The mutineers arrival in Delhi on that Monday morning came as a shock. There had been no warning from Meerut and it soon became evident no one was coming to help. The inhabitants were left to their own devices to save themselves as best they could – as the narratives of their escapes shall be told in the next chapter, you shall see it was for most part by the skin of their teeth. As to defence, there was no hope in that course of action as many residents would soon discover, being ill-prepared for a siege, encumbered by their families, the best some men could do was hope for a swift relief but it never came. Unlike Meerut, where there was at least some attempt made to go and look for survivors after the fact, in Delhi there was no one left to go and look for them, or indeed, save them.
The first known casualty was at the Toll House on the east side of the Bridge of Boats. We don’t have his name; the mutineers from Meerut made but quick work of murdering him, taking what money they could find and setting fire to the structure. They did however, spare his wife.
It has never been ascertained as fact what actually happened to the next victim, Mr. Charles Todd of the telegraph department. On that morning he left home in his buggy and never returned. It is unclear whether he was returning to Delhi or just on his way to the cable house (the lines had been cut in Meerut on the previous day, but all Mr. Todd knew was it was not working) – without any warning, he was slain and his body was probably thrown in the river. His pregnant wife was saved by his assistants who managed to convince the poor woman her husband was never coming back.
A memorial to the telegraph department still exists in Delhi. However, my dear readers, the postcard image below does not reflect today’s reality. I have attached a link below.
Memorials in St. James’ Church
The first church to be built in Delhi, it was commissioned by Colonel James Skinner in 1836. He built it at his own expense, spending the princely sum of 95,000 rupees. It was designed by Major Robert Smith and took ten years to complete. It is constructed on a cruciform (Greek Cross) plan with three covered porches, highly decorated stained glass windows and a central, octagonal dome.
The copper ball and cross are said to be copy of a church in Venice. In 1857, these were used as target practice by the Sepoys, sustaining irreparable damage and were eventually replaced. The church itself was damaged by shellfire during the uprising.
“Striving against carelessness and neglect in religious observance” the REverend Jennings and the poor girls
In 1857, Miss Annie Margaret Jennings was engaged to be married to Mr. Charlie Thomason of the Bengal Engineers – son of the former Lieutenant General of Punjab. Helping her prepare for her wedding was Mary Jane Alicia Clifford, just 24 years old, who had come out to India to keep house for her brother, Wigram Clifford, aged 23, of the Bengal Civil Service, Mewati Outpost, Gurgaon.
They were all sharing the lodgings with Captain Douglas of the Palace Guard and his wife.
Annie had only recently arrived in Delhi – in 1857 – having travelled out from England to keep house for her father while her mother was back home. She was a lovely 21 year old blonde, she had caught the eye of Mr. Lieutenant Thomason, who sang bass in the choir which Annie had organised. Annie and “the beautiful Miss Clifford” with the vivacious enthusiasm of youth, had had a positive effect on the officers of Delhi. The men braved the lengthy, fiery sermons of Reverend Jennings, to spend some time in the company of 2 pretty girls despite the exertions of morality by the Reverend. For exert himself he did, but not in a way designed to bring anyone any comfort.
Reverend Midgley Jennings served as a chaplain to the East India Company from 1832, serving in Kanpur and other locations until his posting in Delhi in 1852. He was committed to converting India to Christianity and his views were seen as both brash and insensitive by many of the residents in Delhi. Although Jennings was not the sole cause of the mutiny, he and his preaching brethren certainly did nothing to promote harmony among the people of India and the British. He was described some residents as “brash and insensitive, yet silkily unctuous.’
Describing the Mughal court of Bahadur Shah Zafar as the “evil empire,” unabashedly comparing Islam to the Antichrist in the Scriptures and calling Hindus “Satanic pagans”, Jennings used education as a front, fervently setting up the Delhi Mission and he made it his goal to offer education “of a superior kind” to the elite of Delhi. Unfortunately, even though the residents might not have liked it, this rise in missionaries met with approval from others in power and goes a long way to explain why no one stopped Reverend Jennings on his tumultuous trek of preaching in India for over 20 years.The very public conversion of Dr. Chaman Lal directly led to the doctor’s death at the hands of the mutineers in 1857. He had been the personal physician to the Mughal emperor and his baptism, along with that of the prominent mathematician, Master Ramchandra, on the 11th of July 1852, did not sit well with many of the citizens of Delhi. “ Even the king Bahadur Shah Zafar did not like their conversion and offered to convert them to Islam if they were not satisfied with their own religion.” (Delhi in 1857. N.K. Nigam, 1957, pp.17) Reverend Jennings could not help crowing about the baptism to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel writing that it “..consequentially caused the greatest excitement throughout the city.. The whole Hindu population assembled around the church on Sunday evening.” And yet, still no one stopped the man.
In 1857, the wife of Reverend Jennings was in England, looking to the education of their younger children – their son, William John Jennings was on his way to India when the Mutiny broke out and heard of the deaths of his father and sister while in transit in Malta. He joined the 2nd European Bengal Light Cavalry in 1858 and later transferred to Mayne’s Horse and died in 1860, aged 22. Another Jennings brother, Robert, arrived in India in 1859, joining the 2nd European Bengal Light Cavalry the same year. He attained the rank of general in 1905 and received his knighthood in 1909, eventually dying in Bournemouth in 1922, at the ripe old age of 81.
There are many myths attached to the deaths of Miss Clifford and Miss Jennings. Many of these tales were the vicious exaggerations of writers whose only intent was to sell their rags to a gullible public and fan the flames of retribution. The public was at the mercy of these unscrupulous peddlers of smut and lies. What is known, is when the outbreak occurred, they were in the apartments of Mr. Douglas above the Lahore Gate in the Red Fort where they were found and murdered on the spot. Though one account has the girls hiding under a sofa and another in a cupboard, it is ultimately of little consequence. What is important to note though, is contrary to the rags of the day, they were neither violated, paraded naked through the streets, chopped into pieces while still alive or crucified on the walls of Delhi. Their deaths, though brutal, were swift.
Another monument did exist to Miss Clifford and her brother according to “A List of Christian Tombs and Monuments in the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir and Afghanistan Vol. II Inscriptions, 1910”, the gravestone reads as follows:
“Sacred to the Memory of M.J.A. CLIFFORD daughter on Captn R.M. Clifford, Carn Cottage County Cavan, aged 24 years who was cruelly murdered on the 11th of May 1857 in the palace of Delhie when on a visit at the Revd J. Jennings also to the memory of WIGRAM CLIFFORD brother of the above Bengal Civil Service, aged 23 years who having shared in all the dangers of the Siege of Delhie fell in an attack on an outpost of the Mewatties near the village of Alipore in the Goorgoan district on the 31st of October 1857. This Monument has been erected by their friends.”
The Cliffords had another brother who served in India, Robert Clifford. However, he missed the Mutiny all together as the ship taking him to India broke down and was set down for lengthy repairs on the South American coast. He arrived in Calcutta too late. Born in 1839, he would have been 18 in 1857. He went on to serve with the Sam Brown Cavalry and later with the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, retiring from India in 1881 and died at Carn Cottage in 1930. Their other relative, a cousin, Richard Henry Clifford, the deputy collector of Mathura, survived the Mutiny, having been hidden away by a loyal servant.
John Ross Hutchinson Esq., B.C.S.
John Ross Hutchinson was murdered with Reverend Jennings and the girls in the rooms above the Lahore Gate. It was his wife that Harriett Tytler had seen, “walking hastily down the road”, her hair flowing, without a hat a child in her arms, a bearer behind her carrying another. A description of him can be found in “Memorials of Old Haileybury College,” where won prizes for essays in his 2nd term, classics and Hindustani prizes in his 3rd term and the Persian Medal, Hindustani and Essay Prizes in his 4th term. His final, and it appears, his only post, was “Joint Magistrate and Deputy Collector of Aligarh.”
His wife, Harriet Louisa Anne née Becher had been born in India – the daughter of Colonel George Becher who died at sea in 1857. Her brother Septimus Harding Becher (pictured below in the family portrait holding the whip!) would end his military career as a general. His wife, Augusta Emily (pictured below) was the daughter of Augustus Prinsep and Elizabeth Acworth Beachcroft Ommanney – she wrote her memoir, entitled “Personal Reminiscences in India and Europe 1830-1888” (published posthumously in 1930) in which she described her experiences during 1857.
John and Harriet’s son George William Caldwell, would become a painter. Harriet would eventually make it to Simla with her little daughters, Katie (around 3) and Lily(a few months), holding onto hope that her husband had been taken prisoner and was still alive in Delhi. No one was able to tell her how exactly he died and it was on in September, after Delhi was taken, that she could find anything out at all. But there were never any remains for her to bury.
It is here we can also see just how the mutiny effected families – be it in Lucknow, Delhi or Cawnpore, they would all be blighted by the same sadness.
To read Augusta’s memoirs, it is possible at:
The COllins, staines and leeson family
In her book, Florence Wagentreiber (who, my dear reader, you shall meet in detail in the next chapter) leaves us an account of the fate of this family – although she herself did not witness any of this herself, Mrs. Leeson survived to relate their sufferings to others.
“On the morning of the 11th of May, the members of this family, in common with all the Europeans in Delhi, were alarmed by the report that mutineers from Meerut had entered the city and were massacring Europeans. They consequently all assembled in a fine house which belonged to one of them near the Church, and close to the city wall. The house had a tyekanna or deep underground apartment made for coolness in the hot weather the floor of which, though much below the level of the ground within the city, was on a level with that on the outside of the walls, and with which it communicated by a small door pierced through the city wall. Tither they descended to the number of about thirty, including children and infants. There they remained during the whole of the 11th of May…”
On the 12th of May, they left their concealment, probably spurred on by the crying of the children from hunger and thirst.
“Their house was close to the Water Bastion one face of which looked towards the ridge…while the other in which was the door mentioned, looked towards the river. Through this door they all passed, and went along between the wall and the river till they came to a small arched gateway, but without a gate on it, in the city wall, and leading into the city. At this archway they found 2 Sepoys who said they had orders to bring them all to the palace before the king. They accordingly brought them inside the city wall again and led them up to what are now the Government College grounds which were then covered in dense bushes. As they were going up here in loose order, one of the Sepoys shot one of the women and her two little daughters crying out, “Oh they have shot mama!” ran away to hide themselves in the bushes…Mrs Leeson’s account of what followed was most pathetic, but considering there were were several men in the party, most unaccountable…”
Florence continues the account, describing how the family were deliberately shot down by the escort “as they walked quietly along, none of them apparently except the first two little girls, making any attempt to escape, either by running away or by attacking the two Sepoys. They seemed overwhelmed by the idea of Kismet…”
From here, one can piece together what happened to Mrs. Leeson. She was shot, the baby in her arms was thrown injured from her arms. As she lay on the ground badly wounded, her other two children were murdered before her eyes. As recorded by Mrs. Harriet Tytler who saw Mrs. Leeson after she was brought to Delhi:
“Before they had killed all the others, Mrs. Leeson’s little boy of about six drew close to his mother and, raising her head, put it on his lap and began caressing her face. The little girl of three, running up to her wounded mother, laid herself down by her side. After those soldiers of the King had butchered the rest of the family they came up to her little boy and cut his throat…They then took the little girl and cut her from ear to ear through the mouth…That poor child was some some six hours before she died, all the time writhing away from her mother, in her agony, further and further from her mother till she heard one piercing shriek and then no more, so the mother supposed somebody must have killed her outright. There the poor baby lay on the ground, picking the grass and moaning pitifully, till he died too.“
Mrs. Leeson was rescued by two kindly Afghans and remained hidden in the city until August when she was brought in disguise to the British camp. They refused any reward for her rescue saying they had saved her for humanity’s sake. She was later reunited with her husband John. Although I have as yet been unable to discover how he managed it (although it appears he was not in Delhi at all at time but away on business outside of the city), John Leeson spent the Mutiny in the Fort at Agra and was reunited with his wife later in 1857. They returned to the college grounds to look for the remains of their murdered children but they never found them.
The Beresfords (Or berresford!)
George Beresford was the manager of the Delhi Bank and would not quit his post. Though warned by his servants and had an opportunity to escape, he still decided to stay where he was. Gathering his family on the roof of an outer building, George, his wife, Sarah and a few clerks, attempted to defend themselves but were eventually overpowered. Mrs. Beresford was armed with hog spear and with this rather formidable weapon she managed to skewer one or two of her assailants but ultimately it was for naught. One of their daughters either remained in the outhouses behind the bank or otherwise escaped, but she was captured and taken to the Fort, where she was killed along with the rest of the Europeans. The deputy-manager, Mr. Churcher perished with them.
One of the stories, popular at the time and still often repeated, is the Beresfords had their throats cut by broken glass. However, according to Gulab in “Annals of the Indian Rebellion” the following account is more probable:
“I was witness to the murder of Mr. Beresford and his family. When the bank was attacked by the mutineers and the rabble, Mr. Beresford and his family retired to one of the out-offices for concealment, but when discovered, were on the roof of the building. Mr. Beresford was armed with a sword and Mrs. Beresford had a spear. The mutineers, being afraid to approach them by the staircase in front, two of the rabble suggested that they should go around and scale the wall in the rear of the house. Mrs. Beresford struck one the assailants with a spear, and killed him; they were, however, overpowered and all killed. I don’t know what number of persons were killed at the bank, but there were several…”
I do not believe the story of the glass – the mob who attacked the Beresfords (and the clerks – remember, they were defending themselves with sticks and bank ledgers!) was in an uncontrollable frenzy and doubtlessly, hacking their way from one site to the next. They were fixated on plunder and murder – it is hard to imagine they would have taken the time to go through such a lengthy process to kill them. One can only hope their end was swift. Their bodies were found after the end of the siege of Delhi and buried in the grounds of St. James’ Church.
Mr. George Reade Edward Beresford arrived in India in 1835. He was appointed manager to the the Cawnpore Bank (his sons, George and Charles were born in Kanpur in 1844 and 1846 respectively – they were most likely in England in 1857). In 1849, he transferred to Delhi, appointed manager of the Delhi Bank. He was an Oriental scholar, a keen archaeologist and had a fascination for the new art of photography. He also left us a book, “The Handbook of the Imperial City of Delhi” published in 1856.
The book strikes an involuntarily sad note – many of the subscribers to the volume would be dead by the end of 1857. The list is reflects a better time that was about to end.
A further tablet is the one of Frederick Taylor, principal of the Delhi College. Master Ramchandra takes up the story in Annals of the Indian Rebellion:
“As it was the summer season, we attended the Delhi College at 6 a.m.; so the next day, the 11th of May, I went to the College early in the morning. At about 8 o’clock a.m., when I was teaching my class in the yard of the upper room, some students told me that the mutineers from Meerut had come to the city. I threatened the students who had said such things, not in the least believing the report. At last some servant of Mr. Roberts brought the news that the mutineers from Meerut had actually arrived, and had killed an European officer in charge of the bridge. Then Mr. Taylor, our Principal, thought it proper to give leave to the whole College though he still did not consider this a very serious matter. I went to the College hall, and sat down with Mr. Taylor, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Stewart , junior, and were talking on the subject. Mr. Taylor wrote a letter to the Captain of the magazine, to be informed whether these reports about the mutineers had foundation. The Captain wrote only these words in reply – ‘Come quickly.’ No sooner were these words read by Mr. Taylor, than we were struck with horror. Mr. Taylor, Mr. Heatley, the editor of the Delhi Gazette, Mrs. Heatley, Mr. Roberts and all the European teachers of the College went over the the magazine immediately.”
It is uncertain what happened to Mr. Taylor next. If he managed to make it to the magazine, then he was killed when it was blown up by Willoughby as was asserted by an Urdu newspaper published in Delhi in 1857. If not, then the other account, which tallies more with the words on his plaque, could be closer. After leaving the College, he was given shelter by an Indian friend, but when trying the flee the city in disguise on the 12th of May he was discovered and beaten to death in the street.
The many postings of Captain Charles Gordon
Captain Gordon had served in the army for 22 years. Arriving in India in 1836, he initially was sent to Dhaka to do duty with the 50th N.I., the same regiment as his older brother. From there, in January 1836, he went to Barrackpore, to serve with the 6th N.I. but it was a short-lived posting, for he joined the 74th N.I. in June of the same year, stationed in Bareilly. He would remain with the regiment until 1843 when he was appointed Adjutant of the cavalry of the Bundelkhand Legion and then in 1844 as an Adjutant of infantry for the same corps, but Gordon soon requested to re-join the 74th.
In November 1845, with the regiment marching to Hoshangabad, Gordon took leave in Mussoorie until January 1846. Upon being recalled, he then took an appointment as Adjutant of the 7th Depot Battalion at Mainpuri. However, again, this was but a brief sojourn; in March the battalion was broken up, and he now received permission to do duty with the 50th N.I. at Aligarh, as the 74th was in Mhow.
He finally arrived in Mhow in December 1846 where the 74th stayed until 1850. It was a long march from Mhow to Dhaka – and but a short stay. In 1852, the 74th made its way to Barrackpore and then in 1853 to Cawnpore. He left them here in 1854 and proceeded home on furlough.
It was not much a vacation – in February 1855, we find Charles Gordon serving on the Bosporus, his services having been placed by the Court of Directors to the government as Staff Officer to Lord William Paulet, Commandant at Scutari – and until the end of the Crimean War, Charles Gordon held his post.
In January 1857, he returned to India, re-joining his regiment in Cawnpore – on the 25th of March, they arrived in Delhi. A brief 2 months later, he while trying to keep his own men in line with he was killed by a trooper of the 38th N.I.
After 21 years with the 74th, they repaid him with mutiny.
According to the Bombay Times of 1859 his widow Charlotte was given a pension of “70L and 16L for her son.” She would outlive Charles by 51 years, dying at at the age of 93.
Mrs. Fuller was the sister of Mrs. Foster, the lady who had to pushed into the ditch and was later left, due to her great size, in the scrub brush on the way to Metcalfe House. It is likely Mrs. Fuller was either killed at the Main Guard or possibly remained behind with her sister.
Thomas Corbett of the medical department was murdered in the city while his wife and daughter perished on the 16th of May in the Fort.
The Delhi Nine – Those who for their country greatly died
No memorial of Delhi would be complete without at least something said of the men who blew up the Delhi Magazine – a moment of startling daring-do, as they knew that they would go up with it. It must be remembered that the explosion was of such a magnitude it could be heard clearly in Meerut, almost 40 miles away. Besides killing the 5 men outright, it took some hundred Indians with it, indiscriminately killing men of the rampaging mob, sepoys and innocent bystanders. It was reported that bodies were flung far into the city and the carnage was beyond description. It is more than a miracle that anyone from inside the Magazine lived to tell the tale.
For John Buckley, who survived the blast it was a bitter day. He was already a widower once – having lost his first wife, Mary Anne Broadway and two of their three children while in Calcutta in 1845, he would remarry in 1846. His was a blighted life – in 1852 he lost the surviving child of his first marriage and in 1853 two sons by his second marriage also died. In 1857, with three children and his wife in two, John Buckley was posted to Delhi as Assistant Commissionaire of Ordnance, employed at the Delhi Magazine.
There are conflicting reports as to what happened to Mrs. Buckley and the children – it appears, that on the 11th of May, she and the children joined John in the Magazine, however, they did not survive the blast. Other accounts say she was killed with the children in the town. After his escape, he re-joined the British Army and spent the rest of the Mutiny volunteering himself for ever increasingly dangerous missions, clearly a man who no longer saw any sense in living.
As for his colleagues, some were met with a bizarre turn of events.
- Lieut George Dobson Willoughby, Bengal Artillery, Deputy Commissary at Delhi – escaped to the Cashmere Gate and later killed on the road to Meerut. His descendents have presented as late as 2012, a case for Willoughby to receive a posthumous V.C., however it has been denied.
A poem was written for him, which I found in a book entitled “Poetry of British India, Vol.II, 1780-1905.
That was the first heroic deed served
Unto the murderous rebels for a key
To the roused spirit that henceforth would be
In outraged Englishmen; his heart each nerved,
Nor from the high example ever swerved.
But though wast first in honour, and to thee
My muse would weave a wreath, brave Willoughby,
In whom the seed of heroes was preserved:
He died not then, nor lived to know his fame,
But England in such death-beds taketh pride -
Such sons upon her bead-roll doth she claim;
And through the future ages, glorified,
Shall youth with glowing cheek repeat his name,
'Mongst those who for their country greatly died.
- Lieutenant William Raynor, Ordnance Dept. – escaped to Meerut, received the V.C.
- Lieutenant George Forrest, Ordnance Dept. – escaped to the Kashmir Gate, received the V.C.
- Conductor John Buckley, Deputy Assistant Commissary Ordnance Dept. – escaped to Meerut
- Conductor George William Shaw, Ordnance Dept. – killed.
As no-one could say for sure if he had died, in recognition of his gallantry he was promoted to Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance with effect from 11th of May, a position he never had the chance to acknowledge.
- Conductor John Scully, Bengal Commissariat – killed in the explosion. In October 1857, still no one could ascertain if Scully was dead. He was gazetted to the rank of Deputy-Assistant-Commissary of Ordnance with effect from 11th of May. It was Scully who was standing under the tree when he was ordered to light powder train.
- Sub-Conductor William Crow – killed. Before anyone could ascertain if he was dead, he was promoted to the rank of Conductor in the Ordnance Department.
- Sergeant Edwards of the Bengal Artillery – killed. There was no honour given to him.
- Sergeant Peter Stewart of the Bengal Artillery – killed. He had arrived in Delhi in April 1857, having been transferred from his post as Saddler-Sergeant at the Cawnpore Magazine, having transferred to the Ordnance Commissariat Department in 1852. As his death was uncertain to have occurred he too was promoted and would have obtained the rank of Sub-Conductor for his gallantry, had he lived.
It is not in scope of this writing to go into the details of the lives of the Nine – for now, you may avail yourself of the excellent n depth biographies presented at:
A Poem for The Delhi Nine
THE DELHI NINE
They stood upon the ramparts, and knew that all was lost,
When they saw the dusty cloud above the approaching host,
Like a cornfield in the sunshine waved the flashing line of steel,
And the arid plain rang loudly with the chargers' steel-clad heel,
With murmur like the distant surge came on the swarthy foe;
Above the blood-stained banner waved, o'er craven hearts below,
Then turned they from the ramparts, to protect the magazine;
Stern were the looks, and firm the hearts of those brave men I ween,
Their pulses bounded boldly, and so boldly flashed each eye,
As those brave men of Delhi took the post where they should die,
Then out spoke gallant WILLOUGHBY unto the gallant eight,
"Let others fly, be ours’ to die, if need be, by this gate!
"Our dear ones may deplore us, but shall proudly mourn our fall,
"Our country shall remember us, and God be with us all"
No time lost they, but inwardly they prayed for aid Divine,
And with the gate shut out the world, that gallant band of nine.
Like bounding wave the traitors raved, and boomed against the wall;
Firm as a rock before the shock the nine defied them all.
But spake their guns, all thundered-tongued, and backwards reeled the foe,
As through them swept that storm of grape, and hundreds were laid low,
Loud yelled the savage traitor mob, alike with fear and hate,
As man by man the cowards ran, or fell before that gate,
Calmly the savage cry to yield our British brethren heard;
Calmly the gallant nine fired on, but answer'd not a word,
That band of heroes calmly stood, defending well that gate,
The swarthy foe around them closed, and well they met their fate.
One silent prayer to Heaven they breathed, for earth one tender sigh,
They grasp’d each other by the hand, and bravely turned to die,
Long as old England’s name is known, or spoken England’s tongue,
The gallant stand of that brave band shall by her men be sung.
Their cheek shall blanch, their eye shall flash, as o’er the sparkling wine.
Thy speak of that brave action of the gallant DELHI NINE!
WILLOUGHBY, RAYNOR, FORREST, SHAW, BUCKLEY, SCULLY, CROW, EDWARDS, and STEWART.
By The Hon W. Wallace
These are by far, not all the memorials. The scale of the massacre at Delhi shall be revealed in the next concluding chapter.
History of the Delhi Massacre – By a Lady, Wife of an Officer of the Bengal Army,1858
Annals of the Indian Rebellion, Noah Alfred Chick, 1859
The Sepoy Mutiny as Seen by a Subaltern – Colonel Edward Vibart, 1898
Two Native Narratives of Delhi – Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, C.S.I., 1898
Story of the Delhi Mission – S.P.G. 1908
Reminiscences of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, Miss Florence Wagentreiber, 1911
Personal Reminiscences in India and Europe – Augusta Becher,1930
An Englishwoman in India – Harriett Tytler, 1986
The Indian Mutiny – Saul David, 2003