The Nagpur Moveable Column
Commanding: Colonel Miller, 33rd Madras Infantry.
1 Squadron. 4th Madras Cavalry—’92 sabres under Captain Tottenham
D Company, 3rd Battalion, Madras Artillery – 64 rank and file, 6 guns, under Captain Jones
33rd Madras Infantry— 425 rank and file
Rifle Company, 1st Nagpore Irregular Infantry – 91 rank and file, under Lieutenant Pereira
Although Nagpur was quiet and would remain so for the remainder of 1857, it was decidedly not the case in the rest of Central India.
The area around Damoh was swarming with rebels who plundered every village and town they came across, while the insurgents loyal to the Shahgarh Raja were daily swelled in numbers, joined by nearly every man of the Lodhi caste. Jabalpur remained in a state of semi-siege, watching the 52nd BNI nervously, who in their turn, watched their officers tremble.
On the 17th of July, Colonel Miller left Nagpur with the Nagpur Moveable Column, a field force that had been raised and with the sole purpose of moving through Central India, and stamping out the rebellion. It was not a particularly large force but it was well-organised and the Madras men of which its ranks mainly consisted had by and large shown themselves to shun mutiny. They could also be employed to keep an eye on the Nagpur Irregular Infantry and its small contingent of 91 men.
” The “ Nagpore Movable Column,”…marched into Jubulpore on the 1st August, much to the delight of the European and loyal native inhabitants; and, strange to say, the majority of the 52d went out unarmed in their undress to meet them, though only a few days before they had expressed great fears of being disarmed by this force.”
It was truly an odd state of affairs.
Colonel Miller was immediately beset by Major Erskine who requested him to garrison his force in Jabalpur – Miller replied his orders were to move against the rebels. He would go where ever Erskine sent him but he would neither remain in Jabalpur nor divide up his force. Erskine had hoped to realise his own plans –
“The Commissioner had all along resolved to leave a portion of this little force at Jubulpore, and to take the rest with him out towards Dumoh, Shahgurh, and Saugor, recover the European prisoners, and resettle his districts; and he increased the force by bringing up two companies of the Madras 28th Native Infantry from Nursingpore, also some irregular cavalry he had raised, and two companies of the 52d were also added to it..”
Miller remained adamant – even when Erskine asked him to just leave150 men and 2 guns at Jabalpur instead of the whole force, Erskine met with resounding no from the Colonel.
Miller’s assessment of Jabalpur was quite reasonable. Unless the rebels moved in with artillery, the garrison and their defences were actually quite safe. He did not think it likely there would be an artillery attack and as such, determined to leave Jabalpur as soon as possible. Messages were coming from Damoh and they were certainly more urgently in need of aid that Jabalpur.
As such, Miller determined to march to Damoh. It was only 65 miles away but the monsoon rains were falling hard and he had no choice but to stay in Jabalpur and wait for the rain to abate.
Although unable to move from Jabalpur with the heavy guns Miller sent off the two companies of the 52nd that had just been attached to his column. Lightly equipped, they were sent off under 4 of their European officers to secure the boats at Katangi on the Hiran River to ensure when Miller finally arrived, his force could cross unhindered.
The ever enthusiastic Major Erskine approached Miller’s impending march with much zeal. He ordered the making of large basket pontoons covered with leather used for crossing rivers, organised light bedsteads for every European gunner, distributed waterproof covers to all the soldiers both European and Indian to roll their bedding in and if needs be, shelter him at night.
He wasn’t quite finished. Jabalpur was thrown into a frenzy of work: supplies had to be procured, a commissariat department established and lastly, Erskine coerced the local chiefs to lend him elephants. He used a similar tactic as with the bankers: if the chiefs refused it would show Erskine they were disloyal to the Government – if the chiefs did not know the consequences for disloyalty by now, they must have been asleep. The pachyderms were to be used to draw the guns and carry supplies – any animal lost, injured or killed would be replaced. To make up numbers, Erskine even bought a few outright. He then promised all the troops double batta – since he had practically set up his own mint at this point, who was going to pay the batta was anyone’s guess. But as an incentive, the promise certainly went a long way.
The two companies of the 52nd had been sent on ahead – their destination was Katangi on the Hiran river. They had marched on the 7th and after securing the boats, their commander, Lieutenant Oakes, after posting a detachment to keep the place safe, marched the rest off to Damoh – the pleas for help were by now most persistent and Oakes found himself obliged to answer. With his men, he forced his way to Damoh, skirmishing with the rebels for most of the 2-day march. There was much work to be done on Damoh and Oakes elected to stay – the attacks on the town by the rebels were now daily, and every reinforcement was needed to keep them at bay.
The districts of Damoh and Sagar were still, with the exception of the larger stations, entirely in the hands of the rebels. All the police had either deserted or been driven away, and hundreds of Malguzars, well intended or otherwise, were forced to either join the rebels or assist them with supplies – if they failed, their villages were plundered and they themselves were often tortured into compliance. Postal services – the ever reliable daks – had stopped, the messengers killed or too terrified to carry out their tasks, as many of them had been stopped by the insurgents and mutilated. Into this state of utter anarchy, Millar’s force was about to move.
The rain had certainly put a damper on Miller’s plans. He finally decided it was useless to stay in Jabalpur any longer and, with a small gap in the weather, the moveable column left the station on the 17th of August. The advance had “a good effect on many of the rebel chiefs and it encouraged the faithful.” However, the first day’s march, much hindered by the muddy roads and awful rain, only saw the force 9 miles out of Jabalpur.
“Indeed the 9 -pounders daily stuck deep in the muddy roads, and could not have been moved had it not been for the ever handy elephants, some of whom pushed with
their foreheads, others put their shoulders to the collars made for them by order of the Commissioner, and others turned the spokes of the wheels with their trunks.”
After one more march, Miller arrived at Katangi. The detachment of the 52nd, left there by Oakes, was delighted by their arrival. Being housed in a comfortable serai, the men quickly brought out their own tents and pitched them for the rain-drenched Madras sepoys. They would need them: the guns and a portion of the infantry would only arrive 3 days later and Miller would be forced to halt at Katangi until the 26th of August. He then managed to march his force only 17 miles to Jabbera. He had sent the Rifle Company on ahead to seize the boats at Nohta on the Birma river and while the elephants struggled through the mud, pushing and pulling the guns, Miller could do nothing but ride on slowly ahead of them. They finally reached Damoh on the 28th of August, and Miller was able to ride up the jail fort, to find the treasure was safe, and all the troops, including the 2 companies of the 52nd were doing their duty most admirably. He also had the satisfaction of watching the rebels, who had until then been annoying the town to no end, move off, putting a reasonable distance between themselves and the moveable column.
Brigadier Sage Makes Demands
No sooner had Miller arrived in Damoh, than the senior officer with the detachment of the 31st told Colonel Miller that Brigadier Sage, still holed up in Sagar, had ordered the Madras column to disarm the 42nd BNI at Damoh. Whatever Sage’s problems might have been in Sagar with the 42nd, they certainly did not present themselves in Damoh and if it had not been for the staunchness of the 42nd under their Havildar Ranjit Singh, the town and the treasure would have long been lost. Miller refused.
Brigadier Sage wasn’t finished.
As senior-most officer, he then told Miller to hand over the command of the moveable column to him; he intended to keep the column in Sagar and use it at his discretion, not dissimilar to what Erskine had tried to do in Jabalpur.
Messages were sent to Plowden back in Nagpur – livid, he sent a message directly to Lord Canning. Canning, probably bewildered by this petty, but serious bickering sent instructions back to Damoh and indeed Sagar and Nagpur. The column would remain under Colonel Miller and the Commissioner – all interference by Brigadier Sage was to cease immediately.
Sage remained in his fort with his staff, the ladies, the children and the artillery – the rest of the men, civil and otherwise, had long since been sent on other duties: Pinkney was already in Damoh with his men, and the others were keen to join Miller’s force. Sage would have to hold out a little longer.
The Nagpur Moveable Column was again doing anything but moving. They needed supplies and parties were constantly being sent out to deal with insurgent forces. They were also charged with bringing some order back into the immediate vicinity, and as such there was much work to be done, reinstating the abandoned police posts and securing the roads.
In Damoh however, the British did have one admirable ally – Narpit Singh, the Raja of Panna State whom we have already met, in “Duty Over Life.” He had for some time been employing his forces to not only hold Kalinjar Fort but actively fight the rebels in Damoh. He used his considerable influence to protect outposts around Damoh and his assistance would soon be called on for more difficult work.
As September progressed, the 52nd BNI was about to shake off its last vestiges of loyalty and rise in open rebellion. It was not completely unexpected but it might have been avoided.
For this, we must take a look at two incidents – Nagode and Jabalpur.
We have already visited Nagode in a previous post, “Duty Over Life.” As such we know that until September 1857, the 50th BNI had been holding firm, obeying orders and performing an admirable duty, though surrounded on all sides by disaffection.
It was now September 1857. Miller had spent his time chasing insurgents and rebels, attacking the small hill fort of Balkot and putting the erstwhile raja of the place to flight. He had attempted to relieve Sagar but with little success having got as far as the right bank of the Sanar river when intelligence reached him that the Dinapur mutineers were causing havoc in Rewah territory -still held by Osbourne – and there was a chance they might shift course and make for Jabalpur. The Raja of Rewa had intimated to Osbourne he was no longer able to protect him so Miller ordered his column back to Damoh where he found the rebels were gathering their forces. Lieutenant Dickins and his men of the 31st BNI had been keeping them at bay, exchanging shots with the enemy’s picquets. What Miller could not anticipate was the events at Jabalpur. As if his column was not harassed enough, he would soon have to deal with the 52nd BNI.
The problem started when the old Rajah of the Gond dynasty, Shankar Shah and his son were convicted of plotting to kill the Europeans at Jabalpur. Early in September, Major Moxon of the 52nd was informed by the pundit and some men of his regiment that 10 sepoys had fallen into the habit of visiting the raja and, along with some disaffected Malguzars, had openly started speaking about mutiny. It was decided to raid the Raja’s house.
The raid was successful – the Raja, his son and 20 others were arrested and the house thoroughly searched, right down to the Raja’s pockets. In one he had a small piece of paper on which he had written a prayer to his goddesses, asking for the speedy destruction of the English. This was not enough to convict him, but the letters and other documents found were. A trial was speedily convened; as expected, the Raja and his son were found guilty and sentenced to death. In 1857, there was little mercy – mutiny and dissension were punished by death.
“They were tried, by order of the Commissioner, by a special commission of three officers, and sentenced to death; but on this becoming known to the 52d, they formed a plan to release them. Consequently, the special commissioners hastened the execution; and on the first news of the plot reaching the Commissioner, he persuaded Colonel Millar to detach two guns, some infantry and cavalry, to Jubulpore; and the weather being fine, they quickly reached the ” garrison ” (as the fortified house was called), and in time to assist at the execution, by blowing the rajahs away from guns.”
As barbaric as this sounds, it needs to be pointed out that although the act of blowing someone from a gun was a macabre spectacle it was certainly a quick death – hanging was not just humiliating it often went wrong and the poor man would die of slow and painful strangulation. Blowing from guns was also not, as many modern writers like to conjecture, a British invention. The Mughals had come up with this one and it was certainly preferred to the horrid practice of squishing heads using specially trained executioner elephants, still used in India as late as 1868. It must be noted, however, that the British did not condone the use of elephants for executions and during British rule, this was mainly found in the states where they had little or no control, such as Goa and the practice was fast dying out.
Nor was this exclusive to Asia – ancient Rome and Carthage had employed this method to deal with mutinous soldiers.
The practice of blowing from guns took hold under the EICo well back in 1760 when the British were examining methods of punishment, then currently in use in India. It was found that the most common mode of capital punishment was death by flogging. This was considered even too brutal for the British who found that the Mughal method, of blowing from guns was not only a better deterrent, it was also more public and infinitely more humane. However, it was not as common a punishment as we are led to believe – the scale and frequency increased in 1857 when it was used to dispatch larger groups of mutineers rather than the laborious process of hanging. The last recorded use of this method of punishment in India was in 1871 but during the Tajik reign of terror in 1929 in Afghanistan, 11 Afghans were blown from guns. This punishment made last funeral rites for both Muslims and Hindus alike, impossible, thus condemning the person to suffer punishment beyond death and as such, this implication served as a warning to others, so to speak. For anyone wanting to delve further into corporal punishment in India, you can read
https://theindianlaw.in/punishment-in-ancient-hindu-and-mohammedan-law/ for a more complete overview.
The 52nd Mutiny
The 52nd could not save the Raja – the spectacle of his death and that of his son, hasty and indeed unnecessary at such a volatile time in Jabalpur – had forced the men in Jabalpur to make a decision. Realising what the implications of the execution might have on the minds of the men, Colonel Jamieson and other officers of the regiment proceeded almost immediately afterwards to the lines, and explained, as best they could, that the Raja and his son had paid the penalty for proved misconduct. The officers felt they had done enough with this little speech and left the lines, thinking they had done enough to allay any apprehensions the men may have.
They were wrong.
At 9 o’clock that very night, the 18th of September, the entire 52nd regiment marched quietly out of Jabalpur, without noise or alarm until all that was left of the 52nd in Jabalpur was one native officer and 15 sepoys. The rest had decamped with their muskets and the ammunition in the pouches and had marched by circuitous route outside the city some 20 miles to the Tahsildari of Patan. As there had been some idea the 52nd might mutiny, 2 officers had been sent with detachments out on the great Deccan road and were clueless as to what had occurred in Jabalpur. Likewise, Lieutenant Francis Macgregor who had but recently been sent with a detachment to Patan had no idea what had happened – it must have been a surprise when the entire regiment suddenly appeared at his post.
Before Macgregor could react, he found himself a hostage of the 52nd BNI.
The Indian officers then wrote a letter to Colonel Jamieson which is transcribed below.
“To His Excellency the Lord of Clemency, the Bountiful of the Age, His Excellency Colonel Sahib Bahadur.”
“May his power be perpetual!
“After respects, the representation is this:- That Shaik Diamutt Alee, havildar-major; and Salar Buksh, naik: and Dirguz Singh, naik: and Chundee Deen Mise, sepoy: and Jutchmun Mise, sepoy; and Lall Mund Sookoel sepoy; and Shaikh Nuzzuff Allee sepoy; and Bhowanee Singh, sepoy; and others (named in the original letter): these sepoys, sir, send here; that this regiment the havildar-major ruined, and said that the Major Sahib and Moxon Sahib told the Madras sepoys to seize all the arms of the regiment and kill them, then you will receive thirty rupees per man as reward and be promoted to subhadar bahadurs. This speech the havildar-major made to the havildars on duty. If he had not said this, we would not have deserted and saved our lives by flight, as only from the havildar-major’s speech we deserted.
“It is proper that these men should, by some means or other, be sent to us. Let them be seized and sent. We have committed no injury to the government; and as for the muskets and cartridge boxes we have brought away with us, we have left our property in lieu thereof. Having sold it, take the price. Each sepoy left about thirty rupees worth of property. Also, send pay for one month and fifteen days. We are men of honour and are doing government good service here.
“Your lordship answered that the Madras sepoys are not under my authority. Then, having become helpless, we came away here by your order to save our lives. And on the 19th of May, when you officers fled, then we, being faithful to our salt, did not say anything to your lordships, and at that time the Madras regiment was not present; and when the adjutant sahib was attacked by a sepoy with a bayonet, if had not been true to our salt, why did we seize the sepoy and make him over to you? And your highness is our lord and master; but when we do not find any way to save our lives, we fled and came here, and we had regard to your lordship’s salt- if not, at the time we might have killed you. And if you do not let these sepoys go, then is sahib (Lieutenant Macgregor) we will not kill, but having bound him will take him to Delhi; and if you will send those sepoys, then we will cause the sahib to arrive where you are. Moreover, having seized those sepoys, send them with a guard of police, and it will be well; and if life remains, we will again be present in your service. We will not run away.
“This letter is written on the part of all the sepoys and non-commissioned officers. All the sepoys, non-commissioned and commissioned officers, send salaam.”
Back in Jabalpur, Jamieson would not allow the Madras troops to go on the offensive. Instead, expresses were sent from Jabalpur by Major Moxon to the Commissioner at Dumoh and to the 2 officers on the Deccan road who had reached Sleemanabad, – Lieutenants Cockburn and Burton – and to Macgregor but he never received it.
Upon receiving the letter, the two officers on the Deccan road told their men what had happened at Jabalpur and said they were setting off straight away to the station. They requested the men to send their baggage back to Jabalpur. The men were civil to the last and regretted they would not be accompanying their officers but promised to send their things, which they faithfully did the next day. As soon as the officers were gone, the men of detachments they left behind plundered the small local treasury: but strange things can happen.
One of the officers, remembering that he had left his money in the care of the pay-havildar, rode back and asked him for it. With no hesitation, the havildar handed it over from a bag of rupees he had just stolen from the treasury and the officer rode off again, his men cheering him on.
The two officers reached Jabalpur safely as the men they left behind prepared to march off to Delhi.
Back in Damoh, news of the Jabalpur mutiny reached the officers by express dak. Miller and Plowden now needed to make some plans.
Plowden asked the Panna Raja for help. It was clear that as soon as the news of the mutiny of the 52nd became common knowledge, there was no telling what them of the same regiment at Damoh would do next. Writes Major Erskine:
“Consequently, arrangements had to be made to disarm these two companies; and after consultation with Colonel Miller and two other officers, in the dead of the night, the following plan was adopted: At daylight, the Commissioner gave out that it was necessary to attack a body of rebels coming towards Dumoh from the Saugor side. The two companies of the 52d were formed into the advance guard some little distance ahead of the column, then followed the two companies of the Madras 28th, behind them four guns, and then the Madras 33d (about 400 men) and the Madras cavalry on the flanks. The irregular riflemen ( who were suspected because they were originally from the same part of the country as the Bengal Infantry) were to form the rear guard as soon as the camp was struck. After marching in this way for some two miles, to a spot with an open plain on each side, the “ Halt ” was sounded; the two companies of the 28th were loaded and deployed; the guns were loaded with grape, and formed up to the left flank, unseen by the 52d companies, who, with their European officers, were halting ahead. This being done, the Commissioner told the artillery officers what was about to take place, and stated that if he gave a certain signal, they were to open fire on the 52d. Colonel Millar, calling the officers of the 52d companies to him, told them the truth. The cavalry was duly warned, and so were the 28th and 33d Madras Infantry. By this time the arrangements were completed, and the guns were unmasked, pointing to the 52d. The 52d officers then returned to their men, piled arms, and moving them a little to the right, told them that their regiment had mutinied and that if they quietly gave up their arms, they would be protected from all harm. It was a critical moment, and there was some danger for the officers, though they had been warned to throw themselves into the ditch if their men disobeyed orders. But they saw the guns pointing at them, the port-fires lighted, and they quietly yielded to fate, marched off, and the Commissioner’s signal not being given, the guns were unloaded and limbered up.”
“We then marched back to camp with the disarmed men in our rear, the muskets having been taken away on the Commissioner’s elephants. The 52d men were narrowly watched that night in case of their seizing arms from the Madras troops, and their native swords ( which they had brought with them) were taken from them. The next morning ( 21st) the Punnah “General,” at the Commissioner’s request, marched into Dumoh with some of his troops and took possession, and the Nagpore column made its first march towards Jubulpore, the disarmed men being kept well in the rear.”
So Damoh was given to the care of the Panna Raja and Miller, along with the rest of the Europeans, troops and disarmed 52nd marched the next day to Jabalpur.
It was a long, hard march. Nine days after the mutiny of the 52nd, they were still on the road. Colonel Miller sent a company of the 33rd Madras Native Infantry and some cavalry as an advanced guard along with Major Jenkins (the Assistant-Quartermaster-General) and Lieutenant Watson to secure the boats across the Hiran river at Katangi. They had received no intelligence regarding the mutinous 52nd BNI which was supposed to be hiding in the dense jungle or the worst case, had retraced their steps back to Jabalpur. For all they knew, the station was by now a smouldering ruin.
The next morning around dawn, two troopers of the advance guard galloped furiously into the camp and informed Colonel Miller the 52nd had attacked them in a narrow hill-pass, and using the jungle as cover, had ambushed the party, shooting the two officers dead. Miller wasted no time gathering up his force as best could. Ordering the disarmed men to remain in the rear, the rest of the force advanced. Shortly after they came upon the rest of the advance guard. Panicked and retreating in disorder, they surrounded the colonel and told him what had happened. Miller told the men off into marching order – his mission was now clear. Find the 52nd and destroy them.
Not that they had to search long.
“We continued to advance in battle array through the jungly hill- pass and had not gone above two more miles, when we saw the 52d marching along the road towards us in column of sections, with their British colours flying, and their drums and fifes playing an English air. We halted and let fly a round-shot through them. This appeared to stagger them; they dispersed to the right and left, and whenever we could see them we poured in grape and musketry on them; but the jungle was dense, and our men, neither cavalry nor infantry, could get well into it in anybody.”
“Their shots fell amongst us and in the trees over us, and we returned the compliment whilst moving on, every now and then, for some six miles more. At length, we got to a more open place and could see some of the 52d and a lot of rebels ascending the hills to our right, and our cavalry then dashed after them. Suddenly we heard a rush and firing in our rear, and took it for granted that the doubtful riflemen were attacking our baggage, of which they were in charge; but in a few minutes we found that these men, seeing the country more open, had, along with their European officers, made a dash along our right flank, and went full tilt after the men of the 52d, who were climbing the hills. Just as we had got about two miles into the plain, Major Jenkins and Lieutenant Watson were seen by us galloping out of the jungle on our left front and going after the mutineers. It appeared that when they met the mutineers it was dark; they were fired on, Major Jenkins’s horse received many bullets in him, and Lieutenant Watson was seriously injured in his left eye by a sepoy firing so near to his head (intending to shoot him dead) that the powder burnt his eye; but throwing the man’s musket aside, and the two putting spurs to their horses, they galloped away and hid themselves till we came up. We now halted for a short time, and the enemy had got away from us to our rear.
Colonel Millar considered that the ground was against fighting and we did not follow them.”
The respectful, though bold, letter sent by the 52nd on the night they mutined reached Jabalpur and although Major Erskine thought it prudent to offer the regiment Rs 8000 for Macgregor’s release, the rest of the demands would not be met. The ransom money was rejected by the 52nd.
There would be no exchange of prisoners and no pay. The 52nd had committed mutiny and such, they were no longer a part of the army. Unfortunately for MacGregor it also signed his death warrant. He was kept alive until the 52nd regiment was attacked.
“Close to a large tree near where we halted, I regret to say, we found the lifeless body of poor Lieutenant M Gregor, of the 52d Regiment. They had imprisoned him at Patun, and brought him with them to Kuttungee, when they determined on attacking us, along with about 1000 rebels. His body bore the marks of many bayonet -wounds and sword -cuts, but was warm when found. It was sent into Jubulpore and buried with military honours. Whilst the Commissioner was standing at this sad spot, four men of the Rifles brought in a havildar ( sergeant) of the 52d. His fusil was warm and dirty from powder, and having been caught with arms in his hands and fighting against us, he was hanged on the spot.”
The injuries suffered by Macgregor were horrifying. Both his arms were broken and his body was pierced with no less than 40 bayonet wounds among numerous sword cuts. The coup de grâce was one shot through the neck.
The 530 men of the 52nd who had initially intended to march to Delhi (had they gone they would have been surprised to find that by the 14th of September it was back in British hands) continued, after this skirmish with Miller, continued their march but instead of leaving the territory, banded together with other rebellious chiefs and plundered the countryside. They then turned their attention to Damoh. The Panna Raja’s force was unable to withstand the onslaught and the mutineers not only plundered the town but released the prisoners who had until now, been carefully watched. They then took possession of a fort, some thirty miles from Sagar, called Garhakota, which they then used as their base from which to launch further attacks on the surrounding area. Towards the end of 1857, even though Delhi had long since fallen and various columns were marching throughout India, there was no end to mutiny in Sagar and Narbada Territory just yet. Sage remained besieged in his fort but was still grimly holding his own. Several skirmishes occurred but they had no decisive effect. It was jungle warfare – as soon as the rebels had been flushed out of one, they merely regrouped and showed up in another.
The 50th at Nagode and Osbourne at Rewa
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we must turn our attention to the 50th BNI at Nagode. Until the 27th of August, the regiment stood fast and their commander, Major Hampton and the other officers discerned no signs of a mutinous spirit. What set them off, as we have seen before with one event cascading a series of others, was the rumour the rebel leader Kunwar Singh (more about him later) was about to make his appearance in Nagode territory.
Hampton ordered the 50th to prepare to march against rebels. The men appeared delighted with the order and made all the preparations with unaccustomed alacrity. They set off on the 27th of August.
At the second milestone from Nagode suddenly a voice from the ranks gave an order to halt. The regiment stopped in its tracks. Some of the men now came up to their officers and told them, in no uncertain terms, that their services were no longer required and the officers were free to go where ever they wanted. It was useless to oppose – a few faithful men escorted their officers and their families to Mirzapur, while the rest of the 50th returned to Nagode, burnt the town to the ground and then “inaugurated in the district a career similar to that of their brethren of the 52nd.”
At Rewah, Willoughby Osbourne was still alone. Despite the Raja pleading, that he could no longer protect him, Osbourne stuck to his post. Rarely out of the saddle and constantly on the watch, the ever-vigilant Osbourne skillfully managed the Raja’s troops and he was able to baffle the rebels crossing Rewa territory. His goal was to keep the road between Mirzapur and Jabalpur open – having achieved this, he went on the offensive.
Osbourne defeated the rebels at Kachanpur and Zorah and then advanced on their stronghold, Maihar. Here on the 29th of December he stormed the city, pushed onto Jakhani and captured it, thus opening the next 36 miles of road to Jabalpur. Later, he captured the fort at Bijeraghugarh. The final result of Osbourne’s indefatigable exertions was the rebel cause was unable to gain a foothold in Bundelkhand and lost its way in the adjacent territories.
The mutiny in Central India would eventually end. However it would take thousands of troops from all corners of India, many from Madras and a year of hard fighting to finally conclude it. Sir Hugh Rose would eventually take to the field and advancing from Sehore would begin his famous campaign in Central India with the capture of Rahatgarh, while General Whitlock, with a Madras Column, would march from Nagpur to take on the Sagar and Narbadda Territories. Yet operations in Central India would not reach their final conclusion until 1859.
As for Brigadier Sage – he was finally relieved in January 1858 by Sir Hugh Rose. The prisoners (those who had been captured in Lalitpur so long ago) of the Shahgarh Raja were eventually freed, a little haggard perhaps, but unlike many of the compatriots, alive.
At the time of his death, Lieutenant Francis Alexander Robert Murray Macgregor was 34 years old. He was the third son of Major-General Sir Evan Murray Macgregor of Macgregor, 2nd Baronet KB. KCH, a Scottish colonial administrator and senior army officer who had been the Governor of Dominica and the British Leeward Islands and later Barbados, who died in office in Barbados in 1844. He had fought in India with the 8th Light Dragoons and served under Sir Thomas Hislop in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. Curiously enough, Francis would die in Central India.
The youngest brother of Francis, Ernest Augustus Murray Macgregor would serve with the 9th Light Cavalry and would later be Groom in Waiting to the Queen in 1869. Their grandfather was Military Auditor General of Bengal between 1789 and 1796 – several uncles and cousins were also officers in the EICo.
Further Papers Relative to the Mutinies in the East Indies, (No. 4), Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (1857)
The Indian Mutiny to the Fall of Delhi compiled by the Former Editor of the “Delhi Gazette” (1857)
Central India During the Rebellion of 1857 and 1858 – Thomas Lowe M.R.S.C.E., L.A.C. (1860)
A Chapter of the Bengal Mutiny as Seen in Central India by One Who was There in 1857-58- Major Walter Coningsby Erskine (1871)
Kaye’s and Malleson’s History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, edited by Colonel Malleson, C.S.I, Vol V. (1907)
The Revolt in Central India 1857-58, compiled in the Intelligence Branch (1908)