Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > In Times of Peril A Tale of India > CHAPTER X. TREACHERY.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 Of all the names connected with the Indian mutiny, Cawnpore stands out conspicuous for its dark record of treachery, massacre, and bloodshed; and its name will, so long as the English language continues, be regarded as the darkest in the annals of our nation. Cawnpore is situated on the Ganges, one hundred and twenty-three miles northwest of Allahabad, and was at the time of our story a large straggling town, extending nearly five miles along the river. It stands on a sandy plain, intensely hot and dusty in summer, and possesses no fort or other building such as proved the safety of the Europeans in Agra and Allahabad. The force stationed there at the first outbreak of the mutiny consisted of the First, Fifty-third, and Fifty-sixth Native Regiments, the Second Regiment of Bengal Cavalry, and about fifty European invalid artillerymen. When the news of the revolt at Meerut reached Cawnpore, and it was but too probable that the mutiny would spread to all the native regiments throughout the country, Sir Hugh Wheeler, who was in command, at once set to work to prepare a fortified position, in which to retire with the European residents in case of necessity. To this end he connected with breastworks a large unfinished building intended as a military hospital, with the church and some other buildings, all standing near the center of the grand parade, and surrounded the whole with an intrenchment. Within these lines he collected ammunition, stores and provisions for a month's consumption for a thousand persons, and having thus, as he hoped, prepared for the worst, he awaited the event.  
Although there was much uneasiness and disquietude, things went on tolerably well up to the middle of May. Then Sir Hugh Wheeler sent to Lucknow, forty miles distant, to ask for a company of white troops, to enable him to disarm the Sepoys; and he also asked aid of Nana Sahib, Rajah of Bithoor, who was looked upon as a stanch friend of the English. On the 22d of May fifty-five Europeans of the Thirty-second Regiment, and two hundred and forty native troopers of the Oude irregular cavalry, arrived from Lucknow, and two guns and three hundred men were sent in by the Rajah of Bithoor.
Nana Sahib was at this time a man of thirty-two years of age, having been born in the year 1825. He was the son of poor parents, and had at the age of two years and a half been adopted by the Peishwa, who had no children of his own. In India adoption is very common, and an adopted son has all the legal rights of a legitimate offspring. The Peishwa, who was at one time a powerful prince, was dethroned by us for having on several occasions joined other princes in waging war against us, but was honorably treated, and an annuity of eighty thousand pounds a year was assigned to him and his heirs. In 1851 the Peishwa died, leaving Nana Dhoondu Pant, for that was the Nana's full name, his heir and successor. The Company refused to continue the grant to Nana Sahib, and in so doing acted in a manner at once impolitic and unjust. It was unjust, because they had allowed the Peishwa and Nana Sahib, up to the death of the former, to suppose that the Indian law of adoption would be recognized here as in all other cases; it was impolitic, because as the greater portion of the Indian princes had adopted heirs, these were all alarmed at the refusal to recognize the Nana, and felt that a similar blow might be dealt to them.
Thus, at this critical period of our history, the minds of the great Indian princes were all alienated from us, by what was in their eyes at once a breach of a solemn engagement, and a menace to every reigning house. Nana Sahib, however, evinced no hostility to the English rule. He had inherited the private fortune of the Peishwa, and lived in great state at Bithoor. He affected greatly the society of the British residents at Cawnpore, was profuse in his hospitality, and was regarded as a jovial fellow and a stanch friend of the English. When the mutiny broke out, it proved that he was only biding his time. Nana Sahib was described by an officer who knew him four years before the mutiny, as then looking at least forty years old and very fat. "His face is round, his eyes very wild, brilliant and restless. His complexion, as is the case with most native gentlemen, is scarcely darker than that of a dark Spaniard, and his expression is, on the whole, of a jovial, and indeed, somewhat rollicking character." In reality, this rollicking native gentleman was a human tiger.
On the very night that the men of the Thirty-second came in from Oude, there was an alarm of a rising, and the ladies and children of the station took refuge in the fortified post prepared for them; and from that time the sufferings of the residents commenced, although it was not for a fortnight afterward that the mutiny took place; for the overcrowding and the intense heat at once began to affect the health of those huddled together in ill-ventilated rooms, and deprived of all the luxuries which alone make existence endurable to white people in Indian cities on the plains during the heats of summer. Scarce a day passed without news of risings at other stations taking place, and with the receipt of each item of intelligence the insolence displayed by the Sepoys increased.
A few English troops arrived from Allahabad and at midnight upon the 4th of June, when the natives broke into revolt, there were in the intrenchments of Cawnpore eighty-three officers of various regiments, sixty men of the Eighty-fourth Regiment, and seventy of the Thirty-second, fifteen of the First Madras Fusiliers, and a few invalid gunners; the whole defensive force consisting of about two hundred and forty men, and six guns. There were under their charge a large number of ladies and children, the wives and families of the officers and civilians at the station, sixty-four women and seventy-six children belonging to the soldiers, with a few native servants who remained faithful. The total number of women, children, and non-effectives amounted to about eight hundred and seventy persons.
During the night of the 4th of June the whole of the native troops rose, set fire to all the European residences outside the intrenchments, and marched to Nawabgunge, a place four miles away. A message was sent by them to Nana Sahib, to the effect that they were marching to Delhi, and inviting him to assume the command. This he at once assented to, and arrived at Nawabgunge a few hours later, with six hundred troops and four guns; and his first act was to divide the contents of the English treasury there, which had been guarded by his own troops, among the mutineers.
Having destroyed the European buildings, the force marched to Kulleanpore, on its way to Delhi; but on its reaching this place the same evening, Nana Sahib called together the native officers, and advised them to return to Cawnpore and kill all the Europeans there. Then they would be thought much of when they arrived at Delhi. The proposal was accepted with acclamation, and during the night the rebel army marched back to Cawnpore, which they invested the next morning; the last message from Sir Hugh Wheeler came through on that day, fighting having begun at half-past ten in the morning.
The first proceeding of the mutineers was to take possession of the native town of Cawnpore, where the houses of the peaceable and wealthy inhabitants were at once broken open and plundered, and many respectable natives slaughtered.
The bombardment of the British position began on the 6th, and continued with daily increasing fury. Every attempt to carry the place by storm was repelled, but the sufferings of the besieged were frightful. There was but one well, in the middle of the intrenchments, and upon this by night and by day the enemy concentrated their fire, so that it might be said that every bucket of water cost a man's life. After four or five days of incessant bombardment, the enemy took to firing red-hot shot, and on the 13th the barracks were set on fire, and, a strong wind blowing, the fire spread so rapidly that upward of fifty sick and wounded were burned. The other buildings were so riddled with shot and shell that they afforded scarcely any shelter. Many of the besieged made holes in the ground or under the banks of the intrenchments; but the deaths from sunstroke and fever were even more numerous than those caused by the murderous and incessant fire.
In the city a reign of terror prevailed. All the native Christians were massacred, with their wives and families; and every white prisoner brought in—and they were many—man, woman, or child, was taken before the Nana, and murdered by his orders.
Day by day the sufferings of the garrison in the intrenchments became greater, and the mortality among the woman and children was terrible. Every day saw the army of the Nana increasing, by the arrival of mutineers from other quarters, until it reached a total of over twelve thousand men, while the fighting force of the garrison had greatly decreased; yet the handful of Englishmen repulsed every effort of the great host of assailants to carry the fragile line of intrenchments.
When Ned and Dick Warrener, having carried out the instructions given by the ranee, arrived next morning at her house at Cawnpore, Ahrab at once led them to a small apartment.
"I have much news to tell you. The fighting is over here. The Nana sent in a messenger to the English sahibs, to say that if they would give up the place, with the guns and treasure, he would grant a free passage for all; and the Nana and his Hindoo officers have sworn the sacred oath of our religion, and the Mohammedans have sworn on the Koran, that these conditions shall be observed. Boats are to be provided for them all. They leave to-morrow at dawn. Her highness the ranee will shelter you here if you like to stay; but if you wish it you can go at daybreak and join your countrymen."
With many thanks for the ranee's offer, the boys at once decided to join their countrymen; and accordingly next morning after a kind farewell from their protectress, they started before daybreak under charge of their driver of the day before, and, still in their disguises of native women, made their way to a point on the line of route outside the town. There were but few people here, and, just as day broke the head of the sad procession came along. The women and children, the sick and wounded—among the latter Sir H. Wheeler, the gallant commander of the garrison—were in wagons provided by the Nana; the remnant of the fighting men marched afterward. Hastily dropping their women's robes, the boys slipped in among the troops, unnoticed by any of the guards of............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved