Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

than to a Hindoo; for swineflesh is abominable to the one, and the cow a sacred animal to the other.
Whoever devised this falsehood intended to imply a subtle intention on the part of England to overthrow

the native religions, which it was hoped the maddened soldiery would rise to resist. The mischief worked

as was desired. In vain the obnoxious cartridges were withdrawn from use; in vain the Governor-General

issued a proclamation warning the army of Bengal against the falsehoods that were being circulated.

Mysterious signals, little cakes of unleavened bread called chupatties, were being distributed, as

the spring of 1857 went on, throughout the native villages under British rule, doing the office of the

Fiery Cross
among the Scotch Highlanders of an earlier day; and in May the great Mutiny broke out.

Some of the Bengal cavalry at Meerut had been imprisoned for refusing to use their cartridges; their
comrades rose in rebellion, fired on their officers, released the prisoners, and murdered some Europeans.

The British troops rallied and repulsed the mutineers, who fled to Delhi, unhappily reached it in safety,

and required and obtained the protection of the feeble old King, the last of the Moguls, there residing.

Him they proclaimed their Emperor, and avowed the intention of restoring his dynasty to its ancient

supremacy. The native troops in the city and its environs at once prepared to join them; and thus from a

mere mutiny, such as had occurred once and again before, the rising assumed the character of a vast

revolutionary war. For a moment it seemed that our hard-won supremacy in the East was disappearing in

a sea of blood. The foe were numerous, fanatical, and ruthless; we ourselves had trained and disciplined

them for war; the sympathies of their countrymen were very largely with them. Yet, with incredible

effort and heroism more than mortal, the small and scattered forces of England again snatched the

mastery from the hands of the overwhelming numbers arrayed against them.

One name has obtained an immortality of infamy in connection with this struggle - that of the Nana
Sahib, who by his hideous treachery at Cawnpore took revenge on confiding Englishmen and women for

certain wrongs inflicted on him in regard to the inheritance of his adopted father by the last

Governor-General. But many other names have been crowned with deathless honour, the just reward of

unsurpassed achievement, of supreme fidelity and valour, at a crisis under which feeble natures would

have fainted and fallen. Of these are Lord Canning himself, the noble brothers John and Henry

Lawrence, the Generals Havelock, Outram, and Campbell, and others whom space forbids us even to

name.

The Governor-General remained calm, resolute, and intrepid amidst the panic and the rage which shook
Calcutta when the first appalling news of the Mutiny broke upon it. He disdained the cruel counsels of

fear, and steadily refused to confound the innocent with the guilty among the natives; but he knew where

to strike, and when, and how. On his own responsibility he stayed the British troops on their way to the

scene of war in China, and made them serve the graver, more immediate need of India, doing it with the

concurrence of Lord Elgin, the envoy responsible for the Chinese business; and he poured his forces on

Delhi, the heart of the insurrection, resolving to make an end of it there before ever reinforcement direct

from England could come. After a difficult and terrible siege, the place was carried by storm on

September 20th, 1857 - an achievement that cost many noble lives, and chief among them that of the

gallant Nicholson, a soldier whose mind and character seem to have made on all who knew him an

impression as of supernatural grandeur.

Five days later General Havelock and his little band of heroes - some one thousand Englishmen who had
marched with him from Allahabad, recaptured by Neill for England, and on to ghastly Cawnpore -

arrived at Lucknow, and relieved the slender British force which since May had been holding the

Residency against the fierce and ever-renewed assaults of the thousands of rebels who poured themselves

 

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