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From the Edinburgh Witness, London, Great Britain

The Sepoy Mutiny

Interesting Letter from Rev. Dr. Duff -- Horrible Atrocities of the Mutineers.

Calcutta, Tuesday, July 7, 1857

My Dear Dr. Tweedie:

India 1857-58. The British Army in a Bloody Civil War. Tony Heathcote.

Alas! alas! the work of savage butchery still progresses in this distracted land. Not a day passes without some addition, from one quarter or another, to the black catalogue of treachery and murder. This very day Government has received intelligence of one of the foulest tragedies connected with this awful rebellion. At Cawnpore, one of the largest military stations in Northern India, a mutinous spirit has early manifested itself among the native soldiery, and there were no European troops whatever to keep it in check, except about fifty men who had latterly been sent by Sir Henry Lawrence from Lucknow. But there was one man there whose spirit, energy, and fertility of resources were equal to a number of ordinary regiments the brave and skillful veteran, Sir Hugh Wheeler. By his astonishing vigor and promptitude of action, he succeeded in keeping in abeyance the mutinous spirit of three or four thousand armed men. At the same time, with the forecasting prudence of a wise general, he began to prepare timeously for the worst, by forming a small entrenched camp, to which ladies, children and other helpless persons, with provisions, were removed, while most of the British officers took up their abode either in or near it.

At last the long-expected rising took place. The mutineers went deliberated to work, according to the prescribed plan followed in other quarters. They broke open the jail and liberated the prisoners; they plundered the public treasury; they pillaged and set fire to the bungalows of the officers and other British residents, killing all indiscriminately who had not effected their escape to the entrenched camp. There Sir Hugh and his small handful, with undaunted courage, held their position against the most tremendous odds, repelling every attack of the thousands by whom they were surrounded, with heavy loss to the rebels. These were at last joined by thousands more of the mutineers from Sultanpore, Seetapore, and other places in Oude, with guns. The conflict now became terrific exemplifying, on the part of the British, the very spirit and determination of old Greece at Thermopyhe. The soul of the brave old chief in particular, only rose by the accumulating pressure of difficulty, into grander heroism. To the last he maintained a hearty cheerfulness, declaring that he could hold out for two or three weeks against any numbers. A mysterious and overruling Providence, however, had deemed it otherwise; the veteran warrior, whose very presence exhilarated and inspired all around, at last fell mortally wounded, and with him also several other of the subordinate leaders.

With the full of the chief and some of his right-hand men, the remainder of the little band seem to have been smitten with a sense of the utter hopelessness of prolonged resistance. They did not, they could not, know that relief was so near at hand that the gallant Col. Neil, who had already saved Benares and the fortress of Allahabad with his Madras fusiliers, was within two or three days' march of them. Had this been known to them, they would doubtless have striven to hold out during these two or three days; and, to all human appearance, with success. But, ignorant of the approaching relief, and assailed by the cries and tears of helpless women and children, they were induced, in an evil hour, to entertain the overtures made to them by a man who had already been guilty of treachery.

This man was Nena Sahid, the adopted son of the late Bajee Row, the ex-Peishwa, or last head of the Mahratta confederacy, who, for the long period of nearly forty years, resided at Benares, enjoying the munificent pension of 28,000 a year. This Xena Sahid was allowed, by the bounty of the British Government, to occupy a small fort at Bithoor, not far from Cawnpore. Till within the last few months, this man was wont to profess the greatest delight in European society, to go out with British officers on shooting excursions, and to invite them to fetes at his residence. And yet, the moment that fortune seems to frown on British interests, he turns round, and with Asiatic treachery, deliberately plans the destruction of the very men whom he had so often, in the spirit of apparently cordial friendship, feted and feasted.

On Sunday, the 28th June, this man, with consummate hypocrisy, of his own accord, sent overtures to our beleaguered countrymen then bereft of their heroic chieftain swearing "upon the waters of the Ganges, and all the oaths most binding on a Hindoo, that if the garrison would trust to him and surrender, the lives of all would be spared, and they should be put into boats and sent down to Allahabad." Under the influence of some infatuating blindness, the garrison that might have possibly held out till relief arrived, was induced to trust in these oily professions, and surrender. Agreeably to the terms of the treaty, they were put into boats, with provisions and other necessaries and comforts. But mark the conduct of the perfidious fiend in human form! No sooner had the boats reached the middle of the river, than their sworn protector gave, himself, a preconcerted signal, and guns, which had been laid for the purpose, were opened upon them from the Cawnpore bank! yea, and when our poor wretched countrymen tried to escape, by crossing to the Oude side of the river, they found that arrangements had been made there, too, for their reception; for there, such of them as were enabled to land were instantaneously cut to pieces by cavalry that had been sent across for the purpose. In this way nearly the whole party, according to the Government report, consisting of several hundreds, mostly helpless women and children, were destroyed, such of the women and children as were not killed being reserved probably as hostages. Only one boat escaped, which was pursued for miles; and when overtaken, all in it were taken back to the camp of the mutineers, and there shot, or cruelly torn to pieces.

In almost every instance, the Sepoys succeeded in concealing their long-concocted and deep-laid murderous designs from the most vigilant officers to the very last; yea, and in not only concealing them, but in masking them under the most flaming professions of attachment and loyalty. The case of the 6th Native Infantry at Allahabad is thus recorded, as the results of authentic information, by one of our Calcutta journals: " It appears that after the officers of the regiment first left the lines, a subadar paid a I visit to Lieutenant Slaines, the interpreter, and expostulated with him, in the name of the regiment, upon the want of confidence which they had displayed. 'Come to us,' he said, 'we are faithful, we love our good master, we will protect you, but it gives us pain to see you suspect us.' Slaines, and his wife, who was present at the interview, were melted even to tears, at the simple eloquence of the man whom they had insulted, as well as his fellows, by their unworthy suspicions . . .

When they returned to the regiment, the scene which awaited them touched the hearts of all present. The men whom they had suspected, in a moment of narrow-minded apprehension, were found drawn up to receive their officers, and welcomed them with three hearty English cheers . . . The reconciliation was complete, confidence was happily restored, and that same night the native officers and men rose and proceeded to the work of massacre! . . . when the mess-house was attacked, and seventeen out of the twenty unarmed, confiding officers assembled there were instantaneously butchered in cold blood, their shrieks being heard at a considerable distance. The colonel of the regiment, who, up to the last, laughed at the idea of precautionary measures being taken, and who did not believe that his men would mutiny until the balls flew through his hat and sleeves, contrived to escape to the fort with his life. Then commenced the work of plunder and devastation the destruction of property throughout the town and its vicinity being most complete the bungalows in the cantonments, and all the British residents, being soon in a blaze -- the new railway stations with its buildings and machinery, and carriages the extensive American mission-press and school, all laid waste the public treasury, bank and storehouses pillaged; in short, within a few days, the whole city of Allahabad, containing one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants, was not only sacked and ravaged, but literally reduced to one vast mass of ruins and ashes . . .

By a miracle of Providence Colonel Durand succeeded in drawing off all the officers, ladies, and children though sorely harassed and pursued to Schore, distant about a hundred miles. But whether any of them may ultimately escape alive, is wrapped up in painful uncertainty the whole of Central India being now, like the northwest, one wide-spread scene of anarchy, rapine and blood . . .

The Memorial at Cawnpore

Cawnpore.Memorial Church at Cawnpore.

The Siege of Cawnpore was a key episode in the Indian rebellion of 1857. The besieged British in Cawnpore (now Kanpur) were unprepared for an extended siege and surrendered to rebel Indian forces under Nana Sahib, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. However, under ambiguous circumstances, their evacuation from Cawnpore turned into a massacre, and most of them were killed. Those who were captured were later executed, as an East India Company rescue force from Allahabad approached Cawnpore. In what came to be known as the Bibighar Massacre (15 July 1857), 120 British women and children captured by the Sepoy forces were hacked to death and dismembered with meat cleavers, with the remains being thrown down a nearby well in an attempt to hide the evidence. Following the recapture of Cawnpore and the discovery of the massacre, the outraged British forces engaged in widespread retaliatory counter-atrocities against the captured rebel Indian soldiers and civilians.

The murders greatly embittered the British rank-and-file against the Sepoy rebels and inspired the war cry "Remember Cawnpore!"

The only counterpoise to all this heavy budget of calamities, is the fact that a small column of Europeans, which marched under General Havelock from Allahabad, after routing the rebels at Futtephore and other places, recaptured Cawnpore on the 16th inst. There the rebel army, commanded by Kami Sahib in person, alter vigorous defence, was totally defeated. It was found, however, to the horror of our brave men, that all the captive British women and children, whom it was supposed that Sana Sahib hail been reserving as hostages, had been barbarously murdered by him before the engagement!

A gleam of hope now opens upon us, that General Havelock and his dauntless little force will be able lo fight their way to Lucknow, in time to save the garrison there -- of which the late Sir Henry Lawrence was the life and soul from a similar terrible fate to that of Cawnpore . . .


Shah Allum Mogul of Hindostan
reviewing troops of the
British East India Company. 
c. 1781

In 1857, the American clipper James Baines, Captain Charles MacDonald, loaded a cargo in Calcutta consisting of 2,200 bales of jute, 6213 bales of linseed, 6,682 bags of rice, and 40 bales of cowhides for delivery to Liverpool, England. In Liverpool, when the stevedores removed the lower hatches, volumes of smoke poured from the afterpart of the main hold and were unable to stop the fire. The James Baines was scuttled, the main and mizen masts fell, crushing the roofs of the dock sheds; then the foremast came down, and by evening the ship was burnt to the water's edge. The sudden end of this powerful clipper, considered one of Donald McKay's finest creations, stunned Liverpool, was spoken of as a national disaster, and Captain McDonald did not long survive his ship: He retired broken-hearted to the cottage of his widowed mother at Glengarriff, contracted pneumonia, and died some days later.

August 15, 1863, Allens Indian Mail, London, United Kingdom

THE BRITISH EAST INDIA STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY have been no less unfortunate than their magnificent rival. The S. S. Sydney, lately purchased from Government, sailed from Calcutta on Wednesday the 24th June, having on board some 540 men, women, and children, belonging to the regiment of Sikh Pioneers, bound for Colombo. But no sooner did she fairly get out to sea than her total unfitness to be employed on such service was proved beyond a doubt. Between decks the water was frequently knee deep, and not a berth in the whole ship that might not have served as a bath. The misery of the poor soldiers, and their still more helpless wives and little ones, was truly pitiable, but they bore up manfully through their sickness, and worked at the pumps night and day. The greatest fear entertained was lest the fires should be put out, the danger of which was more than once very imminent; however, by constant exertions and by throwing a portion of her cargo overboard, she was kept afloat, and late on Saturday evening passed Saugor on her return to Calcutta.

Cawnpore.The Cawnpore Massacres and Mutiny of 1857. Our Bones Are Scattered:  The Cawnpore Massacres and The Indian Mutiny Of 1857Cawnpore. 
Andrew Ward 
Making the most of his meticulous research, Ward, a novelist and essayist, has written a lavishly detailed account of an unorganized and bloody revolt that swept through northern India in the summer of 1857 and of the even bloodier reprisals the British took against the rebels, and against Indians in general. The result is a history of a chain of massacres and counter-massacres that might, at first glance, seem of little interest to an American audience, but for visitors to India, it puts the country in perspective when considering the complex relationship between British rule of a sophisticated country that has existed for thousands of years with such intervention.

The Cawnpore Man: A First Hand Account of the Siege and Massacre During the Indian Mutiny By One of Four SurvivorsThe Cawnpore Man.Cawnpore.The Cawnpore Man.
Mowbray Thompson was an officer -stationed at Cawnpore with Wheeler's command within the Indian North Eastern province of Oudh during 1857-the year of the outbreak of the Great Indian Mutiny. The tiny Cawnpore garrison was soon attacked-principally by elements of the Native Bengal Army-and withdrew to occupy an entirely unsuitable and ultimately impossible to defend position. After a period of bloody battle, costly in the lives of soldiers and civilians alike the situation seemed hopeless. Then an offer of honourable surrender appeared to offer the miracle of salvation. But the nightmare of the defenders of Cawnpore was about to escalate to levels of unimaginable horror. A series of atrocities was about to befall them that were so terrible that they would become a rallying cry for Blood Vengeance throughout the British empire. This is story of one man-told in his own words-who lived through those terrible days.

Empire of the Sikhs.Empire of the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Maharaja Ranjit Singh.Patwant Singh
Ranjit Singh was one of the most powerful and charismatic Indian rulers of his age, but has been largely forgotten by recent Western historians. Yet his achievements have had a lasting impact. He unified the warring chiefdoms of the Punjab in a northern Empire of the Sikhs, built up a formidable modern army, kept the British in check to the south, and closed the Khyber Pass through which plunderers had for centuries poured into India. He was also humane and just in his victories, giving employment to defeated foes, and honored religious faiths other than his own. This biography uses a variety of eye-witness accounts from Indian and European sources to chronicle his life and the controversial period of the Anglo-Sikh Wars following his death.

India.Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809India.
Stephen Taylor
The Indian Ocean was the final battleground for Nelson’s navy and France. At stake was Britain’s commercial lifeline to India and its strategic capacity to wage war in Europe. In one fatal season, the natural order of maritime power since Trafalgar was destroyed. In bringing home Bengali saltpeter for the Peninsular campaign with military and civilian passengers, Britain lost fourteen of her great Indiamen, either sunk or taken by enemy frigates. Many hundreds of lives were lost, and the East India Company was shaken to its foundations. The focus of these disasters, military and meteorological, was a tiny French outpost in mid-ocean the island known as Mauritius. This story of that season brings together the terrifying ordeal of men, women, and children caught at sea in hurricanes, and those who survived to take up the battle to drive the French from the Eastern seas. Mauritius must be taken at any cost.

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History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
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