Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/181

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the expedition under Sir James Outram [q. v.] He was preparing to start for Bushire to join it when, on 6 April, intelligence arrived that the war with Persia was over, and on 20 April the Madras fusiliers reached Madras. Colonel Stevenson, who was in command, left for England on sick leave on the 28th, and Neill took over command of the regiment.

On 16 May news came from Calcutta that the troops at Mirat and Delhi had mutinied, and Northern India was in a blaze. Neill embarked his regiment at once, fully equipped for service, in accordance with instructions received, and arrived at Calcutta on 23 May. They were ‘entrained’ by detachments en route for Banáras.

Neill arrived at Banáras on 3 June 1857. The following day the 37th native infantry and a Sikh regiment mutinied. They were attacked and dispersed by the artillery, some of the 10th foot and of the Madras fusiliers. Thrice the rebels charged the guns, and thrice were driven back with grape shot; then they wavered and fled. Never was rout so complete. Brigadier-general Ponsonby, who was in command, was incapacitated by sunstroke, and Neill assumed the command. He was duly confirmed in the appointment as brigadier-general to command the Haidarabád contingent. His attention was at once called to Allahabád, where the 6th native infantry mutinied on 5 June and massacred their officers. The fort still remained in our hands, but was threatened from without by the mutineers, who were preparing to invest the place, while the fidelity of the Sikh troops within was doubtful. Neill at once despatched fifty men of the Madras fusiliers to Allahabád by forced marches. They arrived the following day (6th), and found the bridge in the hands of the enemy, but got in by a steamer sent from the fort for them. Another detachment sent by Neill arrived on the 9th, and on the 11th Neill himself, having made over the command at Banáras to Colonel Gordon, appeared with a further reinforcement of forty men. Neill experienced considerable difficulty in getting into Allahabád. He was nearly cut off en route from Banáras, and when he got near Allahabád it was blazing forenoon. A boat was obtained by stealing it from the rebels, and Neill and his men had to wade a mile through burning sand in the hot sun. Two of his men died in the boat of sunstroke. Neill's energetic measures soon altered the position of affairs. The heat was terrific, but Neill on 12 June recovered the bridge and secured a safe passage for another detachment of a hundred men of the fusiliers from Banáras. On the 13th he opened fire on the enemy in the adjacent villages, and on the 14th, a further detachment of fusiliers having arrived, the Sikh corps was moved outside the fort, and with it all immediate remaining danger.

On the evening of the 14th and during the 15th he continued to fire on the enemy in the villages adjoining. He also sent a steamer, with some gunners, a howitzer, and twenty picked shots of the fusiliers, up the Jamna. They did a great deal of execution. The Sikhs, supported by a party of the fusiliers, cleared the villages of Kaidganj and Matinganj. The insurgents were thoroughly beaten. The Moulavie fled, and the ringleaders dispersed. ‘At Allahabad,’ wrote Lord Canning to the chairman of the East India Company, ‘the 6th regiment has mutinied, and fearful atrocities were committed by the people on Europeans outside the fort. But the fort has been saved. Colonel Neill, with nearly three hundred European fusiliers, is established in it; and that point, the most precious in India at this moment, and for many years the one most neglected, is safe, thank God. A column will collect there (with all the speed which the means of conveyance will allow of), which Brigadier Havelock, just returned from Persia, will command.’ Before Havelock came, cholera suddenly appeared. It did not last long, but within three days carried off fifty men. Neill set to work energetically to equip a small force to push into Cawnpore to relieve Wheeler; he also collected guns and material for a large force to follow. For his services at Allahabád he was promoted colonel in the army and appointed aide-de-camp to the queen.

Havelock arrived on 30 June. The column which Neill had prepared for Cawnpore started under Major Renaud on 3 July. News had just arrived from Lucknow of the terrible tragedy enacted at Cawnpore, but it was not fully believed; at any rate, hopes were entertained that the story might be the invention of Nana Sahib. Captain Spurgin of the Madras fusiliers, with one hundred men and two guns, also left Allahabád on 3 July on board a river steamer to co-operate with Renaud. Havelock was delayed by want of bullocks for a few days, but finally left Allahabád on 7 July. Neill was left at Allahabád to reorganise another column. It was a great disappointment to Neill that, after his successes at Allahabád, he should be superseded by a senior officer; but he was somewhat consoled on 15 July by a telegram from the commander-in-chief directing him to hand over the command at Allahabád to the next senior officer, and to join Havelock as second in command. Neill reached Cawn-