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INDIAN UPRISING OF 1857 - A BRITISH SOLDIER'S LETTERS TO A BRISBANE RESIDENT (I)

Extracts from letters written to a lady resident in Brisbane, whose two sons were officers in the Indian service during the Indian Uprising of 1857 and were stuck in the area around Banaras. (Published in The Moreton Bay Courier on October 31, 1857)

Mirzapore, 28th June, 1857.

You will be anxious to hear how we are getting on' in India during these stirring times. On the 13th May we left Calcutta and started up country for Allahabad, having £20,000 Government money on board the steamer. None of us on board thought of mutiny, a supposed local disaffection in the 19th and 34th N.I. Regiments had been suppressed. So you may guess our surprise upon reaching the first station after getting through the Sonderbands, to hear of the rising and massacre at Meerut, but on getting up higher our surprise was changed into anxiety at hearing of the fall of Delhi and the robbery of the treasury.

It came home when we considered that we were entirely in the hands of our own men, and so much money on board, there was nothing to prevent their working their wicked will upon us and seizing the money. Every station we came near, an orderly met us with an order to move on and not on any account to land. The further we got up the worse matters became, and by the time we reached Benares the whole of India was up. At that place our destination was changed to Mirzapore, about fifty miles lower down the river. Upon our reaching Mirzapore a telegraph was put into the commanding officer's hands to the following effect: - "The 47th N.I. intends to rise and seize the treasure upon arrival at Mirzapore." You may fancy our feelings under the circumstances, as in every case the seizing the money has been preceded by the murder of the European officers. But I am glad to say it was a false report, the men landed quietly, and up to the present moment have remained so.

So few regiments have escaped disaffection that it would be nonsense to say we have entire confidence in our men, but we live in hope all will go well. We have very few men here, and the Government has a large sum of money in hand, the men's savings in Burmah, both these circumstances are in favor of their remaining quiet, and I think they will. Within the last few days news has come in of Delhi being retaken, and some 15,000 of the rebels killed. Cawnpore is still held by some 400 Europeans against thousands. Lucknow is the same. Allahabad is quiet, the town half destroyed, and a force starts at once for Cawnpore. The greater part of Oude is in a state of anarchy, and it will take time to reduce the country to anything like the fancied security that existed before the 10th May, but I think the danger is now over. European troops are arriving daily from Calcutta, and proceeding up country. I should be very glad to see some 80 men left here, but I imagine they cannot spare them, and I feel certain that as long as no force comes here, the men will remain all right. There is one station, Pagode, some 40 miles hence, upon which we keep a sharp look-out, if it go, we must cut and run, even if our own men remain staunch, as we have only 100 fighting men and they have 700, rather too great odds.

All kinds of reasons have been given for the insurrection, but the most popular one now is, that the head men of Delhi and Lucknow seeing the security that the Government thought they were in, and having denuded India of European troops, it would be a fine opportunity to raise the green flag, and gain the empire, but as they wanted the assistance of the Hindoos, the cry of the cartridge was raised, but you will see all this in the papers.

H- is with the left wing of the regiment coming up in country boats. They left Calcutta 31st May, and will probably reach this about the end of July, a long and tedious journey. I got a short letter from him at Bhagulpore, dated 21st that he was then all right.

If it had not been for all those disturbances we should have had a very pleasant time of it here. It is a very pretty place, and the society being much more various than is usual in military stations in India, there was less shop and more gaiety. Races, balls, and pic-nics, were the order of the day, not four months ago, now it is most miserable, all the ladies have left, and only a few of the gentlemen have returned, consequently the houses are empty. There is an army to be formed at Allahabad to scour the country, but I am afraid they will not include us, but we shall be kept here to do 'watchman's duty.
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