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Title: Sir Charles Napier
Author: Butler, Sir William Francis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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English Men of Action


[Illustration: Logo]

[Illustration: SIR CHARLES NAPIER.]




Macmillan and Co.
And New York

All rights reserved




   EARLY SERVICE--THE PENINSULA                        14


   CORUNNA                                             27


   MILITARY COLLEGE                                    46


   CEPHALONIA                                          62


   OUT OF HARNESS                                      75


   COMMAND OF THE NORTHERN DISTRICT                    86


   INDIA--THE WAR IN SCINDE                            98


   THE BATTLE OF MEANEE                               117




   THE ADMINISTRATION OF SCINDE                       152


   ENGLAND--1848 TO 1849                              175


   COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN INDIA                        188


   HOME--LAST ILLNESS--DEATH                          203



Ten miles west of Dublin, on the north bank of the Liffey, stands a
village of a single street, called Celbridge. In times so remote that
their record only survives in a name, some Christian hermit built here
himself a cell for house, church, and tomb; a human settlement took root
around the spot; deer-tracks widened into pathways; pathways broadened
into roads; and at last a bridge spanned the neighbouring stream. The
church and the bridge, two prominent land-marks on the road of
civilisation, jointly named the place, and Kildrohid or "the church by
the bridge" became henceforth a local habitation and a name, twelve
hundred years later to be anglicised into Celbridge. To this village of
Celbridge in the year 1785 came a family which had already made some
stir in the world, and was destined to make more.

Colonel the Hon. George Napier and his wife Lady Sarah Lennox were two
remarkable personages. The one a tall and majestic soldier, probably the
finest specimen of military manhood then in the service of King George
the Third; the other a lady of such beauty, wit, and grace that her
fascination had induced the same King George to offer her all his heart
and half his throne. Fate and politics marred this proposed romantic
royal union, and the lovely Lady Sarah, after a most unhappy first
marriage, became in 1777 the wife of Colonel George Napier, and in the
following dozen years the mother of a large family, in whose veins ran
the blood of a list of knights and kings and nobles sufficient to fill a
peerage all to itself; for on one side the pedigree went back to the
best of the old Scottish cavaliers--to Montrose, and the Napiers of
Merchiston, and the Scotts of Thirlestane; and on the other it touched
Bourbon, Stuart, and Medici, and half a dozen other famous sources. It
would have been strange if from such parents and with such stock the
nest which was built in Celbridge in 1785 did not send forth far-flying

The house in which the Napiers took up their residence in this year
stood a short distance from the western end of the village. It was a
solid, square building of blue-gray limestone, three-storied and
basemented, with many tall narrow windows in front and rear, and a hall
door that looked north and was approached by arched steps spanning a
wide stone area surrounding the basement; green level fields, with
fences upon which grew trees and large bushes, spread around the house
to north and west, and over the tops of oak and beeches to the south a
long line of blue hills lay upon the horizon. Looking south towards
these hills the eye saw first a terrace and garden, then a roadway
partly screened by trees, and beyond the road the grounds of Marley
Abbey sloping to the Liffey, holding within them still the flower-beds
and laurel hedges amid which Vanessa spent the last sorrow-clouded years
of her life. But to the boys up in the third-story nursery, looking out
in the winter evenings to snowy Kippure or purple Sleve-rhue, the loves
and wrongs of poor Vanessa mattered little. What did matter to them,
however--and mattered so much that through a thousand scenes of future
death and danger they never forgot it--was, that there stood a certain
old larch tree in the corner of the pleasure-ground where the peacocks
fluttered up to roost as the sun went down beyond the westmost Wicklow
hill-top, and that there was a thick clump of Portugal laurels and old
hollies where stares, or starlings as they call them in England, came in
flocks at nightfall, and sundry other trees and clumps in which
blackbirds with very yellow winter beaks flew in the dusk, sounding the
weirdest and wildest cries, and cocked their fan-spread tails when they
lighted on the sward where the holly and arbutus berries lay so thick.

When Colonel Napier settled at Celbridge he was still in his prime, a
man formed both in mind and body to conquer and direct in camp, court,
or council; and yet, for all that, a failure as the world counts its
prizes and blanks in the lottery of life. He had recently returned from
the American War, where he had served with distinction. He had filled
important offices abroad and at home, and by right of intellect and
connection might look forward almost with certainty to high military
command, but he had one fatal bar against success in the career of arms,
as that noble profession was practised in the reign of George the Third
and for a good many years after--he was in political opinion intensely
liberal and intensely outspoken. The phrase "political opinion" is
perhaps misleading. Colonel Napier's liberalism was neither a party cry
nor a prejudice. It sprang from a profound love of justice, an equally
fixed hatred of oppression, and a wide-reaching sympathy with human
suffering that knew no distinction of caste or creed. The selection of
Celbridge as the Napiers' family residence at this period was chiefly
decided by the proximity of the village to the homes of Lady Sarah's two
sisters--the Duchess of Leinster at Carton, and Lady Louisa Conolly at
Castletown--indeed only the length of the village street separated the
beautiful park of Castletown from the Napiers' home, and Castletown
woods and waters were as free to the children's boyish sports and
rambles as its saloons were open to them later on when the quick-running
years of boyhood carried them into larger life. Whatever was beautiful
and brilliant in Irish society--and there was much of both--then met in
the Castletown drawing-rooms. They were to outward seeming pleasant
years, those seventeen hundred and eighties and early nineties in
Ireland. The society that met at Castletown formed a brilliant circle of
orators, soldiers, wits, and statesmen, many of whose names still shine
brightly through the intervening century. Grattan, Curran, Flood,
Charlemont, the Ponsonbys, Parnell, the Matthews, and younger but not
less interesting spirits were in the group too; the ill-fated Lord
Edward Fitzgerald (first cousin to the Napier boys); young Robert
Stewart, still an advanced Liberal,--not yet seeing that his road to
fortune lay behind instead of before him; and there was another
frequent guest at Castletown--a raw-boned, youthful ensign, generally
disliked, much in debt to his Dublin tailor, but nevertheless regarded
by Colonel Napier, at least, as a young man of promise, who, if fate
gave him opportunity, would some day win fame as a soldier--one Ensign
Wellesley, or, as he then wrote his name, Arthur Wesley.

When the Napier coach drove into Celbridge with the newly-arriving
family in 1785, there was in it a very small boy, Charles by name, the
eldest son of the handsome colonel and his beautiful wife--a small,
delicate-looking child, who had been born at the Richmond residence in
Whitehall just three years earlier. Two other children younger than
Charles made up, with the due complement of nurses and boxes, an
imposing cavalcade, and for days after the arrival baggage and
books--these last not the least important items in the family
future--continued to trundle through the village.

Twelve years go by; 1797 has come. Long ago--what an age in childhood
seem these few flying years!--little Charles has made himself at home in
a circle ever widening around the Celbridge nest. He has a fishing-rod,
and the river east and west has been explored each year a longer
distance. He has a pony, and the mountains to the south have given up
their wonders to himself and his four-footed friend. And finally,
grandest step of all in the boy's ladder, he has a gun, and the
wood-pigeons of Castletown and the rabbits out in big fences to the west
know him as one more enemy added to the long list of their foes.

And how about the more generally recognised factors of
boy-training--school and schoolmaster? Well, in these matters we get a
curious picture of army-training in that good old time when George the
Third was King. At the age of twelve little Charlie Napier had been
nominated to a pair of colours in His Majesty's Thirty-Third Regiment of
Foot. War had broken out with France. Mr. Pitt was borrowing some fifty
millions every year, and commissions in Horse, Foot, and Dragoons, in
Hessian and Hanoverian Corps, in Scotch Fencibles and Irish Yeomanry and
English Militia, were plentiful as blackberries in the Celbridge fields.
But though Charles had on many occasions shown himself a little lad of
big heart and steady courage in sundry encounters with fish, flesh, and
fowl, he was still too young to fight a Frenchman; and besides, it was
even then a canon of war that before you are fit to kill an enemy in the
field you must be able to write a nice letter to him, and perchance to
talk to him in his own language, and to draw little lines and tracings
of the various emplacements and scarps and counter-scarps by which you
propose to knock his cities about his ears, and otherwise blow him and
his off the face of the earth. So, instead of proceeding with the Duke
of York's army to Flanders, Charles was sent to Mr. Bagnel's school in
Celbridge village. A very humble and unpretending scholastic institution
was Mr. Bagnel's academy,--not much further removed from the
hedge-school of the time than the single street of Celbridge was distant
from the green hedges around it; and of a very mixed description were
the numerous boys who gathered there to receive from Mr. Bagnel's mind,
and frequently also from his hand, the instruction mental and physical
which he deemed essential for their future guidance. The boys were
chiefly the sons of Dublin merchants or local better-class farmers, and
were, with the exception of the Napiers, all Roman Catholics. That
Charles and his brothers George and William should soon become the
leaders of the school, and the child-champions of its youthful
democracy, was not to be wondered at. They represented to the other boys
the three most taking and entrancing things of boy life--genius,
courage, and strength. All three boys were plucky as eagles, but Charles
was captain by reason of his superior intelligence; George was
lieutenant on account of reckless daring; William was ensign because of
immense strength; and all were beloved because they, the grandsons of a
duke, were ever ready to uphold with the weapons of boyhood the rights
and freedom of their Catholic comrades against the overbearing
usurpations and tyrannies of a large neighbouring seminary, where the
more favoured sons of Protestant ascendancy were being booked and

At ten o'clock every morning the Napier boys proceeded up the village to
school, and at three they came down the single street for home. Great
was the commotion when this hour of breaking-up arrived; it was the
event of the day for the villagers, and no wonder, for then a strange
sight was often to be seen. There were pigs in Celbridge in these days,
tall gaunt animals with wide flapping ears that hung over their eyes,
and long legs that could gallop over the ground; and it is said that,
mounted on the backs of those lean and agile hogs, the Napier boys were
wont to career homeward with scholars and pig-owners following in wild

"What a terrible training!" I think I hear some worthy parent or
pedagogue exclaim, reading this deplorable incident. And yet it is not
all so clear this matter of boy-training. Would not the guiding lights
of Eton and Harrow and Rugby stand aghast at such companionship, such a
scene as this hog-race down the village? Still, somehow or other, when I
walk round Trafalgar Square or down Waterloo Place, I seem to miss these
great centres of training in the statues of Nelson, Havelock, Franklin,
Clyde, Gordon, Lawrence, Napier; and I see beyond the bronze or the
marble the boy-hero at his village school--one at Foyle, another at
Taunton, a third at Celbridge, a fourth at St. Ives, a fifth at
Swanscombe--until I come to think it is not quite so certain that we
know all about the matter. So too, when my mind turns to the subject of
military teaching, and I compare the course of school-training Charles
and William Napier received at the hands of Mr. Bagnel with our modern
system of competitive cramming, I am forced to the conclusion that both
these brilliant soldiers would have been ignominiously "plucked" for
entrance to Sandhurst or Woolwich; nor does the outside and casual
training which these boys underwent show with less disadvantage beside
our modern system. How a professor of military history, for instance,
would have scorned the tuition in the practice of war conveyed to Ensign
Charles Napier by old Molly Dunne as she sat in her cottage porch of a
summer evening telling the listening boys about her battles and
sieges. She was the Celbridge carpenter's great-grandmother, and of
prodigious age. She could tell her listeners how she had seen the last
real lord of Celbridge ride forth to fight for his king, their own
great-great-great-granduncle, at the Boyne, just one hundred years
earlier, and how she had seen his body brought back to be laid in the
old graveyard of Kildrohid, close to their own gateway. That was a long
look back, but Molly's memory went further off still, for she could tell
of wilder times of war and havoc; of how as a little child she had heard
people speak of the red days at Drogheda and Wexford, when Cromwell
imagined that he had found a final method of dealing with the Irish
question. This wonderful old woman, who had seen more of actual war than
had many of the generals by whose military knowledge and experience Mr.
Pitt just at this moment fondly hoped he was going to stop the French
Revolution, was said to be about one hundred and thirty years of age.

But Charles Napier and his brothers had the benefit of one outside
teacher, the value of whose teaching to them it would not be easy to
exaggerate; out of doors and indoors, on the river and the mountain,
their father was their best school-master. From him Charles Napier
learned a thousand lessons of truth and justice, of honour in arms, of
simplicity in life, of steady purpose, of hatred for pomp and show and
empty-headed pride, of pity for the poor, of sympathy with the
oppressed, of fearless independence of character, which those who care
to follow us through these pages will find growing in profusion along
the pathway of his life, plants none of which ever withered from the
moment they were planted in these youthful days, but many of which were
only to blossom into full luxuriance in the autumn of existence. When
full fifty years have passed by we shall find the lessons sown along the
Liffey, and amid the Wicklow hills, bearing their rich harvest in
distant scenes by the shores of mighty Eastern rivers and under the
shadows of Himalayan mountains. It has been said that the house at
Celbridge held large store of books, and it may be that in the library a
copy of old Massinger was to be found, wherein, if the boys were not
allowed promiscuously to read, they had read to them that wonderful
picture of the real soldier which the dramatist drew so uselessly for
the Cavaliers of his time, so terribly useful for their Roundhead

          If e'er my son
     Follow the war, tell him it is a school
     Where all the principles tending to honour
     Are taught, if truly follow'd; but for such
     As repair thither as a place in which
     They do presume they may with license practise
     Their lusts and riots, they shall never merit
     The noble name of soldiers. To dare boldly
     In a fair cause, and for their country's safety
     To run upon the cannon's mouth undaunted;
     To obey their leaders, and shun mutinies;
     To bear with patience the winter's cold
     And summer's scorching heat, and not to faint,
     When plenty of provision fails, with hunger,
     Are the essential parts make up a soldier--
     Not swearing, dice, or drinking.

At last the time came for Charles to quit home and go out by himself
into the world. He had been an officer on that wonderful institution
called the Irish Establishment since he was twelve years old, and now he
must join the army; so, in the last year of the century, he takes his
first flight on the Limerick coach, and arriving in that old city is
installed as extra aide-de-camp to the general officer there commanding.
He remains at Limerick for a year, where the usual subaltern officer's
drill is duly passed through. He is very often in love; he rides,
shoots, breaks his leg jumping a ditch, and altogether feels quite sure
that he has thoroughly mastered the military art. Still among these
inevitable incidents of a young soldier's existence we get a glimpse of
the nature of the future man coming out clear and distinct. He and his
brother George are out shooting; a snipe gets up, Charles fires and the
bird drops, but a deep wide ditch intervenes, and in springing across
this obstacle the boy falls and breaks his leg. It is a very bad
fracture, and the bone is sticking out above the boot. His gun (a gift
from his father) has fallen one way, he is lying another. First he draws
himself near enough to recover the weapon, then he crawls on to where
the snipe is lying, and then when his brother George has come up and is
looking deadly pale at the protruding bone, the fallen sportsman cries
cheerily out, "Yes, George, I've broken my leg, but I've got the snipe."
They carry him home on a door, and for two months he is laid up with
this shattered leg; but at eighteen a broken heart or leg is soon set
right, and early in 1800 we find him impatient to be off to wider scenes
of soldiering. He has been run very low by this accident, and his
general--fearful for his aide-de-camp's life--has written to Colonel
Napier, advising leave of absence and rest for the boy. Charles hears of
this letter shortly after, and is highly indignant at his general's
action. "I am sure," he writes to his father, "you will never consent to
do anything of the sort" (to apply to the Commander-in-Chief for leave
of absence), "which you must think, and which you may be certain I
think, would be disgraceful and unbecoming the character of a British
soldier. The general would not have done such a thing for himself, and
could not have considered much when he proposed it for me." Just fifty
years later we shall see the war-worn old veteran taking leave of the
officers of India in words of advice and farewell couched in the same
lofty spirit of military duty which is expressed in this boy's letter.
And now the scene changes.

Early in 1801 Charles Napier mounts his little Irish cob and rides away
from Limerick to begin the career which was to be carried through such
stirring and varied scenes. He rode in a single day from Limerick to
Celbridge, more than one hundred miles, on the same horse. We know
nothing of that long day's ride, save the bare fact of its
accomplishment; but it requires no effort of imagination to picture this
ardent, impetuous boy pushing forward mile by mile, intent upon proving
by the distance he would cover that despite what generals might write or
doctors might say, he _was_ fit for any fatigue or duty; and as the
Irish hill-tops rose before him in fresh horizons we can fancy the
horseman's mind cast far ahead of the most remote distance, fixed upon
some scene of European or Egyptian battle, where the great deeds of war
then startling all men by their splendid novelty were being enacted
before a wondering world. For only a few months prior to the date of
this long ride a great battle had been fought at Marengo in Italy, and
the air was still ringing with its echoes; then had come the news of
Hohenlinden, that terrible midnight struggle in the snow of the Black
Forest. Never had the world witnessed such desperate valour; never had
such marches been made, such daring combinations conceived, such
colossal results achieved. A new world seemed to be opening before the
soldier; and France, victorious for a second time over the vast forces
of the European coalition, appeared to have given birth to conquerors
before whose genius all bygone glory grew pale and doubtful.

And already, amid the constellation of command which the seven years'
aggression of Europe against France had called forth from the great
Revolution, one name shone with surpassing lustre. Beyond the Alps, amid
scenes whose names seemed to concentrate and combine the traditions of
Roman dominion with the most desperate struggles of medieval history,
there had arisen a leader in the first flush of youthful manhood, before
whom courage had been unavailing, discipline had become a reed, numbers
had been brought to ruin, combination had been scattered, the strength
of fortress had been pulled down, until the great empire whose name had
been accepted as the symbol of military power in Europe, and whose
history went back through one thousand years of martial glory, lay
prostrate and vanquished at his feet.



Poor, proud, and panting for opportunity of action, Napier began his
military career at this wonderful epoch, only to find his aspirations
for fame doomed to disappointment. Marengo came to scatter the slowly
built combinations of Europe. The victor held out the olive branch to
his enemies; his offer of peace, which had been so insultingly refused
one year earlier, was now accepted, and the Treaty of Amiens put an end
to hostilities which had lasted for nearly ten years. All Charles
Napier's hopes of service were destroyed. For six years he was to wander
aimlessly about the south of England in that most soul-rusting of all
idlenesses--garrison life at home. "What can one do?" he wrote to his
mother upon hearing of the peace. "My plan is to wait for a few months
and then get into some foreign service. Sometimes my thought is to sell
my commission and purchase one in Germany or elsewhere; but then my
secret wish could not be fulfilled, which is to have high command with
British soldiers--rather let me command Esquimaux than be a subaltern of
Rifles forty years old." Meanwhile he set vigorously to work at his
books and studies. Already at Celbridge he had read every hero-book or
war-history he could lay his hands on; now he applies himself
incessantly to study. "I quit the mess," he writes in November, 1801,
"at five o'clock, and from that to ten o'clock gives me five hours more
reading. There is a billiard-table; but feeling a growing fondness for
it, and fearing to be drawn into play for money, I have not touched a
cue lately." Yet with all this longing for fame, the heart of the boy is
full of his home memories. "Nobody but myself," he writes to his sister,
"had ever such a longing for home. I shall go mad if you don't come to
England or I go to Ireland; my heart jumps when thinking of you all
merry in the old way. This wishing for home makes me gad about in a wild
way; for melancholy seizes me when alone in a cold barrack-room, and I
cannot read with thoughts busy in Kildare Street. I should like to go to
London and stay with Emily [another sister], but I am too poor. I have
no coloured clothes, and they are expensive to buy. My horse also is
costly and must be sold; very sorry, for he is the dearest little wicked
black devil you ever saw, and so pretty." But though this poor hard-up
subaltern cannot afford to purchase plain clothes, and has to sell his
dearly prized horse, he can find money to do a kind act to a friend. He
is writing to his mother, that ever-ready listener to all his troubles
and his joys.

     _January 1st, 1801._--Happy New Year and many of them to my dearest
     mother. Now to ask a favour _not_ to be told to dad unless you
     think there will be no inconvenience to him. Cameron [a brother
     officer] has been in a very disagreeable situation for some time
     about family affairs. Several things have happened to put him to
     enormous expense, and he intends borrowing money from the Jews,
     which must do him much mischief in the end, though he will have a
     very good property when of age. Now if my father has not drawn the
     £100 of forage money belonging to me which Armitt has had these
     eight months, to repay the money you advanced, can he spare it for
     Cameron? You know the Comptroller [his father] as well as I do, and
     if you showed him the letter at once he would do the thing to
     oblige me, when perhaps it was troublesome. Cameron has not the
     least idea of this matter.

A very beautiful letter for all concerned--father, mother, son, and
friend--and worth many long pages of description. Then he falls in love,
is very miserable, goes to London, sees several of his rich relations,
finds out he cannot afford fine life, and comes back again to his books
and his dreams. The regiment is now at Shorncliffe. The colonel, a type
of warrior at that time and for years later peculiar to our service,
lived much at Carlton House and seldom saw his soldiers, who, groaning
under a well-nigh intolerable discipline, were left to the mercy of the
second in command. The picture we get of the result is a curious one.
"_Shorncliffe, December, 1802._--We are going on here as badly as need
be. Two or three men desert every night, and not recruits either. The
hospital is full of rheumatic patients and men with colds and coughs,
caught from standing long on damp ground and being kept in mizzling
rains for hours without moving."

Enough to damp a less ardent spirit must have been this barrack-room
warfare, so delightful to so many excellent persons who imagine that a
uniform coat makes a soldier. At last a slight change for the better
came to Napier. A relation, General Fox, was made Commander-in-Chief in
Ireland, and to Dublin went Charles as aide-de-camp. Through this move
we get an inventory of his kit, which is suggestive of many things. He
is writing to his mother: "You talk of magazines of clothes," he says;
"why, I have no clothes but those on my back. I have indeed too many
books--above thirty volumes; but books and clothes all go into two
trunks." How the modern staff-man would shudder at the list of uniform
which follows. "Nothing of mine, except linen, will do for an
aide-de-camp. My pantaloons are green, and I have only one pair; my
jacket, twice turned; a green waistcoat, useless; one pair of boots,
without soles or heels; a green feather; and a helmet not worth
sixpence." A meagre outfit, certainly, to cover the little fever-worn
frame; for the mizzling rains and the damp ground and the wretched
inaction already spoken of have brought on sickness, and he is now
thinner and paler than ever. The service on the staff in Ireland was
short. The Commander-in-Chief had that sense of humanity without which a
soldier is only a butcher, and, like Moore and Abercromby, he quarrelled
with the Irish Executive of the day, whose idea of government was the
scaffold and the triangles. It was the period following the wild revolt
of Emmett. The hangman was busy at his work. "We passed the gibbet in
Thomas Street," wrote the Commander-in-Chief's wife in her diary, "which
is now fixed there with a rope suspended, and two sentries to guard it,
for so many of the rebels are now executed it is in daily use. What a
horrible state for a country to be in!" This was in the year 1803, and
in 1804 Charles Napier is back in England again. A great sorrow has
fallen upon him. His father has just died. "Sarah, take my watch, I have
done with time," Colonel Napier said to the beautiful woman who had
loved him so well, handing his watch to her as she stood beside his
death-bed. Yet Time had not done with him, and no man who reads of
George Napier's sons can ever forget the father to whom they owed so
much of their glory.

The short peace is over. War with France has been declared. Pitt is
again in Downing Street, busy at fresh coalitions, borrowing his half
hundred millions a year and scattering them broadcast over Europe,
chafing and raging when he looks at the Horse Guards close by, and
longing to be able to infuse something of his own spirit into that
establishment, yet all the while obliged to put a good face on it and
pretend that he thinks the King's generals are as good as any in Europe.
When he gets back to his house at Putney he half forgets his worries,
and can even laugh at the feeble tools he has to work with. Here is a
little glimpse given us by William Napier in this year, 1804, into
Pitt's personal experience of some of the commanding officers who at
this time were holding the south coast of England in hourly anticipation
of a French descent from Boulogne, where Bonaparte and his Grand Army
were encamped almost within sight of the Kentish shore. Pitt has come
home to Putney, as usual very fagged and tired after the day's work in
Downing Street. He drinks half a dozen glasses of port quickly one after
the other, his strength and spirits revive with the stimulant, and then
he relates the exciting events of the day. A Cabinet Council is going
on. At any moment news may come that the enemy is in Kent or Sussex.
Anxiety is strained to fever pitch. Suddenly a dragoon is heard
thundering up the narrow street; it is a despatch from the south. The
man has ridden in hot haste. The packet is addressed to the Prime
Minister. Amid breathless expectation Pitt opens the despatch. A
night-cap tumbles out! Is it some stupid hoax? Not at all. One of the
ministers has been spending a day or two at the military headquarters on
the south coast; he has forgotten his night-cap, and the general, with a
keen eye to the importance of ministerial interest, has sent a mounted
express bearing the lost head-gear to its owner! Another evening the
Prime Minister tells them that he had that day received a despatch
announcing the landing of French troops from two ships at three
different parts of the coast! As may be supposed, from these and other
instances of military sagacity, the Napier estimate of our generals was
at this period not a high one. "It is d----d easy to be a general," we
find William writing in 1807; and three years earlier Charles tells us
that "most of our generals are more obliged to the Duke of York than to
the Deity for their military talents." But perhaps the most absurd
instance of the state of military command in England at that time is to
be found in a letter written by a general officer very high in command
to a notorious lady of the period,[1] in which, describing his
inspection of the army cantoned between Dover and Hastings, he tells his
correspondent that "from Folkestone he had had a good view of the
enemy's works at Boulogne"--an instance of far-sighted reconnaissance
not easily to be paralleled in the annals of war. It is really difficult
to read with patience in the diaries and letters of the subordinate
officers the state of military mismanagement that existed at this time.
We have heard a good deal in recent years of the evil done by letting
the light of public opinion into military administration; but if men
care to know what happened to our army when the Press was gagged, when
authority strutted its way from blunder to blunder unchecked by the fear
of public censure, they should study the military history of the early
years of the century from the rupture of the Peace of Amiens to the
campaign of Corunna. Here is a little glimpse of the interior economy of
a regiment quartered in the healthiest part of England in the year 1807.
Charles Napier is now in the Fiftieth Regiment, quartered at Ashford in
Kent. "Our men," he writes, "have got the ophthalmia very badly, and are
dying fast also from inflammation of the lungs caused by the coldness of
the weather and bad barracks; in some cases typhus supervenes, but is
not contagious. There is no raging fever, cold alone is the cause, yet
the men die three or four a day. No officer suffers; they are warmer."
This was in the month of March. But two months later, in May, the story
is not better. "The soldiers have got pneumonia at Hythe," he writes,
"and are dying as fast as we folks at Ashford. Only think of a surgeon
taking in one day one hundred and sixty ounces of blood, and the man is
recovering! They say bleeding to death is the best way of recovering
them!" And all this time a very savage and inhuman discipline was going
on. Nine hundred lashes was a common punishment for a trifling offence.
Both William Napier and Charles Napier have left us many terrible
pictures of "the ferocity of a discipline which was a disgrace to
civilisation." Writing of the campaign of 1793-94 in Flanders Sir
Robert Wilson is still more emphatic. It was a common sight, he tells
us, to see a court-martial sitting in the morning the members of which
were not yet sober after the debauch of the previous night, but still
sentencing unfortunate private soldiers to nine hundred lashes for the
crime of drunkenness, the punishment being inflicted summarily in
presence of the still inebriated dispensers of justice!

In the autumn of 1805 the most pressing danger of French invasion passed
away. Pitt had raised another vast coalition against France. The
Austrians and the Russians were again moving towards the Rhine. Then
from the cliffs of Boulogne the great captain, now Emperor, turned off
to begin that famous march across Europe which in sixty consecutive days
carried him to Vienna, taking by the way sixty thousand prisoners, two
hundred cannon, ninety standards, great stores of the material of war,
and doing this prodigious damage to his enemy with trifling loss to
himself, and as a prelude only to the vaster victory he had yet to gain
over his combined antagonists on the field of Austerlitz. Still the same
dreary round of garrison routine life went on in England. From his
monotonous billet in Bognor, Hythe, or Shorncliffe, Napier watched with
anxious and yearning eye the great deeds of war which were being enacted
at Jena, Auerstadt, and Eylau. It is evident from his journal that at
this time he had learned to read with accuracy between the lines of the
Government despatches from the seat of war, and the "crushing defeats of
Bonaparte" by the Prussian or Russian armies, which so frequently
appeared in the _London Gazette_, were read by him with considerable
reservation. On February 6th, 1807, we find him discounting the "victory
at Pultusk" with these words: "Bonaparte's defeat at Pultusk is
dwindling to a kind of drawn battle, which is probably drawing and
quartering for the poor Russians."

After the victory of Friedland in June 1807, Napoleon stood at the very
summit of his glory. The armies of Austria, Prussia, and Russia had been
vanquished in three colossal combats. This Corsican captain had utterly
upset all existing theories, contradicted all previous facts, refuted
all accepted certainties. He had made a winter campaign in the northern
provinces of Prussian and Russian Poland, seven hundred leagues from
Paris, and had vanquished his combined enemies at their own doors. It
seemed as though destiny had determined to erase for ever from Europe
the feudal tradition and the hereditary principle, and to write across
the Continent the names of one man and one nation--Napoleon and France.
From the raft at Tilsit Bonaparte went back to France to begin these
great legislative, industrial, and commercial works which still remain
prouder memorials of his greatness than even his most brilliant
victories. It was in the midst of these peaceful but ceaseless labours
that the little cloud arose beyond the Pyrenean frontier of France which
was destined to exert so deep an influence upon his fortunes. Although
there existed many and powerful reasons to justify the intervention of
France in the affairs of Spain in 1808, it is certain that the course
followed by Napoleon on this occasion was neither in keeping with his
true interests nor with the policy which had hitherto guided his
actions. The state of Spain was notoriously wretched: the treachery of
the king and his minister towards Napoleon had been clearly established
during the critical period preceding the battle of Jena; but
nevertheless, admitting all these facts as politically justifying the
French invasion of the Peninsula, there were still stronger and better
reasons in favour of non-intervention. Spain was the land of
contradictions; the country was the best in Europe for irregular
warfare, and the worst for the operations of regular armies. Long before
this time it had been well defined as a land where a small army might be
defeated, and where a large one would be sure to starve. But beyond all
these reasons for non-intervention was the great fact that in invading
Spain Napoleon was departing from the rule which hitherto had regulated
his action. He was the first to draw the sword. Early in the year 1808
the people of the Peninsula rose in arms against the French. On the
field of Baylen a French division was overpowered. The effect of the
defeat was electrical; the whole nation was in revolt. Joseph Bonaparte
quitted Madrid, and the French withdrew behind the Ebro. The moment was
deemed auspicious by the British Government for trying once more the
fortunes of a continental war, and in the middle of the year a large
English army was despatched to the Peninsula. In the second division of
that army Charles Napier sailed for Lisbon to begin his long-wished-for
life of active service; he was then twenty-seven years of age. When this
second division reached its destination the first phase of the war was
over. Vimeira had been fought, the Convention of Cintra signed, and the
three generals, Wellesley, Burrard, and Dalrymple, had gone home to
appear before a court of inquiry to answer for the abortive result of
the campaign. By this strange incident Sir John Moore became
Commander-in-Chief of the English forces in Spain, in spite of the
elaborate manoeuvres of those members of the British Cabinet who had so
laboriously planned to keep him out of that position, and in the autumn
of the year the march from Lisbon, which was to end at Corunna, began.

In this long and eventful march the three brothers Napier, Charles,
George, and William, all young soldiers thirsting for military
distinction, came together for the first time since they had quitted the
Eagle's Nest at Celbridge. We must glance for a moment at the field of
combat which was now opening before these young soldiers. In the month
of October, 1808, when Moore began his march from Lisbon, the Spanish
armies, some seven in number, formed a great curved line of which the
Somo Sierra between Madrid and the Pyrenees was the centre, while the
flanks touched the Mediterranean on one side and the Bay of Biscay on
the other. Within this curve, with its back to the Pyrenees and its face
to the Ebro, lay the French army. Napoleon was still engaged far away in
France with his harbours, canals, roads, and codes of law; but his
soldiers were already moving from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, and a storm
little dreamt of by either the English or the Spaniards was about to
burst from the defiles of these snow-capped mountains. The objective of
Sir John Moore's march was the north of Spain. So vague was the
knowledge possessed by the British Government of the actual condition of
affairs in the Peninsula and of the power of the French Emperor that
the wildest anticipations of speedy success were indulged in by the
English Government at this time, and it was confidently expected that
Moore's junction with the Spanish armies would be the prelude to the
passage of the Pyrenees by the combined forces and the conquest of
France. We have already indicated the position of these Spanish armies
in this month of October, 1808. At the close of the month Moore was well
on his march into Spain. Napoleon was still in Paris; but all was now
ready for the swoop. Early in November he passed the Pyrenees, struck
right and left with resistless force upon the Spanish armies on his
flanks--first annihilating Blake and Romana at Gamoual and Espinosa,
then destroying Palafox and Castanos at Tudela; and finally, breaking
with his cavalry the Spanish centre, he forced the gorges of the Somo
Sierra, and appeared before the gates of Madrid before the English army
had time to concentrate at Salamanca. Never was victory so complete. To
fall back upon Lisbon was now the duty and the desire of Sir John Moore,
but he was not permitted to follow this course which was so clearly the
right one. Yielding to the importunities of Mr. Frere, the English
minister to the Junta, Moore abandoned his communications with Lisbon,
and directed his march to the north with the intention of attacking the
right of the French army now in Leon. It was Christmas when Napoleon
heard in Madrid of this unexpected movement of the English army almost
across his front. Divining at once the object of the English general, he
quitted Madrid, crossed with his guard and a chosen corps the
snow-choked passes of the Guadarrama, and, descending into Leon, was in
the rear of the English army before Moore had even heard of the
movement. It was no wonder that Napoleon should have been almost the
bearer of the tidings of his own march; for in ten days, in the depth of
winter and in a season of terrific snow and storm, he had marched two
hundred miles, through some of the worst mountain roads in Spain. The
bird that would forestall the eagle in his flight must be quick of wing.
Then began the race from Sahagun, first to Benevente and then to the sea
at Corunna. No space now to dwell upon that terrible march--more
terrible in its loss of discipline and failure of the subordinate
officers to hold their men in command than in stress of fatigue or
severity of weather. What would have been its fate if Napoleon had
continued to direct the pursuit can scarcely admit of sober doubt; but
other and more pressing needs than the pursuit of the English army had
called him away to distant and vaster fields of war.


[1] Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke.



When Sir John Moore, on January 10th, 1809, reached the summit of the
last hill that overlooked the city and harbour of Corunna, he beheld a
roadstead destitute of shipping. "I have often heard it said that I was
unlucky," he remarked to his aide-de-camp, George Napier, as they
climbed the land side of this eminence; "if the ships are not in the
harbour, I shall believe in my evil fortune." There were no ships in
sight, and the heart of the gallant soldier must have known a pang such
as can come to few men in life. Yet fate, though seemingly so cruel at
this moment, was, as she often is, kind and merciful even when striking
hardest. Had the winds blown that would have permitted the fleet to move
from Vigo to Corunna, the whole English army would have embarked on
January 11th and 12th before Soult had concentrated his pursuing
columns; there would have been no battle of Corunna, and the memory of
Moore would not have been a deathless pride to his countrymen. When the
ships hove in sight on the evening of the 14th the French divisions were
lining the heights in front of the British position; and on the morning
of January 16th the British army, now reduced to fifteen thousand men,
drew up in line of battle on the crest of the sloping ridge which
covered Corunna to the south. The sick and wounded had been already
embarked, the magazines blown up, the cavalry and artillery horses
killed, and nothing remained but to strike with the infantry a last blow
for honour. Three weeks earlier, when the first retrograde movement from
Sahagun to Benevente had become imperative, Moore issued an order to his
army which contained words of very significant import. The disorder of
the troops had already commenced, and the officers, some of them of high
rank but completely ignorant of the real state of affairs, had begun
those murmurs and criticisms to which more than to any other cause the
disasters of the retreat were to be traced. After telling his soldiers
that they must obey and not expect him to tell them the reason of the
orders he gave them, the General went on: "When it is proper to fight a
battle he will do it, and he will choose the time and place he thinks
most fit; in the meantime, he begs the officers and soldiers of the army
to attend diligently, to discharge their parts, and to leave to him and
to the general officers the decision of measures which belong to them
alone." Now the time and place had come. Nothing but Moore's knowledge
of the situation had saved his army from falling at Benevente into the
grasp of the giant who had seemingly annihilated time, space, and
mountains in order to crush him; but matters were now different.
Napoleon was already in Paris, and not more than twenty thousand tired
Frenchmen stood over yonder on the parallel heights beyond Elvina, with
scant supply of food and ammunition; while he was here at Corunna, with
well-stocked magazines, his soldiers recruited by a three days' rest,
new muskets in their hands replacing the battered and broken weapons of
the retreat, and the _morale_ and discipline of his army restored by the
magic touch of battle.

The forenoon of the 16th passed without any hostile movement. Both
armies faced each other on the opposing ridges--so near, indeed, that
the unassisted eye could trace the slightest stir on either side across
the intervening valley. Such things are not possible now. The zone of
fight has been pushed back by modern weapons to distance that has taken
from war all the pomp and pageantry that used to attend rival armies
drawn up for battle. The narrow valley that lay between the armies was
dotted with villages set amid vineyards. Three of these villages were
held by the English pickets, and the right village of the three, Elvina,
marked the front of that part of the British line where it curved back
towards Corunna, forming a kind of salient to the more extended French
line of battle which overlapped our right flank. At this critical point
in the English position stood the brigade to which Napier's regiment,
the Fiftieth, belonged, the Fourth and the Forty-Second being the other
battalions completing this brigade. Opposite, on the French side,
Mermet's division was drawn up; but more formidable still were the
muzzles of eleven guns--eight and twelve-pounders--which from a
commanding height, and only six hundred yards from the village of
Elvina, threatened to obliquely rake the English line.

As the morning wore on without hostile movement on the part of the
French, Moore, believing that his enemy did not intend to accept the
battle he had offered since the preceding day, made preparations to
embark his army during the coming night. His reserve, being nearest the
roadstead, was to leave the shore as soon as dusk set in, and one by one
the brigades opposite the French were to fall back under cover of
darkness to the town, and there enter the boats which were to carry them
to the ships. These arrangements having been made, the General mounted
his charger in Corunna about one o'clock P.M. to visit his army and give
the necessary directions for the movement to the shore. He moved slowly
out with a heavy heart. Fate seemed steadily set against him. The enemy
in front would not attack, and beyond the sea--there, where these
vessels were so soon to carry him and his army--he knew but too well
that there was another enemy waiting to write him down and vote him
down, and to heap sneer and censure upon his actions. All at once there
came the sound of a heavy cannon. Another and another shot rolled round
the echoing hills. The fine face flushed with the light of hope, spurs
were driven deep into the charger's flanks, and, galloping at full speed
along the rocky causeway, Moore was soon upon the field--the battle of
Corunna had begun.

The right wing of the English army, standing in line on the ridge above
the village of Elvina, was exposed to the full force of the eleven-gun
battery, whose cannonade had thus opened the battle. Napier's regiment,
the Fiftieth, stood just over Elvina, his pickets occupying that
village. As each shot gave the enemy a better distance for the
succeeding ones, the range was soon found, and the round shot, falling
with accuracy upon the line, tore gaps through it and ploughed the
surface of the surrounding ground. For a time the men stood silent and
motionless under this trying ordeal, but as increasing accuracy caused
more frequent casualties in the ranks, a murmur arose from the soldiers,
and the cry of "Where is the General?" was audible along the line. Of
all the work of war, that of standing steady doing nothing under fire
tries the nerves most sorely, and as at this moment in the opening scene
at Corunna the forward movement of the French columns became visible, it
was no wonder that anxiety for the presence of the chief in whom they so
implicitly believed should find vent in words. They had not long to wait
the answer to their question. We have seen how the first sound of cannon
had roused Moore from his transient gloom, and made him spur forward
along the road from Corunna. The picture of his arrival at the scene of
action has been given us by Charles Napier, and there are few more
striking bits of battle-painting. Napier is standing in front of his
line, his pickets are falling back from Elvina before the advancing
French skirmishers; behind the enemy's light troops Mermet's heavy
column of infantry is coming on rapidly to the attack, their shouts of
_En avant!_ rising above the crack of musketry or the boom of the
battery whose shot is tearing fast through the line.

     Suddenly (says Napier) I heard the gallop of horses, and turning
     saw Moore. He came at speed, and pulled up so sharp and close to me
     that he seemed to have alighted from the air, man and horse looking
     at the approaching foe with an intenseness that seemed to
     concentrate all feeling in their eyes. The sudden stop of the
     animal, a cream-coloured one with black tail and mane, had cast the
     latter streaming forward, its ears were pushed out like horns,
     while its eyes flashed fire, and it snorted loudly with expanded
     nostrils, expressing terror, astonishment, and muscular exertion.
     My first thought was, it will be away like the wind; but then I
     looked at the rider and the horse was forgotten. Thrown on its
     haunches, the animal came sliding and dashing the dirt up with its
     forefeet, thus bending the General forward almost to its neck; but
     his head was thrown back, and his look more keenly piercing than I
     ever before saw it. He glanced to the right and left, and then
     fixed his eyes intently on the enemy's advancing column, at the
     same time grasping the reins with both hands, and pressing the
     horse firmly with his knees; his body seemed thus to deal with the
     animal, while his mind was intent on the enemy, and his aspect was
     one of searching intentness beyond the power of words to describe.
     For awhile he looked, and then galloped to the left without
     uttering a word.

Shortly after, Moore came back to the Fiftieth again. The fight had
thickened, Elvina had been carried by the French column, and the enemy's
light troops had begun to ascend the foot of the British position.
Napier asks if he may send his grenadier company down the slope? Moore
thinks they may fire upon our own pickets; but Napier tells him that the
pickets have already fallen back. "Then send out your grenadiers,"
replies the General, and away he gallops again to another part of the
field. Once more he comes back to where Napier is standing. The round
shot are falling thickly about, the enemy's attack is now fully
developed, and it is evident he means to try his best at this salient of
the position to turn the English right and cut the army from its base;
but he has not infantry for such a movement. A large proportion of his
total force is cavalry, and they are of little use in the enclosures and
high fenced lanes that cover the ground. While Moore stands talking this
third time to Napier a round shot from the French battery strikes full
between the two men. Moore's horse wheels on his haunches, but the
rider forces him to front again, while he asks Napier if he has been
hit. "No, sir." Then comes a second shot plump into the right of the
Forty-Second, which is next in line to the left. A Highland grenadier
has had his leg torn off, and in the agony of the wound he cries out. A
wave of agitation begins to pass through the men nearest the sufferer;
the gap in the ranks is slower to fill up than when men had fallen who
were silent. Moore rides to the spot. "This is nothing, my lads," he
says; "keep your ranks; take the man to the rear." Then addressing the
wounded man, he says: "My good fellow, don't cry out so, we must bear
these things quietly." Then he rode to another part of the field; but
soon returning again to the ridge above Elvina, he directed the
Forty-Second to descend the slope and attack that place. A fierce
struggle ensued amid the enclosures and houses of the village. Napier,
seeing the Forty-Second pass his flank, ordered his regiment to advance
in line upon the village. He made this movement entirely upon his own
responsibility; for except when Moore was present the initiative of
command appeared to be wholly wanting among the English generals at
Corunna. Passing the Forty-Second, Napier carried his regiment through
Elvina, until at the side of the village nearest to the enemy his
advance was checked by an overwhelming fire. So deadly was the storm of
cannon and musketry at this point that both the colours went down almost
together, as the ensigns who carried them were shot. Napier's sword-belt
was shot off, and the Fiftieth being the advanced regiment in the battle
found itself encircled on three sides by a sheet of fire. Looking to his
front, Napier saw the heavy battery now close above him. The idea at
once occurred to him to assault it; and gathering by great personal
exertions about thirty of his men and three or four officers together,
he led them straight upon the battery. But his efforts were useless. The
companies had become broken and disordered in carrying the village: the
Forty-Second had not continued its advance to Elvina; and no supporting
corps was sent to strengthen and secure the success which the Fiftieth
had achieved. This forlorn hope leading straight upon the battery went
down between a fire which smote them almost as much from their friends
in rear as from their enemies in front, and by the time the foot of the
steep ascent was gained, Charles Napier found himself almost alone
before the enemy. The reason why this bold onslaught upon the battery,
which was the key of the French position, was thus allowed to run out
into a useless sacrifice of life was easily explained later on, although
at the moment Napier, knowing nothing of what was happening in his rear,
angrily cursed at the supposed hesitation of his men to follow him. To
explain the unfortunate result of this attack we must go back to the
original position on the ridge. Scarcely had Napier led the Fiftieth
upon Elvina than Moore rode up again to the point where he had before
stood, and casting his eye upon the tide of battle flowing below him
took in at once the situation. Riding forward in the wake of the
Fiftieth, he cheered on that regiment to the attack. "Well done,
Fiftieth; well done, _my_ majors," he cried; for Napier's promotion to
field-rank had been due to his influence, and Stanhope the other major
was endeared to him by stronger ties. Charles Stanhope was the brother
of the woman to whom Moore a few hours later was to send his last
message. When thirty years later men criticised with idle censure the
life of Lady Hester Stanhope, they forgot how much she had suffered
before they had been born. Austerlitz had broken the heart of her
illustrious uncle; her lover and her brother slept on the battle-field
of Corunna.

The advance of the Fiftieth and Forty-Second from the ridge had left a
gap in that part of the line of battle. Turning to one of his staff,
Moore directed him to ride back to the reserve and bring up a battalion
of Guards to fill the vacant place; then noticing that some companies of
the Forty-Second had got into confusion and were falling back, he called
out to that regiment to "remember Egypt," and reminded "his brave
Highlanders" that they had "still their bayonets left." It was at this
moment that a round shot from the battery on the height struck him. The
hurtle and crash of the ball made the cream-coloured charger plunge into
the air, and the rider fell backward to the ground, but so firm had been
his seat that those who were looking on did not believe the shot had
struck, so quietly did he seem to fall. This impression was further
strengthened when they saw the tall figure half rise from the ground,
while his look sought the enemy's ranks with the same calm and intent
expression which his face had before worn. But though no sound or sign
of suffering seemed to come between the General's mental consciousness
and the battle before him, all the worst hurt that shot can do to poor
humanity had been done. The left shoulder had been shattered, the arm
hung by a shred, and the flesh and muscles of breast and side had been
terribly lacerated. When those who were near became aware of the
dreadful nature of the wound they tried to disengage the sword from the
mangled side. Who can ever forget the dying man's words as he noticed
the kindly attempt: "Let it be. I had rather it should leave the field
with me." Then he is placed in a blanket and carried to the rear by some
Highlanders of the Forty-Second. By this time a couple of surgeons have
come up; but he knows the wound is past human cure, and he tells them to
go to the soldiers to whom they can still be of use. As they carry him
farther back from the fight he makes the bearers often pause and turn
him round again to the front, so that he may see for a little longer how
nobly his soldiers hold their ground. When they bring him to his
quarters his French servant François is overcome with tears at the
sight, but Moore says quietly to him, "My friend, this is nothing." And
so the day closes, and darkness brings news that the attack of the enemy
has failed, and that the ridge from Elvina to the sea is still held by
the British. Then, with the honour of his soldiers safe, he turns to his
friends. He forgets no one; the interests of aides-de-camp and of the
members of his staff are remembered; he sends messages to many
friends--one in particular to Lady Hester Stanhope--and once only his
voice fails; it is when he mentions the name of his mother. Then, as the
shades of rapidly-approaching death gathered closer, it seemed that the
images of the cowardly men at home, who, he felt, were certain

     Lightly to speak of the spirit that's gone,
     And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him,

arose before his fading vision, for with a great effort he appealed
from those "posthumous calumniators" to "the people," suddenly
exclaiming, "I hope the people of England will be satisfied. I hope my
country will do me justice." That dying hope has been realised. Few
names stand in purer lustre than that of Sir John Moore. Fortunately
immortality is not always measured by success. The chiefs and people of
England, who know so little of real war themselves, are perhaps the
hardest censors upon military misfortune. Moore's memory was vehemently
assailed by the Ministers and Government officials of the day, who tried
to screen their own flagrant shortcomings by calumniating the name of
the heroic soldier who was no longer there to answer them, and all the
paid scribblers and talkers of the time were busy at their truculent
work. But justice came at last, earlier and more conspicuously from the
enemies who had fought against Moore than from the nation for whose
honour and in whose service he had died. Soult and Ney raised a monument
to his memory at Corunna almost at the time when Southey, finding out
what the world had long known, viz. that although the King might make
him a laureate, nature had not made him a poet, began to attempt to
write history and to criticise military genius. But a greater soldier
than Soult or Ney had still earlier placed the military fame of Moore
beyond the reach of little minds. When Napoleon heard of Moore's march
from Salamanca to Sahagun, in December, 1808, he exclaimed, "I shall
advance against Sir John Moore in person. He is now the only general fit
to contend with me." "Where shall we find such a king?" asks William
Napier in a letter written from the battle-fields of Portugal two years
after Corunna. Fifteen years later the first volume of the _Peninsular
War_ appeared, and if the spirits of the illustrious dead can read the
books that record their actions on earth, that of Moore might well
exclaim, "Where has king found such a chronicler?"

We must go back to Charles Napier, fighting fiercely in the enclosures
between Elvina and the great battery, and raging because the supports
which might have turned his withered effort into success were denied
him. We have seen the reason of this denial. The fall of Moore paralysed
the thinking power of those who succeeded to the command. Instead of
supporting the attack of the Fiftieth, orders were sent to recall that
regiment, and Napier and the few men who were still with him were left
alone in the extreme front. This withdrawal from Elvina allowed the
French light troops to surround Napier's party. Finding himself thus
enclosed in a net, he gathered the few survivors around him and made a
dash to cut his way through to the English line, but it was too late. He
was surrounded and made prisoner. Both sides would appear to have
exhausted their ammunition at this point, and the fight was now entirely
of cold steel. It is so full of graphic detail, and gives so many
glimpses of national characteristics under stress of battle, that it had
best be told in Napier's own words.

     I said to the four soldiers [Irish privates of the Fiftieth and
     Forty-Second] "Follow me and we will cut through them." Then with a
     shout I rushed forward. The Frenchmen had halted, but now ran on to
     us, and just as my spring was made the wounded leg failed, and I
     felt a stab in the back; it gave me no pain, but felt cold, and
     threw me on my face. Turning to rise, I saw the man who had stabbed
     me making a second thrust. Whereupon, letting go my sabre, I caught
     his bayonet by the socket, turned the thrust, and raising myself by
     the exertion, grasped his firelock with both hands, thus in mortal
     struggle regaining my feet. His companions had now come up, and I
     heard the dying cries of the four men with me, who were all
     instantly bayoneted. We had been attacked from behind by men not
     before seen, as we stood with our backs to a doorway, out of which
     must have rushed several men, for we were all stabbed in an
     instant, before the two parties coming up the road reached us. They
     did so, however, just as my struggle with the man who had wounded
     me was begun. That was a contest for life, and being the strongest
     I forced him between myself and his comrades, who appeared to be
     the men whose lives I had saved when they pretended to be dead on
     our advance through the village. They struck me with their muskets,
     clubbed and bruised me much, whereupon, seeing no help near, and
     being overpowered by numbers and in great pain from my wounded leg,
     I called out _Je me rend_, remembering the expression correctly
     from an old story of a fat officer whose name being James called
     out _Jemmy round_. Finding they had no disposition to spare me, I
     kept hold of the musket, vigorously defending myself with the body
     of the little Italian who had first wounded me; but I soon grew
     faint, or rather tired. At that moment a tall dark man came up,
     seized the end of the musket with his left hand, whirled his
     brass-hilted sabre round, and struck me a powerful blow on the
     head, which was bare, for my cocked hat had fallen off. Expecting
     the blow would finish me, I had stooped my head in hopes it might
     fall on my back, or at least on the thickest part of the head, and
     not on the left temple. So far I succeeded, for it fell exactly on
     the top, cutting me to the bone but not through it. Fire sparkled
     from my eyes. I fell on my knees, blinded but not quite losing my
     senses, and holding still on to the musket. Recovering in a moment
     I saw a florid, handsome young French drummer holding the arm of
     the dark Italian, who was in the act of repeating the blow. Quarter
     was then given; but they tore my pantaloons in tearing my watch
     and purse from my pocket and a little locket of hair which hung
     round my neck. But while this went on two of them were wounded, and
     the drummer, Guibert, ordered the dark man who had sabred me to
     take me to the rear. When we began to move, I resting on him
     because hardly able to walk, I saw him look back over his shoulder
     to see if Guibert was gone; and so did I, for his rascally face
     made me suspect him. Guibert's back was towards us; he was walking
     off, and the Italian again drew his sword, which he had before
     sheathed. I called out to the drummer, "This rascal is going to
     kill me; brave Frenchmen don't kill prisoners." Guibert ran back,
     swore furiously at the Italian, shoved him away, almost down, and
     putting his arms round my waist supported me himself. Thus this
     generous Frenchman saved me twice, for the Italian was bent upon

Thus was Napier taken prisoner. From this narrative we get many
side-lights upon many subjects. Firstly, the composite character of
Napoleon's army in Spain, and the fact that the Frank fights with the
chivalry of the true soldier; it is the Italian who is all for murder.
Secondly, we find all through this narrative of Napier's that our own
soldiers were almost wholly Irish. This Fiftieth Regiment which he
commands is called the West Kent, but its soldiers are almost to a man
Irish.[2] The Forty-Second man who appears on the scene, although
nominally a Highlander, is in reality an Irishman. Now, as we proceed
further in the narrative, we come to one of the most singular pictures
of a Celtic soldier ever put upon paper.

     We had not proceeded far up the lane (continues Napier), when we
     met a soldier of the Fiftieth walking at a rapid pace. He
     instantly halted, recovered his arms, and cocked his piece, looking
     fiercely at us to make out how it was. My recollection is that he
     levelled at Guibert, and that I threw up his musket, calling out,
     "For God's sake, don't fire. I am a prisoner, badly wounded, and
     can't help you; surrender."--"For why would I surrender?" he cried
     aloud, with the deepest of Irish brogues. "Because there are at
     least twenty men upon you."--"Well, if I must surrender--there,"
     said he, dashing down his firelock across their legs and making
     them jump, "there's my firelock for yez." Then coming close up he
     threw his arm round me, and giving Guibert a push that sent him and
     one or two more reeling against a wall, he shouted out, "Stand
     back, ye bloody spalpeens, I'll carry him myself; bad luck to the
     whole of yez." My expectation was to see them fall upon him, but
     John Hennessey was a strong and fierce man, and he now looked
     bigger than he was, for he stood upon higher ground. Apparently
     they thought him an awkward fellow to deal with. He seemed willing
     to go with me, and they let him have his own way.

They are soon delivered over to a responsible officer. Napier is kindly
treated by all the officers he meets; but the exigencies of war call
them away, and he remains for two nights and a day exposed to cold and
misery on the hill where the English magazine had been exploded a couple
of days before the action. On the second day after the battle he is
brought into Corunna and made comfortable in Marshal Soult's quarters.
Hennessey had disappeared. It was only long months afterwards that
Napier knew what had become of this extraordinary soldier; and his
ultimate fate and that of the generous drummer Guibert deserve to be

On the night following the battle Hennessey disappeared. Before going he
had unbuckled Napier's silver spurs, whispering at the same time that it
was a measure of safety, as "the spalpeens" would be likely to murder
the owner for the sake of the metal. Next morning he was marched off to
the Pyrenees, but at Pampeluna he got away from his captors and made
back across the whole breadth of the Peninsula for Oporto. On the road
he sold one of the spurs, which he had managed to conceal all that weary
way by hiding them under his arm. When Soult took Oporto three months
after Corunna, Hennessey was again taken prisoner; but when the English
crossed the Douro he again escaped by rushing at the sentry upon the
prison and killing him with his own musket. When the first British
battalion entered Oporto he joined them, marched with them to Talavera,
and fought in that battle, where a cannon-ball carried off his cap.
Hearing that George Napier was with the army, Hennessey found him out
and told him the whole story of his brother's capture, and produced the
remaining spur, which he still held on to. Then he returned to England
to rejoin the Fiftieth--the regiment was at Hastings at the time.
Garrison life did not suit Corporal Hennessey--as he had now become--so,
remembering that he had a wife and child in Cork, he obtained a furlough
to visit them, and walking across England, appeared in his native town
in due time. Napier had meanwhile set out again for the Peninsula. On
reaching Cork Hennessey heard this, and at once exclaiming, "Is it gone
back and the regiment not with him? Thin, be my sowl, I'll niver stop
behind, but it's off I'll be too!" he started back without waiting to
see wife or child. On his first arrival in England from the Peninsula he
walked to York, where Miss Napier was then living. Charles Napier had
charged him on the night of Corunna to give the spurs to her if he
succeeded in escaping. Hennessey never forgot the injunction; and at
York, more than a year after the battle, he delivered the remaining spur
to Miss Napier. They had been originally her gift to her brother when he
obtained the rank of major before going to Spain in 1808.

Hennessey went back to the Peninsula and began again the old life of
reckless daring, mixed with insubordination, drunkenness, and robbery.
At last, in one of the battles of the Pyrenees, a cannon-ball carried
off his head--a relief alike to his friends and foes, for the former
were ever in fear that death at the hands of the provost-marshal would
be his fate. The end of the brave Guibert is not less sad. Napoleon,
upon hearing of his humane and gallant conduct, bestowed the Cross of
the Legion upon him. Some man with better interest disputed the
drummer's right to the distinction, and obtained the cherished
decoration for himself. Guibert, enraged at his well-earned honour being
robbed from him, forgot his higher honour, tried to desert, was taken
and shot. What strange episodes of individual heroism dashed with human
nature's weakest traits does war hold in its vast tragedy! What extremes
of pathos and absurdity jostle each other daily along the road of
conflict! In the fight at Elvina Napier's bosom friend and comrade,
Charles Stanhope, was shot dead while leading on his men to support his
senior officer then under the French guns. The two men thus fighting so
valiantly had each a brother on Moore's staff--George Napier and Edward
Stanhope. Both these aides-de-camp long searched for their brothers amid
the dead and wounded. Stanhope's body alone was found, for Napier's
capture was not known for months after the battle, and he was reckoned
among the missing dead. The body of Stanhope was brought back to the
bivouac and buried there. His surviving brother was passionately
attached to him, and when the moment came to fill in the hastily-made
grave he leant over it to take a last look at the dead man's face. At
that moment a ball from the enemy struck him, but the thick folds of his
cloak, which was worn rolled across his chest, stopped the bullet, and
prevented Death from joining together in the same grave the brothers he
had shortly before separated.

The army of Corunna reached England in a terrible condition. The men had
embarked on the night of the 16th in great confusion, portions of
regiments and corps getting on board any vessel they could reach in the
darkness, without regard to order or number. No account of killed or
wounded was ever obtained; but the total loss from the time the army
quitted Portugal in October, 1808, until it arrived in England in the
end of January, 1809, was not short of twelve thousand men and five
thousand horses, and all its material had also been lost. A wild and
impossible enterprise, pushed on against the advice of all trained and
capable military opinion by the ignorance of the English Cabinet and its
representative Mr. Frere. These people spoke of the genius of Napoleon
and his generals as a gigantic bubble which had only to be pricked to
vanish. The defeat of a brave but indifferent leader like the Duke of
Abrantes at Vimieiro, where all the odds of numbers and surroundings
were against him, made them believe that they had only to throw another
army into the Peninsula and that it would at once combine with the
Spaniards and march to Paris. They mistook Junot, in fact, for that
extraordinary combination of Jupiter and Mars whom men called Napoleon
Bonaparte, and Moore and his gallant troops paid the penalty of the
mistake. Nor did the misfortunes of the soldiers end with the campaign.
For months after their arrival in England the hospitals were filled with
the fever-stricken victims; and many a soldier who had escaped the
horrors of the retreat and the battle of Corunna laid his bones in the
military graveyards of the south of England. But the authors of the
misfortune did not suffer. Secure in a majority returned by a flagrant
system of corruption, they laughed at the Opposition; and society,
finding a great military scandal soon to divert it, quickly forgot all
about the suffering, the misfortunes, and the glory of the campaign of


[2] "The Fiftieth Regiment, although called the West Kent, was chiefly
formed of Irishmen."--Napier's _Military Law_.



For two months Napier remained a prisoner with the French, and very
nobly did his captors treat him, notwithstanding the intense bitterness
of feeling caused in France by the way in which prisoners of war were
treated in England. Ney, who succeeded Soult when the latter marched
from Corunna for Oporto, allowed his captive to live with the French
Consul, supplied him liberally with money, and when an English frigate
bearing a flag of truce entered Corunna, permitted him to proceed to
England on parole not to serve until exchanged. His death had been
officially reported, and when he reached England he was to his family
and friends as one risen from the grave. A curious figure he must have
presented when his brother George and sisters met him at Exeter on the
top of the Plymouth coach, still in the old thread-bare red coat that he
had worn at Corunna, out at elbows, patched, and covered with the stains
of blood and time. On arrival in England he had sent a scrap of paper to
his mother with these lines from _Hudibras_:

     I have been in battle slain,
     And I live to fight again.

What joy to the poor mother, now a widow and with sight failing, to
hear her eldest born was not gone from her, but had come back,
notwithstanding his fatigues and many wounds, more determined than ever;
for he had now seen war, knew the ins and outs of fighting, and he no
longer hoped but was absolutely certain that he could command in battle.
After Corunna, they tell us, his whole manner changed. The earnest look
of his face assumed a more vehement expression. The eagle had in truth
tested his wings and felt his beak and talons, and he knew they were
more than equal to the fight of life.

In January, 1810, one year after Corunna, Charles Napier rejoined the
Fiftieth Regiment, again in the south of England. Meanwhile another
expedition had gone to Portugal, and great events had taken place in the
Peninsula. Sir Arthur Wellesley, having driven Soult from Oporto, urged
by the Ministry at home and by their representatives in the Peninsula to
repeat the movement into Spain which had so nearly ended in the
destruction of Sir John Moore's army, advanced along the Tagus, joined
Cuesta, fought the French at Talavera de la Reyna, held his position
during the battle but fell back from it two days later, leaving his
wounded to be captured by the enemy, and narrowly escaping by a forced
march Soult's advancing army, retreated back to Portugal with the loss
in killed, wounded, prisoners, and by death from disease of fully
one-third of his entire army. The British Government, now feeling
certain that the last hour of Napoleon had arrived, all at once resorted
to the old idea of foreign expeditions; and two of the largest
expeditions that had ever left the British Islands had been despatched
to the Continent, one to Italy, the other to Holland. In all the long
history of abortive military enterprise there is nothing so sad as this
Walcheren expedition. It numbered in its naval and military total eighty
thousand fighting men. Its fate has been told with vehement truth by
Charles Napier's brother. "Delivered over," writes William Napier, "to
the leading of a man whose military incapacity has caused the glorious
title of Chatham to be scorned, this ill-fated army, with spirit and
strength and zeal to have spread the fame of England to the extremities
of the earth, perished without a blow in the pestilent marshes of
Walcheren." Thus this year 1809, which had opened upon Charles Napier in
the gloom of the retreat to Corunna, ran its course of conflict to find
him at its close an impatient spectator of these three mighty efforts in
Spain, southern Italy, and on the Scheldt, which, though not unattended
by brilliant feats of arms in at least one theatre of hostility, had
all, so far as their ultimate object was concerned, left matters
precisely where they had found them. For it was not at the extremities
of his vast empire that the power of Napoleon was to be successfully
encountered. When on the first day of the new year he turned back from
the distant Galician frontier to take up the burthen of continental war
which Austria, subsidised by England, had so suddenly cast upon him, he
realised that in the heart of Europe lay the life or death of his power.
The march in the summer of 1809 to Vienna is all old history. Despite
the duplicity of Austria, which had succeeded in springing upon him a
mine while he was yet unconscious of the impending danger, Napoleon's
presence on the Danube was sufficient in a few hours to retrieve the
errors of his lieutenants, and to neutralise all the advantages which
the selection of their time and attack had already given his enemies. In
all the brilliant passages of the _History of the Peninsular War_ none
record great results in fewer or firmer words than this campaign of 1809
on the Danube. "Then indeed," writes the historian, "was seen the
supernatural force of Napoleon's genius. In a few hours he changed the
aspect of affairs. In a few days, despite their immense number, his
enemies, baffled and flying in all directions, proclaimed his mastery in
an art which up to that moment was imperfect; for never since troops
first trod a field of battle was such a display of military skill made
by man."

Wagram was the result of these brilliant combinations. Once again, as at
Austerlitz and Friedland, the decisive blow struck in the centre
paralysed all minor successes gained at the extremities; and before the
year which had opened with such vast preparation and such glowing
anticipation closed, the army of Walcheren had perished, that of Italy
had retreated to Sicily, and that of the Peninsula, despite its
brilliant achievement on the Douro and its valour at Talavera, had
fallen back into the pestilent marshes of the Guadiana, where a third of
its force was destroyed by fever.

During the winter of 1809-10 great efforts were made to reinforce the
army under Wellington, and in May, 1810, Charles Napier found himself
once more in the Peninsula. The campaign in north-eastern Portugal had
begun. Ney and Massena, advancing from Leon, took Ciudad Rodrigo and
forced Wellington back upon middle Portugal. The marches were long and
arduous, the fighting frequent and fierce. The famous Light Division,
with its still more famous first brigade, covered the retirement. In
this brigade the three brothers came again together. In July Crawford
fought his ill-judged action on the Coa, and the Napiers were all in the
thick of that hard-contested fray. It was Charles who carried the order
to his brother George's regiment, the Fifty-Second, to fall back across
the bridge when the French cavalry were swarming through the Val de
Mula. William Napier's company of the Forty-Third was the last to pass
the river, and it was here that he was wounded. This fight at the Coa
was the first battle fought by this famous brigade, Moore's chosen
corps. Four years earlier he had shaped them into soldier form at
Shorncliffe Camp, for his quick perception had early caught the fact
that it was only by a most thorough system of field-drill the power of
the French arms could be successfully resisted; and truly did William
Napier realise on the Coa the debt his brigade owed to Sir John Moore.
"The fight on the Coa," he writes, "was a fierce and obstinate combat
for existence with the Light Division, and only Moore's regiments could,
with so little experience, have extricated themselves from the danger
into which they were so recklessly cast, for Crawford's demon of folly
was strong that day. Their matchless discipline was their protection; a
phantom hero from Corunna saved them!"

In the heat of this action Charles Napier performed a very gallant
action which finds only briefest record in his journal, while whole
pages are given to noting "for my own teaching" the errors of the
general officer commanding the division. Napier had ridden back to the
Forty-Third Regiment--still fighting on the enemy's side of the
bridge--after delivering an order upon another part of the field. He
finds Captain Campbell wounded. He at once gives the wounded man his
horse, and then fights on foot with the Forty-Third through the
vineyards to the bridge. Still falling back towards Lisbon, Wellington
halted at Busaco and gave battle to Massena. This time only two of the
three brothers were in the field, for William was down with the wound
received at the Coa. Charles is riding as orderly officer to Lord
Wellington. He is in red, the only mounted officer in that colour, as
the staff are of course in blue. When Regnier's corps reached the crest
of the position a furious fire was opened upon the British line. The
staff dismounts. Napier remains on horseback. "If he will not dismount,
won't he at least put a cloak over his flaring scarlet uniform?"--"No,
he won't. It is the dress of his regiment, the Fiftieth, and he will
show it or fall in it." Then a bullet hits him full in the face, passing
from the right of his nose to his left ear, and shattering all before
it, and he is down at last. They carry him away, but as he passes
Wellington he has strength to wave his hat to his chief; and when they
lay him in a cell in the convent behind the ridge of Busaco he is more
concerned at hearing the voices of officers who are eating in an
adjoining room, and who should be on the ridge under fire, than he is
with the torment of his own wound. On the morning of the battle he had
received a letter from his mother announcing the death of his sister,
and now, while lying wounded in the convent, they come to tell him his
brother George has been struck down while leading on his men to charge
the French assaulting column.

He was carried away over the rough roads of Portugal, and at length
reached rest at Lisbon; for the army on the second day following Busaco
resumed its retreat, and Massena was again in full pursuit. The
confusion was very great, and the wounded had a dreadful time of it.
Wellington was laying waste the country as he retreated, and the army
was falling back upon the Lines of Torres Vedras amid a scene of
destruction almost unparalleled in the horrors of war. Nevertheless
neither the severity of his wound nor the exigencies of the retreat
prevented Charles Napier from writing to his mother to assure her of his
safety, and to make light of his wounds for her sake. There is something
inexpressibly touching in the constant solicitude of this danger-loving
soldier towards the poor old mother at home. "I am wounded, dear
mother," he writes four days after the battle, and while the confusion
of the retreat is at its height; "you never saw so ugly a thief as I am,
but melancholy subjects must be avoided, the wound is not dangerous." At
last he reaches Lisbon and has more time for writing, and the letters
become long and constant.

     Never (he writes) had I a petty dispute with you or heard others
     have one without thanking God for giving me a mother and not a
     tyrant. Such as your children are, they are your work. The Almighty
     has taken much from you, but has left much. Would that our
     profession allowed us to be more with you. Yet even that may
     happen, for peace, blessed peace, may be given to the world sooner
     than we think. It is war now, and you must have fortitude in common
     with thirty thousand English mothers, whose anxious hearts are
     fixed on Portugal, and who have not the pride of saying their
     three sons had been wounded and were all alive! How this would have
     repaid my father for all anxieties!... The scars on my face will be
     as good as medals--better, for they were not gained by simply being
     a lieutenant-colonel and hiding behind a wall.

The winter of 1810-11 passed away, and in the spring of 1811 Massena
retreated from Torres Vedras, first to Santerem, and later to the
frontiers of Portugal. Hard marching, harder fighting, and hardest
living became the order of the day; for middle Portugal had now been
made a desert, and provisions of the rudest description were at famine
prices. When the spring campaign opened, Charles, though still suffering
from his wound, was off to join the army. In a single twenty-four hours
he covers ninety miles on horseback on his little Arab horse Blanco, for
news of battle is coming back along the line of communications, spurring
him on through night and day over the rough roads that lie between the
head waters of the Mondego and the Coa. On the morning of March 14th he
is close to the front. Suddenly an ambulance-litter borne by soldiers is
seen ahead. "Who is it?" he asks. "Captain Napier, Fifty-Second
Regiment, arm broken." Another litter follows. "Who is that?" "Captain
Napier, Forty-Third, severely wounded." They halt under the shade of a
tree. Charles says a word to each, and then mounts his tired horse and
presses on to the front. A few weeks later came the action at Fuentes
d'Onoro, and all the desultory fighting until Brennier broke out of
Almeida, having first blown it up. Amid these scenes of war Charles
maintains the same light-hearted gaiety, and his letters and journals
are full of details of action mixed with jokes and funny stories; and
yet through all this rugged service he is suffering much from the
effects of his wound at Busaco; but his sufferings and privations are a
constant source of joking with him, and the hardships of the campaign
are borne in the same light-hearted spirit. So hard up are they for food
that he envies his wounded brothers over at the depôt of Coimbra, who
"are living well," he writes, "while we are on biscuits full of
maggots--and though not a bad soldier, hang me if I relish maggots; the
hard biscuit bothers my wounded jaw when there is not time to soak it."
A month after joining the army he thus describes the daily routine of
work: "Up at three A.M., marching at four, and halting at seven o'clock
at night, when we eat whatever we can get, from shoe-soles to bread and
butter." But physical annoyances are not the only ones he suffers from
at this time. Ever since Corunna he has had a grievance with the Horse
Guards. Neither with the Duke of York nor with his temporary successor,
old Sir David Dundas, is he a favourite; and promotion, although given
to every other officer in command of a battalion on the day of Corunna,
has been persistently denied to him. His letters and journals contain
many allusions to this unmerited treatment, and "old Pivot," as Dundas
was named in the army, gets small quarter at his hands. In 1811 the Duke
of York again became Commander-in-Chief. Napier is delighted, although
he sees little reason to hope for better luck. "The Duke of York's
advent will do Napiers no good," he writes, "but indeed old Davy going
to pot is luck enough for ten years." At last the tide turns; these
Napiers, whose names were in every gazette in the list of wounded, could
not well be denied the promotion given freely to men who were idling at
home in London, and in the middle of 1811 Charles is nominated to the
command of the Hundred-and-Second Regiment--a corps then just returned
from Botany Bay, where it had been guilty of grave acts of mutiny and
insubordination. It was indeed a change for this ardent soldier to quit
the stirring scenes of Peninsular strife and take up the thread of
military work in an English station, restoring discipline to a regiment
demoralised by a long sojourn in a convict settlement at the very end of
the globe. At first he hopes that his new corps will be sent to the
Peninsula where the storm of war thickens, as once again the great
Emperor is engaged with Russia, and all Europe watches with bated breath
the gigantic struggle; but he is to see no more of the Peninsula and its
war. After a short stay in the island of Guernsey he sails with his
regiment to Bermuda in July 1812, turning away from the great field of
European conflict and all those stupendous events which marked the
campaign of Moscow. His letters at this period are a curious indication
of his inexhaustible energy. Despite the contrast between the real
warfare he has just quitted and the dull life on this prison rock of
Bermuda, he still sets to work to drill his regiment, to improve its
discipline, and to check drunkenness among his troops, as energetically
as though barrack-square and orderly-room service had always been his
aim. He detests the islands and their people; he cannot make friends
with the governor, a pompous old fogey, who has the natural dislike
which the official owl has ever entertained towards genius in a
subordinate; he is still suffering from his fevers and wounds, but all
the same he works away at his regiment, sees that the men get all the
ration of bread they are entitled to (although it is usual in this
island to dock 25 per cent of the flour for some mysterious fund), and
drills officers and men into soldiers. In the midst of all this humdrum
work comes the news of the battle of Salamanca, to make the contrast of
life still more painful. "These glorious deeds in Spain," he writes,
"make me turn with disgust to the dullness of drill, and it is hard to
rouse myself to work--_yet duty must be done_." And all through this
Bermudian prison period we find the same devotion to his mother shown in
a hundred letters--a devotion which even makes that other love of his
life, military glory, lose its fascination for him. On New Year's Day,
1813, he thus writes: "A happy New Year to you, most precious mother,
and, old as you are, a great many of them. Oh, may I have the delight of
being within reach of you next New Year's Day. I would take another shot
through the head to be as near you as I was in Lisbon last year. My
broken jaw did not give me half the pain the life we lead here does, and
being so far from you." When his brother George marries at this time, he
writes: "Blessed mother, George's marriage delights me; you may now in
time have a dear animal of some kind with you instead of being left in
your old age by a pack of vagabond itinerant sons, getting wounded
abroad while you are grinding at home. The interest you have had about
us has never been of much pleasure, and the little links of a chain to
tie you to life may come--your lost great ones can only thus be

War between the United States and England had now been declared, and
Napier quitted Bermuda in May, 1813, with joy to take his part in a
desultory campaign on the American coast. This campaign ended in
nothing, and it was little wonder it should have proved abortive. It was
three parts naval, two parts military; the men were made up of many
nations. There were three commanders, and, as Charles Napier remarks in
his journal, "It was a Council of War, and what Council of War ever
achieved a great exploit?" Several landings were attempted on the
American coast; the town of Little Hampton was taken and sacked, and
terrible atrocities committed by the foreign scum of which the
expedition was largely composed. The regular troops under Napier and the
Marines were guiltless of these atrocities--the Marine Artillery being
conspicuous by their discipline. "Never in my life," writes Napier,
"have I met soldiers like the Marine Artillery; they had it in their
power to join in the sack and refused. Should my life extend to
antediluvian years, their conduct will never be forgotten by me."

These fruitless operations on the shores of Chesapeake Bay continued for
five months. As usual we find Napier ever busy with his note-book
setting down his reflections, tracing from the rocks and shoals of the
wrecked expedition valuable charts of guidance for his own future. There
are bits scattered through these reflections which should be in the
text-books of every soldier. Here is one true to the letter to-day as
when it was written seventy years ago.

     Our good admirals are such bad generals that there is little hope
     of doing more than being made prisoners on the best terms. We shall
     form three plans, or as many as there are admirals, and to these
     mine will be added. From all--perhaps all bad--a worse will be
     concocted, and of course will fail. We failed at Craney Island
     because two admirals and a general commanded; and a republic of
     commanders means defeat. I have seen enough to refuse a joint
     command if it is offered to me; it is certain disgrace and failure
     from the nature of things; the two services are incompatible. A
     navy officer steps on shore and his zeal, his courage, and his
     ignorance of troops make him think you are timid. A general in a
     blue coat, or an admiral in a red one is mischief. Cockburn thinks
     himself a Wellington, and Beckwith is sure the navy never produced
     such an admiral as himself--between them we got beaten at Craney.

When to this divided command it is added that the plan of operations had
been in a great measure conceived by the sapient wisdom of Mr. John
Wilson Croker, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and embraced a proposal
from that authority to send a frigate to act on the Canadian lakes above
the Falls of Niagara, any surprise at ultimate failure will be lessened.
From the Chesapeake Napier moved in September, 1813, to Halifax, and
shortly after he arranged an exchange into his old regiment, the
Fiftieth, then engaged in the Pyrenees. He had now been on active
service for nearly five years. He had seen war in almost every phase.
Though a young man he was an old soldier; several times wounded, once a
prisoner, struck at by disease, weakened by the fevers of the Guadiana,
he was here in his thirty-second year as keen for active service as
when, fifteen years earlier, he had set out from Celbridge to begin a
soldier's career. It is curious to note in his writings how little the
nature of the man had changed through all this rough lesson of life. The
kings of his childhood still wear their crowns; the love of mother and
home are still fresh and bright in his heart; his hatred of tyranny,
and contempt of fools are as strong as ever; the thirst for military
glory is unquenched; but one feeling has steadily grown and increased
during all these years of toil and war and travel--it is his admiration
for the man he was fighting against. "From first to last," says William
Napier, "the great Napoleon was a wonder to him. Early in life, deceived
by the systematic vilification of that astounding genius, he felt
personal hatred ... but his sagacity soon pierced through prejudice, and
the Emperor's capacity created astonishment, which increased when his
own experience as a commander and ruler enabled him to estimate the
difficulties besetting those stations, and then also he could better
appreciate the frantic vituperation of enemies." We find this feeling of
admiration increasing with him as time goes on, and through all his
writings we see it constantly breaking out. In 1809 we find him entering
in his journal a note on the necessity of making war with energy, ending
thus: "If war is to be made, make it with energy. Cato the elder said
war should nourish war. Cato was a wise and energetic man. Cæsar agreed
with him and Cæsar was a cleverer man than Cato. Bonaparte, greater than
either, does the same." Napier was no taciturn holder of opinion; on the
contrary, he was ever ready to speak the thought that was in his mind,
and to back it up too with the sword that was at his side. Holding such
opinions at such a time, it is not difficult for us to conjecture what
their effect must have been on the circle of his friends and associates,
or how powerfully their expression must have fostered or kept alive the
prejudices of power and authority against him. That such prejudice
existed against him is very clear. For years he seemed to accept it as
the inevitable accompaniment of his liberal opinions, his relationship
with Mr. Fox, and his thorough independence of character. He seemed
ready to win his grade twice over, to pay double rates of blood and toil
for the recognition of reward; but as the years go on we find a change
coming over him in this respect, and though to the end of his life he
never ceases to laugh at the frowns of favour in high place, the laugh
gets harder as age increases, and the almost boisterous ridicule of
imbecility in power deepens into cynical contempt. Despite all his
anxiety to gain once more the field of European warfare, he was doomed
to disappointment. When he reached England from Nova Scotia the long war
against Napoleon was over, the Emperor was in Elba, the allies were busy
at Vienna, and mediocrity was everywhere in the ascendant. In December,
1814, Charles, finding himself on half-pay, entered the Military College
at Farnham; not that it had much to teach which he did not already know,
for war is the only school in which war can be learned, but his passion
for reading could be better indulged at the college than in any other
sphere of existence, and as the making of new history seemed stopped to
him by the fall of Napoleon, the next best thing was the reading of old
history. Here, then, we find him setting to work in 1814 at the study of
history, politics, the principles of civil government, questions of
political economy, commerce, poor-law, civil engineering, and
international law. He seemed to realise that a time was approaching when
the minds of Englishmen, so long diverted from their own affairs by the
red herring of foreign politics so adroitly drawn across the trail,
would again be bent upon reforming the terrible abuses which had grown
up in almost every department of the nation, and that the will of the
people and not the opinion of a faction would once more be made the helm
of the vessel of state. All at once, in the middle of these studies, the
news of "the most astounding exploit that ever established one man's
mastery over the rest of his species shook the world"--Napoleon had left
Elba and was again in France. As a house built of cards goes down before
a breath, so the political edifice which Metternich and Castlereagh and
their kind were laboriously building at Vienna fell to pieces at the
news. The poor parrot who had been placed in the Tuilleries, caged by
foreign bayonets, fled as the eagle winged its nearer flight to Notre
Dame, and France prepared once more to shed her blood against the men
who sought to force upon her a race of monarchs she despised.



The Hundred Days were over. Napoleon had played his last desperate stake
for victory, and had lost. Charles Napier was not at Waterloo. He had
quitted the Military College when the campaign opened, but he arrived
too late for the great battle. He joined the army before Cambray, and
went with it to Paris, but remained there only a few days. His journals
and correspondence for this time are not forthcoming, and consequently
we are without his own account of a most interesting period; but his
brother's reminiscences of the occupation indicate plainly enough that
once the fighting was over, regret for the fall of his idol would have
made residence in Paris after Waterloo anything but pleasant to him. He
went back to the Military College and bit again at his books. By and by
he would make cartridges of them to fire into the rascals who are now
robbing and trampling on England. Through the five years that follow the
fall of Napoleon, he is at a white heat of rage and indignation with the
Government. In 1816 he writes to his mother: "There are two millions of
people in England and Ireland starving to enable Lord Camden to receive
thirty-eight thousand a year, and to expend it on game and other
amusements. It is hard, therefore, to say how long poor rascals who
think their children's lives of as much consequence as partridges' eggs
may choose to be quiet, or how soon, actuated by an '_ignorant
impatience of taxation_,' they may proceed to borrow from Lord Camden."
And in truth there was sufficient at this time to make his blood boil at
what was going on in England. It was the apotheosis of the Tory squire.
The game-laws were worthy of the feudal ages; taxation was terrible; the
representation of the people in Parliament was a farce. When
retrenchment was forced upon the Ministry they began by cutting down the
miserable pensions for wounds and service of soldiers, but they kept
intact their own gigantic sinecures. "If I have not a right to my
pension," writes Napier to his mother in this year 1816, "I have no wish
to keep it; the income must be slender that will not enable me to live
in content. Nevertheless, this shows what our Ministers are, who begin
by retrenching the incomes of those who have nothing else to live on,
and who have fought and worked hard for years on almost nothing to gain
that provision; retrenching these but refusing to curtail the thousands
they enjoy in the shape of sinecures, besides their large salaries and
immense private fortunes; and for those profits doing nothing, unless it
be telling men with starving children that they are 'ignorantly
impatient of taxation' when they demand that their wives and children
may not famish." As the year closes we see the hope of better government
grow stronger in Napier's letters. "The people are in motion," he says;
"reformation advances at the _pas de charge_, and no earthly power can
arrest the progress of freedom." "If reform comes," he says, "the glory
of England will be brighter than the battles of the last twenty years
have made it." Then comes a very remarkable sentence showing how
accurately this fighting student had read the lesson of the time. "The
freedom of England being rendered complete, Louis the Eighteenth and his
brood will be lost, for our example will be followed all over Europe."
Only in context of time did this prophecy err. English reform followed
instead of preceded the hunting away from France of the Bourbons.
France, despite the terrible cloud she lay under in 1816, was still
destined to lead the march of modern progress.

During the two years that he remained at Farnham his letters and
journals show how earnestly he entered into the political strife.
Cobbett and Burdett are his chiefs; emancipation and reform his
watchwords; representation of the people, free food, free press,
abolition of privilege, his aims. He thinks the redress of grievances
must come quickly, and that "a reform will be effected, though to resist
it Castlereagh would risk civil war, I believe; but I do not think he
has the power." Should it be civil war, however, his mother need not
fear, "for with three sons soldiers, one a sailor, and another a lawyer,
it will be hard if you don't swim, for these are the finest trades in
such cases." Of course, holding such opinions, promotion for Charles
Napier was out of the question. In 1819 he addressed the
Commander-in-Chief, again soliciting that he might have his commission
as lieutenant-colonel antedated to the period of Corunna. He quoted the
cases of Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Colin Campbell, both his juniors, who
had received this favour. He mentioned his long and arduous services and
his many wounds, but all to no effect. Clearly the man who held that
rotten boroughs were not the perfection of representative government,
that a Roman Catholic ought to be allowed to make a will and have a
horse worth more than five pounds, was fit only for foreign service or
active warfare, and quite unsuited to hold a military appointment at
home. A foreign post was therefore soon found for him. The Ionian Isles
seemed a safe place, and accordingly he is gazetted as Inspecting Field
Officer of those islands. He sets out in May, 1819, for this new sphere
of action, and passing through France, crosses the Alps and journeys
down the length of Italy, everywhere watching and noting as he goes.

In July he reaches Corfu. As Inspecting Field Officer he has nothing to
do, but the governor, Maitland, quickly finding out that he has no
ordinary officer to deal with, sends him on a mission to Ali Pacha at
Yannina, who has already sounded the keynote of rebellion against the
Porte, so soon to be followed by the general rising of Greece. In
reading the notes and reports made by Napier on this mission one is
struck by the rapidity with which he grasps the heart of a very
complicated question--a question which is still a vital one to Europe.
He sees that the keynote of resistance to Russian dominion on the
Mediterranean must lie in fostering the rise and growth of a strong
Greek kingdom, and he urges this view upon Maitland as early as 1820,
summing up his advice in very remarkable words, which later events fully
justified. "The Greeks look to England for their emancipation; but if
ever England engages in war with Russia to support the Turks, the Greeks
will consider her as trying to rivet their chains, and will support the
Russians." Again, in 1821, Napier went to Greece and travelled
extensively through the country. As he wanders by the battle-fields
whose names will never die he is busy fighting them again with modern
armies. On the plain of Chæronea he thinks the marsh in front impassable
for guns, and sees how Pindus and Parnassus secure a flank; and at
Thermopylæ he notes how the sea has receded from the mountain, but
thinks three thousand men instead of three hundred might still hold the
position against an army. He visits Corinth, Athens, Argos, sees Thebes,
Platea, and Delphos, and on March 20th, 1821, reaches the coast at
Lepanto. For two months he has been feeding upon the memories of bygone
battle and dreaming dreams of fights to come. A few days after he leaves
Greece the insurrection breaks out. Then he gets a short leave of
absence to England, and returning to Corfu early in 1822 is appointed
Military President in Cephalonia--an island where it is hoped that "the
impetuosity and violence of Colonel Napier's character and politics"
might find room for action without danger to the State. The island of
Cephalonia was at this period a terrible puzzle to the orthodox British
official. Violence and robbery reigned unchecked; factions, when not
preying upon each other, spoiled the neutral husbandman. Everything was
neglected. There were no roads through the island, and the steep
mountain ranges cut off the inhabitants of one portion from the other.
It was an earthly paradise turned by misgovernment into a hell. How
Napier took to the work of regenerating this garden of Eden run to weeds
can best be told in his own words. "Do not," he writes to his mother,
"expect long letters from one who has scarcely time to eat or take
exercise. My predecessor is going home, half dead from the labour, but
to me it is health, spirit, everything. I live for some use now."

Here then he sets to work in March, 1822, in his kingdom of sixty
thousand souls. He sits in court for six hours daily hearing law-cases,
for the ordinary courts of justice have long been closed and martial law
reigns; he reforms the prisons, he builds quays and a lazaretto, he
drains the marshes, and he lays out two great main roads which are to
zig-zag up the mountains and bring the ends of his island together. June
comes, but he thrives more and more on this variety of labour. "Health
besets me," he writes; "up early and writing till eight, then feed and
work in office till twelve--sometimes till three o'clock,--swim, dine,
and then on horseback visiting the roads. I take no rest myself and give
nobody else any; they were all getting too fat." No wonder under such a
governor the island begins to bloom. But he is clearing away the weeds
too fast, so at least thinks the new Lord High Commissioner and
Governor-General of all the Islands, one Adam by name, who grows jealous
of this Cephalonian success. He cannot well attack such palpable
improvements as drainage of marshes and road-making, but he has seen
that Napier wears mustachios, and he will have them off at any rate, so
the order comes to shave--"obeyed to a hair" is the response. Whenever
dull and pompous authority attacks this keen Damascus-blade bit of
humanity called Napier, authority gets a retort that sends it back
laughed at, but brooding over some fresh plan of revenge. Adam with dull
persistent enmity nursed his dislike for later time. Men like Napier,
prodigal of blow in battle, are ever ready to forget the feud when the
fight is over, but the ordinary sons of Adam are not thus generously
gifted, and this particular Adam had a long memory for revenge.

As the Greek insurrection develops, the Ionian Islands become a centre
of interest. Napier, whose recent travels had made him acquainted with
both the people and the theatre of operations, keenly watched the
struggle. In August, 1823, Lord Byron arrived at the island on his way
to Greece. The intercourse between him and Napier became very intimate.
At this period the great poet was almost as unpopular with his
countrymen as Napier was with their rulers. Byron's quick wit was not
slow to see a leader of men in the Resident. "He is our man," he writes
to the Greek Committee in London; "he is our man to lead a regular force
or to organise a national one for the Greeks; ask the army, ask anybody;
in short, a braver or a better man could not easily be found." Napier
was at this time very anxious to get command of a legion to aid the
Greeks, but he had been told that if he accepted this position he would
probably forfeit his commission in the army, and it was hoped that
through the action of the Greek Committee in London his retention in the
service might be found compatible with command in Greece. This hope was
not to be realised. Napier went to London early in 1824 and had many
interviews with the Greek Committee collectively and individually, nor
was he much impressed by their wisdom. One member asks him to "make out
a list of a proper battering-train to be sent out to reduce Patras." He
endorses the request thus: "Square the list of guns and stores needed
for a siege with my opinion of spending money so foolishly; men are
prone to buy fiddles before they know music." Now all at once he has to
answer a serious charge made in high quarters. Mr. Canning, the Prime
Minister, has been listening to the stories of German adventurers from
the Levant--he has heard that Napier had used his official position in
Cephalonia to negotiate with the Greek chiefs. The story was absolutely
false, and in straightforward and manly words he told the Prime Minister
that it was so. Indeed one can read between the lines of this reply that
he was not sorry to have an opportunity of letting Mr. Canning see his
sentiments. "For my part," he writes to Lord Bathurst, "I scorn to
deprecate the wrath of any man who suspects my integrity. If, however,
your lordship's colleagues either doubt my conduct, or wish for my place
to give to a better man, in God's name let them use their acknowledged
power to employ men they think best calculated for the King's service."
These were strong and daring words to come from a lieutenant-colonel now
in his forty-second year, and with nothing but his commission to give
him bread, to a Cabinet Minister--the eye of the head of the Government;
and what a glimpse they give us of the foundation upon which all this
energy and resource and genius for action rested.

In the winter of 1825 he returns again to Cephalonia, this time
travelling by Inspruck and the Tyrol to Venice. Blood will tell; he
cannot make friends with the Germans. "As to the people of every part of
Germany," he writes, "honour to Cæsar for killing so many of them;
stupid, slow, hard animals, they have not even so much tact as to cheat
well. We always detected their awkward attempts. Out of these regions we
descended into Italy, where we found civilised beings, warm weather, and
the human face instead of the German visage." This is of course three
parts chaff, but it serves to show how the nature of the man blows. And
how could it blow otherwise? A soldier who had in his veins the blood of
the victor of Ivry, of Mary Stuart, of Scottish chief and Norman noble,
and whose whole nature had imbibed in Ireland, in childhood, boyhood,
and youth, that "Celtic spell" to whose potent influence our most
unemotional historian has borne witness, could no more make friends of
the Teutonic type of humanity than an Arab horse in the deserts of the
Nile could gambol with a rhinoceros lying on a mud-bank in mid river.

He reaches Corfu in February, after a terrible passage of twenty days
from Venice, and here there occurs an entry in the journal which is of
interest: "_March 24th._--Sir Hudson Lowe's colonel, Gorrequer, is here.
He called on me, but got not his visit returned. It is not my intent to
consort with gaolers, though I have brought out the model of a gaol."
Then he goes on to his island kingdom and sets to work at his roads,
harbours, and buildings. He is delighted to get back to his Greeks
again, and they are equally glad to have their king once more among
them. "Now," he writes on arrival, "I am once more amongst my merry
Greeks, who are worth all other nations put together. I like to see, to
hear them. I like their fun, their good humour, their Paddy ways, for
they are very like Irishmen." His intense love of animals is constantly
coming out in letter and diary. Blanco, the charger of Peninsula days,
he will never abandon. He has brought this old friend out from England,
despite his years, paying high for the passage. "My bill for him and
baggage is _only_ one hundred pounds. How _honest_ John Bull in the city
touches one's pocket. Thirty of this is for Blanco, twenty for King,
seven for insurance, the rest is cheat and devilment. However, anything
is better than cutting Blanco's throat after sixteen years' comradeship.
I may go to perdition, but not for Blanco anyways. My poor, good old
beast!" Again, as he draws near Cephalonia, he pictures to himself his
first visit to his two famous roads, and wishes that, in case of death,
he may be buried in the old chapel on the summit of St. Liberale's
Mountain, so as to "lie on the top of the road. Many a poor mule's soul
will say a good word for me at the last day, when they remember the old

Meanwhile the Greek insurrection had run its course of blood and
devastation, and as yet out of its four years' chaos of desolation
victory had not dawned upon either combatants. Ibrahim, the son of
Mehemet Ali, had now carried an army of Egyptian and Nubian soldiers
into the Morea, and men, women, and children were being slaughtered by
this clever but cruel master of war. Till this time Napier had longed to
throw his sword into the scale with the struggling Greeks, but his
desire was tempered with a just determination that no premature or
foolhardy action should give his enemies the opportunity he knew so well
they longed for. He feared to find himself suddenly struck out of the
army list, and his service of thirty years with all its toils and wounds
thrown away. "When I saw Greece about to rise in strength and glory my
resolve was to join her," he says, "if it could be done with advantage
to her just cause and honour to myself. The talent of the people, and
their warlike qualities, excited my admiration, for a Greek seems a born
soldier, and has no thought but war. Their vanity and love of glory
equal those feelings with the French, but the Greeks are more like the
Irish than any other people; so like even to the oppression they suffer
that, as I could not do good to Ireland, the next pleasure was to serve
men groaning under similar tyranny."

In the autumn of 1825 the negotiations between him and the Greeks, which
had previously fallen through owing to difficulties about his commission
in the British army, were again resumed, and matters were all but
concluded when a proclamation forbidding officers to serve the Greek
cause was published in England. Still Napier was prepared to sever his
connection with the army and throw in his lot with the Greeks, provided
certain guarantees were given for the equipment and payment of a small
regular force, and for the value of his own commission which would be
sacrificed by the step. The Greeks in Greece were ready to assent to
these propositions, and to any others which Napier might desire to
stipulate, so anxious were they now in this dark hour of their fortune
to secure his service as Commander-in-Chief; but the bond-holders in
London, these curses of all good causes, had their own views as to what
should be done, and they were more desirous of spending their money in
sending out a useless fleet than in equipping the nucleus of a regular
force, which under such a leader as Napier would have been of
incalculable benefit to Greece. Thus the whole project fell to the
ground, and Napier had to remain in Cephalonia for four years more, and
to content himself with his roads and bridges, his purer administration
of justice, his efforts to improve the lot of the husbandman, to lessen
the unjust privileges of the nobles, to increase the produce of the
island, and, harder than any of these things, to battle against
ignorance in high places, against the sting of censure from stupidity
and intolerance combined in command.[3] Yet in spite of factious
opposition and ignorant enmity it is probable that the nine years which
Napier spent in the Ionian Isles were the happiest of his life. Who can
ever measure the enjoyment of these rides over the mountains and through
the valleys of that beautiful island? For, with all the practical energy
that marked his character, there was a deep poetic instinct in him that
made him keenly sensible of the beauty of nature; while his love of
reading, continued since boyhood, had stored his retentive memory with
the historic traditions of the past. In a memoir on the Roads of
Cephalonia, which he published in 1825, there is a description of the
valley of Heraclia, lying on the eastern side of the island, which shows
how thoroughly he appreciated beauty of scenery, and how well attuned
was his mental ear to catch the music of those wondrous memories which
float for ever around the isles and shores and seas of Greece.

But if Cephalonia held for Charles Napier some of the pleasantest
memories of life, so did his period of residence in the island mark his
final separation from many loved companions of youth. In 1826 his
mother died, and the long and most affectionate correspondence which had
lasted from the early Celbridge days came to an end. Never indeed was
her image to fade from his memory. To the last it was to remain with
him, undimmed by distance or by time, coming to him in weary hours of
trouble and disappointment, of glory and success; and as at his side in
battle he always wore his father's sword, so in his heart he carried the
memory of his mother, whose "beauteous face seemed to smile upon me," he
tells us, in the most anxious moments of his Scindian warfare.

In 1830 Napier's Ionian service came to an end. He was recalled. It was
the old story. Multiplied mediocrity had beaten individual genius. It is
not only inevitable, it is even right that it should be so; for by such
heating and blowing in the forge of life is the real steel fashioned
which has flash and smite in it sufficient to reach us even through the


[3] The gratitude of men for toil and service given to them is not so
fleeting as people suppose. "They still speak of Napier in Cephalonia as
of a god," said a Greek lady to the writer in this year, 1890.



Charles Napier in 1830 was to all human eyes a ruined man. He was close
upon the fiftieth year of his age. He was miserably poor; he had a sick
wife and two young children to maintain. "Worse than all," he writes, "I
have no home, and my purse is nearly empty; verily all this furnishes
food for thought." And bitter food it must have been. He was out of
employment and under a cloud, for authority, often ready to justify its
own injustice, was eager to use its powerful batteries of unofficial
condemnation, to hint its doubts and hesitate its dislikes, and find
reason for former neglect in this new proof of "temper neutralising
brilliant qualities," or of "insubordination rendering promotion
impossible." No employment, no home, no money, life's prime gone; toil,
service, wounds, disease, all fruitless; and worse than all to such a
nature, the tactless sympathy of the ordinary friend, and the
scarce-veiled joy of the ordinary acquaintance--for the military
profession is perhaps of necessity the one in which the weed of jealousy
grows quickest, and nowhere else does the "down" of one man mean so
thoroughly the "up" of another. When the shell takes the head off "poor
Brown" it does not carry away his shoes, and Jones is somewhere near to
step into them.

Failure at fifty is terrible. The sand in the hour-glass of life is
crumbling very fast away; the old friends of childhood are gone; a
younger generation press us from behind; the next turn of the road may
bring us in sight of the end. We have seen in the preceding chapters the
extraordinary energy of Charles Napier in action. We shall now follow
his life for ten years through absolute non-employment, and our
admiration will grow when we find him still bearing himself bravely in
the night of neglect, still studying the great problems of life, still
keeping open heart to all generous sympathies, and never permitting the
"slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" to drive him into the regions
of apathy, callousness, or despair.

In the year 1830 England was in a strange state. The reform which
sanguine men had looked for as close at hand fifteen years earlier had
not yet come, but many things had come that had not been expected.
France had shaken off the Bourbons; Belgium had shaken off the Dutch;
the people had in fact righted themselves. The example was contagious.
Throughout the length and breadth of England there arose an ominous
murmur of discontent. It was clear that the limit of patience was being
quickly reached, and if Parliament would not reform itself it ran a fair
chance of being reformed in spite of itself. The accession of William
the Fourth, the manifestation of the supremacy of popular will on the
Continent, and the increasing pressure given by depression in
manufacture and agriculture, all joined to produce a general conviction
that the moment had arrived when reform could no longer be delayed. What
then must have been the dismay and indignation of all men who were not
blinded by faction to the true interests of England when in November,
1830, Wellington delivered in the House of Lords his famous anti-reform
speech, telling the astonished country that the existing representative
system possessed the full and entire confidence of the country, that any
improvement on it was impossible, and that "so long as he held any
station in the Government of the country he should always feel it his
duty to resist any measure of parliamentary reform." This speech was
read as a declaration of war. A fortnight after its delivery the Duke
resigned office, the Whigs came in, but they sought rather to fence with
the question than to solve it. The excitement became more intense, the
country was literally as well as figuratively in a blaze. In the north
of England incendiary fires burned continuously. In March the first
Reform Bill was brought in by the Whigs; incomplete and emasculated
though it was, to suit the tastes of opponents, it was still thrown out.
Then Brougham, seeing that the hour had come for reform or revolution,
stepped to the front, forced dissolution upon the reluctant King, and
the great election of 1831 followed. The new House of Commons passed the
Bill; the Lords threw it out. Popular rage rose higher than ever. There
is one way to save the State. Let the King create new peers, and
out-vote this obstinate faction in the Lords which is bent on resisting
the will of the people. The King would not take this step, and the tide
rose still higher. Bristol was burnt. The funds were down to
seventy-nine. The windows of Apsley House were broken. The Duke of
Newcastle's castle at Nottingham was destroyed by the mob. Indignation
meetings were everywhere convened to protest against the action of the
Lords. An enormous meeting of one hundred and fifty thousand persons
assembled in Birmingham, and unanimously resolved not to pay taxes until
the Bill was passed. The winter of 1831-32 was spent in fruitless
debates. "There is no hope but in violence; no chance of escaping a
revolution," writes William Napier. In May, 1832, Lord Grey resigned
because the King would not create new peers. Wellington was sent for by
the King; for a fortnight he endeavoured to frame an anti-reform
ministry, and then it was that popular indignation broke through all
bounds and carried everything before it. The King had to come from
Windsor to London, and from Hounslow to Buckingham Palace one long shout
of discontent greeted the royal carriage. "No taxes until Reform"; "Go
for gold and stop the Duke," were the cries that met Wellington when he
drove to meet His Majesty at the Palace. A few days later he was mobbed
and pelted with all kinds of missiles as he rode through the city. To
make the insult more ominous it was the anniversary of Waterloo. Then
the King gave way. Brougham and Grey came back to office, the Lords
surrendered, and the Reform Bill became law.

It was into this seething state of politics that Charles Napier came
back from the Ionian Isles. During the three years following his
retirement from active employment, the pressure from straitened means,
and the sense of injustice under which he laboured, kept him much to
himself. The terrible epidemic of cholera which swept England in 1832
very nearly made him one of its victims. Scarcely had he recovered from
this fell disease than he was struck down by a terrible blow. In the
summer of 1833 his wife died. Then at last the great heart of the man
seemed to break. A leaf from his written thoughts at this time attests
the agony he endured. "O God, merciful, inscrutable Being," he writes,
"give me power to bear this Thy behest! Hitherto I had life and light,
but now all is a dream, and I am in darkness, the darkness of death, the
loneliness of the desert. I see life and movement and affection around
me, but I am as marble. O God, defend me, for the spirit of evil has
struck a terrible blow. I too, can die; but thus my own deed may give
the dreadful spirit power over me, and I may in my haste to join my
adored Elizabeth divide myself for ever from her. My head seems to
burst. Oh, mercy, mercy! for this seems past endurance." What depths of
agony these heroic natures know, as profound as the heights they climb
to are immense! He arose from this sorrow chastened, but at the same
time steeled to greater suffering. He hears that his enemies in London
and Corfu are about to attack him in the Reviews. "I will assail in
turn," he writes. "I am so cool, so out of the power of being ruffled by
danger, that my fighting will be hard. The fear of being taken from my
wife to a gaol made me somewhat fearful, when I wrote before, now I defy
prosecution and every other kind of contest." In the end of 1833 he
settled at Caen in Normandy. His life now was very dreary, and his
letters show how small are the sorrows of disappointed ambition
compared with the blows which death deals to all. "Formerly," he writes,
"when looking down from Portsdown Hill on Broomfield, which contained my
wife and children, how great was my gratitude to God! My heart was on
its knees if my body was not." Six months after his loss he writes: "I
am well aware my fate might be much worse, but all my energy cannot
destroy memory. This morning my eyes fell on the account of Napoleon
bursting into tears when meeting the doctor who had attended Josephine
at her death--what he felt at that moment I feel hourly, yet I am
cheerful with others. My grief breaks out when alone--at no other time
do I let it have its way; but when tears are too much checked, comes a
terrible feel [_sic_] on the top of the head, which though not real pain
distracts me, and my lowness then seems past endurance." Then he turns
to the education of his two daughters, and lays down rules for their
training, the foundation of all to be "religion, for to this I trust for
steadiness." So the time passes. He remained in France for three years,
and early in 1837 came back to England, taking up his residence in Bath.
During these three years of absence he had been busy with his pen. His
book on _Colonisation_ had been followed by one on _Military Law_, a
work the name of which very inadequately describes its nature, nor had
he been left altogether outside the pale of official recognition, for in
1835 efforts were made to induce him to accept an appointment in
Australia. These efforts were unsuccessful, and perhaps it was best that
they should have failed, for, as in his book on _Colonisation_ he had
openly avowed his intention of guarding the rights of the aborigines,
"and of seeing that the usual Anglo-Saxon method of planting
civilisation by robbery, oppression, murder, and extermination of
natives should not take place under his government," it is more than
doubtful whether even his success in a Colonial Government could have
been possible. It is singular to note in his views of colonisation how
early he understood that Chinese labour could be made available to
rough-hew a new country into shape. As to his general idea of
government, it is summed up in a dozen words--words which should be
nailed over the desk of every Government official from the Prime
Minister to the humblest tide-waiter. "As to government, all discontent
springs from unjust treatment. Idiots talk of agitators; there is but
one in existence, and that is _injustice_. The cure for discontent is to
find out where the shoe pinches and ease it. If you hang an agitator and
leave the injustice, instead of punishing a villain, you murder a

But this work was far more than a treatise upon Colonisation. A large
portion of it was devoted to the exposure of the fatal effects
inevitable from the system of large farm-cultivation then, and for so
many years after, in wildest swing. Living in France at the time, he was
able to compare the general level of comfort enjoyed there by the small
proprietor with the misery of the labouring class in England. The
boasted "wealth of England," he scornfully remarks, "is to her vast poor
and pauper classes as the potato and 'pint' of the Irish labourer; the
Irish may point his potato towards the wretched rasher suspended above
the table, the English poor may speak with bated breath of the wealth of
their country, but they are not to get the smallest taste of it."
Clearly he predicts the day when the landed interest shall suffer for
their accumulated sins, and he addresses them in anticipatory language
such as Hannibal spoke in scorn to the Carthaginian Senate when they
wept over the disasters of Carthage. "Ye weep for the loss of your
money, not for the loss of your people. I laugh at your anguish, and my
scorn for you is sorrow for Carthage." A book full of sense, of long and
widely-gathered experience, of keen and trenchant reflection, all aflame
against stupidity, wrongdoing, and official blundering; all abounding
with sympathy for the weak, for the oppressed, for the suffering.

Shortly after his return to England his other book on _Military Law_ was
published. As we have already said, the title was misleading. The work
treated on many subjects besides Military Law, and touched on a thousand
points of military interest. It is in fact an elaborate treatise upon
soldiers, their peculiarities, their virtues, and their shortcomings. He
recalls with pride the fact that it was not at the door of the regular
soldiers the atrocities of 1798 in Ireland could be laid, and remembers
how when Hamilton Rowan's house was searched by the military, a single
silver spoon that was taken was restored to its owner, although, adds
Napier at the time, "I saw the Castle of Dublin filled with the rich and
powerful, many among them daily robbing the silver spoons of the
public." But in this book, as in all his writing, there is one subject
upon which he is never tired. It is the man in the ranks. How intimately
he knew that man, how truly he loved him, all these multiplied pages of
journals, letters, and books tell. He has not the gift of that sublime
and eloquent language in which his brother has made the deeds of the
British soldier in the Peninsular War immortal--that English classic
which, like a stately temple of old, so grand amid the puny efforts of
later architecture, stands out amid modern word-building in a
magnificence of diction that becomes more solemn and stately with the
growth of time; but if this rare gift is wanting in Charles Napier,
every pulse of his own soldier nature beats for the man in the ranks. He
has seen him at all times and in all places. He knows his weakness and
his heroism; he is never tired of labouring for his improvement or his
benefit. The word "soldier" in his eyes obliterates national boundaries
and abolishes the distinctions of creed, colour, or country. He can love
and admire the soldiers who are fighting against him, provided only that
they fight bravely. The French drummer who saved his life at Corunna is
never forgotten. "Have I a right to supporters?" he asks, when he hears
he has been made a Knight of the Bath. "If so, one shall be a French
drummer for poor Guibert's sake." The chief purpose he had in view when
writing on Military Law was the abolition of flogging, at least in peace
time, in the army. "It is odious and unnecessary in peace," he writes.
"Our father was always against it, and he was right. The feeling of the
country is now too strong to bear it longer, and the Horse Guards may as
well give way at once as be forced to do so by Parliament later on."
This was in 1837, but more than forty years had to pass before the "cat"
was done to death.

When the general election took place in 1837 Napier was in Bath, where
politics were running very high. Roebuck contested the seat in the
Radical interest and was beaten. Charles Napier supported him with might
and main, and his comments on the election are curious. "The Tories,
especially the women, are making a run against all the Radical shops.
Can we let a poor devil be ruined by the Tories because he honestly
resisted intimidations and bribery? Nothing can exceed the fury of the
old Tory ladies." Evidently many things in this world are older than
they seem to us to-day.

Napier had reached his fifty-sixth year; for eight years he had been
unemployed. He was now a major-general, but his half-pay was wretchedly
inadequate to his necessities, and he felt that the shadow of age could
not be much longer delayed. Poverty, neglect, old age, obscurity--these
were the requitals of a life as arduous, as brave, as honourable, and as
devoted to duty as any recorded in our military annals. Fired by the
news that he was again to be passed over for some appointment, he made
in this year, 1838, a last appeal for justice. In this letter he reviews
his long service, beginning at Corunna thirty years earlier. He shows
how junior officers who had served under his orders had received rewards
and promotion, and how favours denied to him as "being impossible" had
been given to others whose record of battle and wound had not been equal
to his own. In the end of the letter the fear that is in his heart comes
out. He hopes that "consideration may be shown to his long
services--services which at fifty-six years of age cannot be much longer
available." Still no work for this tireless worker. Then he goes back to
his books, writes a romance called _Harold_, edits De Vigny's _Lights
and Shades of Military Life_, and turning his attention again to
Ireland, publishes an essay addressed to Irish absentees on the state of
Ireland. But now the long night was wearing out. In March, 1839, he
received in Ireland, where he has been living for six months, a summons
from Lord John Russell. He proceeds at once to London, is offered and
accepts the command of the northern district, where the working classes,
justly enraged at having been used by the Whigs to wring reform from
their enemies, and then flung aside and denied all representative power,
were now combining in dangerous numbers to force from the men they had
put in office the several reforms of the Constitution which were grouped
under the title of Charter. Taking from the example of the Whigs the
threat of physical force which that party had not scrupled to use in
their struggle for reform, the Chartists openly avowed their intention
of redressing their wrongs by arms. In offering the command of the north
of England to Napier the Government showed signal judgment, for on all
the important points of the Charter--vote by ballot, manhood suffrage,
and short parliaments--he was himself a Chartist; but he well knew that
of all evils that can visit man that of civil war is the very worst, and
while on the one hand he would tell the governing powers that the tide
of true popular right can only be finally regulated by the floodgates of
concession timely opened, he would equally let destructive demagogues
know that if physical force was to be invoked he, as a soldier, was its



In the spring of 1839 Napier assumed the command of the north of
England. The first entry in his journal is significant. "Here I am," he
writes on April 4th in Nottingham, "like a bull turned out for a fight
after being kept in a dark stall." He had been in this dark stall for
more than nine years. He had just arrived from London, where he had had
many interviews with Lord John Russell and other governing authorities.
That these glimpses of the source and centre of power had not dazzled
his mind out of its previous opinions another extract from the journal
will show. "Lord John Russell and the Tories are far more to blame than
O'Connor in my opinion. The Whigs and the Tories are the real authors of
these troubles, with their national debt, corn-laws, and new poor-law."

The condition of England at this time was indeed precarious, yet it was
inevitable. The remedy of reform, delayed until the last moment of an
obstinate opposition, had excited hopes in the minds of the masses that
could not be realised. "The poor you will have always with you." As well
might the victim of hopeless disease expect to spring from the bed of
sickness in perfect health and vigour after the first spoonful of his
black draught as the deep-seated poverty of England look for cure in the
black letter of the most radical statute; but there is the difference
between making the best of the bad bargain of life and making the worst
of it, and that is exactly the difference between the men who object to
all change and those who hold that change must ever be the vital
principle of progression.

But although the operation of laws can only be gradual to cure, however
rapid they may be to cause, the great mass of the people of England
looked to immediate relief from their sufferings as the certain result
of the popular triumph of reform. They were doomed to disappointment on
the very threshold of victory. During the last three years of the
protracted struggle the Whigs had invoked the physical aid of the
people, and there can now be little doubt that it was that physical aid
which had finally decided the battle. When Birmingham threatened to
march on London, and when enormous masses of people in the large cities
of the kingdom pledged themselves not to pay taxes until the Reform Bill
was made law, privilege ceased its opposition. But the people had fought
for themselves as well as for the Whigs, and when the victory was gained
they found the Whigs alone had got the spoils. The people were as much
in the cold as ever. The three great anchors of a pure and true
representative system of government--the ballot, manhood suffrage, and
short parliaments--were notoriously absent from the new scheme. It was
only to be a change of masters, and a change that by no means promised
well, for the old Tory landholder with all his faults and his prejudices
was generally a gentleman, always an Englishman, and often a humane
man; but this new mill-lord was often a plutocrat, always a shrewd man
of business, and generally one who reckoned his operatives as
mill-hands, and never troubled himself about their heads or their
hearts. Thus, instead of a sudden realisation of benefit the people
found themselves worse off than ever, lower wages, new and oppressive
poor-laws, no voice in the law-making, and quite at the mercy, wherever
they possessed the limited franchise, of the will of their masters.
Little was it to be wondered at, therefore, that in the seven years
following reform they should have grown more and more discontented, and
that, borrowing from their old Whig leaders the lesson of force so
successfully set by those chiefs, they should have everywhere formed
themselves into an association prepared to pass the bounds of peaceful
agitation in support of their demand for manhood suffrage, the ballot,
and short parliaments. All these principles of Chartism Charles Napier
well knew long before he accepted the northern command, but of the
actual starvation and abject misery of the lower orders in the great
manufacturing towns he knew little; and side by side with his military
movements and plans in case of attack we find him from the first equally
busy in the study of the state of the people, and equally urgent in his
representations to the Government, that while _he_ would answer for the
order and peace of the moment, _they_ must initiate and carry out the
legislation which would permanently relieve, if it could not cure, this
deep distress and widespread suffering.

It is wonderful to mark in his letters, reports, and journals how
quickly he has mastered the complicated situation which surrounds him.
Three weeks after he has taken command he has the military position
secured. He will have three distinct groups of garrisons, with three
points of concentration, and plans for separate or for united action. He
has all the local magistrates against him, because they alone think of
their individual towns, villages, or private houses, and they want
troops scattered broadcast over the country. The Bradford Justice of the
Peace would willingly see Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle given to the
flames provided his own city had a soldier billeted in every attic; then
a great local potentate would suddenly rush off to London and threaten
the Home Office with terrible dangers if his particular park had not the
three arms surrounding it. Notwithstanding all difficulties Napier works
away, gets the troops into strategical positions, and, though he hates
the work, throws all his energies into it. Here we have his plans and
his opinions four weeks after he has taken command.

     My men should be in three masses, one around Manchester, one around
     Newcastle to watch the colliers, one around Leeds and Hull to watch
     the other two; but such an arrangement of my force can only be
     effected in time. It would take a month to make the Secretary of
     State understand it, and then he would have a host of magistrates
     on his back. He behaves, however, very well, and stands by me
     against the magistrates, so that I have my own way in some degree.
     Were it allowed me in all things the country would soon be quieted.
     Poor fellows! they only want fair play and they would then be quiet
     enough, but they are harassed by taxes until they can bear it no
     longer. We could manage a large force of Chartists; but I trust in
     God nothing so horrible will happen. Would that I had gone to
     Australia, and thus been saved this work, produced by Tory
     injustice and Whig imbecility! The doctrine of slowly reforming
     while men are famishing is of all silly things the most
     silly--starving men cannot wait; and that the people of England
     have been and are ill-treated and ill-governed is my fixed opinion.
     The worship of mammon renders the minds of men base, their bodies
     feeble, and their morals bad. Manufactures debase man, woman, and

All through the summer of 1839 this work goes on. On May 25th a great
meeting took place on Kersall Moor near Manchester. It passed over
quietly. Napier had concentrated two thousand men and four guns in the
vicinity, and he had further taken the original precaution of getting an
introduction to a meeting of Chartist leaders, and telling them plainly
that if they meant only to lay their grievances before Parliament they
would have no opposition from him, and that neither soldier nor
policeman would be allowed to disturb them, but that if there was the
least disturbance of the peace he would use the force he had to quell
it. Another step he took too in this same direction of prevention which
should not be lost sight of. He had heard that the Chartists were very
confident that their possession of five or six brass cannon was of
immense importance to them, and that when the day of action would arrive
these guns would give them victory. He at once secretly invites a
leading Chartist chief to visit with him the artillery-barrack while the
gunners are at work. The battery is drawn up, the command is given to
dismount the guns, remount them and come into action. It is done in the
usual brilliant and rapid manner, and the Chartist chief goes away from
the parade not quite so confident that the five old brass carronades
which are hidden away under some backyard rubbish will be equal to meet
in action these perfectly served guns.

I have read many things in the life of this soldier, but nothing that
does greater honour to him than this desire to use every means in his
power to prevent the effusion of civil blood. There is in almost every
military mind a pride of arms that tends to prevent a soldier taking any
step with his enemies which might even remotely seem to be an avoidance
of strife; but in this instance, when civil war is trembling in the
balance, when the magistrates and many of the Government officials are
calling out for vigorous measures, when Whigs and Tories are jointly
agreed that stern repression is to be the rule of politics, we find the
real soldier anxious only to avoid spilling the blood of his countrymen,
ready to forget his own pride of arms, and to show the leaders of this
multitude how useless must be their attempt to right their wrongs by
force of arms.

In all this anxious time we find the mind of the man as keen to catch
absurdities and note defects of system, military or civil, as it was in
the past. Here is a bit of criticism, good to-day as when it was written
fifty years ago. "I cannot conceive," he writes to an artillery officer,
"how my account of barrack accommodation differs from yours. But this
and other difficulties and irregularities proceed from the monstrous
absurdity of giving the army half a dozen heads instead of one. The
Ordnance alter your barracks, yet I know nothing of it, because we
belong to separate armies--one under the Master-General of the Ordnance,
the other under the Master-General of the Cavalry and Infantry. Then
comes a third, the Master-General of Finance. Last, not least, the
Master-General of the Home Office, more potent than all. Besides these,
you and I have our little masters-general, the magistrates. God help the
poor English army among so many cooks. Were it broth it would have been
spoiled long ago." Just fourteen years later the Masters-General and
their armies of conflicting clerks were to prove themselves more
formidable destroyers of the English army in the Crimea than all the
generals and soldiers of the Russian Czar.

The danger being for the moment past, Napier has time to run round his
garrisons, and then up to London for twenty-four hours to be invested by
the Queen with the Ribbon of the Bath. For many years he has not mixed
with or seen his old comrades of Peninsular days; now he meets them at
the Palace--alas! "worn, meagre, gray-headed, stooping old men, sinking
fast! When we had last been together we were young, active, full of high
spirits--dark or auburn locks. Now all are changed, all are parents, all
full of cares. Well, the world is chained hand to hand, for there were
also young soldiers there, just fledged, meet companions for their young
Queen. They too will grow old, but will they have the memory of battles
when like us they hurry towards the grave?" Fifty years have gone by,
and Time has answered the last query. The fledglings of that day are now
white and bent and broken, and when their old eyes gaze into the winter
firelight, the Alma's height, the long valley of Balaklava, the slope of
Inkermann, or the snow-clad mounds of the great siege rise before them,
even as Corunna and Busaco and Fuentes d'Onoro and the breach at Badajos
came back to the older veterans.

The picture given in Napier's journal is one that would have been worth
painting, so full of contrast was it, so deep-set in history. "There was
our pretty young Queen receiving our homage, and our old shrivelled
bodies and gray heads were bowed before her throne, intimating our
resolution to stand by it as we had stood when it was less amiably
filled. I wonder what she thought of us old soldiers! We must have
appeared to her like wild beasts. Lord Hill is old and has lost his
teeth, poor Sir John Jones looked like a ghost, and Sir Alexander
Dickson is evidently breaking. Thinking how these men had directed the
British thunders of war I saw that death was the master. The brilliance
of the Court vanished, and the grim spectre stared me in the face. His
empire is creeping over all!"

During the summer of 1839 the Chartist agitation went on, and more than
once England was on the verge of actual rebellion. Napier's position was
a very peculiar one. Thoroughly in sympathy with the people in the
objects they had in view, but sternly opposed to any attempt to obtain
these objects by force, he ran the danger of falling between the two
stools of opinion and duty. He was at this time sailing upon a very
dangerous sea, and a single false movement might have involved England
in bloodshed. In his letters and reports to his civil and military
superiors we find the line ever distinctly drawn between the immediate
repression of disorder, which he can answer for at any moment, and the
permanent remedy for the evil, which must be the work of the Government.
To the military authorities these expressions of opinion on the part of
their subordinate appear utterly unprecedented. Napier has told the
Commander-in-Chief that he can see no way to meet the evils but to
concede to the people their just rights, while the principle of order is
at the same time vigorously upheld. The answer to this is suggestive of
many thoughts. "Lord Hill desires me to point out your observation and
to suggest that you avoid all remarks having allusion to political
questions; and I am to say, without entering into the merits of the
question, that neither he, as Commander-in-Chief, nor you, as the
Major-General commanding the Northern District, can have anything to do
with the matter; it is therefore better that you should confine
yourselves to what is strictly your provinces as military men." And
there is another fact revealed to us in the pages of Napier's
correspondence at this time which must strike the reader of to-day as
strange. It is told in his account of a public dinner to which he was
invited in September, 1839. He had accepted the invitation, thinking it
would not be a party demonstration; but he soon found he was mistaken.
All the great ones of the county were assembled, with the
Lord-Lieutenant in the chair. "Church and State" was the first toast,
and it was received with rapturous approval. Then, in the second place,
came the health of the Queen. "Glasses were filled," writes Napier, "but
not a sound of applause followed. Her Majesty's health was drunk in
significant silence. No man cried 'God bless her' except myself. Then
came 'The Queen Dowager [the widow of William the Fourth] and the rest
of the royal family.' Instantly the room shook with shouts of applause."
"You are in the wrong box, General," whispered Napier's right-hand
neighbour, one of the members for the county. "So it seems, my lord,"
answers the irate soldier; "and the reigning Queen is in it too." How
strangely this episode reads to-day; yet at the time it was common
enough in the ranks of the Tory party. It was only a few years earlier
that a widespread conspiracy was afloat among the men who called
themselves the True Blues of their party to shut out the Princess
Victoria from the throne and substitute the Duke of Cumberland for the
succession. How far this conspiracy extended will not perhaps be fully
known in our day; but in point of absolute loyalty to the person of the
sovereign it is probable that the "rebel" Chartists at the time had a
good deal more of it than had some of the supporters of Church and State
who were so anxious to shoot them down.

Placed thus between the devil of the classes and the deep sea of the
masses it is easy to surmise that Napier had no pleasant berth in this
his first command as a general officer. Frequently we find him
regretting his refusal of the Australian appointment two years earlier,
and picturing to himself a land where men worked in the open air instead
of in collieries or factories, a land where taxes were light and people
were contented, and the grades of life were not marked by terrible
extremes. Here are a few thoughts from his journal, worth in their plain
truth and honest judgment many tons weight of the rubbish which the
political economists of that time and since have poured forth to the
world. "I was mad," he writes in August, 1839, "not to go out as
governor of Australia. I could have founded there a great kingdom, with
a systematic education, annual parliaments, and the abolition of the law
of primogeniture as regards land. I would have so ruled Australia that
the land should never have been thus collected." Then he goes on to the
question of what constitutes the true prosperity of a nation. "Men," he
writes, "are restless and discontented with poverty in manufacturing
places. They have all its sufferings and have not those pleasures which
make people content under it, that is, health, enjoyment of country
life, fresh air, and interest in the seasons and in the various products
of nature. The exhausted, unhealthy manufacturer has no such enjoyment;
he has no resources but gin, gambling, and all kinds of debauchery. The
countryman worships God, the manufacturer worships gold, and thus the
practice of sin united to mammon-worship makes the ruffian. Yet such is
the system which your political economists call the prosperity of the
nation. Hell may be paved with good intentions, but it is assuredly hung
with Manchester cottons." As the year 1839 drew to a close, the
starvation and misery seemed to deepen over the northern command. In
November we read, "The streets of this town [Manchester] are horrible.
The poor starving people go about in twenties and forties begging, but
without the least insolence; and yet some rich villains and some foolish
women choose to say they try to extort charity. It is a lie, an infernal
lie; neither more nor less. Nothing can exceed the good behaviour of
these poor people, except it be their cruel sufferings." Hard as had
been his nine long years of inaction, and welcome as work was to his
brain and hand hungry for toil, Napier loathes the employment which
carries with it the danger of having to take the lives of his
fellow-countrymen. On January 16th, 1840, we find him writing the
following entry in his journal: "Anniversary of the battle of Corunna.
Oh, that I should have outlived that day to be at war with my own
countrymen! Better be dead than live to see a civil war!" In the summer
of 1841 a rumour reaches him that he is soon to be offered an Indian
command. The old fighting spirit kindles at once in his heart. It will
be a pleasant change to the Indus, on the very threshold of the Afghan
country where war is raging, from this northern district, where his
command is "slavery under noodles." "Gladly shall I get away," he
writes, "from this district; for how to deal with violence produced by
starvation, by folly, by villainy, and even by a wish to do right, is a
hard matter. A man is easily reconciled to act against misled people if
he has an honest plan of his own; but if he is only a servant of greater
knaves than those he opposes, and feels he is giving strength to
injustice, he loses the right stimulus to action."



When Sir Charles Napier set out for India in the autumn of 1841 he was,
in the ordinary sense of the word, an old man. He was sixty years of
age. More than forty years earlier he had begun his military career.
Thirty-two years had passed since he had fought at Corunna; and since
then what a life of action had been his! And yet this little thin
figure, with eagle eye and beaked nose, and long hair streaked with
white, which for more than forty years seemed to have been a volcano
ever in action, had not yet spent the vast stock of vital energy which
it started with. Very far from it. After all his wounds and wanderings,
his shipwrecks and disasters, his sorrows and sicknesses, his blows and
buffetings, here he was starting out for India, far more full of energy
than ten out of a dozen ensigns going out from college to begin life.

On December 13th, 1841, Napier first set foot in India. He had come out
by the overland route in two months, and looked upon the journey as a
marvel of rapidity. It had cost him very dear; and when he landed in
Bombay he had exactly two pounds in his pocket, and his bank-account was
_nil_. "Had I then died," he writes, "there was not a farthing left for
my children," and he was sixty years of age!

When Napier assumed command of the Poonah Division in the end of 1841,
our dominion in India had entered upon a very critical stage of its
history. Two years before this date we had sent an army into
Afghanistan, ostensibly to seat a rival Ameer on the throne of Cabul--in
reality to gain a footing in that mountain land. It was an Asiatic copy
of Napoleon's invasion of Spain; and although the Afghans had no outside
power to help them, the result was much the same as it had been in the
Peninsula. There was at first an apparently easy conquest of the
country, then a rising of the people, a retreat and surrender of the
invaders, followed by fresh invasions carried on with the savage
accessories usual where conquest endeavours to legalise its position by
calling a people who are rightly struggling in the cause of their
freedom "rebels." At this particular moment--the mid-winter of 1841--a
great disaster had befallen our arms. The garrison of Cabul, retreating
from that place towards the Kyber Pass, had been annihilated in the
defiles of Jugdulluck; the general, a few officers, and their wives
having alone been saved by surrender. The two civil organisers of the
invasion, M'Naughten and Burnes, had been killed, one in Cabul, the
other at a conference with Akbar Khan. Sale still held Jellalabad with
an Irish battalion; but the Kyber Pass was between him and India, and
that defile was in possession of the Afghans. On the western side of
Afghanistan our army held Ghuznee, Candahar, and Quetta; but again the
Bolan Pass lay between our forces and Upper Scinde, where a small
British army was cantoned on the Indus. When the news of these
disasters, always magnified by native rumour, reached the countries
which still intervened between our real Indian frontier and
Afghanistan--Scinde and the Punjaub--signs of ill-concealed satisfaction
began to manifest themselves among the princes and peoples of these
still semi-independent States. This Afghan expedition had indeed been a
wild and foolish venture, and the first blast of misfortune showed at
once the full length and breadth of its absurdity. As each succeeding
mail from the northern frontier brought to Bombay some fresh development
of this critical situation, Napier bent his mind to master the
complicated position of affairs; for daily it became more clear to his
practised eye that the forces available on the Indian frontier were not
adequate to retrieve the military situation, and that sooner or later he
would be sent to the theatre of operations. When the crisis becomes
really acute, favouritism lowers its front, and genius sees the road
clear for action.

And now at last the chance came--the chance of leading an army of his
countrymen in battle, the opportunity which he had longed for through
all these weary years since that distant day when, writing to his mother
from Hythe, he told her that his highest ambition was to live to command
British soldiers in the field. That was just forty years ago, and here
at last came the long-wished-for boon; but under what changed
conditions! "Oh for forty as at Cephalonia," he writes, "when I laughed
at eighteen hours' work under a burning sun; now at sixty how far will
my carcass carry me? No great distance! Well, to try is glorious! I am
hurrying fast towards the end; it will be fortunate to reach it in the
hour of victory. Who would be buried by a sexton in a churchyard rather
than by an army in the hour of victory?"

In March, 1842, Lord Ellenborough arrived in India as Governor-General.
From Madras he wrote to Napier asking the latter to send him a statement
of his views with respect to the manner in which the honour of our arms
may be most effectually re-established in Afghanistan. The request found
Napier prepared. At once a clear and precise plan was forwarded to meet
the new Governor-General on his arrival at Calcutta. We must avenge the
disasters to our arms, but how? By "a noble, generous, not a vindictive
warfare," after which "it might be very practicable to retire from
Afghanistan, leaving a friendly people behind us." What a grand type of
soldier this! No military executions, no hanging of men whose only fault
was a splendid and heroic love of their own land! Truly the dominion
based on such old-world chivalry could laugh at the advance of the
Russian--it would not need "a scientific frontier" to defend it.

As the year 1842 progressed, the state of Afghanistan still remained
critical. In July Candahar and Jellalabad were still our advanced posts,
and all the intervening valleys and defiles were in the hands of the
Afghans. Behind, in the Punjaub and in Scinde, the spectacle of delay
and indecision on the part of our generals was spreading wider the area
of disturbance. Clearly some real chief was wanted to hold together all
this wavering discontent which was seething from the sources of the
Sutlej to the sea at Kurachee. At last the order came to move to
Scinde. Napier received it on the anniversary of the battle of the Coa,
fought thirty-two years earlier. At first the recollection that he is
now in his sixty-first year, and that he has to leave behind him all he
holds dear in life to go out to incessant action in a terrible climate,
damps his spirit, but he quickly rallies. He will not even depend upon
the advice of the "politicals," as he calls the Civil Servants in
Scinde, who for once are to be subject to his orders. These men may be
useful, he thinks, but that usefulness "cannot be as councillors to a
general officer who should have none but his pillow and his courage."
And so with these sentiments and a thousand others equally
characteristic of indomitable resolution, courage, and self-dependency,
he sets out for Scinde on September 3rd, 1842. "Old Oliver's day," he
writes; "the day he won Dunbar and Worcester, and the day he died; and a
very good day to die on, as good as the second or the fourth--'_a
crowning victory_,' strange."

On the evening of the 3rd the _Zenobia_ steamed out of Bombay harbour
bound for Kurachee. Never did soldier proceed to the scene of action
under more terrible conditions. The vessel carried a detachment of two
hundred European troops. Scarcely had she put to sea before cholera of
the most fatal type broke out among these soldiers. There was but one
doctor on board, few medicines, no preparations to meet such a
catastrophe. In an hour after the first case appeared many more had been
attacked. Night fell. Drenching rain added to the horror. Scarcely were
men attacked ere they died in contortions and agony impossible to
describe. The beds of the stricken soldiers were laid on deck; and as
they died the bodies were instantly cast overboard. All night long this
terrible scene went on. When morning dawned twenty-six bodies had been
thrown into the sea. For three days this awful scene continued.
One-fourth of the entire troops had perished; eighty more men were down
on the reeking, filthy deck. It was a time to try the sternest nerve.
The worst scene of carnage on the battle-field could be nothing to this
awful visitation. At last the port of Kurachee was gained; the flame of
the fell disease seemed to have burned itself out; the survivors were
got on shore, but a dozen more unfortunates were doomed to perish on
land. In eight days sixty-four soldiers--just a third of the entire
number embarked--had died; a few sailors, women, and children also

Bad as was this beginning, it did not seem to damp the spirit or dull
the energy of the commander. On September 10th he got on shore with his
sick and dying. On the 12th he reviews the garrison of Kurachee, and
looks to his ammunition and supplies. Before leaving Bombay he had
visited the arsenal there, and had discovered some rockets lying in a
corner. He had always a fondness for these somewhat erratic engines of
war, and he brought them on with him to Scinde. Now at this review he
determines to try one or two of them in front of the troops. An
artillery officer, an engineer officer, and the General formed a kind of
committee for letting off the missile, no one knowing apparently much
about it. The second rocket would not go off when lighted; the committee
incautiously approached, the rocket exploded, and the General's leg was
cut clean across the calf by a sharp splinter of the iron case. This
wound laid him up for a few days; but in a week, unable to stand the
confinement any longer, he is carried on board a river steamer and
proceeds up the Indus. Certainly a bad continuation to a bad beginning
this accident. Yet Napier had good reason to hope that whatever else
might stop his career it would not be his legs, for in the past, though
sorely tried, they had stood to him well. As a boy at Celbridge he had,
while leaping a fence, cut the flesh from his leg in a terrible manner;
a few years later at Limerick he had smashed the bone while jumping a
ditch to secure a dead snipe. Again, at Corunna, a bullet had damaged
this unfortunate leg; and here now at Kurachee, thirty-three years
later, this rocket has another gash at it. No use; he "will get the
snipe" up this great Indus river, as forty-four years ago he got it on
the banks of the Shannon.

And now, leaving this old veteran, but ever-young soldier, steaming up
the great river by whose shores he is soon to become the central figure
in a long series of great events, we will pause a moment to review the
chapter of Scindian history which had led up to this moment.

In the year 1836 Afghanistan lay many hundred miles beyond our nearest
frontier, and it is almost needless to say that Russia then lay many
thousand miles beyond the farthest extreme of Afghanistan. Nevertheless
it was determined by the Viceroy of India and his Council to invade
Afghanistan across the intervening Sikh and Scindian territory, in order
to upset the ruler of the first-named State, and to seat upon the throne
of Cabul a king who had long been our puppet and our pensionary. It is
of course unnecessary to add that our puppet and our pensionary was, in
return for this service, to hand over to us the legs of his throne, the
keys of his kingdom, and a good deal of the contents of his treasury.
Between our frontier and that of Afghanistan lay the Punjaub and Scinde,
through which States we were to invade the territory of Dost Mahomed by
the passes of the Khyber and the Bolan. With the ruler of the Punjaub,
Runjeet Singh, we were upon terms of closest offensive and defensive
amity. He was, in fact, our ally in the invasion. With the rulers of
Scinde, on the other hand, our relations were strained. Runjeet was
rich, had a large army, and was a single despotic ruler. The Ameers of
Scinde were rich too, but they had no regular army. They were fighting
among themselves, filled with mutual jealousies, weak rulers of a
separated State. The line of policy pursued towards these States by the
Calcutta Government was a very obvious if a very flagrant one. Runjeet
Singh, the Lion of Lahore, was to be bribed into acquiescence in our
Afghan policy, by slices of territory taken from Afghanistan and Scinde,
by large promises of plunder to be given him by Shah Soojah, our puppet
king, and by subsidies from our own treasury. But with the Ameers of
Scinde the process was to be altogether one of force. Pressed by an army
on the middle Indus, by the Sikhs from the Punjaub, and by a flotilla on
the coast, they were to be squeezed into compliance with our demands,
which included cession of territory, fortresses, and seaports, payment
of treasure to Shah Soojah, annual subsidies to ourselves, and rights of
passage for troops and supplies. All these matters having been arranged
to the complete dissatisfaction of the weak but indignant Ameers, our
armies pressed on into the Khyber on one hand and the Bolan on the
other. This was in 1838. We have already seen the final outcome of this
forward Afghan policy in the early months of 1842. That the events in
the Koord-Cabul and Jugdulluck Passes, when a single surviving horseman
bore to Jellalabad the tidings of a disaster almost unparalleled in the
annals of retreating armies, should have been received by the Ameers of
Scinde without regret is not to be wondered at, and that they should see
in it some opportunity of loosening the grasp of our power upon a
territory which we still continued to speak of as independent is equally
no subject of astonishment.

When Lord Ellenborough arrived in India in the spring of 1842 he was
face to face with immense difficulties. The forward Afghan policy had
collapsed. To an ignorant and presumptuous confidence paralysis and fear
had succeeded. What was to be done? To reverse the engines and go full
speed astern would only run the vessel of Indian policy upon the shoals
and quicksands which the former mistaken and most unjust statecraft had
produced. Napier knew all this nefarious history when he went to Scinde,
but he knew too the utter impossibility of getting again into deep water
by a recurrence to an absolutely just policy with the rulers of Scinde.
He and his master, Lord Ellenborough, were the inheritors of this
trouble. They had not made it, but assuredly they would be measured by
it. In India, to go forward has often been to go wrong, but to go back
in that country has always been to admit the wrong; and once to do that
is to admit the truth of an argument which, if prolonged to its fullest
consequences, must lead us to the sea-coast. What then was to be done?
Reconquer Afghanistan; give it up to its old ruler again, and then fix
the frontier of India at the frontier of Afghanistan. That was
practically the policy determined upon by Lord Ellenborough, and when he
made Charles Napier the right arm of its accomplishment he had secured
the best pilot then navigating the troubled sea of English dominion in
the East.

But when this policy had been once decided on, it would have been better
to have openly admitted the necessity, and to have told the Ameers of
Scinde plainly our intentions; let them then fight us if they liked.
That course would have probably saved a vast effusion of blood. It
certainly would have prevented the long and unhappy years of quarrel and
recrimination that followed the conquest of Scinde, and the spectacle of
two gallant and noble soldiers waging a lifelong war between each other
upon the methods by which that conquest had been effected. Of this last
phase, however, of the Scindian question we will speak later on.

Steaming up the Indus, Napier reached Hyderabad on September 25th, and
had an interview with the Ameers of Scinde. They received him with
extraordinary state and honour, for already the tide of war in
Afghanistan had turned. Two armies marching from Jellalabad and Candahar
had retaken Cabul, and another retiring from the Bolan would soon be on
the middle Indus; while a general, of whom fame spoke highly, had just
arrived with fresh troops at Kurachee.

Napier passed on from this reception, and early in October arrived at
Sukkur, where important letters from Lord Ellenborough reached him; at
the same time he received news that the English army had safely passed
the Bolan, and that the war in Afghanistan was therefore closed. And
now, for the first time in the life of this extraordinary soldier, we
arrive at a point where the path is not clear. The situation which at
this moment confronted him was perhaps as difficult a one as ever
presented itself to a soldier-ruler in our time. The course pursued by
Napier was long the subject of fierce controversy. Volumes were written
upon it. It was angrily debated in Parliament, angrily commented upon in
the Press, and as angrily defended and applauded on the other side. All
this is long over; the heat, the fury, and the bitter words have passed
with the generation that saw and read in the flesh of the doings on the
Indus. The conquest of Scinde has taken its place in history, and we can
now quietly estimate the difficulties, the rights, the wrongs, and what
perhaps was stranger than all, the temptations of the time. We will
lightly touch upon them all, remembering that our path lies upon the
ashes of dead heroes. First for the situation. It was this. A great
shock had just been given to the sagacity of British government in
India, and what was more important, to the prestige of British arms in
Asia. We had retreated from Afghanistan, after avenging our defeat it is
true, but still by the fact of that retreat acknowledging that our
policy had been wrong, and that our power of enforcing that policy had
not been equal to its ambition. That was a very serious position for a
power whose dominion in the East rested solely on the sword, and nowhere
was it so serious as in the neutral borderlands through which we had
passed in order to invade Afghanistan--the lands whose natural rights we
had trenched upon, and whose sentiments of independence we had
repeatedly outraged during the five years of this unfortunate
enterprise. Now one fact was very clear to the Viceroy in Calcutta and
to his lieutenant in Scinde--either we must withdraw altogether from the
Indus, or we must strengthen our position there. The first course was
altogether out of the question, the second became a necessity. Lord
Ellenborough directed Napier to draft a new treaty, told him to present
it to the Ameers, and if necessary to enforce its acceptance by arms. So
far all was clear. In November, 1842, the new treaty was ready for
presentation to the Ameers. Its provisions were indeed formidable. It
took from the rulers of Scinde, towns, territory, rights of coinage,
etc., and it especially dealt severely with the northern or Khyrpoor
Ameers, who were rightly or wrongly suspected of having been desirous of
profiting by the Afghan disasters in the preceding year. Two men of a
widely different character appear at this moment upon the scene--Major
James Outram of the Indian army, now political agent in Scinde, and His
Highness Ali Moorad, one of the Ameers of Khyrpoor. No braver soldier
ever bore the arms of England in the East than James Outram. No baser
intriguer ever schemed and plotted for his own advancement than Ali
Moorad of northern Scinde. Napier presented his treaty to the Ameers,
and at the same time moved his troops into the territory the cession of
which was claimed by the document. The Ameers accepted the treaty, but
protested against its severity. The leading Ameer was a very old man,
over eighty years of age, named Meer Roostum. Between him and his
younger half-brother, Ali Moorad, lay a great gap of years--perhaps
forty--and a still greater gap of hatred, for Ali longed to possess his
elder brother's lands, rights, and _puggaree_, as the turban, or
insignia of paramount power, was called. Outram was anxious to save the
Ameers from the total destruction which he knew must await them if arms
were made the arbitrament of the dispute. Ali Moorad saw that only by a
recourse to war could his scheme of ambition be gratified. Between them
stood Napier, determined upon using to the utmost the immense power
which the Viceroy had placed in his hands, and seeing far beyond the
present dispute a time when this valley of the Indus must all become
British territory; seeing it in imagination, too, a happy valley waving
with grain, peopled by a peaceful and contented population free from the
exactions of semi barbarian chiefs, and enjoying the blessings of a
government which would rule them with patriarchal justice--a picture the
reality of which no human eye has ever looked on.

But above and beyond all this there was another spring in Charles
Napier's mind, more potent than any picture, more powerful than any
prompting. Above everything else he was a soldier. The clash of arms was
dear to him as music to the ear of an Italian. No lover ever longed for
mistress more than did this man long for fighting. Was he bloodthirsty?
Not in the least. His heart was tender as a child's, his sympathies were
far-reaching as a woman's; but for all that every fibre of his nature
vibrated to the magic touch of military glory, and his earthly paradise
was the front rank of battle.

That his soldier nature was all this time in a state of antagonism with
the other nature of pity and love of abstract justice cannot be doubted
for a moment. The conflict peeps out through hundreds of pages of his
journals. How glad he would be if these Ameers would boldly reject the
treaty and defy him! "I almost wish," he writes on December 5th, "that
they proudly defied us and fought, for they are so weak, so humble, that
punishing them goes against the grain." Most men who read his life
to-day will echo that regret. All this while the unfortunate Ameers,
divided by conflicting counsels, and distracted by the rumours of coming
war which Ali Moorad industriously circulated among them, were drifting
rapidly to ruin. The older men were for complete submission, the younger
hands were advising resistance. The wild Beloochee matchlock men and the
fierce horsemen of Scinde were clamorous not to allow the old fame of
the Talpoors to die out in shameful surrender. The Feringhee, even when
the treaty had been signed, would move on Hyderabad. The treasure of the
Ameers was great, their harems were numerous. If they were doomed to
lose all, better lose all with arms in their hands facing the invader.
Such was the state of affairs during the month of December, 1842. The
Ameers are irresolute and distracted by a thousand reports; Ali Moorad
is deeply scheming to make Napier believe his relatives mean fighting;
Outram, the Ameers' best friend, has been sent by Lord Ellenborough away
from Scinde, and at Napier's request is about to return from Bombay; and
Napier himself, dazzled with the realisation of his life-long dream of
military glory, is about "to cut with the sword the Gordian knot" of
Scindian politics. In the middle of the month of December he crossed his
army from the right to the left bank of the Indus at Sukkur, and put his
troops in column of route. The state of his mind at this moment is laid
bare to us in his journal; on December 21st he writes thus:

     Ten thousand fighting men and their followers are camped here at
     Alore, a town built by Alexander the Great. My tent overlooks this
     most beautiful encampment. The various sounds, the multitude of
     followers, the many costumes and languages, and the many religions,
     produce a strange scene which makes a man think, Why is all this?
     Why am I supreme? A little experience in the art of killing, of
     disobedience to Heaven's behests, is all the superiority that I,
     their commander, can boast of! How humbled thinking makes me feel!
     Still, I exult when beholding this force. I have worked my way to
     this great command, and am gratified at having it, yet despise
     myself for being so gratified! Yes, I despise myself, not as
     feeling unworthy to lead, for I am conscious of knowing how to
     lead, and my moral and physical courage are equal to the task; my
     contempt is for my worldliness. Am I not past sixty? Must I not
     soon be on the bed of death? And yet so weak as to care for these
     things. No, I do not. I pray to do what is right and just, and to
     have strength to say, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' Alas, I have not
     the strength! Well, this comfort remains--with a secret and strong
     desire to guide in war, I have avoided it studiously!

At four o'clock in the morning following Christmas Day he put his troops
in motion for the south. On the last night of the year he is encamped
near Khyrpoor; to his right lies the level alluvial valley of the Indus,
to his left the great desert of Scinde rolls away in measureless
sand-waves. Walking in front of his tent and looking at the long line of
camp fires, while the hum of his host floats up through the glorious
Eastern night, he begins as it were to speak his thoughts aloud. All his
plans are formed. "One night," he says, "I drank strong coffee and had a
capital _think_ for an hour. I got many matters decided in that hour."
He will march first into the desert on his left and take the fort of
Emanghur, a stronghold of the northern Ameers of high repute because it
is an island in a waterless sea; then will come back to the Indus and
direct his march upon Hyderabad. The Ameers will fly, he thinks, across
the Indus, and the entire left bank of the river from the Punjaub to the
sea will become British territory. If the Ameers elect to fight, well,
he will be glad to give them every opportunity. "Peace and civilisation
will then replace war and barbarism. My conscience will be light, for I
see no wrong in so regulating a set of tyrants who are themselves
invaders, and have in sixty years nearly destroyed the country. The
people hate them. I may be wrong, but I cannot see it, and my conscience
will not be troubled. I sleep well while trying to do this, and shall
sleep sound when it is done." Here in these few words we have the
picture of the invasion of Scinde as he then saw it. Nevertheless it was
not the picture which India saw, which Outram saw, and which calm and
impartial history must see to-day. And here let us look for a moment on
the field of war, for war it was to be, that lay before this army camped
under the winter starlight on this last night of 1842.

A vast dreary world was this Scinde. Men who knew it best called it the
Unhappy Valley, and the name fitted accurately the nation. A flat,
dusty, sun-scorched, fever-poisoned land; an Egypt turned the wrong way,
and with a past so blurred and battered that no eye could read it; a
changeless landscape of dusty distance through which the meanest
habitations of men loomed at intervals, with ragged solitary acacia
trees, and old broken mosques and mounds that had once been cities, and
towns that were always shrinking, and graveyards that were ever growing.
In the centre of this Unhappy Valley rolled the Indus--a broad rapid
river when the summer flood poured down its silt-sided channel, a lean
shrunken stream when winter heaped high his snowflakes in the mountains
of Afghanistan; and yet a rich land wherever water could be given to its
thirsty surface. Man had only to scuffle and hoe the baked dust, pour
water over it, and in a month or two the arid plain became a waving sea
of emerald green, to quickly change again to a vast level of yellowing
grain. But it is a strange fact that wherever these conditions of dusty
desert turned green with animal inundation are found, there too you will
find man a slave and a tyrant. Grades there may be between, but always
the lowest layers of the human strata will be slaves, and the upper ones
will be their owners. And nowhere was this rule more certain than in
Scinde. The native Scindian who grubbed the earth, dug the canal, and
turned the water-wheel, was a slave. The Beloochee, whether he called
himself predatory hill-man, settled lord of the valley, or ruling Ameer,
was a tyrant. What the Mameluke had been to Egypt the Beloochee was to
Scinde--a ruling caste, fierce fighters, making free with every rule of
their prophet, faithful only to his fanatic spirit. Three separate
groups of rulers called Ameers governed Scinde. They all claimed equal
descent from the Talpoor chief who, seventy years before this period,
had come down from Beloochistan and conquered the Unhappy Valley. There
were the Ameers of Lower Scinde, who dwelt in Hyderabad; those of Upper
Scinde, whose headquarters was Khyrpoor; and those of East Scinde, who
ruled at Meerpoor. As their descent was equal, so their characters were
alike. Prosperity and power and self-indulgence had taken the old
Beloochee steel out of their natures. They drank, they feasted, they
hunted, and they loved after the fashion of the East. That they were not
so weak or so vicious as a thousand rulers of India lying farther south
is clear, but it was only because they were nearer to the mountains from
whose flinty rocks they had come three generations earlier. Everything
that has ever descended from these grim northern hills has degenerated
in India. The Arab fares no better than does his horse when once he
passes those arid portals.

Such was the land and such the people with whom Napier was now to come
to blows in the new year about to dawn. War had not been declared, but
it was certain that some of the Ameers at least were gathering their
Beloochee feudatories, that it was often stated in their durbars that
the hot season, now near at hand, would paralyse the action of the
English general, and that, as a bold and resolute front had ended in
Afghanistan in the total withdrawal of the English armies, so might that
most necessary adjunct to the string of diplomacy ensure the final
retirement of the Feringhee from the territories of Scinde. Ever present
in Napier's mind was this approaching hot season. Viewing the conduct of
the principal Ameers through the glasses of his new friend and ally,
Meer Ali Moorad, and seeing with his own eyes the evidence of their
tyrannical rule over their subjects, he had resolved to anticipate all
plans, to forestall all projects, to determine all events by marching at
once upon the chief strongholds of the Ameers. If his innate love of
justice whispered to him any suggestion that the cause of quarrel was
not clear, that the chief Ameers were divided among themselves, and that
moderate counsels would prevail over their fears and their weakness, the
spectacle of their tyranny and worthlessness, of Beloochee
bloodthirstiness and Scindian slavery, was ever before his vision to
shut out such misgivings. The government of the Ameers seemed in his
eyes as monstrous and unjust as had the Irish government of his boyish
days or the English administration of Castlereagh and Sidmouth, and all
the pent torrent of his nature longed to go out and crush it. Love of
glory, hatred of oppression, these two most potent factors in the story
of his life, called him to the field; he forgot that it is possible to
be unjust even to injustice, and that if there were no criminals there
need be no mercy.

On January 5th, 1843, he struck out with a small force for the desert
fortress of Emanghur.



The desert--the world before it was born or after its death, the earth
without water, no cloud above, no tree below--space, silence, solitude,
all realised in one word--there is nothing like it in creation.

At midnight on January 5th the little column started for
Emanghur,--three hundred and fifty men of the Twenty-Second Regiment on
camels--two men on each--two twenty-four pounders drawn by camels, and
two hundred troopers of the Scinde Horse, with fifteen days' food and
four days' water. From a group of wells called Choonka, Napier sent back
a hundred and fifty of his horse, and pushed on with the remainder. For
seven days he held on through the sea of sand, and on the 12th reached
his object. It was deserted by the Beloochees, who had abandoned their
redoubtable stronghold at the approach of the British. On the last day's
march the men of the Twenty-Second had to dismount from their camels and
help to drag the heavy howitzer through the sand, all laughing and
joking, and with such strength! We shall see these men a few weeks later
doing still more splendid work, and will have a few words to say about
them; now we must hurry on. Napier blew up the desert fort and turned
his face back towards the Indus. On January 16th he is still toiling
through the sand waves, the men again dragging the guns, but with a
significant absence of laughter now that the chances of fight are over.
It is the anniversary of Corunna, and despite the labour and anxieties
which surround him, the General's mind is away in the past. He reviews
the long career now stretching like this desert into an immense horizon.
In this retrospect his mind fastens upon one satisfactory thought--he
and his brothers have not disgraced their father's memory. "We all
resolved not to disgrace him," he writes, "and were he now alive he
would be satisfied." The previous day, with the tremendous explosion of
the blowing up of Emanghur still ringing in his ears, he wrote: "All
last night I dreamed of my beloved mother; her beauteous face smiled
upon me. Am I going to meet her very soon?" No, they were not to meet
soon; for in spite of fierce battle and Scindian sun and life long past
its prime, he is still to realise in himself that mysterious promise
given in even a vaster desert than this to those who hold dear the
memory of father and mother--he will be left long in the land he is soon
to conquer.

By the end of January he has cleared the desert, reunited his column to
the main body, and turned the head of his advance to the south. All this
time negotiations were going on. Outram had gone to Hyderabad. The
Ameers were in wildest confusion; they would sign anything one day, on
the next it was protest, threat, or supplication. Camel and horse
messengers were flying through the land. But amid all this varying mass
of diplomatic rumour one fact was certain, the Ameers' fighting
feudatories were gathering, the wild sword and matchlock men of the
hills and the deserts were assembling at Hyderabad. The last day of
January had come. In another month or six weeks the terrible sun would
be hanging as a blazing furnace overhead, and it would be too late. "If
they would turn out thirty thousand men in my front it would relieve me
from the detestable feeling of having to deal with poor miserable devils
that cannot fight, and are seeking pardon by submission. Twenty times a
day I am forced to say to myself, 'Trust them not; they are all craft;
be not softened.'" Halting five days at Nowshara to allow further time
for negotiations and to rest his own troops, he resumes his march early
in February. He is at Sukurunda on the 10th, and here again he halts for
some days; for Outram has written from Hyderabad that the Ameers have
accepted the treaty, and he prays a further respite. But at this place
an event occurred which did much to decide the wavering balance between
peace and war. On the night of February 12th Napier's cavalry seized
some Beloochee chiefs passing the left of the camp. They were of the
Murree hill tribe, and the leader of the clan, Hyat Khan, was among
them. On him was found a letter from Ameer Mahomet of Hyderabad calling
upon him to assemble all his warriors and to march to Meanee on the 9th.
The discovery of this message at once decided Napier. He would march
straight to his front; he would attack whatever barred his road, be they
six or sixty thousand. The events that happened in these early days of
February, 1843, and the trembling balance which now was decided to the
side of war, have been made the occasion of long and fierce
controversy. Volumes were written on Napier's side and on Outram's
side. Did the Ameers mean war all the time, and were their professions
of peace only directed to delay events until their soldiers were
collected and the hot season had come? Or were they a poor helpless lot
of enervated rulers, driven to resist the aggression of the English
general, and only fighting at last when every other avenue of settlement
had been closed against them? To us now two things are very clear.
First, that Napier played the game of negotiation with the Ameers from
first to last with an armed hand, ready to strike if there was
hesitation on the part of his adversaries. Second, that his adversaries
played precisely the same game with him. Both sides got their fighting
men out. One began its march, the other took up its position of defence.
That the flint on one side and the steel on the other, represented by
their respective fighting forces, were anxious to come to blows there
cannot be a doubt; and that when they found themselves only a few
marches distant from each other they struck and fire flew, need never
have been the cause of wonderment, least of all the cause of wonderment
to soldiers. And now for the clash of flint and steel which bears the
name of the battle of Meanee.

From the village of Hala, thirty-three miles north of Hyderabad, two
roads led to that city. One of these, that nearer the Indus, approached
the position of Meanee directly in front; the other, more to the east,
turned that place on its right. Napier reached Hala on the morning of
the 18th, and there his mind became immovably determined. In the
afternoon Outram arrived by steamer from Hyderabad, having been
attacked on the previous day in the Residency by a division of the
Beloochee army, with six guns. He had successfully resisted the attack
with his small force for some hours, but, finding his ammunition running
short, he withdrew with the little garrison to his steamers. There could
now be no further doubt that the Ameers had elected to appeal to the
sword, and the path was at last clear before Napier and his army. He
will advance along the road nearest to the river; if possible he will
manoeuvre to turn the enemy's right when he is face to face with him.
"There is but one thing--battle!" he writes on this day. "Had
Elphinstone fought, he would not have lost his character. Had Wellington
waited for Stevenson at Assaye, he would have been beaten. Monson
hesitated and retreated and was beaten." Then he pushed on to Muttaree,
one march from the Beloochee position. At this place, Muttaree, many
things happened. During the day and night various reports came in as to
the strength of the enemy. Outram says they are eighteen thousand
strong, the spies report twenty to twenty-five, and thirty thousand
Beloochees in position. They are flocking in so fast to Meanee that in
another day or two there may be sixty thousand assembled. "Let them be
sixty or one hundred thousand," is his reply, "I will fight." All the
arrangements for the advance are now made. He will move his little
army--it is only twenty-two hundred strong--after midnight, so as to
arrive in front of Meanee by nine o'clock next morning. Then he sits
down to write his letters and bring up his journal to date; for this
coming battle, which is to be his first essay as Commander-in-Chief, may
be his last as a soldier. "To fall will be to leave many I love," he
writes to his old and true friend John Kennedy; "but to go to many
loved, to my home! and that in any case must be soon"; for is he not
sixty-one years of age? Then, having written all his letters and closed
his journal with a message to his wife and children, which shows how the
grand heart of the man was ever torn by love and steeled by duty, he
goes out of his hut to visit the outposts and see that all is safe in
the sleeping camp. It is now midnight. He lies down--has three hours'
sleep, and at three A.M. the fall-in sounds and the march to Meanee

When day dawns the column is within a few miles of the enemy. The road
leads over a level plain of white silt with a few stunted bushes growing
at intervals upon it. To the right and left of this plain, extensive
woods close the view. These _shikargahs_ (hunting preserves) are about
three-quarters of a mile apart, and the intervening plain across which
the road leads is here and there seared by a _nullah_ or dry
watercourse. Clouds of dust rise into the morning air from the feet of
horses, men, camels, and the roll of wheels.

When there is good light to see, the halt is sounded and the men
breakfast; then the march is resumed, and in another hour the leading
scouts are in sight of the enemy. It is now eight o'clock. The enemy
seems to occupy a deep and sudden depression in the plain on a front of
twelve hundred yards, extending right across the line of advance and
touching the woods on each flank. Before his right flank there is a
village which he also occupies, but no other obstacle lies between the
British advancing column and the great hollow in which the Beloochee
line of battle has been formed. Napier halts his advanced guard, and
while awaiting the arrival of his main body, still a considerable
distance in rear, endeavours to obtain some idea of the enemy's strength
and position. It is no easy matter. The woods to right and left hide
whatever troops he has on these flanks, and the deep _nullah_ in front
conceals his strength in that direction; but beyond the _nullah_, where
the plain resumes its original level, the morning sun strikes upon
thousands of bits of steel, and a vague dust hanging overhead tells of a
vast concourse of human beings on the earth below it.

When the column arrives in line with the advanced guard there is a busy
interval getting the immense baggage-train into defensive position,
pushing forward guns and cavalry, deploying the infantry into line of
battle, and trying to obtain from the top of some sand-dune a better
view of the enemy's position. When all is ready for the final advance
across the last thousand yards, one thing is certain to the
General,--there is no chance of manoeuvring to gain the Beloochee flank.
The woods are too dense, _nullahs_ intersect them, they swarm with the
enemy--there is nothing possible but to attack the centre straight in
front across the bare white plain. There is a small mud village before
the enemy's right flank, where the left _shikargah_ touches the bank of
the big hollow. The nearer bank of this big hollow has a slight incline
towards the plain, and above its level edge many heads can be seen
through the field-glasses, and tall matchlock-barrels are constantly
moving along it. This hollow is in fact the bed of the Fullalee river, a
deep channel which quits the main stream of the Indus three or four
miles farther to the right and bends round here to the village of
Meanee, where, making a sudden turn to the south, it bends back towards
Hyderabad. It is a flowing river only when the Indus is in flood; now
the Indus is low and the Fullalee is a deep wide water-course destitute
of water, or holding it only in a few stagnant pools. It is in this dry
river-bed that the main portion of the Beloochee army is drawn up, and
beyond it, in a loop of level ground which the river-channel makes
between its bend, can be seen the tents and camp-equipage of the chiefs
whose clansmen are arrayed beneath.

Carrying the glass still to the right along the nearer edge of the dry
channel, the eye noted that the _shikargah_, or jungle-cover, which
formed the left of the Beloochee army had a high wall dividing it from
the plain, and that about midway between the enemy and the British line
a large gap or opening had been made in this formidable obstacle. In an
instant the quick eye of the General noted this opening. It was the gate
of a proposed trap. Through it the left wing of the enemy would debouch
upon the rear of the British when the little army would have passed the
spot to engage the centre in the Fullalee. In the angles formed by the
_shikargahs_ where they touched the Fullalee there were six guns in
battery, while the entire front of the Beloochee position for a distance
of some seven hundred yards had been cleared of even the stunted trees
which elsewhere grew upon the plain. All these things Charles Napier
took in in that short and anxious interval which preceded the final
advance of his little army. It was not a sight that longer examination
could make more pleasant. It was a strong and well-selected position,
taken up with care and foresight, not to be turned on either flank,
forcing the enemy that would attack it to show his hand at once, while
it kept hidden from that assailant and safe from his shot, the main body
of its defenders.

And now the British line of battle has reached to within nine hundred
yards of this strong position which we have just glanced along. Let us
see in what manner of military formation the English General moves his
men to attack it. Line, of course; for every memory of his old soldier
life held some precious moment consecrated to the glory of the red line
of battle. Thirty years had rolled over him since he had seen that
glorious infantry moving in all the splendour of its quiet courage to
the shock of battle. Many things had changed since then, but the foot
soldier was still the same. Now as in Peninsular days he came mostly
from those lowly peasant homes which greed and foolish laws had not yet
levelled with the ground. Now as in Peninsular days he was chiefly
Irish. When Napier rode at the head of his marching column in Scinde,
when he chatted as he loved to do at the halt or in the camp with the
"man in the ranks," the habit of thought and mode of expression were the
same as they had been in the far-off marches and bivouacs by the Tagus
or the Coa. True, in this Scindian strife he had only a single regiment
of that famous infantry in his army. But that single regiment was worth
a host. "I have one British regiment," he had written only the previous
night, "the Twenty-Second, magnificent Tipperary! I would not give your
_specimens_ for a deal just now." What manner of men these Tipperary
soldiers were, Sir William Napier tells us in his _Conquest of Scinde_.
The description is worth repeating, because the picture is rarer than
it used to be. "On the left of the artillery," he writes, describing the
advance to Meanee, "marched the Twenty-Second Regiment. This battalion,
about four hundred in number, was composed almost entirely of Irishmen,
strong of body, high-blooded, fierce, impetuous soldiers who saw nothing
but victory before them, and counted not their enemies." On the left of
the Twenty-Second Regiment marched four battalions of native infantry,
resolute soldiers moving with the firm tread which discipline so easily
assumes when it is conscious of being led by capacity and courage. In
front of the line of infantry thus formed, the Scinde Horse on the left
and the grenadier and light companies of the Twenty-Second Regiment were
thrown forward for the double purpose of screening the movement of the
main body in their rear and of drawing the fire and thereby revealing
the position of the enemy in front. With this advanced line of
skirmishers rides the General in blue uniform, and conspicuous from the
helmeted head-dress which he wears. The soldiers are in the old red
coatee with white lappels and forage caps covered with white cotton, for
there was no light Karkee clothing or helmets of pith or cork in those
days, and the British infantry marched under the sun of India clad
almost in the military costume of an English winter.

When the skirmishers reach the large gap in the _shikargah_ wall before
mentioned, the perfect soldier nature of Napier shows itself--the
instant adaptation of means to end which marks the man who has to do his
thinking on horseback and amid the whistle of bullets, from the man who
has to do it in an easy chair and at an office-table. The wide gap in
the high wall has been recently made. It will be used to attack the
right rear of our line when engaged in front at the edge of the
Fullalee. He will block up this gap with the grenadiers of the
Twenty-Second. He will close this gaping wound in his plan of battle
with these stalwart Celts, who, he knows, will stop it with their blood.
So the grenadiers are closed upon their right flank, wheeled to the
right, and pushed into the opening. "He is a good man in a gap" had been
a favourite saying among these soldiers when they were peasant lads at
home to designate a stout-hearted comrade. They are to prove its truth

So, with the grenadier company standing in the gap on his right, his
baggage parked in rear, with the camels tied down in a circle, heads
inward, forming a rampart around it, and having an escort as strong as
he could spare from his already attenuated front, Napier passes on to
the assault, all the swords of his cavalry and the bayonets of his
infantry just numbering eighteen hundred, while his enemy in the hollow
and the woods reckons not a man less than thirty thousand chiefs and

And now as the line of _échelon_ gets closer to the hollow the fire from
matchlock and gun hits harder into the ranks of men moving in the old
fighting formation, the red line of battle--thin, men have called it,
but very thick for all that, with the memories of many triumphs. The
leading line--the Twenty-Second Regiment--is only one hundred yards from
the enemy. The moment had come for the skirmishers to fall back and give
place to the chief combatants now so near each other. Napier puts
himself in front of the Irishmen whose serried line of steel and scarlet
extends two hundred yards from right to left, and then the command to
charge rings out in his clear voice as three-and-thirty years earlier it
sounded above the strife of Corunna. Until this moment the fire of the
skirmishers has partly hidden the movement of formations behind; but
when the magic word which flings the soldier on his enemy was heard,
there came out of this veiling smoke a sight that no Beloochee warrior
had ever seen before, for, bending with the forward surge of a mighty
movement, the red wall of the Twenty-Second, fronted with steel, is
coming on to the charge. It took little time to traverse the intervening
space, and on the edge of the dry river-bed the two opposing forces met
in battle. If to the Beloochee foeman the sight and sound of a British
charge had been strange, not less terrible was the aspect of the field,
as all at once it opened upon the Twenty-Second. Below them, in the huge
bed of the Fullalee, a dense dark mass of warriors stood ready for the
shock. With flashing swords and shields held high over turbaned heads,
twenty thousand men shouting their war-cries and clashing sword and
shield together seemed to wave fierce welcome to their enemies. For a
moment it seems as though the vast disparity between the combatants must
check the ardour of the advancing line; for a moment the red wall
appears to stagger, but then the figure of the old General is seen
pushing out in front of his soldiers, as with voice and gesture, and the
hundred thoughts that find utterance at moments of extreme tension, he
urges them to stand steady in this terrible combat. And nobly do these
young soldiers--for this is their first battle--respond to the old
leader's call. A hundred times the Beloochee clansmen, moving from the
deep mass beneath, come surging up the incline, until from right to left
the clash of scimitar and shield against bayonet and musket rings along
the line, and a hundred times they reel back again, leaving the musket
and the matchlock to continue the deadly strife until another mass of
chosen champions again attempts the closer conflict. More than once the
pressure of the foremost swordsmen and the appearance of the dense dark
mass behind them cause the line of the Twenty-Second to recoil from the
edge of the bank; but wherever the dinted front of fight is visible
there too is quickly seen the leader, absolutely unconscious of danger,
his eagle eye fixed upon the strife, his hand waving his soldiers on,
his shrill clear voice ringing above shot and steel and shout of
combatants--the clarion call of victory. The men behind him see in this
figure of their chief something that hides from sight the whole host of
Beloochee foemen. Who could go back while he is there? Who among them
would not glory to die with such a leader? The youngest soldier in the
ranks feels the inspiration of such magnificent courage. The bugler of
the Twenty-Second, Martin Delaney, who runs at the General's stirrups,
catches, without necessity of order, the thought of his chief, and three
times when the line bends back before the Beloochee onslaught, the
"advance" rings out unbidden from his lips.

The final advance to the edge of the Fullalee, which brought the lines
to striking distance, had been made in what is called _échelon_ of
battalions from the right. That is to say, the Twenty-Second Regiment
struck the enemy first, then the Twenty-Fifth Sepoys came into impact,
and so on in succession until the entire line formed one continuous
front along the bank of the dry river. The advantages of this method of
assault were many. First, it allowed the Twenty-Second Regiment to give
a lead to the entire line, for each succeeding battalion could see with
what a front and bearing these splendid soldiers carried themselves in
the charge. Then, too, it enabled each particular regiment to come into
close quarters with the enemy upon a more regular and imposing front
than had the advancing force formed a single line necessarily crowded
and undulating by the exigencies of marching in a long continuous
formation, and also it made the assault upon the enemy's left flank the
last to come to shock of battle; for on this left flank the village of
Meanee was held in advance of the river line, and the Beloochee guns in
battery there had to be silenced before his infantry could be

We have already said that our own artillery moved on the extreme right
of the infantry. Early in the action they closed up to the right flank
of the Twenty-Second, and coming into action on a mound which there
commanded the bed of the Fullalee, the farther bank of the river, and
the wooded _shikargah_ to the right, made havoc among the Beloochee
centre on one side, and, on the other, among the left wing which was
destined to fall upon our rear. Stopped by the grenadier company from
issuing through the large gap in the wall, and taken in flank by two of
the guns behind the mound, firing case-shot through another opening in
the wall made by the Madras Sappers, this left wing of the enemy
suffered so severely that it was unable to make any head. Napier had
told the grenadier company to defend the opening to the last man, and
nobly did they answer his behest. The captain of the company, Tew, died
at his post, but no enemy passed the gap that day.

Meanwhile the fight on the edge of the dry channel went on with a
sameness of fierceness that makes its recital almost monotonous. In no
modern battle that we read of is the actual shock of opposing forces
more than a question of a few moments' duration. Here at Meanee it is a
matter of hours. For upwards of three hours this red line is fighting
that mass of warriors at less than a dozen yards' distance, and often
during the long conflict the interval between the combatants is not half
as many feet. Over and over again heroic actions are performed in that
limited area between the hosts that read like a page from some dim
combat of Homeric legend. The commander of the Twenty-Fifth Bombay
Sepoys, Teesdale, seeing the press of foemen in front of his men to be
more than his line can stand, spurs into the midst of the surging mass,
and falls, hewing his enemies to the last. But his spirit seems to have
quitted his body only to enter into the three hundred men who have seen
him fall, and the wavering line bears up again. So, too, when the Sepoy
regiment next in line has to bear the brunt of the Beloochee charge, the
commanding officer, Jackson, rides forward into the advancing enemy and
goes down amid a whirl of sword-blades, his last stroke crashing through
a shield vainly raised to save its owner's life, and beats back the
Beloochee surge. M'Murdo of the Twenty-Second, riding as staff-officer
to the General, cannot resist the intoxication of such combats. Seeing a
chief conspicuous alike by martial bearing and richness of apparel, he
rides into the enemy's ranks and engages him in single combat. Before
they can meet M'Murdo's horse is killed, but the rider is quickly on his
feet, and the combat begins. Both are dexterous swordsmen, and each
seems to recognise in the other a foeman worthy of his steel; but the
Scottish clansman is stouter of sword than his Beloochee rival, and Jan
Mahomet Khan rolls from his saddle to join the throng which momentarily
grows denser on the sandy river-bed.

Once or twice the old General is himself in the press of the fight. He
is practically unarmed, because his right hand had been disabled a few
days earlier by a blow which he had dealt a camel-driver who was
maltreating his camel, and the Scindian's head being about fifty times
harder than the General's hand, a dislocated wrist was the result. So
intent is he on the larger battle that the men around him are scarcely
noticed, and more than once his life is saved by a soldier or an officer
interposing between him and an enemy intent on slaying the old chief,
who seems to him exactly what he is--the guiding spirit of this storm of
war. Thus Lieutenant Marston saves his General's life in front of the
Twenty-Fifth Sepoys by springing between a Beloochee soldier and
Napier's charger at the moment the enemy is about to strike. The blow
cuts deep into the brass scales on Marston's shoulder, and the Beloochee
goes down between the sword of the officer and the bayonet of a private
who has run in to the _melée_. Again he gets entangled in the press in
front, and is in close peril when a sergeant of the Twenty-Second saves
him; and as the old man emerges unscathed from the surf of shield and
sword, the whole Twenty-Second line shouts his name and greets him with
a wild Irish cheer of rapture ringing high above the clash of battle. It
is at this time that the drummer Delaney, who keeps everywhere on foot
beside his General, performs the most conspicuous act of valour done
during the day. In the midst of the _melée_ he sees a mounted chief
leading on his men. Delaney seizes a musket and bayonet, rushes upon the
horseman, and Meer Wullee Mahomet Khan goes down in full sight of both
armies, while the victor returns with the rich sword and shield of the
Beloochee leader.

There are no revolvers yet, no breechloading arms, nothing but the sword
for the officer and the flint musket and bayonet for the men; and
fighting means something more than shoving cartridges in at one end of a
tube and blowing them out at the other, twenty to the minute, by the
simple action of pulling a finger. "At Meanee," says M'Murdo, "the
muskets of the men often ceased to go off, from the pans becoming
clogged with powder, and then you would see soldiers, taking advantage
of a momentary lull in the onslaught, wiping out the priming pans with a
piece of rag, or fixing a new flint in the hammer." Sometimes these
manifold inducements to old "brown Bess" to continue work have to be
suspended in order to receive on levelled bayonets a wild Beloochee
rush, and then frequently could be seen the spectacle of men impaled
upon the steel, still hacking down the enemy they had been able to reach
only in death.

This desperate battle has continued for three hours, when for the first
time the Beloochees show symptoms of defeat. The moment has in fact come
which in every fight marks the turn of the tide of conflict, and quick
as thought Napier seizes its arrival. His staff officers fly to the left
carrying orders to the Scinde Horse and the Bengal Cavalry to penetrate
at all hazards through the right of the enemy's line, and fall upon his
rear. The orders are well obeyed, and soon the red turbans of Jacob's
Horse and the Bengal Cavalry are seen streaming through the Fullalee,
and, mounting the opposite slope where the Beloochee camp is pitched,
they capture guns, camp, standards, and all the varied insignia of
Eastern war. The battle of Meanee is won. Then, beginning with the
Twenty-Second, there went up a great cheer of victory. How those
Tipperary throats poured forth their triumph, as bounding forward, the
men so long assailed became assailants, and driving down the now
slippery incline they bore back in quickening movement the wavering mass
of swordsmen! Perhaps there was something in that Irish cheer that told
the old General there was the note of love as well as of pride in the
ring. Why not? Had he not always stood up for them and for their land?
Had not their detractors ever been his enemies? Had not he dammed back
the tide of his own success in life by championing their unfashionable
cause? Soldiers catch quickly thoughts and facts that come to other men
through study and reflection. They were proud of him, they loved him,
and for more than half a century their valour and their misfortunes had
touched the springs of admiration and sorrow in his heart. How he valued
these cheers on the field of Meanee his journal of the following day
tells. "The Twenty-Second gave me three cheers after the fight, and one
during it," he writes. "Her Majesty has no honour to give that can equal
that." What a leader! What soldiers!



Exhausted by the prolonged strain of mind and body--"ready to drop," he
tells us, "from the fatigue of one constant cheer"--Napier lay down in
his cloak that night in the midst of the dead and dying. Terrible had
been the slaughter. More than twelve hundred dead lay in the dry bed of
the river immediately in front of where the British line had fought. The
woods and surrounding ground held a vast number of bodies. It is
estimated that not less than six or seven thousand Beloochees perished
in the battle. On our own side the loss, though severe, was slight
compared with that of the enemy. About two hundred and seventy of all
ranks had been killed and wounded--more than one-seventh of the total
number engaged. Of these, nineteen were officers--a third of the number
on the ground. These figures give us a good measure of the fierce nature
of the struggle, and of the bravery displayed on both sides; but the
true lesson of such heroism was not noticed at the time, or rather was
kept steadily out of sight by all save a few men, and that lesson was
this, that good and courageous leadership means brave and victorious
soldiers, and that bad leadership means cowardice and defeat. It was
but a year before this day of heroes at Meanee that there had been
whole days and weeks of cowardice at Cabul. Infantry, cavalry,
artillery; arms, powder, and shot--all the same, yet all the difference
between victory and defeat, between honour and dishonour in the two
results. It was this fact above every other that caused the display of
envious enmity from so many quarters towards Napier and his victory; the
contrast was too glaring, the youngest soldier in the ranks could read
it. But a year ago the world had beheld the most dishonourable and
inglorious chapter of our military history enacted near the head waters
of this same Indus river, and here, now, another hand playing the game
with the self-same cards had won it against greater odds and braver

But if it was unpleasant in England to find the lesson of victory taught
so well by one who had ever opposed privilege, whether it called itself
Whig or Tory, still more disagreeable was it to certain classes in India
to find the man who had already, during his brief sojourn in the East,
vehemently assailed the most cherished abuses of Indian misgovernment
all at once the victor of a desperate battle. What was to be done in the
circumstances? They dared not depreciate the valour of the troops or the
desperate bravery they had overcome, but it was possible for them to
denounce the victorious old general. He had few friends among the
rulers. He had too frequently told them what he thought of them. He had
so often applied the salt of his satire to the great leech called
favouritism, that now his detractors were sure of finding an audience
ready to applaud when they launched the envenomed shaft, and spoke of
the "ferocity and blood-thirstiness" of the old chief, and did what
they could to lessen his glory,--that chief who wrote in his journal
how he had covered an enemy who had come too close to him with his
pistol, "but did not shoot, having great repugnance to kill with my own
hand unless attacked!"

It is a sorry story, and one we will gladly pass on from with this
observation. It would have been better had Napier treated the whole host
of his attackers, Indian editors and Indian civilians, English peers and
English pressmen, with silent contempt. The very virulence of their
denunciation was as quicksilver poured upon the glass of their envy. He
could see his own greatness all the better, and measure the shallowness
of the medium that revealed it to him. But there was one thing that the
detractors could not do; they could not hide from the soldiers of
England or India, or from the people of the United Kingdom, that this
battle of Meanee had been a victory with the old ring in it. Right up
comes the little army; no hesitation, no false movements; right thrown
forward because the Irish are there; left thrown back because the
enemy's guns are there; then a hand-to-hand fight for three hours in
which the old leader is ever out in front waving his hat, cheering with
his shrill voice, getting his hair singed with the closeness of guns
going off under his nose. No, they cannot blacken that picture, for
every man in the little army has seen it during these three hours, and
under its influence the very camp-followers have become daring soldiers.
"I bring to your notice," writes the officer commanding the artillery,
"the names of three native gun-lascars, who displayed the greatest
bravery in dragging the guns up to the edge of the bank, level with the
Twenty-Second line. I would not venture to do so had they not been mere
followers, entitled to no pension to themselves or reward to their
families had they fallen." Such is the force of a general's example.

Before night closed on the field the fruits of the victory were
apparent. Six Ameers of Scinde came in and surrendered themselves
prisoners of war, bringing with them the keys of Hyderabad, whose tall
towers were visible against the horizon five miles to the south. Then
Napier lay down to sleep, and so sound was his rest that when there is a
false alarm among the camp-followers towards morning they cannot rouse
him. Next morning he writes his despatches and tells the story of the
fight in short and vivid language. He does not forget the man in the
ranks, and for the first time in the history of our wars the private
soldier is personally named for his bravery. What a levelling general
this is! Yesterday he was levelling his enemies; now to-day he is
levelling his friends. They will not like it at home, he thinks. Well,
he cannot help that; they will have to like it some day, and the sooner
they begin to learn the better, so off goes the names of Drummer Martin
Delaney, and full Private James O'Neill, and Havildar Thackoor Ram, and
Subadar Eman Beet, and Trooper Mootee Sing, and many others.

Having buried his dead, rested his living, and sent off his despatches,
Napier moved his little army to Hyderabad, hoisted the British flag on
the great tower of the fortress, and put his force in camp four miles
farther west on the Indus. He was still far from the end of hostilities.
He had defeated over thirty thousand Beloochees at Meanee, but there
were fifteen thousand more who had not reached the field of battle that
day, and these now formed a rallying-point for the bands which had
withdrawn from that stubborn fight beaten but not routed. Shere Mahomet,
Ameer of Meerpoor, the leader of this force--the only real fighting man
among the Scindian princes--had still to be reckoned with, and that
reckoning was in no degree rendered easier by the fact that since
Meanee, the real weakness of the British in numbers had become known to
the whole world of Scinde. Everybody had seen the slender column that
had taken possession of Hyderabad, and was now entrenched on the left
bank of the Indus four miles from the city. Let the Lion of Meerpoor
bide his time, gather all the Beloochee clansmen, and when the sun once
more hung straight over the Scindian desert fall on the Feringhee. It
was a pretty plan, and no doubt might have had fair chance of at least a
temporary success had it been played against a less experienced enemy
than this old war-dog now entrenched upon the Indus. For him two things
were necessary. First, he must obtain reinforcements for his army;
second, he must draw the Lion closer to his camp. When the time comes
for making another spring it will not do to go seeking this Scindian
chief afar off, in deserts that are glowing like live coals in the
midsummer sun. So two lines of policy are pursued by Napier. He sends up
and down the Indus for every man and gun he hopes to lay hands on, and
he spreads abroad in Hyderabad the story of his own weakness. The Lion,
scared by Meanee, had fallen back towards his deserts; now, lured by
these accounts of paucity of numbers, sickness, etc., he draws forward
again, until he is only six miles beyond Hyderabad and within one march
of the Indus. It was now the middle of March; the reinforcements are
approaching. Stack with fifteen hundred men and five guns is only five
marches distant to the north. The Lion can strike at Stack before he
joins Napier, but on his side Sir Charles is watchful. If the Lion moves
to fall on Stack, he, Napier, will make a spring at the Lion's flank. It
is a pretty game, but one of course only possible to play in war with a
half-savage enemy. On March 22nd Stack is passing Meanee. The Lion makes
a weak attempt to gobble up his fifteen hundred men, but Napier has sent
out a strong force of cavalry and guns to help his lieutenant, and Stack
gets safely in on the 22nd. On the same day boats arrive from north and
south with more reinforcements and supplies, and on the following
everything is ready for the attack on the Lion, who is just nine miles
distant, entrenched up to his eyes and tail in woods, _nullahs_, and
villages at Dubba, five miles from Hyderabad.

Napier has five thousand men all told, the Lion has five-and-twenty
thousand. The odds are long, but longer ones had been faced at Meanee,
and the Tipperary men are still at the head of the column, and neither
they nor their general have the slightest doubt about the result. The
army marches before daybreak, and the morning is yet young when it is in
sight of the enemy. The Lion is lying low, well hidden in his _nullahs_
of which he has a double line, one flank resting on the village of Dubba
and the old Fullalee channel, the other well screened by wood. He has
eleven guns in front of Dubba. The British column now forms line as at
Meanee, but this time the Twenty-Second take the left, opposite the
fortified village and the battery, because there will be the thick of
the fight. The advance is again to be in _échelon_ of battalions, the
Twenty-Second leading. When all is ready, the guns, of which Napier has
nineteen, open on the Beloochee position, then the Twenty-Second lead
straight upon Dubba. Into the _nullah_, through the _nullah_, out of the
_nullah_, right through the double line of entrenchments goes this
"ever-glorious regiment," strewing the ground with enemies, and leaving
more than a third of its own numbers down too. The fighting here and at
the village of Dubba is very stubborn, for at this point the brave
African chief Hoche Mahomet has taken his stand, and the fierce
valour--which forty years later we are to know more about--marks his
presence. But Meanee has taken the steel out of the Beloochee swordsmen,
and the whole position is soon in our hands. This time Napier is strong
in cavalry, and a vigorous pursuit followed the broken bands as they
retreated towards Meerpoor. In this fight at Dubba as at Meanee Napier
has many escapes. A bullet breaks the hilt of his sword; the orderly
riding behind him has his horse disabled with a sword-cut; as they gain
the village a magazine blows up in the midst of them; but the General is
not touched. As usual he is in the very thick of the fighting, cheered
everywhere by the soldiers. They are all young enough to be his
children, but they watch him as a lioness would watch her last remaining
cub, Private Tim Kelly constituting himself as special protector, and
bayoneting every Beloochee that comes near his child. Six months later
we find Napier has not forgotten these splendid soldiers. Writing to the
Governor-General and thanking him for the promise of a medal for the
battles, he thus speaks of his men: "Now I can wear my Grand Cross at
ease, but while my officers and men received nothing my Ribbon sat
uncomfortably on my shoulder. Now I can meet Corporal Tim Kelly and
Delaney the bugler without a blush." And then comes a bit which deserves
record so long as history tells of heroism. Here it is: "I find that
twelve wounded men of the Twenty-Second concealed their wounds at Dubba,
thinking there would be another fight. They were discovered by a long
hot march which they could not complete, and when they fell they had to
own the truth. Two of them had been shot clean through both legs. How is
it possible to defeat British troops? It was for the Duke of York to
discover that!"

From the field of Dubba the victors pressed on to finish the war. Two
days after the fight the infantry are twenty, and the cavalry forty,
miles from the scene of battle. The Lion's capital, Meerpoor, was
occupied on March 26th, his desert fort at Omercote surrendered on April
4th. The war was practically over. "This completes the conquest of
Scinde," writes Napier when he hears that Omercote is his; "every place
is in my possession, and, thank God, I have done with war! Never again
am I likely to see another shot fired in anger. Now I shall work at
Scinde as in Cephalonia to do good, to create, to improve, to end
destruction, to raise up order." So he hoped; but it was not to be as he
thought. Peace was yet some months distant, and even when it came with
Beloochee on the Indus, a warfare of words and pens with a whole host of
enemies at home and in India was to embitter the remaining future of the
conqueror's life. The Lion got clear away from Dubba, and by the middle
of May he had again rallied to his standard some ten thousand men. He
was now fifty miles north of Hyderabad, on the line Napier had followed
when moving from Sukkur to Meanee. The heat was at its worst. No one who
has not felt the power of the sun in lands where the desert acts as a
vast fire-brick to scorch life to a cinder can realise this terrible
temperature. One only chance remains for European life under such
conditions--it is entire abstinence from alcoholic drink. In Scinde as
in other parts of India alcohol was plentiful, and the loss among the
soldiers was proportionally great. In the end of May Napier moved once
more against the Lion. Two other columns were also directed from north
and east against him. Thus between the three advancing forces and the
Indus it was hoped he might be crushed. Despite terrific heat and an
inundation now at its height, these columns gradually drew to their
object; but there was no real fight now left in the Beloochee clansmen;
Roberts near Schwan, and Jacob at Shadadpoor, defeated his soldiers with
ease, and the Lion became a fugitive in the foot-hills of Beloochistan.
It was full time for hostilities to cease. On June 14th Napier's column
reached Nusserpoor, some ten or twelve miles east of Meanee; his men
were dropping by scores; the air seemed to be on fire. Suddenly through
this furnace-heated atmosphere came the distant sound of cannon. It was
the last echo of the war; Jacob was fighting the Lion twenty miles to
the north. When mid-day arrived the heat grew more intense. In one hour
forty-three European soldiers were down with sunstroke, and before
evening they were all dead. One more had to fall before the terrible
day was over. It was the General. He was sitting writing in his tent,
and had just written: "Our lives are on the _simmer_ now, and will soon
boil; the natives cannot stand it; and I have been obliged to take my
poor horse, Red Rover, into my tent, where he lies down exhausted, and
makes me very hot. I did not bring a thermometer--what use would it be
to lobster boiling alive?" Then he fell struck by heat apoplexy.
Fortunately the doctors were near, all the restoratives were quickly
applied, and life was saved. As they were tying up his arm after
bleeding, a horseman came galloping to the tent. He carried a despatch
from Jacob announcing the final victory over Shere Mahomet. What effect
the news had on the prostrate old soldier we learn from the journal ten
days later, when he is able again to write an entry. "Jacob's message
roused me from my lethargy as much as the bleeding; it relieved my mind,
for then I knew my plans had succeeded, and the Beloochee had found that
his deserts and his fierce sun could not stop me. We lost many men by
heat; but all must die some time, and no time better than when giving an
enemy a lesson."

They brought him back to Hyderabad, and the wonderful constitution,
tempered and twisted into birdcage wire by years of temperance and
labour, again asserted itself, and within a fortnight of the blow of the
sun he comes up smiling to the hundred cares of war and government, and
to the still more wearing worries of assault from open and concealed
enemies in England and India. For a long time he is very weak. All the
reaction of these four anxious months, all the waste of life-power which
war brings with it, now capped by sunstroke, and still further
accentuated by calumny and ill-natured criticism, are too much for him,
and it seems that he must soon lay his bones in the sands of Scinde.
"Even to mount my horse," he writes, "is an exertion. I, who ten years
ago did not know what fatigue was, and who even a few months ago at
Poonah knocked off fifty-four miles in the heat, am now distressed by
four miles! This last illness has floored me, and even my mind has lost
its energy; yet it is good to die in harness." These forebodings were
not to be verified. The long Scindian summer wore away, and with the end
of August cooler weather began to dawn on the Unhappy Valley. Gradually
we find the old tone coming back into the journal, the old ring into the
letters. He has a hundred plans for the improvement of Scinde and the
happiness of its people. He will chain the Indus in its channel, cut
canals for irrigation, lessen the taxes, lighten the lot of the
labourer, curb the power of the chiefs--in fine, make a Happy Valley out
of this long dreary, dusty, sun-baked land. Alas! it was only a pleasant
dream. The man who would do all this must be something more than a
governor reporting home by every mail, and called upon to reply to every
silly question which ignorance, prompted by mammon or malice, may
dictate. One thing he is determined upon. He will give the labourer
justice, cost what it may. He has caught two tax-collectors riding
roughshod over the peasants. "I will make," he writes, "such an example
of them as shall show the poor people my resolution to protect them.
Yes, I will make this land happy if life is left me for a year. I shall
have no more Beloochees to kill. Battle! victory! spirit-stirring sounds
in the bosom of society; but to me--O God, how my spirit rejects them!
Not one feeling of joy or exultation entered my head at Meanee or
Dubba--all was agony. I can use no better word. To win was the least
bloody thing to be done, and was my work for the day; but with it came
anxiety, pain of heart, disgust, and a longing never to have quitted
Celbridge; to have passed my life in the 'round field,' and in the
'devil's acre,' and under the yew trees on the terrace amongst the
sparrows--these were the feelings that flashed in my head after the
battles." And then he goes on to speak his thoughts upon government and
justice, and very noticeable thoughts they are too--never more worthy of
attention than to-day. "People think," he writes, "and justly sometimes,
that to execute the law is the great thing; they fancy this to be
_justice_. Cast away details, good man, and take what the people call
justice, not what the laws call justice, and execute that. Both legal
and popular justice have their evils, but assuredly the people's justice
is a thousand times nearer to God's justice. Justice must go with the
people, not against the people; that is the way to govern nations, and
not by square and compass." Very old words these, rung so often in the
ears of rulers that they have long ago forgotten their import, until all
at once their truth is brought home to heart again by the loss of a
crown or the revolt of a colony.

Now arrived from England the list of honours and rewards for the
victories. Immediately upon the receipt of the news of Meanee Lord
Ellenborough had appointed Napier Governor of Scinde, with fullest
powers. The _Gazette_ made him only a Grand Cross of the Bath. Peerages
had been bestowed for very small fractions of victory in Afghanistan;
but for these real triumphs in Scinde there was to be no such reward,
and it was better that it should have been so. The gold of Napier's
nature did not want the stamp of mere rank; perhaps it would not carry
the alloy which the modern mint finds necessary for the operation. But
although the reward of the victor was thus carefully limited, it was
quite sufficient to call forth many open expressions of ill-will, and
still more numerous secret assaults of envious antagonists.
Unfortunately for Napier, these he could not meet with silent contempt.
The noble nature of the man could accept neglect with stoical
indifference; but the fighting nature of the soldier could not brook the
stings of political or journalistic cavillers. And it must be
acknowledged these last were enough to rouse the lion of St. Mark
himself, even had that celebrated animal imbibed from his master his
full share of virtues. Everything was cavilled at; motive, action, and
result were attacked, and from the highest Director of the East India
Company in Leadenhall Street to the most insignificant editor of an
Indian newspaper in the service of the civilian interest in Bombay or
Calcutta, came the stinging flight of query, innuendo, or direct
condemnation. The reason for much of this animosity was not hard to
find. Napier had dared to tell unpalatable truths about the
impoverishment of India through the horde of locusts who, under the name
of Government, had settled upon it. The man who could tell the Directors
of the East India Company that their military policy tended to the
mutiny of their soldiers, and their civil system was a huge source of
Indian spoliation, was not likely to find much favour with the richest
and most powerful, and, it may be added, the most commercial company
the world has ever seen; nor was he likely to be a _persona grata_ with
the officials who administered the affairs of that gigantic corporation.
This is the true key to solve the now perplexing question of the
antagonism encountered by Charles Napier from the moment of his success
at Meanee to the end of his life. The pride of aristocratic privilege in
high place is a dangerous thing to touch; but the pride of the
plutocratic Solomon in his right to reap the labour of those who toil
and spin is a thousand times a more venturesome thing to trench upon.
Added to these causes for negative recognition of brilliant service, and
positive condemnation from many quarters, there was a political state of
things which influenced the opinion of the moment. Lord Ellenborough was
not popular. The Whig policy of action beyond the Indian frontier had
been most disastrous. The contrast between it and the campaign on the
Indus was painfully apparent. It was like some long day of storm and
gloom which had closed in a glorious sunset; and while the morning and
mid-day of tempest had been Whig, the evening glory had come under a
Tory administration. In reading the history of all these squabbles now,
the chief regret we experience is that Napier should have bothered
himself with their presence. Indeed, in his moments of calm reflection
he appears to have rated them at their true worth. "Honours!" he writes
about this time; "I have had honour sufficient in both battles. At
Meanee, when we forced the Fullalee, the Twenty-Second, seeing me at
their head, gave me three cheers louder than all the firing. And at
Dubba, when I returned nearly alone from the pursuit with the cavalry,
the whole Line gave me three cheers. One wants nothing more than the
praise of men who know how to judge movements."

With these soldiers indeed, officers and men, his popularity was
unbounded. They knew the truth. Many among them had seen to their cost
the fruits of bad leadership in Cabul, and had learnt to value the truth
of the old Greek proverb, which declared that "a herd of deer led by a
lion was more formidable to the enemy than a herd of lions led by a
deer." And they knew that though this small, spare, eagle-beaked and
falcon-eyed leader worked them till they dropped beneath the fierce sun
of Scinde, there was no heat of sun or fatigue of march or press of
battle which he did not take his lion's share of. Even when now, in this
autumn of 1843, an enemy more formidable to soldiers attacked them, when
the deadliest fever stalked through the rough camps along the Indus, and
the graveyards grew as the ranks thinned, no murmur rose from the rank
and file, but silently the fate was accepted which sent hundreds of them
to an inglorious death. Here and there through the journals we come on
entries that tell more powerfully than any record of figures could do
what this mortality must have been. "Alas!" we read only a few months
after Meanee, "these two brave soldiers, Kelly and Delaney of the
Twenty-Second, are dead. They fought by my side, Kelly at Dubba and
Delaney at Meanee. Three times, when I thought the Twenty-Second could
not stand the furious rush of the swordsmen, Delaney sounded the
advance, and each time the line made a pace or two nearer to the enemy."
Difficult now is it for us to believe that at this time, when the
soldiers of the army of Scinde were dying by hundreds in hospital, they
were denied the last consolations of their religion. "There is no
Catholic clergyman here," writes Napier in October, 1843. "The Mussulman
and the Hindoo have their teachers; the Christian has none. The Catholic
clergyman is more required than the Protestant, because Catholics are
more dependent upon their clergy for religious consolation than the
Protestants are; and the Catholic soldier dies in great distress if he
has not a clergyman to administer to him. But, exclusive of all other
reasons, I can hardly believe that a Christian government will refuse
his pastor to the soldier serving in a climate where death is so rife,
and the buoyant spirit of man is crushed by the debilitating effects of
disease and heat. I cannot believe that such a government will allow
Mammon to cross the path of our Saviour, to stand between the soldier
and his God, and let his drooping mind thirst in vain for the support
which his Church ought to afford." No wonder that the Governor who
could, in such glowing words, rebuke the greed of his governors and
champion the cause of the lowly should find few friends in high place;
that the reward of rank, given before and since for such trivial result
or such maculated victory, should have been denied to the brilliant
victor of Meanee and conqueror of Scinde; that the thanks of Parliament
should have been delayed till the greater part of the army thanked was
in its grave; and that the leader of that army should find himself and
his victories the objects of all the secret shafts and mysterious
machinery which wealth, power, and malevolent envy could set in motion
against him.



Scinde subdued in the open field, there still remained great work to be
done--work which tasks to a far larger degree the talent of man than any
feat of arms in war can do. War at best is but a pulling down, often a
very necessary operation, but all the same only the preliminary step of
clearing the ground for some better edifice.

For better, for worse, Scinde was now British, and Napier set at once to
work to consolidate his conquest, and secure to the conquered province
the best administration of justice he could devise for it. A terrible
misfortune came, however, to retard all plans for improvement. Early in
the autumn pestilence laid low almost the entire army of the Indus. A
slow and wasting form of fever broke out among both English and Indian
soldiers, and equally struck down the natives of Scinde. In the camp at
Hyderabad twenty-eight hundred men were down together. At Kurachee the
Twenty-Eighth Regiment could only muster about forty men fit for service
out of the entire battalion. At Sukkur, in Northern Scinde, sixteen
hundred were in hospital. There were only a few doctors to look after
this army of sick. Out of three cavalry regiments, only a hundred men
could mount their horses. People shook their heads gloomily, and Scinde
became known far and wide as the Unhappy Valley. Amid all this misery,
while "the land in its length and breadth was an hospital," as Napier
described it, we find him never giving in for a moment, working at his
plans for justice, repression of outrage, irrigation, roads, bridges,
moles, harbours, and embankments as though he was enjoying the
health-giving breezes of the Cephalonian mountains. Wonderful now to
read are the plans and visions of the future that then floated before
his mind. "Suez, Bombay, and Kurachee will hit Calcutta hard before
twenty years pass," he writes, "but Bombay will beat Kurachee, and be
the Liverpool if not the London of India." Nor has the pestilence
stilled in his heart dreams of further conquest. "How easily, were I
absolute," he says, "could I conquer all these countries and make
Kurachee the capital. With the Bombay soldiers of Meanee and Hyderabad I
could walk through all the lands. I would raise Beloochee regiments,
pass the Bolan in a turban, and spread rumours of a dream and the
prophet. Pleasant would be the banks of the Helmund to the host of
Mahomedans who would follow any conqueror." So passed the winter of
1844. Before the cool season was over, the troops had regained
comparative health, and were better able to face the terrible summer.
May and June came, as usual bringing sunstroke, disease, and death in
their train, but for Napier the hot season of 1844 had something worse
in store. His Chief, Lord Ellenborough, was suddenly recalled by the
East India Directors. This was a regular knock-down blow, for while
Lord Ellenborough was Viceroy of India Charles Napier could count upon
an unvarying support; he fought, as it were, with his back to a wall.
Now the wall was gone, and henceforth it seemed that the circle of his
enemies would be complete. "I see but one advantage in the unfortunate
recall of Lord Ellenborough," he writes; "it will oblige the Government
to destroy a Mercantile Republic which has arisen in the midst of the
British Monarchy." The prophecy was not to be fulfilled for thirteen
years, when the terrible mutiny of 1857--so often predicted by Napier,
and laughed at by his enemies--came like an avalanche to sweep before it
every vestige of the famous Association.

What life in Scinde meant to Napier in this hot season of 1844 we gather
from a letter written in June to his brother. "The Bengal troops at
Shikarpoor are in open mutiny," he writes, "and I am covered with boils,
that have for three weeks kept me in pain and eight days in bed. This,
with the heat and an attack of fever, has made me too weak to go to
Shikarpoor, for the sun is fierce up the river; many have been struck
down by it last week, and it would be difficult for me to bear a second
rap. Still I would risk it, but that a storm seems brewing at Mooltan,
and this extraordinary change of governors will not dispel it. To me
also it appears doubtful, if the Sikhs pour sixty or seventy thousand
men over the Sutlej, whether Gough has means to pull them up. I am
therefore nursing myself to be able to bolt northwards when we can act,
which is impossible now--three days under canvas would kill half the
Europeans." If Napier's reputation for foresight stood alone upon the
above letter, it would suffice to place him at the top of the far-seeing
leaders of his day. In the midst of all his sickness and discomfort he
accurately forecast the history of the coming years in India. The
intense activity of the man's mind is never more apparent than during
this terrible season, which prostrates thousands of younger men. His
letters teem with brilliant bits of thought on government, war, justice,
society, politics, taxation,--nothing comes amiss to him. Here, for
example, is a bit on war worth whole volumes of the stuff usually
written about it. "The man who leads an army cannot succeed unless his
whole mind is thrown into his work, any more than an actor can act
unless he feels his part as if he was the man he represents. It is not
saying 'Come and go' that wins battles; you must make the men you lead
come and go with a will to their work of death. The man who either
cannot or will not do this, but goes to war snivelling about virtue and
unrighteousness, will be left on the field of battle to fight for
himself." Here again is a little chapter on Indian government. "The
Indian system seems to be the crushing of the native plebeian and
supporting the aristocrat who, reason and facts tell us, is our deadly
enemy. He always must be, for we step into his place. The _ryot_ is
ruined by us, though willing to be our friend. Yet he is the man to whom
we must trust for keeping India--and the only one who can take it from
us, if we ill-use him, for then he joins his hated natural chief.
English and Indian may be amalgamated by just and equal laws--until we
are no longer strangers. The final result of our Indian conquests no man
can predict, but if we take the people by the hand we may count on
ruling India for ages. Justice--rigid justice, even severe justice--will
work miracles. India is safe if so ruled, but such deeds are done as
make me wonder that we hold it a year."

As the cool season of 1844-45 drew on, Napier set out on an expedition
against the hill tribes of Northern Scinde. Hitherto these wild clansmen
had had things pretty much their own way; in true Highland fashion they
were wont to sweep down upon the villages of the plain, killing men,
carrying off women and cattle, looting and devastating as they went.
Hard to catch were these Beloochee freebooters, for their wiry little
horses carried the riders quickly out of reach into some fastness where
pursuit, except in strength and with supplies for man and beast, was
hopeless. The hills which harboured these raiders ran along the entire
western frontier of Scinde, from the sea to the Bolan Pass. North of
that famous entrance to Afghanistan they curved to the east, approaching
the Indus not far from the point where that stream received the five
rivers of the Punjaub. Here, spreading out into a labyrinth of crag,
defile, and mountain, they formed a succession of natural fortresses,
the approaches to which were unknown to the outer world. This great
fastness, known as the Cutchee Hills, was distant from Kurachee more
than three hundred miles. Leaving Kurachee in the middle of November and
following a road which skirted a fringe of hills lying west of the
Indus, Napier reached his northern frontier after a month's march. It
was a pleasant change to get away from the sickly cantonments into the
desert and the hills, where the pure air, now cooled by the winter
nights, brought back health and strength to the little column. How
thoroughly the toil- and heat-worn soldier enjoyed this long march we
gather from his letters.

     My march is a picturesque one (he writes). At this moment behind me
     is my Mogul guard, some two hundred cavalry, with their splendid
     Asiatic dress, and the sun's horizontal rays glancing with
     coruscations of light along their bright sword-blades. Behind them
     are three hundred infantry--the old bronzed soldiers of the
     Thirteenth Regiment--the defenders of Jellalabad, veterans of
     battle. So are the cavalry, for they charged at Meanee and
     Hyderabad, where their scarlet turbans were seen sweeping through
     the smoke--by their colour seeming to announce the bloody work they
     were at. On these picturesque horsemen the sun is gleaming, while
     the Lukkee hills are casting their long shades and the Kurta range
     reflects from its crowning rock the broad beautiful lights. Below
     me are hundreds of loaded camels with guards and drivers, rude
     grotesque people, all slowly winding among the hills. Such is royal
     life here, for it is grand and kingly to ride through the land that
     we have conquered, with the men who fought. Yet, what is it all?
     Were I a real king there would be something in it--but a mere
     copper captain!

A fine picture of martial life in the East all the same, and when we
contrast it with a little bit of his experience a couple of days later,
we get the far-apart limits which held between them the nature of the
man. He is now writing from Schwan, where he has delayed his march two
days for the purpose of seeing justice done to the poor cultivators and
fishermen of that place.

     _November 30th._--Still at Schwan, having halted to find out the
     truth. The poor people came to me with earnest prayers,--they never
     come without cause,--but they are such liars and so bad at
     explaining, that were their language understood by me it would be
     hard to reach facts. Yet, knowing well that at the bottom there is
     gospel, that no set of poor wretches ever complain without a
     foundation, here will I stay until the truth comes out, and relief
     be given. On all these occasions my plan is a most unjust one, for
     against all evidence I decide in favour of the poor, and argue
     against the argument of the Government people as long as I can.
     When borne down by proofs 'irrefragable,' like Alexander, I cut the
     knot and give an atrocious verdict against 'clearest proof.' My
     formula is this: punish the Government servants first, and inquire
     about the right and wrong when there is time. This is the way to
     prevent tyranny, to make the people happy, and to render public
     servants honest. If the complaint is that they cheat Government,
     oh! that is another question; then have fair trials and leniency.
     We are all weak when temptation is strong.

Pity is it to lose a word of this ruler, who rules in fashion so
different from the law-giving of the usual bigwig. But space denies us
longer leave to delve in this rich mine of justice. It is a fine
picture--one that the world does not see enough of--this victorious old
soldier riding through the conquered land intent on justice, sparing
himself nothing to lift up the poor, to free the toiler, to unbind the
slave. A strong man, terrible only to the unjust, spreading everywhere
the one grand law of his life--"A privileged class cannot be permitted."
With him the quibbler, the _doctrinaire_, the political economist, has
no place. "Well did Napoleon say," he writes, "that the _doctrinaire_
and the political economist would ruin the most flourishing kingdom in
ten years. Well, they have no place yet in Scinde; there are no Whig
poor-laws here. Oh, it is glorious thus to crush Scindian Whiggism! and
don't I grind it till my heart dances? The poor fishermen who are now
making their lying howls of complaint at the door of my tent are right,
though I can't yet find the truth in the midst of their falsehoods." But
he stops by the shore of Lake Manchur until the truth is found out; and
then we read: "Marched this morning, having penetrated the mystery. The
collector has without my knowledge raised the taxation 40 per cent on
the very poorest class of the population. He is an amiable man, and so
religious that he would not cough on a Sunday, yet he has done a deed of
such cruelty as is enough to raise an insurrection. This discovery of
oppression is alone sufficient to repay the trouble of my journey." A
despot, you will say, reader, is this soldier judge, thus

     Riding forth redressing human wrong.

Yes, a despot truly, and one who, if history had held more of them, we
might to-day have known a good deal less about human misery than we do.
And now with your permission we will proceed into the Cutchee Hills.

Napier reached Sukkur in the week preceding Christmas 1844. It had been
the base from whence he had moved to attack the Ameers two years
earlier. It was now to be his base against the hill tribes of Cutchee.
At the head of a confederacy of clans stood Beja Khan Doomkee, an old
and redoubtable warrior, strong in the inaccessible nature of his
mountains, strong, too, in being able to throw the glamour of Islam over
his raids and ravages, and stronger still in the bravery and
determination of the men whose creed of plunder was strangely coupled
with the old heroic virtues of that great Arab race from which they
sprang. How was this stout old robber with his eight or ten thousand
fighting men to be worsted? By the exact opposite of the ordinary rules
of war for civilised opponents: by dispersing the columns of attack,
while making each strong enough for separate resistance, he would force
the clansmen to mass together; the very ruggedness and aridity which
made their hills so formidable to an enemy would thus be turned against
themselves. Napier's columns, fed from their bases on the Indus, would
advance cautiously into the labyrinth; the hill-men, forced together in
masses, would eat out their supplies; the same walls of rock which kept
out an enemy would now keep in the assembled tribes.

Before setting his columns in motion from the Indus, Napier adopted many
devices to lull the clans into a fancied security. The fever still clung
to his soldiers, and so deadly was its nature that nearly the whole of
the Seventy-Eighth Highlanders perished at Sukkur. But even this
terrible disaster was turned to account by the inexhaustible resource of
the commander. He sent messages to the Khan of Khelat that the sickness
of his soldiers and his own debility were so great that he could not
move against the tribes. These messages were designed to reach Beja
Khan. They did reach him, and emboldened by the news the hill-men
remained with their flocks and herds on the level and comparatively
fertile country where the desert first merges into the foot-hills of
Cutchee. Then Napier, suddenly launching his force in three columns,
dashed into this borderland by forced marches, surprised the tribes,
captured thousands of their cattle and most of their grain supplies, and
forcing them back into the mountains, sat down himself at the gates or
passes leading into the fastness to await the arrival of his guns,
infantry, and commissariat. It took some days before his columns were
ready to enter the defiles, and then the real mountain warfare began.
Very strange work it was; full of necessities of sudden change, of
ceaseless activity, of prolonged exertion, climbing of rocks, boring for
water, meeting each day's difficulty by some fresh combination, some new
expedient. A war where set rules did not apply, where the savage had to
be encountered by equal instinct and wider comprehension, but where,
nevertheless, the sharpest foresight was as essential to success as
though the theatre of the struggle had been on the soldier-trodden
plains of Europe. Broadly speaking, the plan of campaign was this. He
would enter the hills with four columns, one of which, his own, would be
the real fighting one; the other three would act as stoppers of the main
passes leading out of the mountains. Somewhere in the centre of the
cluster of fastnesses there was a kernel fastness called Truckee. It was
a famous spot in the robber legends of middle Asia, a kind of circular
basin having a wall of perpendicular rock six hundred feet high all
round it, with cleft entrance only at two places, one opening north, the
other south. The object of Napier's strategy was to compel the hill-men
to enter this central stronghold, for if once there, they were at his
mercy. But before he could force them into this final refuge he had to
learn for himself the paths and passes of the entire region, finding out
where there was water, securing each pass behind him before he made a
step forward in advance.

It was early January when the advance began. March had come before the
last move was played on the rugged chessboard, and Beja Khan and his men
were safe in Truckee. During all that interval the Commander's spirit
never seems to have flagged for a moment. Scattered through his journal
we find many instances of his having to find mental spirits for his
followers as well as for himself. There had been numerous prophecies of
failure from many quarters. "It was a wild-goose chase"--"Beja Khan was
too old and wary a bird to be caught"--"Beware of the mountain
passes,"--so ran the chorus of foreboding; and whenever a check occurred
or a delay had to be made for supplies, from these prophets of disaster
could be heard the inevitable "I told you so." That terrible croak in
war which half tells that the wish to retire is at least stepfather to
the thought of failure. Here is a little journal-picture which has a
good deal of future history in it. "_February 6th._--Waiting for
provisions; this delay is bad. Simpson is in the dismals, so am I, but
that won't feed us." Simpson belonged to that large class of excellent
officers who just want one thing to be good chiefs. Ten and a half years
later Simpson, still in the dismals, sat looking at his men falling
back, baffled, from the Russian Redan at Sebastopol. Perhaps had Napier
been there he would have been baffled too. It may be so, but in that
case I think they would have had to seek him under the muzzles of the
Russian guns.

Scared by the passes through which the convoys had to move, the
camel-drivers had deserted with five hundred camels, leaving the column
without food; but Napier was equal to the emergency. Dismounting half
his fighting camel-corps he turned that Goliah of war, Fitzgerald, into
a commissariat man for the moment, sent him back for flour, and six days
later has forty-four thousand pounds of bread-stuff in his camp. How
terribly anxious are these moments when a commander finds himself and
his troops at the end of his food-tether no one but a commander of
troops can ever know. It is such moments that lay bare the bed-rock of
human nature, and show at once what stuff it is made of--granite, or
mere sandstone that the rush of events will wash away in the twinkling
of an eye. What stuff formed this bed-rock of Charles Napier's nature
one anecdote will suffice to show. During the two years that he has now
been at war in Scinde, fighting foes and so-called friends, fighting
disease, sun, distance, old age, and bodily weakness, he has never
ceased to send to his two girls left behind at Poonah, in Bombay, quires
of foolscap paper with sums in arithmetic, questions in grammar, and
lessons in geography duly set out for answer. While he is Governor and
Commander-in-Chief of Scinde he is acting governess to his children
fifteen hundred miles away in Bombay. The only other instance of similar
mental power that I know of is to be found in the directions for the
internal improvement of France, and the embellishment of her towns and
cities, sent by Napoleon from the snowy bivouacs of the Baltic provinces
and the slaughters of Heilsbronn and Eylau. Of course it was to be
expected that the desertion of the camel-transport, and the attacks of
the robbers upon the line of communications which preceded the flight of
the camel-men, should have increased to a dangerous extent the
forebodings of failure. Napier is furious. "I am fairly put to my trumps
by this desertion," he writes. "Well, exertion must augment. I will use
the camel-corps, and dismount half my cavalry, if need be. I will eat my
horse, Red Rover, sooner than flinch before these robber tribes. My
people murmur, but they only make my foot go deeper into the ground."

How lightly the eye scans such passages, and yet beneath them lies the
whole secret of success in war. "How easy then it must be," I think I
hear some reader say. "You have only to stick your heels in the sand,
cry out, 'I won't go back,' and the game is yours." Not so fast, good
friend. Blondin's crossing the chasm of Niagara was very easy to
Blondin, but woe betide the other man who ventured to try it. There were
generals even in our own time who thought they could copy Napier's
method of war, but what a terrible mess they made of it! The thing is
indeed very easy when you know how to do it, but that little secret is
only to be learned through long years of study and experience, and even
then it is only to be mastered by a select few. Make no mistake about
it, good reader. History is right when she walks behind great soldiers
noting their deeds. They are the rarest human products which she meets

When Beja Khan and his confederate sirdars found themselves shut up
within the walls of Truckee they gave up the game and asked permission
to surrender. Leave was granted, and on March 9th they came out and laid
their swords at Napier's feet. With all their love of plunder they were
very splendid warriors, these Doomkee, Bhoogtee, and Jackranee chiefs
and clansmen, holding notions of the honour of arms which more civilised
soldiers would do well to follow. Here is one such notion. When Charles
Napier stood before the southern cleft or pass which gave entrance to
Truckee, another column under Beatson blocked the northern gate of the
stronghold. Although the two passes were only distant from each other in
a straight line across the labyrinth some half-dozen miles, they were
one or more days' journey asunder by the circuitous road round the
flank of the mountain rampart. One column therefore knew nothing of the
other's proceedings. While waiting thus opposite the northern entrance
Beatson determined to reconnoitre the interior of the vast chasm by
scaling the exterior wall of rock. For this purpose a part of the old
Thirteenth, veterans of Jellalabad, was sent up the mountain; the
ascent, long and arduous, was all but completed when it was observed
from below that the flat top of the rock held a strong force of the
enemy, entrenched behind a breastwork of stones. The ascending body of
the Thirteenth numbered only sixteen men, the enemy on the summit was
over sixty. In vain the officer who made this discovery tried to warn
the climbers of the dangers so close above them, but which they could
not see; his signs were mistaken by the men for fresh incentives to
advance, and they pushed on towards the top instead of retracing their
steps to the bottom. As the small party of eleven men gained the summit
they were greeted by a matchlock volley from the low breastwork in
front, followed by the charge of some seventy Beloochees, sword in hand.
The odds were desperate; the Thirteenth men were blown by the steep
ascent; the ground on which they stood was a dizzy ledge, faced by the
stone breastwork and flanked by tremendous precipices. No man flinched;
fighting with desperate valour they fell on that terrible but glorious
stage, in sight of their comrades below, who were unable to give them
help. Six out of the eleven fell at once; five others, four of them
wounded, were pushed over the rocks, rolling down upon their half-dozen
comrades who had not yet gained the summit. How hard they fought and
died one incident will tell. Private John Maloney, fighting amid a press
of enemies, and seeing two comrades, Burke and Rohan, down in the
_melée_, discharged two muskets into the breast of a Beloochee, and ran
another through with his bayonet. The Beloochee had strength and courage
to unfix the bayonet, draw it from his body, and stab Maloney with his
own weapon before he himself fell dead upon the rock. Maloney, although
severely wounded, made good his retreat and brought off his two
comrades. So much for the fighting on both sides. Now for the chivalry
of those hill-men. When a chief fell bravely in battle it was an old
custom among the clans to tie a red or green thread around his right or
left wrist, the red thread on the right wrist being the mark of highest
valour. Well, when that evening the bodies of the six slain soldiers
were found at the foot of the rocks, rolled over from the top by the
Beloochee garrison above, each body had a red thread, not on one wrist,
but on both.[4]

The expedition against the hill tribes was over, but larger warfare was
at hand. North of Scinde a vast region of unrest lay simmering in
strife. Runjeet Singh was dead, and the great army he had called into
being was rapidly pushing the country to the brink of the precipice of
war. Napier had long predicted the Punjaub war, but his warnings had
been lightly listened to, and when in December, 1846, the Sikhs suddenly
threw a large force across the Sutlej, they found a British army
cantoned far in front of its magazines, unprovided with the essentials
of a campaign--reserve ammunition and transport--able to fight, indeed,
with all the vehemence of its old traditions, but lacking that
leadership which, by power of forecast and preparation, draws from the
courage of the soldier the utmost result of victory.

Between December, 1846, and February, 1847, four sanguinary actions were
fought on the banks of the Sutlej--the Sikh soldiery were brave and
devoted warriors, but of their leaders the most influential were large
recipients of English gold, and the remainder were ignorant of all the
rules of war. Nevertheless the bravery of the common soldiers made the
campaign more than once doubtful, and it was only in the final conflict
at Sobraon on February 10th, 1847, that the campaign was decided.
Meanwhile, the steps which Napier had long foreseen as necessary in
Scinde, but in the timely execution of which he had been constantly
thwarted by higher authority, were ordered to be taken with all
despatch. Moodkee and Ferozeshah had suddenly revealed the strength of
the Sikh army, and Scinde was looked to in the hour of anxiety for aid
against this powerful enemy. With what extraordinary rapidity Napier
assembled his army at Roree for a forward movement towards the Punjaub
has long passed from the recollection of men. On December 24th the order
reached him at Kurachee. Forty-two days later, a most compact fighting
force of fifteen thousand men, fifty-four field guns, and a siege-train
stood ready, the whole complete for a six months' campaign; so complete
indeed in power of movement, capacity for sustained effort, and full
possession of all the requisites of war that it might, as an offensive
force, be reckoned at twice its actual numbers. Organisation, transport
system, and equipment are the wheels of war--without them the best army
is but a muzzled bulldog tied to a short chain.

But this admirable force was not to be used. The battle of Sobraon was
the prelude to a patched-up peace, which divided the Sikh State,
depleted the Sikh treasury, but left intact the Sikh army. The
generalship on the Sutlej had been indifferent; the policy that followed
the campaign was still larger marked by want of foresight. Napier,
ordered to leave his army at Bahawalpore, had proceeded alone to Lahore
to advise and assist the negotiations for peace. He joined Hardinge,
Gough, and Smith in the Sikh capital, receiving a tremendous ovation
from the troops and a cordial welcome from the three chiefs, who, if
they were not brilliant generals, were chivalrous and gallant soldiers.
It must have been a fine sight these four old warriors of the Peninsula
going in state to the palace of the Maharajah at Lahore. Napier, though
keen to catch the errors of the campaign, has nothing but honour and
regard for his brother-generals. "Gough is a glorious old fellow," he
writes; "brave as _ten_ lions, each with two sets of teeth and two
tails." "Harry Smith did his work well." And of Hardinge's answer to
those who urged him to retreat during the night after the first day's
carnage at Ferozeshah--"No, we will abide the break of day, and then
either sweep all before us or die honourably"--he cannot say too much;
but all this does not blind him to the waste of human life that want of
foresight had caused. "We have beaten the Sikhs in every action," he
writes, "with our glorious, most glorious soldiers, but thousands of
those brave men have bit the dust who ought now to be standing sword in
hand victorious at the gates of Lahore." "Do you recollect saying to
me," he asks his brother, "'Our soldiers will fight any general through
his blunders'? Well, now, judge your own prophecy." Finally, all the
foresight of the man's mind comes out in these prophetic words, written
when the war had just closed, "This tragedy must be reacted a year or
two hence; we shall have another war." Chillianwallah and Goojerat had
yet to be.

Back to Scinde again to take up the old labour of civil administration,
and work out to practical solution a hundred problems of justice,
commerce, land-tenure, agriculture, and taxation,--in fine, to build
upon the space cleared by war the stately edifice of a wise and
beneficent human government, keeping always in view certain fundamental
rules of honesty, truth, justice, and wisdom, learned long years before
in Ireland at his father's side.

Napier's system of rule was after all a very old one. It went back
before ever a political economist set pen to paper. Anybody who will
turn to the pages of Massinger will find it set forth clearly enough at
the time King and Parliament were coming to loggerheads over certain
things called Prerogative and Privilege--words which, if the weal of the
soil-tiller be forgotten, are only empty and meaningless balderdash.
Here are the men whose goods are lawful prize in the philosophy of the
old dramatist--

     The cormorant that lives in expectation
     Of a long wished-for dearth, and smiling grinds
     The faces of the poor;
     The grand encloser of the Commons for
     His private profit or delight;
                           The usurer,
     Greedy at his own price to make a purchase,
     Taking advantage upon bond or mortgage
     From a prodigal--
         These you may grind to powder.

And now these are they who should be spared and shielded:

                           The scholar,
     Whose wealth lies in their heads and not their pockets;
     Soldiers that have bled in their country's service;
     The rent-rack'd farmer, needy market-folk;
     The sweaty labourer, carriers that transport
     The goods of other men--are privileged;
     But above all let none presume to offer
     Violence to women, for our king hath sworn
     Who that way's a delinquent, without mercy
     Swings for it, by martial law.

Here we have the pith and essence of Napier's government in Scinde, very
simple, and probably containing more law-giving wisdom than half the
black-lettered statutes made and provided since Massinger wrote them
down two hundred and fifty years ago.

For eighteen months longer--until September, 1847--Napier remained in
Scinde, labouring to rule its people on the strictest lines of honest
justice. Two more hot seasons scorched his now age-weakened frame, and
again came terrible visitations of cholera and fever, to lay low many a
gallant friend and make aching gaps in his own domestic circle; but
these trials he accepted as a soldier accepts on the battle-field the
bullets which whistle as they go,--for want of life. But there was one
thing which he could not accept with the same courageous calmness: it
was the systematic censure upon his actions, vilification of his
motives, and abuse of himself, which deepened in intensity as the load
of life grew heavier through age. When a traveller through tropical
forests touches a hornets' nest the enraged insects rush out and sting
him on the moment; but the hornets' nest which Napier had disturbed in
India was not to be appeased by any sudden ebullition of its wrath. Much
more slow and deadly was its method. He had dared to speak the honest
truth that was in him about the greed and rapacity of London Directors,
and the waste, the extravagance, and the luxury of their English
servants in the East; he had committed that sin which power never
pardons, the championing of the poor and oppressed against the rich and
ruling ones of the earth. Now he had to pay the penalty, and from a
thousand sources it was demanded at his hands. There was to be no mercy
for this man who had not only dared to condemn the abuses of power, but
had added the insult of smiting his opponents with the keen Damascus
blade of his genius. To condemn plutocratic power has ever been bad
enough, but to ridicule the truffle-fed and the truculent tyrant has
been a thousand times worse. So for the closing years of his rule in
Scinde, and indeed, one may say, almost up to the hour of his death,
Napier had to bear slings and arrows that rained upon him from open and
from unseen enemies. When the critic of to-day, scanning the pages of
the now forgotten literature which deals with this long vituperative
contest--sometimes carried on in Parliament, sometimes in the Press,
often in books, official papers, and Minutes of Council--he cannot
repress a feeling of regret that Napier should ever have noticed a tithe
of the abuse and censure which was heaped upon him. Still we must
remember that first of all he was a soldier, quick to strike when
struck, never counting the cost of his blow against wrong or injustice
or oppression of the poor; ever ready to turn his defence into assault,
and to storm with brightest and keenest sword-blade the entrenchments of
his assailants. One can picture, for instance, the dull rage of some of
his ministerial antagonists in this year 1847, when after they had
worried him with a thousand queries upon a variety of false accusations
circulated by his enemies in Bombay as to his injurious treatment of the
cultivators in Scinde, he takes particular pains to inform the
Government in England that he can send them eleven thousand tons of
wheat from the Indus to feed the then starving people of Ireland.
Clearly this was an offence beyond pardon!

In October, 1847, Charles Napier quitted Scinde and set his face for
England. He came back broken in health but absolutely unbent in spirit.
How full he is of great thoughts--of conquests which should benefit
humanity; of freedom which would strike down monopoly and privilege and
tyranny; of reform which would not stop short until it had reached the
lowest depths of the social system. "Were I Emperor of the East and
thirty years of age," he writes, "I would have Constantinople on one
side and Pekin on the other before twenty years, and all between should
be grand, free, and happy. The Emperor of Russia should be done;
freedom and the Press should burn along his frontier like touch-paper
until half his subjects were mine in heart." Then he turns to Ireland.
To be dictator of that country "would be worth living for." The heads of
his system of rule are worth recalling to-day, though they are more than
forty years old. First of all he would send "the whole of the bishops
and deacons of the Church as by law established to New Zealand, there to
eat or to be eaten by cannibals." Then the tillers of the soil should be
made secure, a wise system of agriculture taught and enforced, all
uncultivated land taxed; then he would hang the editors of noisy
newspapers, fire on the mob if it rose against him, and hang its
leaders, particularly if they were Catholic priests. But it is very
worthy of remark that his drastic measures would not be taken until all
other efforts at reform had failed. Poor-law commissioners would have to
work on the public roads and all clearers of land be summarily hanged
without benefit of clergy. Beneath this serio-comic exposition of Irish
government one or two facts are very noticeable. The bishops who had
revenue without flocks, and the landlords who wished to have flocks
instead of tenants, were given highest place in the penal pillory; after
them came the Irish priests and people.

In May, 1848, Napier reached England. He had spent the winter in the
Mediterranean, as it was feared his health could ill stand the sudden
change from Scinde to an English December. But while loitering by the
shores of the sunny sea he is not idle; despite illness and bodily pain
his mind is busy recalling the past or forecasting the future. The
anniversaries of his Scindian battles call forth the remark, "I would
rather have finished the roads in Cephalonia than have fought Austerlitz
or Waterloo."

Europe, then seething in the fever fit which threw from her system a
good deal of the poison placed in it by the Congress of Vienna, is
scanned by the veteran soldier with an eye that gleams again with the
old fire at the final triumph of those principles of human right which
he had in earlier days loved as a man, though compelled to combat as a
soldier. Had we not interfered in the affairs of France there would have
been no "'48 Revolution," he writes; "Louis Philippe would have been
what nature fitted him for--a pedlar."

When he arrived in England an attempt was made by a small but powerful
clique to boycott him, but the people broke the barrier of this wretched
enmity, and he was soon taken to the great heart of the nation he had
served so well. Amid all the addresses, the dinners, and the
congratulations, there comes a little touch that tells us the
conqueror's heart is still true to the conscript's love. A Radical
shoemaker in Bath has written to welcome home the victor. "I am more
flattered by Bolwell's letter," replies the veteran, "than by dinners
from all the clubs in London." Many natures stand firm under the rain of
adversity, for she is an old and withered hag; only the real hero
resists the smiles of success, for she comes hiding the thorn under rosy
cheeks and laughing lips.


[4] It should be unnecessary to remind my readers of the fine poem in
which Sir Francis Doyle, whose heart always went out to knightly deeds,
has commemorated this incident,--_The Red Thread of Honour_.


ENGLAND--1848 TO 1849

From May, 1848, to March, 1849, Napier remained in England. During these
ten months his life might fitly be described as a mixture of honour and
insult--honour from the great mass of his fellow-countrymen, insult at
the hands of the Board of Directors of the East India Company, and from
more than one Minister of the Crown. While the military clubs in London
and corporate bodies throughout England and Ireland were organising
banquets in his honour, the Directors were busily at work depreciating
his fame as a soldier, and endeavouring to deprive him of the
prize-money taken in the Scinde War; and for the same purpose the cause
of the ex-Ameers of Scinde was brought forward and championed by the
very persons who at this moment were defending and endeavouring to
screen the perfidy recently enacted against the Rajah of Sattara in the
interests of the East India Directors.

That Charles Napier resented with exceeding warmth these insults upon
his honour and attacks upon his fortune is not matter of surprise, at
least to those who have watched his career through all its varying
vicissitudes, nor were the times such as would have tended to soothe
into quieter temper a mind easily set aflame by the sight of suffering
and oppression. This summer of 1848 was indeed a painful period. The
shadow of an appalling famine was still passing over Ireland; seven
hundred and fifty thousand peasants had already perished from
starvation, and the ghastly record was being hourly swelled by fresh
victims. From across the Atlantic terrible accounts were arriving of the
horrors of the "coffin ships," wherein the famine-wasted refugees
perished in such numbers and amid such scenes of human suffering that
the records of the old middle passage of the slave-ships from Africa
were paralleled if not surpassed. Nor did the story of suffering end
when the great gate of refuge, the shore of America, was reached, for
the deadly famine fever clung to those who reached the land, and the New
World saw repeated in the pest-houses at Quebec, Montreal, Boston, New
York, the same awful scenes which Defoe had described nearly two hundred
years earlier. Small wonder then if Napier's nature should have flared
out at such a time. "I see that violence and '_putting down_' is the
cry," he writes. "There is but one way of putting down starving men who
take arms--killing them; and one way of hindering them from taking up
arms, viz. feeding them. The first seems to engross the thoughts of all
who wear broadcloth and gorge on turbot, but there seems no great
measure in view for removing suffering," and then comes a reflection
that has a strange interest for us to-day: "Yet God knows what will
happen, for we see great events often turn out the reverse of what human
calculations lead us to expect."

When the summer of 1848 was closing, Napier took a house at Cheltenham
for the winter, glad to escape from "those effusions of fish and
folly," the London dinners. From here he watched as eagerly as though he
had been fifty years younger the progress of events in Northern India,
where already all his forecasts of renewed strife were being rapidly
realised. Mooltan was up, the Sikhs were again in arms, the true nature
of the battles on the Sutlej were made apparent; and those hard-bought
victories which the East India Directors and their allies, ignorant of
every principle of war, had persisted in blazoning to the world as
masterpieces of strategy and tactics, were seen to possess, certainly,
the maximum of soldier's courage, but by no means that of general's
ability. The Punjaub war had in fact to be fought again. Meanwhile the
lesser war between Napier and the Directors went briskly on. The more
decidedly events in the East justified the acts and opinions of Napier,
the more vehement became the secret hostility against him. Secret
warfare formed no part of the Napier tactics, and accordingly we find
him blazing out in open warfare against his sly and circumspect
traducers. Writing in his journal more than a year before this date, he
had foreshadowed for himself the line he would adopt against his
adversaries. "There is a vile conspiracy against me," he wrote, "but I
defy them all, horse, foot, and dragoons. Now, Charles Napier, be calm!
give your enemies no advantage over you by loss of self-control; do
nothing that they want, and everything to annoy them; keep your post
like a rock, till you are ready to go on board for England; and then
with your pen, and your pistols too, if necessary, harass them." Here
was his plan of campaign, sketched out clearly enough, plenty of fire
and steel in it, no concealment. "The Gauls march openly to battle,"
had written a Roman historian eighteen hundred years earlier. When the
Franks crossed the Rhine they came to graft upon the Gaulish nature a
still fairer and franker mode of action. Charles Napier could trace his
pedigree back to frankest Frank, and whether he fought a Frenchman in
Spain, a Beloochee in Scinde, or an East Indian trader in the city of
London, his methods of battle were the same.

Before the year '48 closed, great changes and events had taken place
over Europe. France had shaken off her old man of the mountain, Italy
was giving many premonitory signs of getting rid of the Austrian, that
sinister settlement called the Congress of Vienna was everywhere being
undone. Even in Ireland the ferment of revolution was causing a
spasmodic twitching in that all but lifeless frame, and desperate men,
forgetful of the utter ruin which must await their efforts at revolt,
were about to add the final misery of war to the already deeply-tasted
evils of famine and pestilence.

And now came an episode of the Irish rising which was closely connected
with Charles Napier. In September the leaders of the movement were
brought to trial in Clonmel. Sir William Napier, who for the past six
years had devoted himself to the task of vindicating his brother's
character and actions from the aspersions and assaults of his numerous
enemies, had in 1832 been the recipient of a letter, written by the
private secretary of a Cabinet Minister, of a very strange nature. No
other interpretation could have been justly placed upon this
communication except that it was an attempt to sound the then Colonel
Napier upon the likelihood of his consenting to lead an armed movement
of men from Birmingham to London. Wild though such a project may now
appear, there can be no doubt that at the time of the great Reform Bill
it was by no means looked upon as lying outside the pale of probability.
The news that the Duke of Wellington was about to form an anti-reform
administration was received by the people of England with a deep feeling
of execration, and resistance was openly proposed and advocated. "To run
upon the banks for gold, and to pay no taxes to the State, until reform
was granted," were only the preliminary steps which the Whig leaders
advised the people to adopt; and it was an open secret that Lord John
Russell was prepared to go much further in his scheme of resistance to
law in the struggle which the violent opposition of the Lords was
forcing upon the nation. It was therefore no stretch of Colonel Napier's
imagination to see in the strange letter which he received from the Whig
Minister's private secretary a scarcely veiled invitation to draw his
sword against what was the existing law of the land. Bad though that law
most certainly was, and vehemently though he had opposed it by voice and
pen and labour of mind and body, William Napier was still the last man
in England to pass the boundary which separates moral from physical
antagonism. It is alike the misfortune of thrones and of peoples that
around the former there will ever crowd those selfish and self-seeking
men whose loyalty is only a cover to hide their own greed of power or
possession. These people are the real enemies of kings, for they doubly
darken the view which the monarch gets of his people and that which the
people get of their king. The Napiers had both been near enough to the
Throne to know that it lay a long way beyond the self-seeking crowd
which surrounded it, and their hatred of that crowd and of its politics
did not go an inch beyond the surrounding circle. To draw his sword
against the faction which then stood between the people and their right
of reform must be to advance against the Crown, which this faction had
cunningly contrived to hang as a breastplate upon their bodies. That
fact was sufficient for William Napier, and he not only repudiated the
suggestion with all the strength of his nature, but he warned his
correspondent that if ever the then leaders of reform should become the
dominant faction in the State, and should attempt to play upon the
people the same selfish game of obstruction or to prosecute others for
resorting to similar methods of force, he, William Napier, would not
hesitate to publish to the world the unscrupulous lengths to which those
leaders were now prepared to carry their efforts. The trial of the
leaders of the Irish physical-force party at Clonmel on a charge of high
treason seemed to Sir William to be just the occasion he had threatened
his correspondent with. That he held the letter we have described had
long been an open secret, and it was therefore no wonder that he was
summoned by the counsel conducting the prisoners' defence. Early in
October, 1848, the appearance of this majestic veteran as a witness at
the trial of Mr. Smith O'Brien fluttered the Whig dovecots from one end
of the kingdom to the other. Of course there was the usual howl of
execration from the whole tribe of self-styled loyalists,
office-holders, highly-paid idlers, and others; but nevertheless William
Napier was perfectly true to all the noble traditions of his race and
his life in this action of his in behalf of a man who, though terribly
mistaken in the line he had adopted, had been given only too much excuse
for despairing of remedying the wrongs and miseries of his countrymen by
any method of constitutional action.

It happened that in the same month which witnessed these proceedings in
Clonmel a large public banquet was given to Charles Napier by the
citizens of Dublin, and it was of course impossible that the action
taken by one brother in opposition to the Whig Government should not
have been made an occasion for trying to injure, if not prevent, the
compliment about to be paid to the other brother in Dublin. Nothing
could have been meaner and more ignoble than this attempt to step
between the citizens of Dublin and the old soldier whom they wished to
honour. The attempt failed, as it deserved to fail. The banquet was a
splendid ovation. It was followed by another dinner at Limerick, where
the entire people united to honour the guest of the citizens. During his
stay in the Irish capital Napier visited the Theatre-Royal, and the
whole house rose and gave him an enthusiastic welcome when he appeared
at the front of the box. The heart of the man seemed deeply touched by
these evidences of affection from the Irish people. "If I loved Ireland
before, gratitude makes me love her more now," he writes. "My father and
mother seemed to rise before my eyes to witness the feelings of Dublin
towards me." This was indeed fame. Exactly fifty years earlier he had
left the old city of Limerick to ride off to his life of war and wounds
and wanderings, and through all the long intervening years he had never
forgotten the land or the people of his boyhood. Now he was repaid.
These ringing cheers and looks of welcome were the fittest answer to the
impotent spleen of men in power who had denied him the just recognition
of his labours and his victories. They had showered peerages and
baronetcies upon the heads of the leaders of the incomplete Punjaub
campaign. On the victor of Scinde only the most trifling rewards had
been bestowed, and now the people, always just in their final verdict,
had reversed the award.

Napier went for the last time to Celbridge. How strange it seems to him!
How dwarfed it all is by the mighty battles through which the path of
life has led him! The old scenes are there--the river, with its
overhanging trees; the green fields, the fences, the terrace; the house
where every window and door and wall holds some separate memory; the
blue hill-tops along the southern horizon that used to be leagues
distant, but now look close at hand, as though they had one and all
shrunken in size. And so they have; because in after-life we look at
each scene across many mounds, and a hundred beloved figures and faces
of childhood rise up from the grave to dim our sight with tears.

Back to Cheltenham again to the war against Directors and their
confederates, and to other work too. There are many veterans "wearing
out the thread" in the town, and they love to come to the old hero and
retail their woes to him. No sending out of a shilling to the door by
footman or valet, but a talk over old times, and kind words as well as
money to these old, worn-out stop-bullets. "Poor old fellows," he
writes, "it vexes me to see them so hard run for small comforts, and I
am glad I came here, if it were only for the chats with them of old
fights and hardships. They like this, but complain bitterly that old
officers take no notice of them. When I see these shrivelled old men
with age ploughed deep in their wrinkled old faces like my own, and
remember the deeds they did with the bayonet, I sigh for ancient days
when our bodies were fit for war. I remember these men powerful and
daring in battle, for they are mostly my own soldiers." With Napier
there was no such thing as a "common soldier"; the man who went out and
fought and marched and toiled was a hero--a private soldier hero if you
will, but a hero all the same. The whole gorge of the man rose at the
thought that the men who had bled for England should die in an English
poorhouse; that there were thousands and tens of thousands who rolled in
carriages, and drew dividends, and made long speeches in Parliament, and
ate truffles and turtle, because these wizened old scarecrows had in
days gone by charged home, or stood like stone walls under murderous
storms of grape and musketry, or climbed some slippery breach amid the
mangled bodies of their comrades.

A great victory over his numerous and powerful enemies at home was now
in store for Charles Napier. Suddenly, while they were in the midst of
their cabals and intrigues--pulling the thousand strings of mendacity
which gold has ever at its disposal--the crash of disaster to our arms
in India struck panic into the Directors and the Government. The Khalsa
leader, Sheere Singh, had declared war in the northern Punjaub, and the
Dhurum-Kha-Klosa, or religious war-drum of the Sikhs, was beating from
Peshawur to the Chenaub. The Indian Government affected to treat this
new Punjaub war as a trifling revolt. The price paid in life and
treasure for the war that had ended not three years earlier had been so
heavy, and the rewards given to the victors were so great, that this
striking proof of incompleteness had to be minimised as much as
possible. It was really nothing. Nobody need be alarmed. The
Commander-in-Chief in India, Lord Gough, had ample force at his command
to crush this partial uprising of the remnant of the Khalsa army. So
said and wrote the Directors, and so said and wrote the many echoing
speakers and scribes who enjoyed their patronage. All this went on
during the early winter of 1848. Lord Gough, a brave and distinguished
veteran of that type of soldier whose straight and simple code of honour
made him unfitted to deal with the inherent mendacity of the
Directorate, felt himself obliged to act up to the picture so plausibly
painted by his civil superiors. They said he had sufficient force, and
that the enemy was to be despised. In honour bound he must prove these
statements to be true. The old fire-eater forgot that he was risking his
army and his reputation for men who would be false to him at the
slightest breath of adversity, and would unhesitatingly cast him
overboard if by doing so they could prolong for even an hour their own
truculent power. Gough advanced from an ill-stored base upon the enemy.
After a most unfortunate encounter between our advanced troops and the
Sikhs at Ramnugger, the English general crossed the Chenaub, and engaged
the whole Khalsa army at Chillianwallah, on January 13th, 1849. In this
memorable encounter disaster followed upon error, until night stopped
the fighting. Infantry were moved up in close formation to masked
batteries, no reconnaissance had been carried out, the positions of the
Sikh army had to be found by the lines advancing to storm them, and the
troops were formed up to fight their enemy after a long and fatiguing
day's march when they should have been lying asleep in camp. When
daylight dawned upon this scene of the confused fight of the previous
evening, it was found that the Sikhs had fallen back, but we had lost
above two thousand men, half of whom were Europeans; four guns and six
standards had also been taken from us. British soldiers will fight their
leaders through many scrapes and mistakes, but Chillianwallah had been
too prolific in error to be saved even by heroism. When the news of this
battle reached England, the entire nation cried out with one voice for
Charles Napier at the helm of India, and of all the bitter draughts ever
swallowed by any Honourable Company of Traders assuredly the bitterest
was this forced acceptance as their Commander-in-Chief of the man whom
now for six years they had been assailing in public and in private
throughout the entire English empire. All honest England laughed loud at
their discomfiture. Every real man welcomed with joy the triumph of the
old hero over his treacherous and powerful foes. But a week before the
news of this disaster Napier had been holding his own with difficulty
against the enmity of Ministers, Directors, and the leading organs of
the Press. The most persistent efforts had been made to confiscate his
prize-money and to destroy his military reputation. Only a month earlier
he had written to his brother, "I have always an idea of what you
expect, viz. the Directors trumping up some accusation against me, but
they can do nothing, because I have done nothing wrong." With all his
knowledge of character he was still ignorant of the limits to which the
hatred of a corporate body can extend. When Charles Napier was sent for
by the Duke of Wellington, and offered, by order of the Queen, the
command in India, that laconic but celebrated conversation took place.
"If you don't go, I must," had said the Duke. There could only be one
answer to this, and when next day the Press announced that Napier was to
proceed at once to India as Commander-in-Chief, the whole voice of
England ratified the appointment.

But the most striking moment of triumph had still to come. It was usual
for the Directors of the Company to give a banquet to the man who was
about to leave England to command the royal and the native armies.
Napier accepted the invitation. The hatchet was to be buried. Salt was
to be eaten. The old Duke was present. Some of the Ministers were there,
but others were noticeable by their absence. It was a moment when a
smaller mind than Napier's might easily have allowed itself the
exultation of victory, but the old soldier spoke without trace of
triumph. "I go to India," he said, "at the command of Her Majesty, by
the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington, and I believe I go also
with the approbation of my countrymen;" and then, without deigning to
speak of the past and its contrast with the moment, he quietly observed,
"Least said is soonest mended," thanked his hosts for their hospitality,
and sat down.

Then there came a short and busy interval, in which what is called "the
world" ran mad after the hero, not, indeed, because any more of a hero
than he had been a month or a year or twenty years before, but simply
because "the world" thought he could do it a good turn in the matter of
its brothers and sons and nephews. The redoubtable "Dowb" had to be
"taken care of" all along the line, and who can take care of him better
than a Commander-in-Chief in India? One little item from that time
should not be forgotten by those who want to know what manner of man
this Charles Napier was. Just before starting for the East a sudden
command reached him summoning him to dine at Osborne. He has no Court
dress. There is a yellow or drab waistcoat, however, of old-world
fashion and finery upon which he has set store for years. What could be
nicer than this garment? They tell him that it is somewhat out of
date--that it is too high in the collar or too long in the body; in
fact, that it won't do. What is to be done? Only this. He has a
valet--Nicholas by name, Frenchman and dandy--and this valet has a very
fine waistcoat. So the waistcoat of Nicholas is produced, and off to the
Isle of Wight goes the Commander-in-Chief to kiss the hand of the
sovereign he has served so well. No man is a hero to his valet, says the
proverb. We cannot say what Nicholas thought of his master; but this we
can say, that among many soldier hearts throbbing for their Queen, Her
Majesty had none more truly heroic than the old one that beat that day
beneath the valet's waistcoat.



To India again, sixty-seven years old, and frequently suffering physical
pain such as few men can know. Only a month before sailing he had thus
described his sensations. "The injured nerves [of the face] carry
inflammation up to the brain and it is not to be borne. I cannot tell
what others may suffer, but they have not had the causes that affect me
to affect them; they have not had the nerves torn by a jagged ball
passing through, breaking nose-bones and jaw-bones, and lacerating
nerves, muscles, and mucous membranes; they can hardly therefore have
suffered as I do; if they have, their fortitude is beyond mine, for I
cannot bear even the thought of it. It makes every nerve in my body
tremble, even now, from writing on the subject."

On May 6th, 1849, Napier landed at Calcutta to find the Sikh War over.
Lord Gough had completely vanquished the Khalsa arms at Goojerat, and
resistance ceased from that day. Though perhaps in one sense this was a
disappointment to Napier, he rejoiced that a fine old soldier should
have been able by this victory to vindicate his military reputation. "It
was hard," he writes, "that a brave old veteran like Gough, whose whole
life has been devoted to his duty, should be dismissed from his command
and close his long career under undeserved abuse, because the Directors
kept him in a post that had become too difficult." But though actual
hostilities had ceased there was work enough in India for a score of
Commanders-in-Chief to set right. From top to bottom the whole
administrative and executive system of the Indian army was wrong, and
what was worse, was wrong from such a multiplicity of great and small
causes that any attempt to set it right might well have appeared
hopeless to the best administrative head ever set on the most vigorous
body. There was no single point or no half-dozen points upon which the
attempt at reform could be begun. It was not a passing distemper of the
military body. It was dry rot and organic disease showing itself
outwardly, indeed, in numerous symptoms of insubordination and lack of
discipline; but the roots of which nothing but a gigantic incision could

Leaving Calcutta in the end of May and proceeding by the slow methods of
travel then in vogue, the new Commander-in-Chief reached Simla late in
June. Here he met the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, and here in a
few weeks began those strifes and contentions which eventually broke the
old soldier's heart. Although the subjects of contention between the
Commander-in-Chief and the Governor-General were many, and although all
interest in them individually has long since evaporated in time, they
still form, when viewed collectively in the light of the
ever-to-be-remembered catastrophe of 1857, by far the most momentous
reading that can be presented to-day to the statesman or the student of
our empire. For the issue fought out by this soldier Chief and this
civil Governor is yet before the nation, and some day or other will have
to be decided, even in larger lists than that which witnessed its first
great test in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

War in a nation resembles a long and wasting disease in a human subject.
It has a period of convalescence, when all the weak points of the system
seem to threaten destruction even when the fever has passed. So it was
in India now. Ever since 1838 war had been going on in India or close
beyond its frontier. The Sikh War of 1849 ended the long catalogue, was
in fact the last gust of the Afghan storm; but every administrative
evil, civil and military, now lay exposed upon the weakened frame, and
Napier's quick eye, long trained in the experience of Scinde, read
almost at a glance the dangerous symptoms. Resolutely he bent himself to
the thankless task of reform. He was Commander-in-Chief of a great army,
but an army which had gone wholly wrong from the evil system which had
crept into it from a hundred sources. He would trace out these sources
of evil, cure them or cut them out, and leave India a record of his rule
as Commander-in-Chief which would be of greater service to her than if
he had led this army to the most brilliant victory. Such, in a few
words, was the purpose he set himself to work for from the moment he set
foot in India, and found that his task was not to be one of war.

Shortly after his arrival in Simla he began again to keep a journal, and
in its pages we see, as in a mirror, the source of every outward act of
his life traced out through every thought. In that journal the whole
story of his effort and his failure, of the endless communings with
those two great counsellors whom he long before declared should be the
only prompters a man of action should have, "his conscience and his
pillow," and of the difficulties and obstacles that met him at every
step, is set forth. Here at Simla he sits, thinking and writing,
collecting reports, reading despatches from every part of India, and
writing down a vast mass of advice and recommendation, of warning and
forecast, which, seven years later, are to seem like the prophecies of
some inspired seer.

"The clouds are below us," he writes to his sister, "flying in all
directions; and oftentimes, as one sits in a room, a cloud walks in as
unconcernedly as a Christian, and then melts away." So, too, below him
lay the thousand clouds of selfish struggle and petty contention which
for ever seem to hover over our government of India; but, alas! when
these clouds came up to Simla they did not melt away, but settled in a
thickening gloom between him and the goal he strove so hard to reach. "I
am working fifteen hours a day at my desk," he writes again, "working
myself to death here; and what fame awaits me? None! I work because it
is honest to earn my pay; but work is disagreeable in the
extreme--hateful. Were I to remain five years I might do some good to
this noble army; but for the short time I am to be here nothing can be
done--at least nothing worth the loss of health and happiness. Never,
however, did I know either, except when working in a garden or in
Cephalonia making roads and doing good." And now, it may be asked by
some persons, what were the reforms which this man endeavoured to
effect? Why did he not leave well alone? Forty years have passed since
Charles Napier "worked himself to death" at Simla, striving to set right
the army and the military administration of India. He was thwarted in
his labours, ridiculed for his fears, censured for his measures of
reform. The men who opposed him became the petted favourites of his
enemies. His own friends were marked out for enmity or neglect. He
resigned. Time passed. The old soldier sank into his grave, and the
hatred of his detractors did not ease its slander even when the tomb had
closed upon the hero. Seven years went by, and suddenly the storm he had
so vainly foretold broke upon India and upon England. The native army of
Bengal mutinied. India ran with blood. Men, women, and children perished
in thousands. Massacre and ruin overspread the land. Fortunately the
blow fell when the nation, at peace with the great powers of the world,
was able to concentrate all her energies upon India. But the struggle
was a life-and-death one, and had Bombay and Madras followed the lead of
Bengal, all was over. "Yes," I think I hear some one say, "but did not
the Bengal army rise in revolt because greased cartridges were given to
them with a new rifle?" My friend, the greased cartridge had to say to
the Indian Mutiny just what pulling the trigger of a gun has to say to
the loading of the charge. Long before ever a greased cartridge was
heard of, the big gun of India had been loaded and rammed and primed and
made ready to go off at the first hair-trigger's excuse it could find;
and it was this loading and priming that Charles Napier was doing his
utmost to draw from the gun during his tenure of Commander-in-Chiefship,
and it was this loading and priming that his opponents were filling
further and ramming harder by their ignorant opposition to him.

When the cool season begins, the Commander-in-Chief sets out upon his
tour of inspection. How different it is from the triumphal progress
heretofore usual! "What does an officer want in the field?" he had
written shortly before leaving England; "his bed, his tent, a blanket, a
second pair of breeches, a second pair of shoes, half a dozen shirts, a
second flannel waistcoat, a couple of towels, and a piece of soap; all
beyond is mere luxury, and not fit for a campaign." So, too, when the
Commander-in-Chief was seen on his tour with diminished elephants and
fewer camels and no bullocks, and only a third of the usual number of
tent-pitchers and half the force or establishment of _chupprassees_ and
absolutely no _doolie-wallahs_ at all, old Indians looked mutely at each
other in speechless deprecation of such enormities. Then a thousand
stories were circulated against the innovator. "He only gave claret at
dinner to his guests; his tent was not big enough to swing a cat in; and
because he had reduced the government _bheesties_ (water-carriers) by
half, it was clear he did not wash," etc., etc. But notwithstanding
these criticisms and censures, the Commander-in-Chief went on from
station to station, and never was examination so keen or inspection so
close. Nothing escaped the eye that looked through these big spectacles.
He is out at earliest dawn looking into matters in a regimental
cantonment as closely as though he had been quartermaster-sergeant. One
morning in some cantonment they miss him; he is not in the barracks nor
on the parade-ground. The colonel gets nervous. "Go," he says to the
adjutant, "go to the sergeant-major on the parade, and ask him if he has
seen the Commander-in-Chief." But the sergeant-major is also missing; he
is not on the parade. "Then ride over to his quarters and see if he is
there." They go over to the staff-sergeant's quarters, and there sure
enough is the missing sergeant-major, having a cup of tea and a bit of
bread inside with a stranger. The nervous colonel becomes irate. The
sergeant-major has no right to be in his quarters at such a critical
time, when the most hawk-eyed Commander-in-Chief that ever held office
is prowling about. "What are you doing in your quarters,
sergeant-major?"--"The Commander-in-Chief is having some ration-bread
and commissariat tea inside, sir," replies the sergeant-major, with a
twinkle in his austere eye. And now out comes the missing Commander,
face to face with the much-perplexed and puffed colonel. There is
lightning in the eye behind the glasses. "And this is the bread your men
are getting, sir," he says, holding out a half-eaten crust. "No wonder
you have half your regiment in hospital."

At another station there is a young officer under arrest, awaiting the
decision of the Commander-in-Chief upon his court-martial. He has been
tried on a charge of having forgotten the respect due to his captain on
a certain delicate occasion. The proofs were painfully clear; the young
man had been convicted and sentenced to be cashiered. But there were
many mitigating circumstances in the case; the officer was very young,
and there was ample reason for supposing that the fruit he had stolen
had not required much shaking. The Commander-in-Chief read the case
carefully. "Sentence quashed," he wrote on the margin. "History records
but one Joseph; this officer will return to his duty." These things,
however, were but the play-moments of his progress; very serious matters
soon claimed attention. In July, 1849, symptoms of mutiny began to
manifest themselves in at least two regiments of Bengal Native Infantry
stationed in the Punjaub. In November certain corps ordered to proceed
to the Punjaub from Delhi openly showed insubordination. In December
still graver signs of revolt occurred. The Thirty-Second Bengal Native
Infantry refused to accept their pay, and mutinously demanded increased
rates. The presence of a veteran general officer quelled this outbreak
at Wuzzerabad, but a still more serious instance of insubordination was
soon to manifest itself. In February, 1850, the Sixty-Sixth Regiment of
Bengal Infantry broke into open mutiny at Govind Ghur, a suburb of
Umritsur the sacred city of the Sikhs. The mutineers endeavoured to
seize the fort, containing vast stores of arms and a large amount of
treasure and ammunition. Again the vigorous action of an officer saved
the gates, and a European regiment arriving in the nick of time overawed
the rebellious Bengalees.

All these signs and portents of trouble were not lost upon the
Commander-in-Chief; his resolution was quickly taken. By a stroke of the
pen he disbanded the mutinous regiment, and put in its place a battalion
of Ghoorka troops. The Governor-General was absent on a sea-voyage for
the benefit of his health when this last alarming outbreak occurred at
Umritsur. The case was urgent, the danger pressing. Twenty-four other
Bengal regiments stationed in the Punjaub were known to be in close
sympathy with the Sixty-Sixth; if the insubordination spread, the Sikh
fires of resistance so lately quenched at Goojerat would again burst
into flame. Gholab Singh was ready in Cashmere with a well-filled
treasury and a large army to join the conflagration. The very existence
of our Indian rule stood in peril. Napier was not the man to waste
precious moments at such a crisis in seeking for precedents or covering
his actions with the sanction of higher authority obtained by delay. He
took three important steps.

Rightly judging that at such a moment any reduction of pay below the
existing standard would give the discontent of the native troops a
tangible and certain line of resistance, he directed that the
promulgation of an order of the supreme Government, which would reduce
the sepoys' allowances for rations below the standard then existing, and
which had been originally framed chiefly to save the clerks in Calcutta
trouble in their official documents, should be suspended, pending the
result of a reference which would be made to the supreme Government on
the subject. He next struck a crushing blow at the actual offenders in
mutiny, by summarily disbanding the rebellious corps. And lastly he
struck another vital blow at the entire Brahmin spirit of revolt, by
enlisting Ghoorkas and putting them in the vacant places of the
Bengalees, giving the new Ghoorka battalion the colours and number of
the disbanded regiment.

Reviewing these lines of action now--even without the terrible
after-light of the great Mutiny to guide our decision--it would be
difficult for any sane man to find aught in them but ground for
unqualified approval. They contain, indeed, such manifest evidences of
sense and reason, that the man would appear to be bereft of the most
elementary common sense who could find fault with them; and yet,
incredible though it may well appear, not only was censure passed upon
Napier for his action in this matter, but it was conveyed in such a
rough and overbearing manner that the old soldier deemed it inconsistent
with his honour to serve longer under such "shop-keeping" superiors. No
other word can so fitly express the mental calibre of the men whose
censure drove Charles Napier from the Indian command, and it is here
used in a sense quite different from the usual caste acceptation of the
term. The soldier and the shop-keeper must ever remain at opposite poles
of thought. At their best, one goes out to fight for his country, and if
necessary to die for it; the other remains at home to live, and to live
well by it. At their worst, one acquires by force from the enemy, the
other absorbs by fraud from his friends. But between the best and the
worst there is a vast class of mental shop-keeping people who, although
they do not keep any shops, are nevertheless always behind the counter,
always asking themselves, "Will it pay?" always totting up a mental
ledger, in which there is no double entry but only a single one of self.
Nothing would be more delusive than to imagine this great class had any
fixed limits of caste, rank, or profession. It may have been so once; it
is not so now, nor has it been so for many generations. It reaches very
high up the ladder now. It has titles, estates, coats-of-arms, moors,
mountains, and the rest of it. It can be very prominent in both Houses
of Parliament. But there is one thing it can never be, and that thing is
a true soldier.

It can wear uniform and rise to high military rank, and have thousands
of men serving under it, but for all that, we repeat, it can never be a
real soldier--and the reason is simple, nowhere to be found more
straightly stated than by a very deep thinker of our own time, who says:
"I find this more and more true every day, that an infinitude of
tenderness is the chief gift of all truly great men. It is sure to
involve a relative intensity of disdain towards base things, and an
appearance of sternness and arrogance in the eyes of all hard, stupid,
and vulgar people, quite terrific to such if they are capable of terror,
and hateful to them if they are capable of nothing higher than hatred."
There we have the whole story of Napier and his antagonists. There we
have the explanation of what Balzac meant when he wrote, "There is
nothing so terrible as the vengeance of the shop-keeper." Throughout
more than forty years of his fighting life, Charles Napier was exposed
to that hatred and that vengeance. It could not have been otherwise. To
be hated is often the price the hero must pay in life for the love his
name is to gather round it after death.

One little gleam of soldier service came to brighten these last months
of so-called command in India. It was an expedition through the Kohat
Pass on the northern frontier. The tribe of Afridees, incensed at an
order of the Civil Government stopping their supply of salt, had risen,
massacred a detachment of soldiers, and occupied the pass, cutting off
the station of Kohat. Three days after the news of the disaster to the
troops reached Napier, he had organised his column and was in march for
Kohat. He fought his way through the pass, relieved the post, and fought
his way back again. It was the last flicker of the flame which had begun
forty-one years before in the march to Corunna. The last fighting item
in the journal is suggestive of many thoughts. A young ensign had been
shot in the pass, another officer was mortally wounded; forty years of
war and death in the battlefield had not dulled the "infinitude of
tenderness" in the old soldier's heart. "My God," he writes, "how
hateful is war! yet better die gloriously like young Sitwell than as my
dear John did in the agonies of cholera"; then recollecting that the
true soldier has no more right to pick and choose the manner of his
death than he has to pick and choose the manner of his life, he goes on:
"Fool that I am, to think Sitwell's death the best! We know nothing. How
can I know anything about it? It was the impulse of a fool to think one
death better than another. Prepare to die bravely, and let death come in
whatever form it pleases God to send him." So closes the military
record. A little later he wrote again: "I shall now go to Oaklands [his
home in Hampshire], and look at my father's sword, and think of the day
he gave it into my young hands, and of the motto on a Spanish blade he
had, 'Draw me not without cause; put me not up without honour.' I have
not drawn his sword without cause, nor put it up without honour."

Charles Napier returned from his last fight at Kohat to find the
reprimand of the Indian Government awaiting him. He at once resigned. He
was quite prepared to stifle his personal feelings in the matter, but
the sense of his powerlessness to remedy the evil he so plainly saw
decided him. He would no longer remain accountable to the country for
disaster he was helpless to prevent, exposed to a hundred secret shafts
of his antagonists, and certain to find his old enemies, the Directors
of Leadenhall Street, bitterly hostile to him, except when danger
menaced their ill-gotten possession. He remembered also that fifty-two
years earlier he had seen "that great and good soldier, Sir Ralph
Abercrombie, resign command in Ireland because he could not agree with
the civil government." Yes, he would resign. The Hampshire home looked
pleasant from afar. What memories, what perfumes these garden-walks have
for the tired toiler in life! What violet so sweet, what rose so
thornless as those we see, looking back to some garden that has been,
looking forward to one that can never be! Although Napier resigned his
command in April he did not leave India until the following spring,
having to await the arrival of his successor. The intervening months
were not idly spent. To the latest moment of his stay he laboured to
improve the army he loved so well, to instil into the officer higher
ideals of duty and nobler purpose of life, and to improve the condition
of the man in the ranks, who to him was now, as always, never "a common
soldier." Feeling certain that the dreadful mortality then existing
among the European troops in India resulted solely from the wretched
barrack accommodation which the parsimony of the Government would only
allow, he laboured incessantly to shame the Administration into more
liberal and humane concession. Yet in this noble effort he was
constantly thwarted. The height of his barrack-rooms was reduced, the
materials for construction lessened. In vain he showed that sufficient
cubic space meant thousands of lives annually saved, that height of the
sleeping-rooms above the ground meant freedom from fevers and
dysenteries. The various Boards of Control and clerks in Calcutta were
not to be moved by such considerations. Terrible examples were before
these various Boards and Directorates, but still they were not to be
convinced. After the battles of the Sutlej the remains of a splendid
regiment, the Fiftieth, were sent to occupy one of these ill-built
death-traps at Loodiana. In one fell night the entire building
collapsed, and three hundred men, women, and children perished in the
ruins. Of course it was nobody's fault. The regulations had been
strictly adhered to--and does not everybody know that regulation is
infallible? Did they not once let a king of Spain burn to death in his
palace because the regulation extinguisher of royal fires was not
present at the conflagration?

In the autumn of 1850 Charles Napier set out on the homeward journey.
The last scenes in India were pleasant to the old soldier about to close
his long and eventful career. He reviews once more his own favourite
Twenty-Second Regiment and presents them with new colours. The soldiers
of Meanee and Hyderabad received their chief with a frantic enthusiasm
and delight that more than made amends for the neglect of the great and
powerful; and the entire army too, whose deep heart the follies and the
fashions of the moment cannot reach, bent its head as the old hero
passed; and whatever was honest and independent and noble--and there was
plenty of each in the Civil Service of India--laid its tribute of
respect in his path, until from Simla to Scinde and on to Bombay the
long sun of his military life seemed to be setting in waves of glory.
But the tribute of honour that touched him deepest was a magnificent
sword which the sirdars and chiefs of Scinde presented to him at
Hyderabad. Nearly eight years earlier these men had fought against
Napier at Meanee and Dubba. He had honoured their bravery in the hour of
their misfortune. Now about to quit, under a cloud of official censure
everywhere made public, the scene of his toil and glory, they, his old
enemies, came to lay at his feet this token of their admiration.



In March, 1851, Napier reached England. Many times, returning from some
scene of war or foreign service, had he seen the white cliffs rise out
of the blue waves. This was to be his last arrival, and perhaps it was
the saddest in all his life. "I retire with a reprimand," he had said a
few months earlier; and although he tried hard to keep in view the fact
that in circumstances of sudden and grave danger to the State he had
acted firmly, courageously, honestly, and with absolute sense and wisdom
in every step he had taken, still all that only served to drive deeper
into his injustice-hating heart the sting of unmerited and unjust

He came home to die. Not all at once, indeed, did the end come. Such
gnarled old oaks do not wither of a sudden, no matter how rude may be
the shock; but the iron had entered into his soul, and the months of
life that still remained were to be chiefly passed in pain and
suffering. At first, after his arrival, business took him to London, and
the long-dreamt-of happy gardening-ground in Hampshire was denied him.
All through life he had hated the great city. "To be in London is to be
a beast--a harnessed and driven beast--and nothing more," he writes.
Neither its dinners nor its compliments nor its "pompous insolence" had
ever given him the least concern. Like another great soldier who, in
this year, 1851, was about to begin that military career which was to
render his name so famous, Charles Napier had a contempt for the capital
of his country. When the Directors of the East India Company had been on
their knees to him, and the Lord Mayor and the rest of the great dining
dignitaries had been begging his attendance at their banquets during the
Punjaub disasters, he had not been in the least elated; and neither now
was he depressed by their studied neglect of him when danger had passed
by. "I never was in spirits at a London party," he writes, "since I came
out of my teens."

In April he gets away to Oaklands, and prepares to settle down to the
repose of a country life. "At last a house of mine own," he says. "All
my life I have longed for this." But scarcely is he at home ere the
disease, contracted in Scinde, increased in India, and aggravated by the
ill-usage of the past year, brings him to the verge of death. He rallies
again, but his thoughts are now set upon the great leave-taking. In his
journal we seem to see him all the clearer as the end approaches. "When
I die may the poor regret me," he writes; "if they do, their judgment
will be more in my favour than anything else. My pride and happiness
through life has been that the soldiers loved me.... I treated every
soldier as my friend and comrade, whatever his rank was." What a
contempt he has for the upstart in uniform, the martinet, the thing with
the drawl and eyeglass! "As military knowledge decays, aristocratic, or
rather upstart arrogance, increases," he writes. "A man of high breeding
is hand and glove with his men, while the son of your millionaire hardly
speaks to a soldier." Then he turns to the "coming world and all those I
hope to meet there--Alexander, Hannibal, Cæsar, Napoleon, and my
father." But the long-looked-for peace of life in the country--the
garden, the pets, and the rest of it--is not to be. He has a beautiful
Pyrenean dog, Pastor by name. A neighbouring farmer wantonly shoots this
noble animal. Napier tries to punish the man at law. The case is clear
against the dog-killer, but the local jury acquits him in spite of judge
and evidence. "Trial by jury is a farce," we read in the journal. "Why,
if Goslin [the dog-killer] had murdered his wife and child, they [the
jury] could not have treated him more gently!"

Then come other worries of a more serious character. The East India
Directors are doing all that wealth and power can do to take from him
his Scinde prize-money. He was not the Commander-in-Chief of the army,
they say, with a monstrous effrontery; and of course they have anonymous
scribblers everywhere at work to blacken and defame their enemy. So,
between the local numskull murdering his pet dogs and the cosmopolitan
master-shop-keeper vilifying his character, the last months of the old
soldier's life are vexed and unhappy.

Still, as the end draws nearer many bright gleams of sunshine come to
gladden the old man's heart. Not only is the great heart of the nation
with him, but all the kings of thought are on his side too. When the
great Duke passes to his rest no figure in the throng of war-worn
veterans around the coffin was so eagerly sought for as that of the man
who, forty-two years earlier, had waved his hat to Lord Wellington when,
unable to speak as he was carried desperately wounded from the fierce
fight at Busaco, he thought this mute farewell was to be a last adieu.
Men noted too with inward sense of satisfaction at the scene in St.
Paul's that "the eagle face and bold strong eye" of the veteran who
stood by the dead Duke's bier gave promise that England had a great
war-leader still left to her.

But the "eagle face and the bold strong eye" were only those echoes of
bygone life which are said to be strong as the shadows gather. And the
shadows were gathering fast now. In June, 1853, the illness that was to
prove mortal began. Still, we find him writing letters to help some old
soldier who had served him in Scinde, and in the very last letter that
he seems ever to have written, the names of Sergeant Power and Privates
Burke and Maloney stand witness to the love for the private soldier
which this heroic heart carried to the very verge of the grave. In July
he was brought to Oaklands, as he wished that the end should come to him
in his own home. There, stretched upon a little camp-bed in a room on
the ground-floor of the house, he waited for death. It came with those
slow hours of pain and suffering which so frequently mark the passing
away of those in whom the spirit of life has been strong, and who have
fought death so often that he seems afraid to approach and seize such
tough antagonists. Frequently during the weeks of illness the old
instincts would assert themselves in the sufferer. He would ask his
veteran brother to defend his memory when he was gone, from the attacks
of his enemies; or he would send messages through his son-in-law to the
"poor soldiers," to tell them how he had loved them; and once he asked
that his favourite charger, Red Rover--the horse that had carried him
through the storm of battle at Meanee--might be brought to the bedside,
so that for a last time he might speak a word to and caress the animal;
but the poor beast seemed to realise the mortal danger of his old
master, and shrank startled from the sick couch. As the month of August
drew to a close it was evident to those who lovingly watched beside the
sufferer that the end was close at hand. It came on the early morning of
the 29th. The full light of the summer morning was streaming into the
room, lighting up the shields, swords, and standards of Eastern fight
which hung upon the walls; the old colours of the Twenty-Second, rent
and torn by shot, moved gently in the air, fresh with the perfume of the
ripened summer; wife, children, brothers, servants, and two veteran
soldiers who had stood behind him in battle, watched--some praying, some
weeping, some immovable and fixed in their sorrow--the final
dissolution; and just as the heroic spirit passed to Him who had sent it
upon earth, filled with so many noble aspirations and generous
sympathies, a brave man who stood near caught the flags of the
Twenty-Second Regiment from their resting-place and waved these
shattered emblems of battle above the dying soldier. So closed the life
of Charles Napier. When a great soldier who had carried the arms of Rome
into remotest regions lay dying in the imperial city, the historian
Tacitus tells us that "in the last glimpse of light" the hero "looked
with an asking eye for something that was absent." Not so with Napier.
Those he had loved so devotedly, those who had fought around him so
bravely, those who had shielded his name in life from the malice of
enemies, and who were still to do battle for him when he was in the
grave--all these loving, true, and faithful figures met his last look on

They laid Charles Napier beneath the grass of the old garrison graveyard
in Portsmouth, for the dull resentment of oligarchic faction is
strongest in the death of heroes, and a studied silence closed the doors
of the two great cathedrals of the capital against ashes which would
have honoured even the roll of the mighty dead who sleep within these
hallowed precincts. Faction, for the moment dressed in power, forgot
that by neglecting to place the body of Charles Napier with his peers,
it was only insulting the dust of ten centuries of English heroism; and
yet even in this neglect the animosity of power misplaced was but able
to effect its own discomfiture, for Napier sleeps in death as he lived
in life--among the brave and humble soldiers he had loved to lead; and
neither lofty dome nor glory of Gothic cathedral could fitter hold his
ashes than the narrow grave beside the shore where the foot of Nelson
last touched the soil of England.

It was on September 8th, 1853, that the funeral took place at
Portsmouth. Sixty thousand people--and all the soldiers who could come
from miles around, not marching as a matter of duty, but flocking of
their own accord and at their own expense to do honour to their dead
comrade--followed the procession in reverent silence. Well might the
soldiers of England mourn, not indeed for the leader but for themselves.
Little more than one year had to pass ere these Linesmen, these
Highlanders, these Riflemen, and twenty thousand of their brethren,
lions though they were, would be dying like sheep on the plateau before
Sebastopol--dying for the want of some real leader of men to think for
them, to strive for them, to lead them. Two years later to a day, on
September 8th, 1855, men looking gloomily at the Russian Redan and its
baffled assailants might well remember "the eagle face and bold strong
eye" and vainly long for one hour of Meanee's leading.

Nations, no matter how powerful, cannot afford to ill-use or neglect
their heroes, for punishment follows swiftly such neglect, and falls
where least expected. In an old Irish manuscript that has but lately
seen the light, there is given in a few terse words a definition of the
attributes of character which go to form a leader of men. "Five things,"
says this quaint chronicle, "are required in a general. Knowledge,
Valour, Foresight, Authoritie, and Fortune. He that is not endowed for
all or for most of these virtues is not to be reputed fit for his
charge. Nor can this glory be purchased but by practice and proof; for
the greatest fencer is not always the best fighter, nor the fairest
tilter the ablest soldier, nor the primest favourite in court the
fittest commander in camp." How aptly this description of a leader fits
Charles Napier the reader can best judge. Knowledge, Valour, and
Foresight he possessed to an extraordinary degree. Authority, so
pertinaciously denied him by his chiefs, he asserted over men without
the smallest difficulty. Fortune in the field was also largely his. How
hard he practised to perfect all these gifts, and how repeated was
their proof, no one who has read his life will venture to deny. But
Charles Napier was many other things besides a great general. He had a
hundred gifts and graces of character that must have made him famous in
any sphere of life he had selected, and made him famous, not by the
passive assent given by his fellows to his possession of some local
eminence of character showing large amid the level of their own
mediocrity, but by the sheer force of the genius that was in him, the
flame of which was certain to force its way to the surface, despite all
the efforts of envy to keep it down. Never lived there soldier who had
so little greatness thrust upon him. From the day he began his military
career to the moment he hung up his father's sword at Oaklands he had to
win every grade and every honour three times over. He seemed, indeed, to
delight in the consciousness that he possessed this triple power of
conquest. Do what they would to deny him, he would go out again and
force them to acknowledge him. And it was this inward consciousness of
power that made him despise the trappings of rank or position which
other men held so high. Like his great ancestor, Henry of Navarre, he
laughed at pomp and parade. "Pomp, parade, and severe gravity of
expression," said the great Bourbon, "belong to those who feel that
without them they would have nothing that would impress respect. By the
grace of God I have in myself that which makes me think I am worthy of
being a king." So, too, like the Béarnois, Napier grounded his greatness
deep down in the welfare of the peasant, in his love for them, and in
the first prerogative of true leadership, the right of thinking and
toiling for the benefit of the poor and humble. "My predecessors
thought themselves dishonoured by knowing the value of a teston," Henry
used to say. "I am anxious to know the value of half a denier, and what
difficulty the poor have to get it. For I want all my subjects to have a
fowl in the pot every Sunday." So was it with this soldier who was sixth
in descent from the first Bourbon, and who fought so hard to keep the
last on a throne his race would never have forfeited had they but
remembered this golden rule of all true kingship.

Two things Napier carried through life of infinite importance--memory of
home and hero-worship. He moved through life between these two
lode-stones. The noble independence of mind possessed by his father, the
ocean of love and tenderness of his mother, the associations of his
early home, these were ever present through the wildest and roughest
scenes of life--hallowed memories, green spots that deserts could not
wither, nor fiercest fighting destroy. And in front lay the lofty ideal,
the noble aspiration. Alexander, Hannibal, Cæsar, Napoleon--from early
manhood these names were magnets to lift his mind above low desires and
sordid cares, and when the shadows of death were gathering they still
stood as lofty lights above the insults and the injustice of his

Carious too is it to watch in the career of Charles Napier how, out of
the garden of memory which he kept green in his heart, many flowers
sprang up as time went on, how his faith in an all-wise Providence
strengthened and increased, how life beyond the grave became a positive
necessity to him, how he looked forward to the time when men will think
only of "acting right in the eyes of God, for then Christ will rule the
world. What result will follow this utter defeat of the evil spirit, the
God in heaven only knows, but the work will be Christ's work, and He
will perhaps come to rule us with eternal life and happiness for those
who have adhered to the Good Spirit--the God, who will then direct all
things to His will." So must it ever be with the truly great minds which
are based on what Mr. Ruskin calls "an infinitude of tenderness." They
no more can live without religion than an oak-tree can grow without the
sun. The mushroom, and the fungi, and the orchid of the human species
may indeed flourish in the night of denial, but the hero is as certain
to believe in God as the eagle is to seek the mountain-top.

Great lives have two lessons--one for the class to which the life
belonged, the other to the nation which gave it birth. The latter is the
lesson of paramount importance; for as the past is ever a mirror held up
to the present in which to read the future, so the life of a dead hero
may be said to mark for statesmen and rulers the rocks and shallows of
their system of government. Never perhaps did a nation pay more swiftly
and to the full the penalty of being blind to the real nature of the son
which had been born to her than did England in her neglect of Napier.
There are those who, writing and speaking of him since his death, have
regretted his "utterances of passion," his "combativeness," his want of
"serenity." "They [Charles Napier and his brother William] lived in
storm instead of above the clouds," wrote one of their greatest admirers
when both brothers had passed away; and if this has been said since they
have left us, a hundredfold stronger was the censure of the world when
they still moved among their fellow-men. But the passion and the
vehemence of the Napiers was only the ocean wave of their hatred of
oppression thundering against the bulwarks of tyranny. They should have
dwelt above the clouds, forsooth, made less noise, toned down the
vehemence of their denunciation. How easy all this is after the battle
is over, and when we are sitting in a cushioned chair with our feet to
the fire! But find me anything overthrown without noise, my friend--any
citadel of human wrong captured, any battle ever won by the
above-the-cloud method,--and I'll say you are right about these Napiers.
Summer lightning is a very pretty thing, but lightning that has thunder
behind it is something more than pretty. But perhaps I am wrong. They
tell us now that battles are in future to be silent affairs--powder is
to make no smoke, rifles and artillery are to go off without noise;
there is to be no "vehemence" or "passion" about anything; you are to
turn a noiseless wheel and the whole thing will be quietly done. All
this is very nice, but I have an idea that when our sapient scientific
soldier has arrived at all this noiseless excellence he will be inclined
to follow the example of his rifle, and go off himself, making as little
noise as possible in the operation, but in a direction opposite to his
gun. So, being doubtful as to this question of noise, I turn to Charles
Napier once more, and strangely enough this is what I read: "The rifle
perfected will ring the knell of British superiority. The _charging
shouts_ of England's athletic soldiers will no longer be heard. Who will
gain by this new order of fighting? Certainly the most numerous
infantry. The soldier will think how he can hide himself from his enemy
instead of how to drive a bayonet into that enemy's body."[5]

One other point ere my task is done. The present is pre-eminently the
age when men long most to ring the coin of success, and hear it jingle
during life. People will say of Napier that he stood in his own light.
It is true he told the truth, but look what it cost him. Had he kept
silence he would have been made a peer; they would have buried him in
St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey, and put a grand monument over his
grave. Hearing which and thinking upon it one comes to ask a simple
question,--What is success? As the world translates the phrase, Napier
was perhaps not a successful man. Yet he lived to see the principles he
had struggled for through life, and suffered for in his struggles,
everywhere triumphant. The great circle of human sympathy growing wider
with every hour, and some new tribe among the toiling outcasts of men
taken within its long-closed limits. He lived to see a Greater Britain
and a larger Ireland growing beyond the seas--fulfilling, in regions
never dreamt of by Canning, the work of liberty and progress which that
Minister had vainly imagined was to be the mission of the South American

And, coming from the great field of human justice and human liberty, in
which he had ever been a manful fighter, to the narrower battle-ground
of his own personal strifes and contentions, he lived, not indeed to see
the truth of his opinions and the justice of his conduct fully
vindicated by the unerring hand of Time, but near enough to the hour of
that vindication to behold its dawn already reddening the horizon. When
the light was made manifest to the world four years after the hero's
death, the man who had stood faithful sentinel through so many years
over his brother's fame--William Napier--was still left to hail the
full-risen beam, and to show to a careless world the length and breadth
of that signal vindication. And long before the lower crowd could see
the light, it had flashed upon the great solitary summits. "A lynx-eyed,
fiery man, with the spirit of an old knight in him," wrote Carlyle, one
year before the Indian Mutiny. "More of a hero than any modern I have
seen for a long time; a singular veracity one finds in him, not in his
words alone, but in his actions, judgments, aims, in all that he thinks,
and does, and says, which indeed I have observed is the root of all
greatness or real worth in human creatures, and properly the first, and
also the earliest, attribute of what we call _genius_ among men." And
then comes a bit which it would be well to write very high and very
large in all the schools and examination rooms in the land. "The path of
such a man through the foul jungle of this world, the struggle of
Heaven's inspiration against the terrestrial fooleries, cupidities, and
cowardices, cannot be other than tragical, but the man does tear out a
bit of way for himself too; strives towards the good goal, inflexibly
persistent, till his long rest come. The man does leave his mark behind
him, ineffaceable, beneficent to all; maleficent to none. Anarchic
stupidity is wide as the night; victorious wisdom is but as a lamp in
it, shining here and there."

So wrote of Charles Napier the greatest thinker of our age--that is the
mountain-top. If you want to find the other extreme of estimate, you
will go to Trafalgar Square, and on the pedestal of Napier's statue
there read--"Erected by Public Subscription, the most numerous
Contributors being Private Soldiers." Between these two grades of
admiration lies the life of Charles James Napier.

_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.


[5] _Defects of Indian Government._

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