The accommodations for the party were ready on their arrival, and even the luncheon was on the table. Before they had disposed of it the landaus were at the door. Three military officers were also in attendance, appointed to render all the assistance to the company they needed. They were introduced to the members of the party, and then they were driven to the fort.”
“At the time of the mutiny Cawnpore contained about one thousand English people, one half of whom were women and children,” said Captain Chesly, the principal of the officers. “The troops were provided with ill-constructed intrenchments for their defence. I am informed that his lordship has already given you some details of the rebellion, but as I am not aware of the extent to which he has given them I shall probably repeat some of them.”
“The party will be glad to have them repeated,” added Lord Tremlyn. “I told them who and what Nana Sahib was.”
“His first act after taking the lead in the rebellion of the sepoys was to murder one hundred and thirty-six of our people, who were deceived by the sympathy he had formerly manifested for them, and easily fell into his hands. Two hundred and fifty soldiers, with as many women and children, the latter in the military hospital, had taken refuge in the fort. As soon as he had completed his bloody work in the massacre, Nana Sahib besieged the feeble garrison. They defended themselves with the utmost bravery and skill against the vast horde of natives brought against them.
“For three weeks they held out against the overwhelming force that was thirsting for their blood. Their chief had anticipated no such resistance, and he was impatient at the delay in finishing the butchery. He resorted to an infamous stratagem, proposing to General Wheeler, who was in command of the British troops, to grant him all the honors of war if he would surrender, with boats and abundant provisions to enable him and all his people to reach Allahabad.
“The proposition was received with considerable distrust by the besieged; but Nana swore before the general that he would faithfully observe all the terms of the capitulation, and it was finally accepted. The garrison marched out with their arms and baggage, and passed through the hordes of the besiegers to the river. The wounded, with the women and children, were sent to the Ganges on elephants. Now, if you take your seats in the carriages, we will proceed to the scene of the massacre.”
The company were conveyed to a Hindu temple on the shore, where the suttee had formerly been performed, and which was provided with a broad staircase leading down to the water. The place had a funereal aspect, to which the terrible tragedy lent an additional melancholy.
“The treacherous commander of the rebels had provided about twenty boats of all sizes, and supplied them with provisions, in order to complete the deception,” continued Captain Chesly when the party had alighted. “The boats were cast loose to the current, and the hungry people rushed to the eatables. But the flotilla was hardly clear of the shore before a battery of guns, masked from their view, opened a most destructive fire upon them with grape and solid shot, mostly the former.