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WAR WITH THE SIKHS
The Despatch of Governor-General of India to the Secret Committee of the East India Company.
Camp, Umballa, December 2, 1845. I Left Delhi on the 19th ultimo, making the usual marches towards Kurnaul and Umballa, with the intention of meeting the Commander-in-Chief at the latter place, who was on his way to inspect the troops at Meerut, Delhi, and other districts.
On the 22nd November I received from Major Broadfoot the official despatch dated the 20th November,* detailing the sudden intention of the Sikh army to advance in force to the frontier, for the avowed purpose of invading the British territories.
The letter of the 20th was succeeded by a private communication of the following day,* stating the same facts, and inclosing news, letters, and papers of intelligence received from Lahore, which professed to give an account of the circumstances which have led to the present movement, and which would appear (if these papers are to be depended upon) to have originated with the Ranee and certain of the Sirdars, who felt the pressure of the demands of the army to be so urgent, and its present attitude and temper so perilous to their existence, that they desired to turn the thoughts of the troops to the objects which might divert their attention from making extortionate demands for higher pay, by employing their energies in hostile operations against the British Government.
The precautions already adopted to provide against the possi• The Despatches here alluded to follow this of the Governor-General.
bility of our forces being unprepared to meet any movement of the Sikh army this season, and the arrangements made by the Commander-in-Chief, on the receipt of Major Broadfoot's intelgence,* rendered it, in my opinion, unnecessary to allow these reports of invasion to make any change in my movements. I arrived on the 26th at Kurnaul, where the Commander-in-Chief met me, having proceeded from Umballa by dak, returning to his camp the same evening; on the same day I was also joined by Major Broadfoot.
I had the satisfaction of concurring in all the orders which his Excellency had given, to hold the troops in readiness to move at the shortest notice, and in the instructions which he had sent to , the officers in command of the stations at Ferozepore and Loodiana. The force at the former post consists of one European regiment, seven regiments of native infantry, two regiments of native cavalry, and twenty-four field guns, exclusive of heavy ordnance. The force at Loodiana consists of one regiment of Europeans, five regiments of native infantry, one regiment of native cavalry, and two troops of horse artillery.
After a full and satisfactory consultation with his Excellency, and taking into consideration the improbability of the Sikh army crossing the Sutlej, I determined that no movement should be made towards the river by the forces from Umballa and Meerut, and I postponed, for further consideration with his Excellency, any change in the present distribution of the troops; eventually some alterations will be made, which, when they have been finally determined upon between me and the Commander-in-Chief, will be reported to you. At the present moment his Excellency coincides with me that no forward movement is required.
In the midst of much hesitation and irresolution, the enterprise ordered by the Sikh Government does not appear to have been formally abandoned; the intelligence received by Major Broadfoot,* on the day of his joining my camp showed that the
• The Despatches here alluded to follow this of the Governor-General.
three brigades of the Sikh force had actually left Lahore a few miles in advance, to be followed the next morning by three other brigades, including one of artillery. This was on the 24th ultimo. The intelligence received from that date has been communicated to me by Major Broadfoot each day, as it arrives.
It is said they intend, in reply to Major Broadfoot's remonstrance, to allege that the fact of our having collected so large a force, with all the munitions of war, on the frontier, is the cause of the concentration of their forces on the Sutlej; that they intend to demand the reasons of our preparations; to insist on the surrender to the Lahore Government of the treasure which belonged to the late Raja Soocheyt Sing; the restoration by the Raja of Nabba of the village of Mowran, escheated by the Raja, and the escheat confirmed by us; and henceforth the free passage of their troops into the Lahore possessions on this side the Sutlej.
I need only remark, on the first and most essential point, that the Sikh army did in the beginning of last January prepare to move to the Sutlej. The political agent remonstrated, and the troops were withdrawn: the reason then assigned for the movement being the same as that now intended to be brought forward, namely, the state of our military preparations on the frontier. The Governor-General in Council, in a despatch to Major Broadfoot of the 25th January, 1845, entered into very full explanations, which were conveyed to the Lahore Vakeel.
The Government of India, through its political agent, has more than once complained of the inconvenience and expense of being obliged to retain so large a British force on the frontier, in consequence of the ungovernable misconduct of the Sikh army,— a fact well known and never contradicted by the Lahore Government.
As regards the past, it is clear that no cause of complaint has been given by the Government of India. If it should be asserted that our military preparations this autumn have given offence, the assertion is equally unfounded, and is a mere pretext for hostile proceedings which have originated in the political weakness and the internal dissensions of the Lahore Government, and, above all, in their desire to be released, on any terms, from the terror which the ferocity of their own troops has inspired. The proof is to be found in the fact that, at the time these disorderly movements commenced, no additional British troops had reached our frontier stations. The additional regiment of native infantry, destined for the reinforcement of Ferozepore, had not arrived. At Loodiana, one of the two regiments of native cavalry had actually marched for Scinde before it was relieved, leaving that post, as it is at present, with one regiment, instead of the usual complement of two regiments of cavalry. At the other stations no alteration had been made, and the troops which had marched were peaceably engaged in completing the annual reliefs according to custom at this season.
I have given these details to show the hollow pretences of such assertions, if they should be made.
I do not believe that this alleged grievance, or any of the other demands, will be made, or if made, that they will be pressed; but I need not say that they will and must be resisted.
Such is the state of affairs at the present moment, and, although my conviction is strong that the Sikh army will be deterred from acts of aggression, on account of the state of our military preparation, yet it is by no means impossible that we may be forced at any moment into war, and that operations, on a very extended scale, may be immediately necessary.
For this alternative I have made all preparations. Orders will be despatched to bring up, from stations in the rear of Meerut, the additional forces noted in the margin,* which, with the concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief, will be cantoned, with the exception of the European artillery, at or near Kimma, twenty-eight miles from Loodiana, and ten miles in advance of
• Four companies of European artillery, from Cawnpore; one troop of European horse artillery, four regiments of native cavalry, five ditto native infantry.