1857 Mutiny – Reviving British hopes
In India, European hearts desire for the recovery of the revolted city during 1857 Mutiny.
They hoped that Delhi would be retaken in a few days with the destruction of the mutineers, and bought the contagion of mutiny to a close.
Sir Henry Lawrence had suppressed a still more dangerous outbreak at Lucknow with a disaffected city in his rear.
The revolt at Delhi ought to be suppressed at once in a like manner.
General Anson at Shimla
General Anson, the commander-in-chief of the Bengal army, visited Shimla in the Himalayas, nearly 200 miles to the north of Delhi at the time of revolt.
He had good reputation but of no Indian experience.
He received a telegram from Lord Canning to make short work of Delhi.
Lord canning sent other telegrams to the same effect from Mr. John Lawrence, the chief commissioner of the Punjab.
General Anson began to assemble a force at Ambala.
He wanted to fortify Ambala, about sixty miles from Shimla on the road to Delhi.
John Lawrence, however, wanted to retaliated as soon as possible. He wanted to recover Delhi, not to entrench Ambala.
Meanwhile the sudden change from the cool hills to the hot plains brought on cholera amongst the Europeans.
Soon the vanguard of the European force left Ambala on the 19th of May, but eight days afterwards General Anson died of cholera.
Soon Sir Henry Barnard succeeded Anson as commander-in-chief. Later he pushed on the force to Alipur, within ten miles of Delhi.
On the 7th of June, European brigade from Meerut joined him, and prepared to advance against Delhi.
1857 Mutiny Rebel Position
By this time the Delhi rebels prepared for European attack.
They had taken up a strong position to the right of the great trunk road leading to the city, and had utilized its natural advantages with remarkable skill.
Rebel leaders posted one body of rebels in a vast caravanserai; a square shaped structure, with towers at the four corners.
Seven regiments of sepoy infantry, two of sepoy cavalry, and a strong battery of sepoy artillery defend caravanserai.
Volunteers of all kinds, with common hatred towards European and enthusiasm for Islam, and thirst for blood and plunder.
1857 Mutiny – Battle of the Serai
The British fought battle of Serai on the 9th of June. At sunrise Sir Henry Barnard advanced with two regiments of European infantry and two guns.
He could not silence the fire of the rebel battery, and European infantry captured battery with the bayonet.
Meanwhile the other regiment drove the rebels out of the village. The combined British forces stormed the caravanserai and gave no quarter.
At this juncture Brigadier Hope Grant appeared with three squadrons of cavalry and two guns, and utterly routed the rebel army and pursued it to the suburbs of Delhi.
Siege of Delhi: Perils of British
The British force reached the Ridge on the evening of the battle. It then numbered 4,000 troops, half Europeans and the other half Sikhs and Ghorkas.
British surprise attack might have taken the city at an earlier date, but the month’s delay had elated the sepoys, and given them time to look to their defences.
The British troops encamped behind the Ridge, and protected themselves from the fire of the rebels. Frocious rebel attack made them, the besieged rather than the besiegers.
For weeks, and indeed for months, the British force could only hope to hold their position until reinforcements could arrive from Lahore or Calcutta.
The rebel strongly fortified the city of Delhi with walls and bastions loaded with cannon. They dug deep ditch, filled from the river Jumna, which rendered it as impregnable.
British found it impossible to storm such fortifications without a strong army of British soldiers and an adequate siege train, all of which they anxiously expected from the Punjab.
Strength of the Rebels
The fresh bodies of mutineers constantly reinforced rebels inside the walls of Delhi.
They possessioned arms, ammunition, and other stores, from the British magazine.
They received of daily supplies of uninterrupted provisions from the neighboring villages.
A force of 4,000 british soldier could not besiege a city seven miles in circumference, or even to approach within cannon shot of the walls.
Punjab and John Lawrence
All hope of crushing the rebels at Delhi rested on the Punjab.
Soon John Lawrence sent Europeans and Sikhs, siege guns and supplies of all kinds, as fast as he received them.
Later in June the “Punjab Guides” reached the Ridge, one of the best regiments in the Indian army.
By 1857, the Sikhs had learnt to respect their European rulers, who maintained order and law.
They had no sympathy for the Muslims, nor for the king of Delhi.
On the contrary, they remembered Aurangzeb and his Mughal successors murdered their Gurus and saints, and want to inflict revenged on Delhi and the Mughal.
Siege of Delhi
Towards the end of June the hot season passed away. The rains began; military operations before Delhi became possible in the daytime.
Sir Henry Barnard died on the 5th of July, and General Archduke Wilson succeeded him.
On the 14th of July, General Chamberlain repulsed an attack on the British outposts.
Towards the middle of August, John Nicholson arrived from the Punjab with his flying column.
On the 4th of September a heavy siege train arrived from the Punjab, and placed fifty large guns in position.
Captured, September 1857
From the 8th to the 12th of September, four batteries poured a constant storm of shot and shell on the doomed city. On the 13th, they breaches the city wall.
At three o’clock on the following morning, British formed three assaulting columns in the trenches, whilst kept fourth in reserve.
They blew over Kashmere gate with gunpowder; one column pushed through the gateway, whilst the others escalated the breaches.
Soon the rebel poured ceaseless fire on advancing columns from houses, mosques, and other buildings. Later John Nicholson received a mortal wound from rebel gunfire.
Later, Rebel fought for followed six days in a desperate street fighting.
On the 20th of September the British flag waved in triumph over the old capital of Hindustan and the palace of the Great Mogul.
1857 Mutiny & Peace in the North-West
Immediately after the fall of Delhi, British sent a column down the grand trunk road, to relieve the fortress at Agra, and to open up communications between Delhi and Allahabad.
Within a few short months British restored peace and order to the North-West Provinces.