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

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, 5TH AUGUST, 1857

I again write to you a few lines to say we are all well. H. has joined. I cannot say I can give you good news, far from it. Delhi has not been taken; in fact the troops, so report goes, have had to retreat from before that town, and are almost besieged in their turn. The force sent to Lucknow, for the relief of some 800 Europeans, ladies, and fighting men, besieged there, have, after a glorious advance, fighting 20 times their number, and taking no less than 50 guns, had to retire to Cawnpore, when within a few miles of their destination.

Again fancy the feelings of the unfortunate people at Lucknow encompassed by these ruffians! God grant they may be relieved, for another scene like Cawnpore would be awful. You will hear of the latter by the papers, so I will not tell you anything of it, with the exception that out of some 500 souls, men, women, and children, not two escaped to tell the tale; and Agra being besieged, is also in the same predicament, but it is hoped if the Delhi force retreats, that that place will be relieved.

Another grand insurrection occurred at Dinapore on the 25th July. Three Native Regiments marched out of the station, and were afterwards joined by an Irregular Cavalry corps, so there is a fine force of some 3000 men going about the country. They laid an ambuscade, and caught some 200 Europeans that were sent against them, fired one volley, the effect of which was the death of more than one-half of the little force, the rest ran for their lives into Dinapore. I am so afraid the people in England will not understand Indian affairs, and only send a small force, whereas not less than 30,000 Europeans are now required. We are not fighting against the old matchlock men of the past times, but against the picked fighting men of India, armed, equipped, and disciplined like European soldiers in every way. We are very quiet in our small station, and likely to remain so, as it is out of the way, but like every Englishman in India, we want to be where we can give our little aid against these murderers of women and children. The 47th remain quiet, and appear to be staunch, but nobody can tell what an hour may show, but they are powerless, as there are only some 60 men, with the same number of muskets left at head-quarters, and we live apart from them, near the small detachment of Europeans stationed here. You cannot tell how anxiously we are looking out for troops from England, not because of our own danger, but it galls to think that these men, whom we have in every way honoured, should turn so treacherously against us, and commit such atrocities. You cannot fancy men in cold blood murdering men that have been their companions in war and in peace, living in their houses, and day after day for years speaking and seeing to them; but it is to be hoped when the opportunity comes, that no absurd feeling of pity and mercy will interfere with the total extirpation of these cowardly murderers. I am far from being a cruel man, perhaps too much the other way, but it makes ones blood boil to hear of what has happened. I do not suppose there is a single Englishman in India who is not now thoroughly warmed to the work, and the revenge will be terrible when our turn comes. Now my dear - you must not get frightened at this letter; both H. and myself are at present quite safe, and hope to remain so; but we are soldiers, and of course are not enclosed in a patent safety iron box. But believe no reports, the mail at any time may be stopped; in fact, I very much doubt this being in time, as the telegraph yesterday from Benares reported that the mail communication was interrupted.
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