The Battle-Field of Chillianwallah

The following article from p. 281 of the Illustrated London News for 1 October 1853 was scanned by Tim Willasey-Wilsey and converted to text by the webmaster.

Monument lately erected upon the Battle-Field of Chillianwallah. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The scene of this “sanguinary battle” remains, after four years, almost exactly the same as on the 13th of January, 1849; and, from the nature of the ground, it will probably be long ere the peaceful plough softens down its sternness. Within a few miles of the small Goojur village of Chillianwallah, the river Jheylum cuts through a long low spur of the Salt Range, leaving the mass of hill standing boldly up on its right bank, and the severed spur lying on its left. This spur is crowned by the village of Russool, which, from a precipitately scarped cliff, overhangs the river on one side, and looks over the field of Chillianwallah on the other. From these heights, as far as the eye can follow the downward course of the Jheylum, the country is an undulating surface of jungle and ravines for many miles inland. In this jungle it was that the Sikh and British armies met. The Sikh position extended from Russool on the left to Moorg, another high village, on the right; but their line of battle was pushed forward far in advance of their camp, to the edge of a long, low hollow, which traverses the country. On the opposite side of the hollow runs a line of high villages, of which Chillianwallah is the centre; and behind these villages, towards Dingeh, the country becomes clear and comparatively open. It was in this direction that the British army advanced towards Chillianwallah on one side, while the Sikh line lay in wait in the jungle below it on the other side—so that this village had every right to give its name to that memorable battle.

We leave the description of the fight itself to history; and only aim at presenting to our readers a faithful picture of the spot where it occurred. It is, indeed, a wild and striking one: its mournful interest has been added to by the erection, during the last year, of a noble monument to those who fell on the British side. It is an obelisk of red stone, from the adjacent hills, seventy feet high, which stands in a walled cemetery on the summit of the Chillianwallah mound, where the majority of the British killed were buried. The bodies were laid in long trenches, which have now been vaulted over with masonry; truly a “common grave” for the brave who died a common death. On the base of the obelisk the following inscription was being chiseled when our Sketch was taken:—

Around this Tomb was Fought the sanguinary Battle of Chillianwallah, 13th Jan., 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 Monument (of which the accompanying is a faithful representation) was designed and erected by Captain Harley Maxwell, of the Bengal Engineers; and the Inscription was written, it is said, by the late Sir Charles Napier. It is a fine thought, finely carried out—when we reflect that Sikh workmen quarried, squared, and carried every stone, and then piled them one by one over the graves of the conquering Saxons.

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Last modified 4 November 2015