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

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, 19TH JULY, 1857.

Since I last wrote, things have been getting from bad to worse. Up to date, the principal stronghold of the insurgent Sepoys, Delhi, has not been taken from them, that is we have not heard of its fall. The Sepoys have fought right well, and there will be a long list of killed before the country is thoroughly quieted. Our men, as far as it is possible to judge, are faithful, but they have not as yet been opposite insurgent Sepoys, though we had a good bout with villagers, armed with matchlocks, swords and spears. There were about 300 of them, to whom we had but 50 to oppose, but we charged them and they, emptying their guns, fled. We killed about a dozen of them. At first I thought we should have had a good tussle, as they were well posted behind a bank waiting for us, and remained until we were within 200 yards of them, and then their hearts failed them; unfortunately we had no cavalry or they would have suffered very much. This foray was to avenge the death of a magistrate and two indigo planters, whom these robbers caught by themselves and cruelly murdered. They cut off the head of the former and only his mutilated body was found. We burnt and destroyed twelve villages. A party of European soldiers had been at them before, and we were followed by a strong party of infantry and cavalry; so I expect they will be rather chary in future of killing Europeans. You will see by the papers what slaughter of unfortunate officers, their wives, and children, has been committed, and at present their murder cannot be avenged from want of European troops, in fact the latter can merely hold their own. All the force going to China has not been intercepted; it will be upwards of a month before troops can reach us.

Government has a severe lesson in trusting to native troops and denuding the country or European. They have lost lachs and. lachs of rupees both in money and property. What is to be done when the country is settled, it is hard to say. Life in India for years will be miserable not on account of fighting, for I imagine that will all be settled by the end of the next cold weather, but moving about continually, no society of any kind, for all the ladies that have not left up country are only detained by the roads being impassable; when they are clear they will be off to Calcutta, and not one will come up for years. Our name as an army has gone, and Native Infantry another name for treachery and murder. I write in rather a despondent manner; I am not generally so, but I can see nothing in the future to alter my opinions. I acknowledge upon our arrival here our position was so critical, and in case of a rise in the regiment our chance of escape so small that the whole of us felt very uncomfortable, but now a great part of the danger is removed, and unless a party of rebels come in here and compel our men to mutiny, they will remain staunch. Still the uncertainty preys upon one, and I shall be very glad when it is all well over.

W. B.'s regiment was blown to pieces, having in the most absurd manner mutinied with the army, where the Europeans were about five to one. All the officers I believe escaped.
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