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despatched to Barrackpore, the mutinous regiments were disbanded, and it was hoped that the danger had passed. This hope might perhaps have been realised but for one of those acts of folly and negligence by which our Indian empire has often been jeopardised. The government had ordered that the practice of biting the cartridges, which had so alarmed the religious prejudices of the native troops, should be discontinued; but, notwithstanding this order, the practice was still enforced in some cases, and this naturally increased the suspicions and discontent of the native soldiery, and soon produced such consequences as might have been anticipated.
On the 2nd of May, the 7th Oude irregular cavalry, stationed near Lucknow, when commanded to bite their cartridges, refused to obey the order, and communicated their discontent to the sepoys stationed at Lucknow. As soon as the news of this mutiny reached Sir Henry Lawrence, who commanded the troops in that part of India, he marched against the mutineers with his whole disposable force. They were at once disarmed; and most of the native officers, and those of the privates who were known to have taken a leading part in the acts of insubordination that had been committed, were dismissed. At Meerut a mutiny broke out a few days after, and, being encountered with less vigour and decision, became more formidable. In this station the new regulation had, indeed, been acted on, but it was too late then to remove the suspicions of the sepoys. When the men were ordered to tear their cartridges, instead of biting them, they refused to touch them. The recusants were apprehended, tried by court-martial, and imprisoned; but, though there were several indications of a disaffected spirit among the troops, no farther steps were taken. All, however, passed quietly till the morning
. of Sunday the 10th. A conspiracy had been formed among the sepoys to attack our troops while they were attending divine service in the afternoon, when most of them would have been unarmed. Fortunately the impatience of the mutineers caused them to break out into mutiny before the troops had gone to church, so that the intended surprise was not effected. However, one party galloped to the gaol, and liberated the prisoners who were confined there. Colonel Finnis, while remonstrating with the mutineers,
was shot by them. Then they broke out into unrestrained violence. The dwellings of the Europeans were fired, and every man, woman, or child that fell into their hands was sa ragely butchered. In these acts of violence the native troops were supported and aided by their countrymen at Meerut. All this was done in the immediate vicinity of an English force strong enough, if properly handled, to have annihilated the mutineers. But the poor old general who commanded at this station was unable to act with the vigour that the circumstances required, and by which the rebellion might have been at once extinguished. However, the troops were brought up. They charged the mutineers, pouring on them a fire of grape and musketry, which compelled them to retire in confusion. Had they been properly pursned, they might have been arrested in their flight; as it was, they were followed for some distance by the carabineers, who killed many of them. Those who escaped made their way to Delhi, and entered that city. They were joined by the native troops there, and became undisputed masters of the city, where they practised frightful atrocities, sparing neither sex nor age, treating women with the most shocking indecency and cruelty, and tossing the children on their bayonets before the eyes of their agonised mothers. A handful of Europeans, who garrisoned the magazine of the city, defended it to the last extremity and then blew it up, and with it a large number of the mutineers. The ex-king of Delhi, who was still permitted to reside in his ancient capital, readily consented to resumu. his royal dignity and to put himself at the head of the revolt; and if he did not actually sanction the murder of the Europeans, he made no attempt to prevent them from being slaughtered. His eldest son was appointed commander-in-chief of the rebel forces.
Their success, which was greatly exaggerated, caused the rebellion to spread thoroughout Bengal, and necessitated the reconquest of that vast territory. At Lahore, the chief commissioner, having at his disposal a force of only eight hundred and fifty men, of whom he could only employ a portion, disarmed 3500 sepoys, and by this act of firmness prevented them from joining their revolted comrades. In some places the disarmament of the sepoys was carried out with equal resolution and equal success. In others, either
from the incapacity of the officer in command, or for want of a sufficient European force to support his authority, the disarmament was not effected. Wherever the mutineers were successful, they were guilty of the same horrible brutalities that had attended their triumph at Delhi; not only officers and soldiers, but also civilians of all sexes and ages, being put to death in the most savage manner, and that too, frequently, in disregard of distinct and solemn stipulations.
The Indian government lost no time in despatching all the troops that could be spared to besiege the rebellious city; and a few days later the governor-general issued a proclamation, in which he contradicted the reports that had been circulated to the effect that the government intended to interfere with the religion of the natives or with the institution of caste, which formed a part of the Hindoo system of belief. This proclamation was followed by another issued by Sir J. R. Colvin, the governor of the north-western provinces of our Indian empire. In it he promised the rebel. lious sepoys that, if they would give up their arms at the nearest civil or military post, and retire quietly to their homes, they should not be molested ; but it at the same time announced that all who appeared in arms, after the contents of this proclamation had been made known to them, should be treated as open enemies. This document was vehemently censured as being dictated by an excessive and mistimed leniency, and was disavowed by the govern. ment at Calcutta. It is difficult for those who are remote from the scene of action to form a correct opinion on the subject, and it may therefore seem presumptuous to express
But it certainly does appear to be just and politic to allow the sepoys, many of whom had been reluctantly forced into rebellion by their comrades, or who had been carried away by an honest though mistaken fanaticism, an opportunity of retracing their steps, and retiring from the rebellion. And we would venture to doubt whether the governor was not wiser than the civil and military personages who condemned his conduct; or whether, as sometimes occurs, the subordinate officer was not superior in wisdom and intelligence to those who were placed over him.
Be this as it may, the proclamations that had been issued did not prevent the rebellion from spreading rapidly. A
portion of the newly-annexed kingdom of Oude had already revolted, and Sir H. Lawrence, who commanded there, was at this critical moment suffering from severe illness. However, he put forth the best efforts he could to meet the danger. As a mutiny of the native troops was evidently impending, he fortified and provisioned the residency; and as soon as he was sufficiently recovered to place himself at the head of his troops, he marched out against a body of the rebels stationed at a place called Chinhut; but finding them to be in greater numbers than he had expected, he was compelled to retire. This retreat was followed by the mutiny of the native troops at Lucknow, who had hitherto held aloof from the revolt. They were at once attacked by a part of the 32nd regiment, and artillery having been brought to bear on them, they were driven to Moodripore, where they were joined by another sepoy regiment.
While the handful of English in Lucknow were thus imperilled, the position of those at Cawnpore was even more critical. Nana Sahib, the chief of Bithoor, resided near that place, and had a considerable native force under his command. He was crafty, savage, covetous, and ambitious; but by education and constant association with English officers and civilians he had acquired a degree of refinement rarely attained by his countrymen at that time, and was often pointed out as a person zealously attached to the British government, and a favourable specimen of the highlypolished and cultivated Hindoo. It is not improbable that he hesitated a good deal before he determined which side he should take. Inclination and interest prompted him to promote the success of his countrymen, by contributing to which an almost boundless prospect was opened to his ambition; but his superior attainments made him better acquainted with the greatness of the British resources, and enabled him to estimate more correctly than most of his countrymen the arduous character of the struggle in which they were engaged. Whatever, therefore, his secret inclinations may have been, he openly showed himself the ally of the British, and sent troops to their assistance, placing them under General Wheeler, who commanded at Cawnpore. These troops were unfortunately employed to defend the treasury, which was well replenished, and moreover close to the magazine, which was strongly fortified, and might easily have been defended against any force that the rebels could have brought against it. General Wheeler, with the troops under his command, and most of the residents, retired to a retrenchment which was far less defensible. Whether Nana Sahib had ever intended that the troops he had sent to Cawnpore should really help us may well be doubted. At all events, they joined their revolted countrymen, plundered the treasury they had been appointed to guard, and attempted to take possession of the magazine, which was blown up by Sir H. Wheeler's orders, that it might not fall into their hands. Then Nana Sahib threw off the mask, and putting himself at the head of the revolted troops, commenced an attack on the entrenchment, which Sir H. Wheeler prepared to defend as well as he could against an immensely superior force, well supplied with all kinds of arms and ammunition. He despatched several applications for aid to Sir H. Lawrence, assuring him that if he could only have a reinforcement of two hundred men, he could sally out on the besiegers and capture their guns. But Sir H. Lawrence was himself too hard pressed to be able to spare a single man. In the end, Wheeler was obliged to surrender, but the terms of the capitulation were completely disregarded. The soldiers were murdered almost to a man. The women and children, imprisoned for the present, were reserved for a more terrible fate.
Meanwhile the siege of Delhi was carried on, up to the 14th of September, on which day our troops blew open with gunpowder the Cashmere gate, and forced their way into the city. Still the rebels continued to make an obstinate resistance. On the 15th our troops, having got possession of some liquor, intoxicated themselves to such a degree that it became doubtful whether it would not be necessary to evacuate the city, and retire to the position that had been occupied outside it. However, the liquor was destroyed, and the enemy, not being aware of the condition to which our men were reduced, made no attack. When the intoxication had passed away, order was restored, and the operations for the reduction of the rest of the city were pushed forward. On the 20th of September all resistance had been overcome, and the British were undisputed masters of the city, which had been for four months in the possession of the rebels.