Glimpses of History: Secret Letters during Gurkha War 1814-1816

Interesting insights are offered by a reading of the ‘Secret Letters’ that formed a part of the ‘Papers regarding the Administration of the Marquiz of Hastings in India’ that were tabled at a General Court of the ‘United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies’ on 3rd March 1824.

Marquess of Hastings (1813-23)

A secret letter by Mr. Rutherford dated 27 Dec 1814 describes in detail the information gathered about the strength of the defences at Morni Fort that was under Gurkha occupation. A similar letter by Captain Hearsey similarly desribes the vulnerability of the hill forts, including the Morni Fort. A secret letter from Lord Moira dated 1st June 1815 describes the ‘Agreement entered into between Kajee Ummer Sing Thapa and Major-General Ochterlony, on 15th May 1815. Morni Fort and all forts between Jamuna and Satluj, that were under Gurkha occupation were to be evacuated and be handed over to the British. The letters are reproduced below:

Secret Letter from Capt. Hearsey, 27 Dec. 1814:“Mornee,   Tucks-aul, and all the hill-forts, are built on the summits of the hills:   they are built of slabs of stone without any cement, and are not above thirty   paces square, above twelve feet high, and the stockade which surrounds them   is easily destroyed.  These forts, in   general, have no springs or tanks of water within them, but the garrison is   obliged to fetch it from some distance below.    By cutting off this necessary article of life the goorkas got   possession of them.  I presume, a shell   from a four and a half inch howitzer would cause the immediate evacuation of   them.  They can easily be approached by   infantry under cover to within less than musket-shot.  The garrison, which seldom exceeds one   hundred and fifty men, are ill-supplied with stores or ammunition.”
Secret Letter from Mr. Rutherfurd, 27 Dec. 1814The following notices of Forts, &c. have been lately obtained from   Individuals employed by me to procure information:  Forts of Dhornee and Mornee- The   first of these is stated to be about four coss from Nahun to the south-west,   in the first range of hills, but seven months ago was in ruins. The latter is   in good repair and occupied. Its gateway is to the east. Its walls are of   stone and rise about fifteen feet high to the east, north, and west; but to   the south it is raised to a considerable height, in order to form apartments   for the accommodation of the Rajah of Sirmoor, who used to reside here, and   after his expulsion from Nahun defended himself in it for some time.  It is provided with one gun. Water is   brought from a spring about a coss off, and kept in a reservoir.  There are two roads to it from the plains,   which wind round to the right and left, and advance along the hills on a   level with the fort.”
Secret   Letter from Lord Moira, 1 June 1815 

‘Agreement   entered into between Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa and Major-General Ochterlony, on   the 15th May, 1815

            In consideration of the high rank and   character of Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa, and of the skill, bravery, and fidelity   with which he has defended the country committed to his charge, it is agreed   :

1.         That   Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa, with the   troops now in Raujgurh, shall   march out and retain their arms and accoutrements, the colours of their   respective corps, two guns and all private property, which shall be duly   respected and preserved, and every attention and delicacy observed in respect   to the zenana of the Kajee, and every person under his authority.

2.         In   consideration, also of the gallant conduct of Kajee Runjore SingThappa, it is agreed that he shall likewise   march out of the fort of Jeytuck   with two hundred men, who are to retain their arms, colours and one gun, with   the Bharadars (chief officers) and their followers, about three hundred more   in number, unarmed, with his own and their private property, which shall be   respected, and the sanctity of the Zenana preserved.

3.         Kajee   Ummer Sing Thappa and Kajee Runjore Sing Thappa, with their property and   followers, are at liberty to proceed by the route of Thaneisur, Hurdwar, and   Nujeebabad, to join the troops eastward of the river Sarjoo, or by whichever   route they determine to proceed to that destination.  Conveyance shall be provided for the   transportation of their property to the confines of the Nepaul  territory.

4.         Kajee   Ummer Sing Thappa and Kajee Runjore Sing Thappa, shall be at liberty to meet   wherever they please.

5.         All   the troops, in the service of Nepaul, with the exception of those granted to   the personal honour of the Kajees, Ummer Sing and Ranjore Sing, will be at liberty   to enter into the service of the British Government, if it is agreeable to   themselves and the British Government choose to accept their services, and   those who are not employed will be maintained on a specific allowance by the   British Government, till peace is concluded between the two States.

6.         Kajee   Ummer Sing Thappa, on his part, agrees to leave the fort of Malown, whenever bearers and other conveyance are   prepared for his private property.

7.         Kajee   Ummer Sing Thappa also agrees to send immediate orders for the evacuation and   delivery, to persons properly authorized, of the forts of Bhylee (Irkee), Subbatoo, Mornee, Jeytuck, Juggutgurh, Rowsheen,   and all other forts and fortresses now held by the Nepaul troops between the   Jumna and Sutleje rivers.  The   garrisons of all which forts, strong holds &e. shall enjoy their private   property unmolested, and the arms and warlike stores in each shall be left in   deposit, for the future decision of the Right Honourable the   Governor-General; with exception to such among them as are related to Kajee   Ummer Sing Thappa by kindred, about eighty-three men, who shall be at liberty   to retain their arms and accoutrements.

8.       Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa also agrees to send immediate orders to Kajee Bukhtour Sing   for the evacuation of the territory of Ghurwall, to deliver over the forts, &c, in that district to the officers of the British Government, and to   proceed to Nepaul by the Kamaon route, with their garrisons, all public and   property including warlike stores, accompanied by a Chuprassie with a pass,   on the part of the British Government.


Separate Article – Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa wishes it  to be understood, that he shall give immediate orders for the instant surrender of the distant forts, in the hope that it may lead to an early renewal of the relations of amity which have subsisted between the two states for these sixty years, and by the advice of Bum Sah and the Baradars of Kamaon.’