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The Sword of the Crown

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The Sword of the Crown
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Author(s): Eric W. Sheppard
Date Published: 2008/08
Page Count: 420
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-509-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-510-9

From knight and roundhead to the birth of the modern army

The British Army can trace its lineage back to the middle ages, but for those who are interested in the development of Britain's land forces together with the campaigns that made it into a modern army on the eve of the Great War, there can be few better, more concise and authoritative works than this written by Eric Sheppard. The foundations of the British Army are described to the English Civil War, but Sheppard concentrates on the periods of warfare beginning with the exploits of John Churchill—Duke of Marlborough. Clive, Wellington, Roberts, Kitchener and others all take the stage as each campaign is succinctly described together with those political influences that progressed the Army to its next stage of evolution. Wars are considered within the framework of their geographical sphere so readers are able to grasp the evolution of Europe, India and America as they were known by the beginning of the 20th century. This valuable reference source is accompanied by numerous maps and illustrations as well as well executed vignettes as to the nature of the British Army on the field of battle in various eras. This is not only a book to come back to time after time, but also an invaluable cornerstone in any military history library.

As a corollary and pendant to the first Afghan campaign there followed the reduction of the power of the Baluchi Ameers of Sind and the annexation of their country to British India.<br>
It has already been seen how these chiefs had been compelled, by a show of overwhelming force, to permit the assembling of the Army of the Indus in their territory, although our treaty with them expressly excluded them from any such obligation. This high-handed action on our part, which did not drive them into hostility even during the worst period of our Afghan disasters, was merely a prelude to further aggression. The handling of our relations with the Ameers was in 1842 entrusted to Sir Charles Napier, who, believing that no country could have a better fate than to come under the sway of Britain, adopted a line of conduct which soon reduced the chiefs to desperation. In order to force upon them a humiliating revision of the treaty, which struck a fatal blow at their independence, Napier assembled his forces, some 3,000 men, in Upper Sind, about Sukkur, and though no war had been declared, sent out a small flying column to destroy the fort of Emaum Ghur, the heart of the desert. He followed up this blow by taking military possession of all Upper Sind, and moving down the Indus to within fifty miles of the capital of the country, Hyderabad. A popular uprising in the city against Outram, the envoy sent to secure the signature of the new treaty, gave Napier the pretext he desired for opening active hostilities, and on February 17, 1843, his tiny force attacked and utterly defeated a host of 35,000 well-armed and brave Beluchis at Meeanee. Hyderabad fell into his hands without further resistance, and here he established himself in an entrenched camp beside the Indus, and received the submission of the majority of the principal Ameers. One, however, Shere Mahomed, of Khyrpoor, known as the Lion, the ablest and most powerful of all, still kept the field, and advanced with 25,000 men to recover the capital. Napier succeeded in bringing up under the nose of his enemy reinforcements which brought his army up to a strength of 5,000 men; with these he marched out, and on March 24 stormed the hostile position at Dubba. The remnant of the Lion’s forces fled into the desert, where they were pursued, and, after their strong places had been captured, finally brought to action and dispersed after a mere show of resistance. By the end of June 1843 the operations were at an end; Sind was annexed to the British dominions, and Napier’s able and upright paternal government soon reconciled the Baluchis to the loss of their independence.<br>
Whatever may be thought of the policy which led to the conquest of the country—few, except Sir Charles Napier’s brother William, have even attempted to defend it—the actual campaign was one of the most workmanlike and brilliant in our records, and its conception and execution by the British commander worthy of the high praise bestowed on it by all good judges. Napier’s fame as a General, which deservedly stands high, may well be left to rest on this little masterpiece of war; and his title to grateful memory among all Englishmen on the fact that he was the first to mention in his public despatches the names of humble private soldiers who had distinguished themselves in action under his command.