Two enthralling Lucknow diaries in one special edition
The siege and relief of the Residency at Lucknow is one of the principal conflicts of the Great Mutiny and became an abiding symbol of the spirit, resolution and fortitude of the men and women—military and civilian—that made the British Empire the globally dominating power it was in the Victorian age. It held a well deserved reputation for it was a scene of fierce fighting as the besieged sought to keep out attacking rebellious sepoy forces and their allies and the relieving force had to battle its way into the garrison on two occasions. These views of Lucknow are somewhat different. Leonaur has joined together two diaries, each by a female member of the besieged garrison, which chronicle—on a day by day basis—the experiences of those within the Residency's battered walls. This great value book enables the reader to compare two different perspectives on the same events. This is especially interesting because the two women came from different backgrounds and occupied different social spheres and so inevitably saw different aspects of the activities of the garrison, brought their focus onto different elements of it and evaluated their experiences in different ways. The first diary came from the pen of a civilian lady, the wife of a Churchman, and provides much valuable insight into the suffering of the families in Lucknow. The second diary is by a soldier’s wife. Colonel Case of the 32nd was killed early in the siege, but military matters remained very much his widows concern among her other more domestic responsibilities. An excellent two-for-the-price-of-one view of a momentous event.
Whit Sunday, Lucknow, May 31.<br>
I hardly know how to begin to tell you of the horrors of the past night, knowing how anxious and unhappy it will make you, but it is kinder, I think, to conceal nothing. The insurrection, so long dreaded, has taken place. Last night, at nine o’clock, the three sepoy regiments stationed in the cantonment, the 71st (C.’s), 48th (Dashwood’s), and the 13th, flew to their arms, and attempted to take the big guns, in which, however, they did not succeed.
Poor Brigadier Hanscombe was killed, and Mr. Grant of the 71st, son of Sir Patrick, quite a young man, who was on station duty at the centre picket, was murdered—two bullets sent through him, and his head cut off, by his own men; and Mr. Raleigh of the 7th Cavalry, a poor boy who only joined two or three days ago—just out from England—was cut to pieces. These are all the deaths, but several officers are wounded: poor Mr. Langmore, a great friend of Charlie’s, is dangerously wounded; they say he will die.<br>
The whole of the cantonment has been burnt to the ground; some few houses have escaped burning, but everyone ransacked and pillaged. The B.s have lost every single thing they possessed in the world, and our three large boxes containing all our worldly goods, with the exception of my mourning, and a dozen of linen we had with us, are all gone too; also 350 rupees, deposited by C.’s advice in the regimental treasury for safety; however, we cannot think of our pecuniary loss—ours is less than so many others<br>.
Poor C. is quite ruined, for they had furnished their house so nicely, and had so many beautiful things they brought out with them: but we can think of nothing but his merciful preservation. You know he’s been Acting Brigade Major for some time, and his duty therefore was close attendance on the poor Brigadier. Volley after volley was fired at him, and he was close to the Brigadier when he fell, but, by God’s great mercy, escaped without hurt.<br>
If Sir H. Lawrence had not sent all the women and children out of cantonments, we should inevitably, every one of us, have shared the fate of our countrywomen at Delhi and Meerut; and it would have been scarcely possible for any of the married officers to escape, hampered as they would have been with the care of their families; as it was, a poor sergeant’s wife, and her two children, who happened to be in cantonments, were cut up on the road.<br>
Oh, mother! mother! how dreadful it is! We have just heard there is a rising in the city. God help us! Last night we were at dinner when the servants came running in to say there was firing heard in the cantonments: we heard it distinctly, and from the top of the Residency the whole place was seen in a blaze. We were all told to be ready to take flight if necessary to the Muchee Bhowan, a strong place which has been fortified, and in which we are to take refuge as our last resource, and try to hold out till European relief can arrive; but, oh, when can that be?<b>
There is scarcely an available regiment in the country. The Governor-General has sent to stop the troops, on their way to China, at Ceylon, and bring them to India. There certainly is a disturbance in the city; they have proclaimed the King’s brother King. We sat up in our clothes all last night; E. in a dreadful state of anxiety about C.; messengers kept arriving from cantonments with reports of what was occurring; firing has been going on all the morning.<br>
The insurgents have all decamped and spread themselves over the country; the troops have been pursuing them, but, having no cavalry, it was useless; only a few stragglers were caught. A poor half-caste has just been brought into the Residency, cut to pieces; he went down to his house in the city, and was murdered. Two companies of the 84th have arrived at Cawnpore, and they sent back the company of the 32nd which was sent over there last week. Cawnpore is almost sure to rise now. (Residency.)—I was interrupted in this by the alarm of the rising in the city, and we had all to leave Dr. F.’s house, and take refuge in the main building of the Residency.<br>
Here we all are—God only knows how it will end! Do not grieve very much, mother; we are in His hands, and He can take care of us, and preserve our lives if He will. I do try and pray to feel resigned whatever may happen. I know not if this will ever reach you, very likely not. There is such noise and confusion, and my hand trembles so I can hardly hold the pen. A gentleman is going to send all our letters to the post at once, so I can add no more. . . .