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

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Nearly the whole of the troops in Oude were ripe for revolt, and the people were becoming suspicious of our ability to maintain our power. The state of transition from the rule of the ex-king to that of the Governor- General helped to create disaffection. The sway of the former was irregular and inequitable; the sway of the latter, though regular and equitable, had not come fully into play. In Oude, the maxim of all was, and had long been, every one for himself. The villagers were accustomed to resistance; the talookdars, rulers of petty and sometimes extensive districts, were accustomed to revolt. In the latter end of May, Sir Henry Lawrence sent a small column, under Captain Hutchinson - who has written an interesting memoir of the mutinies - to move about between the Goomtee and the Ganges, and fourteen miles from Lucknow this column was watched by armed villagers. The great province of Oude, so full of fighting men, had not, like the Punjab, been disarmed when it was annexed, and we were about to pay the penalty of over-confidence. This column had not been gone two days before the troops in the cantonment mutinied.

As usual, they gave no premonitory sign. It was well known that the native troops might break out any day, and on the 30th of May a Sepoy reported that the troops would rise in the evening; but the brigadier did not believe the report, and did not forward it to Sir Henry Lawrence. In the twilight the 71st and the 7th Cavalry turned out and began firing. They tried to surprise the officers and the mess-house, but these were too quick for them. Sir Henry repaired to the camp of the 32nd, which was soon under arms, and with the guns ready for action. The mutineers shot Brigadier Handscomb dead, and then essayed to charge the 32nd and the guns. But grape shot proved enough for them. Falling back, they slew Lieutenant Grant. The 13th and 48th were drawn up on parade, but would not act, and only a few of the 71st, and 200 of the 13th, and fifty-seven of the 48th could be got to follow their officers to the side of the British. The Sepoys seized the magazine, and plundered the officers bungalows, in spite of some gallant efforts to prevent them. The 32nd, with the few faithful Sepoys, remained under arms all night. In the morning Sir Henry pursued the mutineers, who fled away before him. Mr. Gubbins, who was active in the pursuit, had an escort of four men belonging to Fisher's Irregulars, a regiment that subsequently mutinied and slew their commander. These men said, "We like our colonel, and will not allow him to be harmed; but if the whole army turns, we must turn too." Significant words, writes Mr. Gubbins. They were not the only evidences that the army had come to consider itself as a club. The scoundrels in the city now rose, but they were speedily and severely punished; and Sir Henry was able to raise 3,000 police, who, under Captain Carnegie, did good service. Some of the mutineers struck across country for the Ganges and Delhi.

On the very day after this outburst at Lucknow, on Sunday, the 31st, Bareilly and Shahjehanpore were the scenes of horrible atrocities. At the latter, the 28th Native Infantry selected the moment when the Europeans were at church, and tried to slay them altogether; but they failed. Mr. Rickets was killed in the church, with others, and Major James fell on the parade ground. The greater number took to the country, and reached Mohumdee. Here they found Captain Patrick Orr, with a company of the 9th Oude, and these were reinforced by fifty men from Seetapore. Captain Orr extracted from the native officers an oath binding them to escort the whole party to Seetapore; but they had not gone far before the troops turned them adrift to go where they pleased. They went, but the ruffian Sepoys soon followed, and near Aurungabad began the work of murder. "We all collected under a tree," wrote Captain Orr, "and took the ladies down from the buggy. Shots were firing from all directions, amidst the most fearful yells. The poor ladies [there were eight and four children] all joined in prayer, coolly and undauntedly waiting their fate." They had not to wait long, these brave women. In ten minutes they were dead - little ones and all - "butchered in the most cruel way." The bodies were stripped and left for the beasts of the jungle and the fowls of the air. The Sepoys, strangely enough, saved Orr and a drummer boy, and took them to Lonee Singh, of Mithowlee where we shall meet them again.

The tragedy at Bareilly made a deep impression. That Sunday was a day fatal to the British. At Bareilly there were two regiments of native infantry, one of cavalry, and a battery, under Brigadier Sibbald. Happily, the women and children had been sent to the hills. There were no European troops in Rohilcund; the Sepoys had nothing to fear. They had only delayed the execution of their intentions in the hope that their officers could be induced to call their wives and children from Nynee Tal. Finding the hope vain, they mutinied in the most complete way. On that quiet Sunday, being all agreed, they suddenly opened with both grape and musketry on the officers, while a detachment released 3,000 felons, and the fierce Rohillas rushed out to burn and slay. The devastation of the camp completed the day's work. Khan Bahadar Khan, an old servant of the Company, proclaimed himself king, and appointed a native officer of artillery to be his general. Then he held a court, tried two European judges, found them guilty, and caused them to be hanged. The Bareilly Brigade was not long in marching to Delhi, but nothing, except the fatuity of General Hewitt, saved it from disruption, if not destruction, at a ferry over the Ganges.

During the next eight days there were a score of mutinies at different points: at Seetapore in Oude; at Neemuch in Rajpootana; at Azimghur, a little east of Oude, on the 3rd of June; at Benares in Bengal, and Jhansi, in Central India, on the 4th; at Allahabad and Cawnpore on the 6th; at Jullundhur, in the Punjab, on the 7th; and at half a dozen stations in Oude on the 8th, sweeping off the last native soldier of the Oude army, just as General Barnard, driving the Sepoys before him, crowned the ridge above Delhi: so consentaneous was this explosion of military pride, this rage of an army which had got to be its own master. As our narrative is now about to branch off in three great streams, leading to the siege of Delhi, the loss and recovery of Cawnpore, and the leaguer of Lucknow, let the reader take the salient incidents of these tragic outbursts, and suffer them to stand as representative facts.

Seetapore, in the westernmost division of Oude, lies on the Sureyan river, about fifty miles north of Lucknow. It was the seat of government for Khyrabad. The commissioner there was Mr. George Christian. The troops there consisted wholly of natives, one regiment being the 41st Native Infantry, the others being Oude Irregulars. Here, too, mutiny was felt to be in the air. Here, too, the British officers refused to believe that their men could revolt, and even Mr. Christian believed he could trust the Oude Irregulars. Nevertheless, he took some precautions. His own house lay in a bend of the Sureyan, on the left bank, and he induced the ladies and children to take up their quarters there. In front, to the north, were the Oude Irregulars and four guns, and beyond them the 41st. The Sureyan was only fordable at a point directly in rear of Mr. Christian's grounds; it ran through a steep ravine, and beyond was the dense Indian jungle, tall grass, shrubs, and small trees. The Sepoys and irregulars began by pretending that the flour supplied was mingled with bone-dust. They would not touch it, and a large quantity was flung into the river. Next they entered the commissioner's garden, and plundered the fruit, answering remonstrances by affecting to be sorry. All the troops were paid on the 2nd of June; on the 3rd they broke into mutiny. Like the regiments at Bareilly, these men reproached their officers, because they had sent their women and children into the commissioner's house; because, they said, it showed no confidence in their faithful soldiers - that is, men who were only waiting for a convenient moment to destroy every European!

At dawn on the 3rd, the 41st showed symptoms of mutiny so distinctly that, although their colonel, Birch, still trusted them, Mr. Christian paraded his irregulars and loaded his guns. The 41st began to move; a company marched on the treasury - always the first object of attack. Colonel Birch went thither; the mutineers shot him. Lieutenant Graves fell by his side, wounded, but still able to ride off and warn his brother officers and their families, who at once started for Lucknow. Then the Oude Irregulars began firing on their officers, killing their captain and Dr. Hill. The men and Women in Mr. Christian's house now began to fly over the river. The Oude Irregulars charged in. Mrs. Christian, carrying a baby, followed by Mr. Christian, had crossed the stream under fire, when a shower o? bullets laid the commissioner low. No man ever fell more clearly in the execution of his duty. "His poor wife," writes Captain Hutchinson, " appears to have been a little in advance of him, and as he fell on his face, shot from behind by the traitors around his own house, she sat down beside him with the little babe in her arms. At this moment the infernal din is portrayed as baffling all description, and yet a more exquisitely touching scene can hardly be conceived than the one before us. Her own house behind her in flames, casting its lurid glare on the little stream between them, which, already copiously stained with the blood of her race, offered but a temporary obstacle to some 1,200 fiends, who, with an incessant yelling, shouting, firing, rained from their muskets death on all around her; still, there sat that Christian mother with her babe, a- little moment, unheeded and unheeding, for before her lay him dead. It was but a moment: the savages knew no mercy. In the full swing of passions unrestrained, they found a lower depth amidst the lowest hell. All sexes were alike to them, and age brought no exemption: the infant and its mother were numbered with the dead." Their daughter, Sophy Christian, had been carried over by her nurse; but the nurse being killed, Sergeant-Major Morton took up the child. These two, with Sir Mountstewart Jackson and his sister, escaped to the Mithowlee Rajah. Saved for a time, they were afterwards murdered in one of the palaces of Lucknow. Lieutenant Lester, running the gauntlet of the Sepoy fire, reached the jungle. There he met Sergeant Abbott. While these were threading their way in the thickets, a native told them that a European woman and her child were concealed near by. He guided the two Englishmen to the spot, and Sergeant Abbott saw in the fugitives his. own wife and child! Once out of Seetapore, those who fled towards Lucknow were well treated by the villagers, and day after day, by twos and threes, the wearied women and children,, some a few days old, entered Lucknow. How many were actually slain at Seetapore is not known, but twenty-four can be named and numbered. Among those who escaped towards the hills on the north was Captain Hearsey of the Military Police, whose men protected him, and even saved two ladies. The wanderings of Captain Hearsey and the fugitives from different quarters whom he met, surpass in romantic incidents the inventions of the fabulist. Now in carts, now on foot, sometimes in boats, then on an elephant, traversing forests, fording rivers, hiding here and there, with little clothing, they were chased and driven from place to place, and not one would have survived, had not the native chiefs treated them kindly. But one by one they became fewer. In a night attack from the rebels, the ladies got separated from all the officers except one, and nothing more was heard of them. One-manias drawn under by an alligator in swimming a river. Three or four died of jungle fever. Captain Hearsey, after eight months'- wanderings, rejoined the army of Sir Colin Campbell, by making an immense detour through the hills, and issuing into the plains far north of Meerut.

The mutiny of Jhansi was even more tragic than this of Seetapore. Jhansi was formerly one of the independent principalities of the extensive region known as Bundelcund. It stands between the Betwa and the Sinde rivers, two affluents of the Jumna, and is 100 miles from Calpee and 150 from Agra. By Lord Dalhousie, it had been annexed. He had refused to recognise the adopted heir of the last rajah, and the ranee, his wife, refused, so angered was she, to accept a pension from the British Government. There were parts of two regiments at Jhansi. The ranee, an able and bold woman, saw her opportunity for revenge had come. As soon as she heard of the successful mutinies of the Sepoys in the north-west, she instigated the regiments in her city to follow their example. They did not want persuading. They were only too ready to follow "the will of the army." The Europeans had determined to make a stand in the fort, and this they provisioned; but a company of Sepoys entered on the 4th, and declared they intended to hold the fort, thus depriving the British of a defensible post. A parade was held; the Sepoys were respectful, and swore to stand by their officers. The place of refuge now selected by the residents was the town fort. In a few hours the whole native force was in revolt. The cavalry, as usual, began the fray. Riding over the plain, they met and shot two officers of the 12th Native Infantry. " They then made a rush at their own commanding officer, who, well mounted, was making for the fort; but, though they managed to wound him, he reached the fort in safety, and our countrymen on the ramparts, opening fire on his pursuers, killed same five or six of them. There was only one officer remaining outside, and he was on foot - Lieutenant Turnbull, of the artillery, a young man of great promise, and of a fine, generous disposition. Despairing of escape, and believing himself unseen, he climbed a large leafy tree, about midway between the fort and the cantonment. But a miserable townsman had seen him, and this wretch, in his fanatic zeal, or, perhaps, in a true spirit of Asiatic servility, could hot rest till he had pointed him out to the Sowars. He was at once shot down. With loud shouts, the mutineers then proceeded against the fort, and on the second day the ranee sent, her guns and elephants to assist them. But there was not, only force without, there was treachery within. The Europeans numbered only fifty- five, including women and children; the natives who were with them were numerically superior. Two of these, brothers, were discovered in the act of opening one of.the gates to the enemy. Lieutenant Powys, who saw them, instantly shot one dead, and was himself cut down by the brother.. Captain Burgess avenged him in a second, and the assassins lay side by side in the ditch. But provisions were failing them; two attempts to communicate with Nagode and Gwalior had. been abortive; some Europeans, who had tried to escape over, the parapet had been caught and killed; all appeared hopeless. At this crisis, the ranee sent to say that if they would surrender, their lives should be spared, and they should be sent safely to some other station. She swore, the troopers of the cavalry swore, the Sepoys swore, the native gunners swore, to adhere to these terms. Seizing this as the only chance of life - unable, indeed, to hold out for twenty-four hours longer - the garrison surrendered. They came out, two and two; as they advanced through the line of cavalry and infantry, they saw none but hostile faces; but there was no movement against them. At last, every Christian had quitted the fort. Then was commenced a deed of ruthless treachery, unsurpassed even by the Nana Sahib. The gates were shut behind them; they were seized, the men and women separated, and tied together in two rows, facing one another; the children standing by their mothers. The men were then decapitated, the children were seized, and cut in halves before their mothers' eyes; and last of all, the ladies found what, under those circumstances, they must have felt to be a happy release in death."

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