Fyzabad, February – June, 1857
Troops stationed at Fyzabad in 1857
No. 5 company 7th battalion of Artillery and No. 13 Horse Battery.- Major Mills, Lieutenants Percival and Currie, Sergeant Edwards and wife and child, and Sergeant Busher and wife and child.
22nd Regiment of Native Infantry.- Colonel Lennox (commanding regiment and station), Captain Morgan, Lieutenants Fowle, English, Bright, Lindesay, Thomas, Ouseley and Cautley, Ensigns Anderson and Ritchie, Assistant-Surgeon Daniel.
6th Regiment of Irregular Oude Infantry.- Lieutenant-Colonel O’Brien, Lieutenants Gordon and Parsons, Assistant Surgeon Collison.
5th troop of 15th Irregular Cavalry.
The Maulvi Arrives
In February 1857, an incident occurred in Fyzabad. The arrival of Maulvi Ahmed Ullah Shah with his retainers had been designed to cause a stir – he was a man on a mission.
His hostility against the British was neither sudden nor due to any personal hardship he had suffered at their hands. His convictions were purely ideological and his motivations philosophical. He had been nurturing his ideals deliberately over time; his destiny, one could say, was to expel the British from India.
From an affluent South Indian family which hailed from Chinapatan, Ahmed Ullah Shah was well educated and spoke Arabic, Persian, Hindi and English. As a young man he had travelled far – to England, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Mecca and Medina and had performed Hajj. He served in the Court of Hyderabad with distinction, gaining a reputation for himself as a man with a ” rare degree of self-esteem;” and was noted for his ambitious nature. He was highly skilled in the art of warfare and the use of weaponry.
Rejecting the offer of an estate from the British which he regarded as nothing short of tenured slavery, relying instead on his own abilities to gain power.
Although a Sunni Muslim by birth, Ahmad Ullah Shah turned to Sufism. Under his mentor, Mihrab Shah Qalandar of Gwalior, who had strong views against the British it was here, after 4 and half years of studies, that Ahmad Ullah Shah swore to wage Jihad against the foreign rulers. Believing that the only way rebellion would work, he began an extended tour of India.
Starting in Madras in January 1857 where the sudden appearance of placards exhorting “all true believers to rise against the English infidels and drive them from India…” was attributed to him directly and to his followers, he made his way to Akbarabad where his arrival was reported directly to the city magistrate. Although summoned to appear before the court, he was never arrested. As determined as ever to tour as much of India as he could, he would continue his journey to Meerut, Delhi and Calcutta. Each stay was noted by the British but not fully understood. Something was odd and strange about this charismatic man and his followers – his effect on the people was undoubtedly disconcerting, but there was simply not enough proof to do anything about him.
A part of his design was to contact the sepoys along the way, something he did with apparent success in Barrackpore. The story of the greased cartridges was proved to have been deliberately circulated – it is very possible he was its original author. Later investigations into the causes of the rebellion would show that “everywhere he had preached Jihad, or religious war against the Kafirs, or infidels, as the Europeans were politely designated. From some places, he had been summarily ejected, but in others evaded expulsion, meeting with no real check until he came to Fyzabad.”
He arrived quietly and with no ceremony. Setting himself up boldly in the centre of the town, the Maulvi commenced his preaching – and a full two days passed before the magistrate, informed by his chaprassi of the Maulvi’s doings, and the Special Assistant Commissioner, Captain Felix Thurburn, issued a warrant for the preacher’s arrest.
Thurburn’s first demand regarding weaponry was not essentially unreasonable. The Maulvi and his seven followers were requested to give up their arms of which they had shockingly many. These would be collected and kept for safekeeping until the Maulvi decided to leave. The further demands were rather less reasonable. He was also told to desist from distributing money to the local populace when they heard him speak; in fact, his public speeches also needed to cease, as it was disturbing the peace. It is no surprise that the Maulvi refused to comply with any demand, sending a brisk retort that any attempts on the part of the British or their native officials to enforce them would be met with armed resistance. Not wanting to stir up a potential beehive of problems, an infantry guard was put over the Maulvi and his men that night – and the next morning an infantry company “after failing at surprising them, attacked them vi et armes.”
Having been joined by new followers, the fight was fierce.
Ensign Thomas of the 22nd BNI managing to evade a fatal blow, was cut across the head and several sepoys likewise received “severe cuts.” It would be “some minutes before all were shot down but the moulvie and his men. These latter were finally captured, faint from loss of blood; and the moulvie, wounded in the shoulder, was induced to come out of a dark corner in which he sought shelter, by the promise of a fair trial if he gave up his arms, or instant death if he refused.”
Deemed to be too dangerous for the city’s goal, the Maulvi and his remaining men were kept under guard in cantonments while it was being decided what to do with him. Meanwhile, Fyzabad went back to being “a loyal city.” However, the influence of the Maulvi was far from over. His wounds treated and well-fed, he would be fighting fit on his sudden release from prison on the 9th of June, ready to assume command of the rebels.
The Mutiny Commences
The officers of Fyzabad – Colonel Philip Goldney and Deputy Commissioner of the District Captain Ried – unlike their compatriots in other stations, “suffered from no delusions regarding the intentions of the mutineers.” They had been quietly preparing themselves since the news from Meerut, storing supplies in the house of Captain Thurburn – chosen as it was set in a large enclosure and surrounded by strong walls. They believed that should they require it, aid would come from the pensioned sepoys and the landholders in the district without realising that in Fyzabad, the numbers and influence of the former were too small and too slight to meet the coming crisis. As the for the landholders, they had been treated severely by the annexation of Oudh, with the talukdars in Fyzabad district losing half if not all their villages. It could hardly be expected that the men who had suffered so much would be inclined to risk their lives to maintain British rule. Ried himself pointed out, that “we found the zamindars, however well-disposed, would not fight against disciplined troops, with guns.” However, the talukdars had sent personal offers of asylum to the civil officers’ families – offers that perhaps they would have better off taking.
On the 5th of June, the possibility of holding out at Thurburn’s house was finally abandoned. It was by now too late to send away the women and children to Lucknow, the only station close enough to be deemed feasible. However in doing so, they would have had to pass through Dariabad, and the news from that station was far from comforting. So another plan was presented to Colonel Goldney and this one involved Raja Man Singh.
Raja Man Singh had fallen in some estimation in the eyes of the British. In 1857 he had been placed in “close but honourable confinement, having been placed under arrest by the Commissioner in obedience to orders from Lucknow.” Captain Alexander Orr had vehemently opposed the step as it was a question of revenue and this confinement was singularly harsh. Orr had “well and truly served the old regime when Oudh had her king, had known Man Singh, and had conceived for him a great regard.” It was then left up to Captain Orr and Captain Ried (the Deputy Commissioner) when the British were in trouble, to release Man Singh from his prison and to pay men to garrison Man Singh’s fort.
From his new residence in the house of Captain Orr, he offered protection to Orr’s family – he also “reiterated his offer of protection to the officers of the civil offices, but made some demur about those officers in cantonments, as receiving them would render futile any attempt at secrecy..”. Reid and Orr told him they could not accept this limited offer, and finally managed to convince him to receive all, but on the condition that the move from cantonments was done “quietly and secretly, not only because he doubted whether the troops would allow the officers’ families to go, but because he required time to collect men and mature his own arrangements.”
A plan was hatched that should have elicited as little excitement as possible – the ladies and children were to commence on their accustomed evening drive but instead of returning to the cantonments were to proceed to Shahgunj. The officers, however, doubted this was practicable “and also urged that it would have a bad effect in exasperating the men, as we had no immediate apprehension of an outbreak; it was agreed to defer the departure of the ladies for a day, to give time to consider the matter and to sound the troops.”
Mrs. Mills, the wife of Major Mills of the artillery was the only lady from the cantonments who, at least for a moment, agreed to the protection of Raja Man Singh. What changed her mind is not recorded and as quickly as she arrived at Thurburn’s house, she just as quickly returned to cantonments, where the other ladies were flatly refusing to trust their welfare to the Raja. They had after all the word of Mrs. Lennox whose husband served with the 22nd BNI – the troops had personally sworn to her that no injury would be done to them.
On the 7th of June, Captain Reid tried his luck again with the cantonment officers. Arrangements had been made to send off the civilians’ families that night and he made one last attempt to convince the military men -however “all declared they would retain their families in cantonments, except Captain Dawson, Executive Engineer, who, with his wife and four children, accompanied me home.” Together with the civilians’ families, the Dawsons arrived at Shahgunj later on that night.
The next morning, Corporal Hurst of the sappers with his wife and child, accompanied by all the sergeants’ wives and children appeared at Reid’s house. They needed no convincing and Reid sent them off to Shahgunj under an escort of a party of “trusty Zamindars.”
For everyone else, the 8th of June was the last day they would spend in Fyzabad. With a heavy heart, Captain Reid sent off his last report to Lucknow; he had information that the district was swarming with mutineers -from Azimgarh, Benares and Jaunpore – and the emissaries were openly calling on the troops of Fyzabad to rise. A missive was also received, a declaration purported to be from the King of Delhi that he had taken control of the whole country and every man, fit to fight, should join his standard. For the Europeans, their situation was now in the hands of fate.
Captain Reid spent the day issuing pay to the Zemindari levies, some 400 in number and the 100 pensioned sepoys who had vowed to stand strong; he sent 14000 rupees to Shahganj and secreted the most valuable records in the Wasika building, a walled enclosure occupied by the female relatives of the ex-king of Oudh, in the vain hope that no one would molest these erstwhile ladies.
Colonel Philip Goldney too was busy. As Commissioner and Superintendent of Fyzabad, he chose to spend the day in the city taking care of his last business but at night he returned to the lines of the 22nd Regiment, over whom he exercised considerable influence.
Born in 1802, Colonel Goldney was an EICo’ officer of the old mould and Bengal man through and through. He had joined the 14th BNI in 1821 and served with them from his ensignship up to his captaincy, leaving the regiment in 1844 to join the 4th BNI.
With the 4th, he would experience his first mutiny.
Ordered in 1843 to march to the recently annexed province of Sind, his regiment was one of the four to mutiny – their grievance was clear and the British position absurd. In the past, any regiment ordered on foreign service received extra allowances, but as Sind was now, in theory at least, no longer considered foreign soil as it was an annexed province, the allowance fell off. The four regiments (the 4th, 34th, 64th and 69th) had received orders to hold themselves ready to move to Sind – as it had been previously decided to garrison Sind only with Bengal troops with these chosen as they had not seen foreign service. This was not essentially true. The 64th had seen service in Kabul and in a petition sent to the commanding officers, they pointed out there were other regiments who by rights, should go to Sind before them. Although it is out of the scope of this writing to explore the grievances of these 4 regiments, it can be noted with some certainty, that this affair was a staging point for 1857 as many of the grievances voiced in 1844 in Sind would be echoed 13 years later.
As for Goldney, he did not suffer from the affair at Sind. He would be promoted to the office of collector and magistrate of the province, a position he would successfully pursue until attaining his lieutenant-colonelcy which gave him command of the 25th BNI in Delhi. As part of the force sent to annex Oudh in 1856, Goldney would return to a civil appointment, as one of the five commissioners appointed to govern the latest EICo conquest. Fyzabad was to be his last posting.
The 8th of June
On the night of the 8th of June, the troops mutinied. The 6th Regiment of Oudh Irregular Infantry sounded a bugle call around 10 pm and was answered by the 22nd BNI. With the battery in their possession they refused their officers to approach but at this point, did not offer them any violence either.
They did not “pretend a grievance, but loudly asserted that feeling they were stronger than the English, they intended to turn them out of the country.” The senior Rissaldar of the 15th Irregular Cavalry seized command of the brigade and from his new position, attempted to induce the men to murder their officers.
The officers were left with little choice but to leave the station – and the only option open to them now was an escape in boats.
Onto the Boats
As Fyzabad is on the river Gogra – and navigable to Bhalia where it joins the Ganges – it was a logical choice and certainly less hazardous than an attempt by road. However, as we have seen before, boat escapes in 1857 seldom ended well for the travellers. Fyzabad would not be an exception. Their destination was to have been Dinapur.
The four boats which started on the morning of the 9th were as follows:
No. 1 Boat
1. Colonel Goldney, Commissioner.
2. Lieutenant Currie, Artillery.
3. Lietnenant Cautley, 22d Native Infantry.
4. Lieutenant Ritchie.
5. Lieutenant Parsons, 6th Oude Irregulars.
6. Sergeant-Major Matthews.
7. Sergeant Edwards, 13th Light Field Battery.
8. Sergeant Busher, 13th Light Field Battery.
No. 2 Boat
1. Major Arthur Samuel Mills, commanding 13th Light Field Battery.
2. Adjutant Arthur Bright, 22d Native Infantry.
3. Sergeant-Major Hulme, 22d Native Infantry.
4. Mrs. Hulme.
5. Quartermaster Sergeant Russell, 22d Native Infantry.
6. Bugler Williamson, 13th Light Field Battery.
No. 3 Boat
1. Colonel O’Brien, 6th Oude Irregulars.
2. Captain Gordon, 6th Oude Irregulars.
3. Assistant-Surgeon Collison, 6th Oude Irregulars.
4. Lieutenant Anderson, 22d Native Infantry.
5. Lieutenant Percival, 13th Light Field Battery.
No. 4 Boat
1. Lieutenant Thomas, 22d Native Infantry.
2. Lieutenant Lindesay, 22d Native Infantry.
3. Lieutenant English, 22d Native Infantry.
Unable to find boatmen, they resolved the man them themselves but they were not alone for long with this task. A sepoy, Teg Ali Khan of the 22nd BNI who had refused to mutiny, followed the party in a boat of his own, and it was through his aid they were able to procure boatmen at a village an hour outside the station.
As the four boats left Fyzabad, they had received no interest. The mutineers were busy plundering the treasury, ransacking houses and releasing prisoners. Unbeknownst to the fugitives, the 22nd had sent word to that most indifferent regiment, the 17th BNI of Azimgarh, then prowling around the district. The regiments of Fyzabad would not injure their officers, but they had no objections if the 17th murdered them instead. As their line of march lay on the right bank of the Gogra River, intercepting the boats would be but short work for the 17th.
The men of the 17th responded with chilling fervour.
Barely 12 miles from Fyzabad (though this is a road distance, by boat it would be longer), they intercepted the first 2 boats. The other 2 had docked at Ayodhya, and thus escaped, but momentarily the fate of their companions.
The first inkling of trouble the 2 officers observed was of scouts running along the riverbank, apparently giving advance notice of their impending arrival at Begumganj.
Where the stream was at its most narrow, they opened fire on the fugitives. It was an unfair fight – the attackers numbered 800 or 900, with 100 of them firing at a distance of 600 yards. Sergeant Busher, who by some miracle, escaped, would recall,
“On proceeding a little further we distinctly observed a regiment of mounted cavalry, and another of native infantry in a body, at the narrowest part of the stream, awaiting our approach. We had no alternative but to proceed on. When Nos. 1 and 2 boats arrived opposite to them they opened a brisk fire on us. Sergeant Matthews, who was one of the rowers, was the first who fell, a ball having struck him at the back of the head. Another ball struck my hat and knocked it into the stream, sustaining no injury myself. Those in No. 2 boat, about 100 yards behind, seeing our hazardous situation, put their boat to a sandbank, entirely surrounded by water. We in No. 1 then put to also and went ashore, when Colonel Gldney requested us to lay down our arms and wait to see if we could come to terms with the mutineers, they directing their fire on us (Nos. 1 and 2) the whole time. Some boats with mutineers pushed off from the opposite shore and came towards us. When about the centre of the stream they opened fire on us. Colonel Goldney observing this directed that those who could run should, without any further loss of time, endeavour to escape, remarking that there was not even the shadow of a chance of our meeting with mercy at their hands, and at the same time added that he was too old himself to run. We, now seven in number, including Teg Ali Khan, took Colonel Goldney’s advice and gave leg bail, taking a direction across country.
I may here mention that from this period we remained in ignorance of the fate of Colonel Goldney and those of No. 2 boat.“
Colonel Goldney, deeming himself too old to run, remained behind and together with Lieutenant Bright, was taken to the camp of the 17th BNI. When brought before the mutineers, Colonel Goldney appealed to their better senses, asking whether they would disgrace themselves by murdering an old man? He was not given the chance to plead for the lift of young Lieutenant Bright; and according to Captain Thurburn, who met a witness to their deaths but a few days later, they had been subjected to a cruel end.
“As we neared the Gogra, an old woman met us. Seeing me and my wife on the elephant,
she began in a deprecatory tone to plead on our behalf to our men, who she presumed were on evil deeds intent. This conjecture of the poor creature was a plausible one, for two days previously she had witnessed, close to the spot where we were standing, the murder of two English officers, by name of Goldney and Bright, who were stated to have been tied to trees, and then made targets of, by the Sepoys of the 17th Regiment N.I.
Sergeant Busher continues:
“We now started, and continued running, but did not do so long before meeting with an obstacle which precluded our further advance in the direction we marked out, and this was the junction of two streams of considerable width. While at a standstill, and deliberating as to our future course, we saw a number of men coming towards us, whom we took for sepoys. All but Teg Ali Khan and Sergeant Edwards jumped into the stream, and thought to escape by swimming to the opposite bank. After swimming a short distance Teg Ali Khan called us and told us to return, as they were only villagers. I, Lieutenant Ritchie, and Lieutenant Cautley returned, but Lieutenant Currie and Lieutenant Parsons got too far into the stream, and in endeavouring to return were both, I regret to say, drowned. I myself narrowly escaped, having twice gone down, but, through the timely aid of one of the villagers, was safely got out. “
Proceeding with all caution, they safely arrived at Amorah where they met the officers of the No.4 boat. Having abandoned the craft for being too slow, the three officers had proceeded overland instead. Now a party of 8, the men continued their journey across the countryside. Their treatment by the villagers and especially the tahsildars was fair and welcoming.
“The Tussildars, who at this place gave us protection, further aided us by giving each a couple of rupees, and one pony to Lieutenant Ritchie and another to Lieutenant Cautley for the journey. We again started (now at seven a.m. of the 10th), taking the road to Captain Gunge, under the guidance of a couple of Thannah Burkundages (policemen in the ranks).”
It was these Burkundages who would be their spell the downfall of the party. Riding on ahead under the pretence of organising accommodation and refreshment for the men, they approached the village of Mahuadabar. Sergeant Busher narrates:
“On reaching it we observed to our horror that the whole village was armed. However, we made no remark but passed through it under the guidance of the three Burkundages. On getting to the end we had to cross a nullah, or small stream, waist-deep in water. While crossing, the villagers rushed on us, sword and matchlock in hand. Seeing that they were bent on our destruction, we pushed through the water as quickly as possible, not, however, without leaving one of our number behind, who unfortunately was the last, and him (Lieutenant Lindesay) they cut to pieces. On reaching the opposite bank the villagers made a furious attack on us, literally butchering five of our party.
I and Lieutenant Cautly then ran, and most of the mob in full chase after us. Lieutenant Cautly, after running about 300 yards, declared he could run no longer and stopped. On the mob reaching him, he was also cut to pieces. After dispatching poor Lieutenant Cautly they continued the chase after me, but after running a short distance, and finding that I was a long way off, they desisted.
I was now the only one left, not having even Teg Ali Khan with me. I proceeded on, and in a short time came to a village, and the first person I met was a Brahmin, of whom I begged a drink of water, telling him I was exhausted. He asked me where I came from and what had happened to me. I told my tale as quickly as I could, and he appeared compassionate to my case. He assured me that no harm would come to me in his village, and that, as the villagers were all Brahmins, others would not dare to enter it to do me any harm. He then directed me to be seated under a shady tree in the village and left me. After a short absence, he returned, bringing with him a large bowl of sherbet. This I drank greedily and was hardly done when he started up and bade me run for my life, as Baboo Bully Singh was approaching the village. I got up and attempted to run, but found I could not, and tried to get to some hiding place. In going through a lane I met an old woman, and she pointed out an empty hut and bade me run into it. I did so, and finding in it a quantity of straw I lay down and thought to conceal myself in it. I was not long there when some of Bully Singh’s men entered and commenced a search, and used their lances and tulwars in probing into the straw. Of course, it was not long before I was discovered. I was dragged out by the hair of the head and exhibited to the view of the natives, who had congregated round him, when all kinds of abusive epithets were applied to me. He then commenced a march, leading me from village to village, exhibiting me, and the rabble at my heels hooting at and abusing me.
After passing through each, his men used to stop and tell me to kneel, and then to ask Bully Singh if they were to decapitate me. His usual reply was. ‘Not yet, take him on to the next village.’ I in this manner passed through three villages and was then taken to his own house. I was led into the courtyard and put into the stocks; this was about nightfall. During the night I heard angry words pass between Bully Singh and his brother. I could not exactly make out the particulars, but I remember his brother telling him to beware of what he was doing, and that his acts of this day would perhaps recoil upon himself. However, the result of the quarrel proved in every way beneficial to me, for about three in the morning Bully Singh came to me himself, directed my release from the stocks, and asked me if I should not like to have something to eat and drink, and his bearing towards me was entirely changed and different from what it had been. The following morning a party made their appearance, headed by a villain named Jaffir Ali, whom I recognised as the person who shot poor Lieutenant Ritchie the previous day and also fired at me. Of this, he made a boast to Bully Singh, when he saw me and asked Bully Singh to make me over to him, and that he would burn me alive. He was told in reply that I would be delivered over to no person, and to quit the place. This rascal said my kismuth (fate) was very good.“
For ten days, Sergeant Busher remained a prisoner.
Colonel Lennox Escapes
Colonel Lennox,( whose wife had been so adamant in defending the loyalty of the men just days earlier), upon hearing a bugle call, immediately repaired to the guns. He was refused admittance and “the subedar (the prime leader of the mutiny, Dhuleep Singh) telling me it was necessary to guard the guns, and he would take care of them, requesting me to go to the quarter-guard and take my rest, and that nothing should happen to myself and officers so long as we remained with the regiment; a guard with fixed bayonets surrounded me and escorted me to my charpoi. The officers also of the regiment were not allowed to move twelve paces without a guard following them. Several officers asked me to leave to flee away. I told them I had no power, and that I was a prisoner as well as themselves, but if they would remain quiet in their lines till daybreak Dhuleep Singh would give them an escort to the boats at Meerum Ghat, and send them off down the Gogra. Two officers trying to escape were fired at by the cavalry patrols and brought back into the lines. About sunrise on the 9th the officers were allowed to take to the boats, myself and family alone remaining in cantonments. ..” At 2pm, Lennox and his family were allowed to leave Fyzabad by boat.
“In the morning, about daybreak, some men coming down to bathe told me that there were men on the look-out for Europeans, and advised us to leave our boats as soon as we could and follow some six or seven Sahibs (officers) who the day before had gone on towards Goruckpore. … Continuing on foot, Colonel Lennox, his wife, daughter, ayah and kidmutghar often resting under trees and at wells, had only managed to walk 6 miles, when at 10 o’clock in the morning it was deemed too hot to carry on the march; they stopped at a village. Having obtained a drink of milk, they settled down to shelter for the rest of the day.
“We were however soon disturbed, for a horseman advanced over the country, armed to the teeth, having a huge horse pistol in his hand, which he cocked, and levelled at my head, desired me to follow him to the camp of the 17th Native Infantry and make no delay, for he was to get a reward of 500 rupees for each of our heads!”
Forced to retrace their steps to what should have been their deaths, the party was stopped a mile into their walk by a young boy. Apparently known to the horseman, who insisted suddenly on quickening their pace, the boy entreated the horseman to let them stop and take a drink of water at a village – while thus occupied the boy sent a lad to the resident Nazim, Syed Muhammad Hasan Khan. The Nazim wasted no time in sending off a party to the rescue of the Lennox’s and their servants while taking their would-be murderer prisoner. Of the 12 men sent by the Nizam, one made no secret of his true feelings about the mission for taking one look at Lennox,
“….greatly abused me, and looking at his pistol and priming, swore he would shoot those Englishmen who had come to take away their caste and make them Christians.”
The man did not, however, act on his words and by mid-day, they were safely ensconced in the Nazim’s protection. He did so at great personal risk. One of his own retainers suggested to the Nazim should house the fugitives in a stable close by, “as we should not require it long, be being prepared to kill the dogs!” The Nazim begged Lennox not to fear; he himself would not let them leave until the road was open and they could be sent to Gorackpore in safety. Hiding them in his fort, he had them dressed in Indian clothes and sent a party out the next night dressed in the Lennoxs’ garb, as a decoy, to deceive not only his own outposts but the villagers, giving the illusion he had sent the foreigners away.
For the next nine days, they were hidden in a reed hut behind the Nazim’s zenana, treated with all kindness and consideration. The Nazim personally paid a visit to the Fyzabad mutineers to discover their plans. After joining the attack on Lucknow, in their estimation, they would be able to proceed to Delhi. It was not with some sorrow Lennox heard news of his old regiment. “The first time he visited the Regiments at Fyzabad, they inquired very minutely concerning certain Europeans he had harboured. the Nazim declared he had only fed and rested three Europeans and then sent them on; to this, they replied, “It is well; we are glad you took care of the Colonel and his family.”
The Third Boat
Colonel O’Brien never professed himself a sailor and understanding his limitations probably saved the lives of those on his boat. He managed to get them as far as Ayodhya, and realising they did not stand a chance in such a small craft, he used his considerable influence to procure a larger one and four boatmen to row it. Some six miles out of Ayodhya they were ordered by policemen, shouting from the shore to pull in Telling the boatmen to go ahead as if suddenly struck deaf, the policemen threatened instead to shoot them all; but the boat carried on relentlessly, pushed along by a favourably stiff breeze. After another 6 miles they stumbled across the rear-guard of the 17th BNI – hiding now in the bottom of the boat, they managed to sail past unseen. Keeping themselves low, they passed by several irregular cavalrymen who, although they shouted at the boat, didn’t fire at it. Their next fright came after dark.
“When within two miles of Tandah we had to halt until dark, so as to pass the fort; here Captain Gordon’s bearer and one of the boatmen ran away, and I had to bring the only servant we had and the four remaining boatmen down the bank into the boat at the point of my sword- talking to them was no use. Passing Tandah we had to go within twenty yards of the shore. The water was so shallow we could see the natives cooking and hear them talking, yet it was too dark for them to see us. The forts at this place extend for about 14 miles down the river. Just as we had got past the moon rose. While passing we came within five yards of a boat, but our boatmen happened to know those of the other boat, so they asked where each other were going, and never saw us at the bottom of the boat. Captain Gordon’s servant was almost frightened to death.”
At daybreak realising they were within 2 miles of a fort, it was decided useless to attempt sailing by light. Putting in at a sandbank, they were planning to wait for nightfall – “We remained there until 4, P.M., when we were suddenly surprised to see about fifty villagers running with all their might towards us- some with guns, others with swords, and the remainder with clubs. We immediately put into the stream and cocked our pistols, saw the rascals run into the water breast-high when they stopped and fired a volley at us, but fortunately without effect. It was too evident the whole country had risen, and that escape across the country was impossible. After pulling a short way down the river, the natives, seeing they could not get at us, ceased their pursuit. We then halted until dark, to enable us to pass the forts. Often the boatmen told us not to whisper, but to keep down ready for an attack; for we had often to go close in-shore, and were determined to fight through if possible.”
The next morning, on what was starting to look more and more like a futile journey, the boat was forced ashore at a village. Acting under the advice of the boatman who recommended they bribe the policeman who would inevitably make his appearance. As he put his head into the boat, the men told the policeman they were carrying a cargo inspector – his surprise at seeing 5 Englishmen armed to the teeth sitting in the bottom of it was enough to convince him the 10 rupees they offered him was in all reality good enough, and he shouted for the boat to proceed immediately.
Worn out and exhausted the party fell asleep at the village of Gola. As they slept their erstwhile saviours – the boatmen – ran off, taking whatever money the fugitives had left. Seeing it was useless to continue now by river they set off over-land and eventually made it to the compound of a French indigo planter who, with the help of the local ruler, conveyed the party safely to Dinapore, which they reached on the 17th of June.
No. 5 Boat
Captain Morgan, wife and child
Assistant Surgeon Daniel
This boat is only mentioned fleetingly in accounts, and having “suffered great hardships and privations, were plundered and maltreated on their voyage down the river…” they managed to reach Gopalpore and then travelled onwards to Chupra.
Casualties of the Fyzabad, as summarised by Colonel Lennox and Captain Thurburn
Colonel Philip Goldney, Superintendent Commissioner of Fyzabad District – killed by the 17th Regt. N.I.
Major Mills, killed by an alligator in the river, when escaping from the 17th Regt. N.I.
Lieutenant Currie, drowned.
Lieutenant Augustus Frederick English – murdered by the villagers of Mahua Dabar.
Son of Sir John English
Lieutenant Thomas Edward Lindsay – murdered by the villagers of Mahua Dabar.
Lieutenant Arthur Bright – killed by the 17th Regt. N.I. Aged 26.
Son of Robert Bright, of Abbot’s Leigh, Somerset. Memorial at Holy Trinity Church, Abbots Leigh, Avon.
Lieutenant Walter Harrington Thomas – badly wounded by the Maulvi before the outbreak; afterwards killed by villagers whilst drinking water from a well. Son of Captain G.H. Thomas, 7th Madras Cavalry
Lieutenant George Lister Cautley – murdered by the villagers of Mahua Dabar.
Aged 24. Eldest son of Lt-Col. George Cautley, 5th European Light Cavalry, 8th Bengal Cavalry.
Ensign Ritchie – murdered by the villagers of Mahua Dabar
Lieutenant Parsons, drowned.
Sergeant Hulme and wife, 22d Regiment, killed by the 17th Regt. N.I.
Quartermaster-Sergeant Russell of the 22d Regiment, killed by the 17th Regt. N.I.
Sergeant-Major Edwards, 13th Battery, killed by the 17th Regt. N.I.
Those that Escaped
Copy of a Long-Roll and Certificate of Character given by Colonel Lennox to Teg Allie Khan, Sepoy, Grenadier Company 22nd Regiment N.I.
Rank and Name: Sepoy Teg Allie Khan.
Height: 6 feet
Remarks: Sepoy of Grenadier Company 22nd Regiment Native Infantry. 19 years of good character. Employed as overseer to the Government buildings at Fyzabad, in 1856-7.
This is to certify that the above-named sepoy is a faithful, loyal, and true man, and highly deserving the notice of Government. He joined our party on leaving Fyzabad, and was with Lieutenant Lindesay, of Grenadier Company, until he was cut down, and the party of seven officers murdered; he (the sepoy) alone escaping, having fled for his life to a village, and was there rescued by the same party who rescued me and my family. We met at Captaingunge, and he came on with us to Ghazeepore. He is now going to his home near Buxar. The sepoy is entitled to pay for the month of May 1857; the outbreak having taken place at Fyzabad on the 9th June, 1857.
July 1, 1857. W. LENNOX, Colonel, Commanding the late 22nd Regiment N.I.
Bugler Williamson, 13th Battery
Colonel O’Brien, 6th Oudh Irregular Infantry, escaped, but afterwards committed suicide.
Captain Gordon, 6th Oudh Irregular Infantry
Assistant-Surgeon Collinson, 6th Oudh Irregular Infantry
Lieutenant J.W.H. Anderson, 22nd Regt. N.I.
Lieutenant Percivall, 13th Battery
Sergeant Busher, 13th Battery
In this chapter, we have witnessed the further travels of that most indifferent regiment, the 17th BNI, and followed the fate of the officers of Fyzabad. However, unlike other stations, Fyzabad had survivors. In the next chapter, we shall meet the civilians and trace that most intrepid Maulvi.
For further reading about the village of Mahua Dabar:http://www.pastpresented.ukart.com/mahuadabar/index.htm
Annal of the Indian Rebellion – Noah Alfred Chick (1859)
Narrative of the Indian Mutinies of 1857, compiled for the Madras Military Male Orphanage (1858)
History of the Indian Mutiny (Vol I)- Col. G.B.Malleson (1878)
Reminiscence of the Indian Rebellion – Felix Augustus Victor Thurburn (1889)
Ahmad Ullah Shah’s Nationalist Struggle Against Colonialism in India – Salahuddin Malik, Islamic Studies, Vol.26, (Spring 1987), pp.43-62, Published by: Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad