The Indian Mutiny in 1857 saw many of the East India Company’s sepoys (Indian soldiers) join with angry princes to protest at the Company’s disrespectful and corrupt administration. The revolt turned nasty, and in June that year things looked bleak for the Company’s staff at Lucknow, in the former Kingdom of Oudh.
IN 1857, sepoys in the service of the East India Company joined with ruling princes in the Indian Mutiny, angered by mismanagement and presumption in the Company’s handling of Bengal and of Oudh, a recent addition to the Company’s trophy cabinet.*
As the mutiny spread, Sir Henry Lawrence, recently appointed Commissioner for Oudh, opened his official Residency at Lucknow to over a thousand civilian men, women and children fleeing unrest in neighbouring districts. Defence was provided by a garrison of 1,700 fighting men, British and Indian.*
By June 30th, some 8,000 rebels had the Residency under seige. Lawrence, wounded by an artillery shell, died on July 4th, and command passed to Colonel John Inglis of the 32nd Regiment of Foot, an unenviable responsibility. Within the Residency, anxiety was turning to fear: days earlier in Cawnpore, just fifty miles away, nine hundred besieged men, women and children had surrendered after their own three-week ordeal, only to be helplessly massacred when their guard was down.
* See The Indian Mutiny.
* The Residency consisted of a large house surrounded by gardens, kitchens, a hospital, and various other buildings including religious sites (which Sir Henry ordered his men to respect). After Sir James Outram broke through in September, the defended region was enlarged. For a map, see Lucknow: Intrenched position of the British Garrison, at Wikimedia Commons.