The following are notes from Colonol Steinback’s observation of the Sikh Army of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh: The Colonel makes some very interesting comments about the Nihang Warriors. The manuscript of the journal can be found Here: The Sheik Army
(From Col. Steinback’s Notes on the Punjaub.)
This force, consisting of about 110,00 men, is divided into regulars and irregulars, the former of whom, about 70,000 strong:, are dulled and appointed according to the European system.
The cavalry) branch of the discipline force amounts to nearly 13,000 men, and the infantry) and artillery to 60,000 more. The irregulars, variously armed, 4,000 strong, of which number upwards of 20,000 are cavalry, the remainder consisting of infantry and matchlock men, while the contingents, which the Sardars or chiefs are obliged to parade in the requisition of the sovereign, amount to considerably above 30,000.
The Artillery consisted in Ranjeet’s time of 376 guns, and 370 swivels mounted on camels, or on light carriages adapted to their size. There is no distinct corps of Artillery as in other services, but there are 4,000 or 5,000 men under a dargo trained to the duty of gunners, and these are distributed the ordinance throughout the regular army.
In addition to the regular and irregular army, the Lahore Government has also in its pay a body of irregular cavalry (to the number of about 2,000 or 3,000 men,) called Akalees. They are religious fanatics, who acknowledge no ruler or laws but their own ; think nothing of robbery or even murder, should they happen to be in the humour for it ; Runjeet Singh himself narrowly escaping assassination by them. They are, without exception, the most insolent and worthless race of people under the sun. * *
The quoit is an arm peculiar to this rare of people ; it is a steel ring, varying from six to eight inches in diameter, and about an inch in breadth, very thin, and the edge ground very sharp ; they throw ¡t with more force than dexterity, but not so (as alleged,) asto be able to lop off a limb at a distance of sixty or
eighty yards.-Bengal Hurkaru, January 17._
Here the Colonel talks about the Nihangs
The costumes of the regular infantry is scarlet, with different coloured facings to distinguish regiments as in the British Service
The trousers are of blue linen, the head dress is a blue turban, with one end loose, and spread so as to entirely cover the head, back of the neck, and shoulders , the belts are of black leather, the arms a musket and bayonet, the manufacture of Lahore. The
cavalry wear helmets or steel caps, mind which scarfs or shawls are folded. ‘The irregular* in their dress and appointments fully justify the appellation which their habits and mode of making war obtained for them , cotton, silk, and broadcloth trousers of various colours, with the addition of shawls, cloak«, breast plates or coats of mail, with tunics or helmets ad
libitum, impart to them a motley but picturesque appearance. They are all badly mounted, and indeed little can be said of the regular cavalry in this respect.
The Sikh regiments
The Seikh army, until lately, was considered by many British officers, who had opportunity of seeing
it, to have been in a fair state of discipline. They (omi very correct lines, but in maneuvering their movements are too slow, and they would consequence be in danger from a body of British Cavalry, of being successfully charged during a change of position. They would also run the risk of having their flanks turned, by their inability to follow the motion of an European enemy with equal rapidity. The arms, that is to say, the muskets, are of a’very inferior «tamp, incapable of throwing a ball to any distance, and on quick and repeated discharges liable to burst. Their bring is bad owing to the very small quantity of practice-ammunition allowed by the Government ; notmorethantwoballsoutof ahundred, at the distance of as many paces, would probably tell onan enemy’s ranks. They still preserve the old system of three ranks, the front one kneeling when firing, and then rising to load-a method, in action, liable
to create confusion.
In person the Infantry Soldiers are tall and thin, with good features and full beards ; their superior height is owing to the extraordinary length of their lower limbs. They are capable of enduring the fatigue of long in arches for several days in succession (theauthor having on one occasion mai ched with his regiment a distance of 300 miles within twelve days,) and are, generally speaking, so hardy, that exposure to excessive heats or heavy rains has little effect upon them. In a great’measure this is the result of
The Cavalry of the Seikh Army is very inferior in even Britian though the Seikh soldier may not claim credit
for a greater degree of prowess than any other Oriental troops, he possesses some qualities invaluable to the military man. He has the faculty of subsisting upon a very small quantity of food-a faculty peculiarly favorable to the indulgence of his avarice ;
and he is capable of enduring great fatigue, and of accomplishing marches that none but the Turcoman Tartars can perform. The distance from Lahore to Peshawur is 300 miles, and it has often been done in eleven days. The Seikhs have, indeed, acquired
from their remarkable pedestrian qualities, the epithet of ironlegged.
It has been said above, that the Seikhs are arrogant and insubordinate ; it should be added, they are less so in the field than in the garrison ; and it is only reasonable to conclude, that even in quarters they would.be more tractable were they governed by
European officers. Hitherto there has never been more than twenty Europeans with the entire regular army of seventy thousand men.