While the siege was progressing, even at a time when clouded with anxiety as to the future, men’s minds were full of the uncertain issue of the fight; the thoughts of all in camp turned involuntarily to the rich harvest awaiting the army should Delhi fall into our hands. To all of us (putting aside the morality of the question), the loot of the city was to be a fitting recompense for the toils and privations we had undergone; nor did the questionable character of the transaction weigh for one moment with us against the recognized military law—“that a city taken by assault belonged as prize to the conquerors.” During the actual bombardment, when the end seemed at hand, this subject of prize was the topic of conversation among both officers and men; and soon we learnt with satisfaction that the General in command, after consulting with others in authority, had settled on the course to be pursued.
On September 7 a notice appeared in “orders” in which General Wilson thanked the army for the courage and devotion displayed during the long months of the siege. He recapitulated the dangers through which the force had passed, and looked forward hopefully to the future when, Providence favouring us, a few short days would see the enemy’s stronghold pass into our hands. Instructions the most peremptory were laid down as to the absolute necessity for the troops keeping well together on the day of assault, and not dispersing in scattered bands or alone through the streets of the city in pursuit of plunder. Great danger and possible annihilation of the small army would result were these precautions overlooked, rendering the force liable to be cut up in detail by the large bodies of rebels then occupying the streets and houses of Delhi. Lastly, as a reward and incentive to all engaged, the General gave his word, promising that all property captured in the city would be placed in one common fund, to be distributed as prize according to the rules of war in such cases. The commanding officer, as well as all in the army, knew that it would be impossible to prevent looting altogether, but it was hoped that the above order would have a good effect by urging on the soldiers, for their welfare and advantage, the necessity of obeying the instructions therein laid down.
This order, as I have said, appeared on September 7; nor, from the promises given, had any of us the slightest doubt but that its provisions with regard to prize-money would be carried into effect in due course. Delhi was taken, but as time passed by, and months elapsed without any notification on the subject being received from the Supreme Government, the army began to feel anxious, and murmurs arose as to the non-fulfilment of the pledge given by General Wilson. At length, at the end of the year, the Governor-General, with the advice of his Executive Council, promulgated his decision that there was an objection to the troops receiving the Delhi prize-money, and in lieu thereof granted as a recompense for their arduous labours and patient endurance in the field the “magnificent” sum of six months’ batta.