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Chapter XXXIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4


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Brigadier Graves had not been idle. He first sent word that all Europeans in the city should muster at the Flagstaff Tower, a stone building, with battlements, standing on the centre of the ridge; but his orders were too late, or rather the troopers and felons were too speedy for these orders to be of service. Then, as we have stated, he sent the 54th, followed by two guns, to quell any tumult. But the 54th had no sooner entered the Cashmere Gate than some troopers rode up and shot Colonel Ripley and all his officers, except three who got away. Major Patterson now entered with the guns, and at sight of these the troopers rode off. But the 54th immediately broke up and joined the mutineers. Brigadier Graves sent down three companies of the 74th and two more guns. These only provided fresh mutineers, for not a man would obey orders. The guns were ordered back; but on their road a party of mutineers met them, wounded the horse of the officer in charge, and carried the guns back to Delhi. All the Sepoys now became active mutineers. Some ladies had joined the officers at the Cashmere Gate, when the Sepoys assembled there opened fire. A young officer who was present I has described in simple language the scene visible and audible there on that Monday afternoon. "As luck would have it," he writes, "I, with a few other fellows, ran up a kind of slope that leads to the officers' quarters, and thence, amid a storm of bullets, to one of the embrasures of the bastion. It is perfectly miraculous how I escaped being hit; no end of poor fellows were knocked down all about, and all, too, by their men; it is really awful to think of it. However, on arriving at the embrasure, all at once the idea occurred to me of jumping down into the ditch from the rampart (one would have thought it madness at any other time), and so try and get out by scaling the opposite side; but just as I was in the act of doing so, I heard screams from a lot of unfortunate women who were in the officers' quarters, imploring for help. I immediately, with a few other fellows, who like me were going to escape the same way, ran back to them, and though the attempt appeared hopeless, we determined to see if we could not take them with us. Some of them, poor creatures, were wounded with bullets. However, we made a rope with handkerchiefs, and some of us jumping down first into the ditch, caught them as they dropped, to break the fall. Then came the difficulty of dragging them up the opposite bank; however, by God's will, we succeeded, after nearly half an hour's labour, in getting them up; and why no Sepoys came and shot every one of us while getting across is a perfect mystery. The murdering was going on below all this time, and nothing could have been easier than for two or three of them to come to the rampart and shoot down every one of us."

Leaving these bruised and maimed fugitives to track their way to the Flagstaff Tower, we have now to describe an act so noble, that at the time the story of it rang through Europe like the sound of a trumpet - the defence of the magazine in Delhi, and its destruction by nine Europeans. There were two magazines in the station: a large one, containing above a thousand barrels of powder, placed two miles outside the city walls, and at anybody's mercy, and a smaller one within the walls, not far from the palace, containing not more than fifty barrels. It is of the latter we have to write. Sir Charles Napier had condemned this building. Its gates were so weak, he said, a mob could push them in. On the 11th May there were nine officers and men to defend this magazine. They were, Lieutenant George Willoughby in command, Lieutenants Forrest and Raynor; Conductors Buckley, Shaw, and Scully; Sub-Conductor Crow, and Sergeants Edwards and Stewart. Their memories are worthy of all honour. In the forenoon they were beset by a crowd, raging, tumultuous, demanding admission. Seeing this, Willoughby prepared for defence. He closed and barricaded the gates, and took other measures, according to the report of Lieutenant Forrest, who with Raynor and Buckley escaped to tell the tale. The character of those measures shows us the sterling stuff of which these men were made. c Inside the gate leading to the [artillery] park, " writes Forrest, " were placed two six-pounders, double charged with grape, one under Acting Sub-Conductor Crow and Sergeant Stewart, with the lighted matches in their hands, with orders that if any attempt was made to force the gate, both guns were to be fired at once, and they were to fall back on that part of the magazine in which Lieutenant Willoughby and I were posted. The principal gate of the magazine was similarly defended by two guns, with the chevaux-de-frise laid down on the inside. For the further defence of this gate and the magazine in its vicinity, there were two six-pounders so placed as fully to command the gate and a small bastion in its vicinity. Within sixty yards of the gate and in front of the office, and commanding two cross roads, were three six-pounders and one twenty-four-pounder howitzer, which could be so managed as to act upon any part of the magazine in that neighbourhood. After all these guns and howitzers had been placed in the several positions above named, they were loaded with double charges of grape. The next step taken was to place arms in the hands of the native establishment, which they most reluctantly received, and appeared to be in a state, not only of excitement, but also of insubordination, as they refused to obey any orders issued by the Europeans, particularly the Mussulman portion of the establishment. After the above arrangements had been made, a train was laid by Conductors Buckley, Scully, and Sergeant Stewart, ready to be fired by a preconcerted signal, which was that of Conductor Buckley raising his hat from his head, on the order being given by Lieut. Willoughby."

Such was the plan of action; and it was carried out to the last extremity.

The mob had been balked at the outset. They had been reinforced by a body of the king's soldiers, but still they were kept at bay. But when the old king and his counsellors found that the troops in cantonments were in revolt, and when the spies he sent out returned reporting that no British were coming from Meerut, when the Native Infantry from Meerut had entered Delhi, then fresh troops poured down upon the magazine. The whole of the besieging crowd were eager for powder and arms. The king's soldiers summoned the Europeans to surrender. They were defied. Then the crowd swarmed to the attack and opened fire. At the first round the natives in the magazine fled. But the nine Englishmen remained. Scaling ladders were brought; Sepoys mounted the tombs in the burial ground overlooking the enclosure, and fired on the little garrison. These plied their foes with grape, but as fast as the iron sleet swept away one body, another followed. For five hours the gallant nine maintained the unequal contest. Scully stood by the trunk of a tree, ready to fire the mine. Every moment the attack grew hotter and the defence weaker: for Edwards and Crow were killed; Forrest and Buckley were wounded. All hope was gone. Willoughby passed the word to Buckley to raise his hat, the signal for firing the train, and Scully coolly and with deliberate care applied the match. In a moment the whole building was rent by the explosion, and hundreds of the enemy, crowding on, were buried in the ruins. Forrest, Raynor, Willoughby, Buckley, and Scully made their way out, scorched and bruised, but alive. A trooper cut down the brave Scully, and Willoughby was killed by marauders in a village on the road to Meerut; but Forrest, Raynor, Stewart, and Buckley succeeded in reaching that place alive, and each received the Victoria Cross as a reward.

The explosion of the magazine may be regarded as the last act in defence of Delhi. The fugitives who had reached the Flagstaff Tower were now crowded within it, uncertain of their fate. The Sepoys who surrounded the two guns were watched by armed Europeans from the roof of the tower; but it would have been destruction to fire. The ladies were loosening cartridges, and the men were resolving on defence when defence was hopeless. One by one the fugitives had come in. Major Abbott had brought up a cartload of dead and wounded officers. The Sepoys were growing defiant. When the magazine blew up they became excited; they had long refused to obey orders; they now told the officers they had better be gone, "this was no longer a place for them." The words were true. All who could got carriages or horses, and those who could get neither, set out on foot. The sepoys did not oppose them. The brave Brigadier Graves, Captain Nicholl, and Dr. Stewart lingered to the last; but at length these went also, and Delhi was in the power of the king and the Sepoys. An attempt had been made to blow up the great magazine, but the Sepoys frustrated it, and so ended the scene. One Sepoy only followed the officers in their flight. The fugitives bent their steps towards Kurnaul, and only some arrived. They were beset by the village marauders, the Goojurs, who robbed and wounded, or murdered, all parties alike. Some were nearly naked, their clothes having been torn from them; some were severely wounded; some lay down to die from fatigue and grief. It was a dreadful night; and in Delhi there were still forty-three persons, chiefly women and children. They had taken refuge in the palace; on the 18th they were given up to the mutineers, and massacred in a body by them and the king's sons.

It will be remembered that Sir Henry Lawrence had saved Lucknow for a time, by disarming the 7th Oude Irregulars, on the 3rd of May. On the 12th Sir Henry held a durbar, and rewarded, with solemn forms, a subadar, a havildar, and two Sepoys, who had been instrumental directly in arresting emissaries who were preaching sedition. Sir Henry made a noble speech to the soldiers representing all the native forces in the cantonment, praised, warned, exhorted them, and so he gained a month to prepare for a doom that was inevitable; a month to prepare and provision a fortified post in the heart of Lucknow, where a handful of Europeans and a few faithful natives were destined, with endless honour, to uplift and keep flying the British standard in one of the centres of rebellion.

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