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The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59

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  1. fatman17

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    An Analysis

    The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59


    (The first thirteen chapters of this book were serialised in DJ from July 1999 till October last year. This analysis covers the first 150 pages, and is now being serialised in DJ).

    Columnist AH AMIN re-interprets the so-called 1857 Indian Mutiny.


    Technical and Tactical Superiority of the Enfield Rifle over the Brown Bess

    The Enfield Rifle played a decisive role in defeating the rebellion of 1857. Much more than the British officers of that time or most British historians since 1947 want anyone to know. This tendency is understandable because it deflates the deliberately cultivated myth of "White Man's Superiority" in the post 1857 sociopolitical scenario. There is no doubt that the British soldier was brave, that their younger officer lot was resolute and that their higher commanders were by and large an assorted bunch of incompetent old men.

    S.S. Thorbum was one of those very few Britons who admitted the superiority of the Enfield Rifle and the decisive part it played in the Sepoy defeat in 1857. In the Appendix of Thorburn's book which few people read, Thorburn made a very profound observation, he said, "Had the sepoys accepted the Enfield and mutinied afterwards, our difficulties in suppressing their revolt would have been enormously increased453.

    A very simple gauge of this fact is the high proportion of EEIC's Bengal Army casualties in the First and Second Sikh Wars. This happened because the EEIC forces till 1849 were still equipped with the old Brown Bess Musket and the Sikhs were armed with a similar weapon. Thus the British suffered a very high proportion of casualties, in the Sikh wars as compared to the battles of 1857. Thus the following comparison is thought provoking:-

    1. Mudki:- British Casualties - (First Sikh War) - 454
    a. Total Strength - 12,350
    b. Casualties - 872 men or 7.06%
    c. Details -
    (1) Killed - 215 or 1.74% of total
    (2) Wounded - 657 or 5.32% of total

    2. Feroz Shah - British Casualties - (First Sikh War)455
    a. Total strength - 16,700
    b. Casualties - 2415 or 14.46%
    c. (Details:- -
    (1) Killed - 694 or 4.154% of total
    (2) Wounded - 1721 or 10.31% of total

    3. Lucknow - March 1858 - British Casualties - 456:-
    a. Total strength - 19,771
    b. Casualties - 735 or 3.72%
    c. Details:-
    (1) Killed - 127 or 0.64% of total
    (2) Wounded - 608 or 3.08% of total

    The British casualties at siege of Delhi were higher because in Delhi most of the fighting was done at very close ranges and thus the advantage of longer range of Enfield Rifle was nullified.

    Secondly a large number of British casualties were caused by artillery fire. Technically and tactically speaking the Brown Bess musket was hopelessly outmatched by the Enfield rifle. The Brown Bess did not have an effective range of more than 100 yards and a maximum range of 200 yards. The Enfield with a. .577 calibre had an effective range of 900 yards. It could be rapidly reloaded and thus could fire upto four rounds per minute. The Brown Bess could not fire more than one round per minute in actual battle conditions457.

    The sepoys were hopelessly outgunned in comparison with European troops they were facing in terms of actual infantry tactical combat. The European troops could play havoc with the sepoys even before they could get as close as 200 or 300 yeads. The same thus happened at Trimmu Ghat where Nicholsons largely European force armed with Enfields effectively annihilated the 46 NI even before they were within 200 yards of Nicholson’s force. The sepoys knew the tactical potential of the Enfield Rifle but mistakenly advanced against Nicholson's force thinking that they are loyal native troops because Nicholson’s Europeans were dressed in Khaki coloured uniforms. Lack of sepoy resolution to advance against Europeans in deliberate attack has a considerable connection with the immense technical and tactical superiority of the Enfield Rifle. This explains why the sepoys mostly used defensive lines at Lucknow and Delhi as their most favoured form of warfare. But we are still at a loss while explaining our failure at Valtoha despite the fact that we possessed both numerical and technical superiority in the shape of the Patton Tanks! Two British authors were much more intellectually honest in thus explaining the devastating tactical potential of the Enfield in 1857. They thus described the battle of Trimmu Ghat fought between Nicholson's moveable column and the 46 NI and 9 light cavalry on 12 July 1857 in the following words; "It was here for the first time that the "Enfield" demonstrated its enormous superiority as a weapon. At 300 yards the smooth bores of the 46th were firing at twice their optimum combat range and most of the fire was totally ineffective, the balls were half spent and wildly inaccurate. The Enfield's in contrast sighted as they were up to nine hundred yards and throwing a point five seven bullet of substantially higher muzzle velocity were firing at near point blank range, and with devastating effect. The heavy soft lead, high velocity bullets mushroomed as they struck home and the impact frequently stopped the advancing Sepoys dead in their tracks. At that range there were very few wounded, a solid hit would tear a jagged entry hole and leave an exit wound the size of a dinner plate. In the face of this withering fire the mutineers pressed home their attacks desperately, some of them coming to within 50 yards of the 52nd's ranks, but no troops could sustain that kind of battering and ran,...458.

    It appears that more than the resolution of the British officer or the native subsidiary collaborator, or north of Jhelum River's martial races or the fiery Sikhs, it was above all the "Enfield" Rifle which was the real victor of 1857. But the British were clever. They stressed the superiority of white man more than the superiority of Enfield. Hardly any British account of that time admitted the role that Enfield Rifle played in the defeat of the Sepoys! The capabilities of the Enfield were never discussed and it was never compared with the Brown Bess! There is no doubt that the British officer in 1857 was a better leader. But can we blame the Indian of 1857 for not being a leader.

    His rights were usurped the day the northern invader started invading the Indo Pak region. Whatever the Sepoys of 1857 did was very extraordinary keeping in view their circumstances.

    The introduction of accurate rifles as a matter of fact revolutionised warfare in the mid nineteenth century. What was happening in India in 1857 was not merely an “India only” phenomena but was taking place in other parts of the world also. The Brown Bess Musket balls had thus hopped and rolled in flight leading to unpredictable results. The invention and innovation of Minie rifle developed in the 1840s revolutionised and dramatically changed infantry tactics. Before the 1840s the effective range of infantry weapons was 100 to 300 metres. The Minie Rifle increased this effective range to 1000 metres. In 1849 a Prussian Army suppressed a popular rising in Baden in Germany with devastating effect using the new Dreyse Rifle. Thus a German newspaper commented as following; Against a column of old musketeers, the impact of these new rifles is dreadful”.459 In the Crimean War again in 1854 - 56 the superiority of the superior long range rifles was proved in a scenario where two European conventional armies fought on generally more equal terms taken the Sepoys versus the British in India in 1857.

    Here at the Battle of Inkerman British infantry armed with French “Minie Rifles” annihilated some 15,000 men out of a total Russian force of 27,000. In this battle the Russians were attacking the British in close order formation in vogue before the advent of Minie Rifle on the battlefield460. In Prussia the German General Moltke the Elder could not help commenting that “The English bullets simply could not miss”461. This was not all, the new rifles to be effectively used required a soldier who had a good basic education and reasonable IQ because range between 100 to 500 metres was not easy to estimate by naked eye method which we call “JD” or “Judging Distance” in the army. Thus it was observed that in the US Civil War an average Union Army Soldier on the average consumed 900 pounds of lead and 240 pounds of powder to kill his enemy i.e. the Confederate Army soldier! This average figure it must be noted was for killing just “one Confederate soldier”462. During the Prusso - Danish war of 1864 it was observed that the Prussian Dreyse Rifle which was superior to Minie Rifle. During this war in a small unit action 124 Prussian soldiers convincingly defeated 180 Danish soldiers by virtue of superior weaponry i.e. the Dreyse Rifle. Thus the Prussians started firing from 250 metres range and by the time the Danish were at the 150 metres line the Prussians troops had fired thrice ensuring that the Danish attack broke up and the Danish withdrew463. In another action in the Prusso - Danish war the Prussians opened fire on a Danish attacking unit at the range of 250 paces. After advancing for 100 more paces the Danish broke up and withdrew after having suffered 50% casualties464.

    All these very convincing examples quoted from European military history dismiss the myth of “white man's superiority” which the post 1857 British writers attempted to impose on the people of Indo Pak. These myths certainly had a negative influence on the Indo Pak man's mind in the period 1857 - 1947 and succeeded in a considerable manner in creating a docile Indian who silently accepted the British supremacy. Even today many Indo Pak writers are baffled at the overwhelming sepoy - British - Loyal Indian numerical differences in the battles of 1857. They are at a loss to explain why so few Britishers and Loyal Indians could defeat so many rebel sepoys in 1857. This aspect has two dimensions which we will discuss in greater detail in the later part of our analysis. However, in a nutshell, firstly the Enfield Rifle" seriously offset the “Sepoy Numerical superiority” and secondly the “Sepoy numerical superiority” was highly exaggerated by British soldiers who fought the battles of 1857 and by the post 1857 British Historians. These Britishers with few exceptions like Malleson were mostly praising and projecting each other!

    Another very convincing proof about British conviction regarding the vast superiority of Enfield Rifle over the Brown Bess lies in the post 1857 native infantry standard personal weapon policy adopted by the British military authorities in India. The Enfield P-53 rifle was not issued at all to the native soldiers in India after 1857. Not even to the trusted so called martial races north of River Jhelum or Chenab! A very clever policy was adopted by issuing to the native troops a rifle which was identical to the Enfield rifle, but only externally. These were nomenclatured as the P.58 and P.59 muskets for “Native Infantry”. These were of .656 smooth bore calibre and had an effective range of 200 yards as compared to the P.53 Enfield Rifle issued to the European troops which had an effective range of 900 to 1000 yards and was of .577 calibre. The Sikhs were trusted a little more and were issued Brunswick rifles which were a little better than the P.58 and P.59 Enfield muskets issued to the native infantry 465.

    Thus when in 1866 the vastly superior Snider breach loading rifles were issued to the British units in India, the now inferior P.53 Enfield muzzle loaded rifle of the British soldiers was handed over to the native soldier. A breach loading rifle was hundred times superior to a muzzle loading rifle! Thus in 1874 when the British soldiers were issued the Martini Henri Rifle some phased out Sniders were issued to the Indian infantry. In 1892 once a newer and far superior Lee Metford Rifle was supplied to the British Army, the now outdated Martini Henry was given to the Indian Army. Even in 1911 the Indian soldier was issued a single shot non magazine weapon while the British soldier held a longer range magazine Lee-Enfield and Lee Metford Rifle466! The white man's supremacy was maintained by technically superior weapons!!.

    The ironic aspect of the whole affair is that so effective was the British propaganda that many Indian and Pakistanis writing as late as 1971 were still convinced that the British of 1857 were more supermen and were really out numbered overwhelmingly by the rebel sepoys. Nowhere did these Indo Pak historians appreciate or point out the tremendous technical/tactical superiority of the Enfield Rifle. The over exaggerated figures of sepoy strength advanced by the British were also nowhere challenged. This is the irony of pre 1947 colonial history and historians of the post 1947 era have a very serious responsibility on their shoulders. The beauty and the irony lies in the fact that loyal Muslims and Hindus were a party in perpetuating such myths.

    What really happened - A brief analysis of the claims about 1857 as one hears them in today’s Pakistan

    It is important that we in today's Pakistan once and for all clearly examine the events of 1857; arrive at a consensus and proceed further with more pressing tasks of today's life! Having close links with Punjab where my great grand father’s father came in 1849 and, having both close relations with both Punjabis and Hindustanis, and a deep interest in history, I feel that things in 1857 were far more complex than what many people try to assert today. Many years ago I heard a saying in Lahore, from a thorough bred Punjabi Tarkhan (carpenter); "Lahore de Darawze Khulle; te Dilli De Darwaze Khoonee" or "Lahore despite being a fortified city, had always its gates open for the conqueror, while Delhi's possession was always contested by the invaders". Outwardly this saying, ironically coined by Punjabis, who suffer from a habit of self criticism, at least as far as the lower classes are concerned, as I personally witnessed, gives the impression that the Punjabis were docile and that the people of Delhi were brave! Before discussing this particular Punjabi saying, I will briefly explain the frame of discussion. A man's mind is continuously on the move, like a caravan, and our conclusions and opinion about many subjects, which we at one time accepted or took as the Gospel truth change, with the passage of time. It is generally a slow process and as time passes we discover that many of the beliefs, to which we struck like religious faith or private property, were as a matter of fact absolutely ridiculous! To come back to the point, I thought about two decades back that Delhi was really a tough city, and all resistance was encountered by a northern invader in between the Sutlej river and Delhi! India the foreigner must note before the British united it in the real sense by roads, railways, telegraph, radio and postage was never one single country in the real sense. We will confine our discussion to the Muslim time since we are discussing Hindustani Muslim claims! Delhi was the main seat of the Mughal government and was an important city even before any Muslims came to India. It was natural that any invader who came to India was resisted by this Muslim government in power at Delhi as per its policy in vogue. The slave kings like Balban followed a strategy of resisting the invaders along the Indus or within the modern provinces of Punjab and Frontier. Later on from 1526 when Babar the first Mughal king defeated the Muslim Lodhi Pathan kings at Panipat about 40 miles north of Delhi, a new trend emerged i.e. the future invasions of India were contested in between the river Sutlej and Delhi. Thus once Humayun came back to India he defeated the Suri Army near Sirhind. Nadir Shah was opposed by the main Mughal army at Panipat and similarly the Marathas were forced to fight by Abdali at Panipat. It may be noted that there was no major siege at Delhi before 1857; i.e. the city gates were open for the invader. The reason why the major battles took place in between Sutlej and Delhi was primarily logistic. The government at Delhi or that controlling Delhi (as the Marathas in 1761) found it difficult to logistically sustain its main army (which by the sixteenth century was very bulky because of camp followers and luxuries) north of Sutlej. It was a policy decision and that was it. In any case what did the Punjabis or the Pathans have in common with the Mughal king? This man was not the ruler of Muslims but that of India. In terms of patronage he was more interested in wooing the Hindu Rajputs who were politically important than the Punjabi or Pathan Muslims or the Hindu Marathas who gave Aurangzeb hell from 1660 onwards! This Mughal preferred the Central Asian or Persian over the local Indian whether Punjabi, Pathan or Hindustani (a small percentage of Hindustani Muslims is of northern descent, despite whatever they claim, while about three fourth are locals just like the Punjabis etc. who converted to Islam). The question of resistance or no resistance had little to do with docility or martial fervour!

    Now lets examine 1857. Were the Hindustanis more brave or more martial or more special that they defied the British?

    At least this is what the Hindustani Muslims claim This claim is as ridiculous as that of Punjabi Muslims of today that they were and are the most martial race of the Indo Pak subcontinent! I believed this for many years but as my interest in the rebellion increased and I carried out more research I discovered a million loopholes in this belief which at least from 1977 to 1983 was held like a conviction by me! The philosophical basis of this transformation was my successive drift towards the concept that all human beings regardless of race or religion are essentially the same, and that all that they do, and all their attributes, good or bad, like bravery, compassion cruelty etc. are basically situational and have nothing to do with race or religion! My belief underwent a radical transformation once I discovered many facts which changed the whole complexion of the facts of 1857! I discovered in 1978 while reading the collection of Despatches and state papers of Fortes cue and the Aligarh district Gazetteer that the Sherwani Yusuf Zai and Shinwari Hindustani Muslim Pathans of Sikandra Rao the ancestral village of my maternal grandfather had stayed loyal while all area between Delhi and Allahabad was out of British control! Later as I read more I discovered that only one out of seven or eight rebel sepoys was a Hindustani Muslim while the rest were Hindustani Hindu Rajputs! By the time I finalised this work in September 1998 which I had first written as a short Term Essay as a cadet in PMA Kakul in July 1982 reached the following conclusions:-

    a. The rebellion was not as simple as it appears at first sight. The first important factor about it was peculiar situation of the Bengal Army— that it was a largely homogenous force of Hindustanis who had been recruited for more than one to three generations in it and were from the same general region i.e. between Hissar and Patna, and had certain common perceptions and affinities which enabled them to react in unison, even without a deliberate plan. That culturally, linguistically and historically they had nothing in common with the Punjabi or Pathan Muslims although many of them were from families with Pathan Baloch (as in case of the Baloch of Rohtak and Gurgaon districts), Iranian and Central Asian ancestry.

    b. The greased cartridges, the immediate and most important factor which acted as a lethal primer in igniting the fuse of revolt played an important part in propelling the Bengal Army into rebellion. Since they hurt his religious feelings, it became a far more grave matter than allowances or petty administrative matters. The Punjabi troops being an irregular second line as semi military force were never made to face this test since the first priority as far as modernisation was concerned was accorded to the Bengal Army, the most important army of the East India Company. Thus as a matter of fact, the East India Company took the risk of trusting the native soldiers without any discrimination with the Lee Enfield Rifle which at that time was the most sophisticated infantry weapon in the history of warfare since Napoleonic wars. Since the Punjabi and Pathan troops were not made to use the Enfield, they had no grievance against the company.

    c. Rebellion started from the army and it was only then that the feudal and at many places the people who joined it. A novel situation emerged. Only those areas where the sepoy regiments rebelled or which they moved to after the rebellion were most seriously affected by rebellion. A vacuum like situation existed in most other areas. Here two things happened; either the local populace mostly low caste Muslims like the Joolahas or butchers raised the standard of rebellion and fought till death or a local feudal or a dispossessed Raja or Talukdar or Nawab assumed control. All other areas remained largely neutral.. In many districts which were not held by the rebel sepoys in the heart of modern UP, which led the rebellion as a province, resolute British civil servants aided by remanent of sepoy units, local levies, police and local notables like Sayyid Ahmad Khan (the future leader of Hindustani Muslims in particular and Indian Muslims in general and the father of the Two Nation Theory) successfully held control and these included many districts like Bijnor, Etawah, parts of Aligarh, Rohailkhand, etc. Thus the rebellion had a great deal to do with the sepoys and a far less with the local population.

    d. Most of the Rajas and nobles who asserted authority in absence of the British later on claimed that they were acting on the Britishers behalf! Thus many escaped Scotfree and many escaped the noose like the Nawab of Banda who had played an important part in the rebellion escaped with only confiscation of property. The vast majority of Oudh Talukdars took advantage of the clemency offer of Queen Victoria and emerged as strong as they were before 1857, with an additional guarantee that the feudal will not be touched! The only losers were the vast bulk of the rebel sepoys or the people of Delhi and some feudal and rajas of Delhi territory or the Mughal princes who payed with their life, at a time when tempers were exceedingly high because of excesses against British non combatants and the heavy British casualties in the siege of Delhi. Or there were certain men like Khan Bahadur Khan, Nawab of Farkhabad, Tantia Topi or Rao Sahib who were executed because they were genuinely opposed to the British and were not opportunists like bulk of the feudals including landlords of Oudh and the north western provinces.
    It is ironic that none of the major Talukdars who went with Hazrat Mahal into self imposed exile to Nepal, and who later refused British offers to return to Oudh, and resume their estates were Muslims. The reader may note that 99% of the landlords who did not leave India later took advantage of the British offer of clemency for all, who had nothing to do with murder of European civilians and non combatants took the plea that they had never rebelled, but had merely taken control of the civil administration, since there was anarchy, and that they were acting in this capacity on behalf of the East India Company. Thus most of them got all of their land back, and these included most of the large landholders of Oudh, both Muslim and Hindu, including men like the later famous Raja of Mahmudabad! As a matter of fact the feudals greatly benefited from 1857, in terms of reversal of Dalhousie's policy of destroying feudalism. Later studies by many scholars including P. Hardy and Metcalfe prove that the feudals both Hindustani Muslim as well as Hindu greatly benefited from post 1858 British policies in UP and the myth that the Hindustani Muslims were the main losers of 1857, as far as the landlords is concerned, is absolutely baseless. The British policy was situational and rewarded and punished landlords, in each region and district, in accordance with the subjective conditions and there were many districts where Muslim landlords emerged scotfree, while many Hindu landlords accused of complicity in the rebellion suffered and vice versa. Those who want to explore this may read P. Hardy or Metcalfe's book. The only loser and the one whose motives were superior and genuine, and one who had no connection with large part of the Muslims who founded the MAO College Aligarh or were active in the Muslim League, was the sepoy who was mostly from the lower classes or some feudals who were punished with confiscation or executed in the initial days immediately after siege of Delhi was over. As a city it was Delhi and its people that suffered the most; but again not because they were more heroic but because the 3rd Light Cavalry's seizure of Meerut and the subsequent concentration of sepoy regiments at Delhi left them no choice; and the British treated whole of the city as a rebel city!
    In justice to Punjabis and specially the Punjabi Muslims, it must be admitted that just 8 years after liberation by the British; and at a time when the Sikhs were in close competition with them for British recognition; psychologically the Punjabi Muslims were in no position to rebel! The British had no doubt liberated them and the Punjabi Muslim-Punjabi Sikh divide in Punjab was far more severe than the Muslim-Hindu divide in UP or Central India.

    The Hindustani Muslims even today contemptuously refer to Punjabi Muslims as mercenaries. They forget that they were also performing the same role from 1757 till 1857; fighting against many Muslim powers including Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, against Oudh, against Rohailkhand, Afghanistan and Sindh! And how can they condemn the Punjabi Muslims for not rebelling in 8 years service in the East India Company's army, once the Hindustani Muslims rebelled against the company after 100 years service from 1757 to 1857! And even after this the Hindustanis were as keen to join the army as the Punjabis and as a matter of fact were in lead as mercenaries in the British Indian Army as compared to all other races in India. If after 1883 their recruitment was reduced; it was because of policy reasons and not because they were less willing to join the British Indian Army!!
    The hard fact of life of human mind and all intellectual activity is that there are no chosen people! At various stages various nations or groups based on ethnicity ideology or class have believed most fervently that they were the chosen people! The Punjabi Muslims and the Hindustani Muslims are victims of this intellectual hangover of being more martial or more intellectual ! The important fact for the writer or historian is to at least endeavour to be more rational and understanding. As a great French writer once said “neither to laugh nor to cry, but to understand”. I have made an attempt to be rational with the records and happening of a highly complex event. It took twenty years to analyse and yet I must have made many mistakes. It is for the readers to judge this. Although in the final analysis all judgements are subjective judgements. There is no final judgement as far as history writing is concerned!

    Motives of the participants

    The British authors even today describe the rebellion as mutiny. By and large the Britishers think that British rule in India was very beneficial for Indians. Strictly, technically speaking the Bengal Army did mutiny. It is true that they had been serving the English East India Company loyally for some 100 years before they mutinied. But when we look at it from the other angle we are surprised as to, how could so many men from so many regiments decide to no longer obey their previous masters. They defied death and continued to do so despite being fully aware about their fate from March 1857 till May 1858. A mutiny in the history of an army normally breaks out due to war weariness and defeat in war like in the Russian Army in 1904-5, the French Army in WW one or in the Russian Army in 1917. Sometimes it breaks out due to oppressive conduct of an individual commander or an officer. Here in 1857 there was no war weariness and yet more than a hundred regiments rebelled and fought till annihilation, a long protracted war knowing fully well the consequences of their actions. We see regiments starting rebelling from March 1857 and doing so without fail till May 1858 at a time when no one in India had any doubt that the British had won. We see a group of soldiers belonging to a number of Asian races rebelling against a company consisting of individuals from one single European race. Even in ethnic terms the differences are too glaring. But the British even today want us to believe and have actually convinced many Indo Pak intellectuals into believing that it was a mutiny. Mutiny was not certainly the motive of the sepoys. The same could not be said for earlier mutineers of the Bengal Army, who mutinied as a protest against not getting certain financial benefits. But in 1857 the sepoy was speaking for all the Indian and was trying to unilaterally get what Indians got in 1947 after a long series of constitutional and political negotiations. The sepoy was a patriot and when 3rd Light Cavalry seized Delhi on 11 May 1857 they were freedom fighters.

    The feudals of Oudh or the King of Delhi or the dispossessed Rajas or Ranis were opportunists. They were only interested in their personal privileges and as long as the EEIC accepted their demands they were happy. There is reason to believe that Bahadur Shah Zafar was happier with the EEIC pension of some 10,000 pounds a month which the EEIC gave him. He was 82 years old and had just a few more years to live. On 11 May 1857 a role of freedom fighter was thrust upon him and he accepted it under severe pressure of the Meerut Sepoys and many of his relatives. Actually, he never had any choice since the sepoys had occupied Delhi and no EEIC relieving force was in sight till 8th of June 1857. The EEIC response, specially the masterly inaction of the Meerut Division British officers convinced him that the EEIC was not invincible. Anyway the sepoys gave him little respect and used to address him as "Old Man" etc. Narrative of Syed Mubarak Shah and Jivanlal confirms this. There is absolutely reliable evidence which proves that Bahadur Shah Zafar tried to secretly negotiate with the British after Delhi had been seized by the sepoys but the British turned down his request and refused to negotiate with him 467. The only thing the king wanted were continuation of his personal allowances and privileges. The Nawab of Oudh and his family were also a bunch of opportunists. As long as the state was not annexed the EEIC was good. The Nawab as a matter of fact enjoyed a British pension till many decades after 1857 at Calcutta. Some feudals like Rao Tula Ram of Hariana468, the Raja of Ballabghar and some Talukdars of Oudh were patriots. These were the ones who went into exile to Nepal and never returned. On the top of this list was Hazrat Mahal of Oudh who withdrew with the sepoys to Nepal after the capture of Lucknow in March 1858 and refused an offer of a British pension. This dancing girl who later on became a wife of Wajid Ali Shah was more of man than all the feudal Khans, Tiwanas, Rajas, Syeds and Nawabs of post 1857 India whose descendants subsequently became our Prime Ministers and leader after 1947.

    In any case, it required a bigger and stouter heart even to be on opportunist on the “Rebel” side and a more calculating and dishonest mind to join the British. In the final analysis on the “Rebel” side there were fewer opportunists than on the British side. Feudals like the Nawabs of Rampur, Pataudi, Loharu and Bhopal did not join the rebels although all around their territory the area was held by the sepoys.

    There was a third category which did the maximum harm to the "Rebel" cause. These were the city and the rural riff raff who joined with rebellion for cheap thrills. These were the one who were most directly involved in atrocities committed on the European women and children.

    There was yet another group who joined the rebels. There were internally motivated civilians who were neither feudal nor a Bengal Army sepoy. These included leaders like Maulvi of Faizabad regarded by the British as one of the finest tacticians of 1857. He was a chivalrous man who even the Britishers acknowledged was never involved in any atrocity committed against any civilian or non combatant. We have Tantia Topi another civilian who was again a brilliant tactician and strategist. We have the common civilians of Delhi, Lucknow, Gugera, Murree, Bareilly etc. who the British called Ghazis. These men had little to gain and everything to lose, yet they joined the rebellion. the rebellion of 1857 was an inspiring event but the period from 1857 till 1947 and even today was the triumph of opportunism!

    END NOTES
    453Appendix-Page-355-S. Thorburn-Op Cit
    454Page-77 Sikhs and Sikh Wars-Op Cit. Page-350 & 354 -J.W Fortescue-Vol-XII-Op Cit./ Page-609-Henry Beveridge-Vol-II-Op Cit. It may be noted that Fortescue put the British-Sepoy strength at around 12,000 while Beveridge, as always more specific in his statistics gave the exact figure of 12,350.
    455 and Page-106-Sikhs and Sikh Wars-Op Cit and Page-611-Henry Beveridge-Vol-III-Op Cit.
    456Abstract of Effective-Page-553-Selections from Letters Despatches and State Papers-Vol-III-Op Cit. Page-344-J. W Fortescue-Vol-XII-Op Cit. Page-136-Battles of the Indian Mutiny-Op Cit.. Casualties from Numerical Return of the Killed, Wounded and Missing at Lucknow from 2nd to 21st March 1858-Page-549-Selections from Letters Despatches and State Papers-Volume Three-Op Cit.
    457Page-84-Punjab Military History in the 19th Century-Op Cit.
    458Pages-127 & 128-lbid.
    459Page-33-Nord Armee und Fuhrer in Jahre 1866-Karl Foilot-Willhelm Braumuller-Vienna-1906
    460Pages-202 to 206-Handbuch fur Heer und Flottee-Volume-Four-George Von Alten-Vienna-1909-1914.
    461Article by General Helmuth Von Moltke-Militar wochenblatt-Dated-8 July 1865.
    462Pages-59 to 63-Article-Civil War Infantry Assault tactics-Military Legacy-November 1972- USA.
    463De I Influence Des armes perfection Es sur les Combat-Militar Wochenblat-Issue-8th July 1865-General Helmuth Von Moltke.
    464Austrian Military Archives-(MKSM)-SR-1866, 24/5-18 May-1866-Vienna.
    465Austrian Military Archives-(MKSM)-SR-1866,24/5-18 May-1866-Vienna.
    465Pages-55 & 56-T. A Heathcote-Op Cit.
    466Ibid.
    467Page-96-1857-S.N Sen-Op Cit.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 5
  2. nescafe

    nescafe FULL MEMBER

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    thanks you so much. do you have any data about demgraphies of british army. any thing which relates to the statistics of rajputs or muslims in that army.
     
  3. fatman17

    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    sir i will check and post - thanks!
     
  4. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    Thank you indeed for this post.

    The Mutiny is a subject close to my heart & I posses and have read numerous books on this subject.

    A good read on why the Punjab did not rebel and how a small band of officers kept it under control by consilidating the frontier between 1849 - 1853 is Soldier Sahibs by Charles Allen.

    The point made of superior weaponry having helped the brits is interesting and needs greater delibration. My view is that among the main causes for the mutiny was the annexation of Oudh where the Bengal Army drew max recruits. It is interesting to note that the causes then were not far from the grouse that workers have today. Only they now have legitimate means to air them.

    The General Enlistment Act of July 1856 worsened things.

    Some of the main issues leading to the mutiny were :

    1. The growing unease among both Hindus & Muslims about the way their traditional way of life was being interfered with and the real fear that those dear to them - religion & caste were being actively undermined by the Brits.

    2. The pace of change being forced by the Brits like banning of Sati, female infanticide,new technologies like telegraph, steamer & railway added to the unease.

    3. Officers were taking the cue from moral spokesmen who were telling them that it was their duty to convey the ' blessing of Christianity'. The Muslims saw this as an attack on their religion while the Hindus saw this as a conspiracy to force them to break caste.

    4. The Sepoys of the Bengal Army had their foreign service allowance for services in Sind & Punjab withdrawn.

    5. The Act of 1856 risked the Brahmin & Rajput troops of caste polloution by being sent across the ' black sea' - Kala Pani.

    6. As Brit possesion in India grew so did the need for efficient admistrators. This led to good officers being milked from Regiments for political or staff postings which I may add were financially luctrative . Those left behind hardly knew the language let alone associating with the Sepoys.

    A vast subject which surprisingly has relevance for a professional soldier even today for even now officers often make the same mistakes.
     
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  5. jha

    jha ELITE MEMBER

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    Its a subject very close to my heart..Many people were shocked in US when i referred this as "First war of Independence"..
    Its still called "Sepoy Mutiny"..Although not every body was involevd but this certainly deserves more respect than a mutiny..
     
  6. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    Sentiments apart, it was a mutiny. It began as one, it ran like one & was quelled like one.