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12 July 1849 - The Second Anglo Sikh War

The ending of the first Anglo Sikh War resulted in the Treaty of Lahore (9th March 1846), Sikhs were made to surrender the valuable region (the Jullundur Doab) between the Beas River and Sutlej River. The soldiers who fought the battles as a part of the British forces were awarded the Sutlej Medal, designed by William Wyon (1795–1851), the chief engraver at the Royal Mint. This was the first medal that had clasps to denote soldiers who fought in the major battles of the Sutlej campaign. On one side of this medal is the head of Queen Victoria. Along with the head of the reigning Queen, the legend VICTORIA REGINA has been engraved. On the other side, the symbol of Victory has been designed, with a collection of the weapons of the Sikh Army placed near her feet.

The conflict between the Sikh Empire and the British forces did not end with the First Anglo-Sikh War though. On April 18, 1848, a prolonged contest began between the city and the state of Multan, and the British forces. The Sikh city of Multan came under the British rule after the First Anglo-Sikh War. “A dispute over taxation made the British replace the Diwan (governor) of Multan, Mul Raj, with Sirdar Khan Singh, and a British political agent, Lieutenant Patrick Vans Agnew. However, when Agnew arrived at Multan he and his associate, Lieutenant William Anderson, were murdered by an angry mob.” On September 27, 1848 British forces finally secured Multan. This tension led to the beginning of the second Anglo-Sikh Wars.

Following the Siege of Multan, the British assembled a large army on the frontier of the Punjab. The British armed forces were led by the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Hugh Gough and the Sikh Army was led by Sher Singh Attariwalla. The first conflict, the Battle of Ramnagar began on November 22, 1848 on the banks of the Chenab River. The battle remained indecisive, with casualties happening on both the sides.

Following the Battle of Ramnagar, the British forces moved towards the Sikh post at Rasul, on the left bank of the Jhelum River, about 85 miles (137 km) north-west of Lahore on January 13, 1849. At noon, they drove a Sikh outpost out of the village of Chillianwallah, marking the beginning of the bloodiest battle fought in the Anglo Sikh Wars. Sher Singh, the leader of the Sikh forces, displayed exceptional skill by judiciously selecting his position which was protected on the left by a low ridge of hills intersected with ravines and the Jhelum, the right being posted in different villages enclosed by a thick jungle.

On 13 January 1849 the British launched their attack. The 24th regiment participated in this war and the museum houses various relics and artefacts from the battle. Colonel John Pennycuick lead the Regiment in the war and fought bravely in the thick jungles around the village. However, he fell as did his son Alexander Pennycuick who was mortally injured while trying to protect the body of his father. Four British guns and the colours of three British Regiments fell to the Sikhs and the British registered nearly 3000 dead or wounded in the area around Chillianwala. A testimony left by a British observer says:

“The Sikhs fought like devils, fierce and untamed… Such a mass of men I never set eyes on and as plucky as lions: they ran right on the bayonets and struck their assailants when they were transfixed”.

The final losses to Gough’s army were 757 killed, 1,651 wounded and 104 missing for a total of 2,512. A comparatively high proportion of the casualties (almost 1,000) were British rather than native Indian. This was mainly a result of the disaster which befell the 24th Foot, which suffered 590 casualties, over 50 percent. Sikh casualties were estimated at 4,000 dead and wounded. Gough was criticised for his handling of the battle, and was relieved of command and was superseded by General Charles James Napier.

Around this Tomb was Fought the sanguinary Battle of Chillianwallah, 13th January, 1849; between the British forces, under Lord Gough, and the Sikhs, under Rajah Sher Singh; on both sides did innumerable Warriors pass from this life, dying in mortal combat. Honoured be the graves of those heroic Soldiers! To the Memory of those who fell in the ranks of the Anglo-Indian Army, this Monument has been raised, by their surviving comrades, at whose sides they perished: comrades who glory in their glory, and lament their fail.

The Sikhs, however, could not drive home the advantage, leading to the final battle of the Anglo Sikh Wars – The Battle of Gujarat/ Goojarat. The Battle of Gujrat took place on February 21, 1849 between the Sikh army of Sher Singh and a British-Indian army led by Hugh Gough, first Baron and later first Viscount. The British used artillery to silence the Sikh guns, then carried the Sikh lines and broke up the army of 50,000 in pursuit. Sher Singh surrendered on March 12, ending the war, and the Punjab was annexed by the governor-general, James Ramsey, the tenth earl of Dalhousie. The battle rehabilitated Gough’s military reputation; he had been criticized for his habit of frontal attacks and his failure to use artillery. The men who served during the Second Anglo Sikh Wars were awarded with the Punjab Medal, which is a part of the collection at the Museum now.


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