Delhi, Siege of


Delhi, Siege of
(1857)
   A grinding and bloody engagement of the Indian Mutiny. On May 11, 1857, the Third Cavalry rebelled at Meerut and started for Delhi. The next morning the troopers entered Delhi, cut down the British garrison, and proclaimed Bahadur Shah as Emperor. General Henry William Barnard the commander-in-chief of India cobbled up a force and, on June 5, reached Alipur, 10 miles from Delhi. On June 7, Brigadier Archdale Wilson’s Meerut Brigade crossed the Jamuna River and joined Barnard’s force. Then they took up position before Delhi.
   The commander of the rebel army at Delhi was Bakht Khan, an ex-subedar, a rank equivalent of sergeant in the Indian army, of the British East India Company’s artillery. The city of Delhi situated on the right bank of the Jamuna was surrounded on the north, west, and southern sides by a stone wall that was five and half miles long. The wall on the eastern side of Delhi was two miles long and ran parallel to the river. The wall was 24 feet high and around it ran a dry ditch 25 feet wide and 25 feet deep. The rebel guns of Delhi bombarded the British batteries constructed by the Punjabi sappers. The rebels repeatedly launched infantry attacks for capturing the British outposts, but they were turned back by grape shot.
   With the arrival of the siege train in front of Delhi on September 7 1857, the company’s troops numbered 12,588. On September 14, 1857, after intense bombardment by 18 and 24 pounder guns, the company’s soldiers organized in four columns and assaulted Delhi, held by 30,000 rebels. Inside Delhi, the fighting was furious. The narrow streets were barricaded and swept by guns. The rebels took positions behind the windows and on the roofs of the houses and shot at the British soldiers. On the first day of the assault, the company’s troops were able to capture only one-sixth of the town and suffered 1,166 casualties. Six days of street fighting finally secured the city for the British forces at the cost of some 4,000 casualties. Rebel losses are unknown.
   See also <> Andrew Broun Ramsay, First Marquess of Dalhousie; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Harris, John. The Indian Mutiny. London: Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1973;
    Hibbert, Christopher. The Great Mutiny: India, 1857. London: Allen Lane, 1980.
   KAUSHIK ROY

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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