The ever memorable period in the history of our Eastern Empire known as the Great Indian Rebellion or Mutiny of the Bengal army was an epoch fraught with the most momentous consequences, and one which resulted in covering with undying fame those who bore part in its suppression. The passions aroused during the struggle, the fierce hate animating the breasts of the combatants, the deadly incidents of the strife, which without intermission lasted for nearly two years, and deluged with blood the plains and cities of Hindostan, have scarcely a parallel in history. On the one side religious fanaticism, when Hindoo and Mohammedan, restraining the bitter animosity of their rival creeds, united together in the attempt to drive out of their common country that race which for one hundred years had dominated and held the overlordship of the greater portion of India. On the other side, a small band of Englishmen, a few thousand white men among millions of Asiatics, stood shoulder to shoulder, calm, fearless, determined, ready to brave the onslaught of their enemies, to maintain with undiminished lustre the proud deeds of their ancestors, and to a man resolved to conquer or to die.
Who can recount the numberless acts of heroism, the hairbreadth escapes, the anxious days and nights passed by our gallant countrymen, who, few in number, and isolated from their comrades, stood at bay in different parts of the land surrounded by hundreds of pitiless miscreants, tigers in human shape thirsting for their blood? And can pen describe the nameless horrors of the time--gently nurtured ladies outraged and slain before the eyes of their husbands, children and helpless infants slaughtered--a very Golgotha of butchery, as all know who have read of the Well of Cawnpore?
The first months of the rebellion were a fight for dear life, a constant struggle to avert entire annihilation, for to all who were there it seemed as though no power on earth could save them. But Providence willed it otherwise, and after the full extent of the danger was realized, gloomy forebodings gave way to stern endeavours. Men arose, great in council and in the field, statesmen and warriors--Lawrence, Montgomery, Nicholson, Hodson, and many others. The crisis brought to the front numbers of daring spirits, full of energy and resource, of indomitable resolution and courage, men who from the beginning saw the magnitude of the task set before them, and with calm judgment faced the inevitable. These were they who saved our Indian Empire, and who, by the direction of their great organized armies, brought those who but a few years before had been our mortal enemies to fight cheerfully on our side, and, carrying to a successful termination the leaguer of Delhi, stemmed the tide of the rebellion, and broke the backbone of the Mutiny.
The interest excited amongst all classes of our countrymen by the events which happened during the momentous crisis of 1857 in India can scarcely be appreciated by the present generation. So many years have elapsed that all those who held high commands or directed the councils of the Government have long since died, and the young participants in the contest who survived its toils and dangers are all now past middle age. But the oft-told tale will still bear repetition, and the recital of the achievements of Englishmen during the great Indian rebellion will fill the hearts of their descendants for all time with pride, and incite them to emulate their actions. In the hour of danger the heart of the nation is stirred to its profoundest depths, the national honour is at stake, and that heritage bequeathed to us by our ancestors must at all hazards be preserved. Thus it happened in 1857, and the result is well known. So it may again occur, and with confidence it may be predicted that, as of yore, Britain's sons will not be found wanting in the hour of trial, that, keeping well in mind the glorious traditions of their race, they will maintain unsullied the reputation of their forefathers, and add to the renown of that Empire on which the sun never sets.
It is unnecessary, in this place, to enter into the causes which led to the mutiny of the Bengal army. These can be read and studied in the graphic pages of Kaye and Malleson. My intention is to give, as far as in me lies, a truthful account of the events in which I personally bore part, and which came under my own immediate observation.