Rumors and Cartridges

We have seen in the previous posts how, leading up to 1857, the Bengal Army was poised on the brink of mutiny. Their grievances were both real and in some part based on a system that encouraged a class hierarchy within the army itself that was unknown in either Bombay or Madras. Whether it was calculated to solidify for the HEICo an undeserved legitimacy in front of the peoples of Bengal or was done with the true interests of the soldiers in mind, it must be remembered that this hankering after everything class and caste was what finally brought an end to the HEICo army itself. For after 1857, John’s Company would cease to exist forever.


Those Cartridges

Although this history is no longer taught as often in schools anymore as in the previous century, there was a time when everyone accepted that the mutiny of 1857 was brought about by the introduction of Enfield cartridges to India. The narrative of how they were greased with fat objectional to Hindus and Muslims is taken, even now, at face value.
Unfortunately, nothing is as simple as that. If only it was!
The cartridges caused the mutiny and at the same time, they didn’t.

In 1840, the HEICo switched from using the flintlock to percussion caps – the Brown Bess, which had been in use since the 1700s was converted; the design stayed the same but it was fitted with percussion caps. The move was designed to provide the same ammunition in India as that used by the British Army. Over the next 10 years, the 460’000 of these percussion muskets and their fellow carbines and pistols were sent to India from the Military Stores Department in London. Despite the change, the Brown Bess India Pattern would remain the standard musket from 1797 until 1854. Although trusty, the Brown Bess had obvious disadvantages. It was a smoothbore, large caliber weapon, which fired ball three-quarters of an inch in diameter – by today’s standards is three times the diameter of a modern .22 caliber round. Loading was through the muzzle, with each bullet being dropped down a three and a half foot long barrel before firing. The weapon itself weighed 4.8 kilograms (10,5 pounds) and had a full length of 1.49 meters (58,5 inches) – the barrel was 1,1 meters (42 inches) in length.

It was heavy, slow to load (though some soldiers quickened the process by dropping the cartridge in the barrel and then thumping the butt of the musket on the ground, yet even the most experienced could not manage more than three shots a minute) and accuracy questionable at best, estimated at 50 to 100 yards. It also forced the army to adopt different tactics for its use – men would be formed shoulder to shoulder in lines, with the front line firing, then dropping down so the next line could fire, and so on. (To see this in practice, watch the 1970’s movie, Waterloo). The theory was that with hundreds of muskets firing at the same time, chances were some of the shots would find their mark. Using linear tactics with men packed tightly into blocs, made it more difficult for them to follow their natural instincts and scarper. It required a tremendous amount of personal courage to stand in line exposed to enemy fire. War was indeed not for the faint of heart as, when armed with a Brown Bess, men could be placed as close as 25 meters in front of their enemy to ensure the weapon’s effectiveness. When the firing had run its course, the British were actually feared more for their bayonet charges, for at the end of the musket was a 44 cm razor-sharp blade.

Supplying these smooth bore weapons to India stopped in 1851 for the British government had got their hands on the Minié rifle. Developed to solve the conundrum posed by the Brown Bess (the ball needed a loose fit when loading, but a tight fit when firing), two French men Henri-Gustave Delvigne, who invented the hollow based, elongated bullet which expanded when fired, to which Captain Claude Etienne Minié (of the Chausseurs d’Orleans) added a cup in the hollow that helped the bullet to maintain a uniform expansion. This joint concept gave rise eventually to the percussion lock, Pattern 1851 Rifled Musket or the Minié Rifle. Loading was easier and faster and the accuracy was now 600 yards. Three shots a minute was now no longer wishful thinking but a certainty and a skilled rifleman could fire more often. It was even fitted with sights and had shrunk in size, with the Minié barrel coming in at 960mm (37,7 inches). However, the British government stopped short of actually putting the Minié rifle into general use (though it was used in the Crimean War) as the .702 bore was considered to be too large. However, without the Minié there would have not been an Enfield Rifle.
The Pattern 1853 Enfield was chambered to fire a Minié type ball and with its smaller caliber of .577 it was considered the ideal weapon for the British Army. Retaining the same muzzle loading drill, riflemen could fire a minimum of 3 shots a minute. Developed by the Royal Small Arms Factory, the Enfield’s barrel was 99cm (39 inches) but weight wise it did not differ greatly from the Brown Bess, unloaded the Enfield still managed a hefty 4,3 kilograms (9,5lb) and still stood a full 1,4 meters (55 inches) in length. However, this was the gun chosen for use in India.
This is where the story becomes interesting and cracks in the accepted narrative begin to appear. Initially, 30’000 of the new Enfield rifles were promised for use in India. These were supposed to have arrived on those shores in 1854 but a delay of 2 years set things back somewhat – the factory where the Enfield was produced could not make the demand and then Lord Ragland decided to have an issue in Crimea in 1854, so the consignment to India was destined to be delayed. The first Enfields arrived in India in the spring of 1856 and although they were supposed to be for the Bengal Army, the government decided instead to give them to the men of H.M. 60th Rifles – a European regiment whose own arms were well past use. It must also be pointed out that by the time the mutiny broke out a year later, there were only 12’000 Enfields in Bengal Presidency and the only regiment that actually used them was the 60th Rifles who had 1040 of them in their possession, with the rest distributed to the various arsenals in the Presidency. In Meerut, for example, there were only 525 Enfields available and none of them were in use by Indian troops.
The gun itself was not the problem. It was the cartridges.

Muzzleloading percussion firearms in the 19th century were fiddly things to load. The cartridge was a rolled-up tube of paper which housed not only the ball but the powder. The powder was measured for one shot. It was accepted practice that in order to use the cartridge, the tip had to be bitten off and then the powder poured down the barrel, followed by the ball and the paper – this would then all be forced down by means of a ramrod. Unfortunately, for the Enfield, the bore was grooved and this meant that the lower end of the cartridge needed to be greased in order to load it with any efficiency.
The 60th Rifles, along with Bengal Native Infantry regiments had been using the Brunswick since the 1840s – this one required the cartridge and ball to be separate – with the paper tube only holding the powder and the ball covered by a patch of cloth that was soaked in either beeswax or coconut oil. Unfortunately, the Brunswick used a round that was specific to the grooves in the rifle, and it had to be physically seen when loaded so it all matched up so it was very difficult to load at night when the grooves could not be seen. The accuracy varied little to that of the Brown Bess (200-300 yards) and weight-wise was practically the same – up to 4,5 kilograms, depending on the model. For all intents and purposes, the Enfield solved all sorts of problems.
The first Enfield cartridges arrived in India in 1853 to see how they faired in the climate. An early warning was already given to the Military Board that they should be aware of what the cartridges were greased with, otherwise it would be impossible to ask an Indian regiment to test them. At the time, the cartridges were greased with tallow of an undetermined sort, though it was most likely cow or pig fat. The Military Board did not particularly care for sound advice, and the cartridges were issued to the sepoys who guarded Fort William, those stationed in Cawnpore, and in Rangoon. However it must be remembered the sepoys only carried the cartridges in their pouches, they did not use them.
It turned out the Indian climate proved no problem to the cartridges – nor did any sepoy or European officers complain about them in any way at all. Test successful, these were gathered up and sent back to England in 1855; a year later shortly after the rifles arrived, so did the first shipment of greased cartridges and bullet moulds.
Now things become problematic.
The Bengal Army Ordanance Department started making their own cartridges at Fort William, Meerut, and Dum Dum – and they followed the same recipe as the Royal Woolich Arsenal in England using tallow, stearine, and wax. No one of the Ordnance Department, however, thought to specify what kind of tallow was being used. It was a careless, foolish mistake.
By January 1857, the 60th had their full consignment of Enfields and in conjunction with this, the Bengal Native Infantry started sending groups of seven men – 1 European officer, 1 native officer and 5 non-commissioned officers and sepoys – directly to their nearest depots where they received instruction on handling the Enfield. However, no one had even handled a greased cartridge when rumors regarding the fat were already circulating.
The initial story has been told and retold with variations over past centuries but it basically comes down to a conversation between 2 men, a high-caste sepoy and a low-caste laborer at the Dum Dum magazine, outside Calcutta. The laborer requested the sepoy for a drink from his lota (a brass water pot) – when the sepoy refused because he did not know which caste the laborer belonged to, the laborer said he might as well give it to him as soon he would have no caste anyway, the cartridges he would biting open in the future were covered with animal fat. The story spread like wildfire. From here it is not difficult to understand why the idea that the British were coming to Christianise India was so readily believed.
So what the did British do? Hearing the rumor, Captain Wright as commandant of the Dum-Dum Rifle Instruction Depot wrote a report stating his concerns regarding the story, which he handed over to Major Bontein commandant of the Musketry Depot – and he in his turn stated in his report that two-thirds of the native soldiers, including all of their Indian officers of his depot, objected to the cartridge. They further requested that the grease be changed to wax or oil. Both reports were subsequently sent to Major-General B. Hearsey, commander of the Presidency Division, and from him, forwarded to Colonel Birch.
On the 27th of January 1857, Colonel Birch as Military Secretary to the Government of India did one of two things – first, he ordered the cartridges at instruction depots of Meerut, Sialkot, Dum Dum and Ambala were to be issued only ungreased and the sepoys could choose whatever grease suited them best. In principle, it was a good idea, but in practice, it wouldn’t work. Birch was informed by Colonel Abbott – the Inspector-General of Ordnance – that the cartridge had to be greased before it was closed up with the ball inside. His solution was to use the Brunswick method; issue the balls covered with the patches the men were already accustomed to and only put powder in the cartridges themselves. Not that anyone listened.

Colonel Abbott, Inspector General of Ordnance, portrait by Felice Beato, 1858

Abbott went one step further and issued an investigation to figure out what tallow was used, but all he could ascertain was that no one had taken any real precautions in this regard. It was certainly a mixture of beeswax and tallow but the tallow was undetermined.
On the 29th of January, he recommended to Birch that it was essential that only sheep or goat’s fat be used in the future if tallow was needed at all.
It has never been confirmed that cow or pigs fat was used on the cartridges but common sense dictates that it probably was. Lord Canning in February 1857 believed it was, and Abbott himself admitted it was probable.
While this was genuine grievance and the sepoys were certainly in their right to object, it must be remembered that up to this point, not a single sepoy had handled an Enfield cartridge, or ever would. There had been no cartridges actually made in Dum Dum as no one had been able to manufacture one as yet since they were still learning how to actually make them. There had never been any sent from Fort William where they were being made – and how the laborer could have known anything at all about the grease being used is something that must be left to speculation.
Needless to say, it caught the attention of the authorities, who thought they were dealing with the situation in a mindful manner. Unfortunately for them, the sepoys didn’t agree.
By announcing that the sepoys could grease their own cartridges in the future only cast more doubt into already wary minds – no less than 4 regiments of the Bengal Native Infantry stationed at Barrackpore were now loudly voicing their own fears – but not just about the grease, but the paper used for the cartridges.
At separate parades held on the 4th of February, the men of the 2nd N.I. and later the 34th N.I. were shown the ungreased cartridges and the paper used in manufacturing them. Four days later, at a court of inquiry, the men made it clear that the paper itself would destroy their caste. Some mentioned the Fort William story, others spoke of rumors in the town. Some stated the paper seemed to be greased as it smelled odd when burned; yet another stated he had tried to dissolve the paper in oil, which then convinced him it wasn’t greased! Nevertheless, the native officers refused to bite off the end of the cartridges in front of their men as they would certainly object to them doing so.
However, at no time was the paper itself greased, not with tallow or otherwise. The only problem that could be ascertained was that it was a different paper altogether – English paper was thicker than the regular paper used for the cartridges. It is here that we first see signs of bigger conspiracy working on the minds of the soldiers – some unseen entity that was desperate to keep the story of the tainted grease alive.


Berhampore

 James Moffat, “View of the Cantonments at Berhampore” (1806)

200 kilometers away from Calcutta at Berhampore, the first signs of mutiny started to ferment. The men of the 19th N.I. refused to take the copper caps for firing exercises on the 27th of February, as they believed the paper used for the blank cartridges was smeared with tallow – either cows or pigs fat.
The cartridges they were being given, however, were not for the Enfield. They were for the very same muskets they had been using all along. Yet the day before on the 26th, some of the men had seen the blanks in the bell of arms and had ascertained that they were of two types, of which one looked quite different to what they were used to. Fearing it was batch that had been sent up from Calcutta and thus tainted, they refused to accept any at all the next day. Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell stressed to the native officers that these cartridges did not come from Calcutta, they had in fact been made in 1856 by the men of the 7th N.I. He further stated that anyone refusing them would be court-martialed if they refused to receive them on the 27th. Panic is contagious and by 11pm the 19th broke open the bell of arms and grabbed their muskets. Mitchell ordered the 11th IC and some European artillery to stand to arms as he went off to negotiate with what were now mutineers. He did not achieve an awful lot but by agreeing to withdraw the 11th and artillery, the men agreed to give up their arms and head back to their lines.
Of course, another Court of Inquiry was set up.
This time the men of the 19th sent their petition to Major-General Hearsey, in which they stated they had been hearing rumors of the greased cartridges for over 2 months already and it caused them to fear for their caste. Although Mitchell had assured them the grease for the cartridges would be made in front of the sepoys by their own pay havildars, they had seen the cartridges in the bell of arms on the 26th of February and they looked different. So they believed these were from Calcutta.
What they also mentioned was Colonel Mitchell had threatened to send them all to Burma where for their disobedience they would all die terrible deaths if they continued to refuse the cartridges. Somehow from this, they were able to deduce, that in fact the cartridges must be greased. So to protect themselves they had seized their guns that evening as they also believed the artillery and cavalry were being sent to kill them all.
So now, it was no longer about the cartridges, it was about the paper – what the sepoys did not realize is that they were right about there being 2 different kinds, one was made in a mill in Serampore and it had a darker finish, while the paper they were used to was made in England by John Dickinson & Co.,. Yet neither paper was greased.
What Berhampore should have shown the British, but didn’t, was the sepoys did not trust the European officers. They instead put their trust into rumors and into elements within the regiment who were skilled at playing on their fears, they had convinced the 19th NI to commit mutiny.
What the Court of Inquiry concluded was that Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell “had not shown the temper and firmness which are required of a Commanding Officer..” and he was duly censured and recommended to be “employed in other duty more suitable than the command of a Regiment.” The 19th was subsequently marched down to Barrackpore, and on the 31st of March, disbanded. As for Mitchell, he would be sent to command the 1st Bengal European Fusiliers and spend the rest of his career uneventfully.

Photograph from the India Office Library and Records

Ambala

By mid-March, the Musketry Depot at Ambala too had been stricken by disaffection. Here the men from 41 Bengal Infantry regiments were being schooled in the use of the new Enfield. It must again be stressed that none of them had an actual Enfield but they were being drilled as to how to use one. Their instructor, Lieutenant Martineau had done all he could to explain to the men they could apply their own grease – but some of the sepoys were not convinced. Discussing among themselves if they would accept Enfield cartridges or not, a few came to the conclusion that by doing so it was “not acceptable to their comrades in their respective corps.” In other words – tainted or not, they would be ostracised when they returned to their regiments even if they never touched an Enfield cartridge and then proceeded to claim everyone felt the same way. It was not a unanimous opinion; some of the native officers refused to be baited by the sepoys. One Jemadar went so far as to state to Martineau that
“I will fire when I am told, & I know many others will do the same. I have sufficient confidence in the Government & my officers to know that no improper order will be given to us & to demur using the cartridges merely because they are of a different form, or made of different paper, is absurd, in fact, there is no question of caste in the matter, & he who refuses to obey proper orders, or who cavels about doing so on the pretext of religion, is guilty of mutinous and insubordinate conduct.”

British Infantry Drill, 1854, from “Crimean Uniforms – British Infantry” by Michael Barthorp (1974).

It did not help matters when later, on the 19th of March the Commander-in-Chief arrived in Ambala with the 36th NI as his escort; two men from that regiment, a havildar and a naik who were doing detachment duty In Ambala were shunned by the men they had previously considered their friends – they were refused entry to their tents and taunted as Christians, for using the Enfield. Martineau interceded on their behalf and on that of the other Indian officers who “regarded the insult as intended for all who as good soldiers were obeying the orders of Government by using the new Enfield rifle.” In his own inquiries, Martineau found that the rumor of the tainted grease was “generally credited” and he confirmed that assemblies were taking place in practically all corps from Calcutta to Peshawar – formed by men who had made up their minds to regard anyone who touched the cartridge as pariahs.
General Anson now did what he thought was best. Acting on the information given to him by Martineau, he addressed the native officers at a parade on the 23rd of March. Unable to speak the language himself, he spoke to them through an interpreter. He would say the same words that officers would say repeatedly over the coming months. The government had no intention to Christianize them, they would not interfere with their caste or religion, and he requested the officers to tell all those they had under their authority that the rumors were “groundless and false.” It was a nice speech.
The officers in their turn, speaking to Martineau, said they knew the rumors were false but what could they do when it “was universally credited, not only in their regiments but in their villages & their homes.” They themselves would not disobey the rules and would fire when ordered, but they wanted the Commander-in-Chief to understand what it meant for them to lose their caste.
Martineau himself, although sympathetic to the worries of the officers, could only point out his own belief that the cartridge issue should be seen as “as the medium than the original cause of this widespread feeling of distrust that is spreading dissatisfaction with our Rule.” He was justified in thinking so – until now, only the Hindu sepoys had raised any objections to the cartridges or had shown any real concern. The Muslims on the other hand did not appear bothered at all, and actually laughed at it . General Anson concurred, seeing the cartridge question as “more a pretext than a reality,” adding, “The sepoys have been pampered and given way to, and have grown…insolent beyond bearing.” However, he had sense enough to realize that the native officers in Ambala were truly afraid of being socially shunned, that he ordered that target practice be stopped at all three musketry depots until the government had had enough time to assess the situation.

Mangal Pandey – Barrackpore

Sepoy camp, Barrackpore

While all of this was playing out in Ambala, another scenario soon to start in Barrackpore – the disbanding of the 19th NI.
Unlike the sepoys at Amballa, the 19th received far less sympathy for their conduct, even though their grievances were not dissimilar. The only difference was the 19th had taken up their arms and had refused to stand down when ordered. In the eyes of Lord Canning, this was nothing less than “open and defiant mutiny.” Issuing a general order, Canning further announced that “the unvarying rule of the Government of India to treat the religious feelings of all its servants of every creed, with careful respect,” and should the sepoys have trusted the Government, believed their commanding officer and not credited “the idle stories with which false and evil-minded men have deceived them, their religious scruples would still have remained inviolate.” Their fate was sealed.

On the 29th of March, two days before the disbandment was due to take place, a young sepoy named Mangal Pandey of the 34th NI, set out on a rampage of his own. Coming out of his hut, he called out “Come out men, come out and join me – You sent me out here, why don’t you follow me?” Armed with his sword and musket, he traversed the lines, repeatedly calling to his comrades to join him and threatening to shoot any European who he came across. He then proceeded to try and incite his comrades with taunts, “Come out you…the Europeans are here..from biting these cartridges we shall become infidels. Get ready, turn out all of you.”
The first to hear of this was Lieutenant Baugh. Mounting his horse and with a pair of pistols in his holsters, he rode down to the parade ground. Mangal Pandey, hearing Baugh approaching, took aim and fired. The ball missed Baugh but wounded his horse, which sent Baugh to the ground. Unhurt, Baugh disentangled himself from his horse and taking one of his pistols from the holster, approached Pandey. Pandey, unable to load his musket a second time, discarded the weapon and advanced upon Baugh, sword drawn. Baugh fired and missed. Before he could draw his own sword Pandey was on him and struck him down, wounded. His orderly, Shaik Phultoo, who had followed Baugh, described the scene,

“Mungul Pandy drew his sword and wounded him severely. By this time the Sergeant Major (Hewson) came up, he also was wounded severely; I then came up, and stretched out my hands to stop Mungul Pandy, who was following the Adjutant and said to him, take care, do not strike the Adjutant. He aimed a blow at the Adjutant’s neck which I received on my right hand; I then seized him round the waist with my left arm; the Adjutant and Sergeant-Major got away. I then called to the quarter-guard to come and make Mungal Pandy a prisoner, and told the Jemadar Isssurie Pandy of the 1st Company who commanded the guard to send four men and take him; that I had hold of him and would not allow him to hurt anyone; they did not come, but abused me as also did the Jemadar, who said that if I did not let Mungul Pandy go they would shoot me. Being wounded I was obliged to let him go. While I was holding Mungul Pandy several men of the quarter-guard followed the Adjutant and the Sergeant-Major beating them with the butt-end of their muskets…”

Major-General Hearsey received news from Major Matthews of the 43rd that something was up in the lines. The other officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Wheler and Adjutant Drury were on parade with the 30th and were moving their men to the quarter guard of the 34th to stop Mangal Pandey. Hearsey sent Matthew off with orders for Wheler, to shoot Pandy if he could not arrest him. With his sons, John and Andrew – both officers- the Hearseys mounted their horses and made their way to the lines.
The scene was chaotic,
I saw the whole front of the bell of arms crowded with sepoys in their undress and unarmed, the native officers of the 43rd NI with them, and endeavoring to keep them in order. The men of the 34th NI had also turned out unarmed to the right and rear of their quarter-guard.”
Asking Major Ross what was happening, Hearsey was informed of what Mangal Pandy had done.
“On seeing this man, I immediately rode to the quarter guard of the 34th NI and saw the Jemadar Ishree Pandy, and about ten or twelve men who had turned out, and were standing before the quarter guardhouse. My two sons and Major Ross accompanied me, I heard an officer shout out to me his (the mutineer’s) musket is loaded; I replied, damn his musket.”
The Jemadar did not attack Hearsey but he didn’t jump to his orders either, delaying and ignoring anything Hearsey said. Not that it mattered; Mangal Pandy was cornered, the other British officers were closing in and although he aimed at Hearsey, he turned the gun on himself.
It turned out that the wound, though severe was superficial, as he had touched the trigger with his toe, causing the muzzle to swerve. The shot tore the muscles of his chest, shoulder, and neck, and being at such close range, caused his jacket to catch fire. Hearsey ordered the Jemadar to put it out, which he did. Pandey was then taken to the hospital of the 34th NI.

Major-General Hearsey confronts the Quarter Guard

Not that Major-General Hearsey was quite finished:
“Before I quitted to go to my quarters, I rode amongst the sepoys of the 43rd NI and reassured them that no person should be permitted to interfere with their religious and caste prejudices whilst I commanded them. I then went, accompanied by Major Ross and my two sons amongst the crowd of sepoys of the 34th regiment NI and also reassured them, telling them they had not done their duty in allowing their fellow soldier Mungul Pandy, to behave in the murderous manner he had done. They answered in one voice, he is mad; he has taken bhang (an intoxicating drug) to excess. I replied could you not have secured him, or shot him or unarmed him? Would you not have done so to a mad dog or to a mad elephant and what difference was there in the dangerous madness of man, and the same in an elephant or a dog? they said he had a loaded musket. What! I replied, are you afraid of a loaded musket? They were silent. I bid them go quietly to their quarters and they did so, immediately obeying my orders.”

Major-General John Bennett Hearsey, 1860

What remains unclear is why Pandey did it in the first place. No one stopped him from attacking the officers and only a few stepped forward to hit Hewson. If Pandey was expecting support from anyone, he was sorely mistaken. It appears no one was ready as yet for the mutiny to begin if they had been planning to mutiny at all. When asked to explain his conduct, Pandey admitted to having taken an inordinate amount of bhang (an infusion of hemp) and opium; he himself was not really aware of what he was doing. He would further state that he bore no ill-will against the men he had injured, but he also stopped short of implicating anyone else. Mangal Pandey was court-martialled and sentenced to death. He was hung on the 8th of April.
As for Jemadar Ishwari Prasad (to give him his correct name), his court-martial was somewhat different. Where it could only be ascertained that Mangal Pandey had acted out of provocation probably by other men in his regiment and that the drugs had indeed gone to his head, Ishwari Prasad knew exactly what he was doing. He had refused direct orders from his superiors, he had not used any means at all to stop Mangal Pandey, he had done nothing to help Baugh and Hewson, and had actively discouraged his men from assisting the wounded officers. His punishment was death by hanging. On the 21st of April, the sentence was carried out.
Although it is now common in history books to call Mangal Pandey a freedom fighter, it does not appear he was part of any greater conspiracy, there is no evidence he was ringleader or had any ambitions to be one. He had been incited and excited into a rage by others; the rumors were obviously weighing heavily on his mind and he had the courage to set off on a one-man rampage. An army he was not, and it would appear that caste was more on his mind than the freedom of the nation. He was not hung because he was fighting for freedom: he was punished for disobeying the rules of the army he had chosen to serve in and for attacking his officers. Mangal Pandey did not start the mutiny of 1857 nor were his actions or that of the Jemadar Ishwari Prasad anything more than a symptom of a bigger problem at hand.

As for the 19th and the 34th

Following the disbandment of the 19th Regiment NI on the 31st of March which passed by with hardly a note being made of it for their conduct in Berhampore, it was decided that for their conduct or lack of it, seven companies of the 34th NI were to be disbanded on the 6th of May. Exempted from the disbandment were all men who were not in Barrackpore at the time being on duty elsewhere, three companies of the 34th who happened to be at Chittagong at the time, and 11 others who had approached their officers and petitioned the government, expressing their remorse at the conduct of the Regiment, expressed their sorrow and disavowed any participation in the events of the 29th. The disbandment itself was swift and was done in the presence of all available troops of the Presidency division to serve as a warning.
At sunrise, the men of the 34th were marched from the parade-grounds to the front of the line of European Infantry and guns. Here they were instructed as to the orders of the Governor-General by Major-General Hearsey, and it was explained why they were being dismissed from the Company’s service.
The regiment was then broken into open column and ordered to pile arms. They were then ordered to march to the rear to collect their salary from the pay sergeants. Meanwhile, Hearsey spoke to the remainder of the 34th that had been excepted from disbandment – it was a warning, they had witnessed what happened to men who disobeyed.
With the distribution of pay over, the men were once again ordered to fall in. Without their weapons or their red coats, the 34th presented themselves for the last time in their blue pantaloons and forage caps, before being marched off to the Fultha Ghat under two European officers of the 34th and an escort comprising of the 84th and the Governor-General’s Body Guard. Seen off across the river, the 34th Regiment Bengal Native Infantry ceased to exist.
Of course, this was hardly the end to the rumors.

Fulta Ghat Ferry, hand-coloured print, Views of Calcutta and Surrounding Districts, F.Fiebig, 1851. Source: British Library Online Gallery.

Sources:
The Mutiny of the Bengal Army – By One Who Served Under Sir Charles Napier, 1858

Annals of the Indian Rebellion, 1857, 1858 Noah Alfred Chick, 1859
A History of the Indian Mutiny – T.R.E Holmes 1883
The Great Mutiny: India 1857 – Christopher Hibbert, 1978
The Indian Mutiny: 1857 – Saul David, 2002
Fraser, John. “SOME PRE-MUTINY PHOTOGRAPH PORTRAITS.” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 58, no. 235, Society for Army Historical Research, 1980, pp. 134–47, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44230330.