James Talboys Wheeler.

Early records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio online

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Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 21 of 33)
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1 1 • 1 n -n • guards.

tainment to the brutal wretches without : But so it was ;
and they took care to keep us supplied with water, that they
might have the satisfaction of seeing us fight for it, as they
phrased it, and held up lights to the bars, that they might
lose no part of the inhuman diversion.

" From about nine to near eleven, I sustained this cruel Eleven o'clock.
scene and painful situation, still supplying them with water,
though my legs were almost broke with the weight against
them. By this time I myself was very near pressed to
death, and my two companions, with JNIr. William Parker
(who had forced himself into the window), were really so.

" For a great while they preserved a respect and regard to Rank n"d
me, more than indeed I could well expect, our circumstances forgotten."
considered; but now all distinction was lost. My friend
Baillie, Messrs. Jenks, Revely, Law, Buchanan, Simson, and
several others, for whom I had a real esteem and affection.


liad for some time been dead at my feet, and were now
trampled ui)on Ly every corporal or common soldier, who,
by the lielp of more robust constitutions, had forced their
way to the window, and held fast by the bars over me, till
at last 1 became so pressed and wedg-ed up, I was deprived of
all motion.

wacrnoif " " Determined now to give every thing- up, I called to them,

and begged, as the last instance of their regard, they would
remove the pressure upon me, and permit me to retire out of
the window to die iu quiet. They gave way ; and with mvich
difficulty I forced a passage into the centre of the prison, where
the throng was less by the many dead (then I believe amount-
ing to one-third) and the numbers who flocked to the windows ;
for by this time they had water also at the other window.

Tiie i)i;uform. " ]n tbc Black Holc there is a platform' corresponding

with that in the barracks : I travelled over the dead, and
repaired to the further end of it, just opposite the other
window, and seated myself on the platform between Mr.
Dumbleton and Capt. Stevenson, the former just then ex-
jdring. I was still happy iu the same calmness of mind
I had preserved the whole time ; death I expected as unavoid-
able, and only lamented its slow approach, though the moment
I quitted the window, my breathing grew short and painful.

^^^^^^ ^f " Here my poor friend Mr. Edward Eyre came staggering

over the dead to me, and with his usual coolness and good-
nature, asked me how I did ! but fell and expired before I had
time to make him a reply. I laid myself down on some of
the dead behind me, on the platform ; and recommending
myself to heaven, had the comfort of thinking my sufferings
could have no long duration.

[hfrsr'"^*"''''*^ " ^^y thirst grew now insupportable, and difficulty of

breathini> much increased : and I had not remained in tiiis
situation, I beheve, ten minutes, when I was seized with a

1 This platform was viiised between throe and fotir feet from the floor, open
uudenieath : it extended the whole length of the cast side of the prison, and
was above six feet wide.


pain in my breast, and palpitation of my heart, both to the
most exquisite degree. These roused and obliged me to get
up again ; but still the palpitation, thirst, and diflieulty o£
breathing increased. I retained my senses notwithstanding,
and had the grief to see death not so near me as I hoped j
but could no longer bear the pains I suffered without attempt-
ing a relief, which I knew fresh air would and could only
give me. I instantly determined to push for the window
opposite to me ; and by an effort of double the strength I ever
before possessed, gained the third rank at it, with one hand
seized a bar, and by that means gained the second, though
I think there were at least six or seven ranks between me and
the window.

''In a few moments my nain, palpitation and difficulty of TWrst increased

: . ^^ i^y water

bi'eathing ceased ; but my thirst continued intolerable. I called
aloud for " water for God's Sx\ke:" had been concluded dead;
but as soon as they heard me amongst them, they had still the
respect and tenderness for me, to cry out, " Give him water.
Give him water \" nor would one of them at the window attera}>t
to touch it until I had drank. But from the water I found no
relief; my thirst was rather increased by it; so I determined
to drink no more, but patiently wait the event; and kept my
mouth moist from time to time by sucking the perspiration strange refresh-
out of my shirt-sleeves, and catching the drops as they fell,
like heavy rain from my head and face : you can hardly ima-
gine how unhappy I was if any of them escaped my mouth.

'' 1 came into the prison without coat or waistcoat; the
season was too hot to bear the former, and the latter tempted
the avarice of one of the guards, who robbed me of it when
we were under the veranda. Whilst I was at this second
window, I was observed by one of my miserable companions
on the right of me in the expedient of allaying my thirst by
sucking my shirt-sleeve. He took the hint, and robbed me
from time to time of a considerable part of my store.

This plunderer, I found afterwards, was a worthy young
gentleman in the service, Mr. Lushington, one of the few
who escaped from death.






I mention this incident, as I tliink nothing- can give you a
more lively idea of the melancholy state and distress we were
reduced to.

" By half an hour past eleven the much greater number
of those living- were in an outrageous delirium, and the
others quite ungovernable j few retaining any calmness but
the ranks next the windows. By what I had felt myself,
I was fully sensible what those within suffered ; but had only
pity to bestow upon them, not then thinking how soon I
should myself become a greater object of it.

" They all now found that water, instead of relieving, rather
heightened their uneasinesses; and. Air, Air, was the general
cry. Every insult that could be devised against the guard, all
the opprobrious names and abuse that the Nawab of Bengal,
or the new native Governor of Calcutta,^ could be loaded
with, were repeated to provoke the guard to fire upon us,
every man that could, rushing tumultuously towards the
windows with eager hopes of meeting the first shot. Tiien
a general prayer to heaven, to hasten the approach of the
jBames to the right and left of us, and put a period to our
misery. But these failing, they W'hose strength and spirits
were quite exhausted, laid themselves down and expired quietly
upon their fellows : others who had yet some strength and
vigour left, made a last effort for the windows, and several
succeeded by leaping and scrambling over the backs and
heads of those in the first ranks ; and got hold of the bars,
from which there was no removing them. Many to the
right and left sunk with the violent pressure, and were soon
suffocated ; for now a steam arose from the living and the
dead, which afTected us in all its circumstances, as if we were
forcibly held with our heads over a bowl full of strong volatile
spirit of hartshorn, until safl[ocated ; nor could the effluvia of
the one be distinguished from the other, and frequently,
when I was forced by the load upon my head and shoulders,
to hold my face down, I was obliged, near as I was to the
window, instantly to raise it again to escape suffocation.

' Hajji Moiiikchund, appointed by the Nawab to bu Governor ol' Calcutta.


*' I need not, my clear friend, ask your commiseration, when iiaif-past eleven
I tell you that in this plight, from half an hour past eleven in the morning.
till near two in the morning-, I sustained the weight of a
heavy man, with his knees on my hack, and the pressure of his
whole hody on my head. A Dutcli serjeant, who had taken his
seat upon my left shoulder, and a bUick christian soldier bear-
ing on my right ; all which nothing could have enabled me long
to support, but the props and pressure equally sustaining me
all around. The two latter I frequently dislodged, by shift-
ing my hold on the bars, and driving my knuckles into their
ribs ; but my friend above stuck fast, and as he held by two
bars, was immoveable.

" When I had bore this conflict above an hour, with a train Suicidai tempta-
of wretched reflections, and seeing no glimpse of hope on
which to found a prospect of relief, my spirits, resolution, and
every sentiment of religion gave way. I found I was unable
much longer to support this trial, and could not bear the
dreadful thoughts of retiring into the inner part of the prison,
where I had before suffered so much. Some infernal spirit,
taking the advantage of this period, brought to my remem-
brance my having a small clasp penknife in my pocket, with
which I determined instantly to open my arteries, and finish
a system no longer to be borne. I had got it out, when
heaven interposed, and restored me to fresh spirits and resolu-
tion, with an abhorrence of the act of cowardice I was just
going to commit : I exerted anew my strength and for-
titude; but the repeated trials and efforts I made to dislodo-e
the insufferable incumbrances upon me at last quite exhausted
me, and towai-ds two o^'clock, finding I must quit the window
or sink where I was, I resolved on the former, bavin «• bore
truly for the sake of others, infinitely more for life than the
best of it is worth.

" In the rank close behind me was an officer of one of the Mr. and Mrs.
ships, whose name was Carey, who had behaved with much ^'"^'^'
braveiy during the siege (his wife, a fine woman thouo-h
country-born, would not quit him, but accompanied him into
the prison, and was one who survived). This poor wretch



Doath of Mr.


Loss of

Interval of

liad been long* raving for water and air; I told him I was
determined to give up life^ and recommended his gaining my
station. On my quitting, he made a fruitless attempt to get
my place; but the Dutch serjeaut who sat on my shoulder
supplanted him.

" Poor Carey expressed his thankfulness, and said he would
give up life too ; but it was with the utmost labour we forced
our way from the window (several in the inner ranks aj^pear-
ingf to me dead standing^). He laid himself down to die :
and his death, I believe, was very sudden ; for he was a short,
full, sang-uine man : his strength was great, and I imagine,
had he not retired with me, I should never have been able to
have forced my way.

" I was at this time sensible of no pain and little uneasi-
ness: I can give you no better idea of my situation than by
repeating my simile of the bowl of spirit of hartshorn. I
found a stupor coming* on apace, and laid myself down by
that gallant old man, the Reverend Mr. Jervas Bellamy, who
lay dead with his son the lieutenant, hand-in-hand, near the
southernmost wall of the prison.

" When I had lain there some little time, I still had
reflection enough to suffer some uneasiness in the thought,
that I should be trampled upon, when dead, as I myself had
done to others. With some difficulty I raised myself, and
gained the platform a second time, where I presently lost all
sensation : the last trace of sensibility that I have been able
to recollect after my lying down, was my sash being uneasy
about my waist, which I untied and threw from me.

" Of what passed in this interval to the time of my resur-
rection from this hole of horrors, I can give you no account;
and indeed, the particulars mentioned by some of the gentle-
men who survived (solely by the number of those dead, by
which they gained a freer accession of air, and approach to
the windows) were so excessively absurd and contradictory
as to convince me very few of them retained their senses ; or

' Uuable to fall V>y the throng and equal pressure round.


at least," lost them soon after they came into the open air, hy
the fever they carried out with them.

" la my own escape from absolute death the hand of heaven Canicd to lUo
was manifestly exerted : the manner take as follows: "When
the day broke, and the gentlemen found that no intreaties
could prevail to get the door opened, it occurred to one of
them (I think to Mr. Secretary Cooke), to make a search for
me, in hopes I might have influence enough to gain a release
from this scene of misery. Accordingly Messrs. Lushington
and Walcot undertook the search, and by my shirt discovered
me under the dead upon the platform. They took me from
thence ; and imagining I had some signs of life, brought me
towards the window I had first possession of.

" But as life was equally dear to every man (and the stench Recovery of
arising irom the dead bodies was grown intolerable) no one
would give up his station in or near the window : so they
were obliged to carry me back again. But soon after Cap-
tain Mills (now captain of the Company's yacht), who was in
possession of a seat in the window, had the humanity to offer
to resign it. I was again brought by the same gentlemen,
and placed in the window.

" At this juncture the Nawab, who had received an account Beie.ise
o£ the havock death had made amongst us, sent one of his
Jemadars to inquire if the Chief survived. They shewed
me to him : told him I had appearance of life remaining, and
believed I might recover if the door was opened very soon.
This answer being returned to the Nawab, an order came
immediately for our release, it being then near six in the

" The fresh air at the window soon brought me to life ; and Bestoratio.
a few minutes after the departure of the Jemadar, I was
restored to my sight and senses. But oh ! Sir, what words
shall I adopt to tell you the whole that my soul suffered at
reviewing the dreadful destruction round me ? I will not
attempt it ; and indeed, tears (a tribute I believe I siiall
ever pay to the remembrance of this scene, and to the
memory of those brave and valuable men) stop my pen.



Slow opening " TliG little streug'tli remaining' amongst the most robust

who survived made it a difficult task to remove the dead piled
up against the door; so that I believe it was more than
twenty minutes before we obtained a passage out for one at a
Pcmanflsofthe " I had soou reasou to be couvinced the particular inquiry
biuueu treasure, made after me did not result from any dictate of favour,
humanity, or contrition ; when I came out, I found myself in
a high putrid fever, and^ not being able to stand, threw
myself on the wet grass without the veranda, when a mes-
sage was brought me, signifying I must immediately attend
the Nawab. Not being capable of walking, they were obliged
to support me under each arm ; and on the way, one of the
Jemadars told me, as a friend, to make a full confession
where the treasure was buried in the Fort, or that in half an
hour I should be shot off from the mouth of a cannon.* The
intimation gave me no manner of concern ; for, at that junc
ture, I should have esteemed death the greatest favour the
tyrant could have bestowed upon me.
Callous Nawab. " Being brought into his presence, the Nawab soon observed
the wretched plight I was in, and ordered a large folio volume,
which lay on a heap of plunder, to be brought for me to sit
on. I endeavoured two or three times to speak, but my
tongue was dry and without motion. He ordered me water.
As soon as I got speech, I began to recount the dismal
■ catastrophe of my miserable companions. But he stopped me
short, with telling me, he was well informed of great treasure
being buried or secreted in the Fort, and that I was privy to
it ; and if I expected favour, I must discover it.
N.iwab inesora- " I urged cvery thing I could to convince him there was
no truth in the information ; or that if any such thing had
been done, it was without my knowledge. I reminded him
of his repeated assurance to me, the day before; but he
resumed the subject of the treasure, and all I could say
seemed to gain no credit with him. I was ordered prisoner
under the General of the Household Troops.

1 A sentence of death conuuon iu Hindostan.



"Amongst ilie c^uaril which canlod me from the Nawab, severe treat-
one bore a huge Mahratta battle-axe, which gave rise, 1
imagine, to Mr. Secretary Cooke's belief and report to the
fleet, that he saw me carried out, with the edge of the axe to-
wards me, to have my head struck off. This I believe is the
ouly aceouut you will have of me, until I bring you a better
myself. But to resume ray subject : I was ordered to the
cump of the General's quarters, within the outward ditch,
something short of Omichund's garden (which you know
is above three miles from the Fort) and with me Messieurs
Coui't, Walcot, and Burdet. The rest, who survived the fatal
night, gained their liberty, except Mrs. Carey, who was too
young and handsome. The dead bodies were promiscuously
thrown into the ditch of our unfinished raveUu, and covered
with the earth.

"My beings treated with this severity, I have sufficient Reason for the

'' ^ "> ' _ Nawab's cruelty.

reason to affirm, proceeded from the following causes. The
Nawab's resentment for my defending the Fort, after the Gov-
ernor, &c., had abandoned it ; his prepossession touching the
treasure ; and thirdly, the instigations of Omichund ' in re-
sentment for my not releasing him out of prison, as soon as I
had the command of the Fort : a circumstance, which in the
heat and hurry of action, never once occurred to me, or I had
certainly done it; because I thought his imprisonment unjust.
But that the hard treatment I met with, may truly be attri-
buted in a great measure to his suggestion and insinuations,
I am well assured, from the whole of his subsequent conduct;
and this further confirmed to me, in the three gentlemen
selected to be my companions, against each of whom he had
conceived particular resentment; and you know Omichund
can never forgive.

" We were conveyed in a hackery' to the camp the 21st of FnTther suffef.
June, in the morning, and soon loaded with fetters, and
stowed all four in a seapoy's tent, about four feet long, three
wide, and about three high ; so that we were half in, half out.

^ A great Hindu nierchaut of Calcutta.
^ A coach dratvu by oxeu.



Iron fetters.

Embark for

Sufferings on the

Poor diet a pre-

All night it rained severely. Dismal as this was, it appeared
a paradise compared with our lodging the preceding night.
Here I became covered from head to foot with large painful
boils, the first symptom of my recovery; for until these
appeared, my fever did not leave me.

" On the morning of the 22nd, they marched us to town
in our fetters, under the scorching beams of an intense hot
sun, and lodged us at the dock-head in the open small
veranda, fronting the river, where we had a strong guard
over us. Here the other gentlemen broke out likewise in
boils all over their bodies (a happy circumstance, which, as
I afterwards learned, attended every one who came out of the
Black Hole).

'' On our arrival at this place, we soon were given to under-
stand, we should be embarked for Murshedabad/ where I think
you have never been ; and since I have brought you thus far,
you may as well take this trip with us likewise. I have
much leisure on my hands at present ; and, you know, you
may chuse your leisure for perusal.

" We set out on our travels from the dock-head the 24th
in the afternoon, and were embarked on a large boat
containing part of the plunder. She bulged ashore a little
after we set off, and broke one of her floor timbers : however,
they pushed on, though she made so much water she could
hardly swim. Our bedstead and bedding were a platform of
loose unequal bamboos laid on the bottom timbers : so that
when they had been negligent in bailing, we frequently
waked with half of us in the water. We had hardly any
clothes to our bodies, and nothing but a bit or two of old
gunny -bag, which we begged at the dock-head to defend
us from the sun, rains, and dews. Our food only rice, and
the water along-side, which, you know, is neither very clean,
nor very palatable, in the rains ; but there was enough of it
without scrambling.

" In short. Sir, though our distresses in this situation,
covered with tormenting boils, and loaded with irons, will be

' The Ciipitiil of Bengal.


tbou^^lit, and doubtless were, very deplorable, yet the grate-
ful consideratiou of our being so providentially a remnant of
the saved, made every thing else appear light to us. Our
rice-and-water diet, designed as a grievance to us, was cer-
tainly our preservation ; for, could we (circumstanced as we
were) have indulged in flesh and wine, we had died beyond
all doubt.

" When we arrived at Hughly Fort, I wrote a short letter Application to
to Governor Bisdom (by means of a pencil and blank leaf of Chinsura.
a volume of Archbishop Tillotson^s sermons given us by one
of our guard, part of this plunder) advising him of our
miserable plight. He had the humanity to dispatch three
several boats after us, with fresh provisions, liquors, clothes,
and money; neither of which reached us. But, 'Whatever is,
is right.* Our rice and water were more salutary and proper
for us.

" Matters ridiculous and droll abundantly occurred in the Ridiculous
course of our trip. But these I will postpone for a personal
recital, that I may laugh with you, and will only mention
that my hands alone being free from imposthumes, I was
obliged for some time to turn nurse, and feed my poor dis-
tressed compauions.

" When we came opposite to Santipore, they found the Refractory
boat would not be able to proceed further, for want of
water in the river ; and one of the guard was sent ashore to
demand of the Zemindar i of that district light boats to
carry prisoners of State under their charge to Murshedabad.
The Zemindar, giving no credit to the fellow, mustered his
guard of pykes, beat him, and drove him away.

"This, on the return of the messenger, raised a most Attack on the
furious combustion. Our Jemadar ordered his people to
arms, and the resolution was to take the Zemindar and carry
him bound a prisoner to Murshedabad. Accordingly they
landed with their fire-arms, swords, and targets; when it
occurred to one mischievous mortal amongst them, that the

' A renter or proprietor of laud.



Submission of
the Zcmiudar,

taking me with them, would be a proof of their commission
and the high offence the Zemindar had committed.
iioiweii cirnfTKcd " Being immediately lugged ashore, I urged the impossi-
through the sun. jjj|-^y ^f j^y Walking, covercd as my legs were with boils, and,
several of them in the way of my fetters; and intreated, if I
must go, that they would for the time take off my irons, as it
was not in my power to escape from them ; for they saw I was
hardly able to stand. But I might as well have petitioned
tigers, or made supplication to the wind. I was obliged to
crawl. They signified to me, it was now my business to obey,
and that I should remember, I was not then in the Fort of
Calcutta. Thus was I mai-ched in a scorching sun, near
noon, for more than a mile and half; my legs running in a
stream of blood from the irritation of my irons, and myself
ready to drop every step with excessive faintness and un-
speakable pain.

** When we came near the Cutcherry of the district, the
Zemindar with his pykes was drawn up ready to receive us ;
but as soon as they presented me to him as a prisoner of State,
estimated and valued to them at four lakhs of rupees, ' he con-
fessed himself sensible of his mistake, and made no further
show of resistance. The Jemadar seized him, and gave
orders to have him bound and sent to the boat : but on his
making a further submission, and promising to get boats from
Santipore to send after us, and agreeing to pay them for the
trouble he had caused, he was released, and matters accommo-

" I was become so very low and weak by this cruel travel
that it was some time before they would venture to march me
back ; and th6 ' hard-hearted villains,' for their own sakes,
were at last obliged to carry me part of the way, and support

Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 21 of 33)