Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[blocks in formation]

Seeking earnestly for some familiar spirit to avert the unpromising theme, the demon Ambition rises, and points, with beckoning gestures, to worldly distinctions, success, and military renown. The fascinating vision then appears entitled to be treated with some respect, and

away

flies Mammon with his unresisting victim. Cruel seducer! As in the case of a rustic caught by the recruiting serjeant with a bunch of coloured ribbons and an Eldorado in the distance, sad experience alone unmasks the sombre reality, and the disappointed aspirant to a shadow, finds that rank and honours are reserved for the soldier's declining years; but youth and glory are rarely companions.* Perhaps it may be good policy to keep the phantom hovering in sight, when possession destroys the mistaken pursuit, or at all events, discovers its true value. Notwithstanding these trite complaints, the subordinate regimental ranks have ever proved

• None under the rank of field-officers are promoted to the honours of the “ Bath ;" and knighthood is usually reserved for generals,

GATHERING OF TROOPS.

221

faithful to their duty, and the English soldier has continued “to conquer under the cold shade of aristocracy."*

In the midst of reflections of this useless nature, I was roused by the mild voice of a native attendant whispering, as softly as if he feared the enemy might overhear him, that the camp was stirring, and that the appointed hour had arrived. To my surprise, I found that the hands of my watch confirmed the Hindoo's assertion; and my night of intended repose had slipped away in a less profitable employment.

Hastily buckling on my equipments, and having seen that my saddle was equally prepared for the emergencies of the day, I rode on to where the dark array of troops were gathering on their alarm posts in the dim starlight. Each brigadier had received, overnight, his instructions for the position to be occupied on this momentous occasion; and the movement of the forces was conducted with that

* Vide Napier's “Peninsular War," vol. iii. p. 272.

222

MOVEMENT OF FORCES.

silence and regularity which complete discipline, and an intimate knowledge amongst those in command of their respective duties in the field, can always ensure. Each word of command, though softly uttered, was effectually obeyed, and the column proceeded to take up their position on the extensive curve assumed by the investing army.

The atmosphere, laden with heavy vapours, spread a darkening veil between the rival hosts, and thousands of eyes watched earnestly for the rising of the curtain and the beginning of the tragedy.

[ocr errors]

SIKH ENTRENCHMENTS.

223

CHAPTER IX.

THE BATTLE OF SOBRAON-THE ENEMY DEFEATED AND

DRIVEN ACROSS THE RIVER WITH ENORMOUS LOSS.

It has before been mentioned, that the Sikh entrenchments presented to us a semicircular figure, the rear of their position resting on the re-entering sinuosity of the river. On the left of the enemy's works, a high parapet had been thrown up, and part of this front was protected by a nullah, with a steep bank acting as a counterscarp, and the bed of this watercourse was filled, in some places, by deep pools of stagnant water, which extended along the centre. On the right flank, the track of the nullah was but faintly marked; and in this

224

SIKH ENTRENCHMENTS.

quarter, the works had not been completed, and were not more formidable than the trenches at Ferozeshuhur, before described. Batteries were disposed along the face of the entrenchments, and the whole area had been defended with traverses and ditches, which defiladed the garrison from a direct fire, in any direction where our guns could be brought to attack. A raised battery of the enemy's heavy guns, placed at the bridge, commanded the approaches, and swept the whole works in reverse.

Guns were also placed on the opposite side of the river, which threatened the position, in case of its falling into the hands of the British.

The works were garrisoned principally by regular battalions of infantry, whose cantonments consisted of wicker-work huts, behind the parapet along the right.

The British forces advanced to envelop these works, one regiment being ordered to precede and carry the enemy's main picket at the point of the bayonet, when the mortars and howitzers, which were to be advanced to the front, were to open on the Sikhs.

« ПредишнаНапред »