The mutiny had become a revolt; the sepoys were on the way to Delhi to proclaim the old Mogul as sovereign of Hindustan.
Continuing The Sepoy Mutiny,
our selection from Short History of India and the Frontier States of Afghanistan, Nipal, and Burma by J. Talboys Wheeler published in 1884. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Sepoy Mutiny.
Meanwhile there were fatal delays in turning out the Europeans. The Rifles were paraded for church, and time was lost in getting arms and serving out ball cartridges. The Carabineers were absurdly put through a roll-call, and then lost their way among the shops and gardens. Meanwhile European officers were being butchered by the infuriated sepoys. Men and women were fired at or sabered while hurrying back in a panic from church. Flaming houses and crashing timbers were filling all hearts with terror, and the shades of evening were falling upon the general havoc and turmoil, when the Europeans reached the native lines and found that the sepoys had gone, no one knew whither.
The truth was soon told. The mutiny had become a revolt; the sepoys were on the way to Delhi to proclaim the old Mogul as sovereign of Hindustan; and there was no Gillespie to gallop after them and crush the revolt at its outset, as had been done at Vellore half a century before. One thing, however, was done. There were no European regiments at Delhi; nothing but three regiments of sepoy infantry and a battery of native artillery. The station was commanded by Brigadier Graves; and there were no Europeans under his orders excepting the officers and sergeants attached to the three native corps. Accordingly telegrams were sent to Brigadier Graves to tell him that the mutineers were on their way to Delhi.
Monday at Delhi was worse than the Sunday at Meerut. The British cantonment was situated on a rising ground about two miles from the city, which was known as the “Ridge.” The great magazine, containing immense stores of ammunition, was situated in the heart of the city. One of the three sepoy regiments was on duty in the city; the other two remained in the cantonment on the Ridge.
The approach to Delhi from Meerut was defended by the little river Hindun, which was spanned by a small bridge. It was proposed to procure two cannon from the magazine and place them on the bridge; but before this could be done the rebel cavalry from Meerut were seen crossing the river, and were subsequently followed by the rebel infantry. The magazine remained in charge of Lieutenant Willoughby of the Bengal Artillery. He was associated with two other officers and six conductors and sergeants; the rest of the establishment was composed entirely of natives.
Brigadier Graves did his best to protect the city and cantonment until the arrival of the expected Europeans from Meerut. Indeed, throughout the morning and greater part of the afternoon everyone in Delhi was expecting the arrival of the Europeans. Brigadier Graves ordered all the non-military residents, including women and children, to repair to Flagstaff Tower — a round building of solid brickwork at some distance from the city. Late detachments of sepoys were sent from the Ridge to the Cashmere gate, under the command of their European officers, to help the sepoys on duty to maintain order in the city.
Presently the rebel troops from Meerut came up, accompanied by the insurgent rabble of Delhi. The English officers prepared to charge them, and gave the order to fire, but some of the sepoys refused to obey or only fired into the air. The English officers held on, expecting the European soldiers from Meerut. The sepoys hesitated to join the rebels, out of dread of the coming Europeans. At last the Delhi sepoys threw in their lot with the rebels and shot down their own officers. The revolt spread throughout the whole city; and the suspense of the English on the Ridge and at Flagstaff Tower began to give way to the agony of despair.
Suddenly, at four o’clock in the afternoon, a column of white smoke arose from the city, and an explosion was heard far and wide. Willoughby and his eight associates had held out to the last, waiting and hoping for the coming of the Europeans. They had closed and barricaded the gates of the magazine; and they had posted six-pounders at the gates, loaded with double charges of grape, and laid a train to the powder-magazine. Messengers came in the name of Bahadur Shah to demand the surrender of the magazine, but no answer was returned. The enemy approached and raised ladders against the walls; while the native establishment escaped over some sheds and joined the rebels. At this crisis, the guns opened fire. Round after round of grape made fearful havoc on the mass of humanity that was heaving and surging round the gates. At last the ammunition was exhausted. No one could leave the guns to bring up more shot. The mutineers were pouring in on all sides. Lieutenant Willoughby gave the signal. Conductor Scully fired the train; and with one tremendous upheaval the magazine was blown into the air, together with fifteen hundred rebels. Not one of the gallant nine had expected to escape. Willoughby and three others got away, scorched, maimed, bruised, and nearly insensible; but Scully and his comrades were never seen again. Willoughby died of his injuries six weeks afterward, while India and Europe were ringing with his name.
Still more terrible and treacherous were the tragedies enacted at Cawnpore, a city situated on the Ganges about fifty-five miles to the southwest of Lucknow. Cawnpore had been in the possession of the English ever since the beginning of the century, and for many years was one of the most important military stations in India; but the extension of the British Empire over the Punjab had diminished the importance of Cawnpore; and the last European regiment quartered there had been removed to the northwest at the close of the previous year.
In May, 1857, there were four native regiments at Cawnpore, numbering thirty-five hundred sepoys. There were no Europeans whatever, excepting the regimental officers and sixty-one artillerymen. To these were added small detachments of European soldiers, which had been sent in the hour of peril from Lucknow and Benares during the month of May.
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