A Cawnpore Memorial

I must admit, I always approach the subject of Cawnpore with a sense of unease. It is not a pleasurable place to write about – the eyewitness accounts are few, tales are plenty and many of them are untrue. It is a story of immeasurable human suffering, from the opening salvo on that fateful June day to the very end of the tragedy on the 15th of July.
Even though it is over a century since their ancestors died, many descendants still hold a sense of undiminished sadness at their demise. We all want a hero in our family line, but what do you do with a well of broken bodies, knowing that somewhere in that tangled horror lie the remains of your ancestor? Ultimately, it is the final tragedy of Cawnpore, the never knowing what really happened.
The following posts hold very few pictures simply because I don’t have very many. I have basically written everything I know about Cawnpore without actually facing my subjects. Perhaps it is better so; I don’t know if I would have had the inclination to tell their story if I had to look at their eyes while writing about them. Unlike Lucknow, where there was a fair share of survivors, with a few exceptions, everyone you will meet in this post did not have a peaceful death. I have decided to start with the exceptions.

Those who lived

Native Commandant Khoda Baksh, Survivor of General Wheeler’s Entrenchment, Cawnpore and Abdul Karim and Three Unidentified Men

Unfortunately I cannot tell you anything about these men. Their picture was sent to me, with no background information at all, except a caption – I hope I have done well and at least corrected the spelling of their names (Khuda Buy and Abdool Kareem just don’t work for me).
What is a repeating pattern throughout this history is the lack of regard shown to the Indians who served and fought with the British. The loyal servants, the ayahs and the soldiers who endured the Entrenchment and then, when the British were marched down the Satichaura Ghat they could save themselves by disappearing into the crowds that had come to watch. Their side of the affair would be just as revetting but many never came forward and those who did leave behind depositions in the investigation that followed were not necessarily believed.
I cannot tell you how these men survived but I entreat you to remember their faces.

The Enduring story of Amelia Horne

There has been much written about Amelia Horne. She has been alternately portrayed as a heroine and as a deranged liar. My aim here is not to dissect the poor girl but to present a small insight into her as a person. Other, more worthy authors than myself have examined her in great detail and I will provide links to those veritable works.
Amelia Horne was born in 1839, the daughter of Captain Frederick William Horne and Emma Elizabeth Smith. She was bright, pretty girl, a gifted pianist and happily settled with her family, first in Lucknow then in Cawnpore. It was a large family, of whom Amelia was the eldest of 7 children. Her father had died when Amelia was a baby and Emma remarried in 1847 to John Hampden Cook by whom she would have 6 children, Robert, Florence, William, Ethel, Herbert and Mary. Emma was pregnant during the siege but that baby perished at Satichaura Ghat, unborn and unnamed.

Amelia Horne and her siblings. Taken just before the mutiny. The children perished at Satichaura Gat with their parents.

After surviving the entrenchment, Amy and her family went with the rest of the survivors to Satichaura Ghat. In the ensuing scramble her mother was separated from the rest of the family while Amy boarded a boat with her step-father and the children. She remained on deck with her sister Florence whose leg had been broken by falling masonry durng the siege and was clinging onto Amelia. Their boat never left ghat, boarded at the start of the massacre by a group of sepoys, bent on loot. Seeing Amelia, they first robbed her of her last possessions and after a search of her person and then grabbed by a sowar, Mohammed Ismail Khan, who threw her into the water. He dragged her out of the river and took her to a subedars hut two miles away. Forcibly converted to Islam, Amelia would spend the next 10 months, with the rebels, in all probability as the sowar’s wife. He eventually let her go – not before Amelia had written a letter exonerating him of all misdeeds – and she was able to make her way to the British lines. Presenting her self at the nearest police post,she was then taken by doolie to her uncle’s house, close to Allahabad. At first her relatives did not recognise her.
“Ten long months of suffering, together with my native costume had so altered my appearance that even when I gave my name they could scarce believe that one they had numbered with the dead stood before them.”

In September 1858, Amelia married William Bennett – a railway engineer – twice her had age and settled in Calcutta. With him she would have 5 children. Here her narrative should have ended but for the appearance of Maulvi.
in 1872, Amelia was called as a witness at the trial of Maulvi Liakut Ali in Allahabad. the infantry soldier turned turned teacher, turned rebel leader. He was part of the force under the Nana Sahib in Cawnpore and was probably even leading the force when the Nana parted company with them. The Maulvi remained a fugitive until 1872 when he was identified and arrested. Brought to trial in Allahabad, his defence called Amelia as a witness to corroborate his statement that no Europeans were harmed under his command and although guilty of rebellion, he had acted in his authority as leader to restore law and order. He had presided over Amelia’s conversion to Islam. The trial was a pivotal moment for Amelia. After 14 years of being disbelieved by the British authorities, it was rebel who finally gave credence to her story. Instead of searching for vengeance for her family, Amelia “expressed to the the court her strong belief that there was no intention on the part of the prisoner to put her to death.” The Maulvi was transported for life to Port Blair.

Amelia left behind accounts of her ordeal and none of them were treated with much regard. The very fact that she had survived appeared to irritate the authorities nor did she gain much sympathy from the public. Times correspondent, William Russell would go so far as to say that the statement regarding the massacres “purporting to the be the work of a lady”and although the lady was really, “the daughter of a clerk. And is, I believe,an Eurasian, or has some Eurasian blood in her veins. It would be cruel to giver name, though the shame is not hers..this unhappy girl is at Calcutta..and reports of her insanity are false.” When Amelia tried to get some restitution from the government for the losses she had incurred during the mutiny, the answer was worse than a simple no.

“Madam, In reply to your letter dated the 30th Ultimo professing a claim to compensation for losses suffered by the mutinies, I am directed to inform you that the resolution of the Government of India …does not provide for the grant of compensations to the families of Europeans not in the service of the Govt killed in the mutinies…”
It would seem marriage really had been her only choice.

Wiliam Bennett and Amelia Horne.

Widowed in 1877 and describing herself as a “pauper,” Amelia would support herself by giving piano lessons.

Amelia in 1913 with her daughter Ruby and son-in-law William Savedra at the sepulchral well in the entrenchment Cawnpore

Amelia died in Simla in 1921, aged 84, forever” a survivor of Cawnpore.”

The troubles of William jonah shepherd

William Jonah Shepherd survived Cawnpore. He had left the entrenchments hoping to find a way to save his large family, and perhaps bring succour to the other inmates, a noble plan that failed in its ultimate execution. His mission had been to assess the city and bring back any intelligence possible. and upon his return be permitted to take his family out of the entrenchment. Disguised as a native, “clad in a sepoy’s dohtee and a cook’s ungurkha or coat which was well bedaubed with grease and altogether very dirty; my hair was cropped short all round the head leaving a tuft of long hair in the centre, over which a piece of cloth (also very dirty) was wrapped, to represent a cook’s turban; added to these a small stick in my hand, which completed my disguise.” Liberally partaking of a friend’s morning share of rum, William Shepherd bid goodbye to his family and left the entrenchment. He was unfortunately, beset with misfortune. Within hours of leaving his loved ones behind, Shepherd was taken captive by the sepoys. Managing to convince them he was a cook, he was eventually tried and convicted and sentenced to a prison term of three years with hard labour. While so imprisoned his family, consisting of his wife, 2 nieces, a brother, his sister with her infant son and 2 old ladies were killed. His infant daughter and a little girl his nieces had been bringing up were already dead. William hoped they had been killed at Satichaura Ghat but was never able to come to an absolute conclusion regarding their fates. In the chaos of the British approach to Cawnpore, he managed to escape his imprisonment but was nearly shot by the British who took him for a rebel. Only his cries of “Hurrah!Hurrah!” which a soldier thought was very un-Indian, saved his life.
Jonah remained in Cawnpore for some time, feverishly collecting the names of all those who had been in the Entrenchment while trying to find some news about his own family. Eventually he left Cawnpore and moved in with his brother in Agra, trying to put some distance between himself and the scene of misery. To no avail. His health continued to decline and he eventually gave up his position in the Executive Commissariat Office, opting instead to take medical leave. During this time, he wrote his book, ” A Brief Account of the Outbreak at Cawnpore and Massacre.” He then turned his hand at estate management, having been given Iand in Oudh by Lord Elgin. This venture failed and by 1873, an impoverished William Shepherd was forced to take employ in the chief engineers office of the Oudh and Rohilkand Railway. He died in 1891, at the age of sixty-six, most probably in Lucknow.

Mowbray Thomson – the Model author

One cannot research 1857 without reading “The Story of Cawnpore.” Written by Captain Mowbray Thomson, one of the 4 survivors of Satichaura Ghat, he has left behind an account which does not spare the reader the grim horrors of the entrenchment, from the garrison being reduced to eating a dog, it’s fur barely singed in the fire, to the vacant stares of the shell shocked women and the singular behaviour of the children, doing their best to cope with their surroundings. His book concludes what William Shepherd’s could not. The final desperate days of the entrenchment from the view point of a military man. His survival at Satichaura Ghat, and subsequent escape down river are no less harrowing to read than the account left by Private Murphy – however, the private wasn’t trying to write a book, he was attempting to secure a position. Although all four survivors would then serve with Havelock’s force at the first relief of Lucknow, their lives could not have been more different. Private Sullivan died of cholera, Lieutenant Delafosse left behind a somewhat disjointed account of Cawnpore and could never be convinced to write a book, Private Murphy a few pages, Captain Thomson would not only be celebrated for his work, but he would also gain a title and end his life as General Sir Mowbray Thomas KCIE. Unlike Private Murphy who appears to never have been able to shake off his experiences of the mutiny and became keeper of the gardens of the Bibighar Memorial and defacto tour guide to the remains of the entrenchment, Thomson was given a civilian post as political agent at Manipur and later appointed an agent of the Governor-General for Wajid Ali Shah. It was the advantage of upbringing, although born in India, he was educated in England and then joined Addiscombe Military Seminary. In 1853 he received a commission in the 53rd B.N.I.
The focus of Thomson’s book besides a remarkably detailed account of the siege was to lay to rest the notion that the garrison had lacked courage.

“So many conflicting statements have been made respecting the sufferings endured by the unhappy victims of the Sepoy Mutiny, who were sacrificed at Cawnpore, that I have felt it incumbent upon me to present the following narrative of all that can recollect of the distressing history.

In some obscure journals, India, direct imputations have been made of the want of courage on the part of the defenders of the garrison. Justice to the dead has compelled me to refute these utterly false allegations.”

Preface to “Story of Cawnpore”

With a lack of witnesses, it is easy to understand why the garrison might have been accused of cowardice and incompetence. It needed a Mowbray Thomson to set the records straight. And he did. In his simple narrative, he brought alive the very essence of Cawnpore, and perhaps gave some comfort to those who would never see their loved ones again.

General Mowbray Thomson died in 1917.

And so ends the chapter. I have not found any photographs of Lt. Delafosse or Private Murphy. The next instalment shall deal with the less fortunate, and introduce you to a few of the portraits I have found.

Links to Books:
The Story of Cawnpore https://books.google.ch/books/about/The_Story_of_Cawnpore.html?id=2hzQJmZ-UYcC&redir_esc=y
A Personal Narrative of the Outbreak and Massacre at Cawnpore https://books.google.ch/books/about/A_Personal_Narrative_of_the_Outbreak_and.html?id=zlQOAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y

To read the letter of Private Murphy, you can find it in this very blog under “The Story of Private Murphy and his Escape from Satichaura Ghat.”