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The Hero of Aliwal

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The Hero of Aliwal
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): James Humphries
Date Published: 06/2007
Page Count: 276
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-238-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-237-5

The fate of Empires in the balance—the experience of battle—the moment of triumph for one man

The days when young Harry Smith wore the green jacket of the 95th-Wellington's famous riflemen-campaigning in Spain against Napoleon's French with his beautiful young bride Juana have long gone. Now, Sir Harry Smith is in his fifties approaching the end of a long career. His position in the Cape colony ends with an appointment as Deputy Adjutant-General to the army in India. There he joins the staff of Sir Hugh Gough to experience an Indian battlefield in the Gwalior War of 1843 as the power of the Marathas is finally crushed. Smith has little time for his superior's 'bull at a gate' style of battlefield tactics, but independent command is denied him. Little does he realise that the greatest opportunity of his military life is close at hand. The last and most formidable force on the sub-continent remains unconquered—the Sikhs of the Punjab. As the battles of the First Sikh War rage and the fate of British India is uncertain, Smith's destiny draws him towards Aliwal, where he will direct 'the battle without a mistake' and prove himself—the 'Iron Duke's' most able pupil. This book contains Smith's own words as its narrative and his experiences are enhanced by first-hand accounts of officers and ordinary soldiers of the infantry, artillery, and cavalry who shared these momentous events with him. This book—a Leonaur original—portrays the life and times of a Victorian general at the peak of his powers. The entire campaign is also described by historian Hugh Murray.

The glistening of the bayonets and swords of this order of battle was most imposing; and the line advanced. Scarcely had it moved 150 yards, when, at ten o’clock, the enemy opened a fierce cannonade from his whole line. At first his balls fell short, but quickly reached us. Thus upon him, and capable of better ascertaining his position, I was compelled to halt the line, though under fire, for a few moments, until I ascertained that, by bringing up my right and carrying the village of Aliwal, I could with great effect precipitate myself upon his left and centre.<br>
I therefore quickly brought up Brigadier Godby’s brigade; and, with it, and the 1st brigade under Brigadier Hicks, made a rapid and noble charge, carried the village, and two guns of large calibre. The line I ordered to advance—Her Majesty’s 31st Foot and the native regiments contending for the front; and the battle became general. The enemy had a numerous body of cavalry on the heights to his left, and I ordered Brigadier Cureton to bring up the right brigade of cavalry, who, in the most gallant manner, dashed in among them and drove them back upon their infantry.<br>
Meanwhile a second gallant charge to my right was made by the light cavalry and the body-guard. The Shekawattee brigade was moved well to the right, in support of Brigadier Cureton, when I observed the enemy’s encampment and saw it was full of infantry: I immediately brought upon it Brigadier Godby’s brigade, by changing front, and taking the enemy’s infantry en reverse. They drove them before them, and took some guns without a check.<br>
While these operations were going on upon the right, and the enemy’s left flank was thus driven back, I occasionally observed the brigade under Brigadier Wheeler, an officer in whom I have the greatest confidence, charging and carrying guns and everything before it, again connecting his line, and moving on, in a manner which ably displayed the coolness of the Brigadier and the gallantry of his irresistible brigade—Her Majesty’s 50th Foot, the 48th Native Infantry, and the Sirmoor battalion—although the loss was, I regret to say, severe in the 50th.<br>
Upon the left, Brigadier Wilson, with Her Majesty’s 53rd and the 30th Native Infantry equalled in celerity and regularity their comrades on the right; and this brigade was opposed to the ‘Aieen’ troops, called Avitabile’s, when the fight was fiercely raging.
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