It will never be ascertained how many people escaped from Nowgong in June 1857. The bandsmen and their families were not counted with any accuracy and appear to have numbered 14 not counting their wives, children and relations. It is a sad fact that the system of hierarchy which existed in the 19th century categorised people according to their standing in society. While a general was a the top of the pecking order with his family, a subordinate such as a clerk, a writer or a bandsman, even a sergeant and his wife are often left out of all reckoning, except perhaps in passing.
This makes it difficult to ascertain who was where – for Nowgong, being one of the smaller incidents of 1857, no definitive list was ever put together, and we must rely on Captain Scot, Mrs. Mawe and to some extent, Lieutenant Jackson and Sergeant Kirchoff. By piecing these together, we can come to some conclusion.
There will never be satisfactory to have no record of the bandsmen and their families. The groups scattered and drifted away from each other, we know that many of the drummers appeared eventually in Banda and Scot tried his best to provide them with shelter from the monsoon rains. They were still encamped there when Scot left for Nagode.
“Ere I left Banda fourteen drummers of the 12th NI and our artillery bugler with their families, (forty-one persons in all), reached Banda. The Nawab gave us the strictest order in the city that if anyone molested them he would blow him from a gun, he also gave a drummer some money. I have written to him to request him to advance them money (which I should be responsible for) as this is the rainy season, and there are no tents for the men and their families. I think it better to let them remain under the Nawab’s protection. Four of the bandsmen are missing and one man remained at Nowgong; I saw him there on the 13th and ordered him to go with some men of ours to Mahoba. He disobeyed me.
The widow of a drummer long deceased, and her three children, I have not been able to learn anything about. I think they went to Jhansie with the rebels…I know that three of the four Christian drummers that I had put down as missing were not left behind; they left us on the 19th, seeking, I suppose, some way of their own to escape by.” (P.G. Scot)
Of one bandsman who Scot names George Dick, an African, was beheaded, much to Scot’s horror near Mhow on the 14th of June.
According to the statement of Sergeant Kirchoff, who joined up with the Nowgong fugitives on the 15th of June, there were 20 bandsmen present.
It was a Mr. John Nimrod who had disobeyed Scot at Nowgong – according to Lieutenant Jackson the man excused himself “voluntarily.” His is not the only case of a bandsman joining the side of the rebels in 1857.
The 12th BNI and The Death of a Noble Regiment
The regiment was raised in 1763 as the 15th Battalion, at Monghyr, by Captain John White
1764 ranked as 12th Battalion
1765 posted to the 3rd Brigade
1775 renumbered the 18th Battalion of Bengal Native Infantry
1781 became the 12th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry
1786 became the 12th Battalion of Bengal Native Infantry
1796 became the 1st Battalion 12th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry
1824 became the 12th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry
1857 the left-wing mutinied at Jhansi on the 5th of June; the right-wing followed later at Nowgong, on the 10th of June. The men in Nowgong were a divided group – those who mutinied outright and those who faithfully followed their officers from one doom to the next until they were unable to serve their purpose any longer. Many dispersed and went home without joining the rebellion at all.
In the 1829 list of the 12th Regiment Native Infantry then station at Nuseerabad, the following names appear:
Kirke and Remington were still with the regiment in 1857, stationed in Nowgong and Kirke would be buried by his men who dug a hole for his body in the hard ground with their bayonets; Remington would escape. R.V. Powys would be killed in Jhansi by his men. How fickle is the nature of man.
Of the Nowgong officers, the following died:
- Colonel Henry Kirke, sunstroke
- Captain Ewart, sunstroke
- Lieutenant J.H. Barber, sunstroke
- Lieutenant Townsend, Artillery, killed
- Surgeon Thomas Mawes, sunstroke
- Sergeant Major, but possibly Lucas, name not mentioned by Scot, died of sunstroke. As he had behaved rather shamefully, forcing his little daughter to carry his sword, Scot probably left out his name out of consideration to his surviving family.
Those who Survived:
Captain P.G. Scot
Sergeant Kirchoff – he was not attached to Nowgong but was attached to the Canal Department, under the orders of Captain Dunlop, of Jhansi. He and his wife joined Scot a Mahoba.
Sergeant Rait – Scot had seen him fall down drunk and presumed he had died: however later in the narrative, Scot found out the man had simply collapsed, quite senseless and when he had come around, found his way to an empty police station, where he laid down for a long sleep. When he awoke, he made his way to Kabrai where he chose to remain.
Lieutenant Ryves – long thought dead, he had been sent out with a detachment to Jhansi before the mutiny at Nowgong. On the road, his men mutinied and robbed the officer of all he possessed and then attempted to force him to join them on their march to Jhansi. He put his spurs to his horse and galloped off – fast enough that his pursuers eventually gave up – he first put in at Gwalior, and when that station mutinied, he rode off to Agra.
Bugler Roderick and family – he reached Banda in safety but his mother died of sunstroke.
“A Mr. Stuart (Sturt), an assistant patrol, who had escaped from the Jhansie district arrived at Mahoba a couple of days before the party, and hearing that they were at Chinmore, joined them there, but returned with them on the 15th….” (Statement by Sergeant Kirchoff).
This is one of the vagaries of the statements relating to the fugitives of Nowgong. Mr. Stuart or Sturt as he appears in another narrative is one of those figures who joins the party and then disappears, according to Scot, he preferred to take his chances on his own, rather than continue risking his life following Scot through the countryside.
Mr. H.A. Carne, Collector of Mahoba, escaped and remained under the protection of the Charkhri Estate then under Raja Ratan Singh. The Raja protected Carne to the best of his abilities, even refusing to give him up in the face of attack from none other than Tantya Tope himself in December 1857 and January 1858. The attack however was unsuccessful even though the Raja lost 24 guns and some 3 lakhs from his treasury. Tope had to break off the attack as he had received news that Jhansi was under siege (by the British this time) – and Raja Ratan Singh took the advantage of the situation. Disguised as a Bundlea peasant, Carne was smuggled out of Charkhri and on to Panna, which he reached in safety. The Raja “was rewarded with a land grant in perpetuity of the value of 20,000Rs per annum, a khilat, a hereditary salute of 11 guns, and the privilege of adoption, which was later confirmed by the sanad of 1862, married and had issue. He died 1860.” (https://www.indianrajputs.com/view/charkhari)
Carne’s career however is currently still a mystery. He was not a Haileybury civilian (his name is nowhere mentioned in the lists of Haileybury) so it is possible he had transferred from a regiment into civilian service. As he had been in India for some years and was well known in the district, it would appear his appointment as Collector was not recent.
Mr. Smalley, Bandmaster, 12th BNI. Mrs. Smalley died of sunstroke; he was separated from his infant son, who died of hunger and exposure.
Mr. Langdale – writer to Captain Scot. Mr. Langdale was the man who went for a walk on the evening of the mutiny and simply kept on going, never returning to Nowgong. He would eventually meet up the rest of the party – his poor wife died on the roadside and he himself chose to remain Kabrai instead of following Scot. Having walked most of the distance barefoot having given his shoes to his wife, he was no shape to walk any further.
His brother was Riding Master Langdale of the 3rd Cavalry stationed at Meerut whose daughter Sophia was killed by a sowar as she lay on a charpoy outside their home on the 10th of May.
Mr. Langdale of Nowgong had previously done service with the 3rd Light Dragoons together with his brother. Both had seen service in Afghanistan, the Sutlej and Punjab.
Mr. Patrick Johnson – writer to Lieutenant Jackson. Suffering from a rupture, he remained in Kabrai.
Mrs. Mawe, wife of Dr. Mawe and daughter, Lottie.
Mrs. Tierney and two children. Most likely either an Anglo-Indian or Indian lady, she remained with her children at Kabrai with Langdale, Johnson and the sergeant. This distinction is significant – like Mrs. Mutlow at Jhansi, Mrs. Tierney would have been able to blend in with the local population and although it may sound unkind, Scot understood her chances of surviving were better when she stayed at Kabrai, rather than continuing on with him and his party. This scenario played out in Cawnpore as well – Mrs. Spiers and Mrs. Bradshaw, both Anglo-Indian wives of drummers managed to save themselves and most of their children after Sati Chaura Ghat because they could mingle with the onlookers, thus remaining out of the sights of the sepoys. Unfortunately, their stories of survival are rarely told and like Mrs. Tierney, they all eventually vanish. Mrs. Spiers and Mrs. Bradshaw were called in front of the commission investigating Cawnpore, Mrs. Mutlow left a statement which was then taken up by Noah Alfred Chick, but Mrs. Tierney disappears after Nagode, mentioned by Langdale as simply the female who the Raj Dur provides with a palki for the journey.
Mr. Henry Kirke, son of Major Kirke. He would have a career in the army, dying a Colonel in 1889 in Darjeeling. His wife, unusually, was one Miss Rosalie Hunter, daughter of William C. Hunter of Virginia, U.S.A.
Mrs. Lucas and 2 children – it can be presumed they survived, as their deaths are nowhere mentioned. However, following the death of the Sergeant-Major, they disappear from existence.
Personal Narrative of the Escape from Nowgong to Banda and Nagode – Captain P.G. Scot (1857)
Further Papers (No.4) Relative to the Mutinies in the East Indies (1857)
Annals of the Indian Rebellion – Noah Alfred Chick (1859)