To load it, the sepoys had to bite off the ends of lubricated cartridges. There is no conclusive evidence that either of these materials was actually used on any of the cartridges in question. However, the perception that the cartridges were tainted added to the larger suspicion that the British were trying to undermine Indian traditional society.
For their part, the British did not pay enough attention to the growing level of sepoy discontent. In late March a sepoy named Mangal Pandey attacked British officers at the military garrison in Barrackpore. He was arrested and then executed by the British in early April. Later in April sepoy troopers at Meerut refused the Enfield cartridges, and, as punishment, they were given long prison terms, fettered, and put in jail.
This punishment incensed their comrades, who rose on May 10, shot their British officers, and marched to Delhi , where there were no European troops.
The seizure of Delhi provided a focus and set the pattern for the whole mutiny, which then spread throughout northern India. With the exception of the Mughal emperor and his sons and Nana Sahib , the adopted son of the deposed Maratha peshwa , none of the important Indian princes joined the mutineers. Peace was officially declared on July 8, A grim feature of the mutiny was the ferocity that accompanied it.
The mutineers commonly shot their British officers on rising and were responsible for massacres at Delhi, Kanpur, and elsewhere. The murder of women and children enraged the British, but in fact some British officers began to take severe measures before they knew that any such murders had occurred. In the end the reprisals far outweighed the original excesses. Hundreds of sepoys were bayoneted or fired from cannons in a frenzy of British vengeance though some British officers did protest the bloodshed.
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Thank you for your feedback. Throughout May and June more units of Indian troops mutinied against the British. Sepoy units in the south of India remained loyal, but in the north, many units of the Bengal Army turned on the British. And the uprising became extremely violent. Fighting in some places continued well into , but the British were ultimately able to establish control. As mutineers were captured, they were often killed on the spot, and many were executed in dramatic fashion. Outraged by events such as the massacre of women and children at Cawnpore, some British officers believed that hanging mutineers was too humane.
In some cases, they used an execution method of lashing a mutineer to the mouth of a cannon, and then firing the cannon and literally blasting the man to pieces. Sepoys were forced to watch such displays as it was believed it set an example of the horrific death that awaited mutineers. The grotesque executions by cannon became even became widely known in America. Along with the previously mentioned illustration in Ballou's Pictorial, numerous American newspapers published accounts of the violence in India.
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The East India Company had been active in India for nearly years, but the violence of the uprising led to the British government dissolving the company and taking direct control of India. Following the fighting of —58, India was legally considered a colony of Britain, ruled by a viceroy.
The uprising was officially declared over on July 8, There is no question that atrocities were committed by both sides, and stories of events of —58 lived on in both Britain and India. Books and articles about the bloody fighting and heroic deeds by British officers and men were published for decades in London.
Illustrations of events tended to reinforce Victorian notions of honor and bravery. Any British plans to reform Indian society, which had been one of the underlying causes of the revolt, were essentially set aside, and religious conversion of the Indian population was no longer viewed as a practical goal. In the s the British government formalized its role as an imperial power.
Queen Victoria , at the prompting of Benjamin Disraeli , announced to Parliament that her Indian subjects were "happy under My rule and loyal to My throne. Victoria added the title "Empress of India" to her royal title. In , outside Delhi, essentially in the spot where bloody fighting had taken place 20 years earlier, an event called the Imperial Assemblage was held.
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In an elaborate ceremony, Lord Lytton, the serving viceroy of India, honored a number of Indian princes. Britain, of course, would rule India well into the 20th century.
And when the Indian independence movement gained momentum in the 20th century, events of the Revolt of were viewed as having been an early battle for independence, while individuals such as Mangal Pandey were hailed as early national heroes. Share Flipboard Email. Robert J. McNamara is a history expert who has been writing for ThoughtCo since He previously served as Amazon. Particular incidents became notorious:.
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Meerut and Delhi: In a large military camp called a cantonment at Meerut, near Delhi, a number of sepoys refused to use the new rifle cartridges in early May The British stripped them of their uniforms and put them in chains. Other sepoys revolted on May 10, , and things quickly became chaotic as mobs attacked British civilians, including women and children. Mutineers traveled the 40 miles to Delhi and soon the large city erupted in a violent revolt against the British.
A number of British civilians in the city were able to flee, but many were slaughtered. And Delhi remained in rebel hands for months. Cawnpore: A particularly horrific incident known as the Cawnpore Massacre occurred when British officers and civilians, leaving the city of Cawnpore present day Kanpur under a flag of surrender was attacked. The British men were killed, and about British women and children were taken prisoner.
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