Grand Field Day at Calcutta
Transcript from the
Illustrated London News
29 May 1847
We have received, by the last Overland Mail, from a Correspondent at Calcutta, the annexed Sketch [click thumbnail to enlarge], made on the ground, of the Field Day and Grand Ceremony which took place upon the arrival in Calcutta of the Ordnance captured by the Bengal Army from the Sikhs, in battles fought upon the Sutledje. In the Sketch, the spectator is supposed to be looking northward; the large building to the right being the Government House, at Calcutta. The captured Sikh guns occupy the left or west side of the open space extending the whole way from the arch to the margin of the view. The monster brass gun, "Futteh Jung," may be seen just behind the large flag staff. In the rear of the guns, the crowd of spectators reach nearly to the river. Beneath the large flag are assembled the Deputy-Governor of Bengal, and his Staff; with Sir Harry Smith, Brigadier Coatley, the Members of the Supreme Council, the Government Secretaries, &c.
The whole forms a very animated picture, for it was throughout a grand affair. Independently of the "pomp and circumstance" of the scene, it presents us with a glimpse of the "City of Palaces" the Esplanade; and the Government House, the finest building in Calcutta; a range of magnificent dwelling-houses; and the busy life of the shipping in the Hoogly.
The precise origin of the artillery taken to Calcutta for this event is not made clear in the ILN piece above, but there is no doubt that it refers to the campaign known as the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46, which took place in the region of the Sutlej river. No date for this event is given either, and we have not been able to find any specific references to it; but considering the time it possibly could have taken for the sketch to reach London by the 'overland mail' mentioned, it may well have been in 1846 rather than 1847 when it was published.
Sir Harry Smith (1787-1860), who is particularly associated with the Battle of Aliwal in the Sutlej campaign, wrote of it in his autobiography:
"Every gun the enemy had fell into our hands, as I infer from his never opening one upon us from the opposite bank of the river, which is high and favourable for the purpose fifty-two guns are now in the Ordnance Park; two sank in the bed of the Sutlej; and two were spiked on the opposite bank; making a total of fifty-six pieces of cannon captured or destroyed.
"Having disposed of my captured cannon (I sent forty-seven to the fortress of Loodiana, and took five with me to Head-quarters, the most beautiful guns imaginable, which will, I believe, be placed in St. James's Park, London)."
As the ILN mentions Sir Harry at the field day in Calcutta, we assume these may be the cannon being displayed, though his memoirs do not seem to refer to the event.
The Autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, Bart., G.C.B. (not published until 1901) is available online as part of the University of Pennsylvania Digital Library Project. On this page a map of the campaign is included.
(a) The campaign is also described in extracts from The Story of the Wiltshire Regiment (62nd Foot) available at Cathy Day's site
(b) BBC History: The First Sikh War
(c) History of the Sikhs: First Anglo-Sikh War
(d) At Regiments.org:
India: Military history and institutions
First Sikh War (Sutlej Campaign) 1845-46, with further links
(e) Officers Died site: some casualties (officers only) in the Sutlej Campaign are listed here
First Anglo-Sikh War, 1845-46
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