order on the Mokundra pass, where he made a stand, and defeated

But Holkar's horse collected after their defeat and harassed his retreat. At Rampoora succour reached Monson which had been sent him from Agra. Strengthened as he was, he was still forced to retire. The rivers were

his enemy.

1

swollen with the rains; the guns, sticking in the soft soil, were spiked and abandoned ; and the wearicd troops were harassed night and day by the active force which surrounded them. Discipline under these circumstances was lost; order ceased; and, at the end of August, the detachments which survived the disaster straggled, a mere rabble, into Agra.

This reverse, the greatest which the British had yet sustained in India, imposed the necessity of vigorous action upon the authorities. Holkar, flushed with success, actually laid siege to Delhi, and the Raja of Bhurtpore threw in his lot with the Mahratta chieftain. But the British proved their spirit in the midst of these trials. A small British force under the command of Colonel Burn successfully defended Delhi and forced Holkar to withdraw. General Fraser, who commanded one division of Lake's army, decisively defeated Holkar at Deeg; and General Jones, who had superseded Murray in Gujerat, avenged the disaster of the preceding summer by marching through the Mahratta territory and joining hands with Lake in the valley of the Jumna. The authority of the Company was restored and the power of Holkar was broken by these successes, and the British had leisure to punish the chieftains who had deserted them in their need. Foremost

The siege of among them was the Raja of Bhurtpore, and Lake Bhurtpore. in January 1805 attacked that town. But the siege, undertaken in haste, was conducted without judgment, and the British experienced a new failure.

Throughout the operations with Holkar, Scindia had been the nominal ally of the British. But he had carefully evaded their demands for armed assistance, and had held himself prepared to embark on any policy which the fortunes of the war might commend to his judgment. Unfortunately, the policy of Wellesley had given this chief- marches to

Bhurtpore. tain not merely an opportunity but an excuse for

The Governor-General maintained, and Scindia denied, that, under the arrangements of 1803, Gwalior and Gohud belonged to the Company. It would be tedious to detail the

i Grant Duffs Mahrattas, vol. iii. p. 280 seq.

Scindia

« AnteriorContinuar »