The Indian Mutiny, Part I

On May 10th, 1857, while the bells of Meerut rang for divine service, the Sepoys of the Bengal Army rose in revolt against the rule of the British East India Company. That mutiny, Jon Manchip White writes, affords brilliant glimpses of a wilful generation.

“I got no cross,” grumbled Private Henry Metcalf of the 32nd Foot, after he had performed a deed of great gallantry during the siege of Lucknow; but he consoled himself with the reflection that “Crosses are getting as common as dirt nowadays.”

It is a remarkable fact that the Victoria Cross was awarded to no fewer than a hundred and eighty participants in the Indian Mutiny, whereas it was only granted to a hundred and ten soldiers who fought in the Crimea, a very much more extensive campaign. The fact is a token of the brief and pitiless intensity of the Mutiny, which ranks as one of the bitterest and most violent episodes in British imperial history.

In later articles we shall be discussing the sieges of Lucknow and Delhi in some detail; but in this introductory essay we shall mainly be concerned with examining the principal causes and effects of the conflagration, which burned fiercely from the date of the first major outbreak at Meerut, in May 1857, to the betrayal and execution of the Mahratta general Tantia Topi in April 1859.

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