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NICHOLSON DIES. 195
was so well appreciated there that men who knew, admired, and loved him, augured for him a bright career of honour, should he ever have a field worthy of his master-mind.” In curbing and taming the fierce spirits of a wild frontier, he displayed powers capable of the highest emprise—powers which, should the opportunity offer, would place him scarcely second among Indian generals. The day did come ; and Trimmoo Ghat, Nujjufghur, and Delhi, showed that he had been rightly judged. His course—brief, brilliant, meteorlike—fulfilled all that had been hoped of him, and then closed in glory. From the first, little hope was entertained of him when once the wound was carefully examined; indeed, considering the course the ball had taken, the vital regions it had traversed, it was only wonderful he survived so long. He was, however, spared to know that all was well—Delhi occupied, the King a prisoner, the princes killed—and then he could say, with Wolfe at Quebec, “I die contented.” Nor had those days of suffering been unprofitable; his mind was active as ever; and though, from the nature of the wound, it was agony to him to speak, his pencilled notes passed about, and his wish—though his voice no longer—was
* The following anecdote, which the author heard Edwardes himself relate, will illustrate this :—In the beginning of 1857, Colonel Edwardes was asked by Lord Canning, at Calcutta, to state his real opinion of Colonel Nicholson's character as a public servant. After entering at some length into his high qualities, Colonel Edwardes wound up his account with these words—“If ever there is a desperate deed to be done in India, John Nicholson is the man to do it.” Before the year was over, the necessity arose—a desperate deed had to be done. John Nicholson did it—and fell in the act.
I96 NICHOLSON UNIVERSALLY LAMENTED.
ever listened to in council. So widespread and deep was the interest which centred in him—not in camp only, but throughout the Punjab–that with each day's bulletin of the progress of the troops was flashed up a report of his state. After lingering nine days, he sank on the 23d, at the early age of thirty-five years. The next day his remains were followed to their restingplace in the new cemetery, close to the spot where he formed up the columns for the assault on the 14th, by sorrowing hundreds; chiefest among those present, his long-tried friend and brother-in-arms, Neville Chamberlain; while all the Punjab felt the shock of grief,” and hearts bled at the whispered tidings, “Nicholson is gone.” His was “a name,” as Sir John Lawrence well said in his official report, “which can never be forgotten in the Punjab.”
* The following public acknowledgment of his worth will convey, though feebly, some idea of the public sorrow felt at his loss ; private grief is too sacred to be individualised:—
Extract Division Orders issued by Brigadier-General Cotton, commanding Peshawur Division:—
“DIVISION HEADQUARTERs, PESHAwu R, 24th Sept. 1857. “With heartfelt and unaffected sorrow, Brigadier-General Cotton announces to the troops under his command the death, at Delhi, on the evening of the 23d instant, of Brigadier-General John Nicholson. “Bold, resolute, and determined, this daring soldier and inestimable man fell mortally wounded when gallantly leading a column of attack at the assault of Delhi on the 14th inst. “England has lost one of her noblest sons, the army one of its brightest ornaments, and a large circle of acquaintance a friend warmhearted, generous, and true. “All will now bewail his irreparable loss.”
It is interesting to know that in the Gazette which contained the list of honours conferred by her Majesty on the heroes of Delhi, it was expressly mentioned that among the foremost there would have been the name John Nicholson, had he been spared to receive them.
GLIMPSES OF HIS EARLY LIFE. 197
“Anxiety and suspense,” wrote Colonel Edwardes, “about Delhi, reached its climax on the 14th September, the day fixed for the storm ; and when the telegraph at last announced that desperate feat of arms, and General Nicholson dangerously wounded, it did not sound like victory. And day by day, as gate after gate and quarter after quarter of the rebel city was mastered by that band of heroes, the question still was, Is Nicholson any better & On the 20th, Delhi was completely in our possession, and every English heart thanked God for it. There seemed a hope, too, that Nicholson might live. On the 23d that hope was extinguished; and with a grief unfeigned, and deep, and stern, and worthy of the man, the news was whispered, Nicholson is dead.” ”
Five-and-twenty years before, Dr Darling, the schoolmaster of Dungannon, had declared that John Nicholson, then a small boy, would one day make himself heard of in the world; and on the page of history the name of John Nicholson will ever be interwoven with the records of the fall of Delhi. Ten years after, the Dungannon schoolboy had grown into a stripling soldier, and was giving promise of a career of chivalry by deeds of prowess within the walls of Ghuznee. For the bitter tears he then wept, when forced to give up his sword to the overwhelming foe, he now received the tears of a sorrowing army.
* Edwardes's Official Report, published in the Punjab Mutiny Report, par. 168.
+ It is pleasant to record any act of individual heroism :—“ Nicholson, then quite a stripling, when the enemy entered Ghuznee, drove them thrice back beyond the walls, at the point of the bayonet, before he would listen to the order given him to make his company lay down their arms: he at length obeyed, and gave up his sword with bitter tears, and accompanied his comrades to an almost hopeless imprisonment.”—KAYE's Affyhanistan.
198 DELHI OCCUPIED.
A plain massive slab, on which the simple tale is told that he led the assault and fell in the moment of victory, worthily marks his grave.
Delhi was now wholly in our hands: the Palace, the post of honour, held by the gallant Rifles and heroic Goorkhas, under Colonel J. Jones, with the title of “Commandant of the Palace,” an honour well won and gracefully accorded by General Wilson;” the Jumma Musjid occupied by Coke's Rifles; other corps distributed over the various minor buildings; the Lahore and Cashmere Gates alone remained open, and even through them not a native entered without a pass; all the rest were closed.*
The services of the army were thus worthily acknowledged by Sir John Lawrence, who had himself formed, supplied, and finally pushed on the army to victory:—
“All honour to the noble army which, under command of Major-General Wilson, has effected the most inportant conquest, by which the widespread rebellion of the mutinous Bengal army has received a complete defeat in Upper India. The days of Clive and Lake are again revived among us. Neither the devastation
* See Rotton's Siege, p. 316. It proved, however, shortlived and nominal, for it was censured and ignored by the Supreme Government.
+ For General Wilson's official despatch of the assault, see Appendix P.
SERVICES OF THE ARMY ACKNOWLEDGED. 199
of that terrible scourge the cholera, nor the deadly stroke of an Indian summer's sun, which have so grievously thinned the ranks of our small army during the past three months, the harassing and almost incessant duties of the camp—the ever-recurring combats with a highly-trained and veteran enemy, who outnumbered us by thousands in men, and by hundreds in guns of all calibres—the stubborn and desperate resistance offered by the mutineers during and since the assault on the 14th instant—nothing has abated the ardour of our troops, European and native, nor quelled that indomitable courage and persevering energy which take no denial, and will brook nothing short of success. “It will be for a grateful Government to acknowledge as they deserve the services of Major-General Wilson and his army to the British Empire in India; but the Chief Commissioner cannot refrain from offering them the warm tribute of his heartfelt admiration. “Sir John Lawrence requests that a royal salute may be fired at all the principal stations in the Punjab in honour of the capture of Delhi.” On the Sunday after the complete occupation of the city, Divine service was held in the Dewan Khas ; the throne-room of the Moguls re-echoed the words of our sublime Liturgy in thanksgiving for a merciful deliverance and a final triumph; and from lips and hearts ascended the acknowledgment— “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be the praise /*