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The British contingent in Cawnpore consisted of roughly nine hundred people. This was made up of about 300 military men, approximately 300 women and children, and about 150 merchants, business owners, salesmen, engineers and such like.

The rebellion began early on the morning of 5 June 1857. The shooting woke up loyal members of the 53rd and 56th Native Infantry, who ran to either help or perhaps defend themselves. Either way the British artillery assumed they were hostile and opened fire on them.

On 5 June 1857, Nana Sahib a local prince and leader of the rebels attacked the British entrenchment. The soldiers fought to defend themselves defend themselves over many days unaware of the growing umbers against them. By 10th June, the rebel numbers had grown to 12,000 - 15,000 Indian soldiers. The British defended themselves for about three weeks against bombardment and attack, but they were ill-prepared lacking much food and water. The heat, a lack of sanitation, and growing number of dead caused dysentery and cholera. The loss of a hospital building to fire, which also destroyed medical supplies, was a major blow. By 21 June the British had lost about a third of their men. The next major attack occurred on 23 June 1857.

The next day the rebels offered safe passage in exchange to the Ganges River, where they could depart for Allahadad. Three days of negotiations followed and finally the British accepted a signed promise from the Prince and prepared to leave.

On the morning of the 27 June, a large British column led by General Wheeler emerged from the entrenchment. Nana Sahib sent carts and other transport to allow the women, children and the sick to proceed to the river bank. The British officers and military troops were allowed to carry their guns and some ammunition with them, escorted by most of the rebel army. About 40 boats were arranged for the evacuation.
Massacre in the boats off Cawnpore - The history of the Indian Mutiny (1858-1859), opposite 336 - BL There is some dispute over what happened next but ,whether by confusion or panic, the rebels opened fire. Any men who survived the initial volley, or the artillery that followed, were immediately killed. The few boats that had got away were pursued and attacked. The women and children were taken into captivity.

The surviving British women and children, about 200 of them, were moved to Bibighar ("The House of the Ladies"), a house in Cawnpore. Nana Sahib decided tried o use these prisoners as a bargaining chip with the East India Company. The Company instead sent a large force to liberate the women and children.
The rebels attempted to stop the army to check their advance. but the British were victorious in two major battles and continued on to Cawnpore. It is highly likely that the British forces took revenge on the rebel villages as they made their way northward. After much discussion the rebel leaders discussed what to do next. On 15 July, an order was given to murder the women and children imprisoned at Bibighar. When some rebel fighters refused to carry out the massacre, butchers were hired to kill them with meat cleavers. Sweepers were hired to throw the dead bodies down a deep well and, despite some women and children being found alive, they were disposed of in the same way; some buried alive by other dead bodies!

The East India Company forces reached Cawnpore on 16 July, and quickly captured the city. A group of British officers and soldiers then moved on to Bibighar to rescue the hostages. However the site was empty and blood-splattered. 200 women and children had been dismembered and thrown down the well or, once nearly full, into the Ganges River. The details of the scene are too terrible for me to describe here. The rage of the British troops was equally brutal against the local population of Cawnpore, again too horrible to be spoken of here.

In November 1857 rebel Indian army soldiers attempted to recapture Cawnpore, but were defeated. Nana Sahib disappeared and, by 1859, it was said he had fled to Nepal.

After the revolt was suppressed, the British dismantled Bibighar. In its place a memorial railing & cross were built at the site of the well in which the bodies of the British women & children had been dumped. The inhabitants of Cawnpore were forced to pay £30,000 for the creation of the memorial, a punishment for not coming to the aid of the women and children in Bibighar.

A beautiful statue, "The Angel of the Resurrection", was created by Baron Carlo Marochetti and completed in 1865. It became to be the most visited statue of British India. The angel is holding two branches of palm fronds across her chest. The Angel represented the British Occupation and was damaged during the Indian Independence celebrations of 1947. It was later moved from the site of the well to a garden at the side of All Soul's Church, Kanpore (Kanpur Memorial Church), built by the British in 1875 in memory of the victims. The remains of a circular ridge of the well can still be seen at theNana Rao Park, constructed after Indian independence. The British built the in memory of the victims.

Colour Sergeant George T.C. Burgum died at Cawnpawn soon after it was liberated from the Indian rebels. You can read his story by clicking his name.