Hugh Rose's report on the siege and taking of Jhansi

From Major General Sir Hugh Rose, K.C.B., Commanding Central India Field Force, to the Chief of the Staff:-dated Camp Mote, the 30th April 1858.

I have the honor to report to you, for the information of His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, the operations of my Force against the fortress and fortified city of Jhansie.

On the 20th Ultimo, the 2nd Brigade under my Command arrived at Simra, one day's march from Jhansie. My 1st Brigade had not yet joined me from Chandeerie.

The same day I sent Brigadier Stewart, with the Cavalry and Artillery noted in the margin, to invest Jhansie.

[Horse Artillery, 6 Guns, 325 Rank and File. 14th Light Dragoons, 140 Rank and File, 3rd Light Cavalry, 476 Sabres. Hyderabad Cavalry.]

The 20th Ultimo was the day which, when at Saugor, I had named for my arrival before Jhansie. I should have reached it some days sooner, only for the delay occasioned by my waiting to see whether the 2nd Brigade would be required to assist in taking Chandeerie. I arrived the following day, the 21st Ultimo, with the remainder of my Brigade before Jhansie.

The picquets of the Cavalry sent on the day before had sabred about 100 armed Men, Bundeelas, endeavouring to enter Jhansie, having been summoned by the Ranee to defend it.

Having no plan, or even correct description of the fortress and city, I had, together with the Officers Commanding the Artillery and Engineers, to make long and repeated reconnoissances, in order to ascertain the Enemy's defences; this delayed, for some days, the commencement of the siege operations.

The great strength of the Fort, natural as well as artificial, and its extent, entitles it to a place amongst fortresses. It stands on an elevated rock, rising out of a plain, and commands the city, and surrounding country; it is built of excellent and most massive masonry. The Fort is difficult to breach, because, composed of granite, its walls vary in thickness from sixteen to twenty feet.

The Fort has extensive and elaborate outworks of the same solid construction, with front and flanking embrasures for Artillery fire, and loop-holes, of which, in some places, there were five, tiers, for musketry. Guns placed on the high towers of the Fort commanded the country all around.

One tower called the "white turret" had been raised lately in height by the Rebels, and armed with heavy ordnance.

The fortress is surrounded by the city of Jhansie on all sides, except the West and part of the South face.

The steepness of the rock protects the West, the fortified city wall with bastions springing from the center of its South face, running South, and ending in a high mound or mamelon, protects by a flanking fire its South face. The mound was fortified by a strong circular bastion for 6 Guns, round part of which was drawn a ditch 12 feet deep and 15 feet broad of solid masonry. Quantities of men were always at work in the mound.

The city of Jhansie is about 4 1/2 miles in circumference, and is surrounded by a fortified and massive wall, from 8 to 12 feet thick, and varying in height from 18 to 30 feet, with numerous flanking bastions armed as batteries with ordnance, and loop holes, with a banquette for Infantry.

Outside the walls, the city is girt with wood, except some parts of the East and South fronts: on the former is a picturesque lake and water palace; to the South are the ruined Cantonments and residences of the English. Temples with their gardens, one the Jokun Bagh, the scene of the massacre of our lamented country-men-and two rocky ridges, the Eastmost called "Kapoo Tekri," both important positions, facing and threatening the South face of tbe city wall and Fort.

I established seven flying Camps of Cavalry, as an investing Force round Jhansie, giving to Major Scudamore half a Troop of Horse Artillery and later to Major Gall two 9-Pounders. These Camps detached to the front outposts and videttes, which watched and prevented all issue from the city, day and night; each Camp, on any attempt being made to force its line, was to call on the others for help. I gave directions also that the road from the city should be obstructed by trenches and abattis.

The attack of Jhansie offered serious difficulties. There were no means of breaching the Fort, except from the South, but the South was flanked by the fortified City wall and mound just described.

The rocky ridge was excellent for a breaching battery, except that it was too far off, 640 yards, and that the fire from it would have been oblique.

The mound enfiladed two walls of the city, and commanded the whole of the South quarter of it, including the Palace.

It was evident that the capture of the mound was the first most important operation, because its occupation ensured, in all probability, that of the South of the city, and of the Palace, affording also the means of constructing, by approaches, an advanced breaching battery.

The desideratum, therefore, was to concentrate a heavy fire on the mound, and on the South of the City, in order to drive the Enemy out of them, and facilitate their capture, to breach the wall close to the mound, and to dismantle the Enemy's defences which protected the mound and opposed an attack. This was effected - Firstly, by occupying and placing batteries on a rocky knoll, the right attack, which I had found in my reconnoissance to the south of the Lake opposite the Aorcha gate and South-east wall of the town, which took in reverse the mound, and two walls running from it; Secondly, on the rocky ridge the left attack.

These batteries could not be completed till the arrival of the let. Brigade with its siege Guns on the 25th Ultimo.

In the meantime, the right attack opened fire, from an 8-inch How. itzer, and two 8-inch Mortars, on the rear of the, mound and the South of the City, with the exception of the Palace, which I wished to preserve for the use of the Troop.

A remarkable featare in the defence was, that the Enemy had no works or posts outside the City. Sir Robert Hamilton estimated the number of the Garrison at 10,000 Bundeelas and velaities, and 1,500 Sepoys, of whom 400 were Cavalry, and the number of Guns in the City and Fort, at 30 or 40.

The fire of the right attack on the first day of the opening of the fire, the 28th Ultimo, cleared the mound of the workmen and the Enemy. The mortars, in consequence of information I had received, shelled and set on fire long rows of hay-ricks in the South of the City, which created-an almost general conflagration in that quarter.

The Enemy had been firing actively from the white turret, the tree tower battery in the Fort, and the wheel tower, Saugor and. Lutchmen-gate batteries in the town. About mid day their fire ceased almost completely, but re-commenced the next day with increased vigour.

The Chief of the Rebel Artillery was a first rate Artillery-man; he had under him two Companies of Golundauze. The manner in which the Rebels served their Guns, repaired their defences, and re-opened fire from batteries and Guns repeatedly shut up, was remarkable. From some batteries they returned shot for shot.

The women were seen working in the batteries and carrying ammunition. The garden battery was fought under the black flag of the Fakeers.

Everything indicated a general and determined resistance; this was not surprising, as the inhabitants, from the Ranee downwards, were, more or less, concerned in the murder and plunder of the English. There was hardly a house in Jhansie which did not contain some article of English plunder, and, politically speaking, the Rebel confederacy knew well that if Jhansie, the richest Hindoo city, and most important fotress in Central India, fell, the cause of the insurgents in this part of India fell also.

To silence the City wall batteries to the South, and cannonade more effectually the town, two 24-Pounder Guns were placed in battery between the 8-inch Howitzer and the two 8-inch Mortars, and opened-fire on the 25th Ultimo. They produced a good effect, but not to the extent of silencing the town batteries. Unfortunately on this day the 8-inch Howitzer was disabled by the breaking of its trunnion.

On the 24th Ultimo, I caused the rocky ridge, the left attack, to be occupied by a strong picquet under Captain Hare, with two 5 1/2 inch Mortars, which played on the mound and the houses adjacent to it.

On the 25th Ultimo the Siege Train of the 1st Brigade having arrived,. batteries were constructed and opened fire, from the 26th to the 29th Ultimo, on the rocky ridge, as follows, forming the left attack.

Two 18-Pounders to dismantle the defences of the Fort.

Two 10-inch Mortars to destroy the Fort.

Two 8-inch Mortars and one 8-inch Howitzer to act on the mound. and adjacent wall and City.

One 18-Pounder to breach the wall near the bastion of the mound,. which was thus exposed to a vertical and horizontal 6re on its right face-and left rear, the 18-Pounders were changed from travelling to garrison carriages.

In order to. prevent delay and confusion, I gave names to all the Enemy's batteries in the town, as well as in the Fort; they were 13 in number.

The fire of the two 18-Pounders was so efficient, that towards sunset the parapets of the white turret, the black tower, and the tree tower,. which faced our attack, were nearly destroyed.

The two 10-inch Mortars created great havoc in the Fort, and having pointed out to Lieutenant Pettman, Bombay Horse Artillery,. the position of a powder magazine respecting which I had information, he blew it up in the third shot, keeping up a well directed fire on the Fort, for which good service I beg to recommend him to His Excellency.

The breaching Gun, so solid was the wall, and so bard the masonry, did not produce the result contemplated on the first or even on the second day, but on the 30th the breach was practicable. The Enemy retrenched the breach with a double row of palisades filled with earth, on which I ordered every description of fire, including red-hot shot, to he directed upon it, and the result was a considerable portion of the stockade was destroyed by fire.

Riflemen to fire at the parapets and the embrasures, and loop-holes were placed in all the batteries, with sand-bag loop-holes, and posts of Riflemen were distributed in the ternples and garden of the East and South sides of the city. I occupied also the Jokun Bagh nearly opposite the mound with a picquet of Rifles. The Riflemen caused numerous casualties amongst the Rebels in the town as well as in the parapets.

Two of the Enemy's defences, which annoyed the left attack the most, were the wheel tower on the South, and the garden battery on a rock in rear of the West wall of the city. To silence the former, a new battery, called the Kahoo Tehree or East battery, was established on a ridge to the East of the rocky ridge, with two - 5 1/2 inch Mortars, which not proving sufficient, I substituted for them two 8-inch Mortars and a 9-Pounder. I afterwards added a 24-Pounder Howitzer to enfilade the wall running Eastwards from the mound.

Before the sand-bag battery could be made for the 9-Pounder, acting Bombardier Brenna, of Captain Ommaney's Company, Royal Artillery, quite a lad, commanded and pointed the 9-Pounder in the open, and silenced the Enemy's Gun in battery in the bastion, destroying besides its defences. I praised him for his good service on the ground, and promoted him.

The two 8-inch Mortars, and occasionally the two 10-inch Mortars of the left attack, answered the garden battery, shelling also the Nia Bustie, and five wells where the Sepoys had taken up their quarters on account of the good water.

After the capture of Jhansie we had proof of havoc caused by the shelling and cannonade in the Fort and city. Beside the damage done to the houses and buildings, the Rebels acknowledge to have lost from sixty to seventy men a day killed.

Our batteries had by the 30th dismantled the defence of the Fort and city, or disabled their Guns. It is true that the Rebels had made on the white turret an excellent parapet of large sand-bags, which they kept always wet, and still ran up fresh in lieu of disabled Guns: but their best Guns had been disabled, and their best Artillery-men killed; their fire was therefore no longer - serio us. However, the obstinate defence of the-Enemy, the breach, and the extent fired on, had caused a great consumption of ammunition, so much so, that it was evident there the town would not be sufficient to multiply breaches in wall, or to establish a main breach in the South double wall of the Fort.

Under these circumstances, the Officer Commanding the Artillery and Engineers, called to my notice the necessity of having recourse to escalade, to which I gave my consent, requiring however that the breach should form an important and principal point of attack. Both of these Officers entertained a mistrust of the breach, thinking that it was mined, or not practicable.

Knowing the risk which generally attends escalades, I had recourse to every means in my power for facilitating an entry by the breach. In order to widen it, and destroy still more effectually the retrenchment and stockade which the Enemy had constructed in rear of the breach, I kept up a fire day and night on it from the 18-Pounder, and the 8-inch Howitzers and with the view to prevent the Enemy working, and to render the mound too hot for them, I shelled it and the adjoining houses day and night from the Mortar batteries in the centre and left attacks, Lieutenant Strutt, Bombay Artillery, made excellent practice, throwing the shells on the spots occupied by the guards of the city walls.

I had made arrangements on the 80th for storming, but the general action on the 1st Instant, with the so called Army of the Peshwa, which advanced across the Betwa to relieve it, caused the assault to be deferred.

With the view to acquire rapid information respecting the Enemy's movements, I established a telegraph on a hill commanding Jhansic and the surrounding country. It was of great use, telegraphing the Ranee's flight, the approach of the Enemy from the Betwa, etc.

On the 2nd instant, Major Boileau reported to me that he had made all the necessary preparations for the escalade, and that a 24-Pounder Howitzer had been placed in battery in front of the Jokun Bagh for the purpose of enfilading, and clearing during the night the wall from the mound to the Fort, and the rocket bastion which is on it.

I issued a division order for the assault of the defences of the city-wall, of which a copy, with a plan of attack, was furnished to the Officers in Command.

I have the honor to enclose copies of reports from Brigadier Stuart, Commanding my 1st Brigade, and Brigadier Steuart, Commanding my 2nd Brigade, of the operations of their respective Columns against Jhansie.

The left attack, ably and gallantly conducted by Brigadier Stuart, succeeded perfectly, its right Column passing without loss or difficulty through the breach, which turned out as well as I thought it would, and the left effecting, with some casualties, the escalade of the rocket bastion. Colonel Louth, Commanding Her Majesty's 86th Regiment, acted with cool judgment, and I witnessed with lively pleasure the devotion and gallantry of his Regiment.

The 3rd Europeans, under Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell, did their duty, as they always have done; but they could not control adverse circumstances, arising from bad ladders, and a mistake in the road, they returned to the assault with alacrity, and fought their way through the town manfully.

I beg leave to support earnestly the recommendations of Officers contained in these Reports of the Brigadiers, particularly of Captain Darby, wounded, Lieutenant Dartnell, severely wounded in three places, who led the assault of the rocket bastion, and Lieutenant Fox, severely wounded. It will be a gratification also to the relatives of Lieutenants Micklejohn and Dick, of the Bombay Engineers, to know that these two young Officers had gained my esteem by the intelligence and coolness which they evinced as Engineer Officers during the siege. I should have recommended both for promotion, if they had not died in their country's cause, for conspicuous gallantry in leading the way up two scaling ladders.

The 86th on the road to the Palace from the mound sustained many casualties from their left flank being exposed, as they passed through an open space, to a flanking musketry fire from an outwork of the Fort, and from houses, and the Palace itself to their front. I directed loopholes for Riflemen to be made through houses which brought a fire to bear on the outwork of the Fort, a large house to be occupied close to the Palace, and covered communication to be made to the mound.

The skirmishers of the Regiment penetrated gallantly into the Palace. The few men who still held it made an obstinate resistance, setting fire to trains of Gun-powder, from which several of the 86th received fatal injuries.

Having received no reports from the right attack, composed of the 3rd Europeans and Hyderabad Contingent, I made my way to them in the South-east quarter of the City. I found them engaged with the Enemy, and making their way to the Palace; the Rebels were firing at them from the houses, which tbe Troops were breaking open, and clearing of their defenders.

I found Lieutenant-Colonel Turnbull, Commanding the Artillery there, wounded mortally, I deeply regret to say, by a musket shot from a house.

He had followed me through the breach into the streets, and having received directions from me to bring Guns into the city to batter houses in which Rebels held out, he had gone round by the right to the East quarter of the City to fix the road by which they were to enter. The Auba gate was the best for Guns, hut it was so barricaded by masses of stones, that it could not be opened for several hours.

In the despatches I have recorded the excellent service performed by Lieutenant-Colonel Turnhull, particularly in the general action of the Betwa, always exposing himself to the fire of the Enemy in order to choose the best positions for his Guns. This devoted Officer was as useful to me as Commandant of Artillery as Captain of a Troop of Horse ArtiIlery.

His premature fall prevented his receiving the reward which was his due. I can now only earnestly recommend that his numerous family may inherit their father's claims on his country.

The right and left attacks being now concentrated in the Palace, 1 gained possession of a large portion of the City by advancing the 3rd Europeans to the North-East, and occupying the Burrahgong-gate, on which I rested their right flank, forming an oblique line from the gate to the Palace with the 3rd Europeans and the 86th in the Palace. The two Regiments occupying with picqueta commanding houses to their front. This line was a prolongation of the second line leading from the mound under the front to the Palace. This done, it was necessary to clear the large portion of the City in rear of this oblique line of the numerous armed Rebels who remained in the houses, and who were firing on the Troops. This was not effected without bloody, often hand-to-hand combats; one of the most remarkable of them was between detachments of Her Majesty's 85th Regiment and 3rd Europeans, and thirty or forty Velaitie Sowars, the body-guard of the Ranee in the Palace Stables under the fire of the Fort. The Sowars, full of Opium, defended their Stables firing with matchlocks and pistols from the windows and loop-holes, and cutting with their tulwars, and from behind the doors. When driven in they retreated behind their houses, still firing or fighting with their swords in both hands till they were shot or bayoneted struggling even when dying on the ground to strike again. A party of them remained in a room off the stables which was on fire till they were half burnt; their clothes in flames, they rushed out hacking at their assailants, and guarding their heads with their shields.

Captain Rose, my Aide-de-Camp, saved the life of a man of the 86th, who was down, by bayoneting his assailant.

All the Sowars were killed, but not without several casualties on our side. The gallant Soldiers captured in the quarters of the Sowars the Ranee's standards, three standards of the body-guard, three kettle-drums and horses, and an English Union Jack of silk, which Sir Robert. Hamilton tells me Lord William Bentinck had given the grandfather of the husband of the Ranee, with the permission to have it carried before-him as a reward for his fidelity, a privilege granted to no other Indian Prince. I granted the Soldiers their request to hoist on the Palace the flag of their country which they had so bravely won. Captain Sandwith, who was wounded, commanded with spirit the Europeans on this occasion, and Serjeant Brown, of the Commissariat Department, was the first to dash boldly into the stables.

Numerous incidents marked the desperate feeling which animated the defenders. A retainer of the Ranee tried to blow up himself and his wife; failing in the attempt, he endeavoured to cut her to pieces and then killed himself. Two Vilaities, attacked by the videttes, threw a woman who was with them into a well, and then jumped down it themselves.

Whilst engaged in the town, I received a report from the Officer Commanding one of the Hyderahad Cavalry Flying Camps, that a large body of the Enemy, flying from the town, had tried to force his picquet; that a few had succeeded, but that the main body from 350 to 500 strong, had been driven back, and had occupied a high and rocky hill to the west of the Fort; that he had surrounded the hill with Cavalry till reinforcements were sent. I immediately ordered out from the Camps of the two Brigades, the available Troops of all arms against the Hill. The enclosed Report from Major Gall shows how satisfactorily these Rebels were disposed of. Lieutenant Park was killed whilst gallantly leading on a party of the 24th Bombay Native Infantry along the ridge of the hill. The Ranee's father, Mamoo Sahib, was amongst the Rebels.; he was wounded on the hill, and captured some days afterwards and hanged at the Jokun Bagh.

After having cleared the quarter of the town in our possession of the. Enemy, I had intended attacking the remainder of it, but deterred doing so till the next day on Brigadier Steuart's representation that the men were too much exhausted for any further operations that day.

Towards sunset it was telegraphed from the observatory that the enemy were approaching from the East. I had therefore to re-occupy with all the force I could collect the field of action of the Betwa, the devoted Troops marching to a fresh combat after thirteen hours' fighting in a burning sun with as much spirit as if they had not been engaged at all.

The alarm proved to be a false one, Troops from Tehree having been mistaken for the Enemy.

The next day Brigadier Stuart and myself occupied the rest of the City by a combined movement, assisted by Major Gall, who spiritedly scaled the bastion at the Onow-gate from his Flying Camp, and capturing the Gun that was there, threw it down the rampart.

The following morning, a wounded Mahratta retainer of the Ranee was sent in to me from Captain Abbott's Flying Camp. He stated that the Ranee, accompanied by 800 Vilaities and 25 Sowars, fled that night from the Fort; that after leaving it, they had been headed back by one of the picquets where the Ranee and her party separated, she herself taking to the right with a few Sowars in the direction of her intended flight to Bandiri. The observatory also telegraphed "Enemy escaping to the North-East." I immediately sent off strong detachments of Her Majesty's 14th Light Dragoons, 3rd Light Cavalry and Hyderabad Cavalry to pursue, with Guns to support them, as it was said that Tantia Topee had sent a Force to meet her. I also sent Brigadier Steuart, with Cavalry, to watch the forts of the Betwa.

In the meantime detachments of the 86th and 3rd Europeans took possession of the fortress.

In sight of Bandiri, 21 miles from Jhansie, the Cavalry came in sight of the Irregular Horse, sent to meet the Ranee, which separated probably with the view to mislead her pursuers as to her real course. Lieutenant Dowker, Hyderahad Cavalry, was sent by Captain Forbes through the town of Bandiri, whilst he with the 3rd Light Cavalry and 14th Light Dragoons, passed it by the left. In the town, Lieutenant Dowker saw traces of the Ranee's hasty flight, and her tent in which was an unfinished breakfast; on the other side of the town he came up with and cut up forty of the Enemy consisting of Rohillas and Bengal Irregular Cavalry. Lieutenant Dowker was gaining fast on the Ranee, who with four attendants, was seen escaping on a grey horse, when he was dismounted by a severe wound, and obliged to give up the pursuit.

From the time the troops took the Palace, the Rebels lost heart and began to leave the town and fort. Nothing could prove more the efficiency of the investment than the number of them cut up by the picquets of the Flying Camps; the woods, gardens and roads round the towns were strewed with the corpses of fugitive Rebels. The Ranee's flight was the signal for a general retreat. Early in the morning, I caused the outskirts of the City to be scoured with Cavalry and Infantry; it will give some idea of the destruction of insurgents which ensued when a party of the 14th Dragoons alone killed two hundred in one patrol. The Rebels, who were chiefly Vilaities and Pathans, generally sold their lives as dearly as they could, fighting to the last with their usual dexterity and firmness. A band of 40 of these desperadoes barricaded themselves in a spacious house with a court yard, vaults, etc.; before they were aware of its strength, it was attacked by a detachment of Hyderabad Infantry under Captain Hare, with the loss of Captain Sinclair, of whose conduct it is my duty again to make honorable mention. Reinforcements and several pieces of siege Artillery were brought up by Major Orr, who commanded the attack against the house, but even when it had been breached and knocked to pieces, the Rebels continued to resist in the ruined passages and vaults. They were all as usual destroyed, but not without several casualties on our part. Major Orr expresses his obligations to Captains Woolcombe and Douglas, of the Bombay and Bengal Artillery, Lieutenant Lewis, and Ensign Fowler, of Her Majesty's 88th Regiment, the first very severely wounded, who led the men, and also Lieutenant Simpson; 23rd Regiment Bengal Native Infantry, wounded.

Captain Abbott, Hyderabad Cavalry, speaks highly of the gallantry with which Lieutenant Dun and detachments of the 1st and 4th Hyderabad Cavalry stormed, dismounted, a house and garden held obstinately by the fugitives, and be recommends, as I beg to do also, the Officers whose names follow for promotion and for the Order of Merit for gallantry in the field.


1st Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent

Ressaldar Allaoodeen Khan, 3rd Troop.
Jemadar Mahomedeen Khan, wounded.
Kurreem Ali Khan, wounded.
Tegmal Sing, wounded.
Meer Amyed Ali.
Train Singo.

4th Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent

Jemadar Hunooman Sing, wounded.
Duffadar Himmunt Khan.


Bugwan Sing.
Khan Mahomed Khan, wounded.
Khairoolah Khan.
Tahool Khan,
and Syed Sharief, 2nd Cavalry, doing duty with 4th Cavalry.


1st Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent

Ressaldar Allaoodeen Khan, 3rd Troop.
Jemadar Mahomedeen Khan, 3rd Troop, Wounded,

4th Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent

Jemadar Hunooman Sing, wounded.

It was not till Jhansie was taken, that its great strength was known.

There was only one part of the fortress, the South curtain, which was considered practicable for breaching. But when inside, we saw this was a mistake, there being at some distance in rear of the curtain a massive wall 16 or 20 feet thick, and immediately in rear of this a deep tank cut out of the live rock.

I beg leave to bring to the favorable notice of the Commander-in-Chief, the conduct of the Troops under my Command in the siege, investment, and capture of Jhansie.

They had to contend against an Enemy more than double their numbers, behind formidable fortifications, who defended themselves afterwards