« AnkstesnisTęsti »
SINCE the days of Hyder and Scindiah, as we observed in our last volume, there was no war in which the AngloIndian government had been involved, which had excited in the British public so much anxiety and apprehension with regard to the final result, as the present. Great ignorance prevailed with regard even to the geographical position and boundaries of the Burman empire, and still more with regard to its resources; but from their mode of conducting the war, it was evident that the Burmans were a nation of warriors-audacious, skilful, and persevering, and exempt from those sudden panics to which sudden levies are peculiarly subject. There was also a prevailing distrust of the capacity of Lord Amherst, the Governor-General, and a belief that he had rashly engaged in the war, merely to give eclât to his administration by new conquests, and without weighing the probable consequences. To these sources of uneasiness, there remains to be added another: It was confidently rumoured in India, from whence the rumour was transmitted to
England, that the Burman government was secretly encouraged and instigated by Russian emissaries, and was even secretly supplied by Russia with the munitions of war. Such a rumour, it
is proper to observe, rested on the authority of private letters, written chiefly by disaffected persons, and was, in the sequel, completely disproved.
It is not our purpose to guage the military capacity of Lord Amherst, or to determine whether the plan of operations by the army emanated from himself, or from military men of professional reputation; but one thing is now certain, that the aggressions of the Burmans had made war unavoidable. That people, though tolerably civilized, and not unlettered-though acquainted with the genius and character of our Indian government, had acquired, from a long train of successes over their less warlike neighbours, most exaggerated notions of their own greatness; and they had long evinced a disposition to measure their strength with that of British India. During the Pindaree war, they were in secret communication with
We may observe, that Major Canning is generally supposed to have been the author of the pla.
several of the belligerent Mahratta chiefs; and we have the Marquis of Hastings's authority for the fact of their having been then prepared to invade the southeast frontier of Bengal; from which enterprise they were with difficulty diverted, by an ingenious, though perfectly justifiable stratagem practised by his lordship.!
In our last volume, we noticed the capture, by the Burmans, of the island of Shapurez, when occupied by the British; but their hostile intentions were still more clearly indicated upon the British frontier. Until 1820, both Cachar and Muneepoor were subject to the Muneepooreans, and governed by two brothers, Choorjeet and Marjeet, and their cousin Gumbheer Singh. In that year, they were attacked by the Burmans, who reduced Muneepoor, and extended their conquests into the eastern parts of Assam. The three chiefs fled; but, taking advantage of the absence of the enemy, they soon recovered Muneepoor. That place, however, was destined to fall again into the hands of the Burmans, who then again advanced upon Assam, and made a conquest of that district, by defeating its rajah, almost within sight ofa British post, upon the Brahmapootrą.
According to their cruel and invariable policy, the Burmans were proceeding to depopulate Assam, when its inhabitants retired before them in large masses within the British frontier. Posts were established for their protection both at Jugeegopa and Gwalpara; notwithstanding which, the Burmans repeatedly violated our territory, in pursuit of the refugees and their property. About this time, the exiled rajahs of Cachar and Muneepoor, Marjeet and Choorjeet, as well as a former rajah of Cachar, Gavind Chundur, whom they had dispossessed of that territory, agreed to place Cachar under our protection; and the supreme government, foreseeing that they would be compelled into
hostility by the Burmans, determined that the war, when forced upon them, should commence in Cachar, rather than on our own Indian frontier. As had been anticipated, the Burmese, whose hatred of the Muneepooreans knew no limits, prepared a new expedition, for the purpose of extirpating them; and, advancing upon different points of Cachar, they demanded that the objects of their hate should be delivered up to them. They had even the insolence to declare that they would not be disappointed of their prey, though they should have to follow their enemy to the farther end of Hindostan. Matters having been pushed to this extre mity by the Burmans, hostilities were the necessary result. They had no claim, they made no claim, upon Cachar: the Indian government was bound to protect it; and that government could not, without scandalously violating the law of nature and of nations, and irretrievably lowering its character in the eyes of all India, consent to deliver up a whole unhappy race to the vengeance of their truculent enemies. Had the war been commenced on the part of the British, it would have been perfectly justifiable under the circumstances; but still, it is satisfactory to know, that the first gun was fired by the Burmans.
We formerly detailed the operations of the two hostile armies, Anglo-Indian and Burman, in the territory of Cachar, and the results of several expeditions fitted out against some of the Burman maritime possessions. We also brought down our account of the events of the war in the neighbourhood of Rangoon to the 15th of December 1824, when the Burman army sustained a second most severe repulse. We did not, however, then notice (for the fact was not known at that time in Britain) that Maha Bandoolah, who latterly commanded the Burman army before Rangoon, had, on account of his celebrity as a brave and skilful warrior,
been recalled, with his army, from Arracan, by which the Bengal frontier was relieved from the dread and danger of invasion; and, flushed with his partial success, had marched across the mountains to the Irrawaddy river, a distance of 200 miles, and had fixed upon Donoobew as a general rendezvous, where he collected his forces before proceeding to Rangoon, then the theatre of
After its disastrous defeat on the 15th, the Burman army retreated upon Donoobew, leaving posts on the Lain and Panlang rivers, to harass the British in its advance. Meantime, the situation of the British in Rangoon was greatly improved. The inhabitants, convinced of the ability of the invaders to afford them protection, returned from the jungles, to which they had retreated, and where many of them had perished, owing to the severities exercised against them by their imperious masters the Burmans, and resumed their former occupations. A bazaar was soon re-established, and was plentifully supplied with edibles of every description. The army was now enabled to procure a sufficiency of canoes for the transport of provisions, and servants for the commissariat. But the most exhilarating circumstance was, the arrival of reinforcements, consisting of the 47th regiment, two squadrons of cavalry, horse artillery and rocket troop. Along with these came 1700 cattle, and corresponding equipments.
On the south-east frontier of Bengal, a large force had assembled, under the command of Brigadier-General Morrison, for the invasion of Arracan; and expectations were entertained, that, after reducing the capital of that province, it would be enabled to cross the lofty range of mountains which separate Arracan from Ava, and join the army upon the Irrawaddy. On the Sylhet frontier, another large force, under Brigadier-General Shouldham, threatened to
advance upon the capital of Cassay; and in Assam, Lieutenant-Colonel Richards, with a small field corps, was employed against the enemy in that quar
The attention of the British was, at this time, eagerly fixed upon the court of Siam. Between the Burmans and Siamese, there were many ancient grudges; and the latter were regarded by the British as an ally, whose co-operation might almost be depended upon. Most tempting overtures had been made by the Burman to the Siamese court, to secure its neutrality, if not its alliance; but though the overtures were not accepted by the latter, it had cautiously refrained from engaging on either side of the quarrel. However, that it might have the better chance of profiting by events, it had assembled upon the Martaban frontier a numerous body, with which, by the occupation of the Martaban frontier, the British army at Rangoon was placed in direct communication.
The British general had designed to advance direct upon the Burman capital, by the way of Pegu and Tonghoo, which was the shortest and the best, turning the enemy's positions upon the Irrawaddy; but as it would still be nea cessary to preserve the river communication, by means of a combined land and water force, the co-operation of the Siamese was indispensable to the success of the intended movement. The Siamese general was therefore strongly urged to act, and advance with his force upon Tonghoo; but instead of yielding compliance, he, to keep up appearances, merely sent a complimentary embassy to Rangoon, charged with many hyperbolical congratulations and compliments to the British general. Under this dis appointment, the British general had to confine his operations to the banks of the Irrawaddy. The force destined to act by land, which was under the immediate command of Sir Archibald
Campbell, did not exceed 1300 European infantry, 1000 Sepoys, two squadrons of dragoons, and a rocket troop; and this force, diminutive as it was when compared with the magnitude and danger of the enterprise, was so imperfectly supplied with carriages, that it could take with it not more than fifteen days' provisions. This column was to move in a line parallel to the Lain river, and to join the Irrawaddy at the nearest accessible point, for the purpose of co-operating with a marine column, which was to advance up the Panlang Channel, in attacking Donoobew. The point of junction could not be fixed.
The marine column, which was commanded by Brigadier-General Cotton, consisted of 800 European infantry, a small battalion of Sepoys, and a powerful train of artillery. The flotilla in which they were embarked, consisted of sixty gun-boats, which were commanded by Captain Alexander, R. N., and escorted by the boats of the men-of-war lying at Rangoon. The instructions to the flotilla were, to push up the Panlang into the Irrawaddy, and on to Donoobew, with all possible expedition.
Another force, the naval part of which was under Captain Marryat, R. N. and the troops, consisting of the 13th regiment and the 12th Madras native infantry, commanded by Major Sale, was embarked for Bassein, with instructions to reduce that place, and then, if possible, to advance upon Donoobew, or Hewzedah, each of which places was supposed to be distant fifty miles from Bassein. We must here anticipate events, by mentioning, that, though this force succeeded in reducing Bassein, the impossibility of procuring carriage prevented its advancing upon either Donoobew or Hewzedah.
On the 11th of February, the land column commanded by Sir Archibald Campbell, marched out of Rangoon, and commenced its advance upon Donoobew. Proceeding through a country partly
fertile, though devastated by the Burmans, but chiefly covered with jungles, at the rate of from five to eight miles a-day, the column reached Mophee on the 17th. The villages which they had passed were inhabited by Carians—a miserable tribe, whom the Burmans had led into captivity, and located upon lands in Pegu. They are not liable to military service; but are subjected to heavy taxes. They raise great quantities of grain, with which the royal granaries are supplied. Their dwellings are truly miserable, being mere wickerwork, fixed on the tops of poles. These people cheerfully tendered every assistance to the army.
At Mophee was a garrisoned fort, which was attacked by the British about eight o'clock in the morning. So completely was the enemy taken by surprise, that as soon as the advanced guard moved on to the assault, the former was seen to rush into jungles, in such haste that there was no pursuing them.
At Mophee, stood a mansion erected for Bandoolah, on his coming down to Rangoon. In the Burman empire, the architecture of houses for men of rank is regulated by law; and the penalty of death is denounced against those of inferior rank, who venture to inhabit them. It therefore usually happens, that, in travelling, a great man has a house erected for him at every village before his arrival in it; and the house, as was the case with Bandoolah's, upon his departure, remains tenantless, and is suffered to go to decay.
On the 19th February, the column reached Maendago, where a picket of Cassay horse fled at its approach. According to information received at headquarters at Rangoon, there should have been a road from Maendago to Donoobew, across the island formed by the Lain and Panlang rivers, by which road it was intended that the column should advance; but it was now found that
there was no such road; and as the island consisted of an impassable jungle, it was determined that the army should proceed, by a well known and ascertained road, to Sarrawah, which is on the Irrawaddy, about sixty miles above Donoobew.
On 1st of March, the column arrived at Theeboon, having passed, besides other villages, the village of Lain, a warboat station of the Burmans. At Theeboon, it forded the Lain river, and took up a position a mile in advance. Here it was joined by provision boats, which had been dispatched up the river, for the supply of the commissariat carts; and here also, intelligence was received of the capture of Panlang by the marine column, and its advance into the Irrawaddy.
Next day, the column arrived at Sarrawah, where it first came in sight of the majestic Irrawaddy. The place, which is the head-quarters of the Burman king's war-boats in Pegu, was, on the approach of the British, completely deserted by its inhabitants, who were seen, in one large mass, on the opposite side of the river, moving slowly into the depths of a huge forest.
At Sarrawah, the column halted six entire days, in hopes of obtaining intelligence of the operations of the marine column, which, it was considered certain, must have reached Donoobew. Rumours were abroad that Bandoolah had retreated from that strong place; but they were too vague to be relied upon; and, besides, they might have been circulated by the enemy, with a view to ensnare the British. On the 7th, however, a heavy cannonade was heard at Donoobew, which, commencing in the morning, entirely ceased in the afternoon. There was now a moral conviction that Donoobew had been attacked and carried, which was strengthened by accounts of Bandoolah's retreat, which poured in from all quarters. It was now deemed necessary that the
VOL. XVIII. PART I.
column should advance with the utmost haste, in order to prevent the defeated enemy from reaching Prome, the capital of Pegu, and the laying waste of the country between Sarrawah and that city. Accordingly, on the 9th, the column marched from Sarrawah, leaving a strong detachment there, to intercept the enemy's retreat by water, and maintain a communication between the advancing and the marine columns. On the 10th, the troops reached Uaudeet, distant twenty-six miles from Sarrawah, having passed through a number of deserted villages. Uaudeet they found to be a town of considerable extent; but its inhabitants had fled from it, carrying away with them everything in the morning that was portable.
Here, on the morning of the 11th, intelligence was received that the marine column had failed in its attack upon the outworks of Donoobew, and that, unless the assailants were reinforced, the place was too strong to be carried. It now became a question of grave consideration, whether the land column, after reinforcing the marine one from the rear at Rangoon, should advance directly upon Prome, or fall back upon Donoobew, and there effect a junction with the other column. Against the first of these alternatives there were these formidable objections, that the Burmans had the command of the great river, by which all supplies for the troops were effectually stopped; there were only ten days' rations in store; and there was little chance of deriving the smallest supply from the country. It was, therefore, resolved that the column should fall back, and effect the junction in question. On the 12th it left Uaudeet, and next day regained Sarrawah.
The same day, the Madras infantry crossed the river, and took possession of Hewzedah, on the opposite side. Rafts were constructed at the cost of immense labour, by which, in the course of five days, the entire column, with its