Services of the 28th
Regiment in Scinde during the Operations in 1842 and 1843
author unkown (manuscript owned by Capt. S. Rawson, 28th Foot, 1839-55)
About the latter
end of August 1842, the 28th Regiment, nearly 800 strong, arrived
and landed at Bomabay in high health and spirits from Port
Jackson and early in the following month - September, orders were
received for the immediate embarkation for service in Scinde.
The Regiment accordingly proceeded from Bombay to Kuratchee in the steamers Zenobia, Semeramis and Berenicie. Major-General Sir Charles Napier having about the same time been appointed to command of the Forces of Scinde and Beloochistan, embarked with the Flank Companies of the 28th Regiment in the Zenobia and proceeded with them to assume his command.
On this passage of
only 4 days between 60 and 70 men of the 28th Regiment died of
cholera. The Major-General shortly after his arrival at Kuratchee
proceeded up the Indus and fixed his headquarters at Suckhur. The
28th Regiment, on account of the cholera, were placed in
quarantine in a camp at Manora Point for a time and afterwards
were encamped at Kuratchee. The Regiment lost by cholera and
fever at these places 1 Lieutenant-Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Captain
and 3 Lieutenants, besides a large number of men, women, and
About the middle of February 1843, the war which had been anticipated broke out.
No intelligence of or from the Major General having been recieved for sometime by his forces at Kuratchee, and the Scindians in the vicinity of that place having exhibited hostile feelings towards the British troops by cutting off supplies, etc. The commanding officer on the spot without waiting for His Excellency's instructions, deemed it expedient to seize on and occupy the Fort and town of Kuratchee. The British flag was hoisted, the Killidar or Governor was made prisoner, and all public property was seized and thrown into the general siege fund. The news of the attack of the Ameers of Scinde upon Major Outram and the British troops at Hyderabad Residency, and also of the battle of Meeanee reached Kuratchee shortly afterwards by crossed (secret) communication. The whole country was in arms, supplies and communication were cut off, and the troops in camp were frequently on salt provisions.
The British position at Kuratchee was in a state of seige if such an expression may be used, and the 28th under a burning Scinde sun were busily at work in entrenching it. The soldiers were also much exposed to the climate, by night the camp being continually and necessarily surrounded by strong outlying piquets of the Regiment; for many weeks the troops were much harassed, all communication between Sir Charles Napier and the Kuratchee force having been cut off. Such was the importance of Kuratchee as a military post being the only seaport in Scinde, the only way by which communication could be held with the Indian Government, or by which supplies and succours could be obtained that the Commandant of the forces conceived it to be his duty to strengthen his post only, not choosing under these peculiar circumstances to risk its tenure by moving forth to meet the enemy who hovered around.
Military stores of grain were required at Hyderabad of which fortress Sir Charles Napier had possessed himself, and a large quantity of stores, grain and camels, under a Sepoy escort which were sent from Kuratchee towards Tatta en route for Hyderabad, fell into the hands of the enemy after a severe contest and within a few miles of the former place. So close were the channels of communication kept between Sir Charles Napier and his troops at Kuratchee, that the intelligence of His Excellency's second battle (Dubba) reached Kuratchee via Bombay.
After the battle of Dubba and defeat of the Bellooches which occurred on the 24th day of March 1843, Sir Charles Napier under the impression that the war was at an end, dispensed with the service of HM 22nd Regiment which had hitherto formed part of the force under His Excellency's command, and sent them to Kuratchee to be embarked for Bombay. The General was deceived in his expectation for towards the end of April, the Ameer Sheer Mahomed, the only Belloochee chief of note at large, who had fought and fled from the field of Dubba, seeing that the European force had been withdrawn from Hyderabad, reassembled a large army and threatened a second time to move upon that fortress. The captured treasure was there and the Belloochees calculated upon repossessing it. His Excellency felt that his position was becoming somewhat critical, and an order was sent in consequence, for the immediate march of the 28th Regiment, early in May the Regiment took the field and marched towards Hyderabad.
At Tatta, when on this march Sir Charles Napier's Quartermaster-General came into the 28th camp. He had been despatched by the General with the information that the enemy were in the field and that no time was to be lost for that he the General only awaited the arrival of the Regiment to recommence hostilities. The 28th marched into the fortress of Hyderabad about the middle of May having from the excessive heat of the weather lost on the march by sudden deaths 1 Lieutenant and many men. For nearly 3 weeks the Regiment remained in the fortress suffering greatly from the excessive heat, the pestilential climate, and the effects of the march; the losses of the Regiment were at this time immense. In that short space, the Adjutant in the full vigour of health was suddenly cut off and with him about 56 men, the deaths were sudden, and it may be well here to mention an extraordinary instance of it, in the Corporal of Pioneers, who had been constantly employed in grave digging. One evening the poor fellow dug a grave more than required, in which at daylight on the following morning he himself was buried.
Early in June the Ameer Sher Mahomed who had been informed of the sickly state of the European part of the force moved towards the fortress, and His Excellency resolved to march out and meet him. The Ameer approached with confidence. His Excellency took the field, with as many of the 28th Regiment as could be found capable of bearing arms left the fort.
About 230 men only were out of hospital and these were mostly unhealthy and in a weakly state. The army was concentrated at Imaluky Tundah a village about 16 miles to the north-east of Hyderabad, and on the morning of the 13th June, Sir Charles Napier's advance guard under Captain Jacob of the Indian Service came in contact with the enemy, and were engaged within a few miles and within hearing of the main body of the British force.
The army prepared to move, the 28th fell in, and the General addressed them. He told the men that he was happy he should so shortly be enabled to place them in front of their enemy, alluded to the high and long established character of the corps from which he had full confidence, he said that the young "Slashers" would do their duty. The column marched but it was soon apparent that a number of men who had come forth in their anxiety to march, exhausted by heat and repeated illness were unequal to the duty, and ere they had marched a mile or 2 they began to fall, the heat was indeed excessive, thermometer in tents 130.
In this disasterous affair the line of march was literally covered with soldiers in a state of exhaustion. Some died on the roadside with their acoutrements on, and in 3 days by apoplexy and fatigue the Regiment was deprived of 1 Lieutenant and 46 men. Although it was not now the fate of the 28th to come in actual contact with any other enemy than the climate, yet their losses it is shown were altogether on this service most severe.
The Bellooches under the Ameer Sheer Mahomed having as before stated fallen un with Captain Jacob's party, and it being about dawn of day could not be persuaded, but that they had encountered the whole British force and under that impression they deserted their chiefs and fled. The Ameer narrowly escaped with the loss of the whole of his artillery which were left on the field, thus the war ended and Scinde became a province of the Crown of England.
The 28th returned immediately to Hyderabad and with a battalion of Bombay Sepoys, garrisoned the fort, until the middle of October following, when the Regiment with the captured treasure were embarked on the 'Indus.' The booty was safely escorted through the Scinde territory to the mouth of the Indus, then transhipped and forwarded to Bombay.
The 28th then proceeded to Kuratchee by sea, on their arrival there the number of men on parade was 56 including officers. Thus within the short space of 13 or 14 months the corps was nearly expended on this service, and the few remaining were shortly afterwards sent to Bombay and Poona, for change of climate. The 28th Regiment left dead in Scinde the following officers:
Lieut. and Adjutant McGregor
2nd Lieut. Grant has since died of Scinde fever making a total of 10 officers dead. The following officers were compelled to proceed to Europe for the recovery of their health, having suffered most severely from Scinde fever:
Total 7 officers
gone to Europe, and every other officer present with the corps in
Scinde has suffered more or less severe from Scinde fever. Of the
Regiment died also in Scinde, the Sergt-Major, the assistant
Sergt-Major, the Orderly Room Clerk (Sergt), the Paymaster Clerk
(Sergt), the Armourer and School Master Sergeants, with about 25
Sergeants and 350 men, and nearly the whole of their wives and
children. Numbers have been invalided and sent home, and of those
who still remain at Head Quarters many are suffering and will
suffer still from the effects of the Scinde campain.
Poonah, July 25th 1845.