| 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 |
 AFTER Lord Dalhousie, Lord Canning became Governor
General of India. At first, everything seemed quiet.
But suddenly there burst over India a most terrible
It was just a hundred years since the Black Hole, just
fifty years since the mutiny of Vellore, when a far
worse mutiny broke out.
For some time, the sepoys had been restless, and
discontented. They had been angry when Oudh was
annexed for one thing. Next, Lord Canning wanted some
soldiers to send to Burma. Of course, the sepoys would
not go. He was so annoyed at what he thought was
foolish nonsense that he issued an order, saying that
only sepoys, who would agree to go anywhere, would in
future be taken into the army. This made them more
angry and more afraid, so they again thought that the
British were trying to destroy their caste and
religion, and thenceforth high caste men would not join
the army. All the sepoys even began to be afraid that
the new order included them, and that henceforth they
would be forced to go across the "black water," and
they grew sullen.
They had many other grievances, real or imaginary.
Railways and telegraphs frightened them. They thought
they were magic and witchcraft, and said that the white
 people were binding the whole of India in chains.
People, who were unfriendly to British rule, tried to
make their grievances and fears worse, and tried to
stir the sepoys to greater and greater discontent.
About this time a new rifle was sent out to India. The
cartridges of his rifle were greased, and the end of
the cartridge had to be bitten off before it was used.
One day, in the barracks, a low class workman asked a
high caste sepoy for a drink out of his water-bottle.
The sepoys refused haughtily, saying that the touch of
a low caste lips would make his bottle "unclean." The
workman angrily replied that it was no matter, was soon
there would be no caste left, as the new cartridges
were greased with the fat of cows and pigs, and the
sepoys would have to bite them.
This, to a Brahmin, was something horrible, for to him
the cow was sacred, while the pig was "unclean." The
mere thought that he would have to touch this terrible
mixture with his lips was more than he could bear. He
ran off with the tale to his fellows, in horror. The
story passed from mouth to mouth, till it spread all
The officers told the men that the grease was mutton,
fat, and wax, and therefore could not hurt any caste.
It was in vain. The tale had taken hold too strongly.
And now that one wild story was believed, others
followed. It was said that is very flour of which the
sepoys' bread was made, was mixed with cows' bones,
ground to dust. To eat this, even unknowingly, would
be deadly sin. Forever afterwards, they, who did so,
would be outcasts. And so bent with the Sahibs on the
destruction of all caste that they stooped to such foul
and secret means. The story, of course, was not true,
but the sepoys believed it.
 They grew sullen with anger. They were wild with fear
too, such a fear as it is hard for us to understand.
The area was full of mutterings and unrest. In
regiment after regiment the hated cartridges were
refused. In some places the officers called the mean
and offer them in the old cartridges which they had
used for years. But fear had become unreasoning panic,
and even they were refused. At length, at Meerut, near
Delhi, the storm burst.
One on Sunday evening in May, when all the white people
were on their way to church, there was an unusual stir.
Trumpet calls were heard, mixed with the clatter of
firearms and the rush of feet. Then flames burst forth
in all directions. Soon the truth became known. The
sepoys had revolted. They had fired upon their
officers, and as the sun went down they rushed forth
madly thirsting for the blood of their white masters.
A night of horror followed. The prisoners were burst
open; from the dark and secret places of the town
thieves, and murderers, and all evildoers crept out and
mingled with the maddened sepoys. They attacked the
British in their houses, slaying without mercy. They
robbed and plundered at will. All night the sky was
red with flames from burning houses, and amid the roar
and crackle might be heard shrieks and groans, mingled
with savage yells, and the wild clash of cymbals and
beat of drum. But when the day dawned the streets were
silent. Among the blackened, smouldering ruins the
dead lay still. But the murderers had fled.
Along the road to Delhi, through the coolness of early
dawn, beneath the glimmer of the rising sun spread the
frantic sepoys. Mile after mile, from the ribbon of
white road, rose a cloud of dust, marking the path by
which the dark-faced, turbanned crowd passed.
 By eight o'clock the foremost of the rioters burst into
the quiet streets of Delhi. There the ancient King,
the last descendant of the Great Mogul, still lived in
empty splendour. Long ago his empire had passed into
the hands of the British, but yet he kept great court
and state, and played at grandeur.
Around his pal at the he wild horde raged, crying that
they had killed the British at Meerut, that they had
come to fight for the faith. "Help, O King," they
cried. "We pray thee for help in our fight for the
Into the palace they forced their way, slaying every
white-faced man or woman. Soon the streets of Delhi
were is terrible as those of Meerut. Every house
belonging to the British was attacked, plundered, and
set on fire. Every European was slain without mercy.
There were no British soldiers in Delhi, so to resist
was hopeless. The British officers of the sepoy troops
succeeded in blowing up the powder magazine, so that
the ammunition should not fall into the hands of the
mutineers. But that was all that they could do. Then
they made their escape, as best they could, with their
wives and children into the jungle. There, new dangers
and sufferings awaited them, and but few found shelter
in distant villages. Soon not a Christian was left
within the walls of Delhi, and it was entirely in the
hand of the mutineers.
All over India the terrible news was flashed, and in
town after town the revolt broke out. Everywhere it
was the same story—a story of murder and bloodshed, of
robbery and plunder and destruction. Then, after
finishing their terrible work, many of the rioters
flock to Delhi, to arrange themselves under the banner
of the "King."
 There were very few British soldiers in India, for the
Company had begun to trust almost entirely to the
sepoys. Now Lord Canning telegraphed in all directions
for troops. Some he gathered from Persia where there
had been fighting. Some he stopped on their way to
China. The Sikhs and Gurkhas, too, had stood firm, and
now they loyally fought for their white masters. Soon
the siege of Delhi began. The mutineers held out for
three months, but at last they yielded to British guns.
The old Mogul was taken prisoner and sent to Rangoon
where he died. But meanwhile, all over Northern India
there was war and bloodshed.
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