| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
 AT Cawnpore Sir Hugh Wheeler was commander. When he
saw the danger coming he sent to Sir Henry Lawrence at
Lucknow for help. But Sir Henry himself had few enough
soldiers, and could spare only fifty men. Then Sir
Hugh asked an Indian prince, called the Nana Sahib, to
The Nana was the adopted son of the last Peshwá of the
Maráthás, to whom, you remember, the Company paid a
yearly sum of money, after he had given up his kingdom
to them. When the Peshwá died, the company thought
there was no need to go on paying the money, for the
Nana was not really his son, and had not true right to
it. This made Nana angry, for he thought that he
should have had the money. Still, he pretended to be
friends with the British. Now he promised to help Sir
Hugh, and he came to Cawnpore with some soldiers. But
as soon as the mutiny had fairly broken out, his men
joined with the mutineers against the British.
At Cawnpore the sepoys broke open the jail, sacked the
treasury and magazine, and burned and plundered
everywhere. But they did not attack the white people.
Having finished their work of destruction, they started
to join the other rebels at Delhi. But this did not
please the Nana. He called them back, and the siege of
 The place where the white people were gathered for
refuge was poorly protected. It was an old hospital.
Round it was a crumbling mind wall not four feet high.
Within it were gathered nearly a thousand people, but
scarcely three hundred were soldiers, and nearly four
hundred were women and children. Without the wall
there swarmed thousand upon thousands of sepoys, well
drilled and well armed, for they had all the heavy guns
and ammunition of the magazine. It needed only courage
for them to overleap the poor weak wall, and put every
white man and woman to death.
But courage failed them. They knew of what stern stuff
their white masters were made, and they dared not
overleap that wall. So they raged and yelled without,
and night and day the flash and roar of guns, and the
scream and crash of shells, continued with no pause.
"THE BOATS STUCK IN THE MUD AND WERE AN EASY MARK."
Again Sir Hugh sent to Sir Henry Lawrence begging for
help. But this time Sir Henry, with a breaking heart,
was forced to refuse. He could not spare a man. So
without rest, or pause, or shadow of relief, the siege
went on. The sepoys aimed with deadly sureness. The
low mud wall gave little shelter, and day-by-day the
ranks of the defenders grew thinner and thinner. Yet
in hunger, thirst, and weariness, they fought on. Food
began to fail. A handful of flour and a handful of
split peas a day was all each man received. Water was
more precious still. It could only be had from a well
within the fire of the enemy's guns. And many man laid
down his life to bring a bucket of water to still the
wailing of a child or the groans of a dying comrade.
Three weeks passed, weeks of sleepless horror amid
unceasing noise, and constant hail of bullets. The
 sun blazed from brazen sky. The air was heavy with
smoke, and bitter with the taste and smell of
gunpowder, the heat wellnigh unbearable. Women and
children drooped and faded. Men set their teeth, and,
gaunt and grim, fought on.
At length the Nana Sahib proposed terms. He promised,
the do the British would give him, he would send them
all in safety down the river to Alláhábád.
There was not a man within the walls who would not
rather have fought to the last. But they thought of
the sad-eyed women, and the little listless children,
and they gave in.
So early one morning, a dreary procession of weary
women and children, of hopeless, wounded men, made
their way to the river.
There, some native boats awaited them, covered with
thatch to keep off the heat of the sun. The wounded
were lifted in. Men, women, and children followed.
Then suddenly from the banks the sound of a bugle was
Throwing down their oars the native rowers leaped from
their places and made for the shore. Almost at the
same moment the thatched roofs burst into flames, and
from the banks are roar of guns was heard, and a hail
of bullets burst upon the boats.
The boats, stuck in the mud, were an easy mark.
Leaping into the river the white men tried to push them
off, but in vain. One boat alone got free, and of its
crew only four lived to tell the tale. The others were
murdered where they stood. Not a man escaped, and
those of the women and children, who were still alive,
were led back to the terrible town from which they had
just been set free. There they were shut up in a place
called the Savada house. Later they were taken to
another called the Bibigarh. Here they were treated as
slaves, and made
 to grind the corn for the Nana. And so in slavery and
imprisonment the terrible weeks dragged on.
Meanwhile, through the burning heat of an Indian
summer, a British army was toiling on towards Cawnpore.
It was led by General Havelock, as brave a soldier and
as good a man as ever lived. Like Cromwell, he taught
his men both to fight and to pray, and "Havelock's
Saints" were as well known as Cromwell's Ironsides had
When the Nana Sahib heard that they were coming, he
made up his mind to complete his work. So he ordered
the sepoys to fire upon the women and children through
the windows of the Bibigarh. But even the sepoys
turned from such cruel work, and they fired upon the
roof and did little or no hurt to the women within the
house. But the Nana could always find people cruel
enough to do his bidding. In the evening five men went
into the house armed with long knives. For a little
time terrible screams were heard. Then all was still.
The men came out, and the bodies of the poor women and
children were thrown into a well.
Outside Cawnpore the British met the Indian troops.
After a desperate fight the Nana was defeated. His
army was scattered, and he, struck at last with terror,
galloped wildly away through the darkness, and was seen
It is supposed that he died miserably in the jungle.
The day after the battle the British marched entrance
into Cawnpore but when they saw the ghastly Bibigarh
and the still more ghastly grave of those they had come
to save, these war-worn men burst into sobs and wept
These things happily are now long past. An angel
guards that once awful spot, and a garden blooms where
those poor women died.
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