Gateway to the Classics: Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall
Our Empire Story by  H. E. Marshall

The Mutiny—Lucknow

The Union Jack floated once more upon the walls of Cawnpore, but there was still much to do ere Mutiny should be over. "Soldiers," said Havelock, "your general is satisfied, and more than satisfied, with you. But your comrades of Lucknow are in danger." And with the memory of Cawnpore in their hearts, Havelock and his men marched on to Lucknow.

But Havelock had to fight his way there. He lost so many men and used so much ammunition that at last he was not strong enough to take Lucknow. He was obliged to turn back to Cawnpore and wait until Sir James Outram joined him with more troops. Outram was a gallant soldier, "without fear and without reproach," and together these two brave men marched to help their comrades.

At Lucknow the British had taken refuge in the Residency. This was a number of houses and gardens surrounded by a wall. It was not very strong, but it was far better than the old hospital at Cawnpore. Sir Henry Lawrence, the governor, was a wise and careful man. Seeing the storm coming, he did everything he could to meet it. He gathered stores of food and ammunition, and strengthened the defences of the Residency. But alas, at the very beginning of the siege, Sir Henry was killed.

One day a shell burst into the room where he was talking with some of his officers. There was a blinding flash, a fearful roar, and the room was filled with dust and smoke. In the deep silence which followed, someone asked, "Are you hurt, Sir Henry?"

For a moment there was no answer. Then quietly he replied, "I am killed."

So brave Sir Henry died. "If you put anything on my tombstone," he said, "let it be only, 'Here lies Henry Lawrence who tried to do his duty. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.'" Then with his last breath he urged his men never to give in, but to fight to the end.

The terrible summer days dragged on—days spent amid all the noise and din, dust and smoke of war, nights of anxious watchings, broken with sudden alarms. The houses were shattered and riddled with shot, so as to be scarcely any protection from the burning sun or from the enemies' guns. Food was scarce, clothes were in rags. But still the men fought and watched, and the women prayed and waited, and endured. And like an emblem of their dauntless courage, all through the siege the Union Jack floated from the highest tower of the Residency. It was faded and patched, tattered and riddled with holes, the staff was splintered with bullets, it was broken again and again. But a new staff was always found, and up went the gallant flag once more, a defiance to the foe.


"British soldiers were seen fighting their way through the streets."

At last one morning, distant firing was heard. As the hours passed the sound came near and nearer. Then the garrison new that at length help was at hand. The excitement and suspense were awful. But there was nothing to be done but to wait. It was not until it was growing dark that amid the clamour of fighting the sound of the British cheer was heard, and louder still, shrill and piercing, the scream of the bagpipes, and the yell of charging Highlanders. A few minutes more, and British soldiers were seen, fighting their way through the streets to the Residency gates.

Then from the battlements rose a deafening cheer. Such a cry of joy it is not often been man's lot to hear. It was the first cry of returning hope from the hearts that had grown hopeless. It was a sob, and a prayer, and an outburst of thanksgiving, all in one. And as the gates were opened, and the men, weary, dusty, bloodstained, rushed through, women sobbing with joy ran to throw themselves upon them, happy to touch their bronzed hands or war-worn coats. With tears running down their cheeks the rough soldiers lifted the children in their arms. From hand to hand they passed the little ones, kissing them and thanking God that they had come in time to save them. It was a scene of wild, sweet joy and almost unutterable relief.

But after all the siege of Lucknow was not over. Havelock and Outram had not men enough with them to cut their way back through the swarms of sepoys, and bring all the ladies and children to safety. So the siege began again. It was not until two months later that Sir Colin Campbell landed in India, and cutting his way through the rebels, really relieved Lucknow.

Scarcely a week later Sir Henry Havelock died. Greatly sorrowing, his men buried him in a garden near the city, his only monument being a tree marked with the letter H.

Before the relief of Lucknow, Delhi had been taken, and now the mutiny was nearly over. There was still some fighting, but gradually it ceased. Lord Canning made a proclamation, offering pardon to all who had not actually murdered the British. Most of the rebels laid down their arms, and once more the country sank to rest.

It was now decided that India should no longer be ruled by the Company but by the Queen. So the great Company, which had begun in the reign of Queen Elizabeth came to an end in the reign of Queen Victoria. This was proclaimed to all the people of India on the first of the 1st November 1858. Now, instead of Governor-General, the ruler of India was called Viceroy. And Lord Canning, who had been Governor-General throughout the mutiny, became the first Viceroy.

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