3. IN BARRACKS AT DINAPORE
Being now Quartermaster of the Regiment my commission being dated 5 Sep 1858
the whole duty of removal devolved upon me and who had had but little acquaintance
with the routine of a Quartermaster's Office. Having the whole of the
heavy baggage to transport to Calcutta and to secure a safe keeping for it,
I proposed to stay until the baggage was disposed of which when done so I would
follow and overtake the regiment on its march By this arrangement, I
was luckily a spectator of the illuminations in the City of Eastern Palaces
and heard Her Majesty's proclamation read to the assembled mixture of whites
and blacks before the steps of the Government House proclaiming the East India
Company extinct and the assumption of Her Majesty's Government over all the
land; after which, and when my work was done, proceeded by rail to Raneegunge
thence by bullock train in company with a detachment of recruits along the
Trunk road until I overtook the 19 Regiment seven days march beyond Raneegunge,
at which latter by the by, there are coal mines worked by the natives.
After joining the Regt I relieved Lieut Morgan who had been acting for me during my absence and assumed my station as an Officer.
Our march was an exceeding good one, travelling in general from 12 to 16 miles per diem, and had the benefit of the substantial trunk road till reaching Shergolty from where we branched off for Gyd, Patna, and Dinapore arriving at the latter station on the 25 Nov 1858 thus finishing our march in 29 days
The regulations respecting the march were somewhat as follows. My duty was to start on horseback with one Camp Color man per company to the next camping ground (being supplied with a route from the General of the Army) generally at 3or 4 o'clock each afternoon leaving the Regt encamped on the old ground till one or two the next morning when they struck tents and followed my track arriving at the new ground about 7 am where they found I had the ground marked out for each separate tent by companies or otherwise together with the various places told of for baggage animals, horses, cooking, guards, stores etc etc. The Commissariat, cooks, bakery and butcher going always along with or at the same time as I moved off for a new encampment and all of whom were under my Immediate supervision, my other duties being to provide carriage and provisions for the Regt and followers and the general transport and equipment in all their branches.
During this march two incidents occurred and which I think worth noticing, one being at a new encampment where I had just pitched my tent, the night being very dark and while my servant Benjaman was getting some food ready I strolled over in the direction where the native butchers were killing meat for the next days consumption (the bullocks or beasts always being taken along with us). In coming back to my tent through a clump of trees being directed that way by the light of Benjaman's fire I suddenly was aroused by an approximate low and rough growl apparently out of a bush, which caused me to come to a dead stop and not being able to see the object from whom the growl proceeded I fancied myself in a most terrible position as the growl was not that of a dog but of a cheetah. Stepping back gradually with my eyes full set in the direction of the sound, trying uselessly to penetrate the darkness in search of the object which caused me such uneasiness, I summoned up all my strength and with the fleetness of a deer rushed for my tent and roused up those near it for defence expecting as I did the cheetah would follow me. However, as he did not do so, I ordered a good fire to be kept up the whole of the night in order to deter the brute from coming near to disturb us.
Regarding the other circumstance, one night during the same march to Dinapore and before we had arrived at Shergolty I was as usual being in advance of the Regt with a guard of some 24 men, heard as we were proceeding along the Grand Trunk Road the furious gallop apparently that of a horse and fancying the rebel scouts might be near at hand from the nature of the vicinity facilitating such, we of course awaited the approach of the suspected enemy, but as the animal came nearer to where I and my men were we discovered instead of a rebel Sowar a poor half frightened native with scarcely a vestige of raiment upon him straddled across the back of the horse and whose accents were so hurried that he could not for a few moments make us understand the cause of his flight, tho' in time we elicited sufficient from him as to inform us that a tiger had just been prowling in the village near to where we then were, and had carried off a native child, he having bolted from the village in the manner he had for safety. Nothing daunted at this news I told my men on no account to load their rifles as it would be utterly impossible to see the tiger, the night being so very dark but ordered them to fix their bayonets and to keep close together along the road, at the same time to keep a good look out for the animal. The reason partly why I did not wish my men to load was, that by their firing might create a false alarm and be construed should the reports reach any of the Regiment into the surmise that the rebels were upon us, this part being infested with the rebels from Bihar and who were not a great way off. However we moved on cautiously until reaching the village but the tiger had not again visited it being no doubt satisfied with the victim carried off by him.
25 Nov l858 This morning the Regiment marched into Dinapore, having left Bankipore last evening, and moved into the new line of barracks situated on the banks of the Ganges, lately the site of the native infantry cantonments. Dinapore, tho' not a large station for Europeans is nevertheless a good and healthy one, and the seasons are not felt to be quite so severe as at Benares, Allahabad and several other places of note. The original barracks for Europeans are situated at a short distance from the old native cantonments and are formed into two squares, the range of buildings to the South and East being occupied by the soldiers, the mid range and those on the West end for Officers and families.
The church a prettily constructed building being situated in the largest of the squares and on the banks of the Ganges facing South while the high road runs through both squares and in the centre to the bridge over which on the Patna road is the native bazaar and at the other end beyond the new barracks is also another bazaar and native town. Outside the precincts of the squares stands a substantial and handsome Roman Catholic church erected principally at the expense of the Catholic soldiers etc located here while too there is a chapel for such as are of the Baptist denomination. The circumstance I have often noticed with respect to dissenters etc that the Baptists, Roman Catholics, and English church predominate and that there is scarcely or any Wesleyan place of worship to be met with in the whole extent of Bengal, tho' in the Madras Residency they are flourishing as well too in Bombay or Ceylon.
Referring back to Dinapore there were on our arrival the 10 Foot, whom the 19th relieved and whose occupation the 35th Foot shortly after took up they having been employed in the Juddespore Ingles and Bihar district in pursuit of rebels, and on the removal of the latter to another station came the 73rd as well the 5 Europeans which latter corps was disbanded for mutinous conduct, one man of whom suffered death on the maidan opposite the new cantonments, being shot by virtue of the sentence of a General Court Martial.
After we had settled down quietly in our new station an order came to the Commanding Officer of the Corps intimating that the Regiment was immediately to be in readiness to march for the protection of Tirhoot, a district where much indigo is grown. On receipt of this order a detachment of 300 men under Col Bright was immediately put into marchable order and which on the 5th March 1859 crossed the Ganges near Bankipore en route to Ramnugger bordering on to the Nepal frontier in view to overtake as well to prevent rebels from passing into lower Bengal. After this detachment had moved off another order came for 400 men more of the 15th Foot to proceed and to be independent of the previous detachment, into Tirhoot and who would receive orders from Sir D Kelly, Colonel Comd 34th Foot and Commander of a detached force acting against the rebels in that direction.
This detachment now alluded to of which I was one, as well, Lieut Adjt Thompson and Commanded by the Commanding Officer of the Regt. Colonel G V Mundy CB, marched for Bankipore on the 23rd March l858 where it encamped that night preparatory to crossing the Ganges and which we did the next day in open native crafts tho' it took the entire day to do it, in having no less than about 400 baggage bullocks, 200 carts, 20 loads of ammunition, stock of Commissariat, including live cattle, flour etc etc horses, camp equippage and from 40 to 50 elephants besides a host of camp followers all of whom were carried over the river in boats excepting the elephants which swam the stream when on their arrival on the opposite shore moved off to a place called Hadjepore and where the Regiment encamped.
While staying at Bankipore in the evening of 23 March 1858, Lt Thompson took me or rather asked me to accompany him to see his daughter Lizzie, who was at that time a boarder at a school kept by Nuns close by to where we were encamped. We went to the school and on being admitted into the grounds Miss Thompson met us and showed us round the beauties of the garden afterwards entertaining her father and myself with a view from the top of the building then to hear her advancement in musical lessons. After paying but a short stay we returned to our camp from whence at an early hour next morning the Regiment marched and proceeded across the river in native boats as mentioned previously.
On arrival of the troops on the opposite bank they at once moved on to Hadjepore, the baggage animals with the camp equippage following in their track, where they encamped for that night and proceeded in the morning in the direction of Mersipore thence by route to our destination, or rather the place appointed for our detachment to halt being between 1 and 200 miles through the district of Tirhoot and at a village called Moteeharee. Having arrived at the above named village some time during April the site for the camp was fixed upon in a beautiful slope of trees which just admitted the whole of the tents without crowding and as well good shelter for our horses and baggage animals tho' the season was not oppressive, the troopers of Sikh cavalry attached to the detachment also being accommodated. Here we stayed fully a month inactive awaiting orders but as none came and as no rebels were nigh our position having turned back again into the Teria we of course had nothing to do, tho' one morning a report came that twelve Sepoy mutineers had passed within twelve miles of our camp.
The other detachment under Col Bright which had gone more to the North East than we by forced marches, were almost on the point of falling in with a portion of the defeated rebels and would have come in contact with them at one of the ghats on the ( ........) River had not the rebels retreated, being chased as they were too by a force under Col. D. Kelly CB and driven by that party to seek refuge in scattered parties. Finding that the rebels had completely given up the design of molesting the Tirhoot district they having been utterly dispersed, the detachment under Col Bright's command received orders for a retrograde movement and to return to Dinapore who in their route met us at our camp and after halting two or three days proceeded on their march again to Hadjepore thence to Dinapore.
Tho' our portion of the force had as yet been inactive, having not met a single rebel and the district through which we passed being well favoured as regards food etc for such creatures, yet another enemy and in different form nevertheless attacked us causing as it did the death of several of our men and placed hors-de-combat for a time a good number more, this new enemy being fever, which no doubt was fostered by the lake that lay nearby our encampment. Here it was that the Adjutant, Lieut. T Thompson fell sick, and from which he never recovered but gradually fell off till he died on his passage home to England.
His first symptom appears to have been loss of appetite and well do I remember his coming to my tent and telling me his case tho' the evening previously both had gone out riding together when we saw a snake creeping across the road beneath our horses' feet.
On receiving orders to return to Dinapore and which we did about the commencement of May, Lieut Thompson was sent on ahead by Dooly dak and reached the station before the arrival of the detachment, it being considered necessary that he should not stay with the troops, rest and quietness being much needed by him. After a very pleasant march partly by a different route than the way we advanced we the detachment arrived at Dinapore on the 18th day of May having been absent on this occasion nearly two months.
Unfruitful tho' this march turned out to be in respect to gaining fresh laurels wherewith to adorn the breasts of our coats, nevertheless several detachments consisting of from one to two companies were constantly out either in one direction or another and yet as no shot had been fired the enemy had been often times frustrated in their wishes by them, the report of their advancing scattering them like chaff before the wind.
Referring again to Dinapore I omitted to remark that many snakes infest the station, some of the cobra species and others of more harmless a nature and it is not at all uncommon to be in close proximity to them in some position or other, maybe while in bed or walking the garden and so forth, but the closest I ever had the honor in respect to the snake kind was one evening after having returned from mess, while sitting in the verandah in a wickerwork chair enjoying a pipe and the conversation of a friend who was an occupant of the bungalow, this snake in length about two feet (but not a cobra) climbed the back of my chair unperceived by my friend and unfelt by myself, till he had worked himself to the top and was in the act of thrusting his unwelcome head close to my cheek, luckily as it so happened I was sitting forward at this moment when my friend (Lieut George Hills) turning his eyes towards myself during conversation and seeing the reptile by the light from my room, immediately pulled me out of the chair and turned over the same backwards almost at the same instant. No sooner had the snake found he was observed and attacked than he scooted into my quarters and shewed evident signs of his ferocious intentions whereupon some of the servants who had been lying near to us fast asleep, awakening attacked the beast with sticks who succeeded in killing the venomous thing.
On another occasion but not in the same bungalow my bearer killed a large snake that had found his way into my bedroom and had occupied it whilst I had been asleep, which it is not at all unlikely had been an inmate of the thatched roof covering the building - many times have I seen torpid snakes twisted round the boughs of fruit trees that grew in my garden and have cut them down with my sword whilst so situated in one of which I once found a lizard that had recently been devoured.