The Contingent Speaks

Colour centre of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Gwalior Contingent

We are going to look at the mutiny of the Gwalior Contingent, one of the mightiest armies in India, from 2 points of view, starting with that of the contingent itself.

What is important to remember, Gwalior was but one of the many princely states in India but its treatment by the EICo had been different. It had not been subjugated to EICo rule by annexation, nor had it been beaten into submission or even openly conquered. The EICo had remained magnanimous in their treatment of Gwalior and had, probably after the fiasco which led to the 1844 treaty in the first place, had been watchful rather than forceful in their treatment of Scindia. Macpherson had tried to instil in the young prince a modicum of self-government insofar as he continued to listen to his excellent prime minister, Dewan Dinkar Rao. With this in mind, we can begin to explore the mutiny in Gwalior.

The year 1857 started with a grand presentation of the Maharaja and his councillors to the aloof government at Calcutta. He had been dined and flattered and promised, upon his death, an adopted son would be accepted by the EICo, should he die without issue. He had been given no reason to fear the EICo or its servants, and likewise, Dinkar Rao firmly stood on the side of the company. From their position in Gwalior, they saw no reason to listen to the rumours of bonemeal in the government issued flour, nor take anything more than a passing notice of the mutterings surrounding the greased cartridges. Unlike the troops in the Bengal Army, the Gwalior Contingent was higher paid and certainly better managed by their English officers and Scindia himself could boast of a personal army of no less than 10’000 men, infantry and cavalry which served him, independent of the Gwalior Contingent.

What was the Gwalior Contingent?

The Gwalior Contingent was formed in 1844 after the disbanding of Scindia’s army. This arrangement was made in the scope of the treaty signed by Scindia and the EICo following his defeat near Dholpur.

Officer’s helmet, 1st Cavalry regiment, Gwalior Contingent, ca 1848

Originally, the contingent consisted of 400 cavalry and 200 Marhatta horse, 52 gulandaze, 2 nine-pounders, and 2 24-pounders, a howitzer and regiment of 600 infantry.
All this was placed under 7 English officers – a brigadier and 6 others – 2 of cavalry, 3 of infantry and 1 of artillery. Additionally, a number of commissioned and non-commissioned Indian officers were recruited from the regular corps of the Bengal Army.
The distinct feature of the contingent was their pay, the highest among any given to sepoys. They were paid 30 Chanderi rupees per month for cavalry and 7 for infantry, it was a way to ensure the officers had a stronger hold over their men.

The expenses of maintaining the contingent were to be met by Scindia but the command and management was entirely by the English, headed by the brigadier. The brigadier took his orders in turn from the commander in chief and ran the daily affairs of the contingent in consultation with the political agent residing at Gwalior.

Scindia had further ceded several districts under the treaty, including Chanderi, Kachwahagarh, Shander and Orai the revenues of which were used to pay for the contingent.  From 1844 onwards, Scindia was not allowed to increase the numbers serving in the contingent, especially infantry,  however when it was felt necessary that a larger force of infantry was needed, the strength was increased and as such, more revenue was needed to maintain them.  Although it had been the unwritten policy of the EICo to disallow any increases to the contingent, between 1844 and 1857, the contingent grew significantly. By 1857, the cavalry and infantry had grown from 600 each to 1158 and 6412 respectively. The number of gunners too increased – from 52 to 74 and the number of guns from 4 to 26. As a result, a general increase in both Indian and English officers was needed.

The religious make-up of the contingent was mixed – a good majority of the cavalry was Muslim and they were represented in the ranks of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers as well. However, the majority of the artillery and infantry sepoys were Hindus – mainly Brahmins and Thakurs – recruited from eastern Oudh and the adjoining Bihar districts. A percentage of the cavalry in the contingent were of the Kychee caste. Unlike the Bengal Army the Gwalior Contingent was not exclusively recruited from high caste people.


In 1857, there were present in addition to the contingent 3 other bodies of troops in the Gwalior territory and these were as follows:
– Scindia’s regular troops – limited by the treaty to 3000 infantry, 6000 cavalry including bodyguards and 200 policemen. A large number of officers commanding these troops were Scindia’s Mahratta sardars. In his cavalry were a large number of Muslim horsemen recruited mainly from Rohilkhand
-Troops attached to Baiza Bai, widow of Daulat Rao Scindia. Some 800 of her troops were Wilayatis or Afghan mercenaries from northwestern India.
 -Irregular troops, maintained by the mostly Rajput chiefs subjugated by Scindia. These amounted to some 17540 men. They were dispersed throughout Gwalior and their role was restricted by their parochial outlook and lack of organisation, making them fit for only serving as watchmen and as escorts for travelling parties.

The English officers were as follows:
Brigadier Ramsay
Major Hennessy
Major Sheriff
Major Black
Major Hawkins
Major Stewart
Captain Meade
Captain Murray
Captain Alexander
Captain Ferris
Captain Hills
Captain Campbell
Lieutenant Proctor
Lieutenant Tomkinson
Lieutenant Pearson
Lieutenant Pierson
Lieutenant Cockburn
Doctor Mackellar
Doctor Kirke
Regimental Chaplain George Coopland

And at the very top of this very long list, is Major Samuel Charters Macpherson, Political Agent and Resident.

The Contingent Decides

Although the usual causes of greased cartridges and general dissatisfaction have been cited one of the main reasons in Gwalior was the growing economic distress and pauperisation of the peasants and urban masses from whom not only the Bengal sepoys but the Gwalior contingent stemmed from. They were not all men from Gwalior – in fact many were from Oudh that had been so badly handled before and after annexation. If anything, they saw their very lands parcelled off through settlements, their rightful king deposed and watched as their relations bore the brunt of all of this. Their rage at the EICo was in some sense, justifiable.
The Muslim sepoys and officers as well as the Rohilas and Wilayatis among Scindias and Baiza Bai’s troops were influenced by the appeal of the revivalist Wahabi doctrines prescribing a jihad against foreign rule under the leadership of an imam. After the uprising on the 14th of June this could be seen in the unusual amount of Gwalior contingent troops who chose to join the roaming ghazi bands instead of the revolt as a whole. There had been something of a centre of jihadi preaching in Gwalior for some years before the mutiny and it had gone unchecked.

While the main body of troops was at Gwalior, a number of its infantry regiments were stationed elsewhere to bolster the number of troops under English command at the various stations:
7th Regt Neemuch
3rd Regt Seepree
5th Regiment Agra
6th Regiment Sultanpur
a company of the 6th Regt at Burhanpur
a company of the 6th at Jabalpur, amongst others.

Inspite of the Wahabi influence in the contingent and the growing dissatisfaction in the Bengal Army, the Gwalior contingent remained quiet from the start of the uprising in May until mid-June.  The relations with their English officers were good and Ramsay was an efficient brigadier. Even Lieutenant-Colonel H.M. Durand officiating agent of the Governor General in Central India remarked in his report on the 23rd of May that “the conduct of the contingent troops has hitherto been so exemplary.”

It was even considered to send the contingent to Agra to reinforce the troops there but Scindia objected as their removal would encourage the local chiefs to rebel against him. On the 13th, 17th and 19th of May small detachments, mainly of cavalry were sent to reinforce Agra. None of the native officers or the men objected to the move.

On the 20th of May at the Lieutenant-Governor’s request, troops belonging to the infantry and 100 sowars of the Sind bodyguard were marched to Etawah under Major Hennessy who was then able to restore the district magistrates’ authority of the place.
Scindia himself strove to strengthen the impression of the contingent’s exemplary behaviour by assuring the sepoys and native officers if they remained loyal their position would be on par with those men under his direct employ. Major Macpherson himself contributed to strengthening this impression even further by depositing 4.5 lac rupees directly to the care of Scindia, which had been collected from the ceded district of Oorai, for the direct maintenance of the troops. After Jhansi, Scindia was given administrative powers over the ceded districts of Kuchwahgarh and “which were assigned for the expenses of the contingent” thus with the overall effect to the contingent that for the men who no longer felt an overdriving loyalty to the British, could continue serving them through Scindia without having to resort to rebellion – it at least was a mindful pacification.

Nor was there an overriding revolt in the Gwalior Contingent – at least not at the start. The 1st Cavalry station at Agra was incited to mutiny in Agra not of their own design but by the influence of the Bengal sepoys on the 13th of May and they did so but half-heartedly. They had also acted in a manner that was without the support of the rest of the Contingent.
On the 19th of May the troops of the 1st Cavalry, the company of a wing of 9th Native Infantry marched to Aligarh to capture the treasury. It would appear their plan had been to take the treasure and then move onto Delhi but when they arrived in Aligarh, the 1st Cavalry changed their minds. From Aligarh, they moved on to Hathras where they tried to restore order by acting against a body of rebels who were plundering the town. Macpherson refers to the conduct as “behaved well” and approved of their actions, at least up to this point. However, on the 23rd of May, 100 of them separated themselves from this main body and rode off towards Delhi, apparently shouting “DEEN DEEN” as they went (for the faith). Although we don’t know what happened to the majority that remained in Hathras, it would appear that the 100 who left had been disgusted by their compatriots’ stalling and refusal to go to Delhi, leaving them to strike out on their own.
It can be evidenced that the majority at Hathras were not acting of their own accord but on the orders of their leaders in Gwalior, who advised them that joining the rebellion at this point was counterintuitive, but they should wait and then only rise when Scindia had managed to convince the English that he could manage the contingent himself, thus absolving them of the need to openly rebel.

As early as the 16th of May, to support this theory, a leadership within the contingent was emerging, who presumed to hold negotiations with Brigadier Ramsay and the Scindia on behalf of the sepoys and the native officers. A communication from the political agent at Gwalior to the Governor-General on that day records Scindia’s directive to the contingent that it should move towards Chanderi for suppressing the chiefs of Chanderi, Rayaghur, Maudhungur, Komru and Bhadoara who had all come out against his administration. Although Ramsay approved, the sepoys were not prepared to comply, citing they would move against the Chanderi chiefs after the “rainy weather” which was nothing but a thinly veiled excuse to deliberately disobey orders.

This is significant as it does show that there existed within the contingent an able body of leaders, men who were capable of negotiations on their behalf who held enough authority within the contingent to influence its movements. There appears to have been a collective agreement to refuse to march out as a whole, but they did permit small bodies of horsemen to Agra on the 17th and 19th of May, and a small detachment of infantry to Etawah on the 20th but none of this amounted to more than a token dispersal. So the large-scale deployment to Chanderi when politely refused, Ramsay and Scindia entered into negotiations with the leaders of the sepoys at Gwalior and eventually had to back down. “..the leaders of the sepoys at Gwalior, apparently conceived the contingent as an organised body of professional soldiers whose basic allegiance was to their own organisation.” Their main interest was to protect the contingent as a whole. As a result, besides being opposed to the removal of the contingent from Gwalior, they were also averse to taking part in any rebellious actions that could endanger the very existence of the contingent of which their English officers played a prominent part. Thus their refusal to go to Chanderi was presented in a way to give as little provocation the Ramsay and Scindia. The English officers for their part “vaguely appreciated this self-perception on the part of the sepoys and their leaders.”

The arrival in Gwalior of emissaries of sepoys and ordinary deserters from the rebellious units of the Bengal Army located all over Northern India contrived to make the situation in Gwalior very tense. Furthermore, as more deserters arrived in Gwalior, so did letters from the rebellious counterparts in Delhi and other stations designed to motivate the Gwalior Contingent to mutiny.
Not everyone in the ranks of the Gwalior contingent was in favour of rebellion. Many sepoys were unconvinced a general uprising was the answer while others were all for overthrowing the English rulers, believing the company rule was at an end. What followed was much torturous discussion in the lines, all of which was reported to Macpherson by Scindia himself. However a consensus was finally reached and the sepoys, after administering the same oaths their counterparts in other stations had, swearing on Ganga pani or on the Koran to destroy not just the English rule but rid the country of all Christians, they agreed to an uprising. Scindia informed Macpherson on the 26th of May the contingent had “ceased to be servants of the government.” It was not a matter of if they would rebel, but when.

Between the 26th of May and the 14th of June everything suggests the contingent planned their uprising in meticulous detail. Unlike the sudden eruptions in stations like Meerut, their sole purpose appears to have been – after ridding themselves of their English officers -to keep the contingent itself intact. Their actions from here onwards were deliberated to throw these very officers off guard.
Scindia and Macpherson both tried to convince Ramsay and the others the contingent was no longer to be trusted but as they saw no untoward action on the part of their men, they stoutly refused to believe their men had thrown off their loyalty.  A false alarm on the 29th of May did nothing to change their minds in spite of repeated warnings from Macpherson and Scindia. The troops continued to behave in an exemplary manner. After the botched rising on the 29th, the 4th regiment, who in Macpherson’s estimation was most suspect, petitioned the brigadier to be led anywhere against the rebels. On the 7th of June, the same regiment and the men of Stuarts Battery were ordered to proceed to Jhansi under Captain Murray for the purpose of quelling the rebellion there, they readily complied.
Significantly, the regiments stationed at Neemuch at Sultanpur did not display the same hesitation as the cavalry had in Hathras in May, so when the rebellions at those stations, on the 3rd and the 13th of June respectively, they joined in.

Interestingly enough, the disaffected sepoys at Gwalior avoided wholesale and individual desertion from the service, unlike the men in the direct employ of Scindia. The hold of loyalty the leaders of the contingent had over their men was stronger than their individual needs – in other words, if they had deserted, they would have had to sever all ties with the contingent itself, something they were not willing to do. The internal leadership in the contingent itself was too aware of the fact that open desertions would have meant the English officers would no longer be so easy to catch off guard.  The whole purpose was to rise as one contingent and not give the officers any cause for alarm until they were ready to rebel.

However, this only worked up to a point. On the 13th of June when half the infantry and the men serving two of the contingent’s guns were ordered to proceed to the villages of Parso and Sakurwuree for no apparent purpose except to get them out of the station, they once again refused to go – it appears the move had been ordered by the Brigadier after a warning he received that the contingent was preparing to rebel. It was a last-ditch effort to single out disaffected elements but it was too late and too ineffective.

The 14th of June

Officers sabretache, 1st Cavalry Regiment, ca 1848. Picture courtesy of Bridgeman Art&Culture

On the 14th of June, the contingent rose as one body and to a man in rebellion. It was by all indications a “well-organised operation which enabled the leaders of the revolt to capture the entire establishment of the contingent intact and with minimal bloodshed.” However, the bloodthirsty elements of the contingent did murder 7 officers, 6 sergeants and pensioners, 3 women and 3 children on the night of the 14th of June, but their leaders were able to restrain them from committing any further atrocities.
Macpherson observed,

“Against our rule, the contingent apparently acted as one man. They were so much divided as to the slaughter of the officers that 4 out of 7 infantry regiments, 2 out of 4 Batteries of Artillery and the 2 Regiments of Cavalry, excepting a party at Gwalior, killed none...“It does not appear to have been their plan to murder the women and children  – at least the next day, they sent off, after very insulting treatment, those who survived to the Maharaja.”

Many of the English officers were aided by the sepoys themselves – “The cantonment guards favoured or actively aided the escape of several officers and their families. Thus of the 2nd regiment, 3 men escorted Lieutantna and carried his wife in a litter 7 miles to the residency. And the guards of the 1st regiment over the family of its absent commandant behaved admirably. The rear-guard of the 4th regiment protected most faithfully captains Murray and Meade and their families while a party of the 2nd came to destroy them.” The same was the behaviour of the contingents at Neemuch and Seepree. The idea generally was to spare their officers’ lives but make their expulsion from Gwalior so uncomfortable they would not entertain any idea of remaining or for that matter, coming back. Macpherson further testifies that after the initial wave of murder was over, the drive to kill was apparently no longer their goal. When he left on the 16th to proceed to Agra, the pursuit and attack on him were but half-hearted.

On the 14th of June while making his way from the Residency to Phoolbagh Palace under an escort of Scindias horsemen, a band of ghazis (partly consisting of men from the Gwalior contingent) surrounded his carriage and pleaded with the guard to be allowed to kill Macpherson. The guard brushed them off, stating they were taking him as a prisoner to Scindia. On the 15th of June, when he had the ill luck to meet with the same band of ghazis at the village of Hingora, taking with him to Dholpur the women and children who had survivied the massacre, the leader of the band, one Jahagir Khan, “protested he did not wish to injure” them. “He came to visit us, arrayed in green with beads fingered in ceaseless prayer. But in concert with him, a body of plunderers were assembled to attack us in the ravine fringing the river.” Although still eager that the English leave the Gwalior territory as quickly as possible, they were no longer keen to attack them – Jahangir Khan did not oppose Macpherson’s crossing at the Chambal River on the road to Dholpur and it would appear he was acting on the orders of the rebel leaders in the Gwalior Contingent.

The policy of the rebel leaders had been from the first to maintain the contingent as a whole and not allow for any dissolution of the men into individual bands, under a single officer. “They could hope to ensure against such a possibility first and foremost by keeping under check the Wahabi elements present within the contingent from acting in a chaotic manner, “ as they had the tendency to join the roaming bands of ghazis which would undermine the contingent as a whole. However, it would appear that within 24 hours of the rebellion, hundreds had indeed thrown off the allegiance to turn into ghazis, led by a person who was no longer a contingent officer as in the case of Jahangir Khan. This was precisely what the leaders were trying to avoid – and they only just managed to keep the fanaticism under control by discouraging wanton bloodshed.

Once again, it can be seen that although the policy of the rebel leaders to keep killing at a minimum was met with a general acceptance by the men now under their control, in Sipree when the men of the 3rd Regiment on the 17th and 18th of June saved the English, the men accused their officers of accepting bribes from the English in exchange for their lives, and promptly turned them out of the regiment. However, on a whole, it was widely accepted by Hindus and Muslim sepoys alike that they would avoid murdering the English. This says much in the favour of the rebel leadership in the Gwalior Contingent.

Following the 14th of June, the leaders in Gwalior quickly appointed a new commanding officer, with the rank of General, one Inayat Khan, until then subedar-major of the 1st Infantry Regiment. His appointment was met with general consensus of the contingent and all the positions vacated by the English were swiftly occupied in a similar manner.
This newly raised team of officers directed all regiments serving outside Gwalior to immediately return to their headquarters after removing their English officers. This can be seen in the behaviour of the regiments at Sultanpur (13th of June), Seepree (17-18 June) and Agra (3-4July). The only exception is the 7th Regiment at Neemuch who were acting against the orders of their leaders in Gwalior and rebelled on the 3rd of June without consulting them first. Instead of returning to Gwalior, they marched with the Bengal Briagade directly to Agra and participated in that rather inconclusive action against the British forces, and then marched off to Delhi. By and large, all the other Gwalior regiments acted as ordered by General Inayat Khan and returned to the contingent.

There was also a concerted effort by the leaders of the Gwalior Contingent to keep it as a fully functional military force. Each regiment continued to guard its colours and emblems. The practice of posting guards, grand rounds and drills continued without exception and were meticulously carried out. The artillery too was kept in best working order and slackness was not permitted, either in duty or form. They also took steps to produce their own percussion caps with fulminating powder designed for use with the very latest English handguns given out to the regiment.

Paying for Mutiny
However, for finances, they had to rely on Scindia.
The 4.5 lac rupees Macpherson had handed over to Scindia for the upkeep of the contingent was in their estimation, rightfully theirs. On the 11th of June when Scindia took charge of Bhander and Kuchwahgarh, the revenues from these districts were set aside primarily for the contingent’s use. What they were not prepared to do was press the contingent into the service of Scindia himself.
The contingent’s leaders did have a very precise set of demands they expected Scindia to adhere to and these were as follows:

a. That the 4.5 lac from the Oorai revenue should be given over to them

b. That he should lead the contingent in an attack on Agra Fort

c. That the contingent, after conquering Agra on Scindia’s behalf, should be allowed to move freely where ever they chose

d. That in “anticipation of this service, Scindia should give to the contingent a sum of an additional Rs 12 to 15 lacs  when it needed for replenishing supplies and repair of equipment.”

In light of these proposals, Scindia baulked -understanding the political implications this would have for him as he saw the rebels were trying to convince him to use the contingent to regain the territory his predecessors had lost in the past 30 years to the English. Like many of his Maratha sardars, Scindia was not convinced the English were gone for good, Dinkar Rao believed the company as a whole would never be defeated and thus Scindia did not see that by acceding to the plans of the rebels. He was after all, thinking of the future of Gwalior.

As such Scindia announced his acceptance of the whole contingent into his own personal service, thereby implying he was ready to foot the bill for the upkeep. The rebel leaders saw they were in no position to refuse as the sepoys would quickly throw in their allegiance to a master who promised to pay them directly from his own treasury. It was also a move intended to undermine their own management of the contingent leaving them effectively without the autonomy they had so tried to preserve since the outbreak. It also left the sepoys with little scope to act independently against English rule elsewhere in India. The leaders were very well aware that at no point in time had Scindia stopped communicating with Macpherson or the other officers at Agra and Jabalpur so they knew his loyalties were far from the rebellion and forcing him to their side was beyond their power. Yet, to keep the contingent as one body, they needed the sepoys and the sepoys would only stay if they were paid. So with great reluctance, they agreed to Scindia’s offer.

What they did not reckon with was how far Scindia was prepared to go in his loyalty to the British. His main intention, as agreed to with Macpherson before he left Gwalior on the 15th of June was to tie down the contingent in Gwalior until the end of September and prevent them from joining any of the large-scale rebel troop movements in North India until the British had got themselves organised enough to counter-attack.
The leaders simply reckoned that with time, Scindia could be won over to their side but over the next four months it became increasingly clear he had no intention of doing so.
Scindia and of course Dinkar Rao, were by far smarter leaders than the rebels gave them credit for and Scindia was in no way as malleable as Shah Bahadur in Delhi. He had his personal army of 10000 men and although many of them would have very much liked to bid the British good riddance, they were personally invested in the personage of Scindia himself – a personal humiliation of their leader would have essentially been their own failure and they were not willing to go that far. While there was a distinct possibility the rebel leaders could have turned their artillery against Scindia and bombed the fort to pressure him into switching sides, this again would have been a foolish stratagem – the contingent would have had to contend with the wrath of Scindia’s army and a considerable section of the Rajput chiefs in his pay could have turned against the contingent making their position anywhere in Gwalior State untenable.

What Scindia did over the next 4 months was force the rebel leaders of the Gwalior contingent to engage in an endless stream of councils, panchayats courts and deputations either among each other or with him and his council, in which they debated whether to go against Scindia, to force Scindia to act or to continue to remain under his tutelage. Every single deputation was accompanied by thirty to 100 “private delegates who would be there to watch over the conduct of their representatives” and Scindia met with all of them in his palace. “They menaced, beseeched, dictated until they planted their batteries against him (Scindia)”. But not once did any of the batteries open fire and the leaders continued to hold enough control over their men to prevent them from an all-out attack.
There was also further internal squabbling.
The Hindu sepoys of the Gwalior Contingent wanted, in July, that the contingent move closer to Cawnpore and thus to their homeland – however, the Muslims recruited from the Doab region as well as those from Gwalior itself continued to insist the contingent move to Agra and then onto Delhi. However, the leaders were still determined to hold the contingent as one body and all of these proposals were rejected. They even refused the formal offers in August of the wakil of the Nana Sahib and the Rani of Jhansi – sent to Scindia – to employ the contingent at least temporarily in their own battles. In spite of offering the Contingent large sums of money, the leadership stuck to their lines and sent the wakil packing.
However, September came about and inevitably, the leaders suddenly received a shock.
On the eve of the Indore rebels setting out from Morar to Agra (5th September), they suddenly realised that the discontent in the ranks of the sepoys had, after so much negotiation, developed into a movement of its own and many of the troops were now contemplating joining the Indore troops. The sepoys were no longer willing to trust in any further negotiations with Scindia and on the 7th of September during yet another prolonged meeting with Scindia, many of the sepoys “observers” became unruly. Pushing aside their representatives they boldly approached Scindia and demanded he either lead them immediately against the British or they would as of this moment, resign their service and contingent too was no longer in his pay. On their return to their lines, the sepoys announced the “autonomous status of the contingent by planting green and white flags as the new rallying symbols for them respectively.” Over the next 1 and a half months, as the contingent prepared to move against the British in Cawnpore, the leaders who had tried so desperately to preserve their contingent felt pressured to fall in line with the wishes of the sepoys.

Windham meets the Gwalior Contingent

Seeing that the only way to keep the contingent as one body, they now needed to make sure that when it did take to the field, they would be able to perform as an army.
On the 27th of November, they signally trounced General Windham near Cawnpore and briefly reoccupied the station with the other rebels. It was however the only time a rebel army managed to defeat the English army of matching strength in open battle. It proved that their leadership after the removal of the English officers from Gwalior was strong and above all competent and battle ready.  Even after their subsequent defeat at Kalpi on the 6th of December by Colin Campbell, the Gwalior Contingent withdrew in formation and managed to carry with it the majority of its artillery. Until then, they had kept up carefully, their English equipment and organisation, the words of command for drill and rounds were given as the British could hear, at night, in English. They were the only rebel force  “ the formation of which can be said to go beyond that of companies as they had been officered by natives almost exclusively and thus with their field officers and captains, retained something like organised battalions.”

Pursuit of the Gwalior Contingent by Sir Colin Campbell

Unfortunately, it was the last time they would be able to prove themselves. A subsequent disorganised rout of the rebels once again from Kalpi in May 1858, spelt the end of the Gwalior Contingent – they were no longer under the control of their own able leaders but that of the powerful rebel figures who in their inability to lead an army, in their flight, did not use the contingent they had at their call and thus, in their own ineptitude, destroyed the might of the Gwalior Contingent.  With them vanished one of the finest rebel armies that had ever, albeit briefly, existed. The British had rightly feared the Gwalior Contingent. Not for nothing had Lord Canning remarked in one of his dispatches to  the Court of Directors,

“If Scindia joins the Rebellion, I shall have to pack off tomorrow.”

In the next article, we will look more closely at the parts played by Scindia and Dinkar Rao and how the British themselves experienced the mutiny of the Gwalior Contingent.


The Gwalior Contingent in 1857-58; A Study of the Organisation and Ideology of the Sepoys Rebels – Iqtidar Alam Khan Social Scientist, Vol. 26, No. 1/4 (Jan. – Apr., 1998), pp. 53-75 (23 pages)
Memorial of Service in India, from the Correspondence of the Late Major Samuel Charters Macpherson, C.B., edited by his brother, William Macpherson (1865)
General Sir Richard Meade and the Feudatory States of Central and Southern India -Thomas Henry Thornton, C.S.I, D.C.L (1889)
The Revolt in Central India 1857-59, compiled in the Intelligence Branch – Lieutenant- Colonel W. Malleson (1908)
Gwalior State Gazetteer, Vol. 1- Text and Tables – compiled by Captain C.E. Luard M.A. (Oxon) I.A. Superintendent of Gazetteer in Central India, assisted by Rai Sahib Pandit Dwarka Nath Shopuri, State Gazetteer Officer (1908)