Win the adventure of a lifetime!

UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Second Sikh War - 1848-1849

The Earl of Dalhousie was appointed to succeed Lord Hardinge, in the hope that ho would be able to secure peace to India after the recent bloody wars. His administration lasted from 1848 to 1856, and is chiefly famous for the vast additions made to the British Indian Empire, by the annexations of the Punjab, of Pegu, in Burma, of Oudh, of Tanjore, of Nagpur, of Satara, and of Jhansi. The policy of increasing the British Empire in India by annexing other States, though not originated by Lord Dalhousie, was carried to the greatest extent by him. The turbulence of the Sikhs soon made it clear to the new Governor-General that another Sikh war was inevitable; and he determined to prosecute it with vigour, and to take possession of the Punjab, so as to render it impossible for the Sikh soldiery again to disturb the peace of India. The speech which he is said to have made on coming to this conclusion is a famous one: "I have wished for peace; I have longed for it; I have striven for it. But if the enemies of India desire war, war they shall have; and, on my word, they shall have it with a vengeance!"

In 1848 there was a second Sikh war. Two English officers sent by the resident to take over charge of the fort at Multan were murdered, 19th April, 1848, their escort went over to the diwan, and the name of insurrection soon spread throughout the Punjab. Another of the assistants to the resident, Lieutenant Herbert Edwardes, then in the Derojat, west of the Indus, hearing of the attack on the two officers, hastened to their assistance. On hearing of their fate he collected a force with which to attack the Multan army while the insurrection was yet local. This he did with signal success. But Multan could not fall before such means as he possessed. The movement spread, the operations widened, and the Sikh and English forces were in the field again. A young Englishman named Lieutenant Edwardes (afterwards Sir Herbert Edwardes), who was stationed near Multan, immediately collected some troops and prepared to attack Multan; and soon the Commandcr-in-Chief of the British army, Lord Gough, was in the field with a large force. Multan was taken by storm.

The severe battle of Chilianwala on 13th January, 1849, left the Sikhs as persistent as after the two terrible days of Firozshahr in the previous campaign. Gough now Lord Gough met with a check at Chillianwalla, and Sir Charles Napier was sent out to succeed him as commander-in-chief. Before Napier arrived, Gough gained a decisive victory at Gujerat.

After the bloody and indecisive battle at Chillianwallah, Lord Gough succeeded in utterly defeating the Sikh army in the victory of Gujakat (21 February 1849), which is a small town in the Doab between the Chenab and the Jhelam. The Sikhs had been joined by a powerful body of Afghan cavalry, who had been sent to help them by Dost Muhammad, the old foe of the English. The battle of Gujarat was remarkable, because it was won almost entirely by the tremendous fire of the English artillery. For two days a terrific storm of cannon-balls and shells pounded the Sikh lines and cut down the brave Sikhs by thousands; till at last the whole Sikh army fled before the English troops. All that, remained were at last compelled to give themselves up at various places in the Punjab as prisoners to the English. Among those who surrendered was Sher Singh, the chief Sikh commander; and a brave English general named Gilbert, who was one of the best of the leaders under Lord Gough, chased Dost Muhammad's Afghan cavalry across the Indus and as far as the entrance to the Khaibar Pass.

It needed the crushing defeat of Gujrat, like Sobraon in 1846, to bring the war to a conclusion, and this time to give the Punjab to England. Lord Dalhousie determined to annex the Punjab to the British Indian Empire, now that the Sikhs were thoroughly defeated; for he saw that that brave people, as long as they were ill-governed, would be a continual source of trouble both to the Punjab and to Hindustan. The Maharaja Dhulip Singh signed a treaty in full Darbar, by which he gave up the sovereignty to the English, receiving iu return a large pension; and he has since lived a quiet and useful life in England as an English landowner. On this the whole of the Punjab was annexed on 2d April, 1849. Chiefly under the firm and kindly management of two brothers, Henry and John Lawrence, the Punjab was reduced to order and contentment, and the very Sikh soldiers who had been the most dangerous antagonists of the British Government were converted into its most unwavering supporters.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 05-08-2012 15:16:38 ZULU