Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Lushai Expedition- 1890

To the Left - Mompunga, a Lushai chief, and Mr. Murray, Political Agent, taking the oath of friendship"*, 1890

The native tribe, the Lushais, whose territory was thus encroached upon, were a wild, fierce people. From time to time they had raided the tea-gardens, done the planters much damage, and carried off prisoners. Small expeditions had been sent out to punish them; but, from various causes, these had not met with much success. The Lushais became bolder, raids on the gardens became more frequent, until at last the raiders kidnapped the daughter of a planter, a little girl named Mary Winchester.

It was then thought that the time for action had come, and this was absolutely necessary for the future security of British subjects. Two columns were therefore fitted out, and Colonel Roberts was appointed as chief staff officer, his orders being "to fit out and despatch the two columns and then join General Bourchier at Cachar."

The progress of the columns was slow; the way lay through a dense jungle with thick undergrowth, and at times the men could only march in single file. At one time the road was "blocked by a curious erection in [91] the form of a gallows, from which hung two grotesque figures made of bamboos." "A little further on it was a felled tree which stopped us; this tree was studded all over with knife-like pieces of bamboos, and from the incisions into which these were stuck exuded a red juice, exactly the colour of blood. This was the Lushais' mode of warning us what would be our fate if we ventured further."

After some fighting, the tribe saw that the Government was in earnest, and soon came to terms.

On New Year's Day 1872, Colonel Roberts received the news that he had gained an important step in his department, and had been appointed Deputy-Quartermaster-General. A few days later he got the news of the birth of a son and heir at Umballa. Though there had not been much fighting, the expedition had had a trying time, marching in the jungle and subsisting mainly on tinned foods, and no one was sorry when peace was made and the troops were able to return. For his services against the Lushais Colonel Roberts received the C.B.

For the next four or five years Colonel Roberts was to spend a life of duty and routine [92] without actual fighting. He had much to do with making the arrangements for the Prince of Wales' successful tour in India in 1875.

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