We have already seen that 'Mutiny' was not a new phenomena in the EEIC armies whether it was a European or a Native unit. But 1857 was different because the 'Greased Cartridges' were the common factor which gave all the Bengal Army Sepoys a common cause and issue. The hatred and the distrust was deep and a century old, but human beings the way they are made require some 'Self Justification' always in order to justify their actions. The Greased Cartridges provided this justification.
'Brown Bess' Musket was the traditional weapon of the British as well as the EEIC armies till early 1850128. It was a muzzle loading musket with an effective range of only 100 yards. The Brown Bess was a smooth bore, heavy and inaccurate weapon beyond 100 yards129. By 1850 there was a consensus of opinion in Britain that unless this weapon was replaced by a better weapon, militarily the British Army would become an obsolete operational entity compared to other European Armies130. During the First Afghan war it was observed that even the local made Afghan Jezail was range/accuracy-wise a better weapon than the Brown Bess131.
The Cartridge of the Enfield Rifle was heavily greased with wax and tallow made of cow and in certain lots swine fat. Cow fat in case of bullets made in India and Swine fat in case of Bullet lots made in Britain132. The Grease was necessary in order to improve loading speed and so that during firing the gases did not escape ahead of the bullet thereby reducing the range and accuracy of the weapon. The cartridges for the weapon were being manufactured in India and in January 1857 the month on which the new weapon was to be issued to the Sepoys rumours started spreading about the swine/cow fat in the cartridges. This was perceived by the Sepoy as a serious attack on their caste and religion and was perceived as a common threat by both Hindus and Muslims. There was no conspiracy on the British part and actually as a matter of fact the British were placing great trust in the Sepoys by equipping them with the most sophisticated rifle in the Western World. It was certainly a matter of gross carelessness however that caution and forethought was not exercised in correctly perceiving the religious and cultural norms of the Sepoys. This however was a failure of the EEIC in general and their three army Commander-in-Chiefs in particular.
In the third week of January 1857 a 'Khalasi' (common labourer) taunted a Brahman sepoy at Dum Dum Arsenal when the Brahman refused the 'Khalasi' a drink from his 'Lotah' (water pot) on the grounds that the Khalasi belonged to a lower caste. The Khalasi told the Brahman that he would also soon lose his caste when he bites the greased cartridges covered with fats of pigs and cows? (The cartridges had to be bitten by teeth or opened by finger nails before being loaded). This rumour soon spread like wild fire all over the Bengal Army from Calcutta to Peshawar133. The first major official report was made by Lieutenant Wright who was commanding a detachment of 70 Native Infantry (70th Native Infantry Regiment) at Dum Dum that his troops were seriously upset by rumours about animal fat being used in the Enfield Cartridges134. Major General J.B. Hearsay commanding the Presidency Division was a practical soldier. He decided to go for a system under which the Sepoys could prepare their own lubricants etc. to grease their cartridges. Starting from 23 January the day Hearsay got the report, by 28th January, Hearsay got the permission from Bengal Army Headquarters to allow the troops to prepare their own lubricants for greasing the cartridges135. But the damage had been done. The Sepoys now started suspecting everyone and everything. The Bengal Army Adjutant General based at Meerut took concrete countermeasures based on Hearsay's recommendations to dispel the rumours according to which the Bengal Army perceived the cartridges as an attack on caste and religion136:-
a) All existing cartridges with grease to be issued only to European troops.
b) Native troops to prepare their own grease with substance/material of their own choice to lubricate the Enfield cartridges.
c) The drill for opening the cartridges was changed from biting with the teeth to break open the cartridges with the fingers.
The Sepoys now started suspecting that even the ordinary paper used for the old cartridges of the Brown Bess were also polluted with some kind of fat. The first serious incident thus took place at Berhampur about 100 miles north of Calcutta. A parade was to be held at 28th February at Berhampur. 19 Native Infantry was stationed at Berhampur. 19 Native Infantry and two detatchments of 34 Native Infantry (stationed at Barrackpore) were to participate in this parade. The two detachments of 34 Native Infantry had reached Barrackpore on 18 and 25 February to participate in the parade. On 27th February 1857 the troops refused to accept percussion caps for next day's parade. Colonel Mitchell the Commanding Officer was naturally perturbed at this act of insubordination. He personally went to the Lines and addressed the native officers. He warned them about serious consequences but the sepoys still defied coming to the general parade. Mitchell wanted to disband the unit but there was no British unit in the area. On getting report of this incident the Governor-General immediately ordered HM 84 Foot Regiment to be brought from Burma to Calcutta. A steamer was despatched from Calcutta which brought 84 Foot to Calcutta on 20th March 1857. The 19 Native Infantry was ordered to march from Berhampur to Barrackpore (near Calcutta)137.
On 29 March (Sunday) 1857 before 19 Native Infantry had still reached Barrackpore, Mangal Pandy a Hindu Sepoy of 34 Native Infantry at Barrackpore loaded his musket and went to his regiment's quarterguard. Here he started exhorting all the sepoys present to join in a rebellion to overthrow the EEIC.The Sepoys on duty at the quarterguard made no attempt to restrain him. Once the European Sergeant Major appeared Mangal Pandy fired at him and missed. The Regiment Adjutant Lieutenant Baugh was informed about this incident and he at once galloped to the quarterguard. Mangal Pandy fired at him also, and killed his horse with his second shot. This was followed by a hand to hand sword fight in which Baugh was wounded. Mangal Pandy meanwhile was over powered by Shaikh Paltoo, Muslim Sepoy! This enabled the wounded European Sergeant Major and the Adjutant to escape. Meanwhile a crowd of Sepoys gathered at the quarterguard and threatened to kill Shaikh Paltoo who had saved the two Britishers. The situation was finally controlled by Major General Hearsay who personally arrived at the scene. Mangal Pandy tried to commit suicide with his musket but was only wounded138.
Finally on 31st March Hearsay ordered disbandment of 19 Native Infantry in the presence of HM 84 Foot and two batteries of field artillery. The 19th Native Infantry behaved in a very obedient manner. Piled up their muskets, belts and bayonets in a very orderly manner. They were given full pay and provided transport at public expense to proceed to their houses. While leaving the parade ground they cheered Hearsay and wished him a long and happy life!. A court martial was ordered in 34 Native Infantry and Mangal Pandy was sentenced to death and executed in March, 1857. Meanwhile resistance started spreading in other parts of India. On 3rd May 1857 the 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry disobeyed orders to handle cartridges. An effort was made to disband them but only 120 laid their arms while the rest just disappeared along with their weapons. The 34 Native Infantry was disbanded on 6th May 1857. In April 1857 the Sepoys had already started burning government offices and buildings. It was, however, at Meerut that the decisive blow was struck by the 3rd Light Cavalry139.
THE MEERUT OUTBREAK
Meerut in 1857 was a large cantonment located about 40 miles northeast of Delhi. It contained the following troops140:-
1) HM 60 Rifles.
2) HM 6 Dragoon Guards.
3) One Horse Artillery Battery.
4) One Light Field Battery.
5) One Company Foot Artillery.
1) 3rd Light Cavalry (LC).
2) 11 Native Infantry (NI).
3) 20 Native Infantry (NI).
The General Officer Commanding was Major General William Henry Hewitt who was 67 years old and had last seen action in the first Burmese war of 1824. He had more than 50 years service in the army of EEIC in India. Brigadier Archdale Wilson the Station Commander, Meerut who was from artillery described Hewitt as 'an exasperating idiot!' Others described Hewitt as a very fat happy-go-lucky man who was not known for decisiveness. He had previously served as a Brigadier at Multan and at Peshawar as a Major General. He was removed from command at Peshawar since he was physically unfit for 'emergencies' of 'service'! Hewetts capacity for action may be imagined from the answer that he gave once asked the reasons for his inaction at Meerut, Hewitt said: 'As soon as the alarm was given, the artillery, carabineers, and 60th Rifles were got under arms, but by the time we reached the native parade ground, it was too dark to act with efficiency in that direction; consequently the troops were retired to the north of the nullah, to cover the barracks and officers lines of the artillery carabineers and 60th Rifles, which were, with the exception of one house preserved' !141 .
No exact records exist but by and large 3rd Light Cavalry was a predominantly Muslim Regiment. A general statistical analysis of EEIC army units show that prior to 1857 cavalry was a predominantly Muslim arm, whereas the Infantry was a 75 to 80% Hindu arm of service. The 3rd Light Cavalry was largely composed of Hindustani, Pathan, Muslims and Ranghars from Rohtak142. (Even today some 30 to 35% of manpower of the Armoured Corps of Pakistan Army consists of Ranghars originally belonging to Rohtak, Gurgaon, Hissar and Karnal Districts)143. 3rd Light Cavalry had been stationed at Meerut before the 1st Sikh War of 1845-46. It fought in the First Afghan War, the scinde war and the first Sikh war and returned to Meerut from the Punjab in 1854. The 11 Native Infantry had recently been transferred from Allahabad to Meerut where it had arrived on 1st May 1857, replacing 15 Native Infantry which had moved to Naseerabad from Meerut in end of March 1857. The 20th had previously served at the Punjab and Frontier before moving to Meerut. It had also fought at the Battle of Chillianwala during the 2nd Sikh war of 1848-49. In 1853 the 20 Native Infantry also took part in a frontier expedition against the Jowaki Khel Afridis of the Kohat Pass. In 1857 came the Afridis turn to loot Delhi and Lucknow 144!
Meerut keeping in view the comparative native and European strength of troops did not seem to be a likely station where a native mutiny could be successful. It had some 2,028 Europeans against 2,057 Natives145.
A comparatively recent British author gave the following figures 146:-
It appears that Palmers is the victim of an ever recurring tendency in British authors to always magnify the odds. The important point to be remembered at Meerut was that the artillery guns were entirely held and manned by the Europeans.
The Commanding Officer of 3rd Light Cavalry was Lieutenant Colonel George Munro Carmichael Smyth 53 years old Anglo Indian147. His contemporaries described him as a very mediocre officer who had never done anything of any consequence throughout his military career. Smyth was sadist and highly unpopular among both officers and men. Brigadier Archdale Wilson was very accurately described by Philip Mason as a correct, cautious man, the kind of man who knows the regulations and sees objections to every course proposed148.'
On 24th April 1857 a parade was held in the 3rd Light Cavalry in which 90 men of the Regiment were to be instructed regarding the new loading drill in which the cartridges were to be opened with fingers. The men were marched in and the acting adjutant ordered them to take three cartridges each. Only five men obeyed (3 Muslims and 2 Hindus). All the others gave some excuse, one saying that the Havaldar Major had already given a demonstration so why should he touch the cartridge, the other said that he would touch the cartridge if only all other regiments did etc149.
The five NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) who had accepted the cartridges were left while the 85 others were confined to the lines. A Court of Inquiry consisting of seven native officers (JCOs) and two British Officers was constituted to enquire into this incident. Based on the findings of this Court of Inquiry a court martial was held (all fifteen native JCOs found the men guilty except one) and all the 85 accused were sentenced to ten years hard labour. This sentence was recommended by the Judge Advocate General and approved by the Commander-in-Chief. Major General Hewitt the General Officer Commanding requested for mercy for the condemned men on the grounds that the men were of good character and had been misled by rumours. Keeping this mercy appeal in view sentence of 11 men who had less than five years service were reduced to five years hard labour150. On 9th May 1857 the entire Meerut Garrison was assembled on the European Infantry parade ground. It was a cloudy stormy day. The 85 accused were marched in front of the hollow square formed by the entire garrison. The sentences were read out, the uniforms and badges were removed, boots were taken off and the ankles of all the condemned were shackled. Most of the condemned sepoys kept silent but some shouted threats and taunted their comrades who had not mutinied and stood as observers. The 60th Rifle Guard took the 85 condemned men to the civil jail. While being marched off some of the condemned threw their boots at their Commanding Officer Colonel Smyth. The same day in the evening, Lieutenant Gough with some other young officers visited the jail to meet the imprisoned men. He was deeply moved since many of these were veterans who had spent 30 to 40 years of their lives fighting for the EEIC. Many of the prisoners wept bitterly and requested the British officers to help them. It must be added to the credit of the British that most of the senior officers including the Governor General viewed the sentences as too harsh. The main culprit appears to have been the Judge Advocate General who persuaded the Commander-in-Chief to confirm the sentences151.
The same evening i.e. on 9th May 1857 after returning from seeing his men in the jail a native JCO came to Lieutenant Hugh Gough's house and gave him information about an impending mutiny on 10th May, 1857. Gough immediately went to his Commanding Officer Colonel Smyth to pass him this information. Smyth instead of taking it seriously reprimanded Gough. Gough told the same story to Brigadier Archdale Wilson but Wilson also dismissed it152.
On 10th May i.e. Sunday the morning Church Parade was uneventful. The evening church parade was held half an hour later than usual i.e. at 7 O' clock instead of 6 thirty as usual. At 6 O' clock the mutiny started. All the three native regiments seized their weapons, burnt the barracks and attacked and killed many of their officers. There seemed to be no plan behind the mutiny, for example the treasury was not attacked. The 3rd Light Cavalry was the first regiment to start the rebellion. They galloped to the jail and broke it open releasing all the prisoners including their 85 comrades. The city criminals also joined them and were responsible for most of the atrocities committed against the women and children. Famous among these was the killing and hacking to pieces of a pregnant British lady. Subsequently it was discovered that she had been killed by a Muslim butcher from the city who was caught and hanged at the same place where he had killed her. Lieutenant Gough initially rode to his regiment's lines but was implored by his JCOs to leave them which he did. As always happens during such situation in which there is a breakdown of law and order the city rabble and villagers converged on the cantonment and started looting and slaughter. It was a small sale replica of the much larger scale massacres that took place in 1947. Keeping the events of 1857 in view one may conclude that had the British delayed their army withdrawal from India in 1947 and had hanged around 10,000 rioters, there may have been less bloodshed153.
It is strange that one troop of 3rd Light Cavalry whose troop officer Lieutenant Craigie had managed to get them together did not join their other comrades and stayed loyal throughout the rebellion154.
Surprisingly all senior British officers present in Meerut were highly indecisive. The 60th Rifles were told by their officers to get their rifles but after doing so they were told to guard the treasury and the bungalows instead of any active attempt being made to employ them against the rebellious sepoys. The commanding officer of the 60th Rifles was more interested in Roll Call and dressing up than in interfering with the sepoys action. Thus to sum up the British troops did nothing except stationary guard duty because their officers decided to wait till the next morning before doing anything155.
The rebel sepoys also had no plans and were actually fearing a British response but no such thing happened. Finally after few hours of loot, arson and slaughter the 3rd Light Cavalry rode towards Delhi. The 11 and 20 Native Infantry also followed them. No effort was made by the British officers at Meerut to either pursue the sepoys or to even send a message to Delhi which was the most likely place where the sepoys could go. On the way to Delhi however the sepoys destroyed the telegraph line156
The rebellion of the Bengal Army had its origins in a century long series of actions and counter actions which were perceived by the Sepoys as unjust. However there is nothing inevitable in history. If one British Troop leader by virtue of his force of personality could keep his troop of 3rd Light Cavalry loyal, why was it that men in position of authority could not act decisively in pursuing the sepoys. Later on at Allahabad or at Lucknow where the British were much more weak in numbers great miracles were achieved and seemingly hopeless situations were retrieved in face of impossible odds. The Meerut outbreak was a major failure in command and the miscarriages that occurred were not beyond the control of Hewitt or Archdale Wilson had they not lacked the decisiveness and resolution, the very qualities because of which the EEIC conquered India in addition to naval power.
THE SEIZURE OF DELHI
After leaving Meerut at night the sepoys of 3rd Light Cavalry moved towards Delhi which they reached around seven in the morning. It was a long ride and at first just about thirty or forty cavalry men reached the city156a. The infantry it must be noted was marching and could not travel the forty mile distance as fast as the horsemen. They galloped across the Bridge of Boats over the Jamna River and attempted to enter the walled city from the direct entrance opposite the Bridge of Boats i.e. the Calcutta Gate. This Gate was closed so they rode southwards downstream between River Jumna and the Red Fort Wall to enter the city through any other open gate. The Rajghat Gate was open and it was through this gate that the sepoys entered the city. They started killing any European who they saw and were soon joined by the city riff raff in this unsoldierly pastime. Some of the sepoys galloped into the Red Fort where the King Bahadur Shah Zafar granted them audience after some hesitation. Initially the King avoided joining the sepoys but later on after considerable persuasion agreed to head the sepoys. It appears from later records that the king did so against his better judgement and under severe pressure 157.
Meanwhile the Brigade Commander at Rajpur Cantonment outside the walled city was alerted and made preparations to march his three native regiments against the Meerut rebels. It was around eight o' clock in the morning that Brigadier Showers received the news about the Meerut mutineers. He at once ordered 38, 54 and 74 158 Native Infantry to march towards the city. Colonel Ripley the Commanding Officer of 54 Native Infantry was the first to march towards the Kashmir Gate. As soon as this regiment reached the Kashmir Gate the 3rd Light Cavalry troopers fired on them killing the leading four British officers. The remaining British officers ordered the troops to open fire but the troops fired in the air and joined the Meerut rebels. After this a general massacre of British officers started. By afternoon all three regiments had rebelled. Delhi was no longer in British control.
Two incidents of decisive importance occurred on 11th May 1857 at Delhi. The first was defence of the magazine by just nine Britishers from ten o' clock in the morning till three thirty in the afternoon. This magazine was the biggest in India and its capture would have been a very significant military success for the sepoys. At three thirty in the afternoon its gallant defenders blew it up. The sound of the explosion was distinctly heard even at Meerut 40 miles away. Surprisingly six of the nine defenders survived the tremendous explosion which killed hundreds of sepoys and spectators. Six escaped out of whom one was murdered on the way to Meerut. Five of the survivors were awarded the Victoria Cross159 . All the defenders were from the corps of ordnance!
The second event of equally decisive importance was the action of telegraph signaller William Brendish an Anglo- Indian. A short time after the rebellion of 3rd Light Cavalry at Meerut on the evening of 10th May the telegraph wires going from Meerut to Delhi had been destroyed by some sepoys. The same day Brendish had been sent east of the River Jumna by his superior Charles Todd to find out the fault with the Meerut line. Brendish went east of the river but could find no fault. After the sepoy seizure of Delhi, Brendish on his own initiative sent the following message on the northern telegraph line to Ambala which was still functional:-
'We must leave office. All the bungalows are being burnt down by the sepoys from Meerut. They came in this morning ... Mr. Todd is dead I think. He went out this morning and has not returned ... We are off' 160.
This telegram was very crucial for the EEIC, Punjab authorities in their decision to disarm the sepoys and also in enabling the Commander-in-Chief Bengal Army in his decision to assemble the Delhi Field Force.It may be noted that 38 NI was raised in 1799 (January) and had fought against Tipu Sultan in the last siege of Seringapatan161. 54 NI had been raised at Fatehgarh in October 1804 for service in the Second Maratha War162. 74 NI was a relatively new regiment having been raised in May 1825 at Dinapore163.
The various events till the 10th May outbreak at Meerut were acts of passive resistance in general barring few incidents like Mangel Pandy's physical assault on a British officer. The rebellion of 3rd Light Cavalry at Meerut which was subsequently joined in by 11 Native Infantry and 20 Native Infantry was the start of a distinct and more active phase of the rebellion. Till 10th May the Sepoys were passively resisting and malingering in face of orders to use the greased cartridges. From 10th May they assumed a fully active role. First by defying as an organized entity their British officers and then attacking the Europeans in an active manner at Meerut on 10th May 1857. They thus started the series of deliberate actions which resulted in the seizure of Delhi on 11th May 1857 and thus led to the first act of open defiance of the EEIC rule in India. The British refer to the rebellion of 1857 as 'Mutiny' always. We may agree with them and call it a mutiny but only till 10th May 1857. Before 10th May 1857 the Sepoys were merely defying a strictly military command to perform a military action. Even here there was a political and religious undertone, for the sepoys were doing it because they felt compelled to do so due to religious reasons. But once the 3rd Light Cavalry adopted the active role and seized Delhi the whole objective of the sepoys was transformed from a pure religious one to a pure political one. Once they seized Delhi on 11th May 1857 and persuaded or pressurized or coerced the 82-year-old Mughal Emperor into leading them, the sepoys changed their role from mutineers (even though for a just and righteous cause) to that of freedom fighters. We will deal with more of this aspect in the later part of our discussion in this work.
We will analyse the various campaigns one by one and separately. However we will briefly scan the general development of the rebellion from Meerut outbreak till the disappearance of EEIC rule from Lucknow, Cawnpore, Rohailkhand and Central India. Broadly speaking all the major rebellions in the native units from 10th May to July 1857 led to concentration of the sepoys at some particular geographical point which attracted the sepoys due to either its strategic location, political importance or because of presence of an individual who was perceived by the sepoys as one who they believed could lead them by virtue of his peculiar position in the Indo-Pak society of that time. The major focal points of 1857 were as following:-
a. Delhi - Mughal Emperor/Strategic Fortress
b. Lucknow - Oudh Nawab/Large Built up area.
c. Cawnpore - Mahratta Peshwa/Strategic Location.
d. Bareilly - Rohilla Capital.
e. Jhansi - Capital of the ex-Jhansi state.
The seizure of Delhi by the Meerut troopers of 3rd Light Cavalry provided a blueprint of action to all the sepoys of the Bengal Army. All previous rebellions petered out because the sepoys had no tangible aim. But the elan and dash exhibited by the 3rd Light Cavalry troopers established a pattern which was followed by the sepoys at Lucknow on 1st July, at Cawnpore on 4th June, at Bareilly on 31st May and at Jhansi on 5th June164. All these were relatively simple affairs. There were no European troops anywhere except at Lucknow where there was just one weak European infantry battalion. The slow progress of the rebellions at various places shows clearly that there was no conspiracy or plan and the sepoy leadership was slow and indecisive.
SITUATION IN OUDH
The Oudh region was one of the most disturbed region because of its recent annexation in 1856. We have already discussed in brief that the 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry Regiment refused to handle their cartridges on the 3rd of May 1857. Consequently by the Chief Commissioner Oudh, Sir Henry Lawrence had decided to disband them. However the disarmament parade was not properly managed and the bulk of this unit sepoys (troops) except 120 deserted along with their weapons. Most of them returned to the barracks on the next morning. The sepoys at Lucknow were slow to act after the Meerut outbreak. Following units were stationed at Lucknow in May 1857165:-
a. Europeans-One infantry regiment (H.M 32 Foot) and One Artillery Company.
b. Native Troops-Four Infantry regiments (13 NI, 48 NI, 71 NI and 4
(Oudh Irregular Infantry), Two Cavalry Regiments ( 7th LC and 2nd Oudh Irregular Cavalry), and five artillery units (2nd Company of 8th Native Battalion of Foot Artillery, No 2 Bullock Light Field Battery, No 2 and No 3 Horse Light Field Batteries of Oudh Irregular Force and Reserve Company of Artillery of Oudh Irregular Force)
These facts clearly illustrate that the numerical superiority was much more overwhelming than at Meerut where there was almost parity. The only difference was that now the element of 'Surprise' had been lost.
The sepoys started the rebellion at Lucknow on the night of 30th of May. This was led by the 71 Native Infantry, the 48 Native Infantry men partially followed them while some 200 men of 13 Native Infantry stayed loyal to the British. Lawrence crushed this rebellion using the 32nd Foot and 300 men of the 13 Native Infantry on 31st May 1857. This outbreak was thus ineffective and the British control over Lucknow was maintained. Meanwhile Lawrence started making preparations for a siege in the Residency area. However only 150 sepoys now remained loyal to the British. Lawrence now invited old pensioners for service and some eighty pensioners were enrolled. Many hundreds had responded to Lawrence's call. On the night of 1/2 June the military police also rebelled166.
The sepoys of 13 Native Infantry and 71 Native Infantry after being dispersed by Lawrence meanwhile had proceeded to Sitapur northwest of Lucknow. The sepoys stationed at Sitapur rebelled on 3rd June 1857. These were those belonging to 10 Oudh Irregular Infantry who were soon joined by those of 41 Native Infantry who the British tried to employ against 10 Irregular Infantry. The 9th Oudh Irregular Infantry stationed at Sitapur also joined the rebellion. On 4th of June 1857 sepoys at Khairabad mutinied. The 17 Native Infantry stationed at Azamgarh also joined the rebellion in June. Troops at Faizabad the major town of Oudh apart from Lucknow rebelled on 8th June 1857. These were the 22 Native Infantry, elements of 15 Irregular Cavalry and the 6th Oudh Irregular Infantry Battalion167.
By mid-June, most of the rebel sepoys started converging at Nawab Ganj Bara Banki which was 18 miles northeast of Lucknow on the Faizabad Road. On 29th June 1857 Sir Henry Lawrence was informed by his intelligence sources that the advance guard of the sepoy force which had been earlier assembled at Nawab Ganj was within 8 miles of Lucknow at Chinhat on the Lucknow-Faizabad Road. The main body, Lawrence was told was likely to join this advance guard on the next day168.
Lawrence decided to pre-empt the sepoy move against Lucknow. Thus on the morning of 30th June 1857 he marched towards Chinhat with a force of 520 infantry and 116 Cavalry, supported by 11 guns and 1 eight inch Howitzer. Lawrence's force was however defeated at Chinhat losing in the process 112 Europeans killed and 44 wounded. According to British sources the opposing sepoy strength at Chinhat was 5,500 Infantry, 800 Cavalry and 12 nine pounder guns169. We cannot agree with this figure since all British historians exaggerate odds as a habit. Unfortunately we do not have any native account since the vast majority of those involved in the rebellion were either killed or died in the Himalayan rain forest of Nepal after having withdrawn there in 1858-59.
The Chinhat defeat led to immediate withdrawal of Lawrence's force to Lucknow City. The remaining loyal sepoys of the 1st Oudh Irregular Infantry also joined the rebellion on 30th June and this left Lawrence with no alternative but to withdraw to the Residency area which he did on the night of 30th of June. Thus by the evening of 30th June, the British lost Lucknow and Oudh170.
THE SITUATION IN THE GANGES-JUMNA DOAB AREA
The first major rebellion in the Doab area i.e. the area between the Rivers Ganges and Jamna took place at Meerut as we have already discussed on 10th May 1857. The 9th Native Infantry located partly at Aligarh (3 X Companies), Mainpuri (3 X Companies), Ettawa (3 X Companies) and Bulandshahr (1 X Company) rebelled on 20th May 1857 at Aligarh, on 22nd May at Mainpuri, on 23rd May at Ettawa and on 24th May at Bulandshahr171. The rebellion of 9 Native Infantry at Aligarh on 20th May meant that the British east-west connection between Punjab and Calcutta was severed, Aligarh being on the main Grand Trunk Road. The 10 Native Infantry at Farrukhabad rebelled on 18th June172. The Cawnpore Garrison rebelled on 4th June 1857. The cavalry being predominantly Muslim we have seen what led the rebellion at Meerut in the first place. At Cawnpore also it was 2nd Light Cavalry which took the initiative on 4th June 1857173. It was immediately joined by the remaining native regiments i.e. 1 Native Infantry which fought for the Company at the Battle of Plassey174 in and famous as the Lal Paltan, 53 Native Infantry and 56 Native Infantry. It was a simple affair since there was no European unit at all to oppose them. The only European troops in the city were approximately 200 men belonging to 32 Foot 84 Foot, Madras Fusiliers and the artillery175. Loss of Cawnpore meant that the British Garrison at Lucknow was no longer in direct communication with its main base at Calcutta. Even then the Lucknow sepoys took three more weeks to control Lucknow.
The most miserable and decisive sepoy failure was at Allahabad. Allahabad was a strategic fortress and commanded the eastern approach to the Doab area. Further its Fort contained a very large ammunition magazine. Following troops were stationed there176:-
a. 6 Native Infantry.
b. 3rd Oudh Irregular Horse (Wing only).
c. 400 troops of Ferozepur Sikh Regiment (Brought from Mirzapur - Brasyers).
d. 6th Company, 3rd Battalion Foot artillery.
e. No 4 Bullock Light Field Battery.
The personnel manning the magazine containing more than 40,000 weapons of various types including cannons were Europeans from the Ordnance Department. Luckily for the British, the Sikhs were manning the fortress while the other native troops except one company were located in the main cantonment outside the fortress and two and a half miles away from it. The 6 Native Infantry started the rebellion on 6th June 1857 but failed to capture the fort which was ably defended by Captain Brasyer of the Ferozepur Sikhs. The captain an ex-service man and ex-gardener177 was a brave and decisive man and with a limited number of troops achieved for the British a strategic and decisive success which two senior officers with much larger forces at Meerut miserably failed to attain. General Andre Beaufre of France is said to have remarked about Pakistan Army in 1971 War that 'They had many good captains but no good general!'178 This remark very exactly describes the British situation in India in 1857 as far as quality of leadership was concerned. It is strange that the EEIC European Army's officers were far superior to the Royal British Army officers in terms of leadership!
Captain Brasyer ably employed his 400 Sikhs, some hundred European volunteers (mostly civilians) and some invalid European gunners and disarmed a company of sepoys of 6 Native Infantry inside the Fort and succeeded in holding the Fort. The Sikhs true to their traditions followed this success by looting a huge quantity of liquor which they discovered in one of the Cellars of the Fort179! The Allahabad Rebels after being unable to capture the Fort, looted the town, freed 3,000 prisoners in the jail and marched towards Cawnpore180. The Sepoy failure to capture Allahabad Fort with a very large arsenal and immense strategic value even noted by Wellington181 was the first great strategic failure of the rebels.
SITUATION IN ROHAILKHAND REGION
The sepoys at Bareilly and Shah Jahanpur rebelled on 31st May 1857182. Troops located at Bareilly were the 18 Native Infantry, 68 Native Infantry, 8 Irregular Cavalry, 6th Company of 8th Battalion native foot artillery, No 15 Horse Light Field Battery183 to which the indomitable Subedar Bakht Khan belonged. Subedar Bakht Khan was described by one of his British superiors of the Bengal Native Artillery as 60 years of age, forty years of which were spent in the Company's service. 5 ft 10 inches in height, 44 inches round the chest, barrel like chest, very fat thighs, bulging stomach, proud, sturdy, clever and good at gun drill, most intelligent, obsequious, fond of the society of Europeans etc184. The Garrison at Shah Jahanpur consisted of the 28 Native Infantry and a Company of foot artillery. The leader of the rebellion at Bareilly was Khan Bahadar Khan a Hindustani Pathan and a retired Civil Judge185. 29 NI at Badaun and Moradabad joined the rebellion on 1st and 3rd June186. The remnants of native troops which remained loyal along with British refugees retreated to Naini Tal and Rampur, while rest of Rohailkhand except Rampur State which remained loyal was no longer under British control.
SITUATION IN CENTRAL INDIA
Central India i.e. the area south of Jumna River, east of Chambal River and north of Narbadda River was a little late in joining the rebellion. It was also the last to resist the British till 1859 apart from northern parts of Oudh. The sepoys of Nimach consisting of 72 Native Infantry, 1st Light Cavalry and 7th Infantry of Gwalior Contingent rebelled on 3rd June 1857. The Malwa contingent located at Mehidpore rebelled on 9th June. The sepoys at Jhansi consisting of 12 Native Infantry (half regiment) and 14 Irregular Cavalry (half regiment) rebelled on 6th June. The other wing (half regiment) of 14 Irregular Cavalry rebelled on 9th June 1857 at Nowgong. These were also joined by half of 12 Native Infantry which was also stationed at Nowgong. The Gwalior contingent consisting of seven infantry, two cavalry and some artillery units rebelled on 9th June at Gwalior. The Indore contingent of Holkar's troops consisting of 7,500 men rebelled on 1st of July at Indore. Thus by 1st of July Central India was no longer in British hands. The 12 Native Infantry and 14 Irregular Cavalry marched towards Delhi where they reached on 16 July 1857 Some elements of both regiments stayed at Cawnpore187.
SITUATION IN RAJPUTANA
The Rajputs took a very active part in the rebellion of 1857. But these were Oudh Rajputs or the Doabs Rajputs or the Hariana Rajputs and Ranghars. The Rajputs of Rajputana proper took negligible part in the rebellion. However the only important rebellion in Rajputana proper took place in the Jodhpur Legion and at Naseerabad near Ajmer. This was staged by Hindustani troops belonging to the 15 Native Infantry and 30 Native Infantry on 28th May 1857188. These sepoys knowing well that the local population having nothing in common with them in ethnic terms would not support them marched towards Delhi via Naseerabad - Deoli - Agra. These troops reached Agra around 2nd of August189 and Delhi around mid-August, 1857. On 21 August 1857 the Jodhpur Legion consisting of many Hindustanis rebelled. Later on this force proceeded towards Delhi but before it could reach Delhi the British had already captured the city. This legion was defeated by Brigadier Gerard sent with a force from Delhi at Narnaul on 16th November 1857. Brigadier Gerard also died because of the wounds received in this battle190.
SITUATION IN PUNJAB
AND TRANS-INDUS FRONTIER REGION
Punjab was annexed by EEIC in 1849. The situation here was much more different from Oudh. The country had been annexed following two wars in both of which the EEIC had convincingly and decisively defeated the Sikhs. The majority of the population was Muslim and these viewed the EEIC as liberators who had liberated them from the Sikh tyranny. The country was systematically disarmed after annexation unlike Oudh where this was not done191. The British administrators in the person of John and Henry Lawrence were highly capable men who were just courteous and efficient and followed a policy of conciliation. The first canal i.e. Upper Bari Doab Canal was started in 1851 and was in final stages of completion by 1857192. Many Sikh ex-service men were re-employed in the army; the regiments bearing the title 'Sikh Infantry and Sikh Cavalry' being entirely composed of Sikh, Dogra and Muslim soldiers of the Old Khalsa Sikh Army193. The Muslims were won over by restoration of various mosques which were previously used by the Sikhs as powder magazines and stables.
Following was the ethnic composition of the troops stationed in Punjab194:-
a. Europeans - 10,326
b. Hindustanis - 35,900
c. Punjabis - 13,430
Note:- Hindustani troops had some 2,000 Punjabis while troops shown as Punjabis had some 25% Hindustanis.
The exact deployment of Native and European troops can be seen in the attached map. The British in Punjab were lucky in getting the telegraphic information sent by the telegraph operator at Delhi which was received in Punjab by both Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner and Montgomery the Financial Commissioner on 12th May 1857195. Decisiveness on part of the higher command saved the British in Punjab. The native regiments at Lahore i.e. 16 Native Infantry, 26 Native Infantry, 49 Native Infantry and 8 LC were disarmed on 13th May 1857 by HM 81 Foot which was stationed at Lahore. This was done in a totally unexpected manner since the sepoys were not aware of the Meerut outbreak or of the capture of Delhi by the sepoys196. Thus Lahore the capital of Punjab was now secure for the British. 59 Native Infantry at Amritsar was disarmed on 14th May by elements of 81 Foot who were sent to Amritsar from Lahore. The Corps of Guides stationed at Mardan was ordered to march to Delhi and it did so on 13th May 1857, just within one day of the receipt of information of loss of Delhi197.
The most critical area for the EEIC was the Peshawar valley which had some twelve sepoy regiments, four of these being from cavalry and the others from infantry. But here the British had three British regiments i.e. 27 Foot, 70 Foot and 87 Foot. Out of these however 27 Foot was ordered to march to Jhelum from its home station Nowshera in order to join the movable column which was in the process of formation for moving to Delhi. By evening of 13th May three of the sepoy regiments i.e. 39 Native Infantry, 55 Native Infantry and 64 Native Infantry were dispersed by being ordered into detachments to man various scattered frontier posts opposite the tribal area198.
On 22nd May all native regiments in Peshawar except 21 Native Infantry and 18 Irregular Cavalry were disarmed. The 55 Native Infantry at Mardan mutinied but was partly destroyed or dispersed by Nicholsons movable column which reached Mardan on 24th May. The sepoys who escaped were caught by the locals and sold as slaves199. The local tribesmen were yet to discover the sweet bliss of British rule!
In east Punjab i.e. east of Lahore the sepoys were more successful. At Ferozepur the 45 Native Infantry rebelled on 14th May200 and marched to Delhi. Here there was a British Regiment just like at Lahore and the Brigade Commander had been ordered to disarm the native regiments. Brigadier Innes was however indecisive and this allowed 45 Native Infantry to successfully rebel and March to Delhi. The 45 Native Infantry did so in a relaxed manner after plundering the cantonment and burning all the buildings201. On the next day luckily for the British, Brigadier Innes was a little more decisive. He disarmed the 57 Native Infantry 202! The fact was that the telegraph saved the British in Punjab just like breakdown of telegraphic contact between Meerut and Delhi led to loss of Delhi203.
Another factor which greatly helped the British in Punjab was geography. The country was divided by six rivers into six distinct compartments (Doabs), each between two rivers. No river had a bridge and all the ferries were effectively closed by 16th May 1857204
However indecisiveness has no substitute even if geography was so far in favour of the British. The sepoys were lucky that the EEIC Brigade Commander at Jallandhar, Brigadier Johnstone was another highly indecisive man. Thus presence of one British Regiment i.e. HM 8 Foot and presence of a very wide river i.e. Sutlej did not prevent three sepoy regiments i.e. 36 Native Infantry, 61 Native Infantry and 6 LC from rebelling and leisurely marching to Delhi from Jallandhar on 7th June 1857205. The three regiments picked up a fourth regiment 3 Native Infantry from Phillor206. The only man on the British side who tried to check these sepoys was a civilian, Mr. Ricketts the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana with some Sikh irregular and auxiliaries. Ricketts destroyed the bridge of boats spanning the Sutlej opposite Ludhiana but the sepoys proceeded three miles upstream and crossed the Sutlej through a ford. Ricketts auxiliaries could not oppose the sepoys and the sepoys proceeded to Delhi after looting and burning part of Ludhiana. We see a Brigadier who had the direct support of a British Regiment failing to do what was done at Lahore with exactly the same means available and a larger force of sepoys who were successfully disarmed. Ricketts despite being a civilian behaved far more resolutely than a Brigadier with a British infantry battalion207. Another very funny aspect of this whole affair was the fact that the actual sepoy plan had been to occupy Ludhiana and hold it as a strategic point with the two fold objective of barring British reinforcements from the Punjab in reaching Delhi and as a centre from which the Sutlej states could be influenced into joining the rebellion. Here one blunder on the sepoy part saved the British. The sepoys in the excitement and haste to leave Jallandhar keeping in view the presence of a British Regiment there took with them by mistake blank practice ammunition mistaking it for live ball ammunition208 !
There were two native infantry regiments and one artillery battery and no British troops at Jhelum.The British very cleverly sent one native infantry regiment ie the 39 NI to Dera Ismail Khan while the artillery battery was moved to Lahore and disarmed. The 14th NI which was left at Jhelum was further weakened by sending two companies to Rawalpindi under the pretext of acting as escort for government treasure209. A party of European troops of the 24th Foot was sent to disarm the 500 men of 14th NI on 7th July. The sepoys of the 14th on seeing the advancing Europeans rebelled. A severe firefight followed in which the British/Sikh force was repulsed with heavy casualties (44 killed and 109 wounded)210. The sepoy casualties were also very heavy ie 144 killed. The sepoys had no more ammunition since their unit magazine's ammunition had been removed by the Britishers. They therefore withdrew during the night along River Jhelum into the Kashmir State, many were caught or killed later and in the end about 40 out of the total 500 managed to escape211. The 39th Native Infantry was successfully disarmed at Dera Ismail Khan and Mianwali on 14th July with the help of loyal Pathan Muslim troops212. At no place did any local in Punjab or Frontier assist the rebels! The Sikhs had nothing in common with the largely Hindu majority Hindustani infantry regiments or the Hindustani/Ranghar Muslim majority cavalry while the Punjabi Muslims and Pathans were heavily under British debt for having liberated them from the 10 %, but qualitatively highly superior Sikh minority which was ruling them since 1799!
The 9 Light Cavalry at Sialkot rebelled on 9th July. Soon it was joined by 46 Native Infantry. These troops killed all the Europeans they could find, burned and looted the cantonment and proceeded to cross the River Ravi at Trimmu Ghat for marching onwards to Delhi213. They succeeded in crossing the Ravi at Trimmu Ghat ferry but were defeated and killed to a man by Nicholson's movable column consisting of HM 52 Foot and parts of 3rd and 6th Punjab Infantry on 12th July 1857. There was another rebellion of 26th Native Infantry at Lahore but this was immediately suppressed on 30th July214. The 10 Light Cavalry at Ferozepur which had been disarmed but not dismounted215 in June rebelled on 19th August and fled to Delhi216. There were isolated rebellions at Peshawar, Ambala, Layyah and Mianwali but these were suppressed.
The only ethnic Punjabi Muslim rebellion of any significance took place at Gugera. This was staged by the Kharals who rebelled in 16 September 1857 led by the indomitable Ahmad Khan Kharral of Jhamra village. The Kharrals were soon joined by Wattoos, Joyas, Kathias Fattianas, Taryana and Murdana Sials. The rebels managed to kill on 22nd September 1857 Mr. Berkley the Extra Assistant Commissioner of Gugera which was an excellent achievement keeping in view the fact that the Punjabi Muslim score in killing British officials has been one of the lowest in Indo-Pak Sub-Continent! The rebels sacked Kamalia. These rebels for some time controlled the Kamalia, Harrapa and Gugera areas but were not supported by other tribes and were thus suppressed by 4th November 1857217. The Kharrals and other pastoral tribes of Sahiwal and Faisalabad districts thus exhibited remarkable political awareness despite not having been educated at Islamia College, Lahore or at MAO College Aligarh! The notable collaborators among the locals of Sahiwal as far as the Muslims were concerned were the following218 :-
a. Jiva Khan Lambardar - An Arain by cast.
b. Sardar Shah - a Syed from Khunda in Sahiwal District.
c. Murad Shah of Village Daula Bala.
d. Gulab Ali Chishti of Tibbi. These were the Chishti Pirs.
The other tribes who resisted the British were Dhunds of Murree218. But since the bulk of the Punjabi population both Sikh Muslim and Pathan (NWFP then was part of Punjab) supported the EEIC Punjab remained a solidly British area. Why this happened will be discussed in the last portion of this work.
BENARES DIVISION AND BIHAR
The major unit dispositions in Benares division and Bihar were as follows:-
(1) 25 NI
(2) 37 NI
(3) 13 Irregular Cavalry
(4) Ludhiana Regiment (Sikhs)
c. Ghazipur220. 65 NI.
(1) 47 NI
(2) Ferozepur Regiment (Brasyer's Sikhs)-(Sent to Allahabad in June for securing The Fort/Arsenal)
e. Segowlee. 12 Irregular Cavalry 222 (The Nepal Border)
(1) 7 NI
(2) 8 NI
(3) 40 NI
(4) HM 10th Foot
g. Orissa224:-32 NI
The 25 Native Infantry, 37 Native Infantry and 13 Irregular Cavalry were successfully disarmed at Benares by European troops on their way from Calcutta to Allahabad on 5th June 1857225. During the disarming parade the Ludhiana Sikh regiment mistakenly thought that the British wanted to disarm them also and retaliated as a result of which the British used artillery grapeshot fire against the native regiments and many sepoys died. As a result these Sikhs who were from the most pro-British community rebelled and their detachment at Jaunpur followed suit 226. The 65 Native at Ghazipur was disarmed successfully but not disbanded and survived the rebellion227.
The 47 Native Infantry at Mirzapur was a strange regiment. Their Commanding Officer courtmartialled and hanged some troops under the suspicion established from their letters which he had censured that they were about to rebel. The regiment however stayed calm. Following this incident the Commanding Officer sent the greater part of the Regiment on Furlough leave. Once they came back the whole regiment volunteered for service in China! (There was a British expedition in China fighting one of the Opium Wars at this time). This happened on 9th September 1857. Thus, the 47 Native Infantry was sent to China where it participated in the Second Opium War of 1858-60228. The regiment was renumbered as the 7th Bengal Native Infantry in the post-1858 reorganization230. In 1892-93 it became an all Rajput Regiment 230a and was redesignated as 3/7 Rajput in 1922 231!
The three regiments at Dinapur i.e. 7th Native Infantry, 8th Native Infantry and 40 Native Infantry rebelled on 25th July 1857232 and the indomitable 82-year-old Hindu Rajput Talukdar Kanwar Singh of Jagdispur became their leader233. Under his leadership the three regiments attacked the British garrison at Arrah but were repulsed. Now Kanwar Singh wanted to march to Lucknow but since the Ganges River was a major obstacle and it was tactically dangerous to cross it by boat Kanwar Singh marched towards Banda in Central India234. From here he went to Kalpi and crossed the Jamna into the Doab. He reached Lucknow after crossing the Ganges north of Cawnpore. The rebels at Lucknow entrusted him to look after Azamgarh. Kanwar Singh marched to Azamgarh and died in 1858 as a result of wounds received in a battle235. His brother Ammar Singh continued his struggle till late 1858. The 12th Irregular Cavalry at Segowlee on the Nepal border rebelled in June 1857 and joined the rebels at Lucknow after a 300-mile march. The 32 Native Infantry in Orissa also rebelled in June 1857 and joined the rebels at Banda in Central India. Parts of this regiment however stayed loyal and survived the rebellion236.