War broke out again in the Punjab in 1848. On April 17 Mr Vans Agnew and Liutenant Anderson, British Agents at Mooltan, were murdered. On August 18 General Whish beseiged Mooltan with 28,000 men. Lord Gough arrived on November 21 and took command of the entire British force. Next day he advanced to attack the enemy at Ramnuggur, where both banks of the river were held by the Sikhs. By a most unfortunate piece of strategy the cavalry division, consisting of the 3rd Dragoons and the 5th, 8th. and 14th Light Horse, supported by Horse Artillery, were ordered forward under General Cureton to dislodge the enemy from the left bank of the river. This they accomplished with admirable gallantry, but not without suffering terrible loss, owing to the difficult nature of the ground. Colonel Havelock fell at the head of the 14th Light Dragoons ; General Cureton and Captain Fitzgerald were also killed. On December 2 Lord Gough crossed the Chenab, and the enemy, after exchanging a cannonade for several hours, retired towards the north-west.

Meantime, General Whish was carrying on the siege of Mooltan with an army of 32,000 men and 150 guns. It is impossible to speak too highly of the splendid defence made by the Sikhs under Moolraj. By December 29 the British siege guns were bombarding the city walls at eighty yards range. On the 3oth the principal magazine in the citadel blew up with a terrific explosion, and the town was in flames. Still the brave garrison fought on. The bombardment continued without intermission for fifty hours. On January 2, 1849, the town, or the wreck of what had once been a town, was taken by assault; but the citadel still held out.

From the 4th to the 18th it was incessantly bombarded, and mines were exploded at intervals under the walls, till at last, on the 21st, two wide breaches had been made, and a general assault was ordered for the following day. Moolraj anticipated this by unconditional surrender. His garrison, less than 4,000 men, marched into the British lines to lay down their arms ; the last man to leave the fort, in the heroic defence of which he had won undying glory, was Moolraj, dressed in gorgeous silks, splendidly armed, riding a superb Arab with a scarlet saddle-cloth.

After the fall of Mooltan General Whish joined forces with Lord Gough, who, as described above, had driven the enemy from their encampment at Ramnuggur on November 22. It was believed that the rebellion was broken, and that the Sikhs would not again meet our army in the field. But our generals had still to learn the extraordinary resolution and resources of this fine race. Chuttur Singh and his son Shere Singh still commanded nearly 40,000 men with sixty-two guns, and had captured Attock, a fort defended by Major Herbert. Gough advanced to attack the chiefs on January 13, 1849, in their position on the Upper Jhelum near the village of Chilianwalla, a name of melancholy associations in British annals. The Sikhs, indeed, withdrew, but they carried with them four British guns and five stand of colours. The British loss was terrible, amounting to twenty-six officers and 731 men killed, and sixty-six officers and 1,446 men wounded. Lord Gough was blamed for bad generalship in this action: he was recalled from his command, and Sir Charles Napier was appointed in his place. But fortune was kind to a brave soldier. Before the orders from home could reach him, Gough, having followed the enemy, retrieved the disaster of Chilianwalla by inflicting on Shere Singh a crushing defeat at Goojerat on February 21, pursuing him into the Khoree On March 6 Shere Singh surrendered unconditionally, and on the 29th a proclamation was by the Governor-General permanently annexing the Punjab to the British Empire.

Site Copyright Worldwide 2010. Text and poetry written by Sir Hubert Maxwell is not to be reproduced without express Permission.