This is continuing the story of Joseph Anderson, whose early career during the Napoleonic Wars was told in the Leonaur book Fighting Napoleon’s Empire. At the commencement of this book we find Anderson engaged as the Governor of a prison colony in Australia before he is posted to India. There, with the 50th Regt. of Foot, he is soon sent to Burma. Through Anderson’s writing we are given a view of military life and campaigning in the early Victorian period, in which many familiar personalities and regiments feature. In 1843 Anderson, by now a Brigadier, was engaged in the Gwalior War against the Mahrattas at the Battle of Punniar.
By this time a number of our men fell killed and wounded, and it was now getting late and the sun about setting. A deep rough and rocky valley separated us from the enemy. My men were falling fast, and I saw no chance of driving our foes before us without crossing the valley and giving them the bayonet. I looked round everywhere for General Gray and his staff, but could nowhere see them. I asked my brigade-major if he knew where the general was, but he did not; so rather than lose a chance, and my men, without doing any good, I instantly made up my mind to advance and at them. I ordered my bugler to sound the “Advance.” It was at once passed along the line, and off we went at a rapid, steady pace down the valley, keeping up a brisk independent firing all the while, and receiving the enemy’s shot and shell and musketry in rapid succession.
The ground was so rough, with loose rocks and stones, that I and all the mounted officers were obliged to dismount; but with the loss of some men killed and wounded we managed to reach a clear space at the bottom of the valley. It was then all but dark, when, after hurriedly reforming our ranks, I gave the order to charge the enemy’s guns, and at this instant I positively saw one of the Mahratta artillerymen put his match to his gun (not many hundred yards from us), the contents of which (grape-shot) knocked me and Captain Cobbam and about a dozen men of my brave 50th over. Captain Hough and two or three men came instantly to assist me, and offered to take me to the rear, where the medical officers were sure to be found; but I said, “No; never mind me: take those guns!” and with many hearty cheers they were all taken in a few minutes, the brave Mahrattas standing by their guns to the last, and refusing to quit them or to run, when positively ordered and pushed aside by our men’s bayonets. Move they would not, until they were slaughtered on the spot.
When I was hit I was knocked clean over, and thought it was from a round shot, and that I was, of course, done for. My only care and regret was that my dear wife would lose the intended insurance on my life, and so be left, with our children, worse off than I intended. These thoughts occupied my mind until I was soon after assisted off the field by Sergeant Quick and two soldiers to where the medical officers were attending to the wounded. I had not got far when, by the light of the new moon, just rising, I saw an officer sitting under a tree, bleeding profusely, and resting his head on one arm, and with two or three soldiers supporting him. I inquired who it was, and was told Captain Cobbam, wounded severely in five different places, but still alive. I told them who I was, and that I was then on my way to the doctors, and begged the men to take him there also. A few yards farther on I met the surgeon of the 9th Lancers. He then examined my wound, putting one of his fingers in where the ball entered, and another where it passed out of my body, and then said, “Never fear; you are all right.” This was indeed cheering, and enough to make me forget my fears about the loss to my dear wife of the insurance on my life.
He then ordered my escort to take me a little way farther over the hill, where they would find all the medical officers and wounded. We reached them in safety, but faint from much loss of blood. I was again examined, dressed, and well bandaged, and again reassured and told not to be alarmed, as my wound, though severe, was not dangerous. They then put me in a doolie with four bearers and my escort, and ordered them to carry me direct to our camp.