THE INDIAN MUTINY
Ensign 8 July 1836; Lieutenant 9 March 1838; Captain 9 June 1848; Captain HM 93rd Regt. 18 June 1852; Brevet Major 24 March 1858; Major 16 April 1858; Retired on 24 March 1858
Served in the Eastern Campaign (the Crimea) 1854-55 with the 93rd Highlanders, including the battles of Alma, and Balaclava, expedition to the see of Azoff and capture of Kertch and Yenilkale. Afterwards present at the siege and fall of Sebastopol and assaults of the 18th June and 8th September. Wounded on the trenches of the 3rd August 1855 (medal and Three Clasps, Knight of the Legion of Honour and the Turkish Crimea medal.
In India during the Mutiny Major Cornwall was present at the Battle of Kudjwa (Brevet of Major, having commanded party of the 93rd engaged), Relief of Lucknow by Lord Clyde (commanded party which took the Barracks), Battle of Cawnpore on 4th December 1857 (Severely Wounded), Oude campaign (medal and clasp).
The 32nd was designated a Light Infantry Regiment in 1858 to honour its defence of Lucknow during the Indian mutiny.
Acting on dubious information, that an enemy force of 50 cavalry 500 infantry with one gun, Sir Henry Lawrence assembled an expedition consisting of: 300 of the 32nd Light Infantry, 170 Native Infantry, 36 Volunteer Horse, 84 Oude Irregular Cavalry and eleven guns. Instead of handing command to Colonel Inglis of the 32nd, Lawrence decided to lead the force himself. Lawrence was not the man to command, although initially a soldier, he’d spent too much time as an administrator; his soldiering had been done as a subaltern not a field officer. The 32nd were without food and there were insufficient water carriers. No reconnaissance had been done and unexpectedly the Lucknow force blundered into the mutineers at the small village of Chinhut. Here, across the road with a lake on their left flank were 800 cavalry, 5,500 infantry and artillery with 15 guns. Outnumbered by more than ten to one, the native gunners and cavalry deserted, the 32nd who was holding a nearby village was ejected by the enemy and largely because of the heat of the day and lack of food and water failed to retake it. The rebel commander – Barhat Ahmad – completely out manoeuvred Lawrence, his Horse Artillery, which was on both, flanks threatening to encircle the British whilst his cavalry held the bridge at their rear.
The Volunteer Cavalry charged the bridge and broke through followed by the remnants of Lawrence’s force. Handing over command, somewhat too late, to Colonel Inglis, Lawrence, realising that defeat could trigger an immediate assault on the Residency rode to warn them.
MISS WHEELER DEFENDING HERSELF AGAINST THE SEPOYS AT CAWNPORE.
This engraving from 1858 depicts a true historical event where an Englishwoman ended up having to defend herself, killing attacking mutineers. In the engraving she is shooting one of them in the chest with a pistol. Two others lie shot on the floor and a fourth one is breaking through a wall.
"Jessie's Dream" (The Relief of Lucknow), 1858 By Frederick Goodall (1822-1904)
Safely back in the Residency, Lawrence wrote to Havelock: ‘This morning we went out to Chinhut to meet the enemy, and were defeated, and lost five guns through the misconduct of our native artillery, many of whom deserted. The enemy has followed us up, and we have been besieged for four hours, and shall probably tonight be surrounded. The enemy are very bold, some Europeans very low. I look on our position now as ten times as bad as it was yesterday; indeed it is very critical. We shall have to abandon much supplies and to blow up much powder. Unless we are relieved quickly, say in fifteen or twenty days, we shall hardly be able to maintain our position. We lost three officers killed this morning and several wounded."
H.M. 32nd Foot
To commemorate the gallant part taken by H.M. 32nd Foot
in the herioc defence of The Residency in 1857
Also to the memory of the Officers
Non-commissioned officers, men, women and children
of the Regiment who perished here and at Cawnpore
Historians like J.A.B. Palmer and John Kaye trace the origins of the soldiers' rebellion at Meerut, in which South Asian soldiers rose up against their colonial officers, to the Lee-Enfield Rifle. It was developed at the Enfield arsenal by James P. Lee and fired a .303 caliber ammunition that had to manually loaded before firing. Loading involved biting the end of the cartridge, which was greased in pig fat and beef tallow. This presented a problem for native soldiers, as pig fat is a haraam, or forbidden, substance to Muslims, and beef fat is, likewise, deemed inauspicious for certain Hindus. Thus, the revolt occurred as a reaction to this particular intrusion into Hindu and Muslim culture, and then caught on as a national rebellion. Palmer dramatically relates this discovery, according to Captain Wright, commanding the Rifle Instruction Depot:
Somewhere about the end of the third week in January 1857, a khalasi, that is to say a labourer, accosted a high Brahmin sepoy and asked for a drink of water from his lotah (water-pot). The Brahmin refused on the score of caste. The khalasi then said, "You will soon lose your caste, as ere long you will have to bite catridges covered with the fat of pigs and cows," or, it is added, "words to that effect."
Furthermore, historians taking similar positions argue that British legislation that interfered with traditional Hindu or Muslim religious practices were a source of antagonism. Palmer and Kaye also argue throughout their respective work that the prohibition practices such as saathi (often transliterated "sati"), or the ritual suicide of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres, became a source of outrage. In other words, the growing intrusion of western culture became the impetus for rebellious soldiers, fearful that their culture was being annihilated.
The long-belabored significance of the Lee-Enfield cartridge is challenged by the work of historians like Marx, Collier, Majumdar, Chaudhuri, and Malleson (see citations below). These historians argue that the actions of soldiers at Meerut was the "last straw" for South Asians who had been victims of British cultural and class based oppression and antagonism, and discard the notion that religion played an overwhelmingly vital role in fomenting revolt. For them, the root causes of the insurgency cannot be traced to a single, well-defined set of events and causes, but rather stemmed from an on-going set of conflicts.
Albumen silver print 20.4 x 29.5 cm.
According to Francis Cornwallis Maude, a British officer who observed the attack on the Mess House, Campbell "treated this building to a bombardment of 10 hours after it had been abandoned by its defenders." The white marks in the photograph are the repairs later made by the rebels. The rows of embrasures in the garden wall were also added by the rebels prior to the final capture of the city in March 1858.
On 30 June 1857 during the retreat from Chinhut, India Lieutenant Cubitt saved the lives of three men of the 32nd Regiment at the risk of his own.
St. Peter's Churchyard, Frimley, Surrey, England. Headstone.
The Residency, Taken in Front, and Showing the Room in Which Sir Henry Lawrence was Killed, Lucknow.
Albumen silver print 23.6 x 28.7 cm.
The Black Watch in Egypt and the Sudan.
Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow.
Located on the outskirts of Lucknow, it was the scene of intense fighting in November, 1857. Following the action, the British dead were buried in a deep trench but the Indian corpses were left to rot. Later, the city had to be evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: "A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up." A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato's presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858
Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny, Albumen silver print 26.2 x 29.8 cm. The image was taken by Felice Beato, an Italian by birth, who visited India during the period of the Indian Mutiny or First War of Indian Independence; he may have been and was commissioned by the War Office in London to make documentary photographs showing the damage to the buildings in Lucknow following the two sieges. It is known that he was in Lucknow in March and April of 1858 within a few weeks of the capture of that city by British forces under Sir Colin Campbell. His equipment was a large box camera using 10" x 12" plates which needed a long exposure, and he made over 60 photographs of places in the city connected with the military events. Beato also visited Delhi, Cawnpore and other 'Mutiny' sites where he took photographs.
CHARGE OF THE HIGHLANDER AT CAWNPORE. PART OF GEN. HAVELOCK'S COLUMN.
British sergeant-major, Indian Mutiny
It was Cawnpore that came to symbolize the horror of the mutiny for the British and without doubt what transpired there in the summer of 1857 was a major factor in the thirst for vengeance which seemed to drive the British troops as they fought to reverse the mutineers initial successes. Till the end of the mutiny, British troops going forward with the bayonet shouted "Cawnpore! Cawnpore!" as their warcry and punishments meted out to captured mutineers were executed with Cawnpore in mind.
Cawnpore was a major crossing point of the Ganges and an important junction where the Grand Trunk Road and the road from Jhansi to Lucknow crossed. In 1857 it was garrisoned by four regiments of native infantry and a European battery of artillery and was commanded by General Sir Hugh Wheeler. Wheeler had served in India most of his life, had an Indian wife and a gross overconfidence in the loyalty of the sepoys under his command. When the news of Meerut reached Cawnpore nothing happened and Wheeler felt it inappropriate to disarm his sepoys. His trust in his men would surely be returned in kind and, after all, hadn't he always been stern but fair with them? For a week life continued as normal but the British and Indians started to look apprehensively at each other. Wheeler was not so blind that he neglected to take any precautions whatsoever and outside the city around a complex of two barracks he built a fortified position as a possible refuge for the European community in the eventuality that trouble should in fact break out. He didn't really think it would be needed though and consequently didn't fortify it very strongly or provision it very thoroughly.
It was then that Nana Sahib, the dispossessed heir to the throne of the Mahrattas, appeared. Years before the British had abolished the title of Peshwa, the last of the great Hindu dynasties and the rulers of the now defunct Mahratta confederacy. Nana Sahib, carrying the Peshwa bloodline, was simply the Maharajah of Bithur, a dusty little statelet not far from Cawnpore. He had been refused a pension by the British and if this had embittered him he took pains not to show it. He came to Cawnpore with his personal guard and offered Wheeler his assisstance. Wheeler declined Nana Sahib's offer to take the English ladies under his protection and instead suggested that Nana Sahib add his men to the guard on Cawnpore's treasury. This he promptly did. In early June Wheeler's informants indicated that a rising was in danger of breaking out at any minute and all the Europeans made for the entrenchment. Almost simultaneously the sepoys rose, released the convicts in the town jail, brushed past Nana Sahib's men, looted the treasury and started down the road to Delhi. Not far from Cawnpore they turned round and came back and soon Nana Sahib was leading them. We do not know if he had been in league with the sepoys from the start or if he simply took an opportunistic chance of recovering his family's past power. His choice, however, would ensure him pride of place in the Victorians' rogues' gallery.
By June 25th, the ammunition was almost gone and starvation confronted the garrison. The Nana offered terms of surrender. A written treaty was drafted and accepted by which the British were to surrender their guns and treasure and then march out of the entrenchment with with their hand arms and 60 rounds of ammunition each. The Nana was to provide boats to transport the women, children and the sick. On June 27th what remained of the garrison marched out towards the landing-stage. By 9a.m. All were embarked in large clumsy vessels. Suddenly, and without warning a shot was heard. Fearful of treachery, and with nerves shattered by three weeks of siege, the British immediately opened fire. The Nana’s men replied with grapeshot and ball and the little fleet was soon ablaze. Of those who survived this last battle the men, 60 in number were killed by the Nana’s troops. Women and children were first imprisoned in a house but on July 15th news reached Cawnpore that the British were approaching the city. Nana Sahib ordered all remaining prisoners to be killed. Towards evening five British men, fugitives from elsewhere were taken out and shot, then a party of sepoys was detailed to execute the 210 women and children. Unable to bring themselves to commit such cold-blooded murder the sepoys fired high. Butchers were then summoned from the bazaar and together with the Nana’s troops went in to finish the job with knives. It was not efficiently done. A few were still alive in the morning among them children. The victims were dragged out and thrown down a nearby well. Some sepoys stated that children, still alive were killed first, others that they were tossed still alive into the well. It was this atrocity above all which inflamed British feelings when the relief forces under General Havelock arrived to begin the assault two days later. When Havelock’s forces entered the town on December 17th they still hoped to being relief to the women and children imprisoned there instead they found a slaughterhouse. The British left the house untouched and filled in the well only partially so that they could stand as terrible reminders to new troops from England that their duty must be sustained by a desire for revenge. Revenge was not confined to the soldiers. At Cawnpore, Brigidier-General James Neill Issued an order on July 25th that every captured rebel whether proved guilty or not, “will be taken down to the house and made to clean up a small portion of the bloodstains, the task to be made as revolting to his feelings as possible, after which the culprit will be immediately hanged”.
Unlike Lucknow, the siege of Cawnpore was not a protracted affair. It lasted just over three weeks, but it took place in June when the Indian sun is at its most merciless. The entrenchment had almost no shade and contained only one serviceable well. This, the only source of water was in an extremely exposed position, covered by enemy fire. Many men died trying to get water. Inside the position were about a thousand Britons, including 300 women and children. Ammunition, at least, was plentiful but the food supply was dangerously small. The mutineers never actually took the place by storm though they made a few half-hearted attacks. They could, however, cover almost every inch of the entrenchment with their muskets and kept up a constant stream of fire into the British position. The British could get no rest and their movement was severely restricted. Still they held on, hoping for relief from Lucknow to the north-east or Allahabad downstream on the Ganges. They waited in vain and every day the number of dead and wounded increased. Some went mad from the heat or the tortures of thirst and when Wheeler's son was killed by a roundshot, the general seemed to give up all hope. On June the 25th Nana Sahib sent a message to Wheeler offering safe conduct to the Ganges for all inside the entrenchment and boats to take them down to Allahabad. The negotiations took place outside the entrenchment on the 27th and Wheeler had little choice but to accept. Though the British in their colonial wars sometimes did fight to the last man, it was usually when they were overrun and had no choice. The women and children, moreover, must have weighed heavily on Wheeler's mind. One last concession he won, however; the British troops would be allowed to take their sidearms and sixty rounds apiece.
The Massacre Ghat
Nana Sahib sent some elephants and palanquins to assist the British in their ignominious withdrawal. They were followed by a crowd of sepoys and the ubiquitous sightseers that attend any event in India. At the ghat, the steps leading down to the water where Hindus take their ritual baths, a fleet of country boats awaited. Painfully the British loaded the women, children and wounded into the wooden craft. The last man aboard was a Major Vibart, helped up solicitously by the sepoys formely under his command. Barely had his feet touched the deck when things started to go wrong. The Indian boatmen, instead of pushing-off, jumped overboard and made for the shore. The British opened fire on them. Perhaps it was all a terrible mistake, but from prepared positions on the riverbanks the sepoys showered the boats with a storm of grapeshot and musketry. Women screamed, the boats caught fire, the river turned red and corpses floated downstream. Indian cavalry troopers rode into the shallows and slashed at the wounded with their sabres. Only one boat managed to extricate itself and carrying a few survivors drifted away. Days later, after a nightmarish journey, they came across a British outpost upstream from Allahabad and the only four men to escape from Cawnpore found safety.
The surviving men back at what later became known as the 'Massacre Ghat' were immediately put to the sword. The women and children were led away to the aptly named Bibi-Ghar ( the house of the women) a former residence of a British officer's Indian mistress. On July 15th, a group of men, including the town butchers, entered the Bibi-Ghar armed with knives and hatchets and hacked all the women and children to pieces. Their bodies were thrown down a well.
When news of the slaughter at the Bibi-Ghar reached Britain, it sent a shiver of horror through the nation. In Victorian Britain women and children had achieved an elevated status and it was a widely held belief that they had a right to special protection. It was during the reign of Victoria that the idea of 'women and children first' in a shipwreck became the norm and parliamentary legislation had ensured that women and children were protected from the worst abuses of the factory system. The seeming treachery of Nana Sahib at the massacre ghat was nought when measured against the unspeakable atrocities of the Bibi-Ghar. Vengeance was required and even more stern-faced than the Old Testament judges of the Bible, the British wanted more than just an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. When the British later pushed up the valley of the Ganges and Cawnpore once more fell into their hands, they took their sepoy prisoners to the Bibi-Ghar and forced them to lick the blood-encrusted floors clean. Then they were taken out and hanged. Regiments newly arrived from Britain were routed through Cawnpore and shown round the site of the massacre. If it was intended to stiffen the troops resolve and harden their hearts against the mutineers it was probably unnecessary. Their hearts were hard enough already.
[Bahadur Shah Zafar]
Nana Sahib disappeared to some unknown fate and despite great efforts the British never captured him. As late as the end of the 19th century reports would come in that some zealous subaltern in some remote corner of India had arrested him. They were all cases of mistaken identity though and his ultimate end remains a mystery.
March 20, 1858
HUMAYOUN'S TOMB, DELHI
"The following interesting particulars respecting the capture of the King of Delhi [Bahadur Shah Zafar], at Humayoun's Tomb, by Captain Hodson, are extracted from a letter which recently appeared in the columns of the leading journal [the London Times]. It is written by one intimately acquainted with all his proceedings during the siege, who had the account at the time from himself and other eye-witnesses:-
"I have before explained to you what our brother's (Capt. Hodson's) position officially was - viz., that he was appointed Assistant Quarter-master General and Intelligence Officer in the Commander-in-Chief's own Staff. His reports were to be made to him direct, without the intervention of the Quartermaster-General, or any other person.
"For this appointment, which was then a most responsible one, as intelligence of the enemy's movements and intentions were of the utmost importance, his long acquaintance with Sikhs and Afghans, and his having been similarly employed in the Punjab war, had peculiarly fitted him. Of course, there were always plenty of traitors in the enemy's camp ready to sell their own fathers for gain, or to avoid punishment, and he was invested with full power to promise reward or punishment, in proportion to the deserts of those who assisted him.
"On our taking posession of the city gate reports came in that thousands of the enemy were evacuating the city by other gates, and that the King, also, had left his palace. We fought our way inch by inch to the palace walls, and then found truly enough that its vast arena was void. The very day after we took posession of the palace (the 20th) Captain Hodson received information that the King and his family had gone with a large force out of the Ajmere-gate to the Kootub. He immediately reported this to the general commanding, and asked whether he did not intend to send a detachment in pursuit, as with the King at liberty and heading so large a force our victory was next to useless, and we might be besieged instead of being besiegers. General Wilson replied that he could not spare a single European. He then volunteered to lead a party of the Irregulars; but this offer was also refused, though backed by Neville Chamberlain.
"During this time messengers were coming in constantly, and among the rest one from Zeenat Mahal (the favourite Begum), with her offer to use her influence with the King to surrender on certain conditions. These conditions were at first ludicrous enough - viz., that the King and the whole of the males of his family should be restored to this palace and honours; that not only should his pension be continued, but the arrears since May be paid up, with several other equally modest demands. I need not say that these were treated with contemptuous denial. Negotiations, however, were vigorously carried on, and care was taken to spread reports of advance in force to the Kootub. Every report as it came in was taken to General Wilson, who at last gave orders to Captain Hodson to promise the King's life and freedom from personal indignity, and make what other terms he could. Captain Hodson then started with only fifty of his own men for Humayoun's Tomb, three miles from the Kootub, where the King had come during the day. The risk was such as no one can judge of who has not seen the road, amid the old ruins scattered about of what was once the real city of Delhi.
"He concealed himself and men in some old buildings close by the gateway of the Tomb, and sent in his two emissaries to Zeenat Mahal with the ultimatum - the King's life and that of her son and father (the latter has since died). After two hours passed by Captain Hodson in most trying suspense, such as (he says) he never spent before, while waiting the decision, his emissaries (one an old favourite of poor Sir Henry Lawrence) came out with the last offer - that the King would deliver himself to Captain Hodson only, and on condition that he repeated with his own lips the promise of the Government for his safety.
"Captain Hodson then went out into the middle of the road in front of the gateway, and said that the was ready to receive his captives and renew his promise.
"You may picture yourself the scene before that magnificent gateway, with the milk-white domes of the tomb towering up from within, one white man among a host of natives, yet determined to secure his prisoner or perish in the attempt.
"Soon a procession began to come slowly out, first Zeenat Mahal, on one of the close native conveyances used for women. Her name was announced as she passed by the Moulvie. Then came the King in a palkee, on which Capt. Hodson rode forwarded and demanded his arms. Before giving them up, the King in asked whether he was 'Hodson Bahadoor,' and if he would repeat the promise made by the herald? Captain Hodson answered that he would, and repeated that the Government had been graciously pleased to promise him his life, and that of Zeenat Mahal's son, on condition of his yielding himself prisoner quietly, adding very emphatically, that if any attempt was made at a rescue he would shoot the King on the spot like a dog.
"The old man then gave up his arms, which Capt. Hodson handed to his orderly, still keeping his own sword drawn in his hand. The same ceremony was then gone through with the boy (Jumma Bukh), and the march towards the city began, the longest five miles, as Captain Hodson said, that he ever rode, for, of course, the palkees only went at foot pace, with his handful of men around them, followed by thousands, any one of whom could have shot him down in a moment.
"His orderly told me that it was wonderful to see the influence which his calm and undaunted look had on the crowd. They seemed perfectly paralyzed at the fact of one white man (for they thought nothing of his 50 black sowars) carrying off their King alone. Gradually as they approached the city the crowd slunk away, and very few followed up to the Lahore-gate. Then Captain H. rode on a few paces and ordered the gate to be opened. The officer on duty asked simply as he passed what he had got in his palkees. 'Only the King of Delhi' was the answer; on which the officer's enthusiastic exclamation was more emphatic than becomes ears polite. The guard were for turning out to greet him with a cheer, and could only be repressed on being told that the King would take the honour to himself. They passed up that magnificent deserted street to the palace gate, where Captain Hodson met the civil officer (Mr. Sanders), and formally delivered over his royal prisoners to him. His remark was amusing 'By Jove, Hodson, they ought to make you commander-in-chief for this.'
"On proceeding to the General's quarters to report his successful return, and hand over the Royal arms, he was received with characteristic speech, "Well, I am glad that you have got him, but I never expected to see either him or you again!" while the other officers in the room were loud in their congratulations and applause. He was requested to select for himself from the royal arms what he chose, and has therefore two magnificent swords, one with the name of 'Nadir Shah' and the other the seal of Jehan Guire [Mughal Emperor Jehanghir] engraved upon it, which he intends to present to the Queen.
"On the following day, as you already know, he captured three of the Princes; but of this more hereafter. I am anxious now that you should fully understand that your brother was bound by orders from the General to spare the King's life, much against his own will; that the capture alone was on his own risk and responsibility, and not the pledge.
"Mr. George H. Hodson (the brother of Captain Hodson), who sends the above letter to the Times, says: - "I have also letters flatly contradicting the report which has circulated, that the King was allowed to retain his retinue and his own apartments in the Palace, and giving an account of a visit to him in his place of confinement. I will endeavor to send you this on another occasion."
The Glory of God
In Memory of
more than a thousand
Who met their deaths hard by,
between 6th June & 15th July
are placed in this the
Major Genl. Sir H. Wheeler K.C.B.
Lady Wheeler & daughters
Lieut C.R. Wheeler 1st N.I. A.D.C.
Lieut Col. E. Wiggens 52nd N.I. D.J.A.G.
Major W. Lindsay A.A.G.
Mrs Lindsay & Daughters
Ensign C. and Mrs Lindsay
Brigadier General Jack C.B.
Capt Sir C. Parker 74th N.I. Cant. Magistr.
Capt Williamson 71st N.I. D.A.C.G.
Mrs Williamson & Child.
The seeds of unrest:
The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, who had invested their private savings in the Company's own funds? While they combated the French revolution under the pretext of defending "our holy religion," did they not forbid, at the same time, Christianity to be propagated in India, and did they not, in order to make money out of the pilgrims streaming to the temples of Orissa and Bengal, take up the trade in the murder and prostitution perpetrated in the temple of the Juggernaut? These are the men of "Property, Order, Family, and Religion."
-Karl Marx, The New-York Daily Tribune. 22 July, 1853.