The issue of greased cartridges to native soldiers as part of re-equipping the East India Company Army with new rifles was not the underlying cause of the Mutiny. Trouble had been brewing for some time and serious unrest started after the annexation of the provinces of Oudh and the Punjab 1856.
In March 1857, 7 companies of the Bengal Native Infantry mutinied at Barrackpore. Rumours spread amongst the sepoys that they were all required to be Christian and that a new type of ammunition was about to be introduced which needed to be greased with cow or pig fat. On 10th May 1857, sepoys refused to use the greased bullets and mutinied at Meerut. The first European was killed and due to lack of effective suppression, the mutineers escaped to Delhi.
A general slaughter of Europeans ensued and other Indian rulers saw this as an opportunity to regain lost territories and prevent further British encroachment.
The Delhi magazine was saved from the Mutineeers through the brave action of a few British soldiers who managed to blow it up. Delhi was eventually recaptured on 20th September and Badahur Shah, the rebels leader was taken prisoner and his sons shot.
At Cawnpore, the British garrison surrendered to the mutineers under Nana Sahib, a local ruler on 26th June after a grueling siege. The garrison was defended by about 300 soldiers who were protecting about 400 women and children. Having been offered safe passages they were about to embark on 27th June, they were attacked and killed and the women and children captured and eventually massacred.
A small force under Brigadier General Sir Henry Havelock on his way to relieve Lucknow, defeated the forces of Nana Sahib and entered Cawnpore on 15th July only to discover the attrocious massacre which in turn led to alot of indiscriminate treatment of Indians by British in anger.
The advance to Lucknow continued and Havelock’s column eventually broke through to the garrison on 25th Sepember. A second relief force followed under Commander-in-Chief Sir Colin Campbell and on 17th November, the 2 forces attacked the rebels and by 23rd had managed to evacuate the residency although this was marred by the death of Havelock on 24th November. Campbell eventually returned and took the city of Lucknow on 21st March 1858.
Other actions against the rebels proceeded in Central India under Major General Sir Hugh Rose commanding the Central India Field Force eventually recapturing Gwalior which had been taken previously by the mutineers. With the fall of Gwalior, the Mutiny came to an end although some small scale actions continued into 1859.
Prime Minister Palmerston decided it was time for the British Government to take over the administration of India and the East India Company was dissolved and the sovereignty vested to the crown. 2nd August 1858 Queen Victoria was proclaimed Kaisar-i-Hind, Empress of India.
182 VC’s were awarded during the Mutiny
Delhi 30th May – 14th September 1857 – Awarded to the troops employed in the recapture of the City.
Relief of Lucknow – November 1857 – Awarded to the troops under Sir Colin Campbell engaged in the relief of the city. (only 47 single clasp medals to 90th Reg’t)
The 90th regiment served with Sir Colin Campbell at the relief of Lucknow; with Outram in the defence of the Alumbagh, and at the siege and capture of Lucknow; and throughout the subsequent operations in Oude. After the Mutiny was over, the 90th remained long in India, serving in the Bengal and Madras Presidencies until 1869, when it returned home.
Central India – January – June 1858 – awarded to those who served under Major General Sir Hugh Rose against Jhansi, Calpee and Gwalior and those under Major General Roberts in the Rajpatana Field Force and Major General Whitlock’s Madras Column.
Lucknow – November 1857 – March 1858 – Awarded to troops under Sir Colin Campbell who took part in the final operations which resulted in the capture of the City.
J Marriott was a member of the first relief force under Sir Henry Havelock. 440 medals attributable to 90th Regt.