Between Chatrpur and the Jamnah (present day Yamuna River) lies the district represented by the stations of Naogang and Bandah. It was occupied by native regiments, and by several small states ruled by native chiefs. The sipahis at Naogang, belonging to the regiments stationed at Jhansi, mutinied as soon as they had heard of the action of their comrades at that place. The British officers and their wives, forced to flee, were hospitably received by the Raja of Chatrpur. But they eventually had to quit that place, and succeeded in reaching Bandah. The Nawab of Bandah received them and other British fugitives kindly. The time arrived, however, when the Nawab, unable to grapple against the excited passions of his followers, was forced to cast in his lot with the rebels. The same charge was made against the unfortunate Rao of Kirwi, a small state in the Bandah district. Though the territories of the chief were overrun by rebels, his sympathies were with his British overlord. He was a minor, and had no more power to stifle the insurrection. Yet the time was to come when, because he and others had not smothered the rebels, were segregated and punished as rebels. This was particularly the case with the innocent Rao of Kirwi.
In July and during the following months of 1857, the Sagar and Narbada territories, and the country to the west of the Jamnah (Yamuna River) generally, were in the hands of the rebels. Rewa and the town of Sagar were however excluded. It seemed to depend upon the result of the operations before Delhi as to whether the rebellion in Central India would assume a more aggressive form.
To the south-west of Jhansi lay the territories of Maharaja Holkar. These territories comprised the important city of Indore, situated on a tributary of the Shipra River, with a population of 15,000. The cluster in Central India included the British cantonment of Mau, between thirteen and fourteen miles distant from the Residency at Indore, Mandu, an ancient and famous city, with numerous ruins, once the capital of Dhar, and at a later period the residence of the Muhammadan kings of Malwa, Dipalpur, twenty-seven miles to the north-west of Mau; and Mehidpur, on the right bank of the Shipra, a town garrisoned by a contingent composed of the three arms, officered by British officers.
At Mau there were stationed, in 1857, the 23rd Regiment N. I., a wing of the 1st Native Cavalry, and a field battery of artillery, with European gunners but native drivers. At Mehidpur the troops, with the exception of the officers, were natives.
The acting British Resident, or, as he was styled in official language, the 'Agent for the Governor-General', was Colonel Henry Marion Durand, one of the ablest and most clairvoyant of the officers serving the Government of India. His career had been one of strange fluctuations.
The events of 10th May at Mirath (Meerut), and the consequences of those events at Delhi, had produced an unparalleled turmoil in the native mind in the territories of Holkar. Meerut was one of the foremost places to burn up in protest, resulting in the native sipahis (soldiers) hugely defying their British high-rankers. The issue had started with the fresh induction of the Enfield Rifle and its cartridges. Likewise, Delhi was the aftermath to Meerut, with the whole Imperial City rising up conflagrated. Even the princely kings and their states were joined in the terrible protests. Umpteen numbers of British lives were slain in this shaking native endeavour.
Durand felt his position to be one of peculiar importance. The maintenance of order in the country north of the Narbada (Narmada) depended upon one of two contingencies. One was the fall of Delhi; the other was the arrival of reinforcements from Bombay (Mumbai). Now, the road from Bombay (Mumbai) to Agra crossed the Narbada (Narmada River) at a point just below Indore. It ran from there through Central India to a point on the Chambal River directly to the north of Gwaliar (Gwalior). The maintenance of this road was the prominent feature in the plan of Durand. He resolved, then, to maintain his own position as long as was possible. He wanted to sever, as far as he could, all communications between men of the regular army and those of the native contingents. He also had plans to secure the Narbada (Narmada) and the important road between Bombay to Agra, and to reassure the native princes under his superintendence.
But events were too strong even for Durand. Delhi did not fall, and the reinforcements despatched from Bombay, halted at Aurangabad. The rumour that Delhi had fallen greatly aided his efforts to maintain order for a period of fifty-one days after the revolt of Mirath (Meerut). But, on 1st July, he was attacked in the Lucknow Residency by the native troops of Holkar. The native troops forming the garrison of the Residency either merged with the rebels or refused to act against them. No reinforcements, though they had been sent for, came from Mau. And after a brilliant defence of two and a half hours' duration, Durand was compelled to evacuate the Residency. With him were his small European garrison and the eleven women and children under his charge. His first idea was to retreat towards Mau. But as his native escort refused to follow him there, he had no option, eventually, but to retire to Sihor. He and his companions reached that place on the 4th July. From there he set out, with the briefest possible delay, to urge upon the commander of the Bombay column the necessity of making safe the line of the Narbada (Narmada).
On the night of the day on which Durand had been compelled to evacuate the Residency at Indore, the sipahis (soldiers) at Mau mutinied, killed three of their officers, and made their way to Delhi. Captain Hungerford, who commanded the field-battery, remained in occupation of the fort of Mau, and assumed the duties of the Governor-General's Agent. He was to remain there, until the arrival of Durand with the Bombay column enabled the latter to resume his duties.
The Mehidpur contingent remained passively loyal until November. On being attacked then by a rebel force superior in numbers, they displayed mingled cowardice and betrayal. Ultimately the majority of them fraternised with the rebels. The station, however, was held for the British up to that period.
With the exception, then, of Bhopal, and Mehidpur, that part of Central India represented by the dominions of Holkar had become hostile to the British from the 1st of July.
Bhopal, indeed, was a magnificent exception. The then reigning Begum, Sikandar Begum, had assumed office, in February 1847, as regent for her daughter. She was a very remarkable woman, possessing great resoluteness, and a more than ordinary talent for affairs. In six years she had paid off the entire public debt of the State, had abolished the system of farming the revenue, had put a stop to monopolies, had reorganised the police, and had reformed the mint. When she scented the breaking out of the great revolt of 1857, she at once made up her mind to fight for her trusted overlord.
As early as April she communicated to the British Agent the contents of a lithographed proclamation. It spoke about urging the overthrow and destruction of the English, which had been sent her. In June Sikandar Begum expelled from her territories a native who was raising men for a purpose he did not care to assert. In July she afforded shelter to Durand and those whom he was escorting. She accomplished all these things under enormous difficulties. Her nearest relations were daily urging upon her an opposite course; her troops mutinied, her nobles murmured. But Sikandar Begum was not a woman to waver. She caused the English fugitives to be escorted safely to Hoshangabad. She stilled the excitement in her capital, put down the mutinous contingent with a strong hand, restored, and then maintained, order throughout her dominions. Like Sindhia, she clearly recognised that the safety of the native princes depended upon the maintenance of the philanthropically exercised power of the British overlord.
But Bhopal was the exception. In the other portions of the dominions of Holkar the class who always wished to plunder, assumed the upper hand. Their further action depended upon the result of the operations before Delhi.
Nor, although Maharaja Sindhia was loyal to the core, was it otherwise in the dominions of that sovereign. The straggling dominions of Sindhia contained an area of 19,500 square miles. It comprised the towns of Gwaliar (Gwalior), Narwar, Bhilsa, Ujjain, Ratlam, and the British cantonment of Nimach.
The Gwaliar contingent had already mutinied on the 14th of June. The contingent represented the feelings of the people over whom the Maharaja ruled. But he never wavered. Contrasting the British overlordship with the probable result of the triumph of the sipahis-and of the Mughal-he realised that the welfare of himself and his people depended upon the ultimate success of the British arms. He acted accordingly.
The station of Nimach lies 371 miles to the south-west of Delhi. The garrison there consisted of the 72nd Regiment N. I., the 7th Regiment of the Gwaliar (Gwalior) contingent, and the wing of the 1st Bengal Cavalry. These troops rose in revolt on the 3rd of June. The officers and their families escaped to Udaipur, Rajasthan. Subsequently Nimach was the scene of many events pertaining more to the history of Rajputana. The sipahis ultimately made their way to Delhi.
To the north-west of the territory which bears the geographical name of Central India, lies the province of Rajputana. From the time of the departure of Lord Wellesley in 1805, to the close of the Pindari war, 1818, the princes and people of Rajputana had suffered from the want of an overlordship which should protect them against a foreign foe. The treatment which they endured during that period was still fresh in the memory. The instance seemed alike for the princes and people, when the mutiny of 1857 broke out. From the moment of its commencement, then, the princes of Rajputana clustered round the declining fragments of the British power. Their primary intention was to protect them against an enemy more terrible even than Amir Khan and the Pindaris. It is true that the contingents furnished by Bharatpur and Kota revolted. Subsequently, too, the mutinied soldiers of Kota murdered the British Resident, Major Burton, and his two sons. But the Raja of Bharatpur was a minor, and it has never been proved how far the Maharao of Kota was pressured by his soldiers. Certainly the Rajas and Raos of the other sixteen principalities were entirely loyal, and they proved their loyalty on many a trying occasion.
The station of Nasirabad, in the Ajmer-Merwara district of Rajputana, was garrisoned by the 15th and 30th Regiments N. I., a battery of native artillery, and the 1st Bombay Lancers. The infantry broke into revolt on the 28th of May; the men of the other arms followed suit. Two officers were killed, and two were wounded. The remainder retreated to Biaur, a town in Ajmer-Merwara, escorting the women and children.
At a later date, August 22nd, the contingent at Erinpuram, near Mount Abu, also revolted. They attempted, although without much success, to surprise the Europeans, disabled or sick, resting at that sanatorium.
There was one other exception to the general loyalty of the princes, nobles, and people of Rajputana. That exception was a Thakur or baron of Jodhpur. But that Thakur's grudge was not against the English, but against his liege lord the Raja. To coerce him, he used the revolted sipahis to his own disadvantage.
But throughout those troubled times the chief figure in Rajputana was the Governor-General's representative, George St. Patrick Lawrence. So long as George Lawrence remained in Rajputana, it was certain that, that province would remain firm and steadfast in its allegiance to its overlord.
Rajputana did remain so, despite the risings at Nimach, at Nasirabad, at Erinpuram. Yet, even in loyal Rajputana, much depended upon the issue of contest before Delhi. In a population of nine millions there were many needy men who sought after the property of the wealthy. These undoubtedly looked forward with eagerness to the reports of the victories and defeats, of the sorties and the attacks, which daily flooded the bazaars. And if Delhi had not fallen, if the English army had failed in its final assault, the encouragement which would have raised the populations elsewhere, might not have been without an effect even in Rajputana.