barrow, Thompson and Swanston
Somewhere in what today is Uttar Pradesh is a small town called Salon, located a little south of the Sai River it was, according to the 1923 Gazetteer of Rae Bareli, “pleasantly situated…surrounded with groves and clumps of palm trees, while to the east is a large jhil…” Although this once prosperous town had already started to decline in the mid 19th century, its name was given to the district in 1856 after the annexation of Oudh.
This would be short-lived; by 1858, Salon was put under the Pratapgarh district and transferred to Raebareli District in 1869.
For a brief time, in June 1857, Salon would rise.
Although news of mutiny had already travelled far and wide, at Salon, Deputy Commissioner Captain Lousada Barrow appeared to shrug it off. On the 1st of June, he could still express with some satisfaction that “… judging by the collections which were then going on for the Rubbee Kists, (Rabi Kis- a payment of instalments, levied by the EICo, which was determined by the harvest, in this case, Rabi – spring. ) the talookdars and large zemindars had at this time no intention whatever of joining in rebellion, for without exception they paid up.” As long as they were still willing to hand in their dues, Barrow surmised there really was not much wrong at Salon.
On the 8th of June, he received a hasty note from Mr. Block at Sultanpore. As we have already seen, the deputy commissioner was taking the situation seriously. However, his warning that mutineers were marching on Sultanpore, Selone and Fyzabad was dismissed by Mr. Barrows, in all his wisdom, as reports “to cause panic…I attached no importance to this or other reports which were constantly being made, evidently with a view to get rid of us.”
Captain Barrow would know – after all, he had helped to dispossess the talukdars of Oudh after the annexation in 1856. It was not a task he had enjoyed and had been opposed to the manner in which the talukdars had lost their estates. He realised that some who had been rich and powerful in their own right were now living in desperately reduced circumstances, nor did the people profit. Where they had before been subjects of a ruler, who for better or for worse they were obliged to serve, the same ruler had been obliged to look for their interests in times of hardship. Now, with the reduction of the talukdar’s powers, they had no one to turn to. The bureaucratic cogwheels of the EICo had taken away their security and replaced it with an incomprehensibly strange and foreign law. Barrow knew the EICo, after 1856, did not have many friends in Oudh.
However, Salon at least was safe. It had recently been reinforced by 60 men of the 3rd Oudh Irregular Cavalry. to strengthen the 6 companies of the 1st Oudh Irregular Infantry under the tutelage of Captain R.L. Thompson of the 10th BNI who already 17 years army experience in India. He was assisted in his duties by Lieutenant R. Chalmers of the 45th BNI. A further 150 new levies had been armed and were being drilled for work in the new police force. Captain Barrow had served with the Madras Cavalry while and Lieutenant William Oliver Swanston had started his career in the 7th Madras Native Infantry. The Irregular Cavalry from Lucknow was thought to be beyond reproach – not the same as those men of the regular army – and Captain Thompson had nothing but praise for his men of the 1st. Barrow too felt he had nothing to worry about.
However, on the night of the 8th of June, the men of Captain Thompson’s regiment (consisting of 6 companies of the 1st Oudh Irregular Infantry) requested permission to keep their arms – in case of an attack. It seemed like a sensible request and Thompson obliged.
“The conduct of the regiment up to the 9th instant continued to be most exemplary, notwithstanding the trials to which they had been put by the false accounts of their friends and relatives from different disbanded and mutinous corps. They made use of their cartridges and ridiculed the idea of there being anything to be objected to in their composition, and on the occasion of some evil-disposed person having caused bones to be placed in the attah (flour) sold in the Sudder Bazar, they showed no excitement but said they had perfect confidence in the good faith of their officers.“
The very next day, Thompson would receive a shock.
On the 9th of June a troop of cavalry from Sultanpore arrived in Salon. They came, without any orders, with a strange story to tell. The officers had fled Sultanpore, and since there was no left to command them, they too had abandoned the station. On closer inspection, Barrow was able to ascertain they had in fact been very busy looting Pratapgarh – and they were not all from Sultanpore, some of them were in fact fugitive sowars from Allahabad. Within hours, several military policemen and others arrived from Sultanpur and Pratapgarh. Then two riderless officers’ horses were brought in by their grooms. Barrow and a young officer named William Oliver Swanston continued their court business, “for the usual appearances were kept up” but slowly they began to realise something was terribly wrong.
Captain Thompson on the other hand, found himself confronted by a sowar who claimed to have escaped from the Sultanpore mutineers – he rode straight into the lines of the 1st and reported that “reported, that an irregular cavalry regiment, a wing of an infantry regiment, and two guns were within two miles; and at the same time a report arrived from the direction of Sultanpore, to the effect that the mutinous troops from that station were also advancing to attack us.” It was the same message other sowars had brought to Barrow in his kutcherry. They claimed troops were on route from Allahabad; within minutes yet another party loudly claimed the troops from Sultanpore were barely 8 miles outside Salon. Barrow still believed these reports were only spread ” to create a panic,” but in his doubt, he decided to seek out Captain Thompson.
Thompson had already ordered his regiment to turn out and as a precaution, placed the sowar under arrest for what deemed were lies. But just in case it wasn’t a lie, he also loaded 2 old guns with grape. Barrow and Swanston accompanied him to the parade and then sent off parties of sowars towards Pratapgarh and Sultanpore to find out if there was any truth in these worrisome reports. The sowars returned 2 hours later, “saying that the story was altogether false..” and the roads in all directions were clear. Accordingly, Thompson turned his men in again.
On being ordered to reassemble and pile arms, the men simply ignored the captain. It takes a very collected mind to understand what Barrow did next. “It was evident they intended to mutiny, but we took no notice whatever; extra sentries were put on (the new levies were placed as guards around Barrow’s house), and the men were still under some control.” As much as the regiment ignored Thompson, so was Barrow determined to ignore them. It would appear a foolhardy strategy, but it worked.
Captain Barrow did make an appeal but not to the1st Oudh Irregulars – instead, he approached the 3rd Irregular Cavalry (who were not commanded by any Europeans)
“and in reply to my address, they one and all declared they were faithful and would stand by me. The ressaldar privately told me, out of the eighty-five men, he could only depend on twenty.”
Armed with some information he could at least partially believe, Barrow returned to his house. That evening, everyone, except Thompson and Chalmers, assembled at Barrow’s house, his wife arranging as best she could accommodation for some 15 people.
Captain Thompson and Lieutenant Chalmers had earlier been urged by the native officers “to keep in the lines, where, in case of an attack, they would be safer than in their bungalows…” It was surely clear now who was giving orders and it wasn’t the Europeans but nevertheless, the officers complied and the night passed quietly.
Early in the morning, Barrow proceeded to take a ride around the station – although everything was quiet, he was surprised to see the men of the Oudh regiment walking away, their luggage on carts, leaving the station. – when Thompson had stepped out to inspect his men he found them “found the whole of the men dressed and accoutred, which caused me to suspect that all was not right, and on asking the native officers what was the matter, I was informed that the regiment had mutinied.” Many of them had simply packed up and left.
Captain Barrow received even more startling information – at 6 in the morning, the guard of the jail had released the prisoners which was possible the worst sign of things to come, but Thompson was not giving up on his men even if Barrow felt the game truly was up. He had however, one friend left.
“While we were consulting together, one of our most influential Talookdars, Hunnowant Sing, came in and informed us, that the game was up (which we knew before), and that we must go that day, or we might be sacrificed; that, if we could leave at about 4 p.m., he would meet us about a mile out of the Station with some of his men, and conduct us to one of his Forts, where for the present we should be safe. This we agreed to do; and he left us to make preparations.” (W.O. Swanston)
While Barrow and the others made plans to leave, Captain Thompson made one last effort to save his regiment from disgrace.
“I was anxious, if possible, to save the good men of the corps of whom there were many, and suggested that they should separate themselves from the bad men, and march with the European officers and columns into Allahabad. After a short time had elapsed the native officers came to me and said, that the treasure must at any rate, be abandoned, and would then be plundered, the men therefore hoped that I would give them each six months’ pay, and they would march with the European officers to any neighbouring stations. This proposal was agreed to, and the money disbursed; but I regret to say at the last moment the temptation of the remainder of the treasure was too great, and it was evident that the men had an intention of fulfilling their engagement.“
Barrow to his credit did not abandon Thompson and let the poor Captain try to bring his regiment around, long after “No native officer even would now obey his call, and the regiment would furnish no guards for our protection.” But the situation was rapidly moving from a quiet mutiny to an all-out riot.
At 2pm, Barrow’s house was surrounded by “was surrounded by all the budmashes of the place, including several of my own police Chuprassees, &c., clamouring for pay; they crowded close round it and looked hostile. I got out where the sowars were stationed, and induced twenty of them to mount and come to my house, when throwing out a bag of rupees to get them away from the verandahs, into which they had pressed, the sowars rode in between them and the house and drove them off, so far behaving well.”
The problem was Thompson had given his men 6 months’ pay in advance. To Swanston it was an absurd idea, akin to “bribing our own servants to remain faithful..” but Thompson had insisted and finally Barrow gave in. As soon as the whole of the 1st Regiment Oudh Irregulars was paid off, the 3rd Irregular Cavalry made the same demand, and as predicted, the police were soon clamouring for the same, hence the scene at Barrow’s house.
Swanston made two trips to the treasury to collect money and on the third, realising the dangerous position he had been placed in he “took one of the native officers down with me to shew the guard, that it was by permission of those then commanding that I was drawing the money. When I arrived at the Treasury, the sentry called for the Jemadar on duty, who came and at once permitted me to open the cash chest ; when he saw the other native officer with me, he asked why he had come, and, on being informed, turned to me with tears in his eyes, and asked if he had ever hesitated in permitting me to take money. I tried to explain it away, but did not succeed very well: the old fellow seemed really hurt…”
Two hours later, Barrow intimated to Thompson he really ought to give up but the Captain refused without giving it one more try. He went back to the lines and calling all the men who would now volunteer to follow Thompson, he directed them to assemble on the side of the road leading out of Salon – the road that went straight through the Regimental Lines.
A little before 4 pm., Barrow announced it was time to leave.
“…we prepared to start, Mrs. B. and two children in Carnegie’s buggy, and the Apothecary’s wife and his family in another buggy: the Sergeant Major (who had been very ill) with his wife and family were to go in Barrow’s bullock coach and we men on horseback. Our party was seventeen in number, nine of whom were women and children. We started, all our servants having forsaken us, except Capt. Barrow’s three Madrassies, with the clothes on our backs and our swords by our sides, not knowing how long we might have to live, as now, that we were obliged to go, every man’s hand was against us.”
To Barrow’s disappointment, only the jailor with twenty men and twenty-four of the new levies stayed by his side, and Thompson could only muster one Jemadar, one Havildar and 5 sepoys of his entire regiment. As for the sowars who had sworn fidelity, not a single one stood by Captain Barrow. Within a week, the majority of these men would ask for leave to return to their homes and the escort would dwindle down to 15.
The 1st Oudh Irregulars stood armed and accoutered along the road Barrow and his party had to pass along to get out of Salon. Some made a show of loading their muskets. The two guns so judiciously positioned by Thompson the day before were drawn up now to sweep the very road they were moving along and the men were standing with port fires lighted. They could have made short work of their officers, the civilians and their families, but no one said a word. The sowars lined on the right flank of the infantry and watched the Europeans pass out of the station.
Raja Hanwant Singh of Kalakankar – The Better Man
Raja Hanwant Singh could have let Barrow just wander off and make his own desperate way to Allahabad or where ever he chose to go. Instead, the kindly old raja took it on himself to protect the very man who had not so long ago, deprived him of a great part of his estates had even jailed him for refusing to pay the revenue demanded. However personal friendship counts and the raja knew it was not Barrow himself who had ordered either the annexation or the subsequent land grabs of the EICo. He would show Barrow and his kindness and friendship deep-rooted in Rajput honour which would not allow him to show anything but generosity to a vanquished foe. As arranged he met Barrow a short way out of Salon and with some 200 of his men, escorted the Salon party to his fort at Dharupur. Swanston realised the difficult position the man had placed himself in. He had sworn to protect the Salon fugitives and would see them safe to Allahabad, whatever the cost. Yet, to preserve himself and his own, he was also honour bound to fight with the mutineers.
News from the district was not very comforting. A Tahsildar (tax collector and this one was in Barrow’s employ) at Aladgunj sent word to Barrow that his position was becoming untenable, he had 12000 Rs in his possession and a horde of mutineers on the way. The son of the Raja was dispatched that very night to rescue the man and in doing so, secured the money that would then be handed over to Barrow. Surprises continued.
The next morning they heard a gentleman from Manikpur who Swanston (annoyingly so) simply refers to as “C” in his account was hiding in the Raja’s Kalakankar Fort. “C” and his cousin had effected their escape but placed their trust in a Thannadar (Chief of Police of a thana – a police outpost) who “C” himself had employed. This wily man robbed them of everything they had and sent them on their way, destitute. The Raja immediately told his servants to look after the two men and sent some money for their use; the next day he set out personally to bring them to Dharupur.
In the Dharapur Fort Barrow’s party made themselves as comfortable as they could. The Raja kept up their supplies and ensured they were amply provided with food and drinks. As they had escaped in the clothes they had been standing in, he sent them his own tailor to replace their rapidly ragged outfits. As far as things went for now they were safe.
Not so the fugitives from Sultanpore.
On the 4th day after arriving in the fort a suspicious-looking man, named Chand Khan turned up, making enquiries about Mr. Grant’s horse, which he said was missing after he left Sultanpore. It was on the face of it an odd story. Although he was assured the horse was not Dharapur Fort he continued to hover around the Englishmen until at last he summed up the courage to approach Barrow and thrust a letter into his hand.
The letter turned out to be from Mr. Grant who had joined Lieutenant Jenkins- that rather harrassed officer from Sultanpore who had been sent by his colonel to escort a party of 29 women and children to Allahabad. As we had seen earlier, he had been attacked by hostile villagers and rescued by two men of the 47th and by a friendly zamindar, Ajit Singh. Unfortunately, he was nowhere near as powerful as Raja Hanwant Singh and Grant had misgivings of their ever reaching Allahabad. Barrow approached the Raja.
“He at once set to work, wrote to a relation of his own, whose illaka (area) was in that direction, and also to Goolab Sing, and took their “ Bhan” (word of honour) from them for the safety of the party.”
Barrow sent a return letter to Grant with the good news. As it turned out, Grant’s host was able to bring them to Allahabad after all but in his turn, Grant would inform the Collector at Allahabad what had happened to Barrow and the people of Salon.
From another visitor, they received news regarding Fyzabad and the dreadful mutiny at that station, the murders on the boats and the escape of Captain Thurburn and others to the domain of Raja Maun Singh. The messenger was a Jemadar of the police and was carrying in his waistband one of Thurburns duelling pistols, adamant that the captain himself had given it to him. Barrow and Swanston immediately wrote to Thurburn but their letters were never received – what they would find out later, the Jemadar simply took the letters and then went away for four days. When he returned, it was with a long convoluted explanation he could not find Thurburn. When the Jemadar met Barrow for the first time he knew Thurburn was no longer with Maun Singh. The Jemadar had simply wanted a reward and as we have already seen, Thurburn’s road was by far less comfortable than Barrows’.
Over a week passed and the party was slowly becoming impatient. News had reached them that large forces of Europeans were daily arriving in Allahabad and yet the Raja seemed unwilling to send them on their way. Finally, two men of the remaining Salon levy offered to carry a letter to Allahabad and while doing so, reconnoitre the road. Promised a large reward for a successful return, the two men set off – they could have waited as Chand Khan returned once again. He had been to Allahabad, and came bearing a letter not only from Jenkins but from the Collector, Mr. Court. The road it turned out, was safe.
The Raja informed that Barrow would like to leave, “and next evening the old gentleman
made his appearance, and, after a good deal of talking, promised to collect a number of men to escort us, and to start on the third day from that time, as that was a lucky day.
Well ! we did not like to push him too hard; so we consented.” The two levies returned bearing even more letters from Court. It was turning into a regular postal route. Barrow immediately wrote again, informing Court they were intending to proceed to Allahabad.
The Raja Explains to Barrow
On the day decided, the party left the fort. It was sunset – the men once again on horseback, the women and children in dhoolies. Leading the party rode Raja Hanumant Singh. Surrounding them were his own men, personal guard and followers. It took them a full 8 hours to traverse a mere 20 miles to reach the small, dilapidated fort of zamindar Shudat Singh. Here they proposed to stop but he refused to let them in, very likely fearing for the safety of himself and his own. He did permit them to pitch their camp under a large banyan tree just outside his fort sending out a small tent for Mrs. Barrow and the children and plenty of food and milk but it was as far as he would go.
The next morning they discussed which way to proceed. Barrow wanted to reach Allahabad by the shortest road possible, but Hanwant Singh was wary. He insisted the longer one would be safer though it meant passing through the lands of a man who was not at all displeased by the fall of British rule, and though he had not murdered anyone yet, Hanwant Singh felt it was better if he personally would secure his bhan before they proceeded. He left them in the care of Shudat Singh and went off.
The rest of the story is best told by Swanston:
“He returned at 12 at night, but had now altered his mind about the road we were to take so that we went the short road after all. As the old gentleman wanted something to eat after his long ride, we did not get off much before 2 o’clock in the morning, and just at daylight we came in sight of the river Ganges, where we met two men, with a note from Court, telling us not to go to the bridge of boats, as that road was not safe, but that he had boats and carriages ready for us at the Papamow ghat : so on we went, rejoicing to get so near the end of our troubles.
We arrived at the river, put the horses and ourselves on board the different boats, and wished our kind host a hearty farewell telling him, that ere long we should be back at our old station, when we should not forget his devoted kindness. I must here mention that we could not persuade our old friend himself to cross the river with us, or to allow any of his followers to do so. They had an idea that whoever once got into Allahabad, did not
get out again, except as a Christian.
When we offered him some pecuniary reward for all he had done for us, he decidedly refused to accept it; nor would he allow any of his men to take any’-, although we offered him Rs 5,000 to divide amongst them. “ No,” he said, “ he wanted no reward then: he only wished us to remember him, when we again got into power; and as for his followers, they were his servants, and were paid for doing as he told them —and so we parted.”
It is Raja Hanwant Singh’s parting statement to Barrow however which explains more than anything about the man himself and the state of Oudh.
“Sahib, your countrymen came into this country and drove out our King. You sent your officers round the district to examine the titles to the estates. At one blow you took from me lands which from time immemorial had been in my family. I submitted. Suddenly misfortune fell upon you. The people of the land rose against you. You came to me whom you had despoiled. I have saved you. But now, – now I march at the head of my retainers to Lakhnao to try and drive you from the country.”
And with these words, Raja Hanwant Singh explained to Captain Barrow what true rebellion means. In Oudh it was more than just a military mutiny – it was a revolt of the people.
My Journal: Or What I Did and Saw Between the 9th of June and the 25th of November; With an Account of General Havelock’s March from Allahabad to Lucknow, by a Volunteer – W.O. Swanston, 1858
An Account of the Mutinies in Oudh and the Siege of the Lucknow Residency – Martin Gubbins, 1858
The History of the Indian Mutiny, Vol II- Charles Ball, 1858
Annals of the Indian Rebellion – Noah Alfred Chick, 1859
The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expedition to Persia, China and Japan, 1856-7-8 – George Dodson, 1859
Kaye’s and Malleson’s History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8 Vol III – Edited by Colonel Malleson, Cabinet Edition, 1889
Rai Bareli – A Gazetteer, Vol. XXXIX of the District Gazetteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh – H.R. Nevill, I.C.S., 1905
Awadh in Revolt, 1857-1858: A Study of Popular Resistance – Rudrangshu Mukherjee 2002
In Swanston’s text he speaks of Lieutenant Grant of Sultanpore escorting 29 ladies and children to Allahabad. I believe Swanston was wrong in so far that Mr.Grant was not from Sultanpore and had joined the party later. As there was no Lieutenant Grant at Sultanpore, he must mean Mr. Grant who of course is liberally spoken of in Mrs. Goldney’s letter which will be the concluding chapter of Sultanpore. I am still trying to ascertain who exactly Mr.Grant was; I can only surmise at this point, he was probably an assistant collector or magistrate.