“Our Hour of Departure is Come…”

So wrote Emma Ewart Larkins (née Carnochan/Carnaghan) on the 9th of June 1857 from Cawnpore to her sister-in-law Henrietta in England. Four of her children were safe with their aunt, but three others were with their parents in India.

As Emma wrote her final letter, it was raining shot and shell on the barrack where she was sheltering with her three children. Her husband had worn himself out in the past weeks, preparing the munitions for the entrenchment and since the commencement of hostilities had never given himself any rest. With collected calmness he led his men and exposed himself mercilessly to the sun. On the 9th of June he collapsed of heat apoplexy. On the same day, Emma wrote her final, sad letter, and entrusted it to her ayah, Munna. The next day, Major Larkins died.
Munna escaped out of the entrenchment and travelled to Calcutta. She tried to give the packet to the gentleman it was addressed to but he refused to see her and giving no credence to her tale flatly refused to believe her. The poor woman burst into tears and handed the packet to a servant. Weeping bitterly she turned away and vanished into history, never to be found again. The letter arrived in England over a year later.
Emma and her children perished – either in the Entrenchment or at Sati Chaura Ghat, their names are not mentioned in the list at Bibighar.

Isabella White

Isabella White had travelled to India with her friend Louisa Chalwin from Taunton, Somerset in 1855, for the very explicit reason of finding a husband. She is pictured here with the Ommanney girls in happier times. Shortly after Isabella was killed in the Bibighar.

The Vibarts

The Vibarts feature throughout 1857. The major and his wife Emily née Coles were in Cawnpore, their son eldest Edward fighting in Delhi and their nephew, Edmund in Fatehgarh.
Their four youngest children,- Emmie, Johnnie, Louisa and Willie were with their parents. Louisa died of sunstroke, and Johnnie was killed by a sniper’s bullet. The other two children survived the Entrenchment and the following desperate flight in one of the only boats to leave Sati Chaura Ghat. On the 29th of June, it was over, when the boat was forced to surrender. They would be murdered with their mother, probably at the Bibghar. Major Vibart bled to death from his injuries on the road back to Cawnpore.

The Christies

In better times, Henry Christie had been a prosperous businessman in Cawnpore. With his wife Mary and three of their daughters, Constance, Henrietta and Georgiana (pictured to the right of her mother) they had lived in a house on a hill overlooking the Sati Chaura Ghat.
While Henry and Georgiana would succumb to heat stroke during the siege, Mary and her daughter Constance- would be murdered within view of their former home. Henrietta alone braved her fate at the Bibighar.

Sati Chaura Ghat

“Mama died, 12th July
Alice died, 9th July
George died, 27th June
Entered the barracks, 21st May
Cavalry left, 5th June
First shot fired, 6th June
Uncle Willy died, 18th June
Aunt Lilly, 17th June
Left barracks, 27th June
Made prisoners as soon as were at the river.”

note written by Caroline Lindsay, found at the Bibighar

The widowed Kate Lindsay had sailed to India in 1856 with her daughters and son George – George was to take up a military career while hopefully, his sisters would find suitable husbands. After a whirlwind of a time in Calcutta, they set off for Cawnpore where the widow’s brother, Major William Lindsay was stationed.

The major was a staff officer in the 10th N.I. – he had spent 30 years behind a desk, quietly working his way up the ladder, his only ambition was to retire a colonel. His wife Lilly was pining for her 3 children who she had taken back to England in 1854. In Cawnpore, she devoted herself tirelessly to the church. They were to have left India for good in 1858, with enough time still to see their children grow up.

Caroline Lindsay was not smitten with Cawnpore. The dusty town and it’s drab river did nothing to dispel the sense of horror she had felt before leaving Calcutta. Although she had begged her mother to be left behind in Calcutta – so strong was her fear of travelling to Cawnpore had been – Kate Lindsay ignored her daughter’s ardent misgivings, gathered up her brood and made her way upcountry.

Ruins of the Bibighar

The Hallidays

Captain William Halliday, his wife Emma and daughter Mabel.

2-year-old Mabel, a sensitive, delicate child, died of shock and terror in the first days of the siege. A few days later, William was shot in the head while carrying a bowl of soup to his smallpox stricken wife. Emma lived on, even surviving the burning of the hospital – which Mowbray Thompson recalls seeing her dragged out of, but he could not say for sure how long she lived afterwards. Emma was buried in the Sepulchral Well in the Entrenchment with her husband and daughter. She had been married for three years.

Sepulchral Well

Their Ghosts

Box belonging to the Sepping’s boys, found at the Bibighar

An inscription was found on a wall in the Entrenchment, that ran thus,
“The following were in this barrack on the 11th of June, 1857. Captain Seppings, Mrs. Ditto, 3 children, Mrs. Wainwright, Ditto infant Mrs Cripps, Mrs Halliday.” A grim memorial for a family who, in less than a month would cease to exist. Jonah Shepherd recalls seeing Captain Seppings kneeling in a doorway with his wife and children, and “quite resigned” leading them in prayer. Some of it at any rate was answered. They would survive but their journey ended in the same boat as the Vibarts. Unable to defend themselves any longer, injured, starving and exhausted, the boat surrendered to the rebels.
After an eighteen-mile trek from Sheorajpur back to Cawnpore, the remainder of the party was assembled at Savada House. Here the men, including Captain Seppings were shot – those who did not die in the volley were hacked to death with talwars and the women were taken to the Bibighar.
Witnesses say that on the 16th of July when the Bibighar was opened, some women and children were found to still be alive and with them, two small fair-haired boys – Captain Seppings’ sons. One of them was clutching the box pictured above, his last possession. They are said to have been the last victims of the massacre, running in terror around the well, with nowhere to go. The boy dropped the box and
“Two Hindu men who knew the Seppings boys, but could do nothing to save them, scooped the toy up and next day, probably to save their own skins, presented the toy to General Havelock’s men, who in turn handed this on to the General. He arranged for it to be returned to the Turnbull family, who were Jessie’s people. “

Their last moments remain imprinted upon this earth in the form of two small spectral figures who have been seen at the site of Well in Cawnpore, two fair haired boys forever running.

The well, taken shortly after the mutiny.