of the Mutiny



Background Notes for

Skirmish Wargames and Role Play Games

set in the Indian Mutiny

1857 - 1858


(Part 3)



Alan Hamilton


There were, no doubt, many and various reasons why soldiers chose to mutiny and other people elected to go into revolt in Bengal in1857.  Some of the most often quoted are:

·         The disaffection of the soldiers, mainly Brahmins and Rajputs,  recruited in Oudh.  This recently annexed region (1856) was the principal recruiting ground of the Bengal Presidency’s Army.  The main cause was the loss of the old and valued right of precedence enjoyed  by soldiers in the courts.  Now all were entiltled to the same precedence.

·         There was discontent amongst the Muslims which was fostered by the old royal family in Delhi.  They wanted the restoration of the ancient regal state and influence which had been lost.

·         There was a widespread belief that the British government had secret designs against the caste system and the religions of the sepoys and the people.

·         The British changed the taxation laws.  A very unpopular new tax was that on opium.  In Oudh opium had been untaxed and freely available to rich and poor alike.  The agitators focused on this while ignoring the abolition of many unfair and outrageous taxes.

·         The abolition of the Talukhdars and their taxes.  The people felt a loss of  visible protection which had compensated for their excesses.

The flame which lit the fuse of the “Devil’s Wind” as the Mutiny was known by the Indians came as a result of the introduction of the Enfield rifle and its cartridge.  The loading drill required the soldier to bite the end off the greased cartridge as part of the sequence.  This was quite normal in other weapons of the period.

Unfortunately, an otherwise insignificant incident took place in the arsenal at Dumdum.  An untouchable allowed his shadow to cross the cooking pot of a Brahmin sepoy as he was preparing his food.  This meant that the Brahmin was defiled and would have to carry out a purification ritual.  Quite understandably he took the lascar to task about this.  In the course of the argument the lascar asked why it mattered when he had been defiled by the cartridges.  He claimed that the grease came from the fat of cows (sacred to Hindus) and pigs (unclean to Muslims).  The Brahmin believed him and the news spread like wildfire.  Whether it was true or not the repercussions were dreadful.  The HEIC introduced new drills which did not involve biting the greased cartridge but it was too late.

One other incident needs to be included.  This one involved an act of indiscipline by a  sepoy called Mangal Pandy.  Eventually he shot his adjutant and was tried by Court Martial.  Anyone who mutinied afterwards was called a “Pandy” and mutineers in general were “pandies”.

The practice of disbanding or disarming regiments which were disaffected may have added a number of recruits to the rebel cause.  These men were thrown out of the army losing their pay and pensions with little prospect of securing other employment.  They bore a considerable grudge against the British for this.



March 1857

19 BNI mutiny at Berhampore.  They are marched to Barrackpore and disbanded.  7 companies of 34 BNI mutiny at Barrackpore and are disbanded.

10 May

7 Oudh Irregular Infantry disbanded at Lucknow.

3 BLC, 11 BNI and 20 BNI mutiny at Meerut.  The start of the Mutiny.  The mutineers free prisoners and run amok in a night of massacre and mayhem.

11 May

The mutineers from Meerut advance on Delhi where they are joined by the 38, 54 & 74 BNI.  The mutineers kill their officers and their families.  Some escape to “the Ridge”.  Lt Willoughby blows up the Delhi magazine from the inside and miraculously survives.

13 May

8 BLC, 16, 26 & 49 BNI disarmed at Meean Meer in the Punjab by a wing of the HM 81st Foot and some Bengal Horse Artillery.


The Gurkha (new) Nasiri battalion is disaffected temporarily and slows General Anson’s advance. 


In two battles Gen Archdale Wilson’s pursuing Meerut Brigade inflict defeats on the mutineers at Ghaziudin and Nagar.  The rebel cause is not affected - they have Delhi!


Maj Charles Reid with the Sirmoor Battalion and two elephants of ammunition join Barnard’s column on the way to Delhi.  Barnard had replaced Anson who had died of cholera.


Magazines at Ferozepore and Phillour secured.


57 BNI disarmed at Ferozepore by HM 61st Foot.


45 BNI at Ferozepore, 3 BNI at Phillour, 36 & 61 BNI at Jullundur all mutiny at march to reinforce Delhi.


Battle of Sutlej where 3 companies of loyal Sikhs under Lt Williams and Mr Ricketts, the Deputy Commissioner attack 1,600 mutineers.  The Mutineers are delayed.


Peshawar, 3 british battalions, 7 & 18 Irreg Cav, 21 BNI, the Kalat-i-Ghilzai Regt and the Corps of Guides remain loyal. 

24, 27 & 51 BNI disarmed on point of mutiny.


55 BNI mutiny and flee from Mardan with their weapons but are destroyed by Nicholson with his Multani Horse.


64 BNI disarmed at Abazai

30 May

Open Mutinies at:

Lucknow: 7 BLC, 13,48 & 71 BNI and most of Oudh Irregulars.

Aligarh:  9BNI

Fategarh: 10 BNI

Jhansi & Nowgong: 12 BNI

Azamgarh: 17 BNI

Bareilly: 16, 68 BNI

Fyzabad: 22 BNI

Shajehanpur & Moradabad: 28, 29 BNI

Sitapur: 41 BNI

more followed suit.

4 June

Benares Mutiny:  37 BNI, 13 Irreg Cav and part of the Ludhiana Sikhs.  The Sikhs very quickly reversed this decision. 

5 June

Cawnpore Mutiny:  2 BLC, 1, 53, 56 BNI.  Gen Wheeler beseiged.

6 June

Allahabad:  6 BNI mutiny but the Ferozepore Sikhs remain loyal and prevent capture of the fort.  Col (Smith-) Neill releived them later and the mutineers left for Delhi.

8 June

Battle of Badli-ki-Serai.  Mutineer attempt to clear British from The Ridge fails.  “Siege” of Delhi now established.


Mhow:  1 BLC and 23 BNI mutiny


Neemuch:  72 BNI, 7 Gwalior inf mutiny and head for Delhi and are joined by mutineers from Medhipur and Kotah contingents at Agra.


Nuseerabad:  15 & 30 BNI mutiny

27 June

Cawnpore:  Massacre at Sati-Chaura Ghat by troops of the Nana Sahib.  The Nana Sahib was Nana Dandhu Pant adopted son and heir of Baji Rao, last of the Peshwas.   Of the males only Lt Delafosse and Lt Thomson of 53 BNI and two men escaped.  Surviving women and children held prisoner.

30 June

Major Renaud moved on Cawnpore with 400 British, 300 Sikhs, 95 Irregular Cav, the faithful remnants of the 13 BNI & 3 Oude Irreg Cav and two guns.

30 June

Lucknow garrison makes an expedition to Chinhat where the mutineers in overwhelming numbers defeat them and pusue them back to Lucknow.

2 July

Lucknow: Sir Henry Lawrence mortally wounded by shell fragment.

4 July

Lucknow: Sir Henry Lawrence dies of his wounds, succeeded by Col Ingram of HM 32nd Foot.

5 July

Shahganj & Sassia mutineers met by 500 Bengal European inf, a field battery and some volunteer horse.  They inflicted a heavy defeat on the mutineers but had to withdraw due to a shortage of ammunition.  The force lost 49 KIA, 92 WIA.  The mutineers closed in on the withdrawing troops and destroyed the cantonment killing all who had not left.


Saugor District:  3 Irreg Cav & 42 BNI mutiny, 31 BNI remain loyal

7 July

Sialkot Mutiny mishandled.  14 BNI were being disbanded by the Rawalpindi Detachment.  In the ensuing action the mutineers escaped  and took refuge in the village of Samli.  British attacked with a loss of 44 KIA and 109 WIA.  Mutineers fled to Delhi at night leaving a large number of dead.  As a result the 9 BLC and 46 BNI in Sialkot mutinied, opened the gaol, burned the cantonment and marched on Delhi.  They were intercepted by Nicholson’s column at Trimu Ghat..

10 July

Havelock hears of massacre at Sati-Chaura Ghat at Cawnpore.  His mobile column of 1,000 troops from HM 64, 78, 84 and 1 Madras Fus, 130 Ferozepore Sikhs, 20 Volunteer cavalry and 6 guns advance on Cawnpore.

12 July

Havelock and Renaud meet at Fatehpur and defeat mutineers.

12 July

Nicholson meets and defeats thr Sialkot Mutineers at Trimu Ghat.  His forces follow up.

15 July

Havelock fights two battles close to Cawnpore at Aoung and the Pandu Naddi wins both.

15 July

Cawnpore, the women and children are massacred.  The bodies of the dead, dying and wounded are dropped into a well.

16 July

Nicholson’s column follows up the defeated mutineers and destroys them completely.  He returs to Amritsar and is reiforced by the 4th Sikh from Ludhiana.  Then he marches on Delhi.

16 July

Just outside Cawnpore, Havelock scatters the Nana Sahib’s forces.

16/17 July

Massacre at Cawnpore dicovered.  Troops shocked and filled with a desire for vengeance.

25 July

Havelock crosses Ganges and marches on Lucknow

29 July

Havelock fights Battles of Unao and Bashirganj - although victorious in both actions his force is so weakened by cholera and heat stroke that he is forced to withdraw to Mangalwar.


Sirmoor  and Kumaon Gurkha Bns; Corps of Guides; 2nd, 5th Punjab Cavalry; 4th Sikh Infantry, 1st, 2nd, 4th Punjab infantry, New Levies and a Battalion of Pioneers, arrive Delhi.

4 August

Havelock resumes advance.

5 August

Second Battle of Bashirganj, Havelock again victorious and again forced to withdraw to Mangalwar.  The 7, 8 & 40 mutinous BNI were closing in on his rear from Dinapore.  Built bridge of boats over the Ganges. 

5 August

Col Neill at Cawnpore is threatened by several thousand mutineers.

7 August

Nicholson’s Column arrives at the Delhi Ridge.

7 August

Lawrence sets out for the Delhi Ridge with Hodson’s Horse, 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry, 18 new regiments of infantry including 2 of Mazbi Pioneers. 

12 August

Battle of Burbia-ki-Chauki. The assembled mutineers defeated by Havelock.  

13 August

Havelock recrosses Ganges and marches on Cawnpore.  Discovers that the Nana Sahib is at Bithur and marches there.

16 August

Battle at Bithur Havelock crushes Nana Sahib but is again forced to withdraw to Cawnpore for reinforcements.

25 August

Battle of Najafgarh, Nicholson with a Squadron of Guides, 2nd and 5th Punjab Infantry defeat Mutineers to allow safe passage of the siege train onto Delhi Ridge.

14 September

Assault on Delhi by four columns:

1.   Escalade of left face of Kashmir Bastion and breach to left.  Then moved on to the Kabul Gate and Mori Bastion at took them.  Forced back when almost at the Lahore Gate.

2.   Attacked the breach by the Water Bastion and then joining with No1 Column took the Mori Bastion and Kabul Gate.

3.   Bengal Sappers and Miners blew in the Kashmir Gate and secured the area. Entered city near Jumna Masjid but were forced back because they lacked sufficient artillery.

4.   Met with a repulse at Kishanganj barricades.  Forced back by mutineers.  Situation saved by the cavalry brigade who were exposed to heavy fire and suffered heavy casualties.

15 September

The column consolidate their position in Delhi.

16 - 20 September

The assault columns push into and take Delhi in bitter and costly street fighting.  299 KIA, 877 WIA, 10 MIA.

16 September

Havelock now reinforced marches on Lucknow.  Gen Outram present but allows Havelock to command even though Outram is senior.

21 Sept

Battle at Mangalwar Havelock defeats mutineers..

21 Sept

Hodson and 50 Punjabi troopers go to the tomb of Humayun fout miles away to arrest the Emperor and the Princes.  The last of the Moghul Emperors surrendered.

22 Sept

Hodson, Lt McDowall and 100 troopers demanded the surrender of the three Shadazahs (Imperial Princes, sons of the Emperor).  His personal courage swayed the mutineers and the Emperor’s supporters and all three surrendered.  On the way back towards Delhi the cavalcade was surrounded by a mob.  Hodson shot all three Shadazahs.  He claimed it was done “to prevent a riot”.

23 Sept

Battle at Alambagh outside Lucknow Havelock defeats mutineers.

24 September

Battle of Balanshahr Gen Wilson detached a force of 2,800 men from Delhi under Col Greathead.  The Force comprising detachments of Hodson’s Horse, 1st, 2nd, 5th Punjab Cavalry, 2nd and 4th Punjab infantry and 200 pioneers suffered 47 casualties in defeating the mutineers. 

25 - 26 Sept

First relief of Lucknow.  The siege is not raised.  Havelock’s column now joins the defenders.  Outram assumes command.  Column loses 196 KIA, 339 WIA.  The defenders included substantial portions of the loyal 13, 48 & 71 BNI which were reformed as the “Lucknow Regt” after the mutiny.

10 October

Col Greathead’s Column reaches Agra.  As camp was being set a force of mutineers from Mhow arrived (1 BLC, 23 BNI and mixed fugitives from Delhi).  The surprise was mutual and the mutineers were slow in reacting.  They were soundly defeated and dispersed.  Col Greathead then set off for Cawnpore.  

10 October

Bikaner Brig Showers with a detachment of the Guides, Hodson’s Horse, Kumaon Bn, 1st Punjab infantry marched westwards to Bikaner.  He found it deserted and with no organised resistance to suppress he returned.  Immediately a force under Lt Col Gerrard was despatched to search out the enemy.

27 October

Sir Colin Campbell leaves Calcutta to relieve Lucknow.

12 November

Sir Colin Campbell arrives at the Alambagh near Lucknow.

14 November

Lucknow  Dilkusha Park and Martiniere House on the outskirts of Lucknow attacked and taken.  A spirited enemy counter attack defeated.

16 November

Battle of Narnaul  Lt Col Gerrard finds the mutineers.  His column comprised a detachment of Guides, Lind’s Multani Horse, 7th and 23rd Punjab Infantry.  The mutineers were defeated and dispersed but Gerrard was killed.

16 November

Lucknow  Capture of Sikanderbagh achieved by 2 companies of the 93rd Highlanders while the remainder of the 93rd, the 53rd, 4th Punjab and a battalion of detachments (84th, 90th & 1st Madras Fusiliers) fought their way in elsewhere.  The Sikanderbagh was held by mutinous sepoys of the 71 BNI and Oudh Irregulars.  Later that afternoon the Shah Najaf was captured with heavy losses on both sides.

17 November

Lucknow  The “Mess House” and the Moti Mahal carried as well as Bank’s House.  The garrison and relief column link up.  122KIA, 414 WIA, 5 MIA.

22 Nov

Lucknow garrison withdraws

24 Nov

Lucknow  General Havelock dies.Gen Outram and a small force left at the Alambagh.

24 Nov

Cawnpore  Threatened by Tantia Topi one of the most capable of the mutineer leaders.

26 Nov

Cawnpore  Windham attacks the Gwalior contingent at the Pandu Nadi.  Successfully defeats the mutineers and then fall back to Cawnpore.  Cawnpore attacked by Tantia Topi and British and loyal troops forced back into their entrenchments.  Tantia Topi’s objective appears to be the bridge of boats.

29 Nov

Cawnpore   Sir Colin Campbell arrives.  This alows the women children sick and wounded to be relieved and sent to Allahabad.

6 Dec

Cawnpore  Sir Colin attacks with a right turning manoeuvre which is a brilliant success.  Follow up delayed for three hours because the transport had not returned from the Allahabad expedition with the women and children. Col Smeaton’s Column comprised:  Hodson’s Horse, 7th Punjab Infantry, 1st Bengal Fusiliers, 120 Punjab pioneers

14 Dec

Gangari  Col Smeaton defeats mutineers with little difficulty.

17 Dec

Patiali Col Smeaton defeats mutineers with little difficulty.

27 Dec

Mainpuri Col Smeaton defeats mutineers with little difficulty.

23 Dec - 16 Jan

Several unsuccessful attacks by mutineers on the Alambagh.

16 Feb 1858

Major concerted effort by Rebels to overrun the Alambagh before Sir Colin Campbell’s column returned to Lucknow.  Determined attack driven off.

17 Feb

Mutineers again attack Alambagh and are repulsed.

21 Feb

Mutineers again attack Alambagh and are repulsed with heavy loss.

25 Feb

Mutineers and Rebels launch a massive final attack on the Alambagh.  Rebels decisively defeated.

25 Feb

Jaunpur Field Force of 3 British Battalions and 3,000 Gurkhas ends campaign by capturing the fort at Dhaurara.  (Other engagements were Chanda, Hamirpur, Sultanpur).

1 Mar

Sir Colin Campbell returns to Alambagh with large forces.  Plans to take Lucknow by turning rebel right and having 1st Div cross river to attack rebel rear.

2 Mar

Dikusha Park seized.

5 Mar

Bridge of boats built, Franks’ Jaunpur Field Force arrived at Alambagh.

6 Mar

Outram crosses Gumti with 2 Punjab Cav, Detachments of 1 & 5 Punjab Cav, 2 Punjab Inf.  Drove the rebels before them for three days then enfiladed rebel line rendering it untenable.

9 Mar

Martiniere carried.

10 Mar

Banks’ House carried

11 Mar

Sikanderbagh carried, Shah Najaf occupied without opposition, 93rd Highlanders and 4 Punjab Inf storm the Begum Koti.  Hodson was killed during this operation.

14 Mar

Imambara stormed by 10th Foot and the Ferozepore Regt.  Rebel 2nd and 3rd lines now turned.  Kaiser Bagh stronghold carried.

21 Mar

Lucknow completely recaptured.  Losses during the 20 days of fighting were:


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