Sunday, 7 August 2016

Vellore Mutiny July,1806 - some interesting facts

 punishment British-style,.
(Above image: This is the British style of execution in Colonial India in early stages. Sepoys were blown by cannons without inquiry. Some rebels of Vellore mutiny were given this kind of punishment)

In the annals of history of Indian freedom struggle against the British, the Vellore Mutiny was the first of a kind by the Indian soldiers. This brief (lasting just one day), but the most effective mutiny against the East India company antedates the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 by half a century,  a fact many Indians are not aware of. It is sad much importance was not given to this early resistance taken place on the soil of Tamil Nadu. 

The venue of mutiny was in the Fort of Vellore Town, Tamil Nadu. On the fateful day of  10 July 1806,  about 1500 sepoys stationed in the Vellore garrison, barged into the Vellore Fort, killed and injured a lot of  Europeans before they were subdued by timely reinforcements from nearby Arcot Town. Retribution was swift without remorse and it was a way to give vigilante-justice. The extent of brutality and violence and later the punishment given to the convicted rebels by the  British army officers had surpassed the norms of international war rules.This first mutiny of July 1806 occupies a rather enigmatic position in the history of long British rule in India.
Vellore Fort,Tamil Nadu. first mutiny against EIC army, July10,
Vellore Mutiny, July10,1806; Indian rebel soldiers attacking British army men.
Sir John Cradock, Madras
 (Above image: Sir. John Cradock, Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army was  one among the Englishmen responsible for the Vellore Mutiny,Tamil Nadu)
Guidon of the 19th Light Dragoons (1808) 1781-1821.British

The following are some interesting facts:

.. The mutiny was triggered by many facts, one being orders by Sir John Cradock, Commander in Chief of the Madras Army to remove caste marks by the Hindu soldiers on duty and removal of beard and trimming of their mustache by Muslim soldiers.

.. Indian soldiers were asked to wear a newly designed turban - a neatly styled leather head gear while on military duty. This infuriated both Hindu and Muslim soldiers, for they didn't  want to lose their identity. Nor did they like the British overstepping on their religious freedom.
 Indian Postal Stamp.
.. Tipu Sultan's sons had been imprisoned in the fort since 1799 after the death of Tipu, the ruler of Mysore in Srirangapatna in 1799.  Tipu's daughter was to be married on  09 July 1806. Using the wedding as an excuse of attending the function, after midnight, the rebels seized the fort and took every available vantage point and killed the British soldiers.

.. According to some letters written by the British officials about the Vellore Mutiny now on display in the  Begam Mahal, Vellore Fort, that houses the museum (under the ASI), it was  in May 1806, Adjutant General Agnew (a confidant of Lord  Robert Clive) ordered  the men of the second battalion of the 4th regiment  to wear the new type of turban. When 29 Sepoys refused to use the new turban, they were court-martialed, while two adamant havildars were given severe lashes, as if they were galley slaves. So, the hatred for the British officers had been simmering among the soldiers for some time. In June 1805 at Wallajapet (now in Tamil Nadu), the rebels protested against the new type of head-gear

 At 3 a.m. on July 10, 1806, the rebels began shooting the white officers’ quarters. Within a short time, they took control of the fort.
A British troop (
Cavalry - British 19th Light Dragoons) under Robert Gillespie from Arcot town arrived with an artillery gun and finally recaptured the fort after firing from cannons. The rebels were subdued and in its wake 113 Europeans and 350 rebels were killed. Several hundred soldiers on both sides were wounded.

.. The Vellore Mutiny was quickly put down by the timely action of Colonel Robert Gillespie (1766-1814) from Arcot Town.
Colonel Robert Gillespie (1766-1814) . en.wikipedia.

.. After the incident, some prisoners were transferred to Calcutta, including Tipu Sultan's two sons who would trouble the EIC operations in South India.The interference with the social religious customs of the natives was abolished, so was lashing as a punishment. 

.. Following the unsuccessful mutiny, both Cradock and Lord William Bentinck (1774-1839), Governor of Bombay, were transferred.

.. From the old letters,  an important fact emerged, it was that of one Mustapha Beg, a soldier of the first regiment who blew the whistle on the brewing trouble in the fort.  For his timely early warning to one Col. Forbes, he was given a reward of 2000 pagodas. A G.O. was issued in the connection.

..The museum has on display a letter from Col. Gillespie of the 19th regiment of Dragoons reporting the disturbance in the fort
soon after suppressing the mutiny by 11 o’clock on July 10.

.. On 10 July 1806  on display was a document on punishment, people killed and wounded in the rebellion. Reports mentioned that, six convicted rebels were blown by large guns (galloper guns) and five shot dead on the Fort premises.
Galloper gun, British India.

 (Above image: Horse-cart mounted Galloper gun was used to bombard the Vellore fort gate and later to blow away some of the rebels as capital punishment. British India. It has 1½, 2, 3, 4 and rare 6 pound shell variants. The gun and carriage weigh around 600 pounds. The gun was designed to be pulled by one horse between the shafts and to keep up with fast moving troops, perhaps even cavalry).

Letters regarding withdrawal of the uniform code to Governor Bentinck and others are on display in the museum. These records were maintained by  S.S. Furnell, a historian in charge of documents. Only parts of these letters are available which are well preserved and maintained by the ASI. They are the authenticated documents that throw light on the horrible days of  East India company under the British Crown.