How The Australian Newspapers reported the Indian Rebellion of 1857

India’s first freedom struggle, the rebellion of 1857 against the rule of East India Company, took place from May 1857 to June 1858. We all have read about it from our text books in India. But it will be interesting to know, how the British Establishment had viewed our freedom struggle. Below we have produced the Newspaper reports that appeared in Australian Newspapers in 1857 and 1858. They make a good read for any history enthusiast.

How the British reported the First Indian Rebellion in 1858

The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 10 July 1857

The intelligence from India Is of an alarming character as regards the progress of the mutiny in the Bengal army. At the latest advices, about 12,000 of the mutineers, after killing their officers, had obtained possession of the city of Delhi. An overwhelming force of European troops were concentrating around that city, and the next mail will, it is hoped, bring intelligence of the suppression of this fresh outbreak, and the chastisement of the leaders.

The Raleigh, frigate, Captain. Kiffa!, was lost near Macao. Pending the suppression of the revolt of the sepoy troops in Bengal, steamer been dispatched by the Governor General to the Mauritius and the Straits of Sunda to intercept the troop-ships destined ‘for China, had to direct them upon Calcutta. Lord Elgin’s departure from Calcutta for China was deferred until the settlement of the sepoy outbreak.

The Hobart Town Mercury    Wednesday 22 July 1857

Fresh details of the Indian insurrection are  reaching us from various sources, and the more we learn the more formidable the incidents appear. For example, a gentleman near the scene of action, writes to his brother in Sydney, on the 9th of June

Everyone here is in a state of excitement and uneasiness owing to the disturbances in Upper India. You will be sorry to hear that poor S– is amongst the number of the massacred. He was a missionary at Delhi,  and none of the missionaries appear to have escaped. A native Christian, who escaped to Agra, told our friend F….. That he had ¡ seen S…..’s dead body. He may not be telling the truth, but still the probabilities are so much in favour of his being a true story that we have very faint hopes. It has been a most horrid massacre, and loudly calls for vengeance. We have ‘no particulars of the Delhi affair, nor I can we learn until the place is retaken; but the Meerut massacre was most frightful, and accompanied with crimes at which humanity shudders, and by terrible tortures inflicted upon the unhappy sufferers.

It has been most alarming; the disaffection has spread so rapidly, and every day till Delhi falls, will witness further risings, so that all who have friends in the North West are most anxious. In the meantime the Commander-in Chief, who has been so supine that his recall was inevitable bad he lived, has died suddenly  of cholera, and Sir Patrick Grant has been  summoned from Madras, which is universally hailed with delight, but truly our reign in India never was so nearly being finished as within i the last fortnight. The Maharajah of Gwalior has remained staunch, and asserts us with his army and guns ; next to our own, the best disciplined in India. If he had turned, we might have bid adieu to everything above Allahabad.

People even in this city were in fear, nightly rumours of rising and of a massacre like the others, but the fears were groundless. At some of our outstations, however, even in Bengal, where á few Europeans, in some cases not more than three or four, are stationed, the alarm was not without danger. Our native army; must now be re-modeled, and we must treble our European troops.

The Hobart Town Daily Mercury Report on Friday 30 April 1858

We take the following from the latest journals.

One hundred and seventy-six mutineers of the Bengal Army, with the King of Delhi, have just been despatched in the ships ‘Roman Emperor’, and ‘Edward’, from Karachi to the Andaman Islands. The lower decks of the Ships were fitted up with cages on each side, in which the mutineers were to be chained down. The cook of the vessel is to prepare their provisions; otherwise they are to be left to shift for themselves. In addition to n strong guard, the officials and crew of the vessels were well armed, to be prepared against any outbreak. The Indian, to whom we are indebted for these details, adds that on arrival at the Andaman Islands, their fetters will be taken of, and they will be lot loose amongst the savages. Two years provisions have been stored for them on the island, and the Government Steamer is to be stationed there to prevent any vessels removing the scoundrels.

For the following intelligence from General Whitlock from Jubbulpur dated 15th February, are indebted to the Government:

“Nana Sahib has crossed the Ganges with a large force, and supposed to be making for Bundlecund; telegram from Supreme Government. Also if Mirzapore road be not safe, Cavalry Regiments not to move. Express to recall them sent out. The whole force, save Fiftieth Regiment, four Bullock Guns, fifty Irregular Horses, which remain here, move on the 17th on Saugor via Johai.”

The Englishman mentions a rumour prevalent in Calcutta, that Government had received a communication from Jung Bahadur to the effect, that the measures of clemency pursued towards the rebels would not be conducive of good ; and that unless Asia ties are treated as they should be, there are greater troubles for us than we anticipate.

The Rajah of Rampore, who arrived at Calcutta from England by the Steamer Cindia, on the 13th February, and had taken up his residence there we learn from the Phoenix, arrested by the Police on the evening of the 2nd instant, under instructions from the Home Secretary. No reason is assigned, but we apprehend the Rajah is no better than most of his brethren, and will fare accordingly.

We regret to learn that the cholera has broken out in the Camp 35th Regiment Hanigungee, and still continue on the March about 30 men have died.

‘The Governor-General has thanked Capt. Ternan and Capt. Mayne for capturing the rebel Gujun Sing and his followers, the ring- leader of the rebellion in the Saugor territories

The last Convoy from Agra reached Cawnpore in safety on the 22nd Februaiy, and hoped tube at Allahabad about the 3rd, and at Calcutta on the 10th March.

The Calcutta papers received yesterday contain the following gratifying intelligence, being’ an extract from a letter dated 4th Feb., from Mr. Osborne, Sub-deputy Opium Agent at Bustie, half way between Fyzabad and Gorruckpur ;-Several Christian fugitives have lately been saved from Lucknow through the instrumentality of Maun Sing.

This morning a Mrs Duhan, an East Indian lady) with three children arrived safely at my house en -route to Gorruckpore. She is, I believe, the wife of a merchant at Allahabad. She states that Maun Sing has treated them all with kindness; they arrived here only in native costume. 1 am trying to fit them out from such clothes as were left behind by the rebels and sepoys, and they proceed this evening to Gorruckpore.

The names of the people preserved and brought from Lucknow by Maun Sing are as follows > -Mr Hare’s family, five ; Mr Wroughton’s family, eight or ten; Mr. Francis’s family,, seven ; Mr. Bailly’s family, seven ; Mr. Short’s family, twelve, and Miss Jackson. Mrs. Orr and another lady, Mr. Duhan (my present guest’s brother) and his family then, there are more, Mrs. Duhan says, but she cannot recollect their names at present. I suppose they are all coming to me”, and my house will be pretty well filled !

Maun Sing after all appears to be quite right, and Mrs. Duhan says, he told her he would not fight against us. My soul tell me the rebels at Tanda are becoming daily more tired of each other-all the bunneahs have run away, and the rebels are cutting up the crops for subsistence.” Referring to the arrangements in progress against Oude my Friend observes, ” From every side at once the avengers close in upon the city. The number of its defenders is still unknown, but there must be enough of fanatics, and of men who cannot hope for pardon to make its conquest a matter of exceeding difficulty and credit. ‘The work will however be simplified by Artillery. Sir Colin has received supplies of ammunition from Agra supplies even larger are conveyed by train from Allahabad. A million of rounds for the Enfield Rifles were sent from Calcutta every two or three days, and Lucknow will be exposed to a .storm of shell such as Delhi never experienced”

Success in Oude

Late last evening we received from Government the following important Telegraphic intelligence;

Allahabad, 9th March.-Sir .James Quatram’s division crossed Goomti on the 7th and driving out the enemy, took up a position m the Fyzabad road. On the 8th rebels came out, but were repulsed as usual with the greatest ease. Major Percy Smith, of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, was killed. Sir Hope Graut then, as bad been previously arranged, made a wide sweep with Cavalry and Horse Artillery to the North East through the Cantonments was unopposed. The arrangements for attacking from both sides of Goomti are ready and the ground has been reconnoitred by the Commander-in -Chief. Maxwell’s Column was to cross into Oude this morning from Oude.

The Hobart Town Daily Mercury Report on Friday 26 November 1858

We continue our extracts from the files of our latest Indian Journals:

The very great mortality which has taken place in the shipment of horses   from the different ports of Australia has  created no little attention here. The     Admiral Boxer, which arrived lately at   Bombay from Sydney, landed only 76 out of 108 shipped. This makes the Australian horses too costly for cavalry purposes, and I am bound to say also,   that the stamp of horses selected has     not come up to what it might and should have been, in the opinion of the best judges, and those who have been in the colonies. The government have des patched the Albuera with convicts to Swan River, and to return with 120 horses from that colony. The experiment will be watched with much interest.

The railway from Futtehpore to Cawnpore was opened on the 10th of   this month, and the latter place or Lucknow is spoken of as the headquarters of the Governor   General and Lord Clyde during the       approaching campaign. General Napier, who, I mentioned in my last,   was proceeding against Maun Sing, a rebellious chief of Scindiah’s, shelled the fort of Powree for two days, and at length compelled the rebels to evacuate it. They were pursued by Colonel Robertson, and overtaken on the River Perbutty, near Goonah. They numbered   several thousands, principally of the Gwalior Contingent, Scindiah’s regiments, some of the Bengal Sepoys, and   the Maharajah’s bodyguard. They fought with great pluck for two hours, but were defeated with the loss of 450 on the field. Our casualties in all were not more than two dozen killed and wounded of all ranks. Lieut.-Colonel Robertson has issued a brief but well deserved general order, thanking the officers and men for their conduct, both in the pursuit and in action.

Tantia Topee, the Nana’s nephew, has had a career of flying successes, but     they have been futile in their effect,   and as evanescent as his presence on   the scenes of their achievement.

He has invariably been obliged to evacuate and fly from the pursuing column of the British ; his last performance of   any note was the capture of Lhalra  Patun, where, after procuring a ransom to save the town from plunder, amounting of 5 lakhs of rupees, or £50,000, he     squeezed all he could besides out of   every rich man in the place. Finding that we were once more on his heels,   he left Lhalra Patun on the 1st of September, but being closely pursued by the Neemuch Brigade, was driven to wards Bhopal, and, encountering General Mitchell with a strong force, who had marched from Mhow to punish some rebels who had collected at Kelchepure, in Scindiah’s dominions, an engagement ensued, and Tantia Topee’s   rebel force was defeated, with the loss of 25 guns.

Thus you will perceive that the same success which has invariably attended our arms still continues, but yet the rebellion is not quelled. Like their betters, the English, at Waterloo (as the French said), they will not know when they are beaten ; and the evident disaffection existing even amongst those disarmed regiments whom Lord Canning was ready to take to his bosom, shows how deep the feeling of rancour must be against their pale faced rulers.

The Shannon has left us at last for England. Her noble crew subscribed some £24 amongst themselves for the charities of Calcutta as their last act before leaving. I may mention a another significant fact, which has lately come to light, and which shows very plainly the danger and difficulty which will attend the reorganisation of a native army in India, and yet without it we   could not hope to keep the country. It has been made public in the Delhi Gazette, that no less than 63 of the Benares Police Battalion were recognised as mutinous sepoys, belonging to     regiments disarmed who had re-enlisted and thus hoped to escape detection. They were at once arrested.Preparations for the fireworks are being made, and scaffolding for the   variegated lamps to be displayed on all   the public buildings, &c, are to be seen everywhere ; the day for the proclamation of Her Majesty’s rule is near, but not yet known. The effect   of an illumination, if general, in Calcutta   will be immensely fine.

Calcutta, Oct. 9.

The principal incident of the fortnight has been the publication of a proclamation issued by the King of Delhi   on the 26th day August, 1857,       which is a curiosity, as showing that the rebellion was long ago hatched.     It is of some value to our statesmen as     shewing where the shoe pinched under       our rule, and the hopes which the King   help out as an inducement for a rebellion   against us. It is somewhat strange that this document should only, just   have come to light; but be that as it may, there is no doubt of its authenticity, and it has called forth considerable   animadversions from the Press in India.

Lord Clyde is keeping his intended movements as quiet as possible ; but it is generally believed that the campaign   will be speedily commenced, and that     by the first of November, at farthest,         nine movable columns will simultaneously enter Oude and acting, from   different points towards a common centre, present the escape of any large bodies of fugitives into the adjacent districts of Goruckpore, Azimghur, Ghazerpore &c. Sir Hugh Rose, it is hoped and expected, will again take an active divisional command, although there is a rumour that he is to come to Calcutta, cut, from what we know of     his brilliant antecedents, he is by no means the man to remain inactive.   Since my last, the Sultanpore column     under Sir Hope Grant has been attacked, and owing to its suddenness, the   enemy gained a temporary advantage,     burning a portion of our encampment; but they were ultimately driven back but they were ultimately driven back with great loss. Strong reinforcements were sent off from Lucknow without delay, and no second demonstration has been made by the enemy.

The Kuppoorthulla contingents, who are stationed at Duriabad, for the purpose of keeping open our communication       between Lucknow and Fyzabad, continue to gain the greatest credit by their gallantry. On the 18th, the enemy tried to cross the Gogra, and had they succeeded would have cut off such communication entirely. The above-named contingents, with a few additional troops,   at once advanced upon the rebels, Colonel Williamson commanding; and found the rebels well entrenched on an island formed by a nullah (or deep ditch) . Our fellows   crossed it and enfiladed the enemy; whilst the cavalry formed round, to prevent escape.

They could not stand it, and fled, losing 1,000 men killed and drowned in attempting to cross the Gogra. Our loss, as is generally the case, was very small, and only one officer,   Lieutenant Macgregor, wounded. We have also had a very creditable affair at Selimpore, where 1,500 of our men,   composed of police, 23rd R. W. F.,   and 88th under Major Buller, of the 23rd, attacked 2,000 of the rebels, who were very strongly posted. After an hour’s play with the long guns, an assault was ordered, with perfect success. About 700 were killed, but the bulk of the fugitives escaped across the river. The Punjab remains quiet ; but our three     best men are about to leave it for England and all with impaired health — viz., Sir John Lawrence, General Chamber- lain, and Colonel Edwardes. There have been very uneasy rumours about Jung Bahadoor, and the people of Darjeeling have been in mortal fright, believing that the new G. C. B. was about to march on that place with 15,000 men,       having come to terms with the Nana, and repudiated the British connection.

They had some grounds for apprehension,   in as much as Nepalese labourers   suddenly deserted work, and went back to their own country. The usual   supplies of sheep ceased to arrive at the station, and Jung was said to be building barracks near the frontier, for the accommodation of a large body of his troops. Certain – it is that Commissariat and ordnance supplies have been ordered up sharp, and some troops sent; but it can scarcely be believed that Sir Jung would be such a     fool at the eleventh hour. There was a time when his influence and power, if used against us, would, at all events for a time, have turned the scale; but that day has passed away.

The usual calm before a storm pre- vails now, but I shall soon have stirring   deeds and great events to chronicle. The coming cold season must see the end of the greatest rebellion the world ever knew.

The greatest preparations are being made for the illumination, but the day upon which Her Majesty’s proclamation is to be issued has not yet been made known. Government House, the Ochlerlong Monument, the Town Hall,   and other principal buildings will be a perfect blaze of light, whilst, strange to say,   ”God save the Queen,” and other similar   mottoes, will adorn the private residences of many of the principal and petted servants of the Company, whose hearts will be in deep mourning at the change,   whilst their houses are in a flood of variegated lamps and loyal mottoes and   transparencies. I had hoped that all     this would have been over, and the account have swelled the bulk of this letter, but must exercise my patience, and wait a little longer. The time is   very propitious for the change, as the   native holidays, known as the Hindoo Doorgah Poojah, will commence on Tuesday next, the 12th inst., and last, without any intermission until the 23rd,   during which time all the banks, the Treasury, and, indeed, all the business places in Calcutta are closed ; and all who can afford it hide away to Chandana-   gore (the French settlement about to be transferred to us), or other places away from town.

Our correspondent, writing under date of 16th October, gives the following particulars concerning the arrangements for opening the next campaign in Oude :

Bombay, 16th October, 1858.

Since I last wrote you, the preparations for the coming campaign have been more active. Sir Colin Campbell is at   Cawnpore gathering together his re- sources to open the ball in Oude and Rohilcund ; while in Central India, the various columns are proceeding by force ; marches in the direction of Candairee into which Tantia Topee has just thrown himself. On the side of the enemy the greatest activity everywhere also prevails. The Begum is still at Bounree, but her licentious conduct is said to be alienating the affections of her followers. The Nana Sahib is at Churdraput, al- though the main body of his troops and thirty guns are at Byraitch. It is stated   that his object is to form a junction with Tantia Topee, but it is difficult to penetrate his real design. Beni Mahdo Sing with 25,000 men and 24 guns, is still in the Salone districts, busily employed   repairing his forts and strengthening his position.

The prices offered by government for the heads of these worthies vary from   £10,000 to £500, — their capture is, therefore, a consideration.   In the Punjab all is quiet; the disbanded regiments have been sent to their homes without any disturbance, and the   whole country wears an aspect of repose   and tranquillity.

Unpleasant rumours found their way some time ago to the Bengal papers,   regarding the attitude secretly assumed   by Jung Bagadoor with regard to India ;     but they have been authoritatively contradicted, and it is affirmed that our         relations with Nepal were never on a more cordial footing than they are now.

The Afghans and Hill-men are all quiet ; but it is to be regretted that Sir John Lawrence and Colonel Edwardes are so soon to relinquish their posts. It is feared that the moment they leave India, the country will be exposed to imminent danger. Hitherto Lord Canning has had only to deal with Oude ;   and we therefore tremble for the result when Peshawur and the Punjaub also   devolve upon his shoulders. In more peaceable times Lord Canning would have been a model governor-general. He is kind, good, and amiable, possesses talents of a high order, and he is deeply imbued with the spirit of the age ; but he lacks that firm and determined organisation, which can alone face the elements of discord which are now on board.

In Central and Western India, we have had the usual amount of desultory warfare. On the Agra and Bombay Road, the rebels are said to be swarm- ing under the leadership of Gunga Sing but as Capt. Beecher was to be at Sehore on the 8th, we trust soon to hear that the road has been cleared. It is also satisfactory to learn that Tantia Topee is being followed closely up. He was compelled to evacuate Seronje, which our cavalry entered on the 30th   ultimo. His force only amounts to about 10,000 men of all arms, with four small guns. He is, moreover, hampered with about a thousand women and children, and many sick and wounded, and has therefore thrown himself into Chundairee. Our columns seem to be nearly all in motion. General Michel is marching on Seronje ; Brigadier Parke on Agra, and Captain Buckle has reached   Oojean. It is also satisfactory to learn that Seeteeram, the Bheel of Candeish has been killed by Major Keatings. A number of his men also fell, and several of his officers were captured. As soon as the season is propitious, and the jungle penetrable, our troops will be able to give an excellent account of these marauders.

When once the campaign commences, our generals will, no doubt, be equal to the occasion. It is, however, to be regretted that important commands are still in the hands of leaders, who did   not shine particularly last cold season.   Upon the dispersion of the Oude rebels,   the issue of the war in a great measure depends. If the Commander in-chief, collecting all his strength for one grand coup, and moving a vast army at fifteen miles a day, should again suffer them to escape, the Pindaree war will, recommence. Goruckpore and Azimghur,     Rohilcund and the Doab will again be flooded by hordes of desperadoes, whom it is as impossible to catch as to neglect. They must either be destroyed, or so utterly and completely cowed, that their reunion, even in large gangs, shall be impossible. If this can even be accomplished by amnesties, let us have amnesties, for the country craves for peace.   But let us not have great armies let loose out of Baraitch and Gonda, and then be told that that the dispersion of the enemy fulfils all the ends of civilised warfare.


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