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Life of Lord Wellington.
could impede their flight, and betaking themselves, alınost naked, to the hills and jungles, and fastnesses, where regular troops could not follow them. It is unnecessary to add, that activity in such a campaign was a more military virtue than even courage. There is little difficulty, with any thing near an equality of numbers, in defeating an Indian force; but there is a vast difficulty, and it requires a more than common degree of ability, to follow a predatory and alternately fugitive and advancing army in a rough, rugged, mountainous, and woody country, and during such pursuit to give no advantage to an enemy, though so much better acquainted with all the difficulties and facilities of the possible road, and so much better calculated to avail themselves of them. Modern times have seen the fate of Crassus repeated more than once, or at least have seen a pursuing and victorious army compelled, under such circumstances, to make a retreat more fatal than was the value of their former victory. How often, for example, did this happen in the disastrous war with America.
The next service of General Wellesley, for he was now promoted to the rank of a Major-general, was still more important. Under the influence of French intrigues, or perhaps justly apprehensive of the power of the English, aggrandized as it certainly was by the subjugation of Tippoo, and the consequent aunexation of the Mysore, the Mahrattas commenced hostilities against the government of India ; and under Holkar and Scindia, threatened the safety of our establish: ment. General Stuart immediately took the field; and Major-gene. ral Wellesley was as immediately detached on the important service of saving Poonah. General Wellesley on this occasion commanded a body of nearly forty thousand men, British and natives, accompanied by a large artillery, and that excessive proportion of baggage and incumbrances, of which it is impossible to divest an Indian army. It would be supposed that a force like this was but very little calcu. lated for a speedy march; the progress of General Wellesley, however, was extraordinary; he divested himself of the subsidiary force of the Nizam; and thus having disembarrassed himself of baggage, and of a force more troublesome than useful in the march, he pushed forwards with twelve thousand men. By the most astonishing celerity, he reached Poonab just in time to save it, Holkar having re
Vol. I. No. 1.
Life of Lord Wellington. solved to plunder and burn it, almost on the very day on which the British arrived and rescued it. On this service General Wellesley marched sixty miles in thirty-two hours.
General Wellesley continued to distinguish himself in several other actions and movements which immediately followed the relief of Poonah. He exhibited on all these occasions the true characteristic features of his character; an extraordinary and incredible activity, and a confidence in himself and in the valour of his soldiers, which led him to attempt the most difficult enterprises with a force apparently inadequate. He knew, however, the value of circumstances, and his force, however inadequate in appearance, was always found sufficient in the event. He knew what part of a numerous force was occasionally to be considered as an incumbrance; he knew, moreover, that there were occasions, in which equality of numbers was of the least value; that all was burthensome beyond what was sufficient, and that that was sufficient which circumstances rendered so.
The time now approached which was to establish the military reputation of General Wellesley, and to enrol bim amongst the first of those eminent men who have maintained and augmented the glory of the English name. A long revolution of time must pass away before the battle of Assye shall be lost in oblivion.
Scindia, and the Rajab of Berar, with a Mahratta army of nearly furty thousand men, had taken up a strong position, similar to an entrenched European camp, near the village of Assye; and with a knowledge not often seen in India, their distribution as well as their position was judicious, and strictly according to military rules. General Wellesley no sooner received information of their place of encampment, than he resolved to storm it. Accordingly, on the twentya third of September, he marched forwards from Naulnair, a distance of six miles, with this purpose. Colonel Stevenson, with the troops of the Nizam, was absent, but was hourly expected to join. General Wellesley, however, resolved not to wait for him, and accordingly marched without him.
He soon reached the village of Assye, and saw that the enemy possessed a superiority of force which would have daunted almost any other man. The inequality, indeed, was frightful; Scindia and the
Life of Lord Wellington. Rajah bad thirty thousand cavalry, about eleven thousand infantry, and nearly two hundred pieces of artillery. There was likewise a great proportion of French officers, who were chiefly to be dreaded as serying the cannon.
The army of General Wellesley did not amount to five thousand men. The number of the Europeans was two thousand. To weigh agaiust this frightful superiority of the enemy, General Wellesley had nothing but his own skill and the tried valour of his countrymen. Whatever could be done by brave men, who had a merited confidence in their leader, who had often led them to victories which the ordinary course of things did not promise, General Wellesley had a right to expect from his comrades: he did expect it, and the event justified the reasonableness of his calculation. A great part of the splendor of the action is dimmed by the distance of the scene, or the battle of Assye would be more justly estimated by the British public.
A river flowed nearly in front of the enemy's position; the General forded it somewhat above the enemy's left, and formed his army in order of battle. He drew up his infantry in two lines; and behind them the British cavalry in a third, as a reserve.
In the very commencement of the battle, the general displayed an admirable promptitude by an instantaneous change of purpose, which an unexpected face of affairs required. He was about to attack Scindia on the right, when he made a discovery that the whole strength of Scindia, his artillery, &c. were on the left. He instantly resolved, therefore, to attack the left. He knew that if he attacked the right, and defeated it, that still the battle would have to be fought again; and he justly apprehended that a partial victory over the right would necessarily weaken and disperse his own army, t disproportion of which was already so great that he could ill spare a man. Under these circumstances having, as has been above said, made the discovery where the strength of the enemy lay, he resolved to attack it there; to strike at its vitals, and play for the whole stake; a complete victory or a repulse. .
The enemy, doubtless under the guidance of their French officers, likewise shifted their front with much readiness and order; they saw
Life of Lord Wellington. the comparative numerical inferiority of the English, and not making a due allowance for English valour, conducted by military skill, they fell into a fatal confidence and mischievous security with respect to the issue.
A circumstance now occurred, which, considering the inferiority of the English army, might excite a reasonable and considerable alarm. It was discovered that the English artillery, indeed there was very little of it, could not be brought into any use; whilst on the other hand the artillery of the enemy was most advantageously situated, and was served by French officers and engineers. The Mahratta powers had given great encouragement to these adventurers, and some of them were men, whose talents had been called forth and sharpened by their necessities.
General Wellesley, with that prompt decision which so eminently and so peculiarly characterizes him, and whicb, as we have above said, teaches him that point of time, and state of circumstances, in which the means and constituents of strength become impediments and embarrassments, gave orders to abandon his guns, and come to close combat. He accordingly took his station of command and peril at the head of his whole line, and having placed Colonel Max, well with the British cavalry so as to cover his right, the nature of the ground and relative position of the enemy rendering him secure on the left, he advanced to battle. The Mahrattas beheld him with mingled apprehension and astonishment, and before the battle began, were already half conquered in their terror and admiration of such an enemy.
Recovering, however, by the returning sense of their own strength, from this transitory sentiment of panic, in seeing an enemy so unequal in numbers su directly become the assailant, the Mahrattas began to play their tremendous cannon, in which the French engineers were particularly useful to them. Nothing, however, could impede the #igour, the decision of the English charge; and when the English bayonets reached them, and they experienced what was our strength of arm, they were compelled to give way. The remembrance of their numbers, however, and a feeling of shame and manhood, which being attached to our common nature, belongs to Indostan as well as to
Life of ord Wellington.
Europe, caused them still to retire reluctantly; the first ranks indeed gave way, and would have precipitately fled, but that those bebind impeded their celerity. In a short time, however, the victory over the first line was coniplete, and the routed Mahrattas fell back on their second line, which was strongly posted on the Juak river,
Whilst such were the operations of the main bodies, the Mahratta horse, who in tens of thousands bung upon the adjacent hills, made a furious attack on the seventy-fourth British regiment, which made a part of the force that General Wellesley had posted upon his right to secure his rear and flanks. This brave regiment, which had already suffered much from the enemy's artillery, received the charge with suitable valour and firmness, and the British cavalry shortly bearing down to their assistance, the Mahratta borse returned up their bills, whither the English followed them. The repulse was. complete, and the slaughter immense. .
The attack was now directed against the second line of the enemy, which was as yet entire, only that it was thrown into confusion by the admission and incorporation of the fugitives from the first. Another charge was now made on thein at once by the cavalry under Colonel Maxwell, and the infantry under General Wellesley. The enemy, unable to withstand its fury, now fled in all directions; and the main body of the British thinking that all was done, and that it only remained to reap the fruits of victory, followed them in ardent pursuit.
This confidence bad nearly been the ruin of the arıny and the loss of the day, had not the courage of General Wellesley, and that we may do justice to the memory of a brave and departed hero, the astonishing gallantry of Colonel Maxwell, again secured it. General Wellesley and the Colonel, as has been above said, had crossed the river Juak to make an attack on the second line of the enemy, after baving defeated the first. The second line had scarcely been routed, and the British main army in the act of pursuing them, when a very numerous body of the Mahrattas, who having thrown themselves on the ground, had feigned themselves slain, and under this belief had been passed by the British soldiers, suddenly rose upon their feet, and seizing the cannon which had been left in the rear, played them with great fury on the British, who were scattered by pursuit, and on that