Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Innes' House

Leaving the church yard and proceeding left, we see now a gate to the left, and a path beyond it. If we follow this path almost to its end, we will see, somewhat obscured by shrubbery, a lone marker. Upon it are the words, barely legible, Innes House 

Marker, Innes' House

Before the siege, here stood: 
“A long commodious lower roomed building with a verandah to the east, covered by a sloping pukka roof and another to the north. It consisted of four large and several small rooms fronting the verandahs, and as many opposite them; in a centre room of which was a little staircase leading to the rook, and commanding through a hole in the wall a position to the west. Next there was a sort of courtyard leading to a bathroom, which projected considerably beyond the walls of the main building, in this respect, resembling Gubbins battery. From the outside, the bathroom buildings looked considerably steep. To the left or south of them were several large houses, in front of which was a pond of stagnant water surrounded by reeds and long grass. To the right was a Mohammedan cemetery, on a very considerable elevation of natural formation, and commanding the outpost from the enemy’s side. In front of the house, and in the rear of the buildings already alluded to as possessed by the enemy, was an extensive low garden, then even covered with high long grass, plantain trees and prickly brambles. A stockade protected a portion of the west side of our ground from that which we tacitly allowed to be that of the enemy.” 1
As the last defended building on the north westerly side of the compound, it was called Innes’ Outpost, named after Lieutenant Mcleod Innes, whose house it had once been. Only scantily protected by palisades, a compound wall made of mud and wooden barricade, and separated from the enemy’s position to the north by low mud wall. It was defended by a party of the 32nd, a few Indian troops of the 13th N.I., and some men of the Uncovenanted Services, one of whom was Rees.

To the right of Innes’ House was a Muslim cemetery situated on a natural mound.  A stockade protected the west side of the grounds.  To the north, an earth wall separated the compound of the Innes house from the enemy’s positions – these consisted of the cemetery mound, several mud huts, and three brick buildings scarcely 6 yards distant and topped off by a mosque opposite but commanded by several high buildings from across the river.  Further on were a garden and the ruins of the house and office of the Central India Horse Company – both buildings had been levelled before the siege by the garrison engineers.

The whole north side of these positions was situated on the road leading along the river from the water gate to the Iron Bridge, from east to west. Stockades were located along the defences – at the end of one of those, was a mud shed with a flight of stairs that led to an upper room, called the Cockloft. From here it was possible to have a view of the Iron Bridge, barely 500 yards in the distance. The position was later extended to include the mound, which was further fortified with deep trenches running the distance from Innes Post to the mound, reducing the danger of being shot when moving between the two positions. The natural levitation of the mound made it an ideal place to shoot from, which the mosque and the headstones provided the necessary shelter.

The command of the post initially was given to Lieutenant Loughnan of the 13th N.I. but was subsequently handed over to Captain Graydon of the 44th N.I.  The outpost had neither cannons not mortar so the occupants had to rely on their imagination as much as on their fighting skills. The attack on the 20th of July put this to the test:

“Our men, seeing the rebels come on swarming as thick as bees, and nothing but one sea of heads and glittering weapons before them, thought of retreat, but Mr. Loughnan and the civilians would not hear of it. “Give a shout my boys!” cried Loughnan, “a loud and a strong one.” And shout they did, with a right good will. “Hurrah, Hurrah! Hurrah!” resounded from all the different quarters where attacks were expected. The enemy were evidently checked in their advance by the cheering of our friends. They at once came to a dead halt, and not only imagined us stronger in number than we really were, but fancied (as we afterwards learnt) that we had received reinforcements from the Residency.” 2

The shout did not stop the attack but it did give them a moment’s pause. The insurgents made it up to the wall, and took cover behind it, just out of reach of the musket fire from the outpost. However, the insurgents had their own problem. They had forgotten to bring ladders. So now, safe as they were behind the wall, they could not get over it to attack the outpost in one sudden rush. It was impossible to bring the ladders – every party carrying them was shot, so they bravely tried climbing it instead, with some success but were bayoneted on the top of it. Lieutenant Loughnan saw the danger should they get over the wall in large numbers, a retreat on a part of the outpost would have be inevitable. Without any hand grenades to dislodge the enemy from their position, the civilians resorted to throwing “bricks and mortar, and succeeded so well in dislodging the enemy with these and other missiles of a very impure nature that our friends soon had that part of the outpost clear.”  3

The enemy beat a hasty retreat but this put them again in range of the muskets and they were unable to approach the wall again.

The attack which started in the morning, gradually relented around 4 in the afternoon neither side victorious. Had the enemy known that Innes Outpost, on that day was held by a force of less than 65 men, they may not have let off so easily. After the battle, the rebels sent a flag of truce, requesting the garrison to allow them to remove their dead and wounded. The truce was respected.

On the 10th of August, a howitzer, nicknamed the Turk by the garrison was brought into play against Innes Post. The constant and precise firing of the rebels destroyed many of the roof beams turning portions of the post into a wasteland of rubble and burying some of the men in the ruins. By the middle of the month, two sides of the house had caved in and the roof was completely gone, but it wasn't until September that the engineers declared the house unsafe.  

1,2,3, -  Personal Narrative of the Siege of Lucknow - L.E.Ruutz-Rees

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