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Under Deadly Fire

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Under Deadly Fire
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Author(s): Hugh Gough
Date Published: 2011/06
Page Count: 112
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-560-5
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-559-9

Riding into battle with Hodson’s Horse

Readers interested in the Indian Mutiny who are familiar with A. R. D. Mackenzie’s excellent account (published by Leonaur under the title A Cavalry Officer During the Sepoy Revolt) of the eruption of mutiny at Meerut and the slaughter of the officers and their families of the 3rd Bengal Native Cavalry, will find much to engage them in this companion account by another officer of the same regiment who experienced many of the same events. Hugh Gough’s book, originally published as, Old Memoirs of the Mutiny, provides a detailed and harrowing account of the opening stages of the mutiny in which, naturally, his brother officer Mackenzie features. What makes this account particularly interesting is that Gough went on to join that incomparable regiment of irregular cavalry Hodson’s Horse under the command of its brilliant and controversial founder, William Stephen Raikes Hodson, and this notable military personality of British India of course features prominently within these pages. The author takes his reader to the fierce fighting that was the storming of Delhi and on the advance to Lucknow as the British Army took its terrible revenge. This is an absolutely essential Indian Mutiny eyewitness account and is highly recommended.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

On November 12th, 1857, the forces under the commander-in-chief in India marched on to the Alum Bagh. I now, with my detachment, had the post of honour on the advance-guard, as Sir Hope Grant had promised me should be the case.<br>
It was not expected we should meet with opposition, as Havelock’s troops held the Alum Bagh; and though they had had constant and severe fighting ever since the first relief of Lucknow, it all came from the direction of the city and the beleaguering enemy. But suddenly, as our column was advancing up the road, an attack developed itself on the right flank, where a body of the enemy, calculated at about two thousand strong, with two guns, had taken up a position, having apparently come out of the fort of Jellalabad. As these guns were troublesome, and perhaps from the wish to give me a chance, the general—for it was Hope Grant who was commanding the advance—rode up to me, and desired me to take my squadron and see if I could capture the guns.<br>
He farther gave me an order to spike them if I found I could not get them away; and to carry out this order I was provided with a hammer and spikes, or large nails. Of how I disposed of them I have not the slightest recollection, but I rather suspect I threw them away!
With my small body of men, my only chance of success was by making a flank attack, and if possible a surprise. With this object I made a considerable detour and managed, under cover of some fields of growing corn or sugar-cane, to arrive on the left flank of the enemy perfectly unseen. The guns were posted on a small mound, and a considerable body of the enemy had an admirable position in rear of this mound, in front of and amidst some trees and scrub. Between us and them lay a marshy jheel, with long, reedy grass—an unpleasant obstacle, but which served admirably to cover our movements.<br>
I then advanced my men through this jheel and long grass at a trot, and so concealed our movements till we got clear, when I gave the word “form line” and “charge.” My men gave a ringing cheer, and we were into the masses. The surprise was complete, and owing to its suddenness they had no conception of our numbers, and so the shock to them and victory to us was as if it had been a whole brigade. My charger Tearaway, the horse left me in poor Phillips’ will, carried me like a bird, and I found myself well ahead. It seemed like cutting one’s way through a field of corn, and I had to make a lane for myself as I rode along. The men followed me splendidly, and in a very short time the affair was over,—the guns were captured, the enemy scattered, and the fight became a pursuit.<br>
Our loss was very trifling, as is often the case in a sudden surprise, but we cut up numbers of the enemy, and should have accounted for more but for the nature of the ground. I came out of the fight untouched, and this I attribute to the pace I went; but my good horse Tearaway suffered, having a sabre-slash over his quarter and another sabre wound on his foreleg, while my coat skirt was cut clean through, and the puggeree which, wound round a forage-cap, had been my sole head-dress during the past months, was cut almost to the last fold, but by its thickness undoubtedly saved my head.<br>
Two or three staff officers had ridden round, seeing what was going on, and shared in the fight, among them Roberts and Augustus Anson, and, I believe. Captain Mayne (subsequently killed at the attack on the Dilkoosha). Sir Colin Campbell had just ridden up to the front as the affair took place, and witnessed the charge. I was very proud, both for my men and myself, when a little later he sent for me, and, complimenting me highly, said he should be glad to promote any man I would recommend for conspicuous gallantry. Sir Colin Campbell afterwards made particular mention of my name in his despatches, thereby gaining for me the honoured and most-coveted distinction of the Victoria Cross.