1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Indian Mutiny, The
INDIAN MUTINY, THE, the great revolt of the Bengal native army in 1857, which led to the transference of Indian government from the East India company to the crown in 1858. The mediate cause of the Mutiny was the great disproportion between the numbers of British and native troops in India, which gave the sepoys an exaggerated notion of their power; its immediate causes were a series of circumstances which promoted active discontent with British rule.
During the century which elapsed between the victory of Plassey and the outbreak at Meerut, the East India company relied mainly on native troops with a stiffening of British soldiers - especially artillery - for the successful conduct of its wars. The warlike Hindu and Mahomedan races supplied excellent fighting material, when led by British officers, and the sepoy army took a distinguished part in every Indian battle from Assaye to Gujarat. At the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration (1856) British India was held by some 233,000 native and some 45,000 British troops - roughly a proportion of 5 to 1. It was already clear to some of the men who knew India best that this was a dangerous state of things, though when the Mutiny broke out the relative numbers were 257,000 native to 36,000 British soldiers. It had long been a fundamental principle of Indian government that the sepoy would always be true to his salt - knowing, as Macaulay wrote in 1840, that there was not another state in India which would not, in spite of the most solemn promises, leave him to die of hunger in a ditch as soon as he had ceased to be useful. But the history of the sepoy army might have shown that this was an over-estimate of its loyalty. As early as 1764 it was necessary to stamp out mutiny by blowing thirty sepoys away from guns. In 1806 the family of Tippoo Sultan produced a dangerous mutiny at Vellore, which was nipped in the bud by the prompt action of Gillespie and his dragoons. In 1824 the 47th Bengal infantry refused to march when it was ordered for service in Burma, and after being decimated by British artillery was struck out of the army list. In 1844, after the disasters of the Afghan war had shaken the prestige of British arms in India, no less than seven native regiments broke into open mutiny over grievances both real and fancied; and this time the old stern measures were not adopted to stamp out military disobedience. Lord Ellenborough often said that a general mutiny of the native army was the only real danger with which the British empire in India was threatened, and his warning was solemnly repeated by Sir Charles Napier. A still more explicit warning was uttered by General Jacob, who declared in 1853 that the normal state of the Bengal army was a state of mutiny, and wrote to The Times as follows: "There is more danger to our Indian empire from the state of the Bengal army, from the feeling which there exists between the native and the European, and thence spreads throughout the length and breadth of the land, than from all other causes combined. Let government look to this; it is a serious and most important truth." The causes which, in the middle of the 19th century, were thus tending to sap the long-tried fidelity of the sepoy army were partly military and partly racial. The professional conditions of the sepoy's career, especially in Bengal, were no longer so tempting as they had been in the first generations of the company's rule.
The pay and privileges of the sepoy were steadily being diminished, and the increased demands made on the army by the great extension of the company's territory were by no means grateful to the average Bengal sepoy. Owing`to the silladar system, under which the Indian sowar provided his own horse and provender in return for a monthly wage, the Indian cavalry were almost to a man in debt, and therefore favoured any attempt to upset the existing regime, and with it to wipe out the moneylender and his books; and the general enlistment order passed in July 1856, for the purposes of the war in Persia, made the Hindu sepoys afraid of losing caste by crossing the sea.
The Indian government failed to take sufficient account of the social and religious feelings of their native soldiers, whilst a rigid insistence on the principle of seniority had greatly diminished the efficiency of the British regimental officers. Out of 73 mutinous regiments, only four colonels were found worthy of other commands. At the same time, there were deeper reasons for discontent with British rule, which specially affected the classes from which the Bengal sepoys were drawn. Chief among these was Dalhousie's policy of annexation, which brought under British dominion such small states as Satara, Nagpur and Jhansi, and finally the kingdom of Oudh. The insistence on the right of lapse, i.e. the refusal to allow an adopted son to inherit a native throne, and the threat of annexation on purely humanitarian grounds seriously alarmed the native princes of India, besides creating a class of malcontents, among whom the Nana Sahib, the adopted heir of the peshwa, made himself most infamous. The annexation of Oudh, which was the chief recruiting ground of the Bengal army, probably caused wider disaffection in the ranks of that army than any other act or omission of the government. There can also be little doubt that the social reforms of Lord Dalhousie and his predecessors had disturbed men's minds in Bengal. Thus the Brahmans were offended at the prohibition of suttee and female infanticide, the execution of Brahmans for capital offences, the re-marriage of widows, the spread of missionary effort and the extension of Western education. The Mahommedan zemindars were injured by the reassessment of the land revenue, which was carried through in the interests of the ryots, and the power of the zemindars was formidable, while that of the ryots was negligible; though it must be remembered that the peasantry as a whole gave no assistance to the mutineers. To all these causes must be added - not least important in dealing with orientals - the widespread feeling since the Afghan disaster that the star of the company was in the descendant, and that there was truth in the old prophecy that the British would rule in India for a bare century from Plassey (1757). Bazaar rumours of British reverses in the Crimea and in Persia increased the temptations for a general rising against the dominant race.
To this accumulation of inflammatory materials a spark was put in 1857 by an act of almost incredible folly on the part of the military authorities in India. The introduction of the Minie rifle, with its greased cartridges, was accompanied by no consideration of the religious prejudices of the Bengal sepoys, to whom, whether Hindus or Mahommedans, the fat of cows and pigs was anathema. It was easy for agitators to persuade the sepoys that the new cartridges were greased with the fat of animals sacred to one creed or forbidden to another,, and that the British government was thus engaged in a deep-laid plot for forcing them to become Christians by first making them outcasts from their own religions. The growth of missionary enterprise in India lent colour to this theory, which was supported by the fact that no precautions had been taken to grease the Indian cartridges with a neutral fat, such as that of sheep and goats. The researches of Mr G. W. Forrest in the Indian government records have shown that the sepoys' fears of defilement by biting the new cartridges had a considerable foundation in fact. At a court-martial in 1857 Colonel Abbott, inspector general of ordnance, gave evidence that "the tallow might or might not have contained the fat of cows." No attempt, in fact, had been made to exclude the fat of cows and pigs, and apparently no one had realized that a gross outrage was thus being perpetrated on the religious feelings of both Hindu and Mahommedan sepoys. The lowcaste natives employed in the arsenals knew what grease was actually being employed, and taunted the Brahman sepoys with the loss of caste that would follow their use of the new cartridges. Refusals to accept the suspected cartridges were soon heard in the Bengal army. The numerous agitators who had their own reasons for fomenting mutiny rose to the occasion, and in the first months of 1857 the greater part of the Bengal presidency was seething with sedition. At this time took place the mysterious distribution of chapatis, small cakes of unleavened bread, which had previously been known in connexion with the mutiny at Vellore (1806). "From village to village, from district to district, through hill-land and lowland, the signal - unexplained at the time, inexplicable still - sped; and in village after village, in district after district, the spreading of the signal was followed by the increased excitement of the people." The first signs of the approaching trouble were displayed at the great military station of Barrackpur, 16 m. from Calcutta, in January 1857. The minds of the native regiments quartered there were maddened by rumours of the defilement which the new Minie cartridges would entail upon them, and incendiary fires broke out in the lines. The trouble was allayed by the tact of General Hearsey, who reported the incident to the Indian government on the 24th of January. A fortnight later he wrote, as the result of his inquiries, "We have at Barrackpur been dwelling upon a mine ready for explosion." At Berhampur,. zoo m. to the north, on the 27th of February, the 19th Bengal infantry refused on parade to take their percussion caps, on the ground that to bite the new cartridges would defile them. The absence of any European troops made it impossible to deal with. this act of mutiny on the spot. The defaulting regiment was, marched down to Barrackpur for punishment. On the 29th of March, two days before its arrival, a sepoy named Manghal Pandi, from whom the mutineers afterwards came to be spoken of as "Pandies," drunk with bhang and enthusiasm, attempted to provoke a mutiny in the 34th Bengal infantry, and shot the adjutant, but Hearsey's personal courage suppressed the danger. Two days later the 19th were publicly disbanded, but no further punishment was attempted. This was partly due to Lord Canning's personal inclination to temper justice with mercy, but partly also to the fact that there was no adequate European force at hand to execute a severer sentence. Bengal had been recklessly depleted of white troops, and there was only one European regiment between Calcutta and Dinapur, a distance of 400 miles. Canning sent at once for more British troops from Burma. Meantime new accounts of refusals to use even the old cartridges came from distant parts of Hindostan, from Umballa under the very eyes of Anson, the commander-in-chief, and from Lucknow, the capital of the newly annexed kingdom of Oudh. Lord Canning, the governor-general, who had at first hoped that he had only to deal with isolated cases of disaffection, at last recognized that the plague was epidemic, and that only stern measures could stay it. But before he could take the necessary steps, there reached Calcutta the news of the outbreak at Meerut and the capture of Delhi.
Meerut, 25 miles from Delhi, was an important military station under the command of Colonel Archdale Wilson: the district was commanded by General Hewitt, one of the old and inefficient officers whom the rigid system of seniority had placed in so many high commands. At Meerut were quartered, besides one regiment of native cavalry and two of native infantry, a strong force of British troops, horse, foot and guns. Nevertheless, 85 men of the native cavalry regiment, driven to despair by the persistent rumours of the danger to their caste, refused on the 24th of April to accept their cartridges. For this offence they were condemned to ten years' imprisonment with hard labour on the roads, and on the 9th of May they were publicly stripped of their uniforms and marched off to gaol. The next day was a Sunday; and in the evening, whilst the British troops were parading for church, the native cavalry armed themselves, galloped to the gaol and released their comrades. Almost simultaneously the two infantry regiments shot down their officers and broke into open revolt. The badmashes, or criminal class, broke forth from their quarter and began to burn and plunder the dwellings of the British. A few of the mutineers took part in this work; but the great majority of them, fearing the vengeance of the British troops, hastened to move off, rather a mob than an army, upon the Delhi road. There is a general agreement that if a man like Gillespie or Nicholson had been in command of the station, the strong force at his disposal would have enabled him to strike such a deadly blow at the fleeing mutineers as might have stamped out the Mutiny. But Hewitt was too old and Wilson was lacking in initiative; the opportunity was lost and no attempt was made to do more than clear the cantonments.
So many of the chief actors in the Mutiny on the native side carried their secrets into dishonoured graves that it is impossible to know exactly what schemes the household of the king of Delhi had concerted with the disaffected sepoys.
But when the mutineers reached Delhi they were at once joined by the city mob and the king's guards in proclaiming a revival of the Mogul empire. For a few hours the native troops of the British garrison awaited the turn of events; but when it became apparent that the British troops from Meerut were afraid to move, there was a general flame of revolt, and Delhi at once became the headquarters of the Mutiny. Most of the British officers and residents were massacred then or afterwards. The great magazine was gallantly defended for a time by nine Britons under Lieutenant Willoughby, and was blown up by them when all hope of relief had vanished. A young telegraph clerk sent the news to Umballa, continuing to signal until he was cut down at his post. Before the authorities in Calcutta and Lahore could take any steps to deal with the long-prophesied danger, the whole of the North-West Provinces were in revolt. Fortunately the two men on whom the chief responsibility fell in this great crisis were equal to their task. Canning in Calcutta, John Lawrence in the Punjab, were men indeed equal to any burden; and the stress of the Mutiny, ending once and for ever the bad old system of seniority, brought to the front so many subordinates of dauntless gallantry and soldierly insight that a ring of steel was rapidly drawn round the vast territory affected. Lawrence saw that the surest way to prevent the Mutiny from spreading from the sepoy army of Bengal to the recently conquered fighting races of the Punjab was to hurl the Sikh at the Hindu; instead of taking measures for the defence of the Punjab, he acted on the old principle that the best defence is attack, and promptly organized a force for the reduction of Delhi, with the ardent co-operation of born leaders like John Nicholson, Neville Chamberlain and Herbert Edwardes. Anson, the commander-in-chief, died of cholera before he had had a chance to act on Lawrence's telegram, "Clubs, not spades, are trumps." He was succeeded by Sir Henry Barnard in command of the Delhi field force, then amounting to about 3000 British troops with 22 field guns, in addition to a few Gurkhas and Punjab native troops. The loyalty of the independent Sikh chiefs, headed by Patiala, and the stern measures which had been taken with the sepoy regiments enabled Lawrence to reinforce this little army with every available man and gun from the Punjab, in addition to Sikh and Pathan levies. It was to the insight of Lawrence and the splendid organization of the Punjab province - the spoilt child -of the Indian government, as it had been called in allusion to the custom of sending thither the best of the Indian officials and soldiers - that the reduction of Delhi and the limitation of the outbreak were due. Meantime Canning was manfully playing his part at Calcutta. In the hour of danger he was undismayed, as in the hour of victory he was just and merciful. He telegraphed for reliefs from every available quarter, fortunately being able to divert the troops then on their way to China. The native armies of Bombay and Madras remained loyal, and the former in particular - thanks to Lord Elphinstone - furnished valuable reinforcements. Sir Colin Campbell, a veteran soldier whose laurels had been won in many battles from the Peninsula to the Crimea, was despatched from England to take command =of the army in India. But even before he could arrive, the outspread of the Mutiny had already been checked by the gallantry and skill of a mere handful of Britons and their faithful native allies.
Canning and Lawrence, at opposite ends of the disaffected districts, alike perceived that Delhi was the centre of peril, and that all other considerations must be subordinated to striking a decisive blow at that historic city. Both flung to the winds the European rules of warfare, which highly trained officers like Wilson had allowed to hamper their movements. "Make as short work as possible of the rebels," wrote Canning. "Where have we failed when we acted vigorously?" asked Lawrence. Though the nominal commanders of the army which captured Delhi were in turn Barnard, Reed and Wilson, the policy thus stated by Canning and Lawrence was really carried out by their subordinates - Baird Smith, Nicholson and Chamberlain. The Meerut troops, at last roused from their inaction, joined Barnard on the 7th of June, after a successful affair with the mutineers, and the next day the action of Badli-ki-Serai enabled the British force to occupy the famous Ridge, which they never abandoned till the final assault. At first the British troops, outnumbered by more than three to one by the mutinous regiments alone, were rather besieged than besiegers. Baird Smith indeed urged an immediate assault upon Delhi, on the ground that audacity is the best policy in Indian warfare; but it was not until the arrival of Nicholson on the 7th of August with the last Punjab reinforcements that the force was strong enough, in the opinion of its commander, to take offensive action. On the 14th of September, after three days of artillery preparation, the assault was delivered, under Nicholson's leadership. Two practicable breaches had been made by the siege guns, and a party of engineers under Home and Salkeld blew in the Kashmir gate. The assault was successful, in so far as a firm lodgment was made in the city, though the loss of Nicholson was a heavy price to pay for this success. Wilson actually thought of retreating; but Baird Smith and Chamberlain insisted on perseverance, and the city was captured after six days' hard fighting. The mutineers were completely cowed; the king of Delhi was taken and reserved for trial; and his sons were shot by Catain Hodson, after unconditional surrender, an act which has since been the theme of much reprobation, but which commended itself at the time to Hodson's comrades as wise and justifiable. The siege of Delhi, which was the turning-point of the Mutiny, had lasted for more than three months, during which thirty minor actions had been fought in the almost intolerable heat of the Indian midsummer.
The stern determination of the British troops, which alone made possible the reduction of Delhi with so inadequate a force, was intensified, if possible, by the ghastly story of Cawnpore. That important military station, lying on the Ganges in the confines of Oudh, was under the command of Sir Hugh Wheeler, an old but still efficient and experienced officer. It was garrisoned by about 3000 native troops, with a mere handful of white soldiers. When the news of the Meerut outbreak reached Wheeler, who had already noted many symptoms of disaffection in his own station, he was placed in a very difficult position. Under his care was a large body of non-combatants - women and children in great numbers among them. To occupy the one defensible position in the station, the magazine by the river with its vast military stores and its substantial masonry walls, would have involved steps which Wheeler regarded as certain to precipitate an outbreak. It was then thought that, if the sepoys mutinied, they would march off to Delhi, and Wheeler contented himself by throwing up a rude entrenchment round the hospital barracks, where he thought that the Europeans would be safe during the first tumult of a rising. All might have fallen out as he anticipated, had it not been that the Nana Sahib, the adopted heir of the late peshwa, was rajah of Bithur in the neighbourhood. This young Mahratta, since known to universal execration as the arch-villain of the Mutiny, was secretly burning with a sense of injury received from the Indian government. He was also ambitious; and when, on the 4th of June, the Cawnpore garrison broke into open mutiny, he prevailed on them to stay and help him to carve a new kingdom out of the company's territory, instead of throwing in their lot with the Delhi empire. From the 6th to the 27th of June the handful of British soldiers, who composed the garrison of a fortification that could not have resisted a serious assault for a single hour, held out with the greatest gallantry in hope of relief. When this hope had died away, they surrendered to the Nana on his solemn promise that all their lives should be spared and that they should have a safe conduct to Allahabad. The Nana, partly urged by his native cruelty, partly, no doubt, by the wish to commit his followers beyond all possibility of composition, massacred the entire garrison in the boats which should have taken it down the river, reserving only some two hundred women and children for a later death. These poor victims were confined in a house known as the Bibigarh. On the 15th of July, when Havelock's avenging army was within a march of Cawnpore, they were all hacked to death and their bodies - some still faintly breathing - were thrown down the adjacent well which is to-day one of the most famous monuments of British rule in India. No single act of the Mutiny elicited such a storm of fierce anger among the British, both those who were fighting in India and those who supported them at home; for none was a more terrible vengeance taken, though the Nana himself escaped from his pursuers.
Meanwhile Lucknow, the capital of Oudh, was the scene of an historic defence. It was the headquarters of Sir Henry Lawrence, one of the most far-seeing of Indian statesmen, who was well aware of the mutinous state of the native army. On the 18th of April he warned Lord Canning of some manifestations of discontent, and asked permission to transfer certain mutinous corps to another province. On the 1st of May the 7th Oudh infantry refused to bite the cartridge, but on the 3rd they were disarmed by other regiments. When the news of the outbreak at Meerut reached Lucknow, Sir Henry Lawrence recognized the gravity of the crisis and summoned from their homes two bodies of pensioners, one of sepoys and one of artillerymen, to whose loyalty, and to that of the Sikh sepoys, the successful defence of the residency was largely due. This position was immediately fortified. On the 30th of May the native troops broke into mutiny. On the 4th of June there was a mutiny at Sitapur, a large and important station 51 miles from Lucknow. This was followed by another at Fyzabad, one of the most important cities in the province, and outbreaks at Daryabad, Sultanpur and Salon. Thus in the course of ten days English authority in Oudh practically vanished. On the 30th of June Sir Henry Lawrence ordered a reconnaissance in force from Lucknow, which met the enemy at Chinhat; but the native sepoys and artillerymen turned traitors, and Sir Henry was forced to retreat to the residency, where the siege now began. The first attack was repulsed on the 1st of July, when the separate position of the Machchhi Bhawan was evacuated, and all the troops concentrated in the residency. The entrenchments surrounding this building covered some 60 acres of ground, and included a number of detached houses and buildings, knit together by ditches and stockades. In a military sense the position was indefensible. The garrison consisted of 1720 fighting men, of whom 712 were native troops, 153 civilian volunteers, and the remainder were British officers and men. This small force had to defend 1280 non-combatants. At the very beginning of the siege Sir Henry Lawrence was fatally wounded by a shell, and died on the 4th of July, thus depriving the defence of its guiding spirit. The command then developed upon General Inglis, who met the incessant attacks of the enemy with countersorties. On the 21st of July news was received that General Havelock was advancing, had defeated the Nana, and was master of Cawnpore; but it was still more than two months before even the first relief of Lucknow was achieved. During those two months every device was employed, by direct assault and by mining operations, to reduce the garrison, who held out nobly, meeting assault with sortie and mine with countermine. But the loyalty of the native troops began to waver as the weeks dragged by and no sign of relief appeared. On the 23rd of September, however, the sound of distant guns in the direction of Cawnpore was heard, and on the 25th General Havelock's relieving force entered Lucknow. During the 87 days of the siege the strength of the garrison had diminished to 982, and many of these were sick and wounded. Against these were arrayed six thousand trained soldiers and a vast host of undisciplined rabble. For nearly three months their heavy guns and musketry had poured an unceasing fire into the residency entrenchment from a distance of only 50 yards. During the whole time the British flag flew defiantly on the roof of the residency. The history of the world's sieges contains no more brilliant episode.
On the 5th of June the troops at Benares mutinied, but were disarmed by Neill; and on the 6th of June the 6th native infantry at Allahabad mutinied and shot down their officers, but the fort was held until the arrival of Neill, who promptly restored order. On the 30th of June Sir Henry Havelock, who had been appointed to the command of the relieving column, arrived at Allahabad from Calcutta and on the 7th of July he set out for the relief of Lucknow. His force consisted of some two thousand men all told, of whom three-quarters were British. On the 12th of July he fought the action of Fatehpur, and gained his first victory, though the irregular cavalry misbehaved and were subsequently disarmed. On the 15th the village of Aong was captured, and on the 16th the Nana's force was utterly shattered in the battle of Cawnpore. In nine days Havelock had marched 126 miles and fought three general actions under a broiling sun in the hottest season of the year; but the women and children whom it had been his object to save had already been massacred. Leaving Neill in command at Cawnpore, Havelock started out again on the 29th of July with ten light guns and 1500 men in the desperate attempt to relieve Lucknow, which was 53 miles away. On the 29th he gained two victories at Unao and Busherutgunge, but considering himself too weak to advance, he fell back two marches upon Mangalwar. This decision was badly received by his troops, who were burning to avenge their countrywomen, and by General Neill, whom Havelock was obliged to reprimand for insubordination. Being slightly reinforced, he advanced on the 5th of August and again turned the enemy out of Busherutgunge, but was again obliged by cholera to retreat to Mangalwar; and on receipt of news from Neill that the enemy were assembling at Bithur, he returned to Cawnpore and abandoned for the time the attempt to relieve Lucknow. On the 16th of August he defeated the mutineers at Bithur. At this point General Havelock was joined by Sir James Outram, who would have superseded him in the command had not Outram himself, with unequalled generosity, proposed to accompany Havelock only in his civil capacity as chief commissioner of Oudh and to serve under him as a volunteer. On the 21st of September Havelock started on his second attempt to relieve Lucknow and won the victory of Mangalwar. On the 23rd another victory was gained at Alam Bagh, and news reached the force of the fall of Delhi. From Alam Bagh there were four possible routes of advance to the residency and Outram considered that the route chosen by Havelock, lying through the streets of Lucknow, involved unnecessary losses to the troops. Neill was killed in the streets and the little force lost in all 535 officers and men; but on the 26th of September it entered the residency, and the first relief of Lucknow was accomplished.
But the two thousand men who had thus entered the residency entrenchment under Havelock and Outram, though sufficient to reinforce the garrison and save it from destruction, were not strong enough to cut their way back to safety, hampered with the women and children and wounded, amounting to 1500 souls, and the siege now recommenced upon a larger scale. Havelock's task, however, was accomplished, and Outram now took command of the residency. A detachment had been left in the Alam Bagh, which was short of provisions; some attempts were made to open up communication with it, but without success. Subsequently it was reinforced from Cawnpore. Upon the fall of Delhi the troops before that city were freed for the operations in Oudh, and on the 24th of September a column of 2790 men under Colonel Greathed left Delhi. On the 29th a successful action was fought at Bulandshahr, and on the 10th of October the column reached Agra. Here they were surprised by the enemy, but drove them off with considerable loss. On the 14th of October the column left Agra under Colonel Hope Grant and on the 26th reached Cawnpore, where news was received that the commander-inchief was coming to take command of the operations. Sir Colin Campbell had been sent out from England to suppress the Mutiny and had assumed command of the Indian army on the 17th of August, but could not immediately proceed to the front. It was his first task to reorganize the administrative and transport departments; only on the 27th of October did he leave Calcutta. On the 3rd of November he reached Cawnpore and on the 12th marched upon Lucknow under the guidance of Thomas Henry Kavanagh, who had made his way from the residency disguised as a native for that purpose. Campbell had with him 4500 men with whom to raise a siege maintained by 60,000 trained soldiers occupying strong positions. On the 12th of November the force reached the Alam Bagh and on the 14th advanced upon Lucknow, proceeding on this occasion across the open plain by the Dilkusha and Martiniere instead of through the narrow and tortuous streets of Lucknow. On the 16th the Sikandra Bagh was stormed; on the following day Campbell joined hands with Outram and Havelock and the relief of Lucknow was finally accomplished.
Sir Colin Campbell now decided to withdraw the garrison and women and children from the residency, and to hold Lucknow by a strong division operating outside the city. The residency was evacuated on the night of the 22nd of November; but the success of the operations was marred by the death of Havelock. On his return to Cawnpore Campbell found that General Windham was being attacked at that place by the Gwalior contingent. On the 6th of December he defeated the Gwalior contingent in the battle of Cawnpore, though he had only 5000 men against the enemy's 25,000. His next task was to clear his line of communications with Delhi and the Punjab, and this he accordingly undertook. Lord Canning now decided that the next step should be the reduction of Lucknow, on the ground that it, like Delhi, was a rallying point of the Mutiny and that its continuance in the hands of the enemy would mean a loss of prestige. General Franks' column advanced to Lucknow from the eastern frontier of Oudh, defeating the enemy in four actions. Meanwhile Outram had held his own at the Alam Bagh for over three months with only 4000 men against 120,000 rebels. An offer of help from Nepal had been accepted in July, and now Jung Bahadur, the prime minister of Nepal, was advancing with 10,000 Gurkhas to aid in the operations againt Lucknow; but the lateness of his arrival delayed the opening of the siege until the 2nd of March 1858. The Martiniere was captured on the 9th of March and the Begum Kothi on the 11th. On the 14th the Imambara was stormed, and the Kaisar Bagh, and on the 16th the residency was once more in British possession. The enemy were thoroughly routed, but Campbell lost the opportunity of pushing the victory home by forbidding Outram to cross the bridge in pursuit if he thought he would lose a "single man," and by sending the cavalry away from the environs of the city at the critical moment. Upon the fall of Lucknow Lord Canning's Oudh proclamation was issued, confiscating almost the entire lands of the province, and ensuring only their lives to those rebels who should submit at once. Outram considered the terms of this proclamation dangerously severe, and Lord Ellenborough, president of the board of control, thus criticized it in a hasty despatch, the publication of which necessitated his own resignation. It was afterwards acknowledged that the Oudh proclamation, interpreted as Canning meant it should be, was a wise piece of statesmanship. After the fall of Lucknow Canning insisted that Sir Colin Campbell should take immediate action against the rebels in Oudh and Rohilkhand, and a number of petty and harassing operations were carried out by detached columns; but Campbell moved too slowly to bring his guerrilla opponents to book, and the rebellion was really brought to a conclusion by Sir Hugh Rose's brilliant campaign in Central India.
Though the two great princes of Central India, Sindhia and Holkar, wisely and fortunately remained true to the British, troops belonging to both of them joined the mutineers. The Gwalior contingent of Sindhia's army mutinied in the middle of June and on the 1st of July Holkar's troops revolted at Indore, and the resident, Henry Durand, was forced to leave the residency. The rani of Jhansi also rose in rebellion, to become known as "the best man upon the side of the enemy." The rising in this quarter received little attention until January 1858, when Sir Hugh Rose was given the command of two brigades, to act in concert with Sir Colin Campbell and he immediately began a campaign which for celerity and effectiveness has rarely been equalled in India. His principle was to go straight for the enemy wherever he found him and pursue him until he had exterminated him. He was hampered by none of that exaggerated respect for the rebels which earned Sir Colin Campbell the nickname of Old Khabardhar (Old Take-Care); but carried to an extreme the policy of audacity. Advancing from Bombay Sir Hugh Rose relieved Saugor on the 3rd of February, after it had been invested by the rebels for upwards of seven months. On the 3rd of March he forced the pass of Madanpur and took the whole of the enemy's defences in rear, throwing them into panic. On the 21st he began the siege of Jhansi, the stronghold of the mutineers in Central India, with a garrison of 11,000 men. During the course of the siege Tantia Topi, the most capable native leader of the Mutiny, arrived with a fresh force of 20,000 men, and threatened the British camp; but Sir Hugh Rose, with a boldness which only success could justify, divided his force, and while still maintaining the siege of the fort, attacked Tantia Topi with only 1500 men and completely routed him. This victory was won on the ist of April and two days later Sir Hugh carried Jhansi by assault. On the 1st of May the battle of Kunch was fought and won in a temperature of 110° in the shade, many of the combatants on both sides being struck down by heat apoplexy. On the 22nd of May the battle of Kalpi was won, though the European troops were hampered by defective ammunition and Sir Hugh himself here received his fifth sunstroke. In five months he had beaten the enemy in thirteen general actions and sieges, and had captured some of the strongest forts in India. News now arrived that the rebel army under Tantia Topi and the rani of Jhansi had attacked Sindhia, whose troops had gone over to the rebels and delivered Gwalior into their hands. Sir Hugh marched against Gwalior at once, captured the Morar cantonments on the 16th of June and carried the whole of the Gwalior positions by assault on the 19th, thus restoring his state to Sindhia within ten days of taking the field. This was the crowning stroke of the Central India campaign and practically put an end to the Mutiny, though the work of stamping out its embers went on for many months and was only completed with the capture and execution of Tantia Topi in April 1859.
The Indian Mutiny was in no sense a national rising. The great mass of the people in the affected districts either stood neutral, waiting with the immemorial patience of the East to accept the yoke of the conqueror, or helped the British troops with food and service, in many cases also sheltering British fugitives to the best of their ability. The attempt to throw off the British yoke was confined to a few disaffected ex-rulers and their heirs, with their numerous clansmen and hangers-on, besides the badmashes and highwaymen who saw their way to profit by the removal of the British administration under which their peculiar talents found no safe outlet. The Bengal native army was their tool, which circumstances put into their hands at the psychological moment when British power seemed to be at its lowest point. But the fighting races of the Punjab saw no reason for casting in their lot with the mutineers; and the great majority of the independent princes who had nothing of which to complain, like Patiala in the Punjab and Holkar and Sindhia in central India, preserved a loyal or at least an interested friendship. The Sikhs showed their appreciation of Lawrence's admirable administration by keeping faith with their recent conquerors and the Gurkhas of Nepal did yeoman service for their fathers' enemies. The lack of any central principle or common interest was shown in the divided counsels and sporadic action of the mutineers and their allies, which made them an easy prey to the solid and audacious British forces.
The chief result of the Indian Mutiny was to end the government of India by the East India company. It was felt that a system of administration which could permit such a catastrophe was no longer desirable. On the 2nd of August 1858 the queen signed the act which transferred the government of India to the crown. On the 1st of November Lord Canning, now viceroy of India, published the noble proclamation in which the change was announced and a full amnesty was offered to all the rebels who had not been leaders in the revolt or were not guilty of the murder of British subjects. Even before the fall of Delhi, Canning had been adversely criticized - "Clemency Canning" he was scornfully called - for announcing his intention to discriminate between the guilt of various classes of mutineers. But a wiser view soon prevailed, and the natives of India at large gratefully accepted the queen's proclamation as the charter of their lives and liberties.