OCCUPATION OF THE CITY
A striking instance of the feeling which animated officers and men in the troublous times took place some time afterwards at Delhi. An officer of my regiment was on guard at the Ajmir Gate, and on one occasion sent to the Governor some men whom he had captured while they were in the act of escaping from the city. These men were released; but on a second occasion three men were taken, and the officer, deeming it useless to forward them for punishment to the usual authority, called out a file of his soldiers, placed the prisoners in the ditch outside the Ajmir Gate, shot them, and then, digging a hole, buried them at the place of execution.
For a long period after the capture of Delhi executions by hanging were of common occurrence in the city, and the hands of the old provost-sergeant were full. Disguised sepoys and inhabitants taken with arms in their possession had short shrift, and were at once consigned to the gallows, a batch of ten one day suffering death opposite the Kotwali.
In the beginning of October two more reputed sons of the old King were shot by sentence of court-martial. They had commanded regiments of the rebel army, and were foremost in the revolt, even joining in the massacre of our people. The 60th Rifles and some Goorkhas formed the firing party, and took, strange to say, such bad aim that the provost-sergeant had to finish the work by shooting each culprit with a pistol. Nothing could have been more ill-favoured and dirty than the wretched victims; but they met their fate in silence and with the most dogged composure.
September 28. - Accompanied by our Adjutant and some other officers, I rode out to Taliwarra and Kishenganj on September 28. These suburbs were a mass of ruins, but enough was left intact to show the immense strength of the enemy's position at the former place. Batteries had been erected at every available spot, strongly fortified and entrenched, and one in particular which had raked the right of our position was perfect in every detail, and was guarded by a ditch, or rather nallah, forty feet deep.
We passed through the large caravanserai, the scene of the conflict during the memorable sortie of July 9, and when in the course of our inspection in the enclosure a ludicrous event occurred. An officer who had been shot through the leg on that day, recognizing the place where he had received his wound, dismounted from his horse, and stood on the very spot. He was in the act of explaining events, and describing his sensations when shot, when suddenly he made a jump in the air, uttering a cry of pain, and commenced rubbing his legs, first one and then the other. We burst into laughter at the antics of our friend, who, we imagined, had been seized with a fit of madness quite at variance with his usual quiet demeanour, and jokingly asked him what was the matter. Still writhing with pain, and engaged in his involuntary saltatory exercise, he pointed to a swarm of wasps which, roused from their nest, on which he had been standing, covered his lower extremities, and had made their way inside his pantaloons, stinging him on both legs, and crawling up his body. The pain must have been intense, and fully accounted for his gymnastics and frantic efforts to crush the insects. It was some days before he recovered from the wounds he had received, far more painful - as he averred - than the enemy's bullet, I intimated at the time to my friend that the wasps probably were the ghosts of the sepoys who had been killed in the serai, their bodies, by the transmigration of souls, having taken the shape of these malignant insects in order to wreak vengeance on their destroyers. He, however, did not seem to relish my interpretation of this very singular event, and, in fact, was inclined to resent what he called my ill-timed jesting; but the story spread, and our poor friend became for some time afterwards the butt and laughing-stock of the regiment.
From Kishenganj we rode through the Sabzi Mandi Gardens, visiting our old pickets there and at the Crow's Nest, and then proceeded up the slope of the ridge to Hindoo Rao's house. This was still garrisoned by the Sirmoor battalion of Goorkhas, some of whom escorted us round the place, pointing out the different positions they had so gallantly defended. The house was knocked to pieces, the walls showing evidence of the enemy's fire, and revealing to us the truth of the saying in camp that these hardy little fellows, with the 60th Rifles, during more than three months, had been constantly exposed night and day to shot and shell, there not being a single part of their quarters where complete shelter could be found.
The Observatory, close to Hindoo Rao's house, had also felt the effect of the enemy's shot, while midway between the Observatory and the Flagstaff Tower, the Mosque - the only other building on the ridge - was also in ruins. Our batteries, nine in number, lay in a comparatively small compass, extending about three-quarters of a mile from the Crow's Nest in the right rear to Wilson's battery opposite the Observatory. The rest of the ridge was unprotected by guns in position, it being at so great a distance from the city and also free from the enemy's attacks; the only danger and annoyance arose from occasional shells, which reached the camp and exploded amongst the tents, from round-shot and from rocket fire.
Passing by the Flagstaff Tower, we rode through the old camp, now desolate and silent, visiting the graves of our poor fellows at the cemetery, and then, retracing our steps, entered Delhi by the Kashmir Gate, and returned to our quarters.