July 10, 1806: The Vellore Mutiny takes place. It was the first large-scale mutiny by Indian sepoys (native soldiers) against the East India Company. It took place in South India near the city of Vellore. The sepoys were both Muslims and Hindus who had been offended by changes in their uniform instituted in November 1805. Hindus were no longer permitted their religious marks on their foreheads and Muslims were made to shave their beards and trim their mustaches. All sepoys were ordered to wear a round hat which was associated at the time with Indians who had converted to Christianity. Their turbans were no longer permitted. General Sir John Craddock, Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army had received an earlier warning to allow the locals their customary dress. He did not comply.
Those who had made their displeasure known were sent to Fort Saint George. Two men, one Hindu and one Muslim, were each given 90 lashes and dismissed from the Army. Nineteen more men were each given 50 lashes and forced to seek pardon from the East India Company. A local sultan who had been defeated in 1799 was held at Vellore and one of his daughters was to be married. The mutineers used the wedding as a ploy to gather at the fort. They hoped to not only take the Fort, but to restore the former Mysore Sultanate.
At the fort were four companies of British infantry and three battalions of madras infantry. At 2 AM on this day, the sepoys inside shot the European sentries and killed 14 of their own officers and 115 British infantrymen. Among those killed was the commander of the fort. By dawn, the rebels had control and raised the Mysore Sultanate flag over the fort. An escaped British officer was able to make his way to a garrison at Arcot and raise an alarm. Sir Rollo Gillespie, one of the most able British officers in India at the time, was in command there. Within 15 minutes he gathered a force to take back Fort Vellore. He led a small advance party and was able to scale the fort’s walls. They led a bayonet charge inside the fort and cleared the way so that the guns being brought in could blow off the gate doors.
With British troops inside, they were able to gather up about 100 rebellious sepoys who were lined against a wall and executed. With this harsh retribution, the mutiny was snuffed out as well. After order was restored, more rebels were brought to trial and 21 more were executed by various methods and five were transported. The three Madras battalions were disbanded. Senior British officers responsible for the dress code changes were sent back to England and their orders cancelled. It would take nearly half a century before another revolt arose. In the intervening years, both sides forgot the lessons of this day.
In situations of sparse resources along with degraded self-images and depoliticized sensibilities, one avenue for poor people is in existential rebellion and anarchic expression. The capacity to produce social chaos is the last resort of desperate people. – Cornel West
All revolutions have failed? Perhaps. But rebellion for good cause is self-justifying — a good in itself. Rebellion transforms slaves into human beings, if only for an hour. – Edward Abbey
Rebellion without truth is like spring in a bleak, arid desert. – Kahlil Gibran
When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. – C. P. Snow
Also on this day: London Bridge is Falling Down – In 1212, one of London’s “Great Fires” began on London Bridge.
Tsunami – In 1958, a 1,724 foot high tsunami struck in Alaska.
Death Valley – In 1913, the highest temperature was recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Carolyn Keene? – In 1905, Mildred Augustine was born.
Not at All Peaceful – In 1985, the Rainbow Warrior was sunk.