How some command decisions of the First Anglo-Sikh War were taken…. In Flashman’s words VII

The first part of this series – how Lt Flashman helped the leaders of the Khalsa army invading British India draw up a plan that would ensure their defeat is over. I had left our gallant and resourceful soldier make his way back to his compatriots at Ferozepur. What followed, what the reaction of his superiors to his intervention are beyond the scope of this series. I will now begin with the battle of Moodkee, though he did not take part in it…. As he observes

~~ When I sport my tin at dress occasions, I have clasps for a score of engagements, from “Cabul 42″ to ‘Khedive Sudan 96” – but not that one , the battle I started. I don’t mind that; I wasn’t there, praise the Lord, and it wasn’t a famous victory for anyone, but I like to think I prevented it from being a catastrophe. Gough’s army, which a well-managed Khalsa should have smothered by sheer weight, lived to fight another day because I’d squared the odds for them – and because there are no better horse soldiers in the world than the Light Brigade.

But let’s leave this battle….apart from this:

One of the gallopers whom Littler had sent with news of my arrangement with Lal and Tej, had reached Gough at the height of the battle; it had been an astonishing sight, with twenty thousand horse, foot and guns tearing at each other in the starlight, and the old madman himself raging because he couldn’t personally take part personally in the 3rd Light’s charge on the Sikh flank: “It’s damnable, so it is! Here’s me, and there’s them, an’ I might as well as be in me bed! Away ye go, Mickey, an’ give ’em one for me – hurroo, boys!”

The galloper had wisely decided that there’d be no talking sense to him for a while, and it wasn’t till near midnight, when the fighting was done, that the news had been broken, to Gough, Hardinge, with Broadfoot in tow, as they left the field.

Flashman is summoned to his presence, explains everything (though Hardinge – the Governor General – is not impressed, either with him or his work).  Broadfoot commends him, and broaches…. well it is not needed. Now to the next engagement. But let him speak…

~~ You’ll have difficulty finding Ferozeshah (or Pheero Shah, as we Punjab purists call it) in the atlas nowadays. It’s a scrubby little hamlet about halfway between Ferozepore and Moodkee, but in its way it’s a greater place than Delhi or Calcutta or Bombay, for it’s where the fate of India was settled – appropriately by treachery, folly and idiot courage beyond belief. And most of all, by blind luck.

It was where Lal Singh, on my advice, had left half his force when he marched to meet Gough, and it was where his battered advance guard retired after Moodkee. So there he was now, twenty thousand strong, with a hundred splendid guns, all nicley entrenched and snug as a bugs. And Gough must attack him at once, for who could tell when Tej Singh, loafing before Ferozepore a mere dozen miles away, would be forced by his colonels to do the sensible things and join Lal, thereby facing Paddy with a Khalsa of over fift thousand, outnumbering us more than three to one?

And then before the battle is joined…

~~ For while most of what I tell you of that momentous day is hearsay, one vital incident was played out under my nose alone. This is what happened.

The scouts had reported that the place was heavily entrenched on all sides, in a rough mile square about the village, with the Sikhs’ heavy guns among the mounds and ditches that enclosed it. On three sides there were jungly patches which would hinder our attack, but on the eastern side facing us was flat maidan, and Gough, honest man, could see only one way – open up with the guns and sweep straight in, trusting to the bayonets of his twelve thousand to do the trick against twenty thousand Khalsa. During the night Littler had swept out of Ferozpore with almost his whole seven thousand, leaving Tej guarding an empty town; Paddy’s notion may have to drive the Sikhs out of Ferozeshah and into Littler’s path, but I ain’t sure.

At all events, I was reclining at my dooli in the shade, discussing beef and hardtack and coughing contentedly over my cheroot. admiring the view of our army deployed across my front and feeling patriotic, when there was a commotion fifty yards off, where the HQ staff were at breakfast – Hardinge trying to hog the marmalade again, thinks I, but when I peeped out, here was the man himself striding towards my grove, looking stern, and five yards behind, Paddy Gough, with his white coat flapping and bright murder in his eye. Hardinge stops just inside the g

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