Our danger was greatly increased by the vast disproportion between the native and European force -- a disproportion so great, that apart from the danger of our neighbourhood to a great city, from which we might expect a host to pour out to attack us, it looked as if we were doomed to destruction. We had in Benares a Native Infantry regiment, which was believed to be tainted; a Sikh regiment, the temper of which was little known; and, a few miles off, an Irregular Cavalry regiment, composed, it was said, of a superior class of men, all, I believe, Muhammadans, but whom few could trust in the event of a rising. Our European force consisted of thirty artillery-men in charge of a battery of three guns. At the fort of Chunar, sixteen miles distant, there was a number of European soldier pensioners, of whom perhaps sixty or seventy might be effective. So unbounded had been the confidence in the Sepoys, that the artillery-men in Benares and the pensioners in Chunar were the only European force in the entire province of Benares under the Benares Commissioner, with a population of over ten millions; while in seven stations in the province there were native soldiers, chiefly infantry, but partly cavalry and artillery. Besides the English officers of the native regiments, and some half-dozen English civil officials, the only English people were missionaries of the Church, Baptist, and London Societies, and a few traders, while a few indigo planters were scattered in the country.
[Sidenote: PREPARATION FOR THE STORM.]
On the news of the Meerut mutiny reaching Benares, the civil and military authorities lost no time in consulting what should be done. The proposal that we should leave in a body for the Fort of Chunar was most wisely rejected. It was impossible to disarm the distrusted Native Infantry regiment in the absence of a European force. There was a large building in cantonments, which had been erected for a mint for the North-Western Provinces, and had been used for this purpose till the provincial mints were removed to Calcutta. It always afterwards bore the name of "The Mint." This building is in a wide enclosure, surrounded by a high wall, and it was hinted all round that in the event of a rising we should, if possible, make our way to this place. The Irregular Cavalry regiment was called in to patrol the roads leading to the station and city, and report the presence of suspicious persons. The resolution was formed to maintain a bold front, and pursue our usual course, as if we knew that succour was at hand. On every side the hope was expressed that none would give way to panic. The men at the head of affairs had the general confidence of the community.
Most happily for us and for many others there was a lull in the storm after the mutiny at Meerut and the possession of Delhi by the mutineers. There was alarm everywhere, here and there there was commotion, but there were no extensive and concerted risings. If there had been we could not have been saved. Our soldiers were returning from Persia, regiments proceeding to China were stopped on the way and brought to India, and an available force was thus placed at the disposal of the authorities. English soldiers were hastened up from Calcutta. From day to day we with joy saw them pass our gate in carriages on their way to cantonments. Great though our danger was they were not detained. A small number was kept for our defence, and the rest were sent on to relieve our sorely-pressed people farther north. Some began to hope the dark cloud over us was about to be dispersed, while others looked on our position with dismay approaching despair. As our house was in a very exposed position, a friend had at an early period invited us to take up our abode with him; but we resolved to remain for the present in our own home.
THE FOURTH OF JUNE, 1857, AT BENARES.
At length the storm burst over us. By attempts at incendiary fires and in other ways the Native Infantry regiment had shown a mutinous spirit. The necessity for disarming it was obvious to all except its own officers, but the difficulty of the measure was great. On June 4th Colonel Neil, one of those men whose high qualities were elicited by the terrible struggle on which we had entered, arrived at Benares. On the previous day a native regiment had mutinied at Azimghur, sixty miles distant. A council was held, and as there were one hundred and twenty English soldiers it was resolved to disarm the Native Infantry regiment next morning. The question was asked, "Why not now? We may be all killed before morning." Immediate disarmament was determined on. Well was it for us this was the decision, as it was afterwards found that very night had been fixed for the rising of the regiment, and the massacre of us all. The whole military force of the place was called out, the English soldiers being placed near the guns, and the Sepoys were ordered to pile their arms. The order instead of being obeyed was met by our officers and men being fired on, and the fight commenced.
[Sidenote: THE RISING AT BENARES.]
We had just finished dinner when our night watchman rushed into the room with the startling words, Pultun bigar guya, and lin men ag luga! -- "The regiment has mutinied, and the cantonments are on fire." Scarcely had he uttered the words, when we heard the sharp rattle of the musketry and the crash of the guns. Our little conveyance was made quickly ready, and, with all others in that part of the suburbs, we drove as quickly as we could to the only place of temporary safety available for us, on the banks of the Ganges at the northern end of the city. The English were in different parts of the suburbs, and betook themselves to the places nearest to them which promised immediate shelter. Sir John Kaye, the historian of the Sepoy War, says that the missionaries left the city for Chunar, with the exception of one he names, Mr. Leupolt. In fact, only the Church missionaries went in that direction, and they could go in no other.
As we were hastening to the Ganges we knew from the noise of the musketry and cannon that the battle was going on, and from the cloud of smoke rising from cantonments we feared that all the houses were on fire. We went with others to the house of an English merchant whom we knew well, and then as the natives were gathering around we betook ourselves to boats on the river, and got out into the stream. In a short time a messenger from cantonments reached us with the good news that our men were victorious, and that the mutineers were in flight. We returned to the house of our merchant friend with the intention of remaining there for the night. With our party were a number of children, some of them infants, and they, poor things, were put to rest in any corner which could be found. Between eight and nine the Brigade-Major, who had been slightly wounded, and had been saved from certain death by the faithfulness of a trooper, rode into the compound accompanied by men of the Irregular Cavalry regiment. We all ran out, and were told by him that a number of English soldiers, who had just arrived from Calcutta, were on the other side of the Ganges ready to be ferried over, and that they would form our escort to the Mint, which was between three and four miles distant. In the meantime we learned all that had occurred -- how the Native Infantry regiment had mutinied, how they had been joined by the Sikhs, some said by panic, by others I believe more truly, from sympathy with their Hindustanee brethren, as was shown by their after conduct; and how all had been put to flight by our band of soldiers, aided by the guns. On our side four were killed and nineteen wounded, of whom the greater number afterwards died. How many of the Sepoys were killed was not ascertained, as, with the exception of a few, the dead and wounded were carried off by their comrades.
When all was ready we set out, a long cavalcade, with English soldiers in front and behind, and native troopers on each side, our guardians then, but before the morning dawned in flight to join the mutineers. It was a calm, beautiful moonlight night, forming a strange contrast to the turmoil of the preceding hours. The road took us by our house, and as we passed the gate a servant, who had been watching for us, came out with artificially cooled water, which was very welcome. We reached the Mint about midnight, and there the whole European community was assembled. On every side there was eager talk about our position and prospects, but there was no appearance of panic or fright. The mothers soon succeeded in finding spots in the spacious rooms of the Mint -- which had not been swept, and were covered with half an inch of mud -- for their precious charge, and there they remained to watch over them; while the men sauntered about, or tried to sit where anything like sitting was practicable. Stray shots were heard, and from the city went up rockets, which were regarded as signals to the Sepoys outside. Most were awake as if it were full day. Between three and four in the morning, as I was sitting with two or three others on a native bedstead, a person came and said, "Where is the magistrate? The city is up." It was a false alarm; the city remained strangely quiet. As the morning broke we were all in safety, and no enemy was to be seen. Many of the English soldiers were so overcome by fatigue that they lay on the gravel fast asleep, with their muskets by their side.
[Sidenote: LIFE AT THE MINT.]
In the Mint we all remained for more than a week in the greatest possible discomfort, unable to change our clothes except by going to some house outside, which some of us ventured to do. We once ventured to our house for some very necessary articles, and daily visits were paid to a barrack a short way off, where the sick and wounded were. During the day, with the blazing sun above us, and the wind blowing through the Mint with the heat of a furnace, we were obliged to confine ourselves to its large crowded rooms. The exposure was trying, but was patiently borne, and did no seeming injury to our health. At night we slept outside, most of us on the flat roof of the Mint, on bedding which our servants brought us. Our food was cooked at our homes, and brought to us by our servants, and very thankful were we to get it, though we had neither tables to sit at nor chairs to sit on. Had not our servants been faithful we should have starved, as the authorities, to prevent panic and to show a bold front, had laid in no provisions. This seems very unwise, and yet there is no doubt the bold front did much under God to effect our deliverance.
In the morning of the Sunday after the mutiny the Rev. C. B. Leupolt, of the Church Mission, preached on the parade ground. In the afternoon I was requested to preach. The soldiers, with their rifles in their hands, and the European inhabitants were my audience. I took for my text words which at once suggested themselves to my mind, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" These words of the Apostle Paul, I was afterwards told, came fraught with strength to the hearts of some present.
On Sunday evening it began to be whispered that mutiny had broken out at Allahabad. On Monday we knew all. The 6th N. I. Regiment, after professing in the afternoon their readiness to march to Delhi and fight the rebels, in the evening rose, murdered sixteen officers, six of them young lads who had just arrived, and all Europeans who came their way. Happily families were in the Fort, to which they had betaken themselves in opposition to the affectionate remonstrances of the native officers, who said it was a slur on their fidelity! The Sepoys plundered the Treasury; and it is said many of them were afterwards murdered by the villagers on account of the money with which they were laden.
As the Sepoys entirely disappeared, and the city of Benares was quiet, though the country around was much disturbed, most of us after a time returned to our homes. In our own case we found that not one of our servants had decamped, and not a pin's worth had been stolen. The very night of the mutiny a servant picked up the few silver spoons we had left on the table, and at considerable risk made his way to us to place them in his mistress's hands. Indeed, all about us acted with a faithfulness which elicited our warm gratitude.
[Sidenote: INCIDENT AT THE MINT.]
While we were at the Mint a little incident occurred, which suggested how, in the excited state of affairs, a spark might have caused a great conflagration. Seeing a crowd of natives, almost all servants, at the gate, I went to it, and there the sentry, a little peppery Irishman, was threatening to stab with his bayonet a native servant with a note in his hand. I asked what was the matter. The sentry said, "That black fellow is mocking me, and I'll send this through him." The servant appealed to me. He said he had a note for a gentleman in the Mint, and entreated that "gora," "white man," to let him in, but instead of doing so he threatened to kill him. The mocking was, it turned out, the native folding his hands in the attitude of supplication. I explained the matter, and the man got in. The native servants were so roughly treated by some of our people, especially by the newly-arrived soldiers, simply because they were natives, that I was afraid they might leave us in a body; and if they had done so we should have been in a sad plight. One of my own servants, a native Christian, complained bitterly to me of the treatment he had received.
The quiet of Benares during this period was remarkable -- I might almost say preternatural. When the fight of the 4th of June commenced, numbers were seen with drawn swords rushing towards cantonments, but when they saw Sepoys falling, and others running away, they shrank back into the city. A great dread fell on the entire population. I was told by natives the report had gone out that the English soldiers had been commanded to enter the city, and slay every man, woman, and child they met; and that in consequence, to adopt their exaggerated words, they sat trembling all night, no one daring to sleep.
In the meantime the terrible work of retribution commenced. Martial law was proclaimed, and many poor miserable creatures, charged with plundering, were hanged. Some of the Sepoys caught were blown from guns. I will not harrow my readers with details. I shunned as much as I could these bloody scenes, but on several occasions I came suddenly on them. To the present day I shudder as I think of what I saw.
THE PANIC OF JULY 6TH.
[Sidenote: OUR DAY OF PANIC.]
I must now come to our day of panic, July 6th. July 5th was a Sunday. We had our usual services with the native Christians. Some two hours after the evening service, a nephew of ours, then at Benares, drove into the compound, and told us we must go at once to the Mint, as a large force of Sepoys and country people were four miles off, prepared to attack the jail. This was startling news, as our house lay in the direct line between the jail and the city, and, in the event of the attack being successful, we should be the first victims. Still, we were very unwilling to stir, but our nephew was so urgent that we at last complied with his entreaty. A refugee family was in our house, and with us all crowded into a small conveyance we made our way to the rendezvous. What a scene was there! Most had arrived before us. Rain was falling, and we could not remain out. The rooms were so crowded that we could not get into them, and we had to lie for the night as we could in a dirty passage, with our back to the wall. The night passed off without an alarm, and in the morning we returned to our home, somewhat annoyed at having been taken from it, as we supposed, without sufficient reason.
On the morning of the 6th I had a strange duty to discharge for such a time -- the marriage of a couple. One of our native Christians had arranged for his marriage taking place at that date. I told him that this was no time for marrying; that we who were married must abide with our families, but that those who were intending marriage should defer it to a more propitious season. He said all was arranged, and he begged me to officiate, which I did, I must say, with a bad grace. No sooner was the marriage over than I went home. After breakfast and family worship, we each betook ourselves, thoroughly worn out, to our rooms to obtain some rest. Scarcely had I lain down on my couch, when our faithful watchman came to my door and exclaimed, "If you do not go at once to the Mint you will all be killed." I asked him what was the matter. He could not tell me. He could only say, "Fly, fly." The refugee lady who, with her family, was with us, hearing the watchman's words, exclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Kennedy, do not leave us!" to which I replied, "Depend on it, I will not. Rather than that, I myself will remain behind." Our conveyance was speedily made ready, and off we started, with such a crowded coach as has been seldom seen, I, as driver, urging the poor overladen horse to his utmost speed. Natives as well as Europeans were seized with panic. There was a stream, then in full flood, close to our house, and I saw several natives throw themselves into it to swim across, at the imminent risk of their lives. As we crossed one of the great roads leading to the city, the natives were running as if pursued by demons. Right before us we saw an English lady running towards the Mint, with her bare head in the sun, which had now come out in its strength. A gentleman in a buggy drove past us, pulled in reins, the lady leaped into it, and they dashed on to the place of refuge. On reaching the Mint we found most of the Europeans there before us. I accosted a friend and said, "What does this mean?" He told us how the impression had gone out that the enemy were on us, and how the panic might have been prevented if information of the state of affairs had been given. There was danger. The host coming against us had, with characteristic procrastination, put off the attack till the morning. To prevent their approach to the city, every man and gun that could be spared were sent out to meet them.
When we reached the Mint we heard the rumour that Cawnpore had fallen. The report was not generally believed, but it was true. We were only two hundred miles from Cawnpore, and yet nine days had passed before our hearing of its fall, and we then heard of it only as a rumour.
The feeling of panic soon subsided, and as some in their haste had taken something with them, it soon looked as if we were a large improvised picnic party. For a few hours all was quiet; but in the afternoon the rattle of the musketry and the boom of the cannon told us the battle had commenced. Soon the news reached us that the rebels were in flight, and that we were again safe. Till the news reached there was anxiety, but there was little manifestation of it, except by the wives of some of the soldiers, who were wringing their hands and weeping bitterly. The night was spent by us in the greatest discomfort, huddled together, lying in our day clothes on the floor, in an atmosphere so close that I wonder we were not stifled. That 6th of July, 1857, at Benares can never be obliterated from the memory of any one who was there. It makes us understand, as nothing else could do, how much more dreadful a panic is than the most furious combat.
[Sidenote: THE ADVENTURES OF A MARRIAGE DAY.]
I must recall my readers for a little to the couple whom I had married on the morning of that memorable day. We had not been above a few minutes in the Mint, when whom did I see rushing in at the gate, out of breath, but my friends whom I had united in wedlock a few hours previously, the bridegroom a few steps in advance of the bride, who was doing her best, with little success, to save her bridal dress from being soiled by the muddy road. Grave though our position was, I could not but smile when I saw them. I went to meet them, and looking sternly at the bridegroom I said, "Chhotkan, did I not tell you this was no time to marry?" He looked at me sheepishly, and said, "Well, sir, it is now over, and I cannot help it." I had better add that the marriage has been a happy one. The husband has maintained a Christian character, and has had a prosperous career, and they both survive to the present time.
THE DAYS SUCCEEDING THE DAY OF PANIC.
On the day after the panic we all returned to our respective homes. The immediate danger was past, but the country around was in a very disturbed state. The officer commanding the station sent round a circular strongly recommending the immediate departure for Calcutta of European families, and, indeed, of all Europeans who were not able and willing to bear arms. Like many of my countrymen, I was thrown by this circular into great perplexity. Our house was out of cantonments, in a very exposed situation. We had four children with us at the time, the eldest six years of age, and the youngest a little more than three months. Their departure was indispensable. Was I to go with them, or send them away and remain behind? Some advised me to go, but we soon saw this was not the course which ought to be pursued. Officers were sending away their families, and they themselves were remaining behind. For me to desert my post at such a time, was seen by us both, would be to undo the work of my life, and it was evident my duty was to remain. Armed steamers were going up and down the Ganges, and I hoped to secure a passage to Calcutta in one of them for my family. Hearing a steamer was expected from Allahabad, we went down to Raj Ghat; and as soon as the steamer came to anchor I went on board. It was full to overflowing of refugees from the North-West. The captain told me he could not give my family even a deck passage, so crowded was the vessel. There was nothing for us but to go back to a friend's house, where we had been living for a few days. Through the kindness of a friend at Allahabad, to whom I had written, I succeeded in securing a small cabin for my family in the next steamer, and in it they made their way to Calcutta, after a detention of some days at Dinapore in great discomfort and danger, owing to the mutiny having broken out there. At Calcutta they embarked, in September, in a cargo ship for England, which they reached after a long and stormy passage. During the whole of July and August the communication between Bengal and the Upper Provinces was so interrupted, that sometimes for weeks together no certain information was received of what was transpiring. At Benares the only mails reaching were from places near us. At Calcutta the rumour went out that Benares had fallen, and that all the English people in it had been massacred, causing the deepest distress to the many there who had left loved ones behind.
BENARES FROM JULY TO DECEMBER.
[Sidenote: EXPOSURE TO ATTACK.]
From July till October the position of the English at Benares was one of great danger. We had no fighting, but we were continually threatened. We had twice or thrice an alarm, the most serious being from an emeute in the jail, which was soon suppressed and the leaders executed. Delhi was not taken till September, and till that was done, all who desired our overthrow were sure it was about to be accomplished. Our great peril was from Lucknow. Our small force there was besieged, it was reckoned, by 50,000 men. They were not relieved till towards the end of September. While the siege was being carried on, information reached the authorities of Benares that a plan had been formed to detach from the besieging army five or six thousand men to attack us. The plan was most feasible. The distance by the direct route was under two hundred miles. The river Goomtee, which flows by Lucknow, enters the Ganges a few miles from Benares. It was at that time in full flood, and a flotilla might be easily gathered by which, in a few days, a large body of armed men with the munitions of war could have reached us. Some of the Barons of Oude sent offers of aid, but these offers were by many considered lures to draw us into their net, that they might the more easily destroy us. Jung Buhadur, the famous ruler of Nepal, proposed to come with his brave Ghoorkas to defend us, but their presence was more feared than desired. Then in the great city near us we knew there were many plotting our destruction, and ready to rise at the first signal of an approaching foe.
So great was the danger considered, that thousands were set to the erection of a great earth fort close to the Ganges, on the site of an old Muhammadan fortress. Owing to the disturbed state of the country the commerce of the place was paralyzed; the stock of grain in the market was very low, and food was selling at famine prices. The erection of the fort gave most welcome employment to the poorer portion of the community. So great was the danger, that, acting under the advice of those best acquainted with the state of affairs, I sent to this fort books, documents, and other things which I deemed it most important to preserve. We were instructed how we were to act in the event of a sudden outbreak, the rendezvous to which we should instantly resort, and from which we might make our way together to the fort, which was being erected. It often occurred to me that our position at that time was like that of persons sitting on a barrel of gunpowder in a house on fire. So alarming were the accounts received in the daytime, that I often lay down at night uncertain what might occur before morning. Often I got up, looked towards the cantonments, and listened. Thankful that all was quiet, I returned to my bed.
[Sidenote: CONSTANCY OF THE NATIVE CHRISTIANS.]
During these anxious months I had abundant reason to be thankful for the decision at which we had arrived, that I should remain behind when my family left for England. In the discharge of the work devolving on me from day to day, I felt I should have been recreant to duty, and missed many opportunities of usefulness, had I gone away. Early in September, to the great grief of us all, a much-loved member of the Mission, my sister-in-law, the wife of my senior colleague, Mr. Buyers, was removed by death. She had remained behind when other ladies, who had children, left. Mr. Buyers was prostrated by the blow, and for a considerable time was unable to resume work. The charge of the Mission thus came largely into my hands. Before the end of July we re-opened our principal school in the heart of the city, of which I was superintendent, and which I visited constantly. At Benares a Depot Hospital was opened, to which the sick and wounded Europeans were brought from the surrounding country, and there a part of every day was spent. My principal work, however, was among the native Christians, with whom I met constantly to speak about the state of affairs, to consult what should be done, to commit ourselves to God, and ask from Him guidance and protection. The firmness and courage of these Christians were worthy of the highest praise. As natives, they could elude observation far more easily than Europeans; but even where they were unknown, so entwined is idolatry with the whole life of the people, they could not be any time among their countrymen without being discovered if faithful to their Lord; and, as recreants from their ancestral religion, they were sure to be cruelly treated. They had only to declare themselves Muhammadans, and safety would be at once secured. Not one of our native Christian community thought of seeking safety by such means. They seemed resolved to brave every hazard rather than deny their Lord. At length, by the capture of Delhi in the first half of September, and the relief of the Lucknow garrison some twelve days afterwards, the dark, threatening clouds over us began to break.
From October onward the tension was loosened; but the danger was not over. Though the garrison at Lucknow had been relieved, we were forced to evacuate it, and for months afterwards the whole country of Oude remained in the hands of those who had risen against us. Over a large portion of the North-West, and in Central India, our government remained prostrate. We had been so long in danger we had become blunted to the sense of it, and remained unmoved in circumstances which at an early period would have greatly excited us.
During the recent outbreak in Egypt, the position of Europeans in that country in many respects resembled that of Europeans in Northern India in 1857. Very similar was their danger, very similar their sufferings, and very similar was the deliverance of the greater number. But for providential interposition, not one would have in either case escaped. When I look back and consider what our position was, I marvel that any of us survived to tell what we endured; and our hearts are hard and cold indeed if we are not fervently thankful for our preservation. While my narrative shows that the residents at Benares in 1857 had to pass through a season of severe trial and great danger, all acquainted with the history of that period are aware that our countrymen in other places had vastly more to suffer. In many places the rising was temporarily successful. With us, the authorities all through kept the upper hand. The result was that we were kept from the extremity of suffering to which many were subjected. The entire loss of property was the least of the trials they had to bear. Many, among whom were delicate women and helpless children, were cruelly murdered. Others saw the objects of their warmest love killed before their eyes, had to endure the most fearful privations, and had to pass through untold horrors before reaching a place of safety. Not a few sank into the grave, the victims of toil, suffering, and sorrow. At no place was the danger greater than at Benares, and at no place did the general community suffer so little.
VISIT TO ALLAHABAD.
[Sidenote: THE DESOLATION OF ALLAHABAD.]
Learning that there was no missionary at Allahabad, about seventy miles north-west of Benares, which is now the seat of Government for the North-West, I wrote in December to a native Christian there whom I knew, proposing to visit him and his brethren, and in due course I got his reply, expressing the pleasure my visit would give them. I accordingly went, taking Mirzapore on my way, where I spent two or three days very happily with the mission family. I found a tent erected for my accommodation by the native Christian brethren close to the ruins of the mission premises. What a scene of desolation the whole place presented! The houses of the European residents had been set on fire, and there they were as the mutineers had left them. There were no European families. One large house had been put in order by the magistrate, and in the wide surrounding enclosure what may be called a canvas town had arisen. Civil and military officers were continually passing up and down, and for their accommodation tents had been pitched. All took their meals together in the restored mansion, and they kindly asked me to join them during my stay. My tent was pitched close to the abode of the native Christians. I had thus the opportunity, during the week I remained, of holding constant intercourse with my own countrymen and with native brethren. From the natives I heard much of what they had seen and suffered. I was shown the scenes of the terrible events which had occurred, and as retributive measures were still carried on, I saw, in spite of myself, scenes which made me shudder. On the other side of the Ganges there were frequent skirmishes between parties sent out and bands there who were resisting our authority; the firing was distinctly heard. On Sunday I preached twice to the native Christians. In the forenoon the service was conducted in a small chapel, which had not been burnt down, because it was so close to native houses that, if burnt, the flames would have certainly spread to them. In the evening I re-opened for worship the principal mission chapel. An attempt had been made to set it on fire, but as it had not been at once successful, owing to its being very strongly built, the insurgents satisfied themselves with breaking the doors, windows, seats, pulpit, and everything which could be easily destroyed. The wreck had been cleared away, and there I preached to a goodly company, one of them a man whose arm had been cut off because he was a Christian, and who had been left as dead. His recovery was marvellous. That was a memorable Sunday to me and to those to whom I ministered. My morning subject was, "In the day of adversity consider" (Eccles. vii.14); and in the evening, Christ stilling the storm (Matt. viii.23-28).