The forgotten British reverse in India
by Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from WASHINGTON DC .
The list of military disasters which the British suffered in India is long, but most of these were rationalised by British military historians by highlighting situational factors which made British defeat certain and inevitable and was in many cases due to circumstances involving overwhelming numerical inferiority, excessive battle exhaustion, adverse weather and terrain etc. The Battle of Chillianwala fought on 13 January 1849 is, however, one odd exception and stands out as a battle in which the British failed to defeat their opponents despite having the advantages of weight of numbers, ideal weather and terrain, superior logistics etc. In Afghanistan the British disaster was explainable since the British force which was destroyed while retreating from Kabul to Jalalabad was a vastly over numbered exhausted and logistically very weak force of some 700 Europeans and 4,500 Native troops which was destroyed by a vastly superior Afghan force in adverse mountain terrain and very cold weather. At Bhurtpore the British failure to capture the mud fortress was ascribed by a British military historian to lack of adequate artillery.1 At Chillianwala a British Army which had a high European troop component large number Sepoy (regiments), sufficient artillery, two heavy cavalry brigades to ensure that no one could surprise the British army, excellent logistics, little campaign exhaustion having fought no major battle since assumption of hostilities, winter weather negating the possibility of heatstroke and cholera the worst killers of white soldiers in India,failed to defeat the Sikhs. Chillianwala thus stands out as a battle which changed Indian perceptions about British military effectiveness and had a direct link with the “Great Sepoy Rebellion” or “The Indian War of Independence” of 1857.
A succession of British military victories since 1757 barring few exceptions like Battle of Pollilore (September 10 1780), Siege of Bhurtpore (1804-1805), Monsoon’s Retreat (1804), Kabul Brigade’s Retreat (January 1842) which were dismissed as exceptions (to the general rule of “European Superiority) by virtue of exceptional numerical or other odds; it was assumed that no Native army of India, Nepal or Afghanistan could stand a determined bayonet charge by the Red Coats. A feeling of superiority was produced accompanied by the natural attitude of over confidence and rashness, and most British commanders felt that simply a direct march to the sound of guns and a simple frontal assault using “Cold Steel” was enough to disperse any native army however tough or well trained. The uses of manoeuvre or taking into account the “Independent Will of the Enemy” and the fact that a British army could ever be surprised was dismissed as impossible. Thus once the British suffered a rude reverse accompanied by heavy casualties despite having all the advantages; public opinion in Britain was shocked. The British Commander in Chief General Gough was replaced by Charles Napier. Subsequently when the Sikhs were defeated at Battle of Gujerat (21 February 1849) British military historians rationalised their defeat at Chillianwala by laying the blame on “Bad Terrain” “Lack of Artillery” “Cowardice of the Native Troops” etc. Chillianwala was forgotten and Gough again became a hero. The damage done at Chillianwala to the prestige of British arms was enormous and played a major role in changing Indian attitudes about the British, leading directly to the “Great Sepoy Rebellion” in which the British almost lost their Indian Empire and the English East India Company whose private Bengal Army had fought Chillianwala lost India to the British Crown!
By 1799 the Sikhs occupied Lahore the capital of Punjab under the leadership of a brilliant military commander Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) who united the loose knit Sikh confederacy of various local chiefs and conquered whole of Punjab and large parts of the Indo-Afghan frontier till the Khyber Pass, Kashmir and parts of Ladakh (Tibet) creating a strong and stable state by 1818 and consolidating and enlarging its frontiers to their maximum extent by 1833. It was Ranjit Singh who expelled the Afghans permanently out of Northwest frontier territory of India which the Afghans had occupied since 1739 by completing his conquest and annexation of Peshawar on 6 May 1834.3 From Indo-Pak history point of view this was a unique achievement since Peshawar area was re-occupied by a non-Muslim army for the first time since 1001 A.D4. Thus Ranjit’s re-occupation of Peshawar was reversal of 833 years of history of foreign (both ethnic as well as religious subjugation)! This disproves Indira Gandhi’s claim of having reversed 1000 years of history in 1971 once Pakistan lost the 1971 war. As a matter of fact Indira’s claim is ridiculous since the Low Caste Hindu Marathas occupied Delhi as early as 1758, more than 200 years before 1971!
Ranjit Singh was fully aware that survival lied in following European military methods and organisation introduced in India by the French and British since the Seven Years War. He induced many European soldiers of fortune who had reached India following the Napoleonic wars to join the Sikh Army. Thus two Europeans i.e Allard (French) and Ventura (Italian) who had served in Napoleon’s army till Waterloo were the pioneers among the total of some 36 Europeans and 3 Americans who joined Ranjit’s army between 1822 and 18395. The Europeans in the employment of Ranjit included some 12 Frenchmen, 7 Anglo Indians, 4 Italians, 3 Britishers, 3 Germans, 2 Greeks, 2 Spanish, 1 Russian, 1 Scotch and 1 Prussian.This varied composition meant that fresh diverse and varied influences from Europe incorporating the lessons of Napoleonic wars were directly transmitted to Ranjit’s army. Ranjit appreciated that confrontation with the English East India Company, which became Ranjit’s southern neighbour following the 2nd Maratha War (1803-5) would be costly and impractical. Therefore, Ranjit followed a policy of neutrality during the period 1809-1839.
From 1813 onwards Ranjit switched to a largely Punjabi Sikh regular army. In addition Ranjit also employed some Punjabi Muslims in the infantry and a much larger number of Punjabi Muslims in the artillery. As per one estimate there were 41 high ranking Muslim officers in the Khalsa Sikh army out of which two were generals, one i.e Ilahi Baksh from the artillery7. Ranjit’s policy in this regard was to ensure Sikh preponderance in the army, while ensuring that there were Hindu and Muslim officers and soldiers in the army to act as a counter weight and source of information against any possible Sikh led conspiracy against Ranjit’s rule. Ranjit’s brilliant albeit Machiavellian ethnic/religious diversity policy paid rich dividends since Ranjit survived at least two serious Sikh coups masterminded by the Sindhianwala family.
THE SECOND SIKH WAR 1848-49
The Sikh Army had not been destroyed in the First Sikh War.The Sikh soldier felt that he had not been defeated militarily but merely betrayed by his leaders who wanted the destruction of the Sikh Army and acted treacherously.
Dewan Mul Raj’s Rebellion at Multan
In April 1848 Diwan Mul Raj the Sikh Governor of the southern Punjab province of Multan who was a Hindu, rebelled against the British Regent and all the Sikh troops at Multan joined him. The British organised three columns to march towards Multan; one under General Sher Singh (3,382 cavalry and 909 infantry), one under Lieutenant Edwardes (4,033 cavalry and 7,718 infantry), the column of the neighbouring British vassal Muslim state of Bahawalpur under Lieutenant Lake (1,900 cavalry and 5,700 infantry). In addition a British Division under General Whish (8,089 men, 32 siege guns, 12 horse artillery guns) was also sent to co-operate with Sher Singh and assist him in capturing Multan.General Whish’s Division joined Sher Singh and the other three columns under joint command of General Cortlandt of the Sikh Army (an Anglo Indian soldier of watching Multan in August 1848 and formal siege operations were commenced against the fort city of Multan.The besiegers numbering nearly 32,000 against Mulraj holding Multan with 12,000 men 54 guns and 12 mortars11. On 14th September Sher Singh with all his Sikh troops went over to the rebel side. General Whish was forced to raise the siege and to withdraw few miles south of Multan and entrench himself awaiting reinforcements, waiting to be reinforced by another Division of the English East India Company’s Bombay Army marching from Sindh to reinforce Whish.
Mulraj did not trust Sher Singh and would not let him enter the fort! Both the leaders met outside the fort in a temple and Sher Singh agreed to move north and join his father Chattar Singh the Governor of Hazara province who had already rebelled on 20 August 184812. Mul Raj as a goodwill gesture decided to advance money to Sher Singh to pay his troops. Another possible reason why Sher Singh decided to move north was the fact that Multan was a 98 % Muslim majority area and the main Sikh population centres and the major Sikh troop concentrations were in areas north of Lahore.Thus on 9th October 1848 Sher Singh started marching northwards along the left bank of Chenab River.Initially he moved to within 25 miles of Lahore but finally decided to take a position north of river Chenab and wait till the major Sikh Army formations north of Lahore joined him,finally launching an advance on Lahore.Meanwhile Sardar Chattar Singh rebelled (he shot Canard an American who refused to join him)13 along with his Sikh troops in November 1848 and marched towards the strategic Attock Fort on the river Indus.The Sikh troops holding Attock fort and those at Peshawar also joined him thus the British lost almost the whole of area north of river Chenab in addition to the Multan fort.Thus a local rebellion was transformed into a Sikh national rising.The major advantage which the British possessed however was the fact that 90 % of the population which was Muslim was with the British.Chattar Singh also lured Dost Mohammad Khan the ruler of Afghanistan to join him promising him cession of all old Afghan territory taken by Ranjit Singh west of river Indus.Dost Mohammad was not sincere about helping his old enemies and his prime interest was regaining Peshawar.Therefore he helped the Sikhs in a very lukewarm manner sending a mere 5,000 troops14.
Assembly of Gough’s Army of the Punjab and invasion of Punjab
The government of the English East India company had meanwhile issued orders for the assembly of an army to invade Punjab and crush the Sikh rising under the leadership of the overall Commander in Chief India and also of the East India Company’s Bengal Army,General Sir Hugh Gough (C in C since 11 August 1843).It may be noted that General Gough a veteran of Napoleonic wars had already successfully commanded the Bengal Army in the First Sikh War.The Army of the Punjab started assembling at the frontier town of Ferozepur from mid October.The total strength of this army was about 16,000 troops.Gough wanted to start the advance as early as possible but was delayed due to procrastination on part of Lord Dalhousie the Governor General of India.15 Nevertheless Gough managed to send a cavalry brigade (H.M 3rd Dragoons, H.M 14th Light Dragoons, 8th Bengal Native Cavalry, 12th Bengal Irregular Cavalry) reinforced by one Royal Army and one Bengal Native Army infantry regiment under Brigadier General Cureton a very brave and capable cavalry officer to observe area north of Lahore along the line of river Chenab .This brigade crossed river Ravi on 2nd November and took an obseravtion position at Qila Deedar Singh (see map) ,over 50 miles Northwest of Lahore and 8 miles short of the Sikh advance position at Ramnagar; waiting to be reinforced by another infantry brigade. Soon another brigade ie Eckford’s brigade (two native infantry regiments) also joined Cureton.The aim of pushing Brigadier General Cureton’s Detatchment north of Ravi river was to act as a bait to entice Sher Singh to march south of Chenab river with his main body and to attack Cureton.
The situation in November 1848 was that Sher Singh had assembled a sizeable Sikh force north of Chenab river while a smaller force was guarding Ramnagar ford staying south of the river. Sher Singh’s father was assembling another Sikh force in Peshawar area, but very slowly and negotiating with the Afghans to reinforce the Sikhs.Gough wanted to destroy Sher Singh’s force before Chattar Singh could join him and make the Sikh position stronger. Chenab was however a complete water obstacle even in winters and not easy to ford except after careful reconnaissance. On 6th November Gough reached Ferozepur to take personal charge of the ongoing preparations for the invasion of Punjab.On hearing news about the fall of Peshawar Gough became deeply concerned about the necessity to advance immediately and defeat Sher Singh before he could be reinforced by Sikh troops concentrating at Peshawar.Thus on 8th November he ordered Brigadier Colin Campbell (later to be famous as Lord Clyde) with an infantry brigade at Lahore to march Northwest wards and reinforce Curetons force and to also assume the command of the whole force.Campbell marched from Lahore on 10th November with two native infantry regiments.On 13 November th Gough reached Lahore and on 15th November authorised Brigadier Campbell to attack the advance Sikh position at Ramnagar ;in case of a favourable opportunity.On 16th November Gough started his advance with the main body of the Army of the Punjab from Lahore towards Campbells position south of Ramnagar.On 17th November Gough learnt that another Sikh force of troops who had also rebelled at Bannu west of river Indus had also joined Sher Singh’s main body north of Chenab.On 18th November Gough received intelligence that Sher Singh had withdrawn bulk of the troops of his advance position at Ramnagar north of Chenab,leaving some outposts south of the river.On 21st November Gough joined Campbell with the main body at Campbells camp 8 miles south of Ramnagar.The whole of Gough’s army was now concentrated opposite Ramnagar except his two heavy artillery batteries.It may be noted that the highest authority in East India Company’s government in India was the Governor General;the 37 year old Lord Dalhousie.Dalhousie had issued clear orders to Gough that no operations north of river Chenab were to be undertaken till Multan was captured and the heavy siege train from Multan joined Gough16.
Sardar Sher Singh Attariwalla ambushes Gough at Ramnaggar
Dalhousie explicitly forbade Gough from any operation north of Chenab River. However this did not restrain him from attacking the reportedly small Sikh Detatchment at Ramnagar on the south bank of Chenab.Gough who was an impetuous Irishman was panting for action and decided to clear the Sikh outpost at Ramnagar on 22nd November.In reality unknown to the British the Sikh Detatchment south of Chenab was covered by two batteries of heavy guns on the north bank of the river and one battery deployed on an island dividing Chenab into two channels at Ramnagar.The British on the other hand could not effectively reply with counter bombardment since their two heavy batteries had still not joined them.(The heavy guns joined the main body on 30th November).In brief the British charged the Sikh infantry without adequate reconaissance,their cavalry got stuck into the sandy river bank and the net result of the action at Ramnagar on 22nd November was 12 officers and 84 men 52 of whom were killed including Brigadier General Cureton and Lieutenant Colonel Havelock commanding officer and the rest wounded.What had appeared at first sight a Sikh infantry Detatchment was covered by heavy artillery which was out of range of the British guns,covered in addition by Sikh cavalry which was hiding behind the sand bars.14th Light Dragoon saw a body of Sikh infantry at a distance in hasty retreat towards the north bank of Chenab. At this juncture Gough took the command of cavalry in his own hands and ordered 14th Light Dragoons and 5th Native light Cavalry to charge and intercept the Sikhs.In reality this was an ambush into which 14th light Dragoons had been unwittingly lured. Cureton watching from a distance had gallopped towards 14th light Dragoons in order to restrain them when he was struck by two matchlock balls, one going through the head .Cureton was an ex cavalry trooper who had served the entire Peninsular War in 14th Light Dragoons and risen to become an officer.Brigadier Colin Campbell who was present attributed this blunder to Gough’s interference in handling cavalry,not allowing Cureton to proceed according to his independent judgement17. The action at Ramnagar illustrated Sher Singh at his best and Gough at his worst. By a brilliant combination of artillery infantry and cavalry the Sikh imposed such a punishment at Ramnagar, that at least for the next seven days Gough lost his offensive spirit.
The Cannonade of Sadullapur
Following the costly success at Ramnagar Gough became cautious, at least for some time, and decided to wait for his heavy artillery batteries, which joined him on 30th November.Now he decided to turn the flank of the Sikhs by sending a force up stream and crossing the Chenab at a ford reported 8 miles north of Ramnagar.For this purpose Major General Thackwell who had replaced Cureton as cavalry division commander was tasked. Thackwell was given some 7000 men (1 British cavalry regiment, 4 Native cavalry regiments, 2 British infantry regiments and 5 native infantry regiments) supported by 32 guns (30 field and two heavy). The mission given to Thackwell was to “cross at any ford that he might choose “...with the specific instructions that he must do so while ensuring that “ unless he could be sure of bringing his troops full and fresh upon the enemy’s flank opposite Ramnagar by 1 P.M the latest on the 1st of December, he should take a second day to complete the movement”18. Due to confusion in initial battle procedures instead of achieving surprise Thackwells force reached the reported ford at Runneeke at 11 o clock in the morning instead of an hour before first light as planned.The force discovered that there was no ford and the river bed was even wider than that at Ramnagar which was a proper ford.Three hours were wasted looking for another ford and this led the outflanking force a further 12 miles up stream and 20 miles from Ramnagar where they finally found some boats and crossed Chenab on the night of 01/02 December 1848.The whole force completed the crossing by two o clock on the afternoon of 2nd December,and found no Sikhs in front They advanced ten miles along the northern bank towards Ramnagar and halted at a village called Daurawalla. Thackwell also sent Gough a detailed despatch about his operations north of Chenab. Meanwhile Sher Singh came to know about Thackwells force around mid day on 2nd December.The British army at this moment was divided and could have been destroyed by Sher Singh in detail, if Sher Singh could concentrate bulk of his force against Thackwell.However Sher Singh took half measures, although initially he had resolved to march with his whole force and crush Thackwell, on second thoughts he adopted a compromise plan, under which he left a small infantry force with few guns opposite Ramnagar to deceive Gough into thinking that the main Sikh body was still opposite him,and marched to attackThackwell with a smaller force around 8 or 9 thousand.In the meantime Thackwell received Gough’s orders on the night of 2nd December to advance towards Ramnagar and attack Sher Singh, while Gough attacked him frontally19. Acting on Gough’s orders Thackwell commenced his advance early on the morning of 3rd December.However as soon as few hours had passed Thackwell received another despatch to halt and wait to be reinforced by another infantry brigade which was crossing Chenab river via another ford which had been discovered six miles north of Ramnagar20. Thackwell halted and while he was waiting for Godby’s Brigade was fired upon by Sher Singhs artillery. The result was the artillery duel of Sadullapur in which both the armies exchanged artillery fire without coming into contact from 11 A.M to 4 P.M and after which Sher Singh withdrew northeastwards. The British losses did not exceed 73. The aim of Sher Singhs march towards Thackwell seems to have been to impose delay on him for few hours, while Sher Singh’s main body withdrew north towards Rasul into a very strong defensive position. In the meanwhile Gough was doing nothing on 3rd December except engaging what he thought were Sher Singh’s positions across Chenab with his artillery. Had Gough showed some audacity on 3rd December the British could have easily crossed the Chenab.Probably the rubbing received on 22nd November certainly had succeeded in at least momentarily dampening Gough’s offensive spirit, apart from Dalhousie’s instructions. Thus in words of J.W Fortescue the pro establishment historian of the British Army, “But the main fault lay with Gough himself, for he had been completely outwitted by Sher Singh”21. While Gough made no attempt to cross the Chenab at Ramnagar on 3rd December, all that the British artillery was pounding with full force was “half empty trenches and six guns” in words of Fortescue22. Godby’s brigade which was supposed to have joined Thackwell on the 3rd only partially joined him on the morning of 4th December. This delay occurred because this newly discovered ford was not a ford in reality and Goodbye had to use boats to cross it. After the battle of Saddulapur Gough blamed Thackwell for not attacking Sher Singh on 3rd December without waiting for Godby’s brigade and disowned the orders sent to Thackwell to stop on 3rd December 23!
Fortescue however excused Gough for all that had happened on 3rd December consoling the readers with the statement, “such miscarriages as these are the common places of war...his good faith cannot be called in question and as his staff kept no copies of the orders sent to Thackwell, Gough did not know what he had or had not bidden him to do” 24! But this is not all Fortescue went further and still extolled Gough’s conduct saying, “However, the passage of the Chenab had been won at a trifling cost, and that was after all, the main point”25. Fortescue even wants the readers to believe that there was a ford which Gough’s staff had discovered but, the whole situation changed because of an ecological change ie “it is certain that the ford had been carefully examined.......There is however,nothing more treacherous than a glacier fed river; and it is likely that the fords were never the same for twenty four hours together”26!
THE BATTLE OF CHILLIANWALA
Thackwell resumed his advance on 4th December with cavalry and saw no Sikhs in front. Gough also sent cavalry in the at 8 A.M on 4th December. Gough sent a long despatch to Dalhousie melodramatically describing the passage of Chenab; “ It has pleased Almighty God to vouschafe to the British arms the most successful issue to the extensive combinations rendered necessary for the purpose of effecting the passage of the Chenab, the defeat and dispersion of the Sikh force under the insurgent rajah Sher Singh.... 27” Gough wanted Dalhousie to fire a royal salute for the passage of Chenab but Dalhousie refused since he did not agree with Gough that the passage of Chenab was a great victory28. On 6th December Gough ordered Thackwell to form a standing camp at a place called Helan. On 18th December Gough crossed the Chenab across a bridge of boats laid at Ramnagar and joined Thackwell at Helan. Soon it became clear through reports that the main Sikh Army had not been dispersed but firmly entrenched at Rasul on the bank of river Jhelum. Meanwhile Gough since he had already exceeded his instructions did not attempt any major movement towards Sher Singh’s position at Rasul. The country between Helan and Rasul was a sandy waterless plain interspersed by patches of thick jungle.
Meanwhile a column of the Bombay Army had finally reinforced General Whish at Multan on 22nd December taking his force up to 15,000 regular troops apart from some 20,000 irregulars. Multan’s siege was resumed and the fort was assaulted beginning from 27th December.The city and suburbs were captured by 1st January and the Citadel captured by 22nd January.The British losses were 210 killed and 910 wounded 29.
Gough received news about arrival of Bombay column at Multan and the city’s capture on 6th January. On 7th January Dalhousie who was now at Lahore wrote to Gough that now that Multan had been captured, he would be rejoiced to hear of a similar blow being struck at the Sikhs upon the Jhelum30. Dalhousie’s despatches to Gough were however non-committal; thus he urged him to fight...”. If sure of a big success at small cost “.... “If he should deem himself strong enough,”31 27 Dalhousies vaguely worded despatch was enough for Gough to once again start the job begun at Ramnagar on 22nd November.Gough was under pressure to attack, but no explicit orders were given to him by Dalhousie. Finally the news of the fall of the strategic fortress of Attock on river Indus received on 10th January acted as a catalyst. Fall of Attock meant that all Sikh troops investing Attock and the Afghans could now easily reinforce Sher Singh at Rasul.Major Mackeson the political officer at Gough’s camp also urged Gough to attack following the news of fall of Attock.32
Gough’s advance to Chillianwalla
Finally on 11th Gough resolved to attack Sher Singh.His plan of attack was to advance to Dinga and from their march straight to Rasul and turn the Sikh left. Despite having ample cavalry British intelligence about the Sikh position was sketchy. As per Gough’s intelligence estimate the Sikh position extended from Rasul situated on a line of ridges parallel to river Jhelum to the vicinity of Mung a village 5 miles south west of Rasul and again very close to river Jhelum.Rasul was situated on a dominating height but immediately south of it was a plain intersected by dry channels and a belt of trees and thorny scrub. The Sikhs had entrenched the whole position but there was a wide gap between their left at Rasul and their centre and right, which extended till Mung.
Gough had calculated that after leaving troops to guard his baggage, he could muster 12,000 men and 66 guns to attack the Sikh position at Rasul. The information which he had about the Sikh position was vague i.e. that it extended from the village of Rasul on the left till Lakhni Wala 6 miles to the south and facing east in a concave line with the broad fast flowing Jhelum river to the rear. Fortescue who exaggerated the odds as a matter of habit placed the Sikh strength at 30,00033. Malleson who was dismissed by Fortescue as “pseudo historical” “inaccurate” “slovenly” and “untrustworthy”34 estimated the Sikh strength at Chillianwala to be in the neighbourhood of 23,00035. British historians do not agree on what was General Gough’s exact plan for 13th January. Gough and Innes who wrote their book primarily to defend Gough stated that it was Gough’s intention to march from Dinga to Chillianwala,drive in the Sikh outposts and launch the attack on the main Sikh position on 14th January after detailed reconnaissance was carried out on the 13th January.36 Fortescue states that on the evening of 12th January Gough summoned his generals and gave them orders for the fateful morrow37. However Fortescue does not elaborate at all i.e. what were those orders for the fateful morrow!
On 12th January Gough advanced 11 miles north to Dinga and encamped there. On 13th January he left two regiments of Native infantry ,two of Irregular cavalry and 2 guns to escort and protect his baggage train which was to follow him and began his advance at about 7 A.M towards Rasul.Goughs’ army covered a front of a mile and half while in marching order . All the brigades marched in column with one cavalry brigade on each flank and the European regiments leading the advance of each brigade. The heavy guns were in the centre and the other horse and field batteries in the gaps between the four infantry brigades. After marching for five miles he halted at a place from where a track branched to the village of Chillianwala which was westwards off the road from Dinga to Rasul.Gough’s intention was to carry out a reconnaissance. Engineers were sent forward with cavalry to check whether the road was practicable for the heavy guns or not. Once this was confirmed, the march was resumed. Soon however some Sikh Army deserters who were mostly Muslim arrived and informed the British through the political agent Major Mackeson that the Sikhs were occupying the villages of Mujianwala and Chillianwala on the left of the British in strength. It was probably at this juncture that Gough changed his earlier plan of advancing till Rasul and then taking the Sikh position by rolling up their left flank downwards. Gough ordered some heavy guns and infantry to dislodge the reported strong Sikh screen position at Chillianwala.This was successfully done since the Sikhs did not offered only token resistance instead of exploiting the dominating position of the mound over which Chillianwala was located and quickly withdrew into the thick jungle west of Chillianwala.Gough now personally rode to the village of Chillianwala while the British troops who had cleared Chillianwala were deployed 500 yards west of Chillianwala facing west ,to carry out personal reconnaissance and assess the situation himself.There was a thick jungle in front but Gough observed the Sikh positions parts of which were visible to understand that the Sikhs had swung their right and centre forward leaving their entrenchment and were now deployed some 4000 yards west of Chillianwala with the jungle in between masking their front and Chillianwala.In response to the discovery of the Sikh positions so close to Chilllianwala,Gough extended his brigades into deployed formation .By the time Gough completed his reconnaissance it was two o clock in the afternoon and Gough decided to attack the Sikh position on the next day.Because of the proximity of the Sikh Army it was now no longer possible to stick to the old plan of marching to Rasul since this would have exposed the left and rear of the British Army to a Sikh attack from a position which they could barely observe from Chillianwala.Gough now decided to bivouac on the open ground west of Chillianwala and to launch his main attack on 14th January.While the British were making preparations to bivouac some Sikh artillery guns opened fire on the British , from the positions hidden by the jungle.The artillery fire was inaccurate and did little damage.Gough however ordered the heavy guns to return fire on the Sikh positions which could not be located.Once this was done , some thirty Sikh guns from different points in the jungle in front opened fire.Gough suddenly realised that he was too close to the Sikh positions and Sher Singh had full intention of fighting on 13th January38.
Sikh Dispositions and Plan of Battle
It is necessary to examine the Sikh plan in order to understand the developments till 2 P.M on 13th January.The Sikh position at Rasul was not an ideal one in terms of cohesiveness or frontage. With 23,000 men they were occupying a concave shape position extending over six miles with large gaps in between there left and their centre and right. The entrenched Sikh position extended with the left resting on Rasul and the right on Lakhni wala. All the six miles of this concave position were not held by the Sikhs and there were gaps in between, the most marked one between the Sikh centre and left. The Bannu garrison was deployed at Lakhni wala, approxi