by R. E. Cholmeley
The Lion of the Punjaub
R. E. CHOLMELEY
My Lord, you may rely upon this, that if ever
there is a desperate deed to be done in India,
John Nicholson is the man to do it.
Sir Herbert Edwardes to Lord Canning,
CHAPTER III. ONE
CHAPTER IV. THE
SECOND SIKH WAR.
CHAPTER V. ON
CHAPTER VI. THE
MASTER OF BANNU.
CHAPTER VII. THE
WITH THE MOVABLE
CHAPTER X. IN
THE HOUR OF
CHAPTER I. EASTWARD HO!
High up on the crest of the wild and rugged Margalla Pass, on the
north-western frontier of India, stands a plain stone obelisk. It looks
down on to the road that winds from Rawal Pindi to Hasan Abdal, the
road where once only the Afghan camel-train passed on its way to and
from Peshawur, but where now a railway marks the progress of modern
India. Severely simple in its exterior, the obelisk is yet one of the
most notable monuments to be seen in our great Eastern Empire, for it
commemorates a soldier-hero of high fame. On its base is inscribed the
name of John Nicholson.
This Margalla monument is not the only memorial to Nicholson in
India: there is a tablet to his memory in a church at Bannu, the scene
of his administrative work; and there is at Delhi, where he lies
buried, a fine bronze statue of recent erection. But the stone obelisk
in the frontier pass will stand for ever as the most striking tribute
to the man who played so prominent a part in the saving of India. Its
very position appeals strongly to the imagination. Here it was, in the
district which he ruled so wisely and well, that Nicholson's early
reputation was made; and here it is that among the wild tribesmen whom
he tamed to his will his memory is still fondly cherished.
Who was John Nicholson? The question may well rise to the lips of
many, for the writers of history textbooks have hitherto done him scant
justice. And yet the tale of the Great Mutiny cannot be properly told
without due acknowledgment being made to his genius. Those who know how
the fate of India trembled in the balance in those dark days of 1857,
know what we owe to him among other strong men whom the occasion
brought to the front. It is now fifty years since Nicholson fell in the
hour of victory at Delhi; the present year is, therefore, a fitting
time to retell the story of his short but glorious career.
Like his distinguished chief, Sir Henry Lawrence, John Nicholson was
an Irishman. He was born, in December 1822, at Lisburn, near Belfast,
where his father, Dr. Alexander Nicholson, had a flourishing practice.
On the paternal side he came of a family which had been established in
Ireland since the sixteenth century, while through his mother, who was
a Miss Hogg, he was connected with a well-known Ulster family, of which
the late Lord Magheramorne was a representative.
Of young John's early life several stories have been preserved which
give some indication of his character. According to Sir John Kaye, he
was a precocious boy almost from his cradle; thoughtful, studious, of
an inquiring nature; and he had the ineffable benefit of good parental
teaching of the best kind. Both his father and mother were deeply
religious people, and their childrenseven in allwere brought up
with an intimate knowledge of the Bible. One day, it is said, when John
was three years old, Mrs. Nicholson found him alone in a room with a
knotted handkerchief in his hand and striking furiously at some
invisible object. On being asked what he was doing, John answered, Oh,
mamma dear, I am trying to get a blow at the devil! He is wanting me to
be bad. If I could get him down, I'd kill him!
The boy's willingness to be taught enabled him to learn how to read
and write at the early age of four. When, five years later, his father
died, and the family removed to Delgany, in County Wicklow, he was sent
to a school in that town. Thence he proceeded to the Royal School at
Dungannon, where, although he did not greatly distinguish himself as a
scholar, he made good progress. His chief characteristics were a fiery
temper and a reputation for truthfulness and courage. A relative has
placed on record her remembrance of having heard as a child that her
cousin John was always leader in games, and was never known to tell a
lie. He was quite a hero from the first, she says.
Another feature of the boy's character was his very real love for
his mother. With two girls and five boys to bring up on a slender
income, Mrs. Nicholson was sometimes worried as to their future, and at
these times John, as her eldest son, would do his best to smooth away
the wrinkles from her forehead. Don't fret, mamma dear, he would say;
when I'm a big man I'll make plenty of money, and I'll give it all to
you. The mother no doubt smiled her pleasure at these brave words, but
she little guessed then how faithfully her son would keep his word in
the years to come.
The only other anecdote recorded of John Nicholson as a boy tells of
a serious accident, which came very near to putting an abrupt end to
his career. While spending a holiday at home in Lisburn he was playing
with gunpowder, when some of it unexpectedly exploded in his face. With
his hands over his eyes he ran into the house calling out that he was
blinded. Mrs. Nicholson on looking at his face saw that it was a
blackened mass, the eyes being completely closed, and blood trickling
down his cheeks.
For ten days, says Sir John Kaye, during which he never murmured,
or expressed any concern except for his mother, he lay in a state of
total darkness; but when at the end of that time the bandages were
removed, it was found that God in His mercy had spared the sight of the
boy, and preserved him to do great things.
By the time John was sixteen he was ready to leave the school at
Dungannon. The question of a profession for him now presented itself,
and at this juncture a good fairy stepped in in the person of his
uncle, Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Weir Hogg. Mr. Hogg, who was a Member
of Parliament and a Director of the East India Company, had had a
remarkable career. Going out to the East as a mere youth, he had found
fame and fortune at the Calcutta Bar. Having become a man of wealth, he
had returned to England to enter public life. He felt now that he ought
to do something for his sister and her large family, and offered to
obtain for John a cadetship in the Bengal Infantry. To this Mrs.
Nicholson gladly assented.
In the days of John Company the interest of influential persons
was sufficient to procure entry into the service. Young Nicholson was
therefore spared the ordeal of an examination or special course of
training. In the New Year of 1839 he went up to London to meet his
uncle and make final arrangements. An outfit was bought for him by Mr.
Hogg, and, at a momentous interview with the honourable Directors of
the East India Company at their office in Leadenhall Street, John took
the necessary oath of allegiance.
A few weeks later he sailed for India in the Camden, with his
uncle's sage counsel to work hard and live carefully, and his mother's
last injunction, Never forget to read your Bible, John, treasured in
CHAPTER II. FIGHTING THE AFGHANS.
After a five months' voyage Nicholson reached Calcutta safely. Here
he spent a little time with certain of his uncle's friends, until at
last he was temporarily appointed to the 41st Regiment of Sepoys
quartered at Benares. At this station he studiously mastered his drill
and prepared himself for the permanent appointment which was promised
him. This followed at the end of the same year, 1839, when he was
placed in the 27th Native Infantry at Ferozepore, on the Sutlej.
The young ensign was now to experience his first taste of war. Soon
after he had joined his new regiment, the 27th was ordered up into
Afghanistan and despatched to Jellalabad. At that time Afghanistan was
occupied by British troops, and to all intents and purposes was well
disposed towards us, but appearances were deceitful. Though hardly
anyone knew it, trouble was brewing in the Amir's capital. Below the
surface of calm, feeling ran high against Shah Soojah, the unpopular
Afghan ruler, and his supporters, the British; and the followers of
Dost Mahomed, the rival claimant to the throne, had no difficulty in
fomenting a general revolt. The blow fell on the 2nd of November 1841.
On that day Sir Alexander Burnes, the British envoy at Cabul, was
assassinated, and the streets of the city ran red with blood.
When the insurrection thus blazed forth, John Nicholson was at Fort
Ghuzni, nearly a hundred miles to the south of Cabul. His regiment had
been ordered there some months previously to relieve the 16th. In three
weeks' time the hill fortress was surrounded by Afghan warriors, and
Colonel Palmer, the commandant, found himself in a state of siege.
Unfortunately for the little garrison, the winter was now upon them.
Situated very high up, Ghuzni was exposed to the full severity of the
pitiless snowstorms which swept over the neighbourhood. These not only
added to the discomfort of the troops, but had the effect of checking
the advance of a relief column under General Maclaren that had started
For a time the enemy was kept at bay without the city, their
old-fashioned jezails, or matchlocks, failing to produce much
effect. Then treachery made itself felt. Actuated by humane motives,
Colonel Palmer had refrained from expelling the Afghan townspeople, and
the latter now repaid this act of kindness by undermining the city
walls to admit their countrymen. One dark December night the Afghans
poured in through the breach, driving the Sepoys and their British
officers into the shelter of the citadel.
For a month the little garrison held out bravely, suffering some
loss from the enemy's bullets and suffering even more from the scarcity
of water. While the snow fell it was possible to melt it and replenish
their store, but when the storms ceased they were in a desperate case.
Instructions now came from General Elphinstone at Cabul that the
fortress should be surrendered. Colonel Palmer, who was loth to believe
the message, prolonged negotiations as long as he could, but reflection
showed him that he had no choice but to submit. The water supply was at
an end, and the Afghans threatened to renew the siege in a more
determined manner than before. Very reluctantly, therefore, he yielded,
having first bargained that the garrison should be permitted to march
out with the honours of war and should be escorted in due time to
To this course the enemy's leaders agreed. But an oath counts for
little in the Afghan mind, and Nicholson quickly learned of what depths
of treachery this people were capable. No sooner had the sepoys of the
27th marched out to the quarters assigned them in the city than a crowd
of ghazis fell upon them, massacring many of the poor fellows in
cold blood. Nicholson himself, with Lieutenants Crawford and Burnett,
was on the roof of a house near by and saw the terrible deed. In the
building were two companies of sepoys. Joining these without delay, the
officers prepared to make a bold stand.
The attack on the house was not long in coming. Storming the door in
their furious desire to get at the hated infidels, the Afghans
endeavoured to effect an entrance. When it was seen that this could not
be done, the place was set on fire, and soon the flames and smoke drove
the inmates from room to room. Before very long the position became
untenable. With the few men remaining Nicholson and his brother
officers cut a hole with their bayonets in the back wall of the house,
and one by one dropped through into the narrow street below.
Fortunately, the two other buildings in which Colonel Palmer and his
sepoys had taken refuge, were close by. In a few moments the fugitives
had joined forces with their comrades.
[Illustration: One by one dropped through into the narrow street
But though safety for a time had been gained, the chances of
ultimate escape seemed hopeless. The houses were filled to overflowing
with sepoy soldiers and camp followers, men, women, and children, and
when by and by the large guns of the fortress were trained upon them
the slaughter was very great. The British officers, it is stated,
expected nothing less than death. They even began to burn the
regimental colours to prevent them falling into the enemy's hands.
In this extremity the Afghan leaders made fresh proposals of
honourable treatment on surrender, and Colonel Palmer at last consented
to yield. How Nicholson regarded this move was very clear. In his anger
at the base treachery he had witnessed he would have fought to the last
gasp ere trusting again to the word of an Afghan. When the command came
to surrender he refused to obey, and it is recorded that he drove the
enemy thrice back beyond the walls at the point of the bayonet, before
he would listen to the order given him to make his company lay down
their arms. Then, with bitter tears, he gave up his sword, and allowed
himself to be made prisoner.
Of the five months' captivity at Ghuzni, from March to August 1842,
we learn most from Lieutenant Crawford's narrative. From the first the
prisoners were treated miserably. The British officersten in
numberwere confined in a small room only 18 feet by 13, and for
several weeks deprived of any change of clothing. What possessions they
had were taken from them by their guards; watches, money, and
jewellery, and even their pocket-knives, thus being lost to them.
Only one officer succeeded in retaining a cherished trinket, and
this was Nicholson himself. Captain Trotter, who records the
incident, quotes from a letter sent by Nicholson to his mother in
which the writer says, I managed to preserve the little locket with
your hair in it . . . and I was allowed to keep it, because, when
ordered to give it up, I lost my temper and threw it at the soldier's
head, which was certainly a thoughtless and head-endangering act.
However, he seemed to like it, for he gave strict orders that the
locket was not to be taken from me.
The severities of the confinement increased when in April news came
of the death of Shah Soojah at the hands of an assassin, and the little
prison in the citadel became almost a second Black Hole of Calcutta.
The one window was shut and darkened, making the air of the room
unbearable. To add to the horror of the situation, Colonel Palmer was
now cruelly tortured before his comrades' eyes, one of his feet being
twisted by means of a tent peg and rope. This was done in the hope that
he or some one of his fellow-captives would reveal the hiding-place of
a phantom four lakhs of rupees, which the Afghans declared the
British had buried in the vicinity.
But in June came a change for the better. The prisoners were now
allowed to sleep out in the open courtyard in the postins, or
rough sheepskin coats, supplied them. Two months later they learned
that they were to be sent to Cabul, where Dost Mahomed's son, Akbar
Khan, was keeping captive Lady Sale, Mrs. Sturt, George Lawrence,
Vincent Eyre, and other Europeans. The exchange was a welcome one.
Slung in camel panniers, they were jolted along the rough country roads
for three days, arriving in the Afghan capital on the 22nd of August,
when they were generously dined by the chief and his head men.
The quarters in which the party were now housed, together with Lady
Sale and the other survivors of the Cabul massacre, were a paradise
compared to their former lodging. They had a beautiful garden to walk
in, servants to wait upon them, and an abundant supply of food. Their
satisfaction, however, was shortlived. In a few days the prisoners were
hurried off to Bamian, in the hill country to the north-west, and
thence to Kulum. The reason for this move was apparent. Generals
Pollock and Nott had already commenced their victorious advance upon
Cabul, and Akbar Khan resolved to keep his captives as hostages for his
To Nicholson and his companions it looked as if their fate was
sealed, but a ray of hope dawned for them. The Afghan officer in charge
of their escort showed himself ready to consider the offer of a bribe.
A bond was eventually drawn up ensuring him a handsome recompense for
his services did he lead them to safety, and in the middle of September
they found themselves once more free.
Late one afternoon the rescue party sent to their aid by General
Pollock met them toiling along the dusty road on the other side of the
Hindu Kush mountains. Within a few hours they were safe inside the
Nicholson duly marched with the main army to Cabul, and had the
satisfaction of seeing the Afghan capital suffer the punishment it
justly merited. On the way home, however, he experienced the first
great loss in his life. His youngest brother, Alexander, who had but
recently joined the Company's service, was killed in the desultory
fighting outside the city, and to Nicholson fell the sad duty of
identifying the boy's body as it was found, stripped and mutilated, by
 Life of John Nicholson.
CHAPTER III. ONE OF LAWRENCE'S
The three years that John Nicholson had spent in India had left
their mark upon him. The stripling had grown to man's stature. He was
now full six feet in height, black-haired and dark of eye, and with a
grave manner which the exciting experiences he had passed through had
intensified. Many people found the young officer too cold and austere
for their liking, but the haughty demeanour which characterised him in
reality covered a warm and sympathetic nature, of which those who were
admitted into his intimacy were fully aware. By this time he had made
several notable friends, including Major George Lawrence (brother of
the future Lord Lawrence), and a subaltern in the 16th Native Infantry,
named Neville Chamberlain, who was to make a great name for himself in
the stirring days to come.
To such as had followed his career Nicholson had come through his
baptism of fire with flying colours. He had shown himself possessed of
high courage, and had won admiration as much for his fortitude in
captivity as for his bravery in action. So far, indeed, the life of a
soldier had suited him; he was now to see the other side of the shield
and experience the peaceful but monotonous existence in cantonments at
Meerut and Moradabad.
In this distasteful period of inaction, he applied himself
diligently to the study of native languages, and was able to report to
his mother ere long that he had passed the interpreter's examination.
What also eased the irksomeness of his situation was his appointment as
adjutant of his regiment. The new duties that fell to his lot gave him
plenty of employment.
But the reign of peace was destined to be short. In the autumn of
1845 came the first signs of a great rising among the Sikhs, whose
territory was divided from the British by the river Sutlej. This
warlike nation had reached the height of their power under the famous
Ranjit Singh. After his death no fit successor was found to rule in his
place, and the turbulent soldiery quickly found an excuse to rebel
against the British Government which held them in check by the troops
massed upon the frontiers.
War was declared in November. In the following month occurred the
battles of Moodkee and Ferozeshah, in which General Sir Hugh Gough was
victorious over the Sikh army. At these fierce engagements Nicholson
was present as a commissariat officer, and not, to his regret, as a
combatant. Some weeks later followed the victories of Aliwal and
Sobraon, which resulted in the youthful Prince Dhuleep Singh, the
avowed head of the Sikhs, making his submission, and gave the British a
foothold in the Punjaub.
By one clause of the treaty which was concluded, the province of
Cashmere was ceded to us, but shortly afterwards it was made over to
the Maharajah Gholab Singh of Jummu for the sum of one million
sterling. At the request of the Maharajah, the Government now selected
two officers to assist the new ruler in keeping his subjects in order,
their choice falling on Captain Broome of the Bengal Artillery and
Lieutenant Nicholson. The latter owed this step to Henry Lawrence, to
whom he had been already introduced and upon whom he had made a
distinct impression. Colonel Lawrence himself had succeeded Major
George Broadfoot, the distinguished political agent for the Punjaub,
and was installed as British Resident at Lahore.
The ostensible reason for the appointment of Broome and Nicholson
was the need for drilling and disciplining the Cashmere army, but they
soon found that their presence was required by the Maharajah simply to
show that he had the support of the British. It was highly desirable
that a display of such friendship should be made, for the Sikh
inhabitants did not take at all kindly to their new chief. After a stay
at Jummu Gholab Singh set out for Cashmere, accompanied by Broome and
Nicholson and a small body of his own troops. Before many days had
elapsed he was hastening back to his capital with such of his soldiers
who could escape from the insurgents, while the two British officers
just managed to avoid capture in the mountain passes, and join him
later at Jummu.
The Sikh insurrection, however, had a brief life. A few months later
Nicholson was again in Cashmere with a definite appointment in the
North-West Frontier Agency. He was marked out by Lawrence as one of the
men whom he could rely upon to help in the work of keeping peace in the
Punjaub. Of the other lieutenants of LawrenceHerbert Edwardes,
Abbott, Reynell Taylor, Becher, and the restmention will be made in
due course. Never was master better served than was the British
Resident by these young and able officers.
To the wise way in which they carried out his policy of conciliation
we owe it that the vast district of the Punjaub not only remained quiet
at the outbreak of the Mutiny, but itself furnished us with native
troops who had a great share in quelling the rebellion.
From Cashmere Nicholson was in time transferred to Lahore to act as
Assistant to Colonel Henry Lawrence. This was a pleasing promotion, and
held out hopes of even more important posts in the future. On the way
down to the old Sikh capital he had the satisfaction of meeting his
younger brother Charles, who had followed him into the service and
arrived in India some months previously. Another brother, Alexander, as
has been noted, had been killed in action in the fighting round Cabul
in 1842, and a thirdWilliamwas to meet with a sadder fate. He was
found dead in circumstances that gave rise to a suspicion of foul play.
Now began for Nicholson that useful training in administrative work
which gained him such repute a few years later. Within three weeks of
his arrival at Lahore he was despatched on a mission to Umritsur, with
instructions to survey and report generally on the district. This done,
he proceeded to the Sind Sagur Doab country, where he was stationed as
political officer in command. To cultivate the acquaintance of the two
Nazims, or ruling chiefs, the Sirdars Chuttur Singh and Lall Singh, and
support their authority, at the same time that he protected the people
from oppression, was Nicholson's charge from Lawrence, and he applied
himself to the difficult task with zeal and enthusiasm.
Avoid as far as possible any military movement during the next
three months, wrote Lawrence; but, should serious disturbance arise,
act energetically. By peaceful methods, if possible, did he wish to
bring the Punjaub under subjection. Still, if the
. . . new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child,
were rebellious and needed chastening, the hand that smote them was
to smite heavily.
Very soon after Nicholson reached his new district the occasion
arose for him to assert his power. Captain Abbott, then acting as
Boundary Commissioner, was having trouble with the chiefs of Simulkund.
These worthies had committed some dastardly outrages in the
neighbourhood, and refused point-blank to appear at his court to answer
for their misdeeds. In response to the other's summons, Nicholson led a
small force to Simulkund, where he acted in conjunction with Abbott.
The result of these prompt measures was to make the Simulkund rebels
abandon their position without firing a shot.
This was a peaceful termination to an overt act of rebellion. The
next piece of lawlessness that called for punishment was of a more
serious nature, and gave Nicholson more opportunity to display his
mastery. Although the country round Rawal Pindi was apparently
tranquil, the natives were, as a matter of fact, only waiting for a
convenient moment to shake off the yoke. Pathans, Rajputs, Jats,
Gujars, and men of other tribes, alike resented the check laid upon
their raiding and cattle-lifting, while the rough soldiery especially
lamented the lost opportunities for plundering.
Before the winter of 1847-48 had come to an end there was a violent
outbreak in Mooltan. In that district the Moolraj treacherously
murdered some white officers and proclaimed a holy war against the
The revolt soon began to spread. Tribe after tribe helped to fan the
fires of rebellion into a blaze, until at last Sirdar Chuttur Singh,
whom everybody had thought to be tamed, threw off his allegiance and
raised his wild Hazara followers. To Nicholson news speedily came that
Chuttur Singh meant to seize the fort at Attock, an important hill
station. Although suffering from fever, he declared to Lawrence his
readiness to start at once for the fort and occupy it before the rebel
chief could forestall them.
I will start to-night, said Nicholson. The fever is nothing, and
shall not hinder me.
Lawrence having consented to his departure, he set off some hours
later with a body of Peshawur Horse and Mohammedan levies, and by dint
of hard riding reached the fort in the nick of time. The garrison were
on the point of closing the gates against him. Leaping from his horse,
and striding boldly among them, Nicholson ordered the Sikh soldiers to
arrest their leaders. For a moment they wavered, and the young
officer's life hung in the balance. But no one dared fire the shot
which would have turned the scale for mutiny.
Seize those men! commanded Nicholson fiercely, as he pointed out
the ringleaders. And, impressed by his resolute bearing, as he towered
above them with grim determination written on his face, the soldiers
did as he ordered, whereupon he placed the prisoners in fetters and
made arrangements for the security of the fort.
It was a daring and characteristic piece of work, made all the more
noteworthy by the fact that Nicholson was almost alone when he leapt
thus upon the mutineers. In his fiery impatience he had outdistanced
his escort of sixty horsemen, only a handful of these being able to
keep up with him to the end. The infantry, he noted in his report, did
not arrive until midnight.
Such a swift blow at their plans as this was not without its lesson
to the Sikhs, and the name of Nikalseyn from that time began to
assume a terrible significance in their minds.
 Killed at the battle of Ferozeshah.
CHAPTER IV. THE SECOND SIKH WAR.
The capture of Attock effected, there still remained much to be done
in the immediate neighbourhood. Chuttur Singh's Hazara forces were
moving about with the intention of joining the main army under another
Sikh leader, Shere Singh. With his newly raised troop of 700 levies
Nicholson dashed hither and thither, striking heavy blows at the
scattered portions of the enemy whom he encountered and damping the
ardour of other tribesmen who had thoughts of swelling the numbers of
Hasan Abdal received one of these sudden and unexpected visits. Here
a body of Sikh horse had mutinied and expelled their commander from the
fort. Nicholson promptly paraded the garrison, placing the ringleaders
under arrest, as he had done at Attock. In this instance, however, he
thought it better policy to show some leniency. When the Sikhs begged
hard for forgiveness he granted it, wishing to show that he was not
entirely without confidence in them.
Almost immediately after this incident he learned that a Sikh
regiment of some strength, with two guns, was at Rawal Pindi on its way
to meet Chuttur Singh's army. By a quick march he intercepted the
rebels at a place called Jani-ka-sang, near the Margalla Pass. The
mutineers had taken up a strong position within the walls of a
cemetery, and if it came to a fight in the open the advantage lay
entirely on their side.
Nicholson made up his mind quickly as to his course of action.
Concealing his men in a piece of jungle, he called out the colonel of
the disaffected regiment and gave him half an hour in which to decide
whether he would surrender or be attacked. What Nicholson would have
actually done had the Sikh commander remained obdurate is a question;
possibly he would have risked a dash across the open ground in front of
the cemetery walls and taken the chance of his men facing the rebels'
fire or turning tail. But he was spared such a crucial test. Before the
half-hour was up the Sikh colonel reappeared to announce that he and
his men regretted their disobedience, and were ready to place
themselves at his service.
Once more Nicholson's reputation for fearlessness had won him a
bloodless victory. Having read them a severe lecture, he dismissed the
mutineers with no further punishment, and sent them off to Rawal Pindi.
From now on Nicholson was busy scouring the country round Hasan
Abdal, reducing Chuttur Singh's chances of increasing his army as far
as was possible. Wherever mutiny reared its head, there was the young
lieutenant with his troop of irregulars ready to crush it at once with
a stern hand. There was no temporising with him. He held much the same
views at this time as some years later when, in reply to a lengthy
despatch from Sir Henry Lawrence calling upon him for a report of the
courts-martial he was holding and punishments he was inflicting, he
wrote on the other side of the document in large letters: The
punishment of mutiny is death.
By September 1848 Chuttur Singh, with several regular regiments and
nearly a score of field-pieces, was making a determined forward
movement. There was also another but smaller force in the field led by
a son of the Sikh chief. When Nicholson learned that the latter body
was endeavouring to join the main army he made a bold attempt to cut it
off, and started off post-haste for the Margalla Pass. At this spot,
through which he knew the rebel troops would be compelled to march, was
a formidable tower situated high up on the hillside. To gain entrance
to this it was necessary to clamber up to an opening in the outer wall
some ten feet from the ground, but Nicholson was not daunted by this.
It was most essential that the tower should be carried by storm and its
position held by his men.
Accordingly he led his troops to the assault in a mad rush that
carried the Pathans to the base of the tower before they could realise
what a foolhardy undertaking they were engaged upon. The rest of his
men very cowardly lagged behind. Then, no ladder being procurable, he
set to work to break down the wall, while from above the defenders
rained down a storm of stones upon them. One of these missiles hit
Nicholson in the face and knocked him over, but the wound was luckily
not a severe one.
In the end he was forced to fall back with his handful of men, the
tower being practically impregnable and a large body of Sikhs having
been observed marching to the relief of the garrison. But the vigour of
his attack had its moral effect. The Sikh soldiers, fearing that the
assault would be renewed next day, and that Nicholson would take some
terrible revenge upon them for their resistance, quietly stole away
under cover of the darkness, leaving him master of the situation!
It was somewhere about this time that the famous sect of Sikhs arose
which honoured Nicholson by elevating him to the rank of a deity. A
certain Hindu devotee in Hazara gave out that he had discovered in
Nikalseyn the incarnation of the Brahman god, and he soon gathered
about him a little company of enthusiastic fellow-worshippers. To their
hero's annoyance, the Nikalseyns, as they styled themselves, indulged
in open adoration, even prostrating themselves at his feet. In vain did
he threaten them with condign punishment, and at last actually resort
to flogging. The devotees admired him all the more for his severity,
and sang his praises still louder.
After the last whipping, says Sir Herbert Edwardes in a character
sketch of the hero, Nicholson released them, on the condition that
they would transfer their adoration to John Becher (Abbott's successor
at Hazara), but, arrived at their monastery, they once more resumed the
worship of the relentless Nikalseyn.
In his reminiscences of India Mr. R. G. Wilberforce states that
the Sikhs declared they would raise a Taj to Nicholson, beside which
the famous Golden Taj at Umritsur should be as nought, did he but
openly profess their religion.
During the time that Nicholson was with the column, he continues,
writing of the days before the march to Delhi, it was a common sight
of an evening to see the Sikhs come into camp in order that they might
see him. They used to be admitted into his tent in bodies of about a
dozen at a time. Once in the presence, they seated themselves on the
ground and fixed their eyes upon the object of their adoration, who all
the while went on steadfastly with whatever work he was engaged in,
never even lifting his eyes to the faces of his mute worshippers.
[Illustration: They seated themselves on the ground and fixed their
eyes upon the object of their adoration.]
Sometimes, overcome perhaps by prickings of conscience, or carried
away by feelings he could not control, one of them would prostrate
himself in prayer. This was an offence against the committal of which
warning had been given, and the penalty never varied: three dozen
lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails on the bare back.
With Chuttur Singh's open revolt the second Sikh War had fairly
begun. Nicholson was now more and more in demand, doing guerilla
service, or engaged in such useful work as collecting boats for Sir
Joseph Thackwell to cross the Chenab River and acting as intelligence
officer to the forces. At the battle of Chillianwallah he did duty as
aide-de-camp to Lord Gough, and at Guzerat, which followed soon after,
he and his Pathans enjoyed the distinction of capturing nine guns from
A striking tribute to Nicholson's personality, and the valour he
displayed on these occasions, is the well-vouched-for story that for
many years afterwards, when visitors came to view these battlefields,
the country people would begin their accounts by saying, Nikalseyn
stood just there!
After the conclusion of the campaign, which saw him a brevet-major,
Nicholson decided to take a two years' holiday and return home. What
influenced him to this most was the desire to comfort his mother, who,
he knew, was grieving over the loss of her two sons, William and
Alexander. But it was not easy for him to leave. India, as he wrote,
was like a rat-trap, more difficult to get out of than into, and it
was not until January 1850 that he was at last free to depart. His old
friend and colleague, Herbert Edwardes, as it happened, was also of a
mind to see the old country again, so the two journeyed together down
to Bombay, whence they took ship for England.
But before Nicholson was to see his widowed mother again he was to
pass through a romantic experience which deserves a chapter to itself.
 An Unrecorded Chapter of the Indian Mutiny.
CHAPTER V. ON FURLOUGH.
Nicholson's plan, which he proceeded to carry out, was to pay a
visit to Egypt, where he was desirous to see Thebes, Cairo, and the
Pyramids, and thence journey home by way of Constantinople and Vienna.
He did not intend to stay long in any of these places, but
circumstances were against him. At both the Turkish and Austrian
capitals he was detained by adventures which appealed strongly to his
chivalrous nature. The account of these comes to us through Sir John
Kaye, to whom Nicholson's mother told the story.
At the time that Nicholson arrived in Constantinople, early in the
New Year of 1850, the city held a notable prisoner. This was Louis
Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot, whom the Austrians had driven into
exile. Owing to British influence, the revolutionary leader's asylum in
Turkey was rendered safe for the time, but a movement was set on foot
by his friends to smuggle him out of the country and convey him to
America. Such a project received all Nicholson's sympathies, and when a
friend of hisan Englishman who had married a Hungarian lady and
served in the Magyar armyenlisted his help, he readily placed himself
at the other's service.
The scheme was a simple one. Every day Kossuth took a ride
accompanied by a few Turkish soldiers, the route being changed on each
occasion. It was accordingly arranged that he should choose to ride on
a particular day in the direction of the sea-coast. At a certain spot
the conspirators were to await him and his escort, overpower the
latter, and carry Kossuth on board an American frigate which was to be
Unhappily for the patriot, a lady who was in the secret revealed it
to a bosom friend, who in turn confided in another. In a short time it
came to the knowledge of the Austrian ambassador. Representations were
at once made to the Turkish authorities, who redoubled their vigilance,
and the plot fell through.
The same friend, General G, through whom Nicholson had been
interested in the attempt to free Kossuth, now asked the young officer
to do him another favour. His wife, a Hungarian lady, as has been said,
was imprisoned in an Austrian fortress. So vigorous was the confinement
that she was kept in ignorance of her husband's fate, and the General
was anxious to send her news of his escape and present whereabouts.
Nicholson promptly undertook to convey a letter to the unfortunate
lady, should it be possible to do so, and started off immediately for
On arriving at his destination, he marched boldly up to the gate of
the citadel, demanding to see the officer of the guard.
I am Major Nicholson of the Indian Army, he said, and I shall be
greatly obliged if you will allow me to see my friend, Madame G.
The request was undoubtedly an irregular one, but the Austrian
officer, after a little demur, courteously gave his permission.
Nicholson was then conducted to the prisoner's cell and told that he
could have five minutes' conversation, no longer. As soon as the door
had closed behind him, and he and Madame Gwere alone, he pulled off
one of his boots and drew out the letter, saying, You have just five
minutes to read it, and give me any message for your husband.
[Illustration: You have just five minutes to read it, and give me
any message for your husband.]
There was no time for the poor lady to express her gratitude as
fully as she would have liked. Having read the welcome letter, she told
her visitor what she wished him to say to her husband, and thenthe
five minutes having expiredNicholson departed.
These two incidents, says Sir John Kaye, speak for themselves.
There is no lack, thank God, of kind men, brave men, or good men among
us, but out of them all how many would have done these two things for
'his neighbour'? How many respectable men would at this moment condemn
What Henry Lawrence and his noble wife thought of the Kossuth
enterprise was expressed in a letter from the latter some months later.
You can hardly believe, she wrote, the interest and anxiety with
which we watched the result of your projected deed of chivalry. . . .
When I read of your plan my first thought was about your mother,
mingled with the feeling that I should not grudge my own son in such a
After having performed his mission, Nicholson made his way to
London, where he found his mother awaiting him at Sir James Hogg's town
house. It was now the month of April. The rest of the year he spent in
sight-seeing, visiting his old home at Lisburn, and looking up various
relatives in Ireland and England. He found time, however, to make a
journey to St. Petersburg, where he was much impressed by a grand
review of troops by the Tsar. This opportunity to study the Russian
military system gave him considerable satisfaction, as he had already
devoted some attention to the French and Prussian armies. But what
struck him most was a recent Prussian invention, the needle-gun, which
he saw would be the arm of the future. In strong terms he urged the
importance of introducing this weapon in place of the old-fashioned
muskets then in use, but his counsel was unheeded.
At the end of 1851 Nicholson bade good-bye to his mother, and set
off on his return journey to India. His friend, Herbert Edwardes, had
preceded him thither some months earlier, taking with him his
newly-wedded wife. To Nicholson Edwardes had said before he left, If
your heart meets one worthy of it, return not alone, but the advice
was not followed. Nicholson, with all the fascination which his
personality exerted over women, gave no indication of being susceptible
to the grand passion, and he went forth to take up the great task that
lay before him single-handed.
CHAPTER VI. THE MASTER OF BANNU.
On reporting himself at his old station at Lahore, Nicholson was not
left waiting long for a fresh appointment. Reynell Taylor, who had been
in charge of the Bannu district, had applied to be relieved, and Sir
Henry Lawrence, now Chief Commissioner for the Punjaub, offered the
post to Nicholson. The latter accepted, and in May of 1852 entered upon
his duties as Deputy Commissioner.
This new position was one fraught with considerable difficulties.
Bannu, which lay on the north-western frontier of the Punjaub, was
populated by a wild and lawless people. Waziris, Marwatis, and men of
other Afghan tribes, they had lived an open, free-booting life, raiding
far and wide at will, and were known as the most daring thieves and
bloodthirsty ruffians on the border. Under Taylor's wise but gentle
rule they had been kept within certain bounds, but much remained to be
done. They were now to learn from Nicholson the lesson which in time
transformed the province into the most orderly one in the whole
Truly could Herbert Edwardes, who had had no little experience of
them, say afterwards, I only knocked down the walls of the Bannu
forts; John Nicholson has since reduced the people to such a
state of good order and respect for the laws, that in the last year of
his charge not only was there no murder, burglary, or highway robbery,
but not an attempt at any of these crimes.
The new hákim (or magistrate) quickly made his influence felt
when he arrived on the scene at Bannu. Up in the hills to the westward
lived the Umarzai Waziris, among the worst of the outlaws. The
knowledge that a fresh ruler had been appointed over them troubled them
not a whit, and they proceeded to swoop down on the villages in the
plain for the purpose of taking toll as aforetime. Nicholson acted
promptly. Placing himself at the head of 1500 mounted police, he
carried war into the enemy's country, penetrating the hill-fastnesses
into which no one else had yet dared to venture. To the surprise of the
Umarzais, he turned the tables completely upon them, and in a week or
two he had their headmen at his feet suing for pardon.
The moral of this swift retribution was not lost upon the other
people of the district. One and all came to agree that Nikalseyn was
a man to be feared, respected, and obeyed. His hand fell heavily and
surely on the wrong-doer within the limits of his jurisdiction, and he
was a bold Bannuchi indeed who dared to challenge his power. At the
same time that the new Deputy Commissioner was a stern dispenser of
justice he showed himself an impartial ruler. If he punished the
lawless he certainly protected the oppressed, irrespective of rank.
Lies availed little in the court over which he presided; sooner or
later he would get to the bottom of the matter, and the wrong would
inevitably be righted.
The villagers, it is said, after long discussion of his merits under
the vine trees, where they gathered of an evening, came to the
conclusion that the good Mohammedans of olden days must have been
just like Nikalseyn, and emphatically approved him as every inch a
Of Nicholson's methods in dealing with his turbulent subjects Mr. S.
Thorburn, who served in the same district some years afterwards, tells
this story. The locale, he believes, was Rawal Pindi. A reward of a
hundred rupees had been offered for the capture of a noted freebooter,
whose whereabouts were well known, but whose reputation had deterred
anyone from arresting him. On taking his seat in his court-house one
day Nicholson demanded to know whether the man had been caught. The
officers of justice shook their heads.
Double the reward at once, said Nicholson. This was done, but
without any result. The same afternoon he inquired again it the fellow
had been caught, and received the same answer, Not yet, my lord. The
timorous officials added the suggestion that a very strong force of
police would be necessary, as the man was surrounded by his kinsmen.
Very well, then, said Nicholson, saddle my horse.
A few minutes later he rode off alone to the village in which the
outlaw was sheltering, though, as a matter of fact, the latter walked
about openly in little fear of capture. Almost the first person
Nicholson met was the very man he had come to find. At his order to
surrender the desperado rushed upon him with drawn sword. Nicholson
calmly awaited the attack, and with a sweeping stroke of his own sword
cut the man down. Then, riding back to his court, he commanded that the
body should be brought in, and the head cut off and placed on his
It was a gruesome thing to do, perhaps, but it must be remembered
that it was necessary to strike terror into the hearts of other
evil-doers, to whom the free-booter in question had been something of a
hero. Every Malik who came into court recognised the features of the
dead man's head as it rested by Nicholson's elbow, and understood that
the same fate would befall him did he venture on a like course.
A more pleasing anecdote is that which tells of how Nicholson
settled a complicated land dispute. One Alladâd Khan was accused of
having seized the inheritance of his orphan nephew, to whom he had
acted as guardian during the boy's minority. As usual there was much
hard swearing on both sides, but the weight of the evidence went with
Alladâd Khan. The most influential man in the village, he made it
understood that it would be wisest to support his claim. To Nicholson
the case was perplexing, but he had strong reasons for believing that
the youth was in the right. He decided upon a novel plan to solve the
One morning, therefore, Alladâd Khan and his neighbours were greatly
concerned at seeing their hákim's famous white mare grazing
untethered on a piece of grass on the outskirts of the village. This
meant a fine or a whipping at least for some one, so the party resolved
to drive the animal to the next village, and let the people there bear
the brunt of their lord's wrath. The mare was accordingly turned into
the road, but Alladâd Khan and his followers had not gone far before
they saw Nicholson himself fastened with ropes to a tree!
[Illustration: They saw Nicholson himself fastened with ropes to a
When, with trembling hands, they went to release him, Nicholson
asked in a stern voice, Whose land is this I am on?
It belongs to Alladâd Khan, my lord, replied one or two bolder
than the rest. The piece of ground was the actual plot in dispute
between uncle and nephew. At this assertion Alladâd Khan emphatically
denied ownership. It is not mine, indeed, my lord, he protested, but
my nephew's. Nay, of a truth, it is not mine!
Will you swear it is so? demanded Nicholson. And Alladâd Khan
swore by all he held most sacred that the land was his nephew's. This
was all that Nicholson wanted; and, having now several witnesses to the
other's statement, he permitted himself to be unbound.
The breaking-in of these fluttered folk and wild among whom he was
thus cast took Nicholson four years, but the work was done thoroughly.
Throughout the vast district between the Indus and the Sulaiman
Mountains his name alone was sufficient to inspire awe and bring the
refractory to reason. For a long time after he had left Bannu, it is
said, the village people would wake at night trembling, declaring they
heard the tramp of Nikalseyn's war-horse. And Waziri mothers would
still their crying babes by saying that he was coming to them, though
by thus holding him up as a bogey they did Nicholson an injustice, for
he was ever tender and kind with children.
There is significance, too, in a note which Mr. Thorburn makes in
his interesting volume on Bannu. Often, he says, when sitting in his
court he would be puzzled by the lying of the parties in the suit
before him, and in despair would give the disputants a few minutes'
freedom of tongue. Then he would be amused by hearing one of them
saying, Turn your back to the sahib, and let him see it still wealed
with the whipping Nikalseyn gave you! Whereupon the other would
retort, You need not talk, for your back is well scored also!
Of the nature of the people with whom he had to deal Nicholson once
told a story which is grimly characteristic. A little Waziri boy having
been brought before him on a charge of poisoning food, he asked the
young culprit if he knew that it was wrong to kill people. The boy
acknowledged that it was wrong to kill with a knife or a sword. But
why? persisted Nicholson. Because, was the prompt answer, the
blood leaves marks!
Towards the end of his stay in Bannu Nicholson had a narrow escape
from assassination at the hands of a fanatic. The story may be best
told in his own words, as he described the incident in a letter to
I was standing at the gate of my garden at noon, he wrote on the
21st of January 1856, with Sladen and Cadell, and four or five
chuprassies (native orderlies), when a man with a sword rushed
suddenly up and called out for me. I had on a long fur pelisse of
native make, which I fancy prevented his recognising me at first. This
gave time for the only chuprassie who had a sword to get between us, to
whom he called out contemptuously to stand aside, saying he had come to
kill me and did not want to hurt a common soldier. The relief sentry
for the one in front of my house happening to pass opportunely behind
me at this time, I snatched his musket, and, presenting it at the
would-be assassin, told him I would fire if he did not put down his
sword and surrender. He replied that either he or I must die; so I had
no alternative, and shot him through the heart, the ball passing
through a religious book which he had tied on his chest, apparently as
The poor wretch turns out to be a Marwati, who has been religiously
mad for some time. He disposed of all his property in charity the day
before he set out for Bannu. I am sorry to say that his spiritual
instructor has disappeared mysteriously, and, I am afraid, got into the
hills. I believe I owe my safety to the fur chogah, for I should
have been helpless had he rushed straight on. The chuprassie (an
orderly from my police battalion) replied to his cry for my blood, 'All
our names are Nikalseyn here,' and, I think, would very likely have got
the better of him had I not interfered, but I should not have been
justified in allowing the man to risk his life, when I had such a sure
weapon as a loaded musket and bayonet in my hand.
 The head-man of an independent village.
CHAPTER VII. THE GREAT MUTINY.
Nicholson quitted Bannu early in 1856 for a six months' special
mission to Cashmere, preparatory to taking up an appointment as Deputy
Commissioner at Peshawur. It was at this frontier outpost that his
loyal friend Herbert Edwardes was stationed as chief political officer.
Before going on to speak of this important change, however, I may refer
to a side of Nicholson's work that has not been touched upon in the
His duties as a civil officer at Bannu comprised more than the
dispensing of justice and the keeping in order of the unruly tribesmen.
As Warden of the Marches he had to watch closely the agricultural
interests of the community, and it is well worthy of note that he
reclaimed a large waste tract of land named Landidák by running a canal
into it from the river Kuram. He also made a summary settlement of the
Land Revenue in 1854, thus following up a task that Reynell Taylor had
To make quite clear the course of future events, it is necessary
further to point out that Nicholson was now placed directly under John
Lawrence. Three years previously friction had arisen between Sir Henry
Lawrence, as Chief Commissioner of the Punjaub, and his equally
strong-willed brother. While the difficulties were purely technical,
and in no way affected their personal relations, it soon became evident
that affairs would come to a deadlock, and Lord Dalhousie very wisely
determined on a bold stroke. Transferring Sir Henry to Rajputana, to
act as Agent there, he gave John Lawrence the vacant post of Chief
Commissioner, a position for which he was well fitted.
To Nicholson the change of masters was by no means welcome. Between
him and Sir Henry there existed a rare bond of sympathy, and he felt
that he could never entertain a similar affection for John Lawrence.
Despite this, however, he worked loyally for his new chief, who, for
his part, thoroughly understood the nature of his fiery-tempered and
impetuous subordinate, at the same time that he appreciated his many
admirable qualities. There were differences of opinion between the two
naturally, but John Lawrence's firmness and tactful methods, together
with Nicholson's sense of justice, prevented any rupture.
At Peshawur Nicholson found that his reputation had preceded him,
and made his task all the easier. Bannuchi and Waziri tribesmen had
carried a faithful report of his doings to their more northern
compatriots, and the word quickly went round that Nikalseyn was a
dangerous man to flout. There were some, as it happened, who ventured
to cross swords with him, but the result taught them that this
stern-faced, black-bearded giant of a sahib was their master every whit
as much as was Edwardes.
The spring of the fateful year 1857 now arrived, and with it came a
desire in Nicholson's mind to exchange his post in the Punjaub for
another more remote. A restless fit was on him. He would have liked to
go to Persia to see some fighting, or to Oude, to serve under Sir Henry
Lawrence. Fortunately for India, Lord Canning, who had succeeded Lord
Dalhousie as Governor-General, did not see his way to oblige him.
Edwardes pleaded his cause at Calcutta in an interview in which, after
a eulogy of his friend, he uttered these memorable words: My lord, you
may rely upon this, that if ever there is a desperate deed to be done
in India, John Nicholson is the man to do it! But the time was too
critical for such a man as the Deputy Commissioner at Peshawur to be
spared. Already signs were to be observed of disaffection among the
native troops, and the time was rapidly nearing when a challenge was to
be flung at British supremacy in India. Wait, said Lord Canning in
effect, and Nicholson went on quietly with his duties.
The native mine which had been slowly preparing exploded in May of
the same year. On the morning of the 12th the belated news was flashed
over the wires to Peshawur that three regiments of sepoys had revolted
at Meerut two days before, and massacred every European not in the
British lines. The Great Mutiny had begun in earnest.
How Edwardes, Nicholson, and the other British officers at Peshawur
received the startling tidings we learn from Lord Roberts, who was on
special duty in the city at the time. Roberts, then a youthful
subaltern in the artillery, acted as secretary at the council of war
which was immediately held at the house of General Reed, the divisional
commander. There were present, he tells us, besides Reed, Brigadier
Sydney Cotton, Herbert Edwardes, Nicholson, Brigadier Neville
Chamberlain, and Captain Wright. The last-named had been summoned to
act in a similar capacity with Roberts. The question to be decided was
how to make the Punjaub secure and prevent a general rising there, and
the point to be borne in mind was that there were only some 15,000
British troops with 84 guns in the province, as against over four times
the number of natives armed with 62 guns.
Almost the first proposal was made by Nicholson. To raise a strong
force of native levies who could be trusted was his recommendation,
warmly supported by Edwardes, and it was unanimously approved by the
council. All along the border which they had brought into submission
during those arduous years of labour at Bannu, Attock, and other
stations, Nicholson and his chief had staunch friends among the Sikh
warriors. To these they now turned for help in the time of need. And so
it was that the Movable Column came into existence, that splendid body
of picked men who made themselves and their leader ever famous in
In the meantime it was arranged that General Reed, as senior officer
in the Punjaub, should join Lawrence (now Sir John) at Rawal Pindi, to
act in concert with the Chief Commissioner, and that Brigadier Cotton
should succeed him in command at Peshawur. As a measure of precaution,
the treasure (computed at 24 lakhs of rupees) was now removed from
the cantonments to the fort outside, where a European garrison guarded
it. At the same time, for the security of the ladies and children in
the station, Brigadier Cotton made his headquarters at the Old
Residency, a strong, double-storeyed building which was capable of
being well defended.
For the next week or two Nicholson and his colleagues had their
hands full. He himself tapped the mail-bags at the post office, making
thereby many important discoveries in the shape of treasonable
correspondence, and saw to the prompt checking of seditious reports,
such as that issued by the Mohammedan editor of a native paper, who
went to prison for his pains. The raising of the native levies, to his
disappointment, proceeded slowly. Most of the border chieftains were
waiting to see how the cat jumped, to put it figuratively, and both
Edwardes and Nicholson were kept hard at work exerting their influence
with the maliks of the various villages.
After the news that Delhi had fallen to the mutineers came an
alarming report of a fresh outbreak at Nowshera, only a few miles away.
In the face of this development, the two friends came to the conclusion
that the sepoys at Peshawur must be disarmed. They carried their
arguments at once to Sydney Cotton, and convinced the Brigadier of the
necessity for such drastic action. This decision was arrived at in the
small hours of the 22nd of May. By six o'clock the same morning the
colonels of the sepoy regiments had received their orders, and by seven
the work of disarmament had begun.
These prompt and decided measures, notes Edwardes, took the
native troops completely aback. Not an hour had been given them to
consult, and, isolated from each other, no regiment was willing to
commit itself; the whole laid down their arms. The same writer records
how, as the muskets and sabres of once-honoured corps were thrown
unceremoniously into carts, there were to be seen here and there the
spurs and swords of British officers who had vouched for the loyalty of
their men, and who still refused to believe them traitorous. Very soon
after were these simple gentlemen to have their faith rudely shattered.
It was a dramatic scene, but to Nicholson, if to none other, it was
not painful. Too well did he know how the seeds of rebellion had been
sown in these same regiments.
The next day Nicholson was called upon for immediate active service.
The 55th Sepoys at Mardan had mutinied and taken to the hills. At the
head of a strong body of cavalry and infantry he hurled himself on the
track of the rebels, and then began a fierce pursuit that gave the
fleeing sepoys no respite. Up hill and down dale they were hunted,
until at last nearly three hundred had been killed or taken prisoners,
together with a large quantity of arms. The rest, it may be mentioned,
fell into the unfriendly hands of the hill tribes across the border,
and suffered either death or slavery. Not a man is known to have
In this dashing piece of work Nicholson was ever foremost, bringing
many a mutineer to the dust with his own great sword. For twenty hours
he was in the saddle under a scorching sun, and could not have
traversed less than seventy miles. He had given a practical lesson in
the art of punishing rebellion, and had demonstrated the value of a
mobile field force. He was now within a short time to further display
his abilities as the commander of the Punjaub Movable Column, to
perform, in fact, that desperate deed of which Edwardes had spoken to
CHAPTER VIII. WITH THE MOVABLE
On the formation of the Movable Column to which the council of war
at Peshawur had agreed, Sir John Lawrence gave the command to
Brigadier-General Neville Chamberlain. Nicholson, like Edwardes and
Cotton, had volunteered for the post, and, in view of the fact that the
suggestion had been his, was somewhat disappointed at being passed
over; but he made no protest. On the other hand, he affirmed that the
Chief Commissioner had made the best choice. His loyal friendship to
Chamberlain would admit of no jealousy.
Soon after the cutting up of the 55th Regiment of Sepoys at Mardan,
however, Neville Chamberlain was promoted to be Adjutant-General, and
Nicholson, with the rank of Brigadier-General, was placed in command of
the column. It was a popular choice. After Chamberlain there was no one
better fitted for the post. With the exception of, perhaps, Edwardes,
Nicholson surpassed any of his confrères in the Punjaub in his
intimate knowledge of the native mind, while his commanding presence
and strong personality marked him out as the man for a crisis such as
The first thing to be done in Nicholson's estimation when he took
over the leadership of the Movable Column was to purge it thoroughly of
any taint of disaffection. Two native regiments were suspected, and he
resolved on disarming these at once. On the morning of the 25th of
June, while the column was halting on the high road leading to Delhi,
the British regiments, with the guns, were manoeuvred into position so
that they would completely command the sepoys of the 33rd and 35th, who
were marching into camp a little later. When they arrived they would
walk straight into a trap.
There was no hitch in the proceedings. Not a native of the suspected
regiments had any idea that anything out of the usual was about to
occur. Some of the British officers were lying carelessly on the ground
laughing and talking as the 35th came up and found themselves suddenly
confronted by a menacing line of infantry and guns. As Nicholson,
through his staff officer, Roberts, gave the order to pile arms, the
sepoys' faces fell. But a moment's reflection showed them that they
were outwitted, and sullenly they threw down their muskets and belts,
which were immediately carted off to the fort.
In due course the 33rd were similarly treated, though not without a
vigorous protest from their old colonel, Sandeman. I will answer with
my life for the loyalty of every man in the regiment, he declared. But
the order was final. It was all over in a very few minutes, and
Nicholson was impressing upon the disarmed sepoys the warning that
desertion would be punished by death.
[Illustration: Portrait of John Nicholson]
Some days before this dramatic scene a notable incident took place
at Jalandhar in which Nicholson was the chief figure. The city was
found to be in no little confusion on the arrival of the Movable
Column, mutiny being rampant among the troops, and the military
authorities taking scarcely any precautions to prevent an outbreak. In
the streets it was apparent from the swagger of the native soldiers
that they believed the sahibs were powerless through fear.
To strengthen his hands, Major Lake, the Commissioner, invited
Nicholson to a durbar at which the officers of the Kapurthala troops
were to be present. Nicholson attended, and at the close of the
ceremony observed that Mehtab Singh, a native general, was leaving the
room with his shoes on. This was an act that implied great disrespect.
Lord Roberts, who was a spectator, tells the story of what happened in
a graphic manner.
Stalking to the door, Nicholson, he says, put himself in front of
Mehtab Singh, and waved him back with an authoritative air. The rest of
the company then passed out, and when they had gone, Nicholson said to
Lake, 'Do you see that General Mehtab Singh has his shoes on?' Lake
replied that he had noticed the fact, but tried to excuse it.
Nicholson, however, speaking in Hindustani, said, 'There is no possible
excuse for such an act of gross impertinence. Mehtab Singh knows
perfectly well that he would not venture to step on his own father's
carpet save barefooted, and he has only committed this breach of
etiquette to-day because he thinks we are not in a position to resent
the insult, and that he can treat us as he would not have dared to do a
Mehtab Singh looked extremely foolish, and stammered some kind of
apology; but Nicholson was not to be appeased, and continued, 'If I
were the last Englishman left in Jalandhar, you should not come into my
room with your shoes on!' Then, politely turning to Lake, he added, 'I
hope the Commissioner will now allow me to order you to take your shoes
off and carry them out in your own hands.'
Major Lake assented, and the crestfallen general did as he was
bidden. Mr. Henry Newbolt pictures his discomfiture for us in the
stirring ballad he has written on this incident
When Mehtab Singh came to the door
His shoes they burned his hand,
For there in long and silent lines
He saw the captains stand.
When Mehtab Singh rode from the gate
His chin was on his breast:
The captains said, 'When the strong command,
Obedience is best.'
The immediate result of Nicholson's high-handed action was to change
the current of public feeling in Jalandhar. The natives dropped their
impudent manner, and realised that the British raj was by no
means in as tottering a condition as they had supposed.
From Jalandhar the Movable Column proceeded to Umritsur, where
tidings reached it of fresh outbreaks at Jhelum and Sialkot. Nicholson
lost no time in dealing out vengeance to the mutineers, who had killed
many Europeans. Pushing on with his force at full speed, he came in
touch with them on the banks of the river Ravi, a branch of the Chenab,
and opened fire. It was a short but sharp engagement, for numbers of
the rebels were inflamed by the drug known as bhang, and fought
like fiends. In less than half an hour the sepoys turned tail, leaving
some hundreds dead or wounded on the battlefield.
Two days later the pursuit was again taken up, and the mutineers
were cornered at another spot on the Ravi. As before, Nicholson had it
all his own way. Shot and shell quickly drove the enemy out of their
position on an island in the river, and those who escaped death from
bullet or bayonet flung themselves panic-stricken into the river, to be
drowned or captured subsequently. This victory was all the more notable
by reason of the fact that the 3000 (some say 4000) sepoys who lost
their lives were at the time marching to join the mutineers at Delhi.
In connection with this episode, Mr. R. G. Wilberforce, who served
with the column, makes an interesting note in his book. Nicholson, he
says, told him the story of how he had once killed a tiger with his
sword while on horseback, the affair taking place (if the narrator is
not mistaken) on the very island in the Ravi where the rebels had
This feat, with which Sir James Outram is also credited, is
performed by riding round and round the tiger at a gallop, gradually
narrowing the circle until at last the swordsman is near enough to
deliver his blow. The tiger, it is said, follows the flying figure of
the horseman, waiting an opportunity to spring upon him, but eventually
becomes too bewildered to act.
The same writer also records an incident which illustrates
Nicholson's remarkable faculty for recognising rebels, however well
disguised. On the march from the camp at Goodaspore, whence the column
hurled itself on the Sialkot mutineers, two natives were observed by
the wayside. They were miserable-looking wretches, with bundles on
their backs, and the soldiers gave them but a passing glance. When
Nicholson came along, however, his keen eyes rested on them with
interest. Then, turning to the Pathans who rode behind him, he uttered
the word Maro! (kill), and the stalwart troopers instantly cut the
Nicholson's instinct had not failed him. The natives, for all their
innocent appearance, were sepoys carrying swords to a mutinous regiment
which had been disarmed at Goodaspore.
How fully the Movable Column justified its existence in those
critical two months of June and July, 1857, there is ample testimony.
Nicholson moved his light-footed force from point to point with
surprising celerity, striking mercilessly at every spot where mutiny
threatened, until the possibility of the Punjaub bursting into a blaze
of rebellion was averted. It was a difficult task throughout, and its
magnitude was the greater in that the famous column itself had to be
purged more than once. There was the ever-present danger of
disaffection in his own ranks. In the end, we are told, his force
consisted of little more than one field battery, one troop of
horse-artillery, and an infantry regiment, all of which were British,
with a few hundred trusted Pathans.
Of the native levies special mention must be made of the Mooltani
Horse. These men, Sikhs for the most part, had followed Nicholson from
sheer personal devotion. They recognised no head but him, and, it is
said, refused to accept pay from the Government. At his death they
disbanded, returning to their homes on the frontier.
In the last week of July Nicholson proceeded to Lahore to consult
Sir John Lawrence as to the next step to be taken. The upshot of the
conference was that he received instructions to march the Movable
Column on to Delhi, where General Archdale Wilson had commenced the
siege. So, on the 25th of the month, the Punjaub saw him once more on
the move, his face set eagerly towards the old Mogul capital, where he
was to place the crown upon his achievements and find a soldier's
 Forty-One Years in India.
 A Ballad of John Nicholson (The Island Race).
CHAPTER IX. BEFORE DELHI.
In the long march to Delhi Nicholson's temper must have been tried
time and time again. He was all impatience to get to his goal and urge
on the assault, the delay of which every day added to the peril that
threatened British India. The tardy progress made, owing to the heavy
guns he carried in his train, caused him to chafe as he had done on
that rebel-pursuing march from Goodaspore some weeks earlier, when his
tireless energy could not brook even a brief halt for rest.
Captain Trotter, in his Life of Nicholson, gives us a vivid
picture of the officers and men of the column snatching an hour's
repose in the shade of some trees while their leader remained in the
middle of the hot, dusty road, sitting bolt upright on his horse in the
full glare of that July sun, waiting, like a sentinel turned to stone,
for the moment when his men should resume their march.
Early in August the Movable Column had crossed the Sutlej, and four
days later Nicholson was galloping on ahead to General Wilson's
headquarters on the Ridge. Wilson, to his relief, had sent an urgent
message summoning him to a council. It was the 7th of the month when
Nicholson rode into the British camp. Before nightfall on that day
everyone was aware that a new power had arrived and was on tiptoe with
excitement to know what the new-comer intended doing.
With the thoroughness that characterised his methods, Nicholson
promptly made a round of the pickets; his tall, striking figure
exciting comment from those who had not seen him before. His attire,
says an officer who was on the Ridge at the time, gave no clue to his
rank; it evidently never cost its owner a thought. But one had only to
look at the dark, handsome, sombre face to see that here was a man of
no little distinction. Grave of demeanour as he always was, his
features were saddened still more now by the news of Sir Henry
Lawrence's death at Lucknow. The loss of his old chief and patron
touched him very nearly, and it was with a heavy heart that he went
about his duties.
Riding back a day or two later to rejoin his troops, Nicholson found
that the column had been strengthened by several additions, bringing
its numbers up to a total of over four thousand men, less than a third
of whom were British. This formidable body made a welcome reinforcement
to Wilson's little army, and put fresh encouragement into the hearts of
the besiegers. In the camp Nicholson renewed his acquaintance with
Chamberlain, then recovering from a wound; Hodson, the dashing cavalry
leader, who had raised a regiment of horse; and other distinguished
leaders. One and all were unfeignedly glad to see him on the scene, and
looked to him to spur the over-cautious commander-in-chief to a more
resolute course of action.
The opportunity for Nicholson to prove his worth came before very
long. A powerful siege-train had been despatched by Sir John Lawrence
from Ferozepore. About the middle of August it was learnt that a large
body of mutineers had sallied out from Delhi with the intention of
intercepting the train, which was proceeding slowly under a rather weak
escort. The duty of attacking the rebels and preventing what would be a
terrible disaster was allotted to Nicholson, and he at once started off
with a column of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, to give battle.
Inquiries revealed the fact that the sepoys occupied a strong
position at Najafgarh, where they had repaired the bridge across the
river. The road thither was a difficult one, and was rendered almost
impassable at places by the swampy nature of the ground. It was the
rainy season, unfortunately, so that the streams that had to be crossed
were in flood. But, despite all obstacles, Nicholson pushed on
doggedly, taking the lead with Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, who had
volunteered to act as guide.
Sir John Kaye records the opinion of a Punjaubi officer of note who
averred that not another man in the campexcept, perhaps,
Chamberlaincould have taken the column to Najafgarh. They went
through a perfect morass, he states. An artillery officer told me
that at one time the water was over his horses' backs, and he thought
they could not possibly get out of their difficulties; but he looked
ahead, and saw Nicholson's great form riding steadily on as if nothing
was the matter, and so he felt sure all was right.
[Illustration: He saw Nicholson's great form riding steadily on as
if nothing was the matter.]
The engagement was opened briskly with artillery fire. Forcing the
rebels' left centre, the troops drove the enemy from their strongest
position near an old serai (or caravansary), silenced the guns
there, and then swept irresistibly down the long line of the mutineers
towards the bridge. Nicholson's plan of attack had succeeded beyond
expectation. Under the terrible fusillade the sepoys broke in
confusion, and ran pell-mell for the bridge and the open country on the
other side, only to be pursued and cut to pieces in large numbers. The
whole affair, from the moment of the first shot fired, occupied one
hour, and in that time between 6000 and 8000 well-armed mutineers were
put to flight.
It was a brilliant actionone of the most brilliant, indeed, that
took place in the whole course of the Mutiny. Not only had a huge force
of rebels been dispersed, but a number of guns had been captured, and
this with the loss on our side of but twenty-five men. Well might
General Wilson thank Nicholson and his gallant troops the next morning,
from my whole heart, for the signal victory gained. Congratulations
poured in on the hero of the day, Sir John Lawrence telegraphing from
Lahore to say, I wish I had the power of knighting you on the spot; it
should be done!
The time was now fast approaching when Nicholson was still further
to distinguish himself. The importance of not delaying the assault
longer than could be helped was being forced upon him daily, and at the
council table he urged the necessity for striking an immediate blow. To
his far-seeing mind it was essential that the mutineers should not be
allowed to gather strength while the army on the Ridge became enfeebled
through forced inaction. There were sorties and dashing charges almost
every hour it is true, but these brought the actual assault on the city
As the days crept by and still nothing was decided, Nicholson's
patience gave out. When at last the startling rumour got about that
General Wilson contemplated abandoning the Ridge and retreating until
he had a stronger army at his back, the leader of the Movable Column
decided on a bold course. The idea of leaving Delhi to the mutineers as
a centre for a rebellion which might within a few days become
universal, appalled him. He went to the next council in the General's
quarters with the fixed determination to bring matters to a final
Lord Roberts, from whose book I am again tempted to quote, relates
the story of how he learned of this momentous decision. Nicholson had
been sitting in his tent talking to the young artillery officer of his
plans. He ended by making a dramatic announcement. Delhi must be
taken, he said, and it is absolutely essential that this should be
done at once; and if Wilson hesitates longer, I intend to propose at
to-day's meeting that he should be superseded.
On Roberts venturing to remark that, as Neville Chamberlain was
hors de combat through his wound, this step would leave Nicholson
senior officer with the force, the other smiled and answered, I have
not overlooked that fact. I shall make it perfectly clear that, under
the circumstances, I could not possibly accept the command myself, and
I shall propose that it be given to Campbell of the 52nd. I am prepared
to serve under him for the time being, so no one can ever accuse me of
being influenced by personal motives.
It was a characteristic declaration, and Roberts knew that Nicholson
would carry out his word. As it happened, however, the occasion did not
arise. That day Wilson agreed to the assault being made, and the next
morning an order was issued to the troops informing them of the welcome
CHAPTER X. IN THE HOUR OF VICTORY.
The date fixed for the final leap on Delhi was the 14th of
September. Before that historic day arrived there was a week of anxious
preparation. The siege-train, to whose assistance Nicholson had gone,
as related in the previous chapter, came into camp safely, bringing
with it eighteen guns, 24-pounders, 18-pounders, and howitzers. These
were quickly placed in position in new batteries close to the walls of
the city, and the thunder of their fire warned the mutineers that the
siege had entered upon its last phase.
The initial work fell mostly to the engineers. Under the direction
of Alexander Taylor, second in command to Baird-Smith, who was
unfortunately on the sick list, they worked day and night constructing
the breaching batteries and getting ready fascines, gabions, and
scaling-ladders. Owing to the heavy musketry fire concentrated on them
by the sepoys, the task was one which cost many valuable lives; but,
like the true heroes they were, the engineers never flinched. As one
after another was laid low, a comrade was ready to step forward and
take the fallen man's place.
Now was it that Medley, Greathed, Lang, and Home, among others, won
fame for their daring reconnaissances of the enemy's position. The big
guns had battered down the Mori bastion, and made great breaches in the
wall near the Cashmere Gate. It was important to ascertain the extent
of these, so the four engineer officers named volunteered to make an
examination. On the evening of the 13th of September, while it was
still light, Lang stole out of the British camp, and coolly ran the
gauntlet of the sepoy bullets to the very counterscarp of the ditch
beneath the fortifications. He returned safely to report that the
breaches were practicable.
To make more sure of the nature of the ground, Lang and Medley
ventured out again after nightfall with a ladder and measuring-rod.
They reached the great ditch, completed their examination of its depth
and width, and were mounting to the breach itself when the alarmed
sepoy sentries came running towards them. To stay meant almost certain
death, so the two officers, with their escort of riflemen, made a dash
for safety. Their figures were descried, however, and a volley of balls
came whizzing about their ears as they bolted back. Elsewhere, at the
Water bastion, Greathed and Home were similarly engaged, being able to
announce that the breaches there were equally successful.
At last all was in readiness for the attack. To everyone's
gratification, the honour of leading the assault had been conferred on
Nicholson. He was to head the first of the three columns placed under
his command and to storm the breach near the Cashmere bastion. The
second column directed its attention to the Water bastion, while the
third was told off to follow the first after the Cashmere Gate had been
The story of how the gallant Lieutenants Home and Salkeld, with
Sergeant Carmichael, Corporal Burgess, and others, blew up the Cashmere
Gate and covered themselves with glory, cannot be given at length here.
Abler pens than mine have described the brave deed with graphic
detail, and I must refer the reader to their narratives. It is of
Nicholson and his last glorious exploit that I have to tell.
His post of honour, as has been explained, was at the head of the
first attacking column. While Home and Salkeld were carrying their
powder bags to the Cashmere Gate, and while behind them No. 3 Column,
under Campbell of the 52nd, waited like hounds in leash, Nicholson gave
the signal to advance. The booming of the guns had ceased, the heavy
shells from the 24-and 18-pounders having cleared once more the
breaches which the mutineers had vainly attempted to repair. The way
was open for the stormers to enter the doomed city.
In the mad rush that followed, the attacking party outdistanced the
ladder-bearers. This caused a brief delay, during which the foremost
files of the column were exposed to a fierce fire; but no one wavered.
Very soon the ladders were brought, officers and men dropped down into
the ditch, and away they all went, racing up the opposite slope and
driving the sepoys before them.
Nicholson was still in the van. Leading his men, sword in hand, he
swept resistlessly through the gaping breach and found himself inside
the city. At the sight of the grim-faced, menacing troops who poured in
after him, the rebels fell back confusedly. Little difficulty was
experienced in fighting a way through the streets to the point where it
had been arranged the three columns should meet. This was an open space
by what was known as Skinner's Church.
The juncture of the forces having been effected, Colonel Campbell's
column proceeded to push on to the centre of the city. The other two
columns, merged practically into one, turned themselves towards the
Lahore Gate, the capture of which was all-important. Here, in fact, was
the key to Delhi.
According to the instructions issued, the Lahore Gate was to be
carried at all costs. Little did the commander-in-chief anticipate what
a terrible ordeal he had set his subordinates. As they pressed eagerly
forward the troops followed the line of the ramparts and eventually
cleared a path to the Cabul Gate. So far they had been successful.
There now remained before them a narrow lane less than three hundred
yards long and varying from ten yards to three feet in width. Through
this passage they would have to win ere the gate could be reached.
What a lane of death it was to prove was speedily shown. At the
far end the sepoys, flushed with the success that had attended their
efforts in repelling the assault at this point, had mounted two guns,
one covering the other and each protected by a bullet-proof screen.
Above these towered the massive Burn bastion, into which some minutes
later hundreds of mutineers poured. It seemed beyond the bounds of
possibility that any force could make its way against such terrible
odds. There were men, however, who were willing to try, and the advance
The 1st Bengal Fusiliers dashed forward at the signal and succeeded
in capturing the first of the guns, but they got little farther. The
fire directed upon them can only be described as murderous. Shot and
shell dropped among the ranks thick and fast, inflicting heavy loss,
and the remnant was obliged to fall back for the time. A second charge
was made, but this too failed, leaving many another poor fellow
stretched lifeless on the ground.
It was now generally realised that the task of forcing a passage
through the lane was hopeless, or at least inadvisable, for the
present. Nicholson, however, would not concede this. Every inch of
ground gained in Delhi that day was worth untold gold, and he
determined that no effort should be spared to win the Lahore Gate.
Placing himself at the head of his men, he called on them for another
charge, for one last brave attempt.
If there was one man whom the Fusiliers would have followed to
death, it was Nicholson. At his summons they ran on again, some of them
actually reeling from the terrific strain they had undergone. Springing
out into the mouth of the lane, Nicholson waved his sword above his
head and went forward. The soldiers advanced some paces, wavered,
re-formed, and wavered again as the sepoys' guns belched forth flame
and death. Then, as they paused hesitating, the fateful moment came.
Some yards ahead of the soldiers stood Nicholson, facing his men as he
called to them angrily to come on. Suddenly a sepoy leaned out of the
window of a house close by and pointed his musket at the tall,
commanding figure beneath him. There was a flash, and on the instant
Nicholson fell with a bullet in his back.
[Illustration: A sepoy leaned out . . . and pointed his musket at
the tall figure beneath him.]
Even then, lying mortally wounded, the dying lion refused to allow
himself to be borne to the rear. Carry the lane first, he ordered;
but Colonel Graydon, who went to his assistance, persuaded him to let a
bearer party lift him to one side. Thence, a little later, he was taken
to a hospital tent to have his wound attended to. It was at this
juncture that a young staff-officer, who is now Lord Roberts, found
Nicholson in a dhoolie by the roadside just within the Cashmere Gate.
The stricken hero had been deserted by the native bearers and left to
Through Roberts' efforts a fresh party of bearers was obtained, and
Nicholson was carried tenderly to the nearest field hospital. He was
seen to be in great pain, besides being much exhausted from loss of
blood, but hopes were entertained that his wound would not prove
mortal. By the irony of fate, the occupant of another dhoolie, which
was presently placed by his, turned out to be his brother Charles,
whose arm had been shattered. The two had met again for the last time.
From the field hospital Nicholson was shortly after conveyed to the
Ridge, where nothing was left undone that could ease his suffering.
Medical skill, however, was unavailing; he lingered until the 23rd of
the month, and then passed peacefully away.
Of Nicholson's last moments Neville Chamberlain, who was constantly
by his bedside, has written in touching words. He himself had lost a
devoted friend who could never be replaced. In the camp the news that
Nicholson was gone was received with universal sorrow. It was felt that
by his death the army on the Ridge had been suddenly deprived of the
one strong man to whom everybody had instinctively turned for advice
and encouragement, and who could least be spared. There was a sense of
injustice, too. Delhi had fallen, butJohn Nicholson, struck down in
the hour of victory, was not there to share in the triumph.
The funeral of the dead hero took place on the following day. He was
buried in a newly made cemetery not far from the Cashmere Gate and the
breach through which he had led the storming party, a fitting spot
truly for his resting-place. Among those who paid their last respects
to him were the men of the Mooltani Horse, who had followed Nicholson
from the Punjaub to Delhi. Their grief was unrestrained, sirdars and
troopers mingling their tears as the body of their beloved Nikalseyn
sahib was lowered into the grave.
Of the strange sect that had worshipped him as a god it is recorded
that on Nicholson's death becoming known, the two head-men of the tribe
committed suicide, declaring that life was no longer worth living. The
rest, however, decided that their dead master would not have approved
of such a course, and announced their resolve to worship in future the
God of whom he had often spoken to them; whereupon they went to
Peshawur in a body and became Christians.
After Nicholson's death the tributes of praise accorded him were
many and widespread. In every part of India and in Great Britain his
early demisehe was but thirty-fivecreated a feeling of a national
loss. The London Gazette soon afterwards announced that had he
lived he would have been made a K.C.B.; while, for their part, the East
India Company, in whose service he had laboured so well, marked their
recognition of him by unanimously voting his mother a special grant of
500 pounds a year.
What more remains to be said? It is a fadeless memory that John
Nicholson has left behind him. Soldier, administrator, and leader of
men, he trod the perfect ways of honour, and by his private as much
as by his public life made himself a shining ensample for all time.
Like Havelock, Henry and John Lawrence, Gordon, and many another
soldier of high fame, Nicholson was a man of deep religious feeling.
For this his careful early training was largely responsible. He would
not have enjoyed the Lawrences' intimate friendship had he not been the
high-minded, pure-souled man he was; but if he bore the white flower
of a blameless life himself, he never paraded his religion or forced
his views upon others. It was enough for him to live cleanly and
righteously, to follow the dictates of conscience in all his actions.
We may fittingly close this brief record of his glorious career by
echoing the words of an eloquent speaker who thus eulogised the Lion
of the Punjaub
He fell as a soldier would wish to fall, at the head of his gallant
troops, with the shout of victory in his ear. Was not such a death
worthy of such a life? And will not the Cabul Gate, where he fell, live
in future British history as live those Heights of Abraham on which
there fell, a century ago, another youthful general, the immortal
 See, among other accounts, The Book of the V.C.