The troops all except the 12th +18th Foot which were at Chatham, and the 13th + 9th + 25th Foot at Lorkal were now at Horpers Barracks. On the 6th Sept H.I.M. left with the Grenadier + Dragoon Guards for Chatham. Captain Ernest who had distinguished himself at the battle of Lasterne was elected by competition in command of No. 4 Div. at Horpers. On the morning of the 7th he assembled the troops of the div for Drill. A private of the 33rd Regt manifesting a spirit of insubordination Ernest struck him and immediately the whole Regt surrounded him. The 8th HG coming up at the moment Col Hasher demanded his return.
On their refusal to give him up, Hasher ordered the Battalion to disperse them. But forming line they in a resolute manner repelled the attack + Hasher fell back pending the arrival of the other Corps. Disaffection, rapidly spread. The Battalion C[oldstream] G[uards] retreated before a large force from No. 4 Div. The whole of No. 3 was in arms. In No. 3 the Irish also joined the outcry. Hasher having exasperated the rebels by his attempt by force to subdue them, they united and drove him from the Barracks. He took up head quarters at Aldesk and Maj General Campbell took command. Several cavalry skirmishes took place on the 9th.
The rebels having petitioned his Majesty, H.I.M. refused to enter into any negotiations unless they gave up their arms + marched out of Horpers. This they refused to do + prepared for hostilities. The 12th L[ancers] + the 13th H + 25th + 19th H at Jorkal joined + seized Powgen a military town fortified on behalf of the mutineers. As this was of importance to H.I.M. the whole of the force at Aldesk in obedience to orders joined H.I.M. + the united forces marched to Powgen. They had however been anticipated, the rebels leaving a small force in Horpers had proceeded to Powgen where they arrived late on the 12th. H.I.M. arrived before the town on the 13th, his army numbering about 200 Infantry and 80 Cavalry: that of the enemy about 300 infantry and 70 Cavalry. Six hundred and twenty men now faced each other about to enter upon a bloody conflict. The enemy’s left wing stretched along the Left Bank of the river Abasot. The Right extended from Powgen some distance.
The battle commenced at one o’clock by an attack on the enemy’s Right. DA created such a panic by its murderous fire that the reserves of that army were brought up to support, but they too were thrown into disorder and before the reserves were rallied the troops ruched forward crossed the river + maintained their position on the Left bank. The enemy’s Cavalry were repulsed in their endeavour to drive them back. The Grenadier Guards, preceded by the Tirailleurs of the Guard (23rd Welch Fusiliers) followed and proceeded to turn the left of the rebels’ position.
General Black who commanded determined by one grand movement to recover the lost ground and decide the day. The Left wing was marched to the Right, and the whole of the Cavalry including the reserve under LG Hasher dashed headlong on H.I.M.’s advancing column. The extreme right, under the command of Drouot, fell back, DA and the other guns alone remaining. The Guards under Major General Cambridge formed line and delivered a series of rolling fires on the advancing horsemen. When within 50 yards the artillery opened fire. Lancers Cuirassiers Hussars Dragoons mingled in the death struggle on the grassy turf. The remainder dispersed and H.I.M. rested for the night on the field of battle.
The following day Sunday that 4th September the sun shone brightly on the two forces. H.I.M. however was up and active. He with the officers attended Divine Service in the morning, Colonel Herbert taking Sacrament. The troops were under arms by 6 am and H.I.M. rode to the right and viewed the approaching conflict. Mercury Chief of Staff on the 13th now superintended the Right attack which immediately commenced. The 8th DG at the same time attacked the Right of the enemy who stood their ground firmly till the reserves and elite of the army withdrew by the road to Herbert under the personal command of General Black head of the insurrection LG Hasher being left in command. An immediate assault on the town was ordered. Mercury sent forward therefore the 3rd Battalion of the G[renadier] G[uards], but they received such a galling fire that he ordered them to retreat, perceiving the rashness of such an endeavour. On the Left the RH Guard received in like manner being forced to retire. The enemy were however now in and around Powgen without hope of escape. H.I.M. at once commenced to lay siege to the place.
Sept 15th 1873. Receiving intelligence on the 26th of the assembly of the Corps under General Black at Horpers he on the 22nd despatched Maj Gen Cambridge to attack him at that place with a larger one under his command including the third fifth and seventh battalions Foot Guards and the Fifth dragoon guards. Brigadier General Mercury being second in command. The force arrived at the town of Aldesk on the 24th and immediately marched forward. At Aldesk it was joined by four battalions [of] foot raised by Captain Ernest who had escaped from the rebels the day of the outbreak. These were called the Aldesk Volunteers, and, afterwards the 29th, 30th, 31st + 32nd Regiments. The enemy had occupied the heights above Horpers in a great force. The position was very strong + protected by a powerful Artillery. Against this, he (Cambridge) advanced with 111 Infantry and 16 Cavalry, the force of the enemy was rather less but superior in Cavalry.
The whole line advanced at six o’clock in spite of a vigorous fire which was answered along the whole line. The position was carried by the Guards in the centre, MG’ Campbell’s division on the Right, and BG Mercury’s division of Aldesk Volunteers on the Left. The enemy had posted his reserves too far behind and his lines were in the hands of H.I.M. troops before the reserves could reach the disputed points. Three tremendous cavalry charges were rendered ineffectual by the repulse and defeat of the attacking horsemen, on the right by Col MacConnal concentrated musketry fire, on the Left by Brigadier General Mercury’s well directed fire, altho’ one Regiment being unformed being routed with great loss (29th); and by the centre under Captain Ernest comm[ander] of Brigade pro tem forming square till the arrival of the Dragoon Guards who quickly cleared the field.
The whole army now advanced but the reserves of the rebels discharging a furious that they were ordered back and the enemy immediately fell back to Horpers leaving 35 dead upon the field. One standard, that of the 22nd Regiment, and 16 prisoners with 3 guns were the trophies of the victories. The loss on the other side had been also heavy 29 being hors de combat. Of these 10 were Guards. The officers were for immediately storming Horpers but the Duke of Cambridge apparently satisfied with his victory entered into correspondence with the mutineers in Horpers, and on the 26th Sept signed the Convention of Horpers allowing them a free passage from that place. This exasperated his officers who saw that they must have fallen an easy prey to the victorious and enraged army, and Mercury who had been deputed to carry out the terms of the convention resolved to let no opportunity slip which should serve to renew hostilities.
The evacuation took place on the 27th and an altercation took place about ammunition which was not mentioned in the convention. Mercury refused to allow it to be taken and attempted to take it by force. The enemy resisted and drew it off. On this and their refusal to give it up he dispatched a courier to Head Quarters at Aldesk and immediately commenced a vigorous cannonade on the enemy at two o’clock. On securing intelligence of the outbreak of fresh hostilities the Duke of Cambridge despatched the gun boat “Percy” with the 45th Sherwood Foresters on board to the scene of strife. This gun boat was the first of a powerful fleet ordered by H.IM. designed and built by Messrs F Nicholson & Co Ship Builders, Toby. The Percy carried 2 guns + the second, the Wonder frigate of 8 guns.
The Percy arrived off Horpers at 8.10 pm. In the meantime Cambridge hurried to the field with the Coldstreams and reserves. The Grenadiers Fusiliers and DA had already reached the field and commenced attacking the Right. Mercury pressed in on the centre and the 45th having disembarked charged the Left and took the ammunition waggon with the stores, which, catching fire burnt with indescribable fury and finally blew up. The enemy were in direful condition when Cambridge again interfered and they were allowed to march off leaving all their guns in the hands of the victor.* (Such however was their direful condition that out of the splendid army they entered Horpers with only a fortnight before but 43 out of the original 120 original complement remained).
In the interim, the enemy at Powgen discovered the small force bloc[k]ading sallied out, on which H.I.M. retreated to the vicinity of Powgen. On the [left blank] October the enemy having reorganised the multitude in Powgen advanced against the lines which H.I.M. had erected before his position at Sopy. At the same time a strong column proceeded along the Sea Coast towards Hictown to take H.I.M.’s Left Wing. H.I.M. was early on the field, altho’ the foe had taken advantage of the right which was not so dark as they could have desired, and a torrent of orders apparently unconnected poured forth. Immediately the “Percy” with DA and CG set sail.
The force in Sopy marched for the front where the attack apparently was strongest. The Grenadiers and Fusiliers gallantly held the Camp, the Left was ably held by the 23rd Welsh Fusiliers. But the column proceeding to the flank attack being within a mile and a half of Sopy, they sent forward the Cavalry to take the Camp in rear. Already were the Dragoons penetrating the midst of the tents, and H.I.M. was aware of the fact. He instantly ordered the Life Guards to charge. With alacrity they took to horse and being formed by their Colonel (Herbert) in squadrons dashed on with an irresistible force but being attacked by fresh foes (Cuirassiers and Lancers) in succession they being overwhelmed by numbers they were compelled to give way tho’ but slowly. H.I.M. with his great military eye had forseen and [unreadable] flying like the wind.
Quarter of an hour later the 10th H were mingling shoulder to shoulder with the Life Guards in the deadly struggle. Having arrived off the coast where the enemy’s flanking column was proceeding the “Percy” disembarked the troops on which the column retreated to the Left and effected a junction with the army, followed by DA. The Scots Greys who were also distant asked at once made for the raging cavalry fight at full speed. Assaulting in close squadrons the centre of the fight they completely cut off a force of dragoons who surrendered and being now in great superiority over the enemy drove them back within their lines pursuit being prevented by the impenetrable phalanx. With this all fighting ceased and the conflict which had been raging 3 hours was over by 10 pm.
During the night H.I.M. drew off his forces and took up his position in Sopy. The enemy immediately commenced to scour the country round. H.I.M. however having finished the war in Aldesk the enemy having been driven out of that quarter through the victories of his General Cambridge at Aldesk and Horpers was now joined on the 4th October by the army of Aldesk, BG Mercury having been left at Horpers razing the fortifications with his division. The troops arrived in the new frigate the Wonder. H.I.M. had now 130 men under his command. Owing to the bad state of the weather his projected attack on the rebels was postponed and the enemy perceiving the great strength of H.I.M.’s forces withdrew to the protection of their stronghold. The weather clearing up H.I.M. immediately commenced on the great military movements which brought to a close this bloody insurrection. As a precaution, the conscription had been called out and was now in training. H.I.M. however hoped to be able to finish the war with the forces comprising his army.
On the morning of the 1st October the frigate “Wonder” set sail with a strong force chiefly the army of Horpers being the Highland brigade and 3rd + 5th Battalions Foot Guards and 2nd North British Dragoons. Proceeding southward along the coast they embarked at 10 pm about 15 miles below Sopy. H.I.M. being informed of their safe arrival immediately marched with his army for Powgen, the “Percy” and “Royal George” proceeding into the River Abosot protecting the advance of the columns, having Drouot’s Artillery on board. Arrived before Powgen at 6 pm. They advanced in line upon that hitherto invincible fortification, the key of H.I.M.’s dominions in the North.
The rebels had thrown up entrenchments before Powgen by the Left Bank of the river. Behind these and extending through the town to the rearward a considerable force, but on the Right bank of the river which was unfortified either by Nature or Science, the great bulk of the army reposed. H.I.M. therefore advanced with his army consisting of Guards alone against the entrenched position. DA on the opposite (Right) side of the river occupied the strongest part of his army assisted by a vigorous fire from the “Percy” with her bow and stern chasers the distance being great. The well directed discharges from the guns of the Artillery of the Guard decimated those battalions in front of the Rebel line.
The attack of the Guards was met by a strong cannonade which caused great loss to the Grenadiers + Fusiliers who led the way. At this junction the troops from the “Wonder” after a toilsome march appeared on the Right Bank. With irresistible ardour they advanced and joining DA attacked with the bayonet the shallow lines of the rebels and driving before them both reached the bridge which crosses the river, and enters by the road into the town. Here the rebels made a determined stand and for a long time defeated all who ventured to approach and Battalion after Battalion of Highlanders was forced back in a vain effort to gain possession. At length the Brigade of Guards under Captain Ernest with the 79th Regiment under Colonel MacConnal who had shown great military skill and commanded the whole of the force from the “Wonder”, superceding his late superior MG Campbell, gained a footing on the Bridge immediately strengthening themselves by the advance of a Battery of Artillery.
This with a charge of the Scots Greys throwing the mutineers into disorder prepared the way for a grand assault by the whole of the Corps on that Bank of the river which was eminently successful altho’ this was in a measure owing to the want of Cavalry on the part of the rebels; all their Cavalry being then engaged in a deadly combat with the Cavalry of H.I.M. This cavalry encounter was the most furious and bloody that had ever been witnessed no mercy being given on either side – at length the Heavy Brigade carried all before them.
While this fight continued on the Left of Powgen H.I.M. with the Guards advanced to storm the fortress and Col MacConnal with Drouot’s Artillery having effected the passage of the well contested bridge advanced upon it from behind driving their foes before them till they arrived before the gate of the town. Their ponderous weight was blown to pieces by a discharge from Drouot’s Gun No. 1. The troops formed in columns rushed forward: and the Guard under the Duke of Cambridge, having taken the entrenchments, and stormed the fortification in front; the two armies overturning all who opposed them met in the centre of the town, and after a blockade of 21 days, during which 2 pitched battles had been fought. There were captured 39 prisoners 5 banners; one standard and a vast amount of Stores, Ammunition, Guns etc., with 2 Generals.
This victory decided the complete overthrow of all rebellious machinations altho’ attended with a great sacrifice. A few statistics may be instructive to the reader. The 1st Corps d’armée out of 119 men lost 39. The second Corps lost 13 men. The Heavy Cavalry of the Guard lost above ½ of their number. The Life Guards who went into action 11 strong came out with but 5, the Guard lost 24 out of 90 men, the Highlanders 11 out of 25. The town (Powgen) was given over to the soldiery + a scene of pillage to attendant upon such scenes was continued by Official decree by H.I.M. for 3 days. Powgen paid severely for the hospitable treatment she gave to the army who held her for such a time. H.I.M. immediately commenced strengthening Powgen when the Fredrichsburg War interrupted his peaceful slumbers.
We cannot conclude the Mutiny without bestowing a passing glance to that fine regiment the “Fifth Dragoon Guards” or Heavy Dragoons of the Guard. Their banner with this campaign was full of names, and they had been engaged in every battle except that of “Sopy”; from the Battle of Recknot downward to this ____. These are the names that decorate their glorious flag. “Recknot” – “Huzmers” – “ Nukhel” – “Emburg” - “Lasterne” – “Hisban” – “Powgen” – “Aldesk” – “Horpers” – “Abosot”.