Etawah, MAy 16th- to June 17th 1857
Etawah was by all means a quiet place. For the District Collector and Magistrate, Allen Octavian Hume the welfare of the people was utmost on his mind; education, according to Hume a morally, socially and economically sound population could only be achieved if education was prioritised and he was as true to his words as to his beliefs. By the 1st of January 1857, his district could boast of 181 schools with 5186 students, a far cry from 1856 when there had been barely 32 schools. His genuine concern for the people of Etawah was not lost on them – in the 8 years he had served the district, he reformed the police, put a halt to the liquor trade and established reform homes for delinquent juveniles. Hume believed he was not in Etwah just to gather up the taxes and keep order – he had to perform moral duties as well. The people of Etawah prospered.
When not otherwise occupied, Allan Hume was a very keen ornithologist and his book, My Scrap Book: Or Rough Notes on Indian Oology and Ornithology (1869) would prove to be singularly popular. Later in life, his road would take him into politics, but for now, we are meeting Mr. Hume in 1857, aged 28.
Like Phillips in nearby Etah, Hume heard of the outbreak at Meerut on the 12th of May. At his disposal was a detachment of the 8th Irregulars and a wing of the 9th BNI.
“The precautions that I had, (though quietly) adopted at this station, with a view of preventing any depredations that it was possible (though of course improbable) might be attempted here by any straggling mutineers from Meerut or Delhi.”
Hume set his men to patrol the roads with the police, and he did what he could to apprehend those straggling mutineers. He would not wait too long, for trouble soon came to Etawah.
On the 16th of May, 7 men of the 3rd LC from Meerut were confronted by Mahomed Ali Jan and his patrol.
“…my new Kotwal received information while patrolling the Agra road with three sowars of the 8th Irregular Cavalry, of the approach of the men, armed with pistols and swords. On coming up and challenging them, their replies were unsatisfactory; and he told them they must be brought before the magistrate; on this, they cocked their pistols, and threatened to shoot him if he came near them; he, however, talked quietly to them and induced them to come to me, and I, as their story seemed improbable, sent them away to Captain Corfield, the officer commanding the station, directing the kotwal to strengthen his patrol ‘en route, in order to guard against any escape.”
20 minutes later, Hume heard “smart firing” and fearing the worst, he quickly dressed and armed himself, and ran over to the treasury. “There I found the soldiers all on ‘qui vive,’ muskets loaded and cheery! and manifestly ready to fight anyone or everyone.”
Relieved it wasn’t the treasury but now sure it was a mutiny in the lines, Hume quickly ran back home and bundled his wife into a carriage he had been keeping on the ready with horses harnessed, taking her post haste to the bungalow of Captain Ross which happened to be on the way to the lines. Depositing Mrs. Hume, he took up Captain Ross and they dashed off to the lines where there was a guard of regular troops. On the way they met up with Messrs. Volk and Daniell, both on horseback and armed; and within ten minutes of hearing the first shot all of them were at the quarter guard, the medical officer being the last to join them.
The lines, however, were not in an uproar. It took Hume a moment to grasp the situation.
After leaving Hume’s house, the Kotwal had gone to Captain Ross with his prisoners. He had, as advised, taken reinforcements on the way and three more sowars had joined him. Captain Ross took it on himself to question the seven prisoners, but they “repeated as before they belonged to the 2nd Cavalry, had gone with remounts from Cawnpore, and were then returning to Agra, they had, however, no uniform, were armed to the teeth, had no single paper of any kind with them and no money.”
Captain Corfield now joined Captain Ross and he too questioned them. The story so disquieted Corfield he directed them to come with him to the lines,
“…this they did, somewhat unwillingly; when near the quarter-guard, he Lieutenant Allan, the kotwal and Meer Hossein Ali, the duffadar of the irregulars, dismounted and ordered them to give up their arms; this one did, but on Captain Corfield handing their weapons to the duffadar, their owner snatched them away violently, one man then shot Captain Corfield, who fell instantly, another man dashed at Lieutenant Allan, who had double-barrelled gun in his hand, the of which arrested the pistol bullet, a third fired point blank at that officer’s chest, knocked him down, and kneeling on his chest would have murdered him in a minute; when the Kotwal, Mahomed Ali Khan, at whom three of the others had fired simultaneously, killed him, dividing his backbone, with a lone tulwar blow..”
Injured in the arm, Captain Corfield survived.
By now, 15 sepoys had rushed up from the lines and with one volley put an end to the scuffle which did not end well for the seven men of the 3rd LC “two were shot, one was killed as above by the Kotwal, and two more cut down by the sowars, and two escaped at the time, but of these, one was subsequently captured by the police.”
One of the men survived his injuries at least long enough to confess he was a Pathan of Garra Kote named Sher Andaz Khan; that he had been a lance naik of the 1st troop, 3rd LC; and he had in fact participated in the Meerut mutiny. His six companions were all Pathans from the same place as him and were as follows:
Yaseen Khan, 2nd troop
Bakhand Khan, 5th troop
Nubbeedad Khan, 1st troop
yKareem Khan, 2nd troop
Dooman Khan, 2nd troop
Anwur Khan, 4th troop
Dooman Khan had escaped and Anwur Khan, with Sher Andaz, was jailed.
Although Sher Andaz Khan initially stated they had intended to stir up the 9th to mutiny, “he afterwards declared, that in reality, they were only trying to sneak home unobserved..”
They had never gone to Delhi.
Unusually for the times, Hume believed him.
Allan Hume was quick to point out in his report that the troops under the command of Corfield and Allan had behaved splendidly, reduced as they were to escort duties, with leave and sickness to consider had dwindled to a mere 96 men; he praised the 8th Irregulars under the command of Captain Ross, and he requested from the government permission “to express to them all publicly on parade the approbation of the Government for the steadiness..”
For the Kotwal, Mahomed Ali Jan who had acted with great tact and conspicuous bravery, Hume recommended: “an extra honorary personal allowance of twenty rupees a month..this will raise his salary to one hundred a month..he is in every respect an able, and I believe and honest man.”
He wasn’t finished. The patrol had received their information from the burkundazes (armed guards) of the road guard post and from a villager where the post was situated: “one of them ran past the men taking a detour without seeing him; and made for the kotwalee; the other two following the party slowly at a distance and never lost sight of them until the kotwal came up. “ Hume immediately gave the three men rewards from his own pocket.
Siege of Jaswantnagar
As much as he would have liked it, Hume was not out of the woods yet. On the 19th of May, it was no longer just 7 mutineers passing through his district but now they were coming by the cart full – armed men of the 3rd LC – their intentions were not altogether peaceful. Stopped by the police in Jaswantnagar, they were not in the mood to be arrested. Grabbing their guns, they jumped off the cart and poured a volley into the assembled bystanders, killing one and wounding three. They then ran to a nearby Hindu temple.
Mr. Hume and the joint magistrate Mr. Clarmont Daniell, with five troopers, quickly made their way to Jaswantnagar. However, it didn’t take much to realise this situation was different. The mutineers had found themselves in a strong position and were not coming out.
“The only way they could be got at was through a narrow doorway leading to some steps that were completely commanded from within. The whole building, which stands on an elevated platform of pukka masonry as well as the walls of the platform itself, are full of loopholes..”
This door that Hume and his men could possibly access was thus exposed to point-blank fire and they had no chance of seeing the shooters at all. Hume and Daniell first scouted the back of the building with the mutineers firing steadily at them, while they could only return fire when on the off chance they saw someone. They could not get the police to get close enough to fire with any result, and though they did once manage to get within 5 yards of the building the firing was so severe they were forced to retire.
The townspeople had from the start shown their sympathy for the mutineers and although they ensured they could not get out of the temple by setting up guards around it, they continued to supply them with food and ammunition.
Mr. Hume had little choice but to send to Etawah for reinforcements. He received a return note that six men of the 8th Irregulars and 10 sepoys were on their way, but only the Irregulars arrived.
The sepoys had started off well enough but had taken the wrong road and had ended up at Kachchaura Ghat instead. They never made it to Jaswanthnagar.
Time was passing swiftly and with the approaching darkness, Hume decided they had to take a chance at once and storm the temple. The Irregulars dismounted and agreed with Mr. Hume that he and some of the sowars should make a run for the temple and occupy a platform made of masonry some 20 feet from the doorway. They should then pour in a volley while Mr. Daniell with the daffadar of the Irregulars and any volunteers, should run along the side of the temple and force their way in.
It could have worked but volunteers were wanting. Under heavy fire, as it was only Hume, Daniell, the daffadar and a watchman who reached the doorway. Daniell was shot in the face, the daffadar fell back and the watchman was knocked over. Everyone fled.
Daniell staggered a few yards and fell senseless and Hume gave up trying to rally his men – he carried Daniell to safety with the help of a barber.
The townspeople in the meantime who had been watching the spectacle now started to become hostile and threatening – Hume ordered them to disperse but only a few obeyed. He then ordered the sowars to remount and patrol the grove around the temple, while he dressed Mr. Daniell’s wound and then returned to Etawah with the injured man.
On reaching Etawah, Hume immediately instructed the deputy collector, Muhammad Ikram Husain to maintain the guard around the temple but should the population of Jaswantnagar become unruly, he should relax the guard just enough so the mutineers could leave the temple; and then to attack them in the open. As a ruse, it might have worked but nature had other plans. Under the cover of a late-night storm, the mutineers could escape without being seen.
Without a defensible position available in Etawah, Hume decided it was wiser to move not only the European population but the 9th NI as well, to Barhpura, a village across the Jamuna River. Bahrpura had the advantage of being easier to defend and its location on the Gwalior Road had a singular advantage; Hume expected reinforcements from Gwalior and if all else failed at least he had a road to retreat on.
On reaching the ghat to cross the river what Hume had only half expected, finally happened. A portion of the men of the 9th BNI refused to cross and turned back to Etawah. The rest escorted the Europeans to Bahrpura without any incident.
The return of the men of the 9th to Etawah led to similar scenes of violence that had occurred in other stations. They first plundered the treasury and carried off the money – the police guard had thought it prudent to retreat as did the last remaining British officer who fledc collectively to Bahrpura, while the sepoys, joined by the general populace and various troublemakers proceeded to rampage through the town. They burned down 2 bungalows, the sessions court and post office. Then they turned their attention to the sepoys lines and carried off all the ammunition and arms. From here they proceeded to the district jail, releasing the prisoners. As for the Etawah itself, it was not spared, with shops looted though the culprits were not so much the mutineers but the local rascals instead. The mutineers themselves loaded the treasure on the backs of camels and left Etawah behind them.
On the 24th of May, reinforcements did arrive in the form of Major Hennessy and the men of the First or Grenadier Regiment of the Gwalior Contingent. With their help, Hume was able to re-occupy Etawah on the same day – on the 27th of May, Hume declared martial law to restore order. Arrests were made of anyone who had plundered property in his possession though much of the property was given up willingly by villagers who claimed they had taken it from the thieves or had appropriated it for protection – Hume wisely did not ask too many questions. 40’000 rupees from the treasury were recovered and several gangs of bandits were dispersed. Kunwar Lachman Singh, deputy collector of Banda who had been travelling through Etawah when the trouble started, offered his help to Hume. His first duty was to head out to Samthar.
The zamindars of Samthar were not keen on Hume’s declaration of martial law and chose to put up a fight, barricading themselves in the village fort. They were not the fort’s owners – they had routed him previously – and although offered pardon, they flatly refused to surrender. Firing on the Hume’s emissary, the fort was eventually stormed, the village burnt to the ground and the zamindars put to death. It was not the outcome Hume had hoped for; their deaths only fanned the fire of further troubles.
Hume finally sent the women and children to Agra under the protection of the men of the Gwalior Contingent and local levies that had been raised by Kunwar Zohar Singh of Partabner, a staunch supporter of Hume.
Hoping to open up lines of communication, Hume now sent 200 Grenadiers towards Auralya and sent not only all of his best police officers but his most trusted zamindars and their levies into the countryside to take possession of the district divisions (parganas) of Sikandra, Rasulabad and Dera-Mangalpur in Kanpur. As they came within 20 miles of Kanpur, Hume had requested them to collect supplies and contrive a way to pass these on the Wheeler’s garrison, but their efforts were invain. The Etawah force could not find any passable way in to Kanpur.
While it was starting to look quiet again in Etawah, Hume even entertained the possibility of holding the district, but on the 16th of June, he received news of the mutiny and massacre in Gwalior. Communication from a native officer informed Hennessey that a portion of the men of the Gwalior Contingent at Etawah was ripe for rebellion and they intended to murder their officers. It was unsettling information – Hume had sent off so many of the trusted local levies out into to the countryside and there was no force in the immediate vicinity on which the Europeans could rely and in their weakened position, it would be pointless to argue with the grenadiers. At dawn on the 17th of June Hume and the rest of the Europeans left Etawah hoping to reach Agra. As soon as they left, the men of the Gwalior Contingent plundered the station.
What the mutineers hadn’t expected however was the reaction of the townspeople. They turned on them, killed 26 and wounded several others and forced them to flee across the river. If they had intended on occupying Etawah, they were sorely mistaken.
Hume and his party made their way to Kachhaura Ghat on the direct road to Agra. Their progress was fraught with problems – the Jhansi mutineers were within a day’s march of Etawah District and the crossing was out of the question. They turned off and made for Bah. Here they met fugitives from Kalpi and Orai, including two ladies. It soon became clear that Bah was not an option, Bodies of matchlock men were openly parading about the countryside, and Bah itself had already been plundered, the ruins still smouldering as they entered the town. Hume decided that without any more delays they had to reach Agra.
It was fortunate for the fugitives that the mutineers were not hunting Europeans as they had been around Delhi – the rest of their journey to Agra, though uncomfortable, passed will little incident.
For Hume, he would not set foot back in Etawah until January 1858, though in the interceding 7 months he would not stop annoying his superiors about his return, sending messages to the Indian officials he had left behind or keeping a line of communication open through his district. For now, we leave Hume in Agra, waiting and planning. His part in 1857 had only just begun.
Map of Etawah District: CENSUS OF INDIA 2011UTTAR PRADESH
Series 10 Part XII-A District Census Handbook, ETAWAH, Village and Town Directory
Annals of the Indian Rebellion – Noah Alfred Chick (1859)
A.O.Hume and the 1857 Rebellion in Etawah; At Study – Dr. Shilendra Kumar Sharma Academic Social Research RNI No. 1276610 ISSN No. 2456-2654
Pictures of Etawah Ghat and Ravine – Wellcome Collection, https://wellcomecollection.org/