First War with Burmah - 1826.

England had been at peace for nearly nine years, when the aggressions of the Burmese on the territories of the East India Company induced the Government to send an expedition into the Irrawaddy, a deep river which runs past Ava, the capital of the country, for several hundred miles into the sea, with many important places on its banks. British troops, under the command of Sir Archibald Campbell, and a small squadron, under the command of Commodore Grant in the Liffey, sailed for Rangoon. The other ships were the Larne, Commander Frederick Marryat, the Slaney, of 20 guns, and Sophie, an 18-gun brig, four of the Company’s cruisers, and a number of small craft to serve as gunboats.

Rangoon having been bombarded by the squadron, the troops landed, and drove the enemy, after some severe fighting, from their stockades. The English flotilla was actively engaged in capturing cargo-boats, which, being cut-down, served well for landing the troops. Captain Marryat, the celebrated novelist, on all occasions especially distinguished himself, showing that he could fight as well as write. Sickness, however, attacked both the seamen and soldiers. In a short time 749 of the latter had died, and thousands were in the hospital; while Commodore Grant and a large number of the seamen had also succumbed to disease. Captain Marryat having been promoted into the Tees, happily for himself, left the expedition. Captain Chads now commanded the squadron, to which, at the recommendation of Captain Marryat, the Diana steam-vessel had been added. Though she was unarmed—for at that time no one thought that steamers could carry guns—she was of great service during the harassing warfare in towing vessels and boats. Still the fever increased to an alarming degree, though some of the invalids when removed to places near the sea, and to floating hospitals, which were established at the mouth of the Rangoon river, recovered.

Though generally successful, the troops were repulsed in an attack upon the pagoda of Keykloo, with a loss of 21 officers and men killed, and 74 wounded, while 28, who had been made prisoners, were found fastened to the trunks of trees on the roadside, mangled and mutilated in the most horrible manner. Sir Archibald Campbell having determined to attack Rangoon, a flotilla of gun-vessels and a mortar-boat were sent up under Lieutenant Keele, the command of the land force being confided to Lieutenant-Colonel Godwin. Lieutenant Keele and those under him behaved most gallantly, destroying thirty of the enemy’s war-boats and opening a heavy fire on the stockades, while the troops stormed and carried the fortress. The Burmese were next driven from Kemerdine, a fortified village above Rangoon. Their war-boats gave considerable trouble, some of them being of large size and carrying a long 9-pounder apiece, with a crew of 76 oarsmen, besides warriors. A squadron of boats, however, captured a considerable number, sank others, and put the rest to flight. The steamer Diana, on board which several carronades had been placed, with a party of small-arm men, did good service under the command of Lieutenant Kellet. The enemy, not aware of the rapidity of her movements, were overtaken, and upwards of forty of their boats were captured.

Early in 1825 Captain Alexander, of the 28-gun frigate Alligator, arrived out and took command; but he was shortly superseded by Sir James Brisbane—he, however, having to leave the station on account of ill-health, Captain Chads again took the command of the flotilla. The army advanced, and the little squadron pushed up the river; Donabew and Proom were taken, on each occasion the squadron acting an important part. Meaday was next captured, and before the close of the year the force reached Melloone, which also quickly fell. Still pressing forward, the army and squadron arrived at Yandaboo, forty-five miles only from Ava—the Burmese, whenever they were met, being completely defeated. For nearly a year the naval officers and their men were away from their ships, rowing and tracking their boats by day against a rapid stream, and at night protected only by awnings, and often hard-pressed for provisions. For upwards of two months they were entirely destitute of fresh meat. Still, all behaved admirably. The defeat of his army, and the rapid approach of the British, at length induced the King of Ava to sue for peace; and Sir Archibald allowing him only ten hours to decide, he agreed to enter upon a commercial treaty upon the principles of reciprocal advantage, to send a minister to reside at Calcutta, to cede certain provinces conquered by the British, and to pay a million of money as an indemnity to the British, a large portion being immediately handed over. This was brought down the Irrawaddy, a distance of 600 miles, and conveyed to Calcutta by Captain Chads. The Companionship of the Bath was bestowed upon the leaders of the expedition, and all the lieutenants and passed midshipmen were promoted—an acknowledgment of the admirable way in which they had performed their duties during the long and arduous service in which they had been engaged.