Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan's
History of the *Bijnor* Rebellion (1858)

CHAPTER VI -- Battle of Ambasut and the British Victory

Major Ismail repeated this maneuver on the 17th while the entire army crossed by the bridge near the camping ground (in the order detailed as follows) to march towards Ambasut: Vanguard: one company, 70th Rifle Regiment, proposed for action as special guard; one company 70th Rifle Regiment, to protect the two artillery pieces; Sappers and Miners and a Squadron of Horse. Main Body: a Squadron of Horse and the Artillery Park, Captain Austin; 70th Rifle Regiment with Punjab Foot Brigade; War Supplies and Treasure with Multan Horse Squadron. Rear: a company of Punjab Foot and a Squadron of Horse. From the main body, a company each of Hindustan's Foot, each supported by half a company of Horse, were posted on each flank.

The road was difficult and the jungle was fairly thick on both sides. When Captain Draymond set up his line of entrenchment, Ahmad Allah Khan was at Daranagar. He marched from there to Ambasut, where he arrived on the 16th with 1,000 soldiers from Mareh's force and some horse. From there on the 17th he marched toward the river. After our army had advanced six miles towards the Paili River, the advance guard became aware that the enemy was nearby. Major Matar very prudently posted a rifle company on a very high place and ordered Horse and Artillery to advance toward village Shampur, where the battle started. General Jones ordered Captain Carradine and his squadron and Captain Austin's Artillery to gallop forward, and the soldiers to form ranks, to advance on the enemy's position.

We said above that hearing of these events in Daranagar, Ahmad Allah Khan had come to Ambasut. In truth his aim was to carry out a night attack, but this proved fruitless because the combined Government Artillery, Rifle Regiment, and Multan Squadron let loose such a fire that the enemy became completely dumbfounded. General Jones then quickly gave the order to advance, and Captain Carradine struck the enemy from all directions, while shrapnel fire was also continually played on them. The enemy then fled, and except for a few scattered rounds offered no further resistance. In Ambasut itself the enemy gave up a strong position, where they had dug themselves in well, without any effort at fighting.

Hundreds of men threw away their shoes, uniforms, and weapons in this fight. Weapons were scattered everywhere on the road and in the jungle, and there was a corpse lying at every other step along the way. From my position in the rear as a non-combatant, I advanced purposely examining the corpses to see if I might recognize someone. There was no celebrated person among the dead; however, I found, of course, the corpses of two rebel soldiers [[tilinge]]. I would estimate that enemy casualties were between 300 and 350, while on the Government side there was only one casualty. Captured items included 4 artillery pieces, plus all the ammunition and tents at Ambasut. The enemy was able to make off toward Najibabad with only two artillery pieces. The army moved on after a short interval to encamp at Bhaguwala. From this point Najibabad and Nangal were both only eight miles away.

After this defeat, Ahmad Allah Khan and Shafi Allah Khan separated to flee in different directions with small parties of men. Many troopers and soldiers ran straight to Najibabad, while others ran to Nangal; most of the men, however, threw away their shoes and weapons and uniforms to hide in the jungle. A little before the battle was begun, Major Ismail made a sally to bewilder and disperse the enemy at Nangal. Shafi Allah Khan later reached Nangal during his flight, to be followed shortly after by Ahmad Allah Khan. They both came to Najibabad to prepare to abandon the country. The rebel leaders left Najibabad at five o'clock. They took with them two artillery pieces from the field at Ambasut, four pieces from the field at Nangal, and one piece that belonged to Nawab Mahmud Khan's personal staff. Among the persons taken away in this flight were Chaudhri Randhir Singh and Kirani, the electric telegraph clerk. The population also left Najibabad, and it lay completely deserted.

General Jones received news on this date that the foe had fled from Nangal without striking their tents. An order was given to Major Ismail that he should take the heavy artillery across the Ganges. The order was carried out; Major Ismail's artillery and the first Punjab Squadron, with their heavy guns, forded the Ganges. Major House joined them at night from Nangal and then returned to his own camp. .

1) Attack on Najibabad and Government Victory

The army marched on the 18th in the same order, by way of Bhaguwala, to Najibabad. Three explosions of artillery fire were heard as the army approached the Malan River. There could be no doubt that the leaders of the rebels were in full flight. The entire city was deserted. Some soldiers were still in the fort of Patthar Garh. They abandoned the artillery pieces in order to facilitate their flight.

General Jones gave the order to advance to Brigadier Cook. He, accordingly, moved forward. The city was completely deserted. Some rebels were seen in flight as the army approached the Fort. The troopers spurred their horses and killed about 30 of them. The city and Fort were thus completely conquered and under the control of the Supreme Government. Six artillery pieces, shells, and war materials were taken from the Fort; and two artillery pieces were taken in the city, one at the door of the house of Ahmad Allah Khan, another from the factory where artillery pieces were manufactured. (A third piece was taken outside between the fortress and the city.) The city was looted and given over to destruction by a great fire.

It is very sad, as our leaders did not approve of this conflagration. Perhaps the fire began by chance, and there was no way to stop it because the city was empty and water was scarce. However, it was commonly accepted that the Hindus whose houses the Nawab had set on fire took advantage of the opportunity to set the city afire and to ease in this way the bitterness in their own hearts. Probably this is what happened.

2) Situation at the Fort of Patthar Garh

It is proper that I should say something about the Fort called Patthar Garh. Najib Khan built it in 1755 AD. A battle was fought in 1758. Jhanga Rao Sindia and Malharao Marhatta had looted Najibabad and the fort after they crossed at the nearby Gaomukh ford. Then, in the days of Shah Alam, the fort came under fire and was looted again after the combined attack on Zabita Khan by Nawab Najaf Khan, Scindia, and Takuji Marhatta. Shuja ud-Daulah controlled the fort in 1774, then the English took control of the entire country in 1801. Amir Khan led a revolt in its environs in 1805; and now in 1858 this disloyal group behaved so as to wipe out the name and honor of the family.

On April 19 information was received that Jalal ud-Din Khan, a brother of Mahmud Khan, and Sa'd Allah Khan, who was formerly munsif at Amroha, were both in Kot Qadir. The Collector and Major Ismail took some troopers along to arrest them. Before they could reach the place, the two gave themselves up to the Multani troopers and were turned over in fetters to a European guard. Their court martial opened on the 20th and, after proof of guilt, General Jones ordered them shot. They were executed near Nurpur on the 23rd.

3) Rebel Houses Blown Up

It was decided on April 20, 1858 to blow up the residences of Mahmud Khan and Jalal ud-Din Khan, as these were the prime showplaces of their rule; thus, the extreme anger of Government against these disloyal pensioner-traitors might be exhibited to all, and the people be fully warned. The order was carried out on the same day. The audience hall, a very spacious building which had been their seat of Government, was blown up. It was decided on the same day that the company of Sikhs and the artillery park under Major Ismail should stay in the Patthar Garh with the First Punjab Squadron under Captain House. It was also decided that Mr. George Palmer, Joint Magistrate, should take charge of the northern part of the District. He took up his station at Najibabad with that force. The Collector ordered me, as Sadr Amin, to remain with the Joint Magistrate and to follow his orders. I obeyed and made myself available to his command.

4) Rebel Group at Nagina and Release of Randhir Singh; the Fight at Nagina and Government Victory

The rebels who fled from Najibabad went to Dhampur by way of Nagina. While en route, Ahmad Allah Khan released Chaudhri Randhir Singh from his irons. With the help of the zamindars of Puraini, Chaudhri Randhir Singh reached Najibabad, where he joined the Government force. The inhabitants of Nagina again abandoned their city to run away.

When the rogue Mareh heard in Daranagar the news that the Government army had taken Najibabad, he determined to offer resistance. He came to Nagina, by way of Bijnor, with his entire army. He killed Hardayal Jat in Bijnor and arrested some Hindus, whom he took to Nagina. He dug trenches in the gardens of Nagina and sent troopers to call Ahmad Allah Khan. The men who had dispersed, as well as the rebels who had run away, responded to his call to rally about him. All the rebels thus came together. The list included Mareh Khan, Qazi Inayat Ali, Dalil Singh Gujar, Ahmad Allah Khan, Shafi Allah Khan, Habib Allah Khan, Kalan Khan, and Nathu Khan. They brought all their men and artillery together to Afzal Garh, the Fort at Nagina. Mahmud Khan did not come to Nagina; he stayed instead in Seohara, with an artillery piece and some sowars.

During the night of the 20th in Najibabad the Collector received information, from the spies that he had appointed, about each of the enemy's batteries, and the number of pieces. Mir Ashraf Ali, resident of Nagina, who was present in the environs of Nagina and was numbered among those well-disposed toward the Government, sent a detailed report on the situation to the Collector. It was by these means that the complete situation at Nagina was fully known in Najibabad.

The army marched on Nagina from Najibabad on the 21st. The order of march was as before. When the troops reached the canal embankment about three miles from Nagina, the Sappers and Miners cut down branches of trees and placed them on the bridge that the artillery used to cross over, while the rifle regiment went over the embankment itself to cross over. Troopers of the enemy could now be seen. To protect the artillery so that it might move forward, the Sixth Dragoons and two artillery pieces separated to the right, while the Multani troopers went to the left flank; and then the seige artillery moved ahead.

The enemy fire commenced. On the Government side, the artillery also fired. The Sixth Rifle Regiment and the First Punjab Regiment advanced, while the 17th Regiment was in support. The Sikh Infantry advanced to fire a volley. The stupefied enemy fled. The Government army began to advance from the right, and Captain Carradine turned to the left with the troopers of the Multan Horse. The enemy was fleeing in full panic, and hundreds were being killed. All the enemy batteries and trenches passed into Government hands. The Sixth Rifles and the First Punjabis took five artillery pieces in a rush at one position. Leading the carabiniers, Captain Butt took two pieces and a jezail after charging at the enemy's left. The Government side took an artillery piece from in front of Mareh's house itself.

The force which had attacked on the right flank reached a nearby garden (known as Ba'in) in their pursuit of the fleeing enemy. Armed men from the city and some absconding rebels were taking refuge there. Among them was Inayat Rasul, notorious rebel bastard [haram-zadah], and Jan Muhammad, his servant. Either he or his servant opened fire on some Government sowars who were approaching the garden. This fire gave away their hiding place. After penetrating the garden, the Government troops killed 50 to 60 men on the spot; 60 to 70 men who were captured alive were later executed by musket fire. Inayat Rasul and his servant were killed along with most of the men from the Qazi Quarter who had been hiding in the garden. The women who emerged from hiding were not molested.

Captain Carradine took troopers of the Multan Regiment of Horse to the left, in order to pursue the rebels for four miles. Four guns and six elephants were taken below village Majhera on the road to Dhampur. All the people on the elephants were killed; one of the passengers was saved. He was Mr. Kirani, the Telegraph Inspector, who had been a prisoner of Mahmud Khan. Captain Carradine brought him safe and sound to the army.

The enemy had not been sure that the Government army was going to attack on the day of the actual battle. Therefore, Dalil Singh Gujar, the rebel, was returning to Nagina with a party of horse after having gone to Budhpura to fetch rations and to loot the bankers there. When he reached village Sharif-ul­Mulk-pur, otherwise known as Qaziwala, some Government sowars set off to pursue him. They took his artillery piece and put his party to flight. In this battle, 15 artillery pieces with complete ammunition were seized, while one newly-made piece that had burst was found shattered on the field.

At the time the battle of Najibabad was about to start, Major House went toward Budhpura from Najibabad with his regiment of Horse; he aimed to block the rebels from escaping in that direction. It is sad that Dalil Singh Gujar had already slipped by before Major House could reach there. Major House made a search of the jungle, where he did come across Sa'd Allah Khan in headlong flight. Sa'd Allah Khan had been the Police Inspector at Nagina, but had joined the rebels as their police superintendent. He was killed on the spot, together with another trooper.

5) Administration of Nagina

As soon as the victory there was assured, the Magistrate and Brigade Major Indra Sen went to Nagina with the soldiers of the Khaki Regiment. They took Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar with them to help administer the city. After blocking the main roads, they managed the city as was proper. Three hundred men of the city were arrested, of whom 55 were killed on the spot; the rest were released. The Magistrate sent word to fetch Maulvi Muhammad Ali, Rais of Nagina, a well-wisher of the Government. He was ordered to join the Government's camp; his house was protected from looting, to the extent possible. The rest of the city was looted until nightfall. The Government side experienced only slight losses in this fighting. Regretfully, Lt. Kasteling was killed fighting bravely in this battle.

That night, the Collector and the Magistrate appointed Maulvi Qadir Ali Tahsildar to take over his old responsibility again in Nagina; Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar of Bijnor was ordered to stay in Nagina to take over charge of all matters concerning the tahsil and the police station of the tahsil of Nagina, and to hire the number of men he thought were needed. The authorities were pleased at the efficient way Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar handled this administrative assignment.

6) The Army Marches on Dhampur and Moradabad

On the morning of the 22nd, the army marched out of Nagina to encamp at Dhampur. Zamindars of village Ganga Dharpur reported to Chaudhri Partab Singh that an artillery piece belonging to Mahmud Khan had been abandoned on the road in his flight to Seohara; men were assigned to bring in this piece. It was also discovered at the same time that the entire rebel group of the District had fled toward Moradabad. Since Firoz Shah had gone to Moradabad, the entire army marched there on the 23rd. Mr. Alexander Shakespeare took over responsibility for administering the District at Nurpur, where he separated from the army. General Jones expressed his profound gratitude to our Collector for the help he had given, for his supply of intelligence and rations and his uninterrupted exertions in the campaign. At the same time, General Jones ordered the army encamped at Miranpur to protect the fort at Darangar and to cross the river and enter Bijnor. Accordingly, the army crossed the river on the 25th.

7) Triumphant Entry into Bijnor

The Collector took over from General Jones all the artillery pieces which had been taken at Nagina. Despite the departure of the entire army for Moradabad, the aforementioned officer, most wisely and bravely, took into his safekeeping all this artillery, to enter Bijnor on April 26. The population was dumbfounded to see all this artillery. Mr. George Palmer, Joint Magistrate, set up, in very rapid order, the new administration in Najibabad, Kiratpur, Mandawar, etc. He set up police stations, tahsil offices, and custom posts; and then he returned to Bijnor. I rode with him and opened the court of Sadr Amin on the 26th. On the same day the army at Miranpur, with Captain Sage and troopers of the police squadron, entered Bijnor together; Major House and Major Ismail entered Bijnor with four artillery pieces on the 28th.

April was not allowed to end before Mr. Alexander Shakespeare and Mr. George Palmer had brought peace to the entire District through their great effort and planning. Police stations, custom posts, and tahsil offices were established at each place. It was a delicate matter to punish the rebels and give satisfaction to the subjects at the same time. These two tasks were brought to completion so expediently that each person felt an awe for the Government grow in his heart with each passing moment; at the same time the subjects continued to gain contentment and encouragement. In this regard, one ought to consider the uniform past experience of the District: whenever the Government has governed firmly, most of the dacoits chose rather to remain in the nearby mountains and extensive jungles. In view of the great numbers of rebels in the District, people thought that many would go to the jungles to set up their dacoit gangs anew. It is entirely due to the skill of our two chiefs that these evils did not occur; and that instead, all who had gone into the jungles soon came out to return to their individual places. In fact, before the end of April, the roads through the jungle were safe; and the markets of Kot Dwar and Lal Dhan witnessed brisk trading. The brilliant foresight of these two officers was largely responsible for this most unusual and speedy re-establishment of administrative order in the District. It is fitting that I should end this book with a prayer for long life, wealth, and good fortune for these just and prudent leaders.

Daulat-o-fath-o-zafar iqbal-o-jah-o-manzalat
Der taza'af bad da'im khatam kardam bar du'a

May victory and triumph, fortune and loftiness and rank
Ever  increase for you, is the prayer

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