1902 Encyclopedia > Cawnpur (also known as: Cawnpore; Kanpur)

Cawnpur
(also known as: Cawnpore; Kanpur)




CAWNPUR [CAWNPORE], a district of British India within the jurisdiction of the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces, lies in 25°and 26° N.lat., and 79° and 80° E. long. It is bounded on the N. by the province of Oudh, the Ganges River forming the boundary line; on the E. by Fathipur district, on the S. by the Jamna, separating it from Hamirpur and Jalaun districts, and on the W. by Etawah and Farrakhabad districts. The district is situated between the Ganges and Jamna rivers, and is a portion of the well-watered and fertile tract known as the Duab. The general inclination of the country is from north to south. Besides the two great rivers, the principal streams are the Arand or Bhind, the Karan or Singar, the Isan, and the Pandu. An extension of the great Ganges Canal also passes through the district. The total area is 2336-53 square miles. The census of 1872 returned the total population of Cawnpur district at 1,156,055, made up as follows :—Hindus, 1,065,786, or 92'20 per cent, of the total population; Muhammadans, 89,215, or 7-72 per cent.; Christians (i.e., Europeans, Eurasians, and native Chris* tians), 1054, or -08 per cent. Total number of villages and townships, 1985 ; total number of houses, 272,232. Only two towns in the district contain a population of upwards of 5000 souls, namely Cawnpur town and can-tonments, population 122,778, and Bilhaur, population 5954. Of the total area of the district, viz., 2336-53 square miles, 1351 -42 square miles are cultivated, and 236T5 cultivable, the remainder being uncultivable waste. The staple crop is wheat, but cotton of an excellent quality has of late years been much cultivated. The principal industry is leather work, which is very extensively carried on throughout the district,—Cawnpur saddlery and harness being exported to all parts of India. The trading towns of importance besides Cawnpur are,—Bilhaur, population 5954; Akbarpur, population 4911; and Kashi-pur, population 4663. Most of the towns and large villages have markets once or twice a week for the sale of local produce and cattle. The only regularly-constituted municipality in the district is Cawnpur, but ten small towns have a municipal committee, and carry out con-servancy and sanitary arrangements, &c, by means of taxes assessed on the householders. The last settlement of the land revenue of the district expired in 1872, and a new one is in progress.

The district revenue in 1872-73 was £576,587, of which £212,276 was derived from land, £12,163 from opium, and £15,882 from stamps. The district police force in 1873 numbered 555, costing £9165, 8s.; the village watchmen, or rural police (maintained by the villagers), 2985, estimated cost £10,746 ; municipal police, for-eleven towns, 414 officers and men, costing £3183, 12s. At the charitable dispensaries 2634 patients received treatment during 1873, at a cost of £1131, 5d., of which Government contributed two-thirds. The Government and aided schools in the district in 1873 numbered 391, attended by 10,731 pupils.

CAWNPUR CITY, the administrative headquarters of the district of the same name, and a large military canton-ment, situated on the right or south bank of the Ganges, -in 26° 29' N. lat. and 80° 25' E. long. The river here is about 500 yards wide in summer, but when swollen by the .rains increases to about a mile in breadth, with a strong and rapid current. It is navigable southwards to the sea, a distance of 1000 miles; and upwards as far as 'Sukertal, 300 miles to the north-west. A bridge of boats icrosses the Ganges at Cawnpur, and the ghats, or landing-.places, on the bank present a busy scene of commerce. The city is built on a sandy plain ; and, together with the cantonments, contained in 1872 a total population of 122,710 souls, classified as follows :—Hindus, 90,582 ; Muhammadans, 31,888; Christians, 300. This classification apparently excludes the European soldiers. The canton-ment forms one of the large military stations of Northern India, and has accommodation for 7000 fighting men. Excluding the cantonment, the population within the limits of the Cawnpur municipality amounted to 98,476 in 1872. The municipal income in 1871-72 amounted to £19,323, and the expenditure to £15,639. Cawnpur is a ostation on the East India Railway, and also a terminus of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway. The principal thoroughfare in the native town is the Chandni Chauk, oor "street of silver," upwards of 100 feet in width. Cawnpur is noted for the excellence and cheapness of its leather manufactures, such as saddlery, harness, boots and .shoes, &c.

History.—The importance of Cawnpur city dates from its selection as a military post, when the Ceded Provinces were acquired by the East India Company in 1801. The one great event in its history is the siege of the British position by the rebel Sepoys during the mutiny of 1857, and the treacherous massacre which followed on the surrender of the garrison. The story of the mutiny and massacre of Cawnpur has been fully chronicled by Sir J. W. Kaye, Colonel Mowbray Thomson, and Mr G. O. Trevelyan. On the deposition of Maharaja Baji Rao, the last Marhatta Eeshwa, or sovereign of Bund, by the East India Company, he received an annuity of £80,000 a year, and had a princely residence assigned to him at Bithur, a .short distance from Cawnpur. Here he lived in great state until his death in 1851. His heir was an adopted son, named Sirlk Dandhu Fanth, more commonly known as the Nana Sahib, who succeeded to the late Peshwa's estate at Bithur, and to the great accumulations of wealth which he had left behind him. An application of Nina Sahib for a continuance of the annuity or pension granted to his adop-tive father was, however, disallowed by the Indian Govern-ment; and on appeal, this decision was upheld by the Board of Control and by the Privy Council in England. For this refusal to grant what he looked upon as his right, Nana Sahib cherished a bitter grudge against the English, which, however, he carefully concealed until the outbreak of the .mutiny afforded him his opportunity for revenge.

In May 1857 the European force in the Cawnpur cantonment consisted of a handful of artillery and infantry, making about 300 fighting men, including the English officers of the Sepoy regiments. The native force comprised the 1st, 53d, and 65th regiments of native infantry, and the 2d regiment of Bengal cavalry, about 3000 men in all. The division was commanded by General Sir Hugh Wheeler. The native troops began to manifest, early in 1857, the same symptoms of disquiet as other native regiments stationed in Bengal and Upper India. When the news of the outbreak at Meerut and Delhi reached Cawnpur, the excitement among the native soldiery, camp followers, and city population increased to _such a degree that General Wheeler deemed it expedient to throw up defensive works, within which the whole Christian population might gather in event of a rising. Unfortunately, the site chosen for the entrenchment proved unsuitable in almost every respect. "The fortifications," writes Sir John W. Kaye, "were so paltry, that an English subaltern could have ridden over them on a cast horse from the company's stud. The earthworks were little more than 4 feet high, and were not even bullet-proof at the crest. The apertures for the artillery exposed both our guns and our gun-ners, whilst an enemy in adjacent buildings might find cover on all sides." Towards the end of May it became evident that the rising of the Sepoys was only a question of time, and accordingly all women, children, and non-combatants were gathered within the improvised entrenchments. On the night of the 4th June the crisis arrived. The 2d cavalry set the example of open rebellion, and were immediately followed by the 1st regiment of foot. The treasury was robbed, and the magazine, with its enormous supplies of am-munition and artillery, was taken possession of by the mutineers. The following morning the 53d and 56th native regiments joined their comrades.

The Nana's opportunity had now come. He placed himself at the head of the rebels, and was proclaimed Peshwa of the Marhattas, in feudatory allegiance to the Delhi emperor. On the 6th June he sent notice to General Wheeler that he was about to attack the position. Within this slight fortification upwards of a thousand souls had taken refuge, of whom 465 were men of all ages and professions. Every one able to bear arms was told off to the defence. At noon be-gan the siege, "the miseries of which to the besieged," says Sir J. W. Kaye, "have never been exceeded in the history of the world. All the wonted terrors of a multitudinous enemy without, of a feeble garrison and scant shelter within, of the burden of women and chil-dren and sick people, with little to appease their wants or to allay their sufferings, were aggravated by the burning heat of the climate. The June sky was little less than a great canopy of fire ; the summer breeze was as the blast of a furnace ; to touch the barrel of a gun was to recoil as from red-hot iron. It was the season when European strength and energy are ever at their lowest point of depression ; when military duty in its mildest form taxes the powers of Englishmen to the utmost, and English women can do little more than sustain life in a state of languid repose, in shaded apartments, with all appliances at command to moderate the temperature and mitigate the suffering. But now, even under the fierce meridian sun, this little band of English fighting men were ever straining to sustain the strenuous activity of constant battle against fearful odds, whilst delicate women and fragile children were suddenly called to endure discomforts and privations which it would have been hard to battle with in strong health under their native skies."

The deficiencies of the position as a place of defence soon became apparent. It was exposed to a continuous cannonade from heavy siege guns, taken from the magazine, and to a ceaseless hail-storm of musketry fire from a range of buildings just outside the entrench-ments. All attempts of the mutineers to push forward were fiercely driven back, and a general attack upon the British position was defeated with heavy loss to the assailants. But the contest was too unequal to last long. By the end of the first week our fifty-nine artillerymen were all wounded or killed at their posts. On the eighth day of the siege a great calamity befel the garrison. The building assigned as a shelter for the women and children was burned down, and the sick and wounded had henceforth neither roof over head to shelter them by day, nor any bedding between them and the bare earth at night. The miseries of hunger and thirst and disease were now added to the fire of the enemy and the exposure to the burn-ing sun. During the three weeks which the siege lasted, 250 of the little garrison were interred in the well within the entrenchment.

Fearfully reduced in numbers, with their guns almost unservice-able, their ammunition nearly expended, and starvation staring them in the face, they found it impossible to hold out much longer. When thus almost at the last extremity of despair, a written mes-sage came from the Nana, offering to provide a safe passage to Allahabad to all who laid down their arms. The question of capitu-lation was long and anxiously discussed before the measure was decided on ; but the consideration of the women and children, and of the sick and wounded, led to the acceptance of the Nana's terms on the 26th June, and it was arranged to evacuate the entrench-ment next morning, the Nana engaging to provide safe conduct for the garrison to the river side, and sufficient boats to convey them to Allahabad.
Accordingly, on the following morning, the remnant of the little garrison left the entrenchment and feebly dragged themselves to the river-stairs appointed as the place of embarkation. Here ensued the act of treachery which was destined for long years to embitter the feelings between the English nation and the Indian races. The boats were in waiting as arranged, and the embarkation was accom-plished. No sooner, however, were all on board than on a signal the native boatmen deserted their vessels and clambered to shore. A murderous fire was opened on the boats from both sides of the river, and presently the thatched roofs of the vessels burst into flames, having been ignited by hot cinders. The boats were aground at the time of their abandonment by their crews. On the opening of the fire every attempt was made to get them afloat in mid-channel, but most of them remained immovable. "The sick and wounded," says Sir J. W. Kaye, "were burnt to death or more mercifully suffocated by the smoke ; whilst the stronger women with children in their arms took to the river, to be shot down in the water, to be sabred in the stream by mounted troopers who rode in after them, to be bayoneted on reaching land, or to be made captives and reserved for a later and more cruel immolation." The male prisoners were immediately killed, but of women and children it is computed that 200 were spared for the time by order of the Nana, and conveyed back to Cawnpur. Of the boats which got afloat only one succeeded in forcing its way through the swarms of enemies on both banks of the river, and of its occupants only four men, two officers and two privates, survived to relate the story of Cawnpur. The rest of the tale is soon told. English troops were being hurried forward by forced marches to the relief of Cawnpur under Major Renaud and General Havelock. On the 12 th July they came up with the rebel army at Fathipur, and after a short encounter _—it could not be called a fight—utterly routed it. Another engage-ment with a like result took place at Aoung on the 15th July, 22 omiles from Cawnpur. On this day, the 15th, the Nana heard of the defeat at Fathipur, and learned that Havelock's little army was in full march upon Cawnpur. Furious at the news, he resolved upon a great final act of butchery. Orders went forth for the massacre of the women and children, the survivors of the dreadful day at the river side. Four or five men who were among the prisoners were first shot in the presence of the Nana, and then the women and children were slashed to death in their prison by Muhammadan butchers from the bazaar, and one or two of the Náná's followers. Their bodies (some, it is said, with life not quite extinct) were thrown into the well which had served as an improvised cemetery during the siege. After this crowning act of infamy Náná Sáhib resolved upon making one last stand for Cawnpur, and gave battle to Havelock a few miles south of the city on the 16th July. The fight was more hotly contested than those which had preceded it, but ended in the same result. During the night Náná Sáhib fled with the remnant of his army, and the next morning Havelock entered Cawnpur, but too late to save the captives whom he had hoped to rescue. A marble shrine with a statue of the Angel of Peace by Marochetti now covers the well, and the sad scene has been surrounded by a lovely garden. The spot is one of the most pathetic in India, and, to quote the words of the legend round the shrine, will for ever be "Sacred to the per-petual memory of a great company of Christian people, chiefly women and children" who lie beneath. A memorial church has also been built in commemoration of the events of the siege. (W. W. H.)







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