A lane in the city of Gwalior.

In a previous post, “The Contingent Speaks” we have seen what the leaders of the contingent did to preserve itself as one, unanimous fight force. They were led, not by fanatics but by capable leaders, well trained in military operations and above all were able to rise to the challenge of keeping the Contingent together. It was Scindia’s duty however to keep them from moving off. We have also seen how hard the leaders tried to preserve life for after the first fury of the mutineers had died down, the killing of the Europeans stopped. Unfortunately, it left Charlotte Stewart an orphan and Ruth Coopland a very bitter widow.

The task which lay ahead of Scindia after the sudden expulsion of the British from Gwalior was enormous. He no longer had the levelheaded Macpherson at his elbow and he quickly came to realise most of his court was filled with rabble-rousers and bad advisors. His one saviour was Dinkar Rao.

Major Macpherson had had but three years to solidify in the minds of both Scindia and Dinkar Rao that English rule was fair and wise – rightly or wrongly, it was his duty as Political Agent to represent the EICo. He was, after all, the company’s servant, first and foremost. Unusually, Macpherson desisted from any open meddling in Gwalior policy and he also resisted the temptation to set himself up as a defacto ruler. He wanted Gwalior to be ruled by its own people but these same said people should represent the EICo, interpreting the company as they saw fit for the purposes of the State. The reforms, we must remember were not implemented by Macpherson but by Dinkar Rao and they all fell into line with company policy, even modelled openly on other systems, such as that of Punjab. Macpherson however stood out from other Political Agents of the time – he lacked many of the prejudices of his compatriots and was willing to allow the Dewan and Scindia to run the administration on their own. Macpherson understood the limitations of the young prince but on the other hand, he trusted him enough to make the right decisions when properly managed.

Soon after the return of Scindia from Calcutta, barely one month later the mutiny broke out. From the start, neither Scindia, his prime minister nor some of his better-informed courtiers believed that English rule was at an end. They considered the religious apprehensions to be groundless and held nothing of the idea that the English could easily be run into the sea. The visit to Calcutta had solidified in the mind of the prince the largeness of the company’s resources and he understood more broadly that without the company, Gwalior would soon be reduced to a squabbling multitude of chieftains, minor rulers and landowners each with one simple goal of overthrowing him! In short, Scindia understood his own position was not secure even in the slightest and if he was to remain on his own throne, he needed to play a duplicitous game and this involved following the lead of not just Macpherson but Dinkar Rao.

Throughout the month of May, Scindia and Dinkar Rao were in ceaseless communication with Macpherson, fomenting a plan to see them through the very real possibility of mutiny. Scindia proved to be a man of tireless energy.
One of the first things he did to help secure the British position, Scindia sent his own bodyguard to Agra to attend to the Lieutenant-Governor and his personal Mahratta troop to Etawah; then by warning Macpherson on the 26th of May of the impending rise of the Contingent and personally arranging for the Residency to be a place of refuge for the Europeans at Gwalior, he also invited the families of the Contingent officers to his palace to ensure their safety. He further gave Dinkar Rao the power to act as his commander-in-chief and gave Balwant Rao as second-in-command the full power to manage the troops. We must remember that not everyone in Scindia’s court was in full agreement with him, in fact, there was an active campaign to disrupt his rule. It was composed mostly of the remanents of the faction which had brought on the fight at Maharajpur in 1843 and the same self people who had attempted to overthrow the Dewan in 1854. What he would need in the coming months, besides a level-head was bravery.


Following the mutiny on the 14th of June, Major Macpherson wanted to remain in Gwalior. He was unsure if the young prince could stay the tide of mutiny or if he would have the wits to outsmart the Contingent on his own. But there was still a price on English heads and the most coveted prize of all was Macpherson’s. Scindia positively refused to let him stay – he did not want to be rid of Macpherson by any means, especially now when he could use all the friends he could find, but he did not want Macpherson to die for his sake either. Judging by the attitude of the rebels and that of his own troops, Scindia doubted he could protect the Europeans in his palace an hour longer. Carriages and palanquins were quickly organised and a strong bodyguard (of men he chose himself) was put together to escort the Europeans, if not to Agra, then at least across the Chambal where they would find themselves in the territory of the friendly ruler of Dholepur.
Scindia was prepared to purchase, if necessary, the departure of the Gwalior Contingent, to get them as far out of his territory as possible. But Macpherson asked him, no matter what the cost, to detain them in Gwalior until the British could assemble a force strong enough to crush them. Scindia would have a long wait; Macpherson set the date as the 29th of September. By then, Macpherson believed Delhi would be taken and there would be enough reinforcements in India to deal with the rebels wholesale. It didn’t quite happen.

Dinkar Rao, ever forward thinking, asked Macpherson what they should do, “it should appear that, for the detention of the rebels against both Governments, no course should avail save that of giving them service, would the Governor-General approve?” It was a possibility Macpherson had already thought about and told the Dewan, should there be no other way, then Scindia should not hesitate but immediately press the Contingent into his service. Dinkar Rao and Scindia promised that the wishes of the Government would be executed as diligently as possible.

How to Thwart an Army

The Gwalior Contingent

With that, on the 15th of June, with a heavy heart, Major Macpherson left Gwalior and the State, for a time, would be ruled without the direct help of a political agent. We will look at Macpherson’s escape to Agra in a separate post. However, as soon as he arrived in Agra, he wasted no time in opening up communication as far as possible, with Gwalior.

Scindia in the meantime had opened up negotiations with the Gwalior Contingent. Aware that the leaders were not inclined to leave Gwalior unless they could do so as one army and in order to do so, would need his funds. They demanded he place himself at their head and lead them to Agra while they promised to help him regain all of the lost Maharatta territories. If he did not acquiesce to their wishes, they would bombard the fort, plunder his palace and city, empty the treasury and carry Scindia off by force. Scindia listened to them with all earnestness and countered the Gwalior Contingent with an announcement of his own – the men were now under his direct command and as such, he would provide them with all the funds they needed. It would have been so much easier for Scindia to simply throw in the towel and join the rebels, but he had given his word to Macpherson and besides, he knew for Gwalior it would be suicidal if he did. The Dewan remained close by his side, pointing out to him daily the folly of giving up now. Then Scindia did the next best thing – he tied down the Contingent for the next four months.

Scindia in his court

“The rebels, after the outbreak, had called to be their general a native officer of the 1st Regiment; but the most violent sepoys, in fact, commanded. These troops spent their whole time in councils, Punchayets, courts, and deputations; and the Maharajah was compelled to receive daily ‘ to report’ one of the latter, composed of officers from every corps with privates delegated to watch them bodies of from thirty or forty to a hundred men. They menaced, beseeched, dictated, wheedled, and insulted Scindia by turns. For four months he confronted, defied, flattered, deceived them; above all, through endless arts, kept them at loggerheads..”

In August, Scindia had to contend with new elements of confusion. The mutineers of Indore and Mhow set up a pretender whom they grandly called a prime minister of the Imperial House of Delhi, and honoured him with a salute of 22 guns, requiring Scindia to pay homage to this “phantom”; but he replied evasively “that his predecessors had so often been deceived that he would wait until the King of Delhi should himself honour Gwalior with His presence.”
The Indore and Mhow mutineers were scarcely deceived by Scindia’s answer and calling him a baseless traitor, began to march away from Gwalior.
Because Scindia was not just a clever statesman, he was also well versed in the art of war and he knew an army could not move if it did not have the means to do so – the easiest thing to do was to remove the means. While he was sowing dissension in the rebel ranks to keep them squabbling, he ordered the removal of all the wheels from the carts in their range and sent all elephants and camels to distant jungles on useless patrols. When that formidable body of rebels from Mhow and Indore – who Scindia had managed to delay for some time – finally commenced their march towards Agra, he swept up all the boats on the Chambal river, so that those who remained in his territory could not move forward and the others who had already crossed, could not return. He further summoned all the chieftains and thakurs with their retainers to Gwalior. As his subjects, he reminded them, their loyalty was not to the Gwalior Contingent, but to Scindia himself and they were now ordered to stand their ground.

Things came to a head on the 7th of September.

After the departure of the Mhow and Indore men, the Contingent demanded to know, what plans, if any, Scindia had for them? They were promptly invited to a garden party in the palace grounds – all the officers and some 300 sepoys came at Scindia’s call.
Scindia, taking his dangerous stratagem forward, asked the officers what it was exactly that they wanted? The officers formulated a reply but the sepoys, who had had about as much politic as they could stomach, thrust their officers aside and told Scindia they had resolved to immediately take Agra and to destroy any Christians they found there. Once they had accomplished their objective, they would carry Scindia’s banner where he pleased.
“He replied that, by their own showing, they did not wait for his orders; that their movement, until after the rains, would be against his will, and they should not receive from him neither pay or supplies. The sepoys declared indignantly that they had been betrayed, and returning to their camp, planted a green flag for Mahomedans, and a white flag for Hindus. Deputations invited Scindia’s troops to join them, for their common objects. They wrote to pray the rebel force at Banda to come and crush him, and they prepared their batteries.”

One of Scindia’s corps was ripe for rebellion and all save the Mahrattas of his troop, seemed ready to join the green and white standards. If his own men rose, Scindia knew he would have no choice but to either become a puppet of the mutineers or flee Gwalior altogether. The smallest alarm, he knew would set them off. To prevent any such mishaps, Scindia ordered all the bugles confiscated and placed men he could trust to watch the guns.

At daybreak, Scindia paraded his whole force.

“He appealed to them corps by corps, it is said very touchingly, against the insulting coercion which the rebellious Contingent threatened. His own army, though in accord with the rebels in their feelings towards the British power, did not desire that he should be coerced by the Contingent; and on his addressing himself to his best-affected regiment of Gwalior men, that regiment declared enthusiastically for him. Then another corps, mainly of Gwalior men, did so. Of his two corps from our provinces, one was fully, one far committed to the rebels. But both had Mahratta officers, and they also professed obedience. Scindia required that, in proof of it, one of these corps should give up the ringleaders of the defection to the green and white flags; and they gave up twenty men, whom he instantly placed in irons and in gaol. He promised daily batta to his troops, and increased his irregular Thakoor levies from 6,000 to 11,000 men.”

In their turn, the rebels at once planted their batteries against Scindia and his palace. What they did not expect was Scindia would move to meet them.

The Maharajah moved out his whole force, and himself placed every battery and picket, and arranged his Thakoor force. His spirit, and the adhesion of his troops, surprised the rebels. A portion of the Contingent cavalry, which had been for some time with him in a sort of neutral attitude, joined his ranks. He cut off the supplies of the rebels, and doubled his guards on the Chumbul to prevent the threatened return of the Mhow and Indore body from Dholepore. His emissaries sowed fresh dissensions. The 5th Eegiment, with which the rest had quarrelled on account of its killing some of the native officers who had led it to mutiny, and the men of the 6th Regiment offered to fight for him. The Banda force would not come to Gwalior. The Contingent lost heart; professed to be satisfied, after examining accounts, that they had received nearly all ‘ their own ‘ money deposited in Scindia’s treasury by the Political Agent and within six days withdrew their guns, while Scindia maintained his posts.”

Of course, it was not over yet.

A number of wakils, representatives sent by the Rani of Jhansi and Nana Sahib arrived in Gwalior, and placed a high bid for the services of the Contingent. ” If they would join the Nana Saheb at Cawnpoor, settling Jhansi and Jaloun for him by the way, the Nana’s Vakeel promised to all high pay, while he conferred brigadierships and ensigncies by the dozen; and finally the rebels asked leave of Scindia to go to Bundelcund and Cawnpoor, instead of to Agra which he could but promise about the 23rd of September.” The leaders within the Contingent suddenly saw a danger they had not anticipated. If the Contingent marched under the banner of the Nana, then all their work to keep them together would have been for nothing. Although they managed to send the wakils packing, it was only a matter of time before the Gwalior Contingent would march. Their objective however was no longer Agra – it was Cawnpore. Scindia realised he would have to let them go and their own leaders, increasingly pressurised by the impatient sepoys, slowly fell in line with the wishes of their men.

On the 20th of September, Delhi fell and was once again in the hands of the British. On the 10th of October, the Indore and Mhow rebels were trounced in open battle by Colonel Greathed’s column at Agra which added strength to Scindia’s position. Yet the Gwalior Contingent could no longer be stopped. At their head was none other than Tantia Tope.

Tantia Tope, the Panultimate Rebel

Pencil sketch of Tantia Tope by Captain C.R.Baugh drawn shortly before Tope’s execution.

Born in 1814 as Ramachandra Panduranga Yawalkar in Yeola, (near Nasik, or in the village of Gola, in Maharashtra, depending on who you read!), Tantia took on the title Tope, meaning commanding officer and to aggrandise himself just a little more, his adopted first name Tantia, means General. He was a personal adherent of Nana Sahib of Bithur and as such, is considered one of the main instigators of the Satichaura Massacre at Cawnpore. Besides this particular butchery to his name, Tantia Tope is widely considered as one of the best and most effective rebel generals during the mutiny in spite of having no formal military training. He had managed to keep the British from retaking Cawnpore in July, losing only after a prolonged fight which weakened Havelock so far he could not proceed to relieve Lucknow, and had to sit in Cawnpore, confronted with the horrors of Bibighar until reinforcements trickled down. By August, the tables had turned on Tope and his army, and they were forced to retreat from Bithur.

He had been actively sowing dissent within the Gwalior Contingent for months but he saw his main obstacle of winning over the Contingent and ultimately Gwalior was Scindia and the Dewan, however, he had no real means of removing them without provoking Scindia’s troops. Instead, he concentrated his efforts on the Contingent and when they finally broke free of Scindia, he knew he could march them anywhere he wanted. His objective was Cawnpore, but first, he would teach Scindia a lesson.

On the 15th of October, the Gwalior Contingent rose and in one body, just as their leaders had hoped, marched towards Cawnpore. As they left Gwalior, they cut down all the trees in the Morar Cantonments, destroyed the country that lay on their route of march and declared Scindia their greatest enemy. They took possession of Jalaun and Kuebwahagar in the Nana’s name, extorted money from the Chief of Gursarai, by destroying his son’s eyes with boiling oil and then left detachments in Jalaun and Kalpi, if nothing else, to remind Scindia they were not really gone. The Contingent crossed the Jamuna on the 15th of November, and reached Cawnpore on the 1st of December. Along the way, they were reinforced by rebels from Oudh and Banda.

The Gwalior Contingent was on the road to destruction.

The Gwalior Contingent at Cawnpore

Although they managed to press General Windham’s force into entrenchments and briefly occupied Cawnpore, they were routed by Sir Colin Campbell on the 10th. What Scindia and the Dewan had managed to keep 16’000 men, of whom 6000 were good and unbroken troops with ample artillery and magazines out of the field for a full four months, thus preserving Agra from destruction and Delhi with one less problem to deal with. Such a reinforcement to Delhi could very well have spelt its end.

After their defeat by Sir Colin, the Gwalior Contingent was no longer able to hold their own. The job of the British forces was made easier as independent princes started raising their own levies and warred and squabbled openly with each other while the Gwalior Contingent had lost much of its menace and instead of the brilliant fighting force they could have been, their back was broken.

 With the taking of Cawnpore by Campbell, Tantia Tope shifted his headquarters back to Kalpi to join forces with Rani Lakshmi Bai and lead a revolt in Bundelkhand. He, and the Contingent were routed at Betwa, Koonch, and finally Kalpi, but he reached Gwalior and declared Nana Sahib as Peshwa with the remaining upport of the Gwalior Contingent. Before he could consolidate his position, GeneralSir Hugh Rose defeated the Rani of Jhansi.

We will now examine how it got to this point.

Back in Gwalior and the Success of Tope

Jayajirao Scindia in 1875

Scindia, influenced mainly by his reliance on Major Macpherson and having disregarded the threats and flattery of the Contingent, the desires of his own troops, had disregarded the poor advice from some of his most intimate friends and had stood firm in the eyes of nearly all the chieftains of Gwalior, had allowed himself to be guided by the Dewan and 2 faithful military chiefs (Mohurgar and Bulwant Rao), while relying much on his own tact and spirit. He had, at great personal risk, succeeded in keeping the Contingent out of the field until they had ultimately sunk into unimportance but what he still had to face was his own troops. Disbandment of a portion of them would have been advisable, but Scindia refused.
One portion consisted of sepoys from Oudh and other British territories, while the rest were Mahrattas and men of Gwalior. The former had been cajoled masterfully by both the Dewan and Bulwant Rao to check and baffle not just the Contingent but the rest of Scindia’s troops to prevent them from rising in mutiny. Unfortunately, once the Contingent was gone, Scindia suddenly showed a great reluctance to move against the disloyal men in his own force. He withdrew his confidence from not only his military chiefs but for a moment, stopped listening to Dinkar Rao. Scindia lost hold of his faithful soldiers and transferred his support to some “unworthy favourites” men whose only desire was to restore the Mahratta Empire. Unwittingly he had become a tool of the rebels.

“At the same time, contemplating the eventual dismissal of his Poorbeahs, he was so unwise as to make his intention known to them, thus withdrawing from them any inducement to adhere to his cause. He completed the list of mistakes by massing his whole force at the capital, where the emissaries and the contagion of the revolt were strongest.”

These new developments drove Macpherson frantic. Still shut in Agra, there was little he could do but write off letters, imploring anyone who would listen to send a force to Gwalior. In March, 1858, he wrote,

“‘I have had to write a long letter -to Lord C., to try and make him station the European troops of the new Contingent at Gwalior. Our principle should be to place commanding forces at the capital: the districts will take care of themselves. Then I am at my wits’ end for a Gwalior force I mean one for the Rajah. His force mainly now consists of men from our provinces, who are all, he says, hostile to us, like our own late army. I proposed to supersede them by Mahrattas, not more friendly, but who will wait on Scindia’s will; and Lord Elphinstone objects strongly to this, believing, I presume, that the Mahrattas want only the Nana Saheb anybody but us: the sign whereof is the offer of a lac of rupees for his capture. I am considerably anxious as to the effect of Nana coming to Gwalior. Till Jhansi and Calpee shall fall, it must be highly disturbed. The people there don’t at all believe that Lucknow is fallen, or that we have a big army; or why do we leave Calpee so long alone? They believe that we are hard pressed, though victorious, and say it is their own policy to fly and renew the fight, so as to wear us out in the hot weather and rains.’

The tone of the letter is unmistakable – Macpherson knew Scindia would not hold out much longer without British help. Macpherson was able to finally leave Agra at the end of April to meet with Sir Robert Hamilton (who we shall meet more closely later, in Indore) in Sir Hugh Rose’s camp to take a force to Gwalior after Kalpi fell. Scindia sincerely felt he could not receive Macpherson, he said, unless he came with an escort of Europeans.
Major Macpherson arrived in Kalpi just as the place was evacuated by the rebels after a protracted and bloody battle.
Sir Hugh Rose was willing to listen to what Macpherson had to say about Gwalior and perceived the necessity to send troops hither without delay but the efforts were for naught. The following letter is written from Kalpi on the 1st of June:

“The rebels have next invaded Gwalior, while the force to go there in support of Scindia is still here, for want of orders from the Governor-General; but Sir Hugh Rose has ordered it off to-morrow, at our request. I am in deep anxiety. A rebel mass from Bareilly and Calpee is twenty-four miles from Gwalior, and Scindia has sent out two regiments and eighteen guns and a thousand horse to meet them. If they beat that force, Gwalior is theirs, there being infinite treachery within it. We have, it is true, a small pursuing force within five marches of their rear, quite enough, I think, to meet them separately, or to co-operate with Scindia’s, but not to command both the enemy and Scindia’s men, which we desire to do. …
‘ The monsoon threatens to overtake and paralyse us; and for want of an order to march a week ago, all my Gwalior work may be ruined. About Amaen were posted, when the rebels crossed, 400 of Scindia’s foot, 150 horse, and 4 guns. Scindia’s civil officer told the Rao Saheb, ‘ It is the order of the Maharajah and the Dewan that you retire.’ ‘ And who,’replied the Rao Saheb,
(Nana Sahib) ‘are you? A ten-rupee underling of a Soobah, drunk with bhang And who are the Mahrajah and Dinkur Rao? Christians! We are the Rao and Peishwa. Scindia is our slipper-bearer. 1 We gave him his kingdom. His army has joined us. We have letters from the Baiza Bai. Scindia himself encourages us. Tantea Tope has visited Gwalior and ascertained all. He having completed everything, I am for the Lushkur. Would you fight with us? All is mine.’

Scindia’s detachment did not attempt resistance. Advancing with such boastful words, and affecting to send letters to Scindia requiring his submission, the Rao Saheb paraded his troops, under 5,000 in all, and marched to Burragaon, eight miles from Gwalior.”

Although all of Scindia’s force had been brought, more or less, to sympathise with the rebels, there was still a portion that had sufficient motivation to strike against them for Scindia. Dinkar Rao remained confident – with the small force detached by Hugh Rose behind them, the rebels might be divided by bribery to turn on each other; while a select body of Scindia’s Gwalior and Mahratta men if posted far enough in the advance while holding the others back, would be able to check the rebels for a few days, while the British caught up.

On the morning of the 31st of May, Scindia was convinced by his body guard and household officers, all of whom were rebel sympathisers, to move 8000 men and 24 guns to Morar, to supposedly disperse the rebels. However, by evening, Dinkar Rao had managed to persuade Scindia to go home, leaving only a token portion of his troops in Morar. Yet by midnight, Scindia was at it again. Dinkar Rao had left his side for a moment and Scindia decided to move his troops out. A short, mock fight followed and Scindia could only watch as his supposedly loyal troops now openly fraternised with the rebels. He was left with only one choice – flee to Dholepur.
Dinkar Rao, one other gentleman and some troopers attended Scindia in his flight and he was joined by a few others shortly before he continued his journey to Agra. His wife and female relatives – the ranis – accompanied by some officers of the household and a few cavalry troopers, went to the fort in Narwar, 3 miles away. One of them, the mother of the Maharani, believing Scindia was beleaguered in the Phoolbagh palace and gardens, seized a sword, mounted her horse and rode to the palace, summoning all to her aid to save Scindia. When she arrived, she found he had gone but she stayed another 3 days, before finally joining the other ladies.
None of Scindia’s new, pampered favourites followed him on his flight and nor did they join the Ranis. They had truly been bought by the devices of Tantia Tope, and gladly accepted, not just pay from the rebels, but various other gratuities, ranks and offices. Scindia had been duped out of his own throne, and with a few exceptions, the population of Gwalior appeared to agree with the new regime. Of course, it would have been better if Scindia had stayed.

The newly appointed Dewan styled Scindia quickly as ” a deeply-fixed root of the Nazerenes and strong striver of their cause…” nothing more than a base traitor to his people. Nana Sahib (Rao Saheb) was now the new ruler of Gwalior but the appointment did not make him very happy. It would have been so much better if Scindia had been won over to the cause, instead of now languishing in exile in Agra, neither vanquished or bought. He tried to convince Bazia Bai to take the throne but she refused and sent his letters to Sir Robert Hamilton instead. He did manage to prevent the sacking of Gwalior by the troops; confiscating the houses of Dinkar Rao, Bulwant Rao and Mohurghar; he confined any officials remaining who were loyal to Scindia and disbursed to Scindia’s troops and to his own a mass of treasure, buying for a time their loyalty. The Fort fell without any resistance and Scindia’s palace and Macpherson’s house was destroyed.

Of course, this was incentive enough for Sir Hugh Rose to push his troops onwards to Gwalior. He took with him Sir Robert Hamilton who issued proclamation after proclamation to pacify the people of Gwalior to prevent them from rising, and in the midst of all this, stood Major Macpherson.

The rebels were beaten with little resistance and on the 19th of June, Gwalior was back in the hands of Scindia. Tantia Tope and Nana Sahib escaped; on the 17th of June one of their allies, the Rani of Jhansi was killed and Jhansi was in the hands of the British. It was the beginning of the end. A large portion of Scindia’s revolted troops went on to join rebel groups in their homelands of Oudh and Rohilkhand or went with Tantia Tope. The rest scattered throughout the country, but did not give any more bother; many were eventually disarmed and discharged and most of the ringleaders were seized.

After losing Gwalior to the British, Tantia Tope launched what amounts to a guerilla campaign in the Sagar and Narmada regions and in Khandesh and Rajasthan. The British forces failed to subdue him for over a year. He was finally betrayed into the hands of the British by Raja Man Singh. who delivered him up to the British without the slightest remorse. Tantia Tope was taken to Sipri where he was tried by a military court and executed at the gallows on April 18th, 1859.


Macpherson was understandably cross as Scindia did nothing now to punish the rebels sitting in his own court. On the 4th of July, he wrote,

“Scindia’s whole army at Gwalior, with the exception of a few hundred men, went i.e., both ran away at once and received pay from the enemy. His great chiefs went off with the Baiza Baee. Nearly all his officers, military and civil, at the capital, were more or less fully with the rebels; and all, save a very few, like the Dewan, deserted him utterly all those men who were with him in Calcutta, for example, save Angria and Phalkeah. But the point of the story is to come. Scindia has received every rebel with open arms, while he repels utterly all who have stood by him. The bodyguard rascals, and those who brought Tantea Topeh in the other day to the Lushkur for eight days, to pave the way for the rebels’ coming, all dine with him daily in the old way: to none other does he speak a word. We cannot get him to do anything even to the man, the prime villain, his treasurer, who brought in the rebels and robbed his treasury! His sole wish is to get his army restored in full, through new recruits, and replaced under its officers who have just betrayed him, as we should say. I fear he may be wholly unmanageable. ‘ My line is to treat Scindia as still our ward, and remove from him the villains who are leading him to destruction.”

Macpherson would labour another year, with the admirable help of Dinkar Rao, to right the wrongs in Gwalior and set Scindia, by ways of flattery and much pandering to his desires for an army, back into a form which made him a loyal subject of the British Raj. In 1860, Scindia was made Knights Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India. His photos appeared in the London press and he was eminently regarded as a friend of the British Empire. In 1877, he became a Counsellor of the Empress and later on a GCB and CIE. In 1872, Jayajirao Scindia loaned Rs 75 lakhs for the construction of the Agra-Gwalior portion of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway and he received his railway after all. He constructed several buildings and spent another 15 lakhs to reconstruct Gwalior’s Fort boundary wall and the damage done to parts of the fort itself.
With order returned, Gwalior became, once again, a prosperous state.

Dinkar Rao remained at Scindia’s side until December 1859. In 1863, he was nominated by Lord Canning, along with Raja of Benaras and Maharaja of Patiala to his legislative council. In 1873 he was appointed guardian to the minor rana to Dholpur, but soon afterwards resigned, due to ill health. He was amongst the first non-British members of the Legislative Council of India appointed in 1861 (vide the Indian Councils Act 1861) and an estate was conferred upon him. In May 1866, Dinkar Rao was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI), entitling him “Sir Dinkar Rao” and at the  Imperial assemblage at Delhi that year, he further received the title of “Raja.” In 1884, the title was made hereditary by the viceroy.  No Indian statesmen of the 19th century would gain a higher reputation than Dinkar Rao.

The final strains at Gwalior took their toll on Macpherson – he remained there until 1859, battling to the last. He died in Calcutta on the 15th of April 1860, an eminently practical man who had strived to save the Gwalior State.

Macpherson’s grave in Calcutta, now as forgotten as the man himself.


Sources:
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)

Selections from the Letters, Dispatches and Other State Papers, Preserved in the Military Department of the Government of India 1857-58, Vol IV – edited by George W. Forrest B.A. (1912)





















One thought on “Gwalior Stands

  1. Yes you start out with an undeniable fact which echoes through time to our present global quagmire!

    “They were led, not by fanatics but by capable leaders,” and then reflecting on such evident truth we examine our current leadership throughout the planet and see quite the opposite on many fronts in my humble opinion. We here in America actually have enemies of the Contingent or our actual Armed Forces and also on the Congressional/Executive side of the federal government who are running the entire nation into the ground, these traitors and most inept leadership in the history of these United States of America!
    As well similar assessments and conclusions can be arrived at when truthfully examining any number of EU members and of course the rogue nations that are typically run by extremist madmen are playing their part in creating strategic imbalance throughout with the world moving it all ever closer to having a hair-trigger to utter destruction; so my faith in mankind being capable of pursuing and maintaining any lasting peace is zilch!

    But back in this period when things weren’t so mechanized or so highly technical and relied solely upon raw manpower and simple armament in the battlefield things were more straightforward. And the eventual conflicts between nations or even within their own borders I can see from your examination here of this Gwalior that individuals who were loyal and brave and possessed a hands on approach to the internal as well external forces at play in this region accompanied with wit were able to achieve victory albeit temporary at best. But generally this was accomplished by what to me for lack of any better analogy was like a play by play skirmish akin to a football game when compared to the current global highly complex strategic war taking place on so many levels from government corruption in both the local and international sectors is a given these days, to the modern advent of the digital AI sophistication that’s become a modern Pandora’s Box. I suppose to put it simply when battles or conflicts were basically a slugging or duking it out ordeal, having the advantage of a good military strategy and leadership was nearly at times kind of “may the better man win sort of prospect.”

    So as mentioned here, “He was unsure if the young prince could stay the tide of mutiny or if he would have the wits to outsmart the Contingent on his own,” it came down to staying a step or two ahead of the opposition and as Scindia considered in this instance, “Judging by the attitude of the rebels and that of his own troops, Scindia doubted he could protect the Europeans in his palace an hour longer. Carriages and palanquins were quickly organized and a strong bodyguard (of men he chose himself) was put together to escort the Europeans, if not to Agra, then at least across the Chambal where they would find themselves in the territory of the friendly ruler of Dholepur.”

    But then as it were there were other twists or turns that appeared in the path to victory, and so yet again leadership strategy rises to the occasion, with the subsequent determination and good sound judgment, “The rebels were beaten with little resistance and on the 19th of June, Gwalior was back in the hands of Scindia.”

    The thing that comes to mind as I think about this particular piece of history is how up until this current overly sophisticated complex war machine era that we’re in now; people always had their conflicts but the effects were usually localized or perhaps regional, but, the big difference was that it didn’t threaten global stability or even the potential for a possible all out global conflict and war, as we now have in these perilous times!

    Liked by 1 person

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