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The English In India
by [?]

His timely express to MAJOR CHARLES REID to bring his men on by the Ganges Canal route instead of by forced marches was an early evidence of his combination of dash and sound judgment. REID said, that it saved the place and the lives of the ladies and children.

From the hour that he made his appearance before Delhi as Chief Engineer, a succession of incidents stand on record which show his skill and courage. On the first occasion of BRIGADIER-GENERAL WILSON consulting him professionally, ‘he threw all the earnestness of his nature into a great remonstrance against the project of withdrawal. He told the General that to raise the siege would be fatal to our national interests. ‘It is our duty,’ he said, ‘to retain the grip which we now have upon Delhi, and to hold on like Grim Death until the place is our own.’ He argued it ably. WILSON listened, and was convinced.

In that supreme moment at the storming of Delhi, when the repulse of two columns, the heavy losses, and the great strength of the place caused the General to hesitate whether to continue the operations, England had cause to feel thankful for the tenacity and daring of two of her sons:–

‘From this fatal determination GENERAL WILSON was saved by the splendid obstinacy of BAIRD SMITH, aided by the soldier-like instincts of NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN…. The General undoubtedly believed that the safety of the army would be compromised by the retention of the positions they had gained. Fortunately, BAIRD SMITH was at his elbow. Appealed to by GENERAL WILSON as to whether he thought it possible for the army to retain the ground they had won, his answer was short and decisive, “We must do so!” That was all. But the uncompromising tone, the resolute manner, the authority of the speaker, combined to make it a decision against which there was no appeal. GENERAL WILSON accepted it…. It is not too much to affirm, that a retrograde movement would, for the time, have lost India.’

* * * * *

In spite of the sufferings attendant on a severe wound, the indomitable spirit of this brave soldier carried him through all trials until India was practically saved. Then, shattered by his many exertions, the breathing time came too late. His career is thus summed up in the following inscription on his tomb in Calcutta Cathedral:–

‘COLONEL RICHARD BAIRD SMITH of the Bengal Engineers, Master of the Calcutta Mint, C.B. and A.D.C. to the Queen, whose career, crowded with brilliant service, cut short at its brightest, was born at Lasswade on the 31st of December, 1818. He went to India in 1836. Already distinguished in the two Sikh wars, his conduct on the outbreak of revolt in 1857 showed what a clear apprehension, a stout heart, and a hopeful spirit could effect with scanty means in crushing disorder. Called to Delhi as chief engineer, his bold and ready judgment, his weighty and tenacious counsels, played a foremost part in securing the success of the siege and England’s supremacy. The gathered wisdom of many years spent in administering the irrigation of Upper India, trained him for his crowning service–the survey of the great famine of 1861, the provision of relief, and the suggestions of safeguards against such calamities. Broken by accumulated labours, he died at sea, Dec. 13, 1861, aged scarcely 43 years. At Madras, where his Indian career began, his body awaits the resurrection.’

His great work, the Report on Italian Irrigation, published with maps and plans in 1852, remains a monument of his engineering ability. COLONEL BAIRD SMITH also published:–

(1) Agricultural Resources of the Punjab. London:
1849. 8vo.

(2) The Cauvery, Kistnah, and Godavery; being a
report on the works constructed on these rivers for the
Irrigation of the provinces of Tanjore, Guntoor,
Masulipatam, and Rajahmundry, in the Presidency of
London: 1856. 8vo.