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Life And Work In Benares And Kumaon 1839-1877 by James Kennedy


FROM 1859 TO 1866.

From the time of our arrival at Benares in January, 1859, on to our departure for the hills in March, 1861, the work of the Mission was carried on in the usual way. There were interruptions from failure of health, but during the most of the period the operations of the Mission were vigorously carried on with tokens of the Divine blessing.


The principal change during this period was the greater attention given to the European population. Before 1857 the English-speaking population of Benares was very small, and as there was always an English chaplain at the place, and our Baptist brethren kept up an English service, our Mission did very little in this department. For a time we had an English service one evening in the week, but owing to the weakness of the Mission, and the pressing demands of native work, this had been given up. After the Mutiny the English-speaking population was largely increased by English soldiers, and persons connected with the Public Works. It was deemed incumbent on us to do something for our own countrymen, whose spiritual need was manifest to all. On this account English services on the Lord's Day were commenced. For a time two such services were held, one in the Mission chapel, and another in the schoolroom of the cavalry barracks. On the withdrawal of the cavalry this second service was discontinued. The service on the Lord's Day morning or forenoon in the Mission chapel has been steadily kept on till this time, has been generally well attended, and has been, I believe, productive of much good.

As the Rev. William Moody Blake, who joined the Mission in 1858, took the superintendence of the Central School, and with occasional assistance conducted the English services, the work among the native women and girls was left to be carried on by my wife, to which she had given her heart and strength from the time she became a member of the Mission in 1839, while I had the principal charge of evangelistic work among the heathen, and of ministering to the native Christians.

The most memorable episode of this period was a visit we paid to Allahabad, Cawnpore, and Lucknow, in the winter of 1859-60. We saw much on this tour which deeply and painfully interested us. I have already mentioned the desolation I saw on my visit to Allahabad at the end of 1857. During the two succeeding years the houses which had been burnt had been rebuilt, new houses had been erected, and new roads had been made. Traces of the desolation caused by the Mutiny remained, but there were on every side signs of great prosperity. Allahabad, from its position at the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna, had always been deemed a place of great importance in both a military and civil aspect. It rose to new importance by being made the seat of government for the North-West instead of Agra, and also by becoming the central railway-station, from which it was arranged railways should ramify to Lahore and Peshawur in the north-west, to Calcutta in the east and south, to Jubbulpore and Bombay in the west, forming in Central India a connection with the railways in Southern India. This arrangement has been carried out, and now there is no city in the interior of the country which bears so close a resemblance as Allahabad to the great Presidency cities, in its churches, European shops, hotels, and roads so lined with houses that they may be called streets. As might be expected, the native population has greatly increased.

From Allahabad we went by train to Cawnpore, one hundred and thirty miles to the north-west. This place was for many years a large military station, as the kingdom of Oude lay on the other side of the Ganges. It may be well to give a very brief narrative of the terrible events which occurred there, that readers may the better understand what we saw.


On the breaking out of the Mutiny, the English soldiers and residents entrenched themselves in an open plain, which had the solitary advantage of accommodation in barracks, while they left the arsenal in the hands of the insurgents. The siege commenced on June 6th, directed by Dundhoo Punt, the Nana Sahib as he was called, the adopted son of Bajee Rao, the ex-Peshwa of the Mahrattas, whose castle was ten miles distant. On June 27th, after enduring terrible hardships and privations, our people surrendered on promise of being sent safely to Allahabad. They accordingly made their way to the promised boats; but no sooner had they been reached than they were set on fire, and the Nana in person directed a fusillade on the party. Only four succeeded in escaping, and they did this by swimming. The men were murdered, the women and children, to the number of two hundred, were taken back, were huddled together in crowded rooms, scantily fed on the coarsest food, and subjected to every indignity. The Nana's army was defeated in several engagements, and was at last utterly overthrown by the army led by General Havelock, in a battle fought at the entrance to Cawnpore. By an order of the Nana, issued by him when fleeing from the place, the women and children were murdered, and their bodies were thrown into a well. Our soldiers arrived to see to their horror the well choked with the victims of Nana's satanic cruelty. Unknown to those whom he was besieging, he had previously, on June 4th, ordered the massacre of one hundred and thirty men, women, and children, who had come from Futtyghur.


At Cawnpore we saw much to sadden us to the very core. The thrilling accounts we had read of the atrocious deeds there committed came to our remembrance with a painful reality. All along the river-side, houses, once occupied by officers, lay in ruins as the mutineers had left them. We observed flowers blooming here and there in the gardens, planted by those who had been so ruthlessly cut down. We visited all the places made memorable by the sad events of 1857. We went to the Sabadha Kothee, as it was called, the house on a slight elevation from which the Nana directed the siege of the entrenched camp. It was well remembered by us as the abode, in 1842, on our first visit to Cawnpore, of a missionary of the Propagation Society, with whom we had much pleasant intercourse. Within less than half a mile of this house lay the entrenched camp of the English -- if a trench three or four feet deep, with a breastwork of earth behind it four or five feet high, deserves the name of an entrenchment. The spot was chosen on account of the barracks, in which our people could shelter themselves against what they expected to be a mere temporary assault, if an assault at all was made, as they supposed the mutinous soldiery would leave at once for Delhi, which they would have done had not the Nana stopped them by large pay and larger promises. The barracks speedily became well-nigh uninhabitable under the fire of the enemy. At last they were burnt down, and no shelter remained from the fierce rays of the sun. One could not look on the spot, and consider the weakness of the defenders compared with the strength of the enemy, supplied as they were with the guns and ammunition of our arsenal, without wondering the defence could have been maintained for a day. The defence was most heroic; extraordinary feats of valour were performed, but at last the besieged were obliged to succumb from the failure of food and ammunition.

We walked from the entrenchment, which was rapidly disappearing under the rains and heat of the climate, by the route taken by our people to the promised boats, which were set on fire as soon as they reached them. It was truly a via dolorosa, and we walked on it with saddened hearts, musing on the awful sufferings our countrymen had endured. On a little temple close to the ferry at which the boats lay, and on some houses near it, we saw marks of the bullets on the walls.

Since that period -- the winter of 1858-59 -- we have been on several occasions at Cawnpore. The desolation has disappeared. Ruined houses are no longer to be seen. A stranger might pass through the place without observing anything to remind him of the events of 1857. He would be a very preoccupied or a very stolid person who could pass through Cawnpore without making it a point to see the monuments erected to commemorate our fallen countrymen. On the site of the entrenched camp a memorial church has been raised, with stained windows and varied devices bearing the names of those who had fought and suffered there. A very handsome monument of marble, surmounted by a statue of the Angel of Peace, with a suitable inscription, has been erected over the well into which the bodies of the women and children were thrown. The ground round it is kept in beautiful order. For many a day visitors to India will look with tearful eyes and sad hearts on these spots sacred to their fallen countrymen.

[Illustration: THE WELL AT CAWNPORE.]


Leaving Cawnpore, we crossed the Ganges and travelled forty miles to Lucknow, the capital of the country of Oude, which was ruled by a feudatory of the Mogul Empire, who had become a feudatory of the British Crown. To him our Government gave the title of King. In 1856, by an order from home, the country was taken under our direct rule on account of gross misgovernment, by flagrant and persistent violation of the engagement made with us. The Chief Commissioner in March, 1857, was Sir Henry Lawrence. After staving off the Mutiny successfully for a time, he was obliged in the end of June to concentrate his force in a half-fortified place on a slight elevation, called the Residency, as there the British representative, under the title of Resident, and his official subordinates, had their abode and offices. There the English were besieged by a vast body of Sepoys, and by the Talookdars, the Barons of Oude, and their retainers. Sir Henry Lawrence was mortally wounded on July 4th. The siege was maintained till September 25th, when, after a fierce struggle, it was relieved by Havelock and Outram. They in their turn were besieged, but they were able to maintain their footing till November 19th, when they were finally relieved by Sir Colin Campbell. Outram remained with a force of observation at Alum Bagh, a large garden with a very high wall, outside Lucknow on the Cawnpore road; while the rest held on to Cawnpore. Sir Colin Campbell returned with his army, and took the city on March 6th, 1858. We are told that in the interval it had been fortified in a way which would have done credit to a European power. My narrative will be better understood by these facts being remembered.

As we travelled from Cawnpore to Lucknow we passed houses close to the road which still retained the loopholes through which the enemy had fired on our troops. The earthworks hastily raised for temporary shelter still remained. We were reminded at every mile of the fierce resistance our soldiers had to encounter. At Lucknow we remained for a week, and went over all the scenes made memorable by recent events. We paid several visits to the Residency, where our people defended themselves so long and valiantly against thousands of armed men well supplied with ammunition. At every step proofs presented themselves of the desperate struggle maintained with the foe. The houses in the Residency had been so battered and torn by shells and balls that scarcely one was habitable before its evacuation, and the ruin was completed when the city was finally taken by Sir Colin Campbell. At the beginning of 1859 the whole place was a mass of ruin, with here and there a piece of tottering wall, shaken or perforated by heavy shot and ready to come down. The walls still stood, though in a very broken state, of the house in which Sir Henry Lawrence died, and the spot was pointed out to us where he had received his death-wound. A large body of labourers was employed in taking down the ruined walls and levelling the ground. We observed bones which had been dug up by them as they pursued their work.

From the entrance into Lucknow on the Cawnpore road there is a street, two miles in length, leading straight to the Residency. The enemy expected our army to advance by this street, and made provision for its destruction by digging trenches, and lining the houses on both sides with musketeers ready to pour on our soldiers a killing fire. The relieving army, guided by a person who knew Lucknow well, and had at great risk made his way to them at night from the Residency, made a sudden detour to the right, and advanced by a comparatively open route, stoutly but unsuccessfully opposed at almost every step. I had the promise of a guide to take me on foot by this route to the Residency, but on reaching Alum Bagh, the appointed place of meeting, I found no one there. I made my way, however, with very little difficulty by observing the marks of the bullets on the houses along the line traversed. I sometimes lost the trace, but soon recovered it, musing as I went along on the very different circumstances in which our countrymen a short time previously had gone over that road.


We saw other places of interest, such as the Muchee Bhawan, the fort in which our soldiers were previous to the siege; the Kaisar Bagh, an extensive garden, filled with showy, lofty houses, where the King of Oude and his numerous retinue had resided; the Chuttar Manzil, a handsome building where public entertainments were given; the gateway at which the gallant Colonel Neil fell -- now called Neil Gate; the Secunder Bagh, a garden with a high wall, where a large body of the enemy was posted, and which was stormed by the 78th Highlanders, who shut up every exit and killed every soul, many of the Sepoys fighting desperately to the last. Two thousand bodies were taken out of the place and buried in the adjoining ground. We observed on the walls the marks of the bullets, and even the indents made by the swords and bayonets, while this carnage was going on.


A French adventurer of the 18th century, General La Martine, had risen to great power and wealth in the service of the Kings of Oude. He erected a splendid mansion in Lucknow for the support and education of boys of every creed -- Christian boys to be brought up in the Christian Government's religion -- and richly endowed it. Similar institutions were established in Calcutta and in Lyons, La Martine's native place. This institution has proved a signal blessing to European and Eurasian families. On the outbreak of the Mutiny the teachers and pupils betook themselves to the Residency, and under the leading of their Principal took an active part in the defence. La Martine had so little confidence in the kings whom he had served for years, that he ordered his body to be buried in a vault under the building, which he knew would prevent a Muhammadan from making it his dwelling-house. This was accordingly done.

While we were at Lucknow we were most hospitably entertained by a missionary of the Church Missionary Society, to whom a large native mansion had been made over by the authorities on account of the owner having taken an active part in the rebellion. On Sabbath I preached in Hindustanee to the native Christians, and we attended the English service held in a building which had been an Imambara, the name given to a building where Muhammadans of the Shiah sect worship.

When going from Cawnpore to Lucknow we travelled by day. We returned by night, when the moon was full. It was one of those calm, clear nights of which we have many at that season. We reached the Ganges about four in the morning. While waiting for a boat to take us across, there fell on our ears, coming from a cluster of huts close by, the voice of a singer at that early hour; and what was our delight and surprise, as we listened, to hear the words distinctly uttered of a well-known hymn in praise of the Redeemer of mankind! A short time previously the mention of that name with honour in that place would have exposed him who uttered it to a violent death. The incident was very cheering as an omen of the dawn to benighted India, when, through the tender mercy of our God, Jesus the light of the world shall shine into the hearts of its teeming population, and raise them into the sunshine of heaven.

Lucknow, as well as Cawnpore, has undergone a great change since 1859. We saw it last in 1877, when traces of the fierce conflict which had been there carried on had well-nigh disappeared; while on every side, in new roads opened up, in miserable tenements thrown down, in new houses erected, and in rubbish removed, evidence was given that the effete government of the Kings of Oude had given place to the vigorous government of their Western conquerors. Nothing is now to be seen of the ruins and desolation of the Residency. The ground has been levelled, trees planted, paths made, and the whole place is kept in beautiful order. On the highest spot there is a memorial cross. All out from Lucknow for miles, at the instance of friends, monuments have been raised, some of them with very touching inscriptions, in memory of the fallen, so far as the spots where they fell could be identified.


We returned to Benares with a very vivid impression of what we had seen, with a new realization of the sufferings our countrymen had endured, with deepened admiration of the heroism they had shown, and with thankfulness at once for our rescue as a people from destruction, and for the restoration of our rule.

[Sidenote: VISIT TO DELHI.]

We continued at our post at Benares till March, 1861, when the state of the Mission admitted of our obtaining a much-needed retreat to the Hills for a few months. We accordingly left Benares for Almora, and took Delhi by the way, where we remained a few days. This was our second visit to the grand old imperial city. On this occasion we visited the scene of the memorable events of the Mutiny year, as we had previously done at Cawnpore and Lucknow. We went to the heights commanding the city, where our army was encamped for months, at once the besiegers and the besieged, and from which at last they took the city, after a contest so desperate and bloody that for days the issue was doubtful. The palace, with its magnificent halls of audience and entertainment, where the Emperors of India had for ages kept their court, we found turned into barracks and an arsenal. English soldiers trod those rooms where Indian magnates had bowed before imperial majesty -- giving us an impressive illustration of the transitory nature of earthly glory.

For some time after going to Almora our health improved; but as the season advanced it gave way so entirely, that our medical attendant came to the conclusion a visit to England was indispensable to its restoration. The Directors of the Society gave their kind and prompt consent to our return. We accordingly embarked from Calcutta for England, via the Cape of Good Hope, in January, 1862, and reached our destination in April.

All I have to say about the interval between 1862 and 1865 is that I visited many places in England and Scotland on behalf of the Society, did a good deal of ministerial work besides, and was kept in uncertainty about my future course by medical opposition to my going back to India. In 1864 I feared I could not return; but my health improved so much in 1865, that the medical men I consulted, to my great joy, consented to our going back. We accordingly embarked for Calcutta via the Cape, accompanied by two young missionaries appointed to Benares, in September, 1865, and reached our destination, after a prosperous voyage, towards the end of the year. We were very pleased with the thought that our traversing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans had come to an end.

The railway had some time previously been completed to the North-West, and so instead of days and weeks spent on the journey from Calcutta to Benares, it was now made in twenty-six hours.


The hot weather and rains of 1866 were spent in Benares. We felt the heat that year more than we had ever previously done, and were to a great extent incapacitated by it for the prosecution of mission work. We came to the conclusion that continued work in the plains was beyond our strength, and as we much wished to continue in the mission field, we hoped a hill sphere might be opened up. In March, 1867, we left for Almora, where, with our colleague Mr. Budden, we engaged in different departments of mission labour. Early in the cold weather we returned to Benares, and resumed our work there. As the hot weather of 1868 came on, we were again privileged to return to Almora. Towards the end of that year it was arranged that our connection with Benares should cease, and that we should begin a new mission at Ranee Khet, about twenty miles north-west from Almora.


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