The agents of the British East India Company had barracks scattered throughout India, their private army was made up of Sikhs, Gurkhas, Pathans, and Muslims, 260 thousand men, more than 10 times the number of British agents settled in the Raj and more than double their army, his loyalty was vital if they wanted to remain in India.
As a result of the Crimean War, the Company made a trivial decision that proved disastrous: they trained their troops to use the new Lee-Enfield rifle whose cartridges were greased with animal fat; There was a rumor that it was made with a mixture of cow and pig fat, one transgressed the Hindus, the other the Muslims. The next episode would be known as the Indian Mutiny by the British and for the Indians as the First War of Independence.
The immediate reason was the belief among many Indian soldiers that they were being deliberately contaminated with the cartridges, but once the rebellion started, many grudges of three decades of humiliation and baseness of the British came to light.
In the barracks ninety soldiers refused to take the new cartridges, in doing so, they were sentenced to 10 years of forced labor, however on Sunday, May 10, 1857, while the British rested in their tents after the religious service, the noise of the shooting Indian troops baffle everyone, once they had released the captured soldiers, the rebels charged against the British quartering.
The bungalows were burned, men, women, and children massacred the great mutiny had begun, and although initially, it happened in the northern quarters, it soon spread throughout the continent. Cawnpore was a refuge for British single women, and they were protected by a lieutenant from the Company: Nana Sahib, who patiently watched the reactions of the British. During the month of May, relative peace was maintained, it was the calm that precedes the storm.
On June 4, 1857, the Indian troops attacked their dependencies again, a few days later Nana Sahib joined the rebels, the British were quartered in a fort that the Indians called «Fort Despair«. The news arrived in London, and on June 10, thirty thousand soldiers were sent, but the ships would take months to reach India.
Cawnpore was taken by the rebels, a constant massacre bombing the Fort, hundreds of single women who were besieged were raped and then killed. Witnesses report that blood flooded the only source of drinking water. The heat affected the wounds and the site soon became infested with flies that surrounded the corpses.
Nana Sahib offered them a truce, they had to return to England through the Ganges River, they had to accept, they had no choice. The starting point was a Hindu temple along the river where they took the ritual baths; a fleet of boats with palm roofs had been organized to protect the British from the sun. Native crews would guide them to a safe place.
Shortly after they set sail, the rebels threw burning coal on the ships, the fire soon spread and hundreds of native soldiers unloaded hundreds of bullets, the smell of fire, dust and blood was shocking. On the burning ships, soldiers on horseback entered the water to kill the survivors with sabers, 500 Britons died in the massacre, few survivors who tried to escape were killed on the riverbank.
Nana Sahib decree clemency and forgive the lives of 180 women and children who were taken to the Bibighar palace, they mutinied with the hope of being taken to England, however on the arrival of the British army and its rapid advance, Nana Sahib ordered the massacre of the Britons, 4 butchers were recruited to kill the few survivors, the building bathed in blood and the rebels fled to the mountains, where they were never found.