Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, his sacrifice and Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

Brig. Gen. John Nicholson FIBIwiki
Brigadier-General John Nicholson CB (11 December 1821 – 23 September 1857), a Victorian era military officer  under Henry Lawrence created a name for himself in the frontier provinces of the British Empire in India. Being a man with good political acumen, an army commander and excellent swordsman no less role was played by him  in the settlement of the North-West Frontier (now in Pakistan)  area and played a prominent role in the Indian Mutiny of 1957 that engulfed across many parts of north India that shook the basic foundation of British expansionism.  He became the Victorian "Hero of Delhi"  and his  exploits  during the Mutiny became subjects of many literary works and  ballads, inspiring generations of young boys to join the army.

Native of Northern Ireland and privately educated in Delgany and later attended the Royal School Dungannon, with the help of his maternal uncle, Sir James Weir Hogg, a successful East India Company lawyer and for some time Registrar of the Calcutta Supreme Court, and later a Member of Parliament, Nicholson joined the British company's army in Bengal (the 41st Native Infantry at Benares) in 1839. As part of his job, he gained considerable language skill in Urdu (1845). He saw action in Afghan war 1840 and also Angelo-Sikh war in Punjab. He came under the influence of Henry Lawrence who was strict military officer and was held in great esteem by the Afghan tribes.

During the siege of Delhi in the Sepoy Mutiny, with fine strategy and tactics, he stormed  into the city and surprised the rebels. Once he walked into the British Mess (in a tent)  in Jullander city and coughed  to get the attention of the fellow officers, etc. He told them about the reason of his late arrival,
"I am sorry, gentlemen, to have kept you waiting for your dinner, but I have been hanging your cooks." He had been told that the regimental chefs had poisoned the soup with aconite. When they refused to taste it for him, he forced them to feed it to a monkey. Upon consuming it the monkey  died on the spot. Having no other way,  he went ahead  to hang the cooks from a nearby tree without a trial".
Col. Nicholson cemetery, 1880. Delhi kunzum.com
Burning with rage, he told the soldiers that we must punish the rebels with severity and came up with new torture punishment for those rebels  who inflicted on the British.  To instill fear among the natives Nicholson proposed a new  kind of death for the murderers and people who insulted English women. His suggestions included 'flaying alive, impalement or burning,' and commenting further, 'I would inflict the most excruciating tortures I could think of on them with a perfectly easy conscience.  The language used by him against the Indian rebels was not palatable, but  his duty to save his fellow officers and the British families  who were in danger of losing their lives against the hell-bent rebels put his own life at risk.

 Nicholson had close rapport with his fellow Punjab administrators Sir Henry Lawrence and Herbert Edwards and the later was almost his own brother like and he won't mind riding hours together to spend time with him.
Col. Nicholson cemetery.1880 Delhi www.thequint.com/
 His end came in Delhi  on 23 September 1857in a cantonment Bungalow where  he was recuperating from severe wounds he received in the Delhi  siege. While risking his personal life to break  the defences of rebels who kept  the walled city of Shahjahanabad under their control, he was shot at near the Lahore Gate and was carried back to the camp. It was a slow and painful death, medical treatment was of no avail. After knowing that Delhi had been recaptured by the British, he breathed his last. 

When he died, he  was  just 35 - too young for a man to lose his life to save his country' honor and name.   Brigadier-General John Nicholson's tombstone, in Delhi's Kashmiri gate (no. 4) which was once a Mogul garden. His great services  and untimely death  while on war duty are commemorated on a white marble memorial plaque at the 1857 Memorial on the Ridge in New Delhi. Prior to independence, there a big state of  Nicholson showing him with a naked sword in hand and surrounded by mortars, but was removed to his old school where one of the houses (yellow) is named after him.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nicholson_(East_India_Company_officer)