The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - H.H. Godwin-Austen, Journal of a Tour in Assam, 26th November 1872 to 15th April 1873

caption: Gaziphema girl wounded in attack by Nagas of Komi; rhododendrons; Shipvomi refuse to let survey party into their village; their attack repulsed and party set up camp in village; firing the village
medium: tours
person: ButlerThompsonTerhellu/ of KidimahOgleMimaran
location: Gariphema (Gaziphema) Komi Shipvomi
date: 1.2.1873
person: Godwin-Austen/ H.H.
date: 26.11.1872-4.4.1873
person: Royal Geographical Society, London
text: 1st Feby.
text: (Thunderstorm on ridge of Kopamedza.)
text: The first news in the morning was that some Nagas of Komi had sneaked up to the village during the night & thrown four spears into a cluster of them, by which a young girl had been wounded in the side. Now the village is down, all its enemies in the surrounding villages will come in & harrass them in this way & the heads which they have taken in their posterity will have to be paid back. But it seldom happens in their own fights that villages are burnt, this can only be done by a force armed with muskets. With spears, palisading & thick thorny hedges they can generally keep a foe out. Passing through the village we went to see the girl who had been wounded. She was a little thing of abt 7 years old. The fellows had crept up quite inside the village & flung four spears into a temporary hut, then bolted. The spear passed through the fleshy part of the small of back & I think is not a mortal wound. We then marched along the ridge keeping to the watershed the whole way until reaching the descent into the valley below Shipvomi. Very pretty scenery all the way. Set up a number of PTs & got in a lot of work. Rhododendron (red) in flower in the woods we passed through first coming into bloom. Found Butler & Thompson waiting for us in the valley by stream under Shipvomi (26.5 A 1st Feby.; Shipvomi A 24.68 2nd Feby) & we then had bkfast at 3 o/c. Thompson who had finished his went on ahead & very very lucky it was he did so. We were at the stream another half hour & then commenced the ascent. We had scarcely got 300 yards up when Butler shouted out my name & said, come on there is row ahead. A message had come back from Thompson. In turn called out to Ogle who was a short way behind & we pushed on as hard as we could up the steep slope. Next we heard the "Assembly" far up the hill followed by the "Double" but we could not get along faster. Then followed the "Assembly" again. A short time [later] we heard shots. Pressing on we overtook the coolies - the Naga coolies & Mikirs had the one thrown down their load the others the doolie. It appears that one of the dobashas a young fellow from Kidimah, Terhellu, went on ahead into the village & returned saying that they would not let us enter the village. One of the headmen said that the young men would fight & advised him to leave the place or he would be killed. He took the hint, sticking his spear into the ground in front of the door & leaving it there said if there was a row he would do his best to save the house. (This spear was still standing where he had stuck it on our getting into the place. He returned to meet the coolies coming up the hill. Mimaran the Inspector with 6 constables formed the advance Guard & the Nagas came down in a threatening excited attitude, armed with their long spears. About this time Col Thompson arrived at head of the line & two Nagas came down to talk. The gist of the conference was that we might go by the right or left of the place but not through their village. One spoke quietly, the other somewhat bumptiously. Thompson told them we should go through the place there being a deep kud on either side of the road and no paths & that we intended no harm & all we wanted would be paid for. He had sent back for Butler directly he saw the state of affairs. The Nagas up the hill on & off the path on both sides now raised their war cry & came down with their spears at the charge, but at 50 yards received a volley from the constables 4 or 5 Kookies & Thompson's D. Gun which killed two & they then bolted. Even this had caused much confusion among the coolies which was very apparent when we came up from behind.
text: (36) We were now all four together. The halt was sounded as there was some sort of confusion. The police were brought to the front & extended into the jungle on either hand & we advanced up the hill. The distance appeared very great. I took the right, Butler & Thompson took the centre on path, Ogle the left. My line was on the ridge of the spur covered with grass & briar. We came out at last in full view of the village, where we saw 2 men only near the highest houses on the side we came in by. The left flank party went in at the thorn hedge & cut a way through while the centre & right had mingled. Butler at first thought the two men were women & called out come to look with glass. It was behind but their spears soon shewed & Butler took a shot at them when they disappeared behind the ridge. We then advanced again & got on the main ridge & inside the village. 2 or 3 now shewed themselves on the extreme Western end of the place & Butler fired another shot at them & the traces of blood from the spot which we came on in our advance among the houses told us that his aim had been true. I fired a shot also in that direction at a man I saw behind some planks. The largest house in the place was selected as our Headquarters, the loads all placed in front of it. The ground was opened out on the side towards the jungle & a rough abattis formed along the edge of the deep path that ran along that flank. Sundry fowls & pigs were slain and the tents were pitched in front of the large shingled house. Just after dark fire was seen issuing from a house on the further end of the place. The Naga had come in & fired it, so was presumed, as was after acknowledged to be the case by the men of Shipvomi itself, as with all their cows, fowls & grain in our hands they thought it very likely we should remain in the place until we got through all & Butler tells me that the Nagas did this in Vincent's time after a village had been occupied, but I expect in this & that occasion the real culprit was one of our coolies. It is so very easy to stick a lighted stick in the thatch of a house where it will smoulder a certain time. This fire was serious so we first tried the plan of pulling the thatch off the houses in vicinity but only one was pulled down completely for it was soon apparent we cd not carry out the work as the wind was then blowing favorably away from our tents & baggage, the houses near us were fired & the place was soon nearly all in flames & continued so all night for in order to have good light a house near was occasionally fired. About half an hour after the first house had taken fire a Naga was seen to run across into a shed near & three shots were fired & it fell. Torches of grass were brought & the hut was searched when to our disgust it turned out to be a poor old woman, the poor creature had received the ball in her thigh which had passed through luckily without smashing the bone. She was brought into the large house. She said she thought her own people had returned to the place & so come out of her hiding place in the jungle. Double sentries were posted & the Kookis eagerly looking moved out from their posts their guns at the ready wd have made a good picture. After dinner we settled the matter of watches & Thompson taking the first, the lots drawn by other three fell respectively to Butler, self & Ogle, & I & Ogle agreed to sit our watches together & at 2 o/c Butler roused us up & our [37] turn began. The night was very mild rather cloudy with bouts of rain. Went out towards houses in village & fired two to give light over the jungle & the Nagas who went out got a supply of their liquor out of one of the houses. Night passed off quietly.