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Rifleman Sahib

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Rifleman Sahib
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Author(s): E. Maude
Date Published: 2008/06
Page Count: 164
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-477-5
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-478-2

The campaigns of a 'soldier sahib' in the nineteenth century

The author of this book was a true soldier of the Raj. His long career took place almost entirely in India or was concerned with the wars of the Honourable East India Company. As a young man he joined the Bombay Rifles in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign and arrived in the sub-continent in time to take part in the Southern Maratha Campaign. Next came the wars that brought about the final destruction of the Sikh kingdom and Maude was present at the storming of Multan and other key actions. 1856 brought 'John Company's Last War'—The Persian Campaign. Maude took part and left posterity much interesting detail on this little covered episode of British military history. The following year he was engaged in the Bheel Campaign and shortly thereafter the infamous Indian Mutiny which erupted in the North East. Again the author was called to the colours to take an active part as a staff officer. This is an ideal book for those interested in India's campaigns in the Victorian age.

On the 29th September I saw for the first time in my life a most brilliant comet with a beautiful tail. It is a curious circumstance that the natives have the same opinion of its appearance as our old astronomers had in past time, that it denotes war and disaster; and one of our native officers pointed out to me the fact that its head was always pointed in the direction of the rebels, thus denoting disaster to them. We therefore accepted the omen as good to ourselves, and gravely drew the attention of the inhabitants to it. The comet remained visible for many days. All turned out just as we wished for on the morning of the 9th October, on reaching Mungrowlie, we learnt from our cavalry vedettes that the enemy’s advance guard was in sight and moving towards us. Our General sounded the “Assembly,” and we very soon came face to face with them.<br>
On our horse artillery galloping to the front and delivering a few rounds of shot and shell, they fell back on their main body, which was posted on an eminence near the village of Mungrowlie. Here massed in dense columns, their front covered by skirmishers and supported by artillery, they awaited our approach, while their powerful body of cavalry protected their flanks, quite prepared to pounce upon us should we be worsted. No time was lost on our part, for we deployed into line as we advanced rapidly to the attack, which was vigorously pushed forward, our skirmishers and artillery doing great execution, and creating much confusion and disorder among the enemy. In the meanwhile, however, while we were thus busily engaged in front, a large body of the enemy’s cavalry (in which lay their strength and our weakness) had managed, by making a great detour and under cover of the smoke, to get unperceived on our flank and rear. Brigadier Lockhart, to whom I acted as A.D.C., sent me to inform the General of this fact. I galloped off, and on my way back I saw, to my surprise, that the enemy’s cavalry were close upon us. I at once reported this to the General, and pointed out where they were. Without a moment’s delay he set the splendid squadron of the 17th Lancers, under Sir W. Gordon, at them.<br>
It was a fine sight to witness these “Death or Glory Boys,” as they are called (from their wearing a death’s head and cross-bones on their appointments), gallantly charge a body of cavalry several times their number and put them to flight. Moreover, I was pleased that the enemy got a lesson, for on my way to the General I noticed a doolie, or litter, with an unfortunate bearer killed, and on lifting up the flap, saw a poor sick Highlander breathe his last, having been speared by these cowardly wretches.