Make it a point to do something every day that you don't want to do.
This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
It seems to be settled, now, that among the many causes from which the
Great Mutiny sprang, the main one was the annexation of the kingdom of
Oudh by the East India Company--characterized by Sir Henry Lawrence as
"the most unrighteous act that was ever committed." In the spring of
1857, a mutinous spirit was observable in many of the native garrisons,
and it grew day by day and spread wider and wider. The younger military
men saw something very serious in it, and would have liked to take hold
of it vigorously and stamp it out promptly; but they were not in
authority. Old-men were in the high places of the army--men who should
have been retired long before, because of their great age--and they
regarded the matter as a thing of no consequence. They loved their
native soldiers, and would not believe that anything could move them to
revolt. Everywhere these obstinate veterans listened serenely to the
rumbling of the volcanoes under them, and said it was nothing.
And so the propagators of mutiny had everything their own way. They
moved from camp to camp undisturbed, and painted to the native soldier
the wrongs his people were suffering at the hands of the English, and
made his heart burn for revenge. They were able to point to two facts of
formidable value as backers of their persuasions: In Clive's day, native
armies were incoherent mobs, and without effective arms; therefore, they
were weak against Clive's organized handful of well-armed men, but the
thing was the other way, now. The British forces were native; they had
been trained by the British, organized by the British, armed by the
British, all the power was in their hands--they were a club made by
British hands to beat out British brains with. There was nothing to
oppose their mass, nothing but a few weak battalions of British soldiers
scattered about India, a force not worth speaking of. This argument,
taken alone, might not have succeeded, for the bravest and best Indian
troops had a wholesome dread of the white soldier, whether he was weak or
strong; but the agitators backed it with their second and best point
prophecy--a prophecy a hundred years old. The Indian is open to prophecy
at all times; argument may fail to convince him, but not prophecy. There
was a prophecy that a hundred years from the year of that battle of
Clive's which founded the British Indian Empire, the British power would
be overthrown and swept away by the natives.
The Mutiny broke out at Meerut on the 10th of May, 1857, and fired a
train of tremendous historical explosions. Nana Sahib's massacre of the
surrendered garrison of Cawnpore occurred in June, and the long siege of
Lucknow began. The military history of England is old and great, but I
think it must be granted that the crushing of the Mutiny is the greatest
chapter in it. The British were caught asleep and unprepared. They were
a few thousands, swallowed up in an ocean of hostile populations. It
would take months to inform England and get help, but they did not falter
or stop to count the odds, but with English resolution and English
devotion they took up their task, and went stubbornly on with it, through
good fortune and bad, and fought the most unpromising fight that one may
read of in fiction or out of it, and won it thoroughly.
The Mutiny broke out so suddenly, and spread with such rapidity that
there was but little time for occupants of weak outlying stations to
escape to places of safety. Attempts were made, of course, but they were
attended by hardships as bitter as death in the few cases which were
successful; for the heat ranged between 120 and 138 in the shade; the way
led through hostile peoples, and food and water were hardly to be had.
For ladies and children accustomed to ease and comfort and plenty, such a
journey must have been a cruel experience. Sir G. O. Trevelyan quotes
"This is what befell Mrs. M----, the wife of the surgeon at a
certain station on the southern confines of the insurrection. 'I
heard,' she says, 'a number of shots fired, and, looking out, I saw
my husband driving furiously from the mess-house, waving his whip.
I ran to him, and, seeing a bearer with my child in his arms, I
caught her up, and got into the buggy. At the mess-house we found
all the officers assembled, together with sixty sepoys, who had
remained faithful. We went off in one large party, amidst a general
conflagration of our late homes. We reached the caravanserai at
Chattapore the next morning, and thence started for Callinger. At
this point our sepoy escort deserted us. We were fired upon by
match-lockmen, and one officer was shot dead. We heard, likewise,
that the people had risen at Callinger, so we returned and walked
back ten miles that day. M---- and I carried the child alternately.
Presently Mrs. Smalley died of sunstroke. We had no food amongst
us. An officer kindly lent us a horse. We were very faint. The
Major died, and was buried; also the Sergeant-major and some women.
The bandsmen left us on the nineteenth of June. We were fired at
again by match-lockmen, and changed direction for Allahabad. Our
party consisted of nine gentlemen, two children, the sergeant and
his wife. On the morning of the twentieth, Captain Scott took
Lottie on to his horse. I was riding behind my husband, and she was
so crushed between us. She was two years old on the first of the
month. We were both weak through want of food and the effect of the
sun. Lottie and I had no head covering. M---- had a sepoy's cap I
found on the ground. Soon after sunrise we were followed by
villagers armed with clubs and spears. One of them struck Captain
Scott's horse on the leg. He galloped off with Lottie, and my poor
husband never saw his child again. We rode on several miles,
keeping away from villages, and then crossed the river. Our thirst
was extreme. M---- had dreadful cramps, so that I had to hold him
on the horse. I was very uneasy about him. The day before I saw
the drummer's wife eating chupatties, and asked her to give a piece
to the child, which she did. I now saw water in a ravine. The
descent was steep, and our only drinkingvessel was M----'s cap. Our
horse got water, and I bathed my neck. I had no stockings, and my
feet were torn and blistered. Two peasants came in sight, and we
were frightened and rode off. The sergeant held our horse, and M---
- put me up and mounted. I think he must have got suddenly faint,
for I fell and he over me, on the road, when the horse started off.
Some time before he said, and Barber, too, that he could not live
many hours. I felt he was dying before we came to the ravine. He
told me his wishes about his children and myself, and took leave.
My brain seemed burnt up. No tears came. As soon as we fell, the
sergeant let go the horse, and it went off; so that escape was cut
off. We sat down on the ground waiting for death. Poor fellow! he
was very weak; his thirst was frightful, and I went to get him
water. Some villagers came, and took my rupees and watch. I took
off my wedding-ring, and twisted it in my hair, and replaced the
guard. I tore off the skirt of my dress to bring water in, but was
no use, for when I returned my beloved's eyes were fixed, and,
though I called and tried to restore him, and poured water into his
mouth, it only rattled in his throat. He never spoke to me again.
I held him in my arms till he sank gradually down. I felt frantic,
but could not cry. I was alone. I bound his head and face in my
dress, for there was no earth to buy him. The pain in my hands and
feet was dreadful. I went down to the ravine, and sat in the water
on a stone, hoping to get off at night and look for Lottie. When I
came back from the water, I saw that they had not taken her little
watch, chain, and seals, so I tied them under my petticoat. In an
hour, about thirty villagers came, they dragged me out of the
ravine, and took off my jacket, and found the little chain. They
then dragged me to a village, mocking me all the way, and disputing
as to whom I was to belong to. The whole population came to look at
me. I asked for a bedstead, and lay down outside the door of a hut.
They had a dozen of cows, and yet refused me milk. When night came,
and the village was quiet, some old woman brought me a leafful of
rice. I was too parched to eat, and they gave me water. The
morning after a neighboring Rajah sent a palanquin and a horseman to
fetch me, who told me that a little child and three Sahibs had come
to his master's house. And so the poor mother found her lost one,
'greatly blistered,' poor little creature. It is not for Europeans
in India to pray that their flight be not in the winter."
In the first days of June the aged general, Sir Hugh Wheeler commanding
the forces at Cawnpore, was deserted by his native troops; then he moved
out of the fort and into an exposed patch of open flat ground and built a
four-foot mud wall around it. He had with him a few hundred white
soldiers and officers, and apparently more women and children than
soldiers. He was short of provisions, short of arms, short of
ammunition, short of military wisdom, short of everything but courage and
devotion to duty. The defense of that open lot through twenty-one days
and nights of hunger, thirst, Indian heat, and a never-ceasing storm of
bullets, bombs, and cannon-balls--a defense conducted, not by the aged
and infirm general, but by a young officer named Moore--is one of the
most heroic episodes in history. When at last the Nana found it
impossible to conquer these starving men and women with powder and ball,
he resorted to treachery, and that succeeded. He agreed to supply them
with food and send them to Allahabad in boats. Their mud wall and their
barracks were in ruins, their provisions were at the point of exhaustion,
they had done all that the brave could do, they had conquered an
honorable compromise,--their forces had been fearfully reduced by
casualties and by disease, they were not able to continue the contest
longer. They came forth helpless but suspecting no treachery, the Nana's
host closed around them, and at a signal from a trumpet the massacre
began. About two hundred women and children were spared--for the
present--but all the men except three or four were killed. Among the
incidents of the massacre quoted by Sir G. O. Trevelyan, is this:
"When, after the lapse of some twenty minutes, the dead began to
outnumber the living;--when the fire slackened, as the marks grew
few and far between; then the troopers who had been drawn up to the
right of the temple plunged into the river, sabre between teeth, and
pistol in hand. Thereupon two half-caste Christian women, the wives
of musicians in the band of the Fifty-sixth, witnessed a scene which
should not be related at second-hand. 'In the boat where I was to
have gone,' says Mrs. Bradshaw, confirmed throughout by Mrs. Betts,
'was the school-mistress and twenty-two misses. General Wheeler
came last in a palkee. They carried him into the water near the
boat. I stood close by. He said, 'Carry me a little further
towards the boat.' But a trooper said, 'No, get out here.' As the
General got out of the palkee, head-foremost, the trooper gave him a
cut with his sword into the neck, and he fell into the water. My
son was killed near him. I saw it; alas! alas! Some were stabbed
with bayonets; others cut down. Little infants were torn in pieces.
We saw it; we did; and tell you only what we saw. Other children
were stabbed and thrown into the river. The schoolgirls were burnt
to death. I saw their clothes and hair catch fire. In the water, a
few paces off, by the next boat, we saw the youngest daughter of
Colonel Williams. A sepoy was going to kill her with his bayonet.
She said, 'My father was always kind to sepoys.' He turned away,
and just then a villager struck her on the head with a club, and she
fell into the water. These people likewise saw good Mr. Moncrieff,
the clergyman, take a book from his pocket that he never had leisure
to open, and heard him commence a prayer for mercy which he was not
permitted to conclude. Another deponent observed an European making
for a drain like a scared water-rat, when some boatmen, armed with
cudgels, cut off his retreat, and beat him down dead into the mud."
The women and children who had been reserved from the massacre were
imprisoned during a fortnight in a small building, one story high--a
cramped place, a slightly modified Black Hole of Calcutta. They were
waiting in suspense; there was none who could foretaste their fate.
Meantime the news of the massacre had traveled far and an army of
rescuers with Havelock at its head was on its way--at least an army which
hoped to be rescuers. It was crossing the country by forced marches, and
strewing its way with its own dead men struck down by cholera, and by a
heat which reached 135 deg. It was in a vengeful fury, and it stopped
for nothing neither heat, nor fatigue, nor disease, nor human opposition.
It tore its impetuous way through hostile forces, winning victory after
victory, but still striding on and on, not halting to count results. And
at last, after this extraordinary march, it arrived before the walls of
Cawnpore, met the Nana's massed strength, delivered a crushing defeat,
But too late--only a few hours too late. For at the last moment the Nana
had decided upon the massacre of the captive women and children, and had
commissioned three Mohammedans and two Hindoos to do the work. Sir G.
O. Trevelyan says:
"Thereupon the five men entered. It was the short gloaming of
Hindostan--the hour when ladies take their evening drive. She who
had accosted the officer was standing in the doorway. With her were
the native doctor and two Hindoo menials. That much of the business
might be seen from the veranda, but all else was concealed amidst
the interior gloom. Shrieks and scuffing acquainted those without
that the journeymen were earning their hire. Survur Khan soon
emerged with his sword broken off at the hilt. He procured another
from the Nana's house, and a few minutes after appeared again on the
same errand. The third blade was of better temper; or perhaps the
thick of the work was already over. By the time darkness had closed
in, the men came forth and locked up the house for the night. Then
the screams ceased, but the groans lasted till morning.
"The sun rose as usual. When he had been up nearly three hours the
five repaired to the scene of their labors over night. They were
attended by a few sweepers, who proceeded to transfer the contents
of the house to a dry well situated behind some trees which grew
hard by. ' The bodies,' says one who was present throughout, ' were
dragged out, most of them by the hair of the head. Those who had
clothing worth taking were stripped. Some of the women were alive.
I cannot say how many; but three could speak. They prayed for the
sake of God that an end might be put to their sufferings. I
remarked one very stout woman, a half-caste, who was severely
wounded in both arms, who entreated to be killed. She and two or
three others were placed against the bank of the cut by which
bullocks go down in drawing water. The dead were first thrown in.
Yes: there was a great crowd looking on; they were standing along
the walls of the compound. They were principally city people and
villagers. Yes: there were also sepoys. Three boys were alive.
They were fair children. The eldest, I think, must have been six or
seven, and the youngest five years. They were running around the
well (where else could they go to?), and there was none to save
them. No one said a word or tried to save them.'
"At length the smallest of them made an infantile attempt to get
away. The little thing had been frightened past bearing by the
murder of one of the surviving ladies. He thus attracted the
observation of a native who flung him and his companions down the
The soldiers had made a march of eighteen days, almost without rest, to
save the women and the children, and now they were too late--all were
dead and the assassin had flown. What happened then, Trevelyan hesitated
to put into words. Of what took place, the less said is the better."
Then he continues:
"But there was a spectacle to witness which might excuse much.
Those who, straight from the contested field, wandered sobbing
through the rooms of the ladies' house, saw what it were well could
the outraged earth have straightway hidden. The inner apartment was
ankle-deep in blood. The plaster was scored with sword-cuts; not
high up as where men have fought, but low down, and about the
corners, as if a creature had crouched to avoid the blow. Strips of
dresses, vainly tied around the handles of the doors, signified the
contrivance to which feminine despair had resorted as a means of
keeping out the murderers. Broken combs were there, and the frills
of children's trousers, and torn cuffs and pinafores, and little
round hats, and one or two shoes with burst latchets, and one or two
daguerreotype cases with cracked glasses. An officer picked up a
few curls, preserved in a bit of cardboard, and marked 'Ned's hair,
with love'; but around were strewn locks, some near a yard in
length, dissevered, not as a keepsake, by quite other scissors."
The battle of Waterloo was fought on the 18th of June, 1815. I do not
state this fact as a reminder to the reader, but as news to him. For a
forgotten fact is news when it comes again. Writers of books have the
fashion of whizzing by vast and renowned historical events with the
remark, "The details of this tremendous episode are too familiar to the
reader to need repeating here." They know that that is not true. It is
a low kind of flattery. They know that the reader has forgotten every
detail of it, and that nothing of the tremendous event is left in his
mind but a vague and formless luminous smudge. Aside from the desire to
flatter the reader, they have another reason for making the remark-two
reasons, indeed. They do not remember the details themselves, and do not
want the trouble of hunting them up and copying them out; also, they are
afraid that if they search them out and print them they will be scoffed
at by the book-reviewers for retelling those worn old things which are
familiar to everybody. They should not mind the reviewer's jeer; he
doesn't remember any of the worn old things until the book which he is
reviewing has retold them to him.
I have made the quoted remark myself, at one time and another, but I was
not doing it to flatter the reader; I was merely doing it to save work.
If I had known the details without brushing up, I would have put them in;
but I didn't, and I did not want the labor of posting myself; so I said,
"The details of this tremendous episode are too familiar to the reader to
need repeating here." I do not like that kind of a lie; still, it does
I am not trying to get out of repeating the details of the Siege of
Lucknow in fear of the reviewer; I am not leaving them out in fear that
they would not interest the reader; I am leaving them out partly to save
work; mainly for lack of room. It is a pity, too; for there is not a
dull place anywhere in the great story.
Ten days before the outbreak (May 10th) of the Mutiny, all was serene at
Lucknow, the huge capital of Oudh, the kingdom which had recently been
seized by the India Company. There was a great garrison, composed of
about 7,000 native troops and between 700 and 800 whites. These white
soldiers and their families were probably the only people of their race
there; at their elbow was that swarming population of warlike natives, a
race of born soldiers, brave, daring, and fond of fighting. On high
ground just outside the city stood the palace of that great personage,
the Resident, the representative of British power and authority. It
stood in the midst of spacious grounds, with its due complement of
outbuildings, and the grounds were enclosed by a wall--a wall not for
defense, but for privacy. The mutinous spirit was in the air, but the
whites were not afraid, and did not feel much troubled.
Then came the outbreak at Meerut, then the capture of Delhi by the
mutineers; in June came the three-weeks leaguer of Sir Hugh Wheeler in
his open lot at Cawnpore--40 miles distant from Lucknow--then the
treacherous massacre of that gallant little garrison; and now the great
revolt was in full flower, and the comfortable condition of things at
Lucknow was instantly changed.
There was an outbreak there, and Sir Henry Lawrence marched out of the
Residency on the 30th of June to put it down, but was defeated with heavy
loss, and had difficulty in getting back again. That night the memorable
siege of the Residency--called the siege of Lucknow--began. Sir Henry
was killed three days later, and Brigadier Inglis succeeded him in
Outside of the Residency fence was an immense host of hostile and
confident native besiegers; inside it were 480 loyal native soldiers, 730
white ones, and 500 women and children.
In those days the English garrisons always managed to hamper themselves
sufficiently with women and children.
The natives established themselves in houses close at hand and began to
rain bullets and cannon-balls into the Residency; and this they kept up,
night and day, during four months and a half, the little garrison
industriously replying all the time. The women and children soon became
so used to the roar of the guns that it ceased to disturb their sleep.
The children imitated siege and defense in their play. The women--with
any pretext, or with none--would sally out into the storm-swept grounds.
The defense was kept up week after week, with stubborn fortitude, in the
midst of death, which came in many forms--by bullet, small-pox, cholera,
and by various diseases induced by unpalatable and insufficient food, by
the long hours of wearying and exhausting overwork in the daily and
nightly battle in the oppressive Indian heat, and by the broken rest
caused by the intolerable pest of mosquitoes, flies, mice, rats, and
Six weeks after the beginning of the siege more than one-half of the
original force of white soldiers was dead, and close upon three-fifths of
the original native force.
But the fighting went on just the same. The enemy mined, the English
counter-mined, and, turn about, they blew up each other's posts. The
Residency grounds were honey-combed with the enemy's tunnels. Deadly
courtesies were constantly exchanged--sorties by the English in the
night; rushes by the enemy in the night--rushes whose purpose was to
breach the walls or scale them; rushes which cost heavily, and always
The ladies got used to all the horrors of war--the shrieks of mutilated
men, the sight of blood and death. Lady Inglis makes this mention in her
"Mrs. Bruere's nurse was carried past our door to-day, wounded in
the eye. To extract the bullet it was found necessary to take out
the eye--a fearful operation. Her mistress held her while it was
The first relieving force failed to relieve. It was under Havelock and
Outram; and arrived when the siege had been going on for three months.
It fought its desperate way to Lucknow, then fought its way through the
city against odds of a hundred to one, and entered the Residency; but
there was not enough left of it, then, to do any good. It lost more men
in its last fight than it found in the Residency when it got in. It
became captive itself.
The fighting and starving and dying by bullets and disease went steadily
on. Both sides fought with energy and industry. Captain Birch puts this
striking incident in evidence. He is speaking of the third month of the
"As an instance of the heavy firing brought to bear on our position
this month may be mentioned the cutting down of the upper story of a
brick building simply by musketry firring. This building was in a
most exposed position. All the shots which just missed the top of
the rampart cut into the dead wall pretty much in a straight line,
and at length cut right through and brought the upper story tumbling
down. The upper structure on the top of the brigade-mess also fell
in. The Residency house was a wreck. Captain Anderson's post had
long ago been knocked down, and Innes' post also fell in. These two
were riddled with round shot. As many as 200 were picked up by
The exhausted garrison fought doggedly on all through the next month
October. Then, November 2d, news came Sir Colin Campbell's relieving
force would soon be on its way from Cawnpore.
On the 12th the boom of his guns was heard.
On the 13th the sounds came nearer--he was slowly, but steadily, cutting
his way through, storming one stronghold after another.
On the 14th he captured the Martiniere College, and ran up the British
flag there. It was seen from the Residency.
Next he took the Dilkoosha.
On the 17th he took the former mess-house of the 32d regiment--a
fortified building, and very strong. "A most exciting, anxious day,"
writes Lady Inglis in her diary. "About 4 P.M., two strange officers
walked through our yard, leading their horses"--and by that sign she knew
that communication was established between the forces, that the relief
was real, this time, and that the long siege of Lucknow was ended.
The last eight or ten miles of Sir Colin Campbell's march was through
seas of, blood. The weapon mainly used was the bayonet, the fighting was
desperate. The way was mile-stoned with detached strong buildings of
stone, fortified, and heavily garrisoned, and these had to be taken by
assault. Neither side asked for quarter, and neither gave it. At the
Secundrabagh, where nearly two thousand of the enemy occupied a great
stone house in a garden, the work of slaughter was continued until every
man was killed. That is a sample of the character of that devastating
There were but few trees in the plain at that time, and from the
Residency the progress of the march, step by step, victory by victory,
could be noted; the ascending clouds of battle-smoke marked the way to
the eye, and the thunder of the guns marked it to the ear.
Sir Colin Campbell had not come to Lucknow to hold it, but to save the
occupants of the Residency, and bring them away. Four or five days after
his arrival the secret evacuation by the troops took place, in the middle
of a dark night, by the principal gate, (the Bailie Guard). The two
hundred women and two hundred and fifty children had been previously
removed. Captain Birch says:
"And now commenced a movement of the most perfect arrangement and
successful generalship--the withdrawal of the whole of the various
forces, a combined movement requiring the greatest care and skill.
First, the garrison in immediate contact with the enemy at the
furthest extremity of the Residency position was marched out. Every
other garrison in turn fell in behind it, and so passed out through
the Bailie Guard gate, till the whole of our position was evacuated.
Then Havelock's force was similarly withdrawn, post by post,
marching in rear of our garrison. After them in turn came the
forces of the Commander-in-Chief, which joined on in the rear of
Havelock's force. Regiment by regiment was withdrawn with--the
utmost order and regularity. The whole operation resembled the
movement of a telescope. Stern silence was kept, and the enemy took
Lady Inglis, referring to her husband and to General Sir James Outram,
sets down the closing detail of this impressive midnight retreat, in
darkness and by stealth, of this shadowy host through the gate which it
had defended so long and so well:
"At twelve precisely they marched out, John and Sir James Outram
remaining till all had passed, and then they took off their hats to
the Bailie Guard, the scene of as noble a defense as I think history
will ever have to relate."