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The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan 1856-7-8
George Dodd

Tuppal, tappál (H.), a packet of letters; the post.

Zemindar, zamindár (P.), a landowner.



The magnificent India which began to revolt from England in the early months of 1857; which continued that Revolt until it spread to many thousands of square miles; which conducted the Revolt in a manner that appalled all the civilised world by its unutterable horrors – this India was, after all, not really unsound at its core. It was not so much the people who rebelled, as the soldiers. Whatever grievances the hundred and seventy millions of human beings in that wonderful country may have had to bear; whatever complaints may have been justifiable on their parts against their native princes or the British government; and whatever may have been the feelings of those native princes towards the British – all of which matters will have to be considered in later chapters of this work – still it remains incontestable that the outbreak was a military revolt rather than a national rebellion. The Hindoo foot-soldier, fed and paid by the British, ran off with his arms and his uniform, and fought against those who had supported him; the Mohammedan trooper, with his glittering equipments and his fine horse, escaped with both in like manner, and became suddenly an enemy instead of a friend and servant. What effect this treachery may have had on the populace of the towns, is another question: we have at present only to do with the military origin of the struggle.

Here, therefore, it becomes at once necessary that the reader should be supplied with an intelligible clue to the series of events, a groundwork on which his appreciation of them may rest. As this work aims at something more than a mere record of disasters and victories, all the parts will be made to bear some definite relation one to another; and the first of these relations is – between the mutinous movements themselves, and the soldiers who made those movements. Before we can well understand what the sepoys did, we must know who the sepoys are; before we can picture to ourselves an Indian regiment in revolt, we must know of what elements it consists, and what are its usages when in cantonments or when on the march; and before we can appreciate the importance of two presidential armies remaining faithful while that of Bengal revolted, we must know what is meant by a presidency, and in what way the Anglo-Indian army bears relation to the territorial divisions of India. We shall not need for these purposes to give here a formal history of Hindostan, nor a history of the rise and constitution of the East India Company, nor an account of the manners and customs of the Hindoos, nor a narrative of the British wars in India in past ages, nor a topographical description of India – many of these subjects will demand attention in later pages; but at present only so much will be touched upon as is necessary for the bare understanding of the facts of the Revolt, leaving the causes for the present in abeyance.

What are the authoritative or official divisions of the country in reference to the governors who control and the soldiers who fight (or ought to fight) for it? What are the modes in which a vast region, extending more than a thousand miles in many different directions, is or may be traversed by rebel soldiers who fight against their employers, and by true soldiers who punish the rebels? What and who are the soldiers thus adverted to; how many, of what races, how levied, how paid and supported, where cantoned, how officered? These are the three subjects that will occupy a brief chapter; after which the narrative of the Revolt may with profit be at once entered upon.

And first, for India as an immense country governed by a people living eight or ten thousand miles distant. Talk as we may, there are few among us who can realise the true magnitude of this idea – the true bearing of the relation borne by two small islands in a remote corner of Europe to a region which has been famed since the time of Alexander the Great. The British Empire in India – what does it denote? Even before the acquisition of Oude, Pegu, and Nagpoor, the British possessions in India covered nearly 800,000 square miles; but as the influence of England is gradually extending over the protected and the hitherto independent states, we shall best conceive the whole (without Pegu, which is altogether eastward of what is considered India) as a compact territory of 1,400,000 square miles – twelve times as large as the United Kingdom, sixteen times as large as Great Britain, twenty-five times as large as England and Wales: double the size, in fact, of Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Prussia, and Switzerland, all combined. Nor is this, like the Russian Empire, a vast but thinly populated region. It contains at least a hundred and eighty millions of human beings, more than a hundred and thirty millions of whom are the direct subjects of Queen Victoria – that is, if anything can be direct, connected with the anomalous relations between the Crown and the East India Company.

It comes within the knowledge of most intelligent English readers at the present day, that this Indian Empire, governed by a curiously complicated bargain between a sovereign and a company, has been growing for a hundred years, and still continues growing. In fits of national anger or international generosity, we inveigh against the Czar of Russia for processes of aggression and plans of annexation in regions around and between the Caspian and Black Seas, and we compassionate and assist his weak neighbours under the pressure of his ambition; but it is only in times of excitement or peril that we consider the extraordinary way in which our own Indian Empire has been built up – by conquest, by purchase, by forfeiture – and in some cases by means which, called robbery by our enemies, do at any rate demand a little compunction from us as a Christian people. Exactly a century ago, England scarcely occupied a foot of ground in India; her power was almost crushed out by the native nawab who rendered himself infamous by the episode of the Black Hole at Calcutta; and it was in the year after that atrocity – namely, in 1757, that Clive began those wonderful victories which established a permanent basis for a British Empire in Hindostan. And what a continuous growth by increment has since been displayed! The Pergunnahs, Masulipatam, Burdwan, Midnapore, Chittagong, Bengal, Bahar, the Northern Circars, Benares, all passed into British hands by the year 1775; the next twenty-five years brought to us the ownership of Salsette, Nagore, Pulo Penang, Malabar, Dindigul, Salem, Barramahal, Coimbatore, Canara, Tanjore, and portions of the Deccan and Mysore; in the first quarter of the present century the list was increased by the Carnatic, Gorukhpore, the Doab, Bareilly, portions of Bundelcund, Cuttack, Balasore, Delhi, Gujerat, Kumaon, Saugor, Khandeish, Ajmeer, Poonah, the Concan, portions of Mahratta country, districts in Bejapore and Ahmednuggur, Singapore, and Malacca; in the next period of equal length the acquisitions included Assam, Aracan, Tenasserim, the Nerbudda districts, Patna, Sumbhulpore, Koorg, Loodianah, Kurnaul, Sinde, and the Jullundur Doab; while during the eight years of the Marquis of Dalhousie’s administration, as we learn on his own authority, there were added Pegu, the Punjaub, Nagpoor, Oude, Satara, Jhansi, and Berar – all these in exactly a century.

The whole of British India is placed under a governor-general, whose official residence is at Calcutta, and who is assisted by a kind of cabinet or council of ministers. Formerly there were three presidencies, under whom the whole territory was placed; two being under the governors of Bombay and Madras, and the remainder, called the Bengal presidency, being under the governor-general himself, who was to this extent vested with a special as well as a general government. But in process of time it was found impossible for this official to fulfil all the duties imposed upon him; and the great Bengal presidency became subdivided. There are now five local governors of great districts – the governor-general himself, who directly rules many of the newly acquired regions; the lieutenant-governor of the Northwest Provinces, who rules some of the country formerly included in the presidency of Bengal; the lieutenant-governor of the Lower Provinces, who rules the rest of that country; and the governors of Madras and Bombay, whose range of territory has not undergone much increase in recent years. Let us learn a little concerning each of these five.

Madras, as a presidency or government, includes the whole of the south of India, where its narrowed, peninsular form is most apparent, up to about latitude 16° north, together with a strip still further north on the east or Coromandel coast. Its greatest inland extent is about 950 miles in one direction, and 450 in another; while its shores are washed by the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal along a coast-line of no less than 1700 miles – unfortunately, however, very ill provided with ports and anchorages. There are about thirty districts and states under the governor’s rule – some as ‘regulation districts,’ others as ‘non-regulation districts,’ and others as ‘native states.’ The difference between these three kinds may be thus briefly indicated: the ‘regulation’ districts are thoroughly British, and are governed directly by the chief of the presidency; the ‘non-regulation’ districts are now equally British, though of more recent acquisition, but are governed by agents or commissioners; while the ‘native states’ have still their native princes, ‘protected,’ or rather controlled by the British. Without any formal enumeration, it may be well to remember that the following names of some of these districts, all more or less familiar to English readers as the names of towns or provinces, are included among those belonging to the presidency or government of Madras – Masulipatam, Nellore, Chingleput, Madras, Arcot, Cuddalore, Cuddapah, Salem, Coimbatore, Trichinopoly, Tanjore, Madura, Tinnevelly, Malabar, Canara, Vizagapatam, Kurnaul, Koorg,[2 - A young native princess was sent to England from this district to be educated as a Christian lady; and Queen Victoria became a sponsor for her at a baptismal ceremony.] Cochin, Mysore, Travancore. Some of these are not absolutely British; but their independence is little more than a name. There are various important towns, or places worth knowing in connection with Indian affairs, which are included in some or other of these districts, but not giving their names to them – such as Seringapatam, Golcandah, Rajamandry, Juggernaut, Vellore, Pulicat, Pondicherry (French), Tranquebar, Negapatam, Bangalore, Ootacamund, Mangalore, Calicut.

Bombay, as a presidency, is a curiously shaped strip. Exclusive of the subordinate territories of native princes (over which, however, the Company exercises paramount political sway) and of Sinde, which, though recently placed under the government of Bombay, may properly be regarded as a distinct territory – exclusive of these, the presidency occupies a narrow strip, of irregular outline, stretching for a considerable distance north and south. It occupies the western coast of the peninsula, from Gujerat on the north, to the small Portuguese settlement of Goa on the south; and has a length of 650 miles, with a maximum breadth of 240. The Bombay provinces included in the strip just noticed, the neighbouring territories administered by or on behalf of native princes, and Sinde, form three sections about equal in size, the whole collectively being thrice as large as England and Wales. To assist the memory, as in the last paragraph, we give the names of the chief districts likely to be known to English readers – all of which either belong absolutely to the presidency of Bombay, or are more or less under the control of the governor – Surat, Baroche, Ahmedabad, Khandeish, Poonah, Ahmednuggur, Bombay, Concan, Satara, Baroda, Kattywar, Kolapore, Cutch, the Mahratta districts, Kurachee, Hyderabad, Shikarpore, Khyrpore. The last four are districts of Sinde, conquered by the late Sir Charles James Napier, and placed under the Bombay presidency as being nearer at hand than any of the others. Besides the towns similarly named to most of these districts, the following may be usefully mentioned – Goa (Portuguese), Bejapore, Bassein, Aurungabad, Assaye, Nuseerabad, Cambay.

Lower Bengal, or the Lower Provinces of Bengal, considered as a sub-presidency or lieutenant-government, comprises all the eastern portion of British India, bounded on the east by the Burmese and Chinese Empires, and on the north by Nepaul, Sikim, and Bhotan; southward, it is washed by the Bay of Bengal; while inland or westward, it reaches to a point on the Ganges a little beyond Patna, but not so far as Benares. Fancy might compare it in shape to a dumb-bell, surmounting the upper part of the Bay of Bengal, which washes its shores throughout a distance of 900 miles. Without reckoning native states under the control of the Company, this lieutenant-governorship is considerably more than three times as large as England and Wales; and nearly the whole of it is in the basins of, or drained by, the two magnificent rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra. On the principle before adopted, we give the names of districts most likely to become familiarised to the reader – Jessore, Burdwan, Bancorah, Bhaugulpore, Monghir, Cuttack, Balasore, Midnapore, Moorshedabad, Rungpoor, Dacca, Silhet, Patna, Bahar, Chittagong, the Sunderbunds, Assam, Aracan. Most of these are also the names of towns, each the chief in its district; but there are other important towns and places not here named – including Calcutta, Cossimbazar, Barrackpore, Chandernagore, Serampore, Culpee, Purneah, Boglipore, Rajmahal, Nagore, Raneegunge, Jellasore, Dinapore, Bahar, Ramghur, Burhampore.

Northwest Bengal, or the Northwestern Provinces of the Bengal presidency, regarded as a sub-presidency or lieutenant-governorship, comprises some of the most important and densely populated districts of Northern India. It covers seven degrees of latitude and nine of longitude; or, if the portion of the ‘non-regulation’ districts under the control of this lieutenant-governor be included, the range extends to ten degrees of latitude and twelve of longitude. Its boundary is roughly marked by the neighbouring provinces or states of Sirhind, Kumaon, Nepaul, Oude, Lower Bengal, Rewah, Bundelcund, and Scindiah’s Mahratta territory; but many of these are included among its ‘non-regulation’ territories. In its limited, strictly British territory, it is a little larger than England and Wales; but including the ‘non-regulation’ provinces, such as Kumaon, Ajmeer, Saugor, &c., it is vastly larger. As the chief city is Agra, the lieutenant-governorship is often called by that name: more convenient, perhaps, than the one officially adopted – indeed it was at one time determined, though the plan has been postponed sine die, to form an entirely new and distinct presidency, called the Presidency of Agra. The Ganges and the Jumna are the great rivers that permeate it. As before, we give the names of the most familiarly known divisions or districts – Delhi, Meerut, Allygurh, Rohilcund, Bareilly, Shahjehanpoor, Bijnour, Agra, Furruckabad, Allahabad, Cawnpore, Futtehpore, Benares, Gorukhpore, Azimghur, Jounpore, Mirzapore, Ghazeepore; and if to these we add the names of towns not indicated by the names of their districts – such as Simla, Sirhind, Umballa, Loodianah, Shahabad, Buxar – it will be seen how many places noted more or less in Indian affairs lie within this province or lieutenant-governorship.

For the sake of brevity, it may here be remarked, we shall frequently, in future chapters, use the names ‘Northwest Bengal’ and ‘Lower Bengal,’ instead of the tedious designations ‘Northwestern Provinces’ and ‘Lieutenant Government of Bengal.’

As to the fifth or remaining sphere of government – that which is under the governor-general himself – it is with difficulty described; so many are the detached scraps and patches. The overworked representative of the crown, whether his name be Auckland or Ellenborough, Dalhousie or Canning, finding the governorship of Bengal too onerous when added to the governor-generalship of the whole of India, gives up his special care of Bengal, divides it into two sub-provinces, and hands it over to the two lieutenant-governors. But the increase of territory in British India has been so vast within the last few years, and the difficulty so great of deciding to which presidency they ought to belong, that they have been made into a fifth dominion or government, under the governor-general himself. The great and important country of the Punjaub, acquired a few years ago, is one of the list; it is under the governor-general, and is administered for him by a board of commissioners. The kingdom of Oude is another, annexed in 1856, and similarly represented by residents or commissioners acting for and under the orders of the governor-general. The province of Nagpoor is a third: a large country in the very centre of India, annexed in 1853, and nearly touching all the four governorships already described. Pegu is a fourth, wrested from the sultan of Burmah, in 1852, and placed under the governor-general’s administration. A fifth is Tenasserim, a strip of country stretching five hundred miles along the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal. There are other fragments; but the above will suffice to shew that the governor-general has no inconsiderable amount of territory under his immediate control, represented by his commissioners. If we look at the names of places included within these limits, we shall be struck with their number and importance in connection with stirring events in India. In the Punjaub we find Peshawur, Attock, Rawul Pindee, Jelum, Ramnugur, Chillianwalla, Wuzeerabad, Umritsir, Lahore, Jullundur, Ghoorka, Ferozpore, Ferozshah, Moodkee; in the once independent but now British province or kingdom of Oude will be found the names of Lucknow, Oude, Fyzabad, Sultanpore, Khyrabad; in the territory of Nagpoor is the town of the same name, but other towns of any note are scarce. In Pegu and Tenasserim, both ultra-Gangetic or eastward of the Ganges, we find Rangoon, Bassein, Prome, Moulmein, and Martaban.

The reader has here before him about a hundred and forty names of places in this rapid sketch of the great divisional governments of India, mostly the names of important towns; and – without any present details concerning modes of government, or numbers governed, natural wealth or social condition – we believe he will find his comprehension of the events of the great Revolt much aided by a little attention to this account of the five governments into which British India is at present divided. As for the original names of kingdoms and provinces, nawabships and rajahships, it scarcely repays the trouble to learn them: when the native chiefs were made pensioned puppets, the former names of their possessions became of lessened value, and many of them are gradually disappearing from the maps. We have ‘political residents,’ ‘government agents,’ or ‘commissioners,’ at the capital city of almost every prince in India; to denote that, though the prince may hold the trappings of royalty, there is a watchful master scrutinising his proceedings, and claiming something to do with his military forces. Such is the case at Hyderabad in the Nizam’s territory, at Khatmandoo in Nepaul, at Gwalior in Scindiah’s dominions, at Indore in Holkar’s dominions, at Bhopal, in the country of the same name, at Bhurtpore and elsewhere in the Rajpoot princes’ dominions, at Darjeeling in Sikim, at Baroda in the Guicowar’s dominions, &c.

The semi-independent princes of India – mostly rajahs if Hindoos, nawabs if Mohammedans – are certainly placed in a most anomalous position. There are nearly two hundred of these vassal-kings, if we may so term them – some owning territories as large as European kingdoms, while others claim dominion over bits of country not larger than petty German principalities. The whole of them have treaties and engagements with the British government, involving the reciprocal obligations of protection and allegiance. Some of them pay tribute, others do not; but almost all have formally relinquished the right of self-defence, and also that of maintaining diplomatic relations with each other. The princes are regarded as children, expected to look up for protection only to their great mother, the Company. The Company undertakes not only to guarantee external safety but also internal tranquillity in these states, and is the umpire in all quarrels between native rulers. Though not called upon, and indeed not allowed, to defend themselves from an external attack, the princes mostly have armies, more for show than use under ordinary circumstances; but then they must obtain permission to do this, and they must limit the numbers; and in some cases there is a stipulation that if the British be at war in India, the prince must lend his troops. It is in this sense that the independent princes of India are said to possess, collectively, an armed force of little less than four hundred thousand men: many of them available, according to treaty, for British service.

Next, we may usefully pay a little attention to this question – How, in so immense a country, do the soldiers and subjects of these several states, British and native, travel from place to place: how do they cross mountains where passes are few, or marshes and sandy plains where roads are few and bad, or broad rivers where bridges are scarce? The distances traversed by the armies are sometimes enormous. Let us open a map of India, and see, for example, the relative positions of Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Peshawur, and Kurachee at the western mouth of the Indus. Delhi is nearly nine hundred miles from Bombay, more than nine hundred from Calcutta by land, fifteen or sixteen hundred miles from the same city by water-route up the Ganges and Jumna, and nearly fourteen hundred from Madras. Kurachee, the most westerly spot in India, and destined one day, perhaps, to be an important depôt for steamers from the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, is more than sixteen hundred miles from Calcutta, nearly across the broadest part of India from east to west; while Peshawur, at the extreme northwest or Afghan frontier, acquired by England when the Punjaub was annexed, is no less than two thousand miles from Madras. All opinions and judgments, concerning the slowness of operations in India, must be tempered by a consideration of these vast distances.

The rivers were the great highways of that country before roads existed, as in other regions; and they have never ceased to be the most frequented routes. At least such is the case in relation to the larger rivers – such as the Ganges, Indus, Nerbudda, Kishna, Jumna, Sutlej, and Jelum. Hindoos and Mohammedans, too poor to hire horses or palkees for land-travel, may yet be able to avail themselves of their river-boats.

The native boats which work on the Ganges are numerous and curious in kind. The patella or baggage-boat is of saul-wood, clinker-built, and flat-bottomed, with rather slanting outsides, and not so manageable as a punt or a London barge; its great breadth gives it a very light draught of water, and renders it fittest for the cotton and other up-country products, which require little more than a dry and secure raft to float them down the stream. The oolak or common baggage-boat of the Hoogly and Central Bengal, has a sharp bow and smooth rounded sides; it is fitted for tracking and sailing before the wind, and is tolerably manageable with the oar in smooth water. The Dacca pulwar is more weatherly, although, like the rest, without keel, and the fastest and most handy boat in use for general traffic. The budgerow, the bauleah, and the ketch-rigged pinnace, are employed by Europeans for their personal conveyance. Besides these, there are numerous others – such as the wood-boats of the Sunderbunds, of various forms and dimensions – from one hundred to six thousand maunds burden (a maund being about equal to 100 pounds troy); the salt-boats of Tumlook; the light boats which carry betel-leaf; the Calcutta bhur, or cargo-boat of the port; the Chittagong boats; the light mug-boats, with floors of a single hollowed piece of timber, and raised sides, neatly attached by sewing, with strips of bamboo over the seams; the dinghee; and the panswee– all found within the limits of the Bengal presidency. ‘A native traveller, according to his degree and substance, engages a dinghee or a panswee, a pulwar or an oolak; the man of wealth puts his baggage and attendants in these, and provides a budgerow or a pinnace for his personal accommodation. Officers of high standing in the civil or military service, travelling with a large retinue of servants and a quantity of baggage, seldom have less than five or six boats (one of them a cooking-boat, and another fitted with an oven for baking bread): sometimes as many as fifteen when they carry their horses and equipages, and the materials of housekeeping for their comfortable establishment on arrival.’

Before Indian steamers were introduced, or Indian railways thought of, the Ganges was the great highway from Calcutta to Benares, Allahabad, and the northwestern provinces generally, in all cases where speed was not required. The Indian government used to allow their military servants two months and a half for proceeding to Benares, three to Allahabad, five to Meerut, and nine to Loodianah – periods that seem to us, in the old country, outrageous in their length. The boats were chiefly of two of the kinds mentioned in the preceding paragraph – namely, the pinnace, very European in its appearance, and the lofty sterned budgerow, peculiarly Indian. Even after steamers were placed upon the Ganges, the slow-going budgerow continued to be much used by the Company’s officers, and by other persons going northwest – chiefly in cases where a family and a large quantity of luggage or personal effects had to be conveyed; for every other mode than the budgerow then becomes very costly – and will probably so continue until the great trunk-railway is completed. Budgerow boating is, it must be confessed, enough to stagnate the blood of an active man who wishes to speed onward to a scene of usefulness. As the tide ends at a few miles above Calcutta, there is a constant downward current throughout all the rest of the Ganges; and this current has to be struggled against during the up-passage. If the wind be favourable, sails are hoisted; but if otherwise, progress is made by gooning or tracking, an operation performed by the greater part of the crew proceeding on shore, and with ropes attached to the mast-head, dragging the vessel bodily along: wading for hours, it may be, through nullahs or creeks more than breast high. The travellers spend much of their time on shore in the cooler hours of the morning and evening, walking, fishing, or shooting, or otherwise whiling away their time; for they can easily keep up with a boat that only makes ten miles per average day. The Company have been accustomed to make a certain allowance to each officer for boat-accommodation up the country; and it is not unusual for two or three to join in the hire of one budgerow, to their mutual comfort, and with a small saving out of their allowance. They engage an attendant dinghee as a cook-boat, to keep the culinary operations at a respectful distance; and they fit up their budgerow with camp-tables, camp-stools, charpoys or light bedsteads, copper chillumchees or wash-basins, rugs, hanging lamps, canteens, bullock or camel trunks, and a few other articles of furniture; with wine, spirits, ale, preserves, cheeses, pickles, salt meats, hams, tongues, and other provisions, which are cheaper at Calcutta than if purchased on the way; and with their wardrobes, articles for the toilet, books, chess and backgammon boards, guns, musical instruments, and other aids to lessen the tedium of a long voyage.

Hitherto, commerce has had so much more to do with this Ganges traffic than passenger travel, that the slowness of the progress was not felt: as in the instance of the canals of England, which, made for goods and not for passengers, are not blameable on the score of tardiness. The Ganges is now, as it has been for ages, the main channel for the commerce of Northern India. The produce of Europe, of Southern India, of the Eastern Archipelago, of China, brought to Calcutta by ocean-going steamers or sailing-ships, is distributed upwards to Patna, Benares, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Agra, Delhi, and other great towns, almost exclusively by the Ganges route; and the same boats which convey these cargoes, bring down the raw cotton, indigo, opium, rice, sugar, grain, rich stuffs, piece-goods, and other grown or manufactured commodities from the interior, either for consumption at Calcutta and other towns on the route, or for shipment to England and elsewhere. It is probable that the cargo-boats and the budgerows will continue to convey a largo proportion of the traffic of India, let steamers and railways make what progress they may; for there is much local trading that can be better managed by this slow, stopping, free-and-easy Ganges route of boating.

The Ganges steamers are peculiar. Each consists of two vessels, a tug and a flat, neither of which is of much use without the other. The tug contains the engine; the flat contains the passengers and cargo; and this double arrangement seems to have been adopted as a means of insuring light draught. Each flat contains fifteen or twenty cabins, divided into three classes according to the accommodation, and obtainable at a fare of twenty to thirty pounds for each cabin for a voyage from Calcutta up to Allahabad – less in the reverse direction, because the aid of the stream shortens the voyage. Besides this, the passenger pays for all his provisions, and most of the furniture of his cabin. Every passenger is allowed to take one servant free of passage fare. The steamer proceeds only during the day, anchoring every night; and it stops every three or four days, to take coals into the tug, and to deliver and receive passengers. The chief of these stopping-places are at the towns of Berhampore, Monghir, Patna, Dinapoor, Chupra, Buxar, Ghazeepore, Benares, Chunar, and Mirzapore, all situated on the banks of the Ganges between Calcutta and Allahabad; and it is only during the two or three hours of these stoppages that the passengers have an opportunity of rambling on the shore by daylight. The tug is of iron, and drags the flat by means of hawsers and a long beam, which latter serves both as a gangway and to prevent collision between the two vessels. The East India Company first established these steamers, but others have followed their example, and help to keep up a healthy competition. The river distance to Allahabad being eight hundred miles (three hundred in excess of the land route), and the time of transit being about twenty days, this gives forty miles per day as the average rate of progress of the tug and its attendant flat or accommodation-boat. Of proposed plans for improving this Ganges steaming, we do not speak in this place.

The Indus is less traversed by boats and steamers; but, being nearer to England than the Ganges, it is becoming more and more important every year, especially since the annexation of the Punjaub by the British. The boats on the Indus take up the produce of the Persian and Arabian gulfs, Cutch, the western districts of India, and so much of the produce of Europe as is available for Sinde, the Punjaub, and the northwest of India generally: taking back the produce of Afghanistan, Cashmere, the Punjaub, Sinde, and the neighbouring countries. The boats on this river, having fewer European travellers, do not possess so many accommodations as those on the Ganges; the scantiness of the population, too, and the semi-barbarous condition of the natives, tend towards the same result. The Sutlej boats, mostly employed, are long and clumsy; when going downwards, the stream gives them a velocity of about two miles an hour, while the oars and sail give them barely another extra mile. They correspond, indeed, rather with our idea of a Thames coal-barge, than with that of a boat. The steersman and two oarsmen are at the stern, working with a broad paddle and two oars. The passengers occupy the rest of the vessel, in a rude bamboo cabin twelve or fourteen feet long. When the wind and the stream are unfavourable, the sail is hauled down, and tracking is resorted to. As the up-river return-voyage is exceedingly slow, a passenger travelling down towards the sea is obliged to pay for the return-voyage as well. As there are hardly any important towns on the banks below the Punjaub, except Hyderabad, a traveller is obliged to take almost the whole of his provisions and necessaries with him. The journey up the stream is so insupportably tedious by these boats, that small steamers are generally preferred; but these require very light draught and careful handling, to prevent them from grounding on the shoals and sandbanks, which are more numerous in the Indus than in the Ganges.

River-travelling, it hence appears, is a very slow affair, ruinously inadequate to the wants of any but a population in a low scale of commercial advancement. Let us inquire, therefore, whether land-travelling is in a condition to remedy these evils.

There are so few good roads in India, that wheel-carriages can scarcely be trusted for any long distances. The prevailing modes of travel are on horseback or in a palanquin. Technically, the one mode is called marching; the other, dâk, dakh, or dawk. The former is sometimes adopted for economy; sometimes from necessity while accompanying troops; and sometimes, on short trips, through inclination; but as it is almost impossible to travel on horseback during the heat of the day, the more expensive but more regular dâk is in greater request. The horseman, when he adopts the equestrian system, accomplishes from twelve to twenty miles a day: sending on his servants one march or day in advance, with tent, bedding, tent-furniture, canteen, &c., in order that they may have a meal ready for the traveller by the time he arrives. They daily buy fodder, fowls, eggs, milk, rice, fruit, or vegetables at the villages as they pass through; the traveller, if a sportsman, aids the supply of his larder with snipe, wild-fowl, quail, partridges, hares, jungle-cocks, or bustard; but a week’s provision at a time must be made of all such supplies as tea, coffee, dried or preserved meats, sauces, spices, beer, or wine, at the principal towns – as these commodities are either unattainable or very costly at the smaller stations and villages. Thus the traveller proceeds, accomplishing eighty to a hundred and fifty miles per week, according to his supply of horse-relays. We may get rid of the European notions of inns and hotels on the road: the India officer must carry his hotel with him.

We come next to the dâk system, much more prevalent than travelling by horseback. The dâk is a sort of government post, available for private individuals as for officials. A traveller having planned his journey, he applies to the postmaster of the district, who requires from one to three days’ notice, according to the extent of accommodation needed. The usual complement for one traveller consists of eight palkee-burdars or palanquin-bearers, two mussanjees or torch-bearers, and two bangey-burdars or luggage-porters: if less than this number be needed, the fact must be notified. The time and place of starting, and the duration and localities of the halts, must also be stated; for everything is to be paid beforehand, on the basis of a regular tariff. The charge is about one shilling per mile for the entire set of twelve men – shewing at how humble a rate personal services are purchasable in India. There is also an extra charge for demurrage or delays on the road, attributable to the traveller himself. For these charges, the postmaster undertakes that there shall be relays of dâk servants throughout the whole distance, even if it be the nine hundred miles from Calcutta to Delhi; and to insure this, he writes to the different villages and post stations, ordering relays to be ready at the appointed hours. The stages average about ten miles each, accomplished in three hours; at the end of which time the twelve men retrace their steps, and are succeeded by another twelve; for each set of men belong to a particular station, in the same way as each team of horses for an English stage-coach belongs to a particular town. The rivers and streams on the route are mostly crossed by ferry-boats, for bridges are scarce in India; and this ferrying is included in the fare charged by the postmaster; although the traveller is generally expected to give a small fee, the counterpart to the ‘drink-money’ of Europe, to ferrymen as well as bearers. The palanquin, palankeen, or palkee, is a kind of wooden box opening at the sides by sliding shutters; it is about six feet in length by four in height, and is suspended by two poles, borne on the shoulders of four men. The eight bearers relieve one another in two gangs of four each. The postmaster has nought to do with the palanquin; this is provided by the traveller; and on its judicious selection depends much of his comfort during the journey, for a break-down entails a multitude of petty miseries. The average value of a palanquin may be about ten pounds; and the traveller can generally dispose of it again at the end of his journey. On account of the weight, nothing is carried that can be easily dispensed with; but the traveller manages to fit up his palanquin with a few books, his shaving and washing apparatus, his writing materials, and a few articles in frequent use. The regular fittings of the palanquin are a cushion or bed, a bolster, and a few light coverings. The traveller’s luggage is mostly carried in petarrahs, tin boxes or wicker-baskets about half a yard square: a porter can carry two of these; and one or two porters will suffice for the demands of any ordinary traveller, running before or by the side of the palanquin. The petarrahs are hung, each from one end of a bangey or bamboo pole, the middle of which rests on the bearer’s shoulder. The torch-bearers run by the side of the palanquin to give light during night-travelling; the torch is simply a short stick bound round at one end with a piece of rag or a tuft of hemp, on which oil is occasionally dropped from a flask or a hollow bamboo; the odour of the oil-smoke is disagreeable, and most travellers are glad to dispense with the services of a second torch-bearer.

Bishop Heber’s journey from Delhi to Benares was a good example of dâk-travelling in his day; and the system has altered very little since. He had twelve bearers, on account of his route lying partly through a broken country. His clothes and writing-desk were placed in the two petarrahs, carried by the two bangey-burdars. ‘The men set out across the meadows at a good round trot of about four miles an hour, grunting all the way like paviers in England: a custom which, like paviers, they imagine eases them under their burden.’ Only four men can usually put their shoulders to a palanquin at the same time; but the bishop observed that whenever they approached a deep nullah or steep bank, the bearers who were not at that time bearing the palanquin, but were having their interval of rest, thrust stout bamboos under the bottom of the palanquin, and took hold of the ends on each side; so that the strength of several additional men was brought into requisition. In crossing a stream, ‘the boat (the spot being a regular ferry), a broad and substantial one, had a platform of wood covered with clay across its middle. The palanquin, with me in it, was placed on this with its length athwart the middle; the mangee steered, and some of the dâk-bearers took up oars, so that we were across in a very short time.’

Private dâks are occasionally employed, a speculator undertaking to supply the bearers. Having no large establishments to keep up, these men can afford to undersell the government – that is, establish a lower tariff; and they provide a little additional accommodation in other ways. Some travellers, however, think these speculators or chowdries not sufficiently to be trusted, and prefer the government dâk at higher rates. Experienced men will sometimes dispense with the preliminary of ‘laying a dâk,’ or arranging for the whole journey: depending on their own sagacity for hunting up bearers at the successive stations. There have also been introduced horse-dâks, wheeled palanquins drawn by horses; but these are only available on the great trunk-roads recently executed by the government.

It was observed, in relation to ‘marching’ or horse-travelling, that there are no hotels or inns on the road; there is a partial substitute, however, that may here be noticed. The Company have established dâk-bungalows at certain stations, varying from fifteen to fifty miles apart, according as the road is much or little frequented. These places are under the control of government officers: a khitmutgar or servant, and a porter, attend at each; the traveller pays a fixed sum for the use of the room, and makes a separate bargain for any few articles of provisions that may be obtainable. The building is little more than a thatched house of one story, divided into two small rooms, to each of which a bathing-room is attached. The servant cooks and serves a meal, while the porter assists in subsidiary offices. If a traveller does not choose to avail himself of these bungalows, he can travel continuously in his palanquin, sleeping and waking by turns. This, however, is a great trial for most persons; because the bearers make an unpleasant grunting noise as an accompaniment to their movements; and moreover, unless well drilled, they do not balance the palanquin well, but subject its inmate to distressing joltings.

1. Dirgee – tailor. 2. Khitmutgar writing the accounts of the previous day. 3. Sepoy after parade. 4. Maitre, or house-cleaner. 5. Dobee – washerman. 6. Chuprassee going out with gun before a shooting-party. 7. Chuprassee – letter-carrier. 8. Bengalee Pundit, or scholar.

It has been placed upon record, as an instructive commentary on the immense distances to be traversed in India, the imperfection of most of the roads, and the primitive detail of travelling arrangements – that when Viscount Hardinge was engaged in the Punjaub campaign in 1846, one hundred European officers were sent off from Calcutta to aid him. Although the distance was nearly fifteen hundred miles, nothing more rapid than palanquin travelling was available; and, as a consequence, the journey became so tediously prolonged that only thirty out of the hundred officers arrived at the Sutlej before the campaign was over. Palanquin-bearers were posted at different stations to carry three persons daily; and it was calculated that, assuming twelve bearers to be posted at every station, and the stations eight miles apart on an average, the duty must have required the services of seven thousand of these men – all to carry one hundred officers: a waste of muscular energy singular to contemplate by the light of an Englishman’s home experience.

The Indian post is still more simple than the dâk. It is conducted by runners, each of whom slings his mail-bag on the end of a stick over his shoulder. He runs five miles in an hour, and then gives his bag to another man, who runs five miles in an hour; and so on. Strictly speaking, dâk is an appellation properly belonging to this letter-carrying system. It is equivalent to the English post; and as the English have adopted the custom of applying the term post to quick travelling as well as to letter-carrying, in like manner have the Anglo-Indians adopted a double application of the word dâk. It is only the express or quick dâk which maintains a speed of five miles an hour; the ordinary speed, when the letter-bag is heavy, is four miles. In order that the runners may not be required to go far from their homes, each man carries his bag one stage, exchanges bags with another runner who has come in the opposite direction, and then returns. A letter may thus be conveyed a hundred miles in a day – a distance which, considering the nature of the system, is quite as great as can reasonably be expected. Horse and camel dâks are occasionally employed; but they are not easily available, except on good roads. Besides the letter-dâk, there is a parcel-dâk or bangey, the runner carrying a packet or box, in which small parcels or newspapers are placed.

It will become a duty, in a later portion of this work, to notice somewhat fully the railway schemes of India, in relation to the plans for developing the industrial resources of that great region; but at present this would be out of place, since the Revolt has been dependent on the actual, not the prospective. This actuality, so far as concerns means and modes of travelling, is summed up in a few words. An Indian officer, we have seen, must travel to his station by horse or by palanquin if on land, by drag-boat or by steam-boat if on the rivers. In any case his rate of progress is slow; his movements are encumbered by a train of servants, by a whole bazarful of furniture and culinary apparatus, and by an anxiously selected provision for his larder. To move quickly is well-nigh impossible: all the conditions for it are wanting. Improvements, it is true, are in progress: steamers of light draught and rapid movement are being planned for the rivers; the great trunk-road from Calcutta to the Afghan frontier is beginning to offer facilities for wheel-carriage transport; and the railways are beginning to shew their iron tracks in various regions; nevertheless, these are rather indications of the future than appliances for the present; and the Indian officers are not yet in a position to say much about them from personal experience. The humbler soldiers, whether Europeans or sepoys, are of course less favourably served than the officers. There is no Weedon in India, connected by rail with a Chatham, a Portsmouth, a Liverpool, a Leeds, along which a whole regiment can be conveyed in a few hours; and as saddle-horses and palanquins are out of the question for infantry privates, it becomes necessary to trudge on foot along such roads as may be available, or to linger on the tardy river route. Once now and then, it is true, a daring man, a Napier or an Edwardes, will swiftly send a small body of troops over a sandy desert or a marshy plain on camels, horses, elephants, or some exceptional modes of conveyance; but the prevalent characteristics of travel are such as have here been described, and such will doubtless be the case for many years to come.

Such, then, being the territorial arrangements by which Anglo-Indian troops are considered to belong to different presidencies and states; and such the modes in which military as well as civilians must move from place to place in those territories; we shall be prepared next to understand something about the soldiers themselves – the Anglo-Indian army.

In no country in Europe is there an army so anomalous in its construction as that which, until lately, belonged to the East India Company. Different kinds of troops, and troops from different provinces, we can well understand. For instance, the French avail themselves of a few Algerine Arabs, and a small foreign legion, as components in the regular army. The English have a few colonial corps in addition to the Queen’s army. The Prussians have a landwehr or militia equal in magnitude to the regular army itself. The Russians have military colonists as well as military tributaries, in addition to the great corps d’armée. The Austrians have their peculiar Military Frontier regiments, besides the regular troops furnished by the dozen or score of distinct provinces and kingdoms which form their empire. The German States provide their several contingents to form (if the States can ever bring themselves to a unity of opinion) an Army of the Confederation. The Neapolitans employ Swiss mercenaries as a portion of their army. The Romans, the subjects of the pope as a temporal prince, have the ‘protection’ of French and Austrian bayonets, in addition to a small native force. The Turks have their regular army, aided (or sometimes obstructed) by the contingents of vassal-pachas and the irregulars from mountain districts. But none of these resemble the East India Company’s army. Under an ordinary state of affairs, and without reference to the mutiny of 1857, the Indian army is in theory a strange conglomerate. The Queen lends some of her English troops, for which the Company pay; the Company enlist other English troops on their own account; they maintain three complete armies among the natives of India who are their subjects; they raise irregular corps or regiments in the states not so fully belonging to them; they claim the services of the troops belonging to certain tributary princes, whenever exigency arises; and the whole of these troops are placed under the generalship of a commander-in-chief, who is appointed – not by the Company, who have to pay for all – but by the Queen or the British government.

The Company’s army rose by degrees, as the territorial possessions increased. At first the troops were little better than adventurers who sold their swords to the highest bidders, and fought for pay and rations without regard to the justice of the cause in which they were engaged; many were liberated convicts, many were deserters from various European armies, some were Africans, while a few were Topasses, a mixed race of Indo-Portuguese. The first regular English troops seen in Bengal were an ensign and thirty privates, sent from Madras to quell a petty disturbance at the Company’s factory in the Hoogly. Gradually, as the numbers increased and the organisation improved, the weapons underwent changes. The troops originally were armed with muskets, swords, and pikes twelve or fourteen feet long: the pikemen in the centre of the battalion or company, and the musketeers on the flank. In the beginning of the last century the pikes were abandoned, and the soldiers armed with bayonets in addition to the muskets and swords. When the custom was adopted, from European example, of forming the companies into a regular battalion, the swords were abolished, and the common soldiers left only with muskets and bayonets. Various changes were made during the century, assimilating the troops more and more to those of the English crown, in weapons and accoutrements.

The regiments became, by successive ameliorations, composed almost wholly of native Hindoos and Mohammedans, officered to some extent by Europeans. An English sergeant was given to each company, and a drill-sergeant and sergeant-major to each battalion. Afterwards, when the battalions were formed into regiments, natives were appointed as sergeants of companies; and then the only European non-commissioned officers were a sergeant-major and a quartermaster-sergeant. By the time of Lord Clive’s achievements, just about a century ago, three armies were owned by the Company – one in Bengal or the Calcutta presidency, one in the Coromandel or Madras presidency, and one on the Malabar coast, south of the present station of Bombay. These three armies were totally separate and distinct, each under its own commander, and each presenting some peculiarities of organisation; but they occasionally joined as one army for large military operations. There were many native corps, and a few European corps; but all alike were officered by Europeans. The cadet, the young man sent out from England to ‘make his fortune’ in India, was appointed to a native corps or a European corps at the choice of the commander. The pay being good and regular, and the customs and prejudices respected, the sepoys, sipahis, or native soldiers became in most cases faithful servants to the Company, obeying their native officers, who, in their turn, were accountable to the European officers. The European and the native corps were alike formed by enlistment: the Company compelling no one to serve but those who deemed the pay and other arrangements sufficient. An endeavour was made at that time (afterwards abandoned) to equalise the Hindoos and Mohammedans in numbers as nearly as possible.

From an early period in the Company’s history, a certain number of regiments from the British royal army were lent for Indian service; the number being specified by charter or statute; and the whole expense, of every kind, being defrayed by the Company – including, by a more modern arrangement, retiring pay and pensions. There were thus, in effect, at all times two English armies in India; the one enlisted by the Company, the other lent by the Crown; and it was a matter of some difficulty to obviate jealousies and piques between the two corps. For, on the one hand, the officers of the Company’s troops had better pay and more profitable stations assigned to them; while, on the other hand, the royal officers had precedence and greater honour. A Company’s captain, however so many years he might have served, was subordinate even to the youngest royal captain, who assumed command over him by right. At length, in 1796, the commissions received by the Company’s officers were recognised by the crown; and the two corps became placed on a level in pay and privileges.

The year just named witnessed a new organisation also of the native army. A regiment was ordered to be of two thousand men, in two corps or battalions of one thousand each; and each battalion was divided into ten companies, with two native officers to each company. Thus there were forty native officers in each of these large regiments. Besides these, there were half as many European officers as were allowed to a European regiment of the same magnitude. There had before been a native commandant to each battalion; but he was now superseded by a European field-officer, somewhat to the dissatisfaction of the men. The service occasionally suffered from this change; for a regiment was transferred at once from a native who had risen to command by experience and good conduct, to a person sent out from England who had to learn his duties as a leader of native troops after he went out. The youngest English ensign, perhaps a beardless boy, received promotion before any native, however old and tried in the service. And hence arose the custom, observed down to recent times, of paying no attention to the merits of the natives as a spur to promotion, allowing seniority to determine the rise from one grade to another.

While on the one hand the natives volunteered as soldiers in the Company’s service, and were eligible to rise to a certain rank as regimental officers; the English officers, on the other, had their own particular routine and hopes of preferment. The cadets or youths went out partially educated by the Company in England, especially those intended for the artillery and engineer departments; and when settled with their regiments in India as officers, all rose by seniority; the engineers and artillery in their own corps, the cavalry and infantry in their own regiments. It often happened, however, that when few deaths occurred by war, officers reached middle life without much advancement, and retired after twenty years or more of service with the pay of the rank they then held. In 1836, however, a law was made to insure that the retiring allowance should not be below a certain minimum: if an officer served twenty-three years, he retired with captain’s pay; if twenty-seven years, with major’s pay; if thirty-one years, with lieutenant-colonel’s pay; if thirty-five years, with colonel’s pay – whatever might have been his actual rank at the date of his retirement. There was also permission for them to sell their commissions, although those commissions were not bought by them in the first instance.

Unquestionably the sepoy was well paid, considering the small value of labour and personal services in his country; and thus it arose that the Company had seldom any difficulty in obtaining troops. The sepoys were volunteers in the full sense of the word. Their pay, though small in our estimation, was high in proportion to the station they formerly held. The Bengal Infantry sepoy received seven rupees (fourteen shillings) per month, with an additional rupee after sixteen years’ service, and two after twenty years. A havildar or sergeant received fourteen rupees; a jemadar or lieutenant twenty-four rupees; and a subadar or captain sixty-seven rupees. This pay was relatively so good, that each man was usually able to send two-thirds of it to his relations. And he was not a stranger to them at the end of his term, like a Russian soldier; for it was a part of the system to allow him periodical furlough or leave of absence, to visit his friends. If unfit for military service after fifteen months’ duty, he retired on a life-pension sufficient to support him in his own simple way of life. Whether he ought, in moral fairness, to be grateful towards the rulers who fed and clothed him, is just one of those questions on which Indian officers have differed and still differ. Viewed by the aid of the experience furnished by recent events, many of the former encomiums on the sepoys, as men grateful for blessings conferred, read strangely. The Marquis of Dalhousie’s statement, that ‘The position of the native soldier in India has long been such as to leave hardly any circumstance of his condition in need of improvement,’ has already been adverted to. To this we may add the words of Captain Rafter: ‘We assert, on personal knowledge and reliable testimony, that the attachment of the sepoy to his English officer, and through him to the English government, is of an enduring as well as an endearing nature, that will long bid defiance to the machinations of every enemy to British supremacy, either foreign or domestic.’[3 - Our Anglo-Indian Army.] In another authority we find that the sepoy, when his term of military service has expired, ‘goes back to live in ease and dignity, to teach his children to love and venerate that mighty abstraction the Company, and to extend the influence of England still further throughout the ramifications of native society. Under such a system, although temporary insubordination may and sometimes does occur in particular regiments, it is invariably caused by temporary grievances. General disaffection cannot exist – desertion is unknown.’ But the validity or groundlessness of such opinions we do not touch upon here: they must be reserved to a later chapter, when the causes of the mutiny will come under review. We pass on at once, therefore, from this brief notice of the origin of the Company’s army, to its actual condition at and shortly before the period of the outbreak.

Should it be asked what, during recent years, has been the number of troops in India, the answer must depend upon the scope given to the question. If we mention Queen’s troops only, the number has been usually about 24,000; if Queen’s troops and the Company’s European troops, about 42,000; if the Company’s native regulars be added to these, the number rises to 220,000; if the Company’s irregular corps of horse be included, there are 280,000; if it include the contingents supplied by native princes, the number amounts to 320,000; and lastly, if to these be added the armies of the independent and semi-independent princes, more or less available by treaty to the Company, the total swells to 700,000 men.

As exhibiting in detail the component elements of the Company’s Anglo-Indian army at a definite period, the following enumeration by Captain Rafter may be adopted, as applicable to the early part of 1855. Certain minor changes were made in the two years from that date to the commencement of the outbreak; but these will be noticed in later pages when necessary, and do not affect the general accuracy of the list. The three presidencies are kept separate, and the three kinds of troops – regiments of the royal army, the Company’s native regular regiments, and native irregular regiments – are also kept separate.

First we take the Bengal presidency in all its completeness, stretching almost entirely across Northern India from the Burmese frontier on the east, to the Afghan frontier on the west:


Queen’s Troops

• Two regiments of light cavalry.

• Fifteen regiments of infantry.
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