On the 9th of May [1857], 85 troopers of the 3rd Native Light Cavalry at Meerut, which lies to the N. E. of Delhi, and is 38 miles distant from it, were brought up on the parade ground in the presence of the whole force there, to receive the sentence of a general court-martial. Their offence was disobedience, in refusing to fire with the cartridges supplied to them, which were in reality the same as those they had been using for several months [contrary to a rumour among the Sepoys that the British government was attempting to abolish the caste system by introducing cartridges soaked in animal fat]. They were sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, and were marched off in chains to the gaol.

All remained quiet until the following evening of Sunday, the 10th of May, when the native regiments rose in mutiny, fired upon their [British] officers, and broke open the gaol to release the prisoners. The building was set on fire, and upwards of a thousand convicts were liberated, who, with the rabble of the town, at once sided with the Sepoys, and committed frightful atrocities. Every European was attacked, and a great number of officers, together with ladies and children, were barbarously murdered . . . .

It was at Meerut that the tiger-like ferocity which has distinguished the acts of the Sepoy soldiery since the outbreak of the mutiny, was first displayed. In a letter written on the spot by a lady, she says: --

"Bungalows began to blaze round us nearer and nearer, till the frenzied mob reached that next our own! We saw a poor lady in the verandah, a MRS. CHAMBERS (lately arrived). We bade the servants bring her over the low wall to us, but they were too confused to attend to me at first. The stables of that house were first burnt. We heard the shrieks of the horses. Then came the mob to the house itself, with awful shouts and curses. We heard the doors broken in, and many, many shots, and at the moment my servant said they had been to bring away MRS. CHAMBERS, but had found her dead on the ground, cut horribly, and she on the eve of her confinement! Oh! night of horrors!" ["Introduction" to volume 33 (1857), page 2.]

Punch cartoon commentary on the 1857 Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Rebellion)

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Last modified 17 May 2004