General Sir Henry Havelock occupies a spot in Trafalgar Square, just in front of King George IV–earlier profiled. The Reverend W. Owen in 1858 published an account titled The Good Soldier: A Memoir of Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, of Lucknow, Bart., RCB His Military Career, Campaigns, Engagements, and Victories: His Domestic, Social, and Religious Character, published by Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. in London and J. M. Burton and Co. in Ipswich. He used many of Havelock’s own narratives of battles in which he engaged. Rev. Owen described it as “the great Christian warfare.” I realize that many wars are fought in the name of religions, and that indeed, there are many who believe that divine intervention will ensure they are doing the right thing. As I indicated in the first post in this series, the purpose is to tell the story, from both the perspective of the hunter and the lion. No hint of scandal seemed to surface about Havelock, and by all accounts I located, he was a devout husband, father, and soldier. But as Achebe said, there is an important “process of ‘re-storying’ peoples who had been knocked silent by the trauma of all kinds of dispossessions” (Achebe, 2000, p. 83).
When Havelock died in 1857, The Daily News ran a lengthy several column item March 15, 1858, p. 2:
The life of a man whom such an authority as Lord Hardinge pronounced to be “every inch a soldier and every inch a Christian” is a subject beyond which the ambition of no biographer need aspire. We learn that a deliberately composed life of the late Sir Henry Havelock, founded on documents, may be looked for in due time from the pen of Mr. John Marshman, whose large acquaintance with Indian affairs and intimate knowledge of the deceased General eminently qualify him to undertake that work.
A cursory review of his life revealed Havelock was appointed second lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade, then the 95th Regiment in July 1816. He was sent to India in 1823 after exchanging into the 13th Light Infantry.
In India, where he landed with his regiment in 1823, he was soon recognised as a man who would do what was right and feared nothing. He devoted himself to the improvement of his men, studying their tempers, gaining their goodwill, making them better soldiers, instructing their minds, and endeavouring by all allowable means to influence them for their good.
He returned to England in 1849 and subsequently spent a period of time in rest and recuperation in Germany to regain his health. In 1851 he returned to India, leaving his wife and children in Germany. In 1857 as his wife and some of the children were planning to join him, war with Persia was declared and he was appointed to a divisional command. After returning to India from Persia as Adjutant-General, he received word of “the Sepoy mutiny.” When he reached Calcutta, he was re-appointed brigadier-general and sent to relieve Cawnpore and Lucknow, where the rebellion was emerging.
The Background of the Story
The British East India Company governed 2/3 of India in the mid 1800s; historically different territories were controlled by different rulers, rather than India being a unified nation state (National Army Museum of UK).
The Story from the View of the Victors: The Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major uprising, though unsuccessful in India in 1857-1858 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as “a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown.” It began with the mutiny of the sepoys, Indian members of the Company’s army in the town of Meerut. Other mutinies followed and civilians joined in.
The rebellion posed a considerable threat to British power in that region.
The British East India Company had seen their efforts in India as “the attempt to develop the Indian economy and legal system.” The Encyclopaedia Britannica editors wrote
To regard the rebellion merely as a sepoy mutiny is to underestimate the root causes leading to it. British paramountcy–i.e., the belief in British dominance in Indian political, economic, and cultural life had been introduced in India about 1820.
The Story from the View of the Oppressed: The War of Independence of 1857
The Indian rebellion against the British East India Company army was a result of different perceptions. The British “social reforms” were seen as invasive and the land taxes were harsh. Calling it the Indian Mutiny “…belittl[es] the importance of what happened and therefore reflecting an imperialistic attitude.” There were fears that the British were trying to force conversion to Christianity and a belief that their traditional way of life was threatened. The Company had annexed native states, deposed local leaders, and seized the lands of any rulers who died without a male heir. Subsistence farming had been supplanted because the newly implemented taxes could not be met without changing to farming for export, resulting in thousands of common people joining the revolt. The introduction of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle fueled rumors that the new cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat, thus offending both Muslims and Hindus, adding to the already present religious fears.
When the British under the command of General Havelock ultimately defeated the uprising, major atrocities including against civilians had been carried out by both sides. It was a bloody and cruel episode in the ‘trauma of dispossession.’
November 12, Jullien’s Promenade Concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London included a final part of the program, a battle piece “illustrating a series of military incidents and achievements, the heroes of which are General Havelock and his devoted warriors. ..the band..perform in obstreperous harmony a bold and vigorous air, called ‘General Havelock’s Triumphal March’ and concluding with ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘God save the Queen.’ Following the performance, Jullien announced to the crowd that “we are honoured this evening by the presence of Lady Havelock, the wife of the distinguished General—that British lion who has so nobly hunted down the Bengal tiger—”
Havelock however, had become fatally ill with dsysentery and only 11 days later, died in India where he was buried. A campaign to raise subscriptions to place a statue of “the gallant General Havelock, in Trafagar-square, London” was successful. “Mr. Behnes, the sculptor, was engaged to execute a statue of the late general…the casting was in every respect successful…” The figure was 12 feet high, all in one piece. The deceased general is represented in a standing position, the right hand resting upon a sword, with a cloak loosely thrown over the shoulders…The cost was £2000 (The Newcastle Weekly Courant, September 14, 1860, p. 2).
Eventually, the British concluded that partition was the only answer. On 2 June 1947 the last Viceroy of India, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, announced that Britain had accepted that the country should be divided into a mainly Hindu India and the mainly Muslim East Pakistan and West Pakistan (now Bangladesh). (National Army Museum of UK)
Britain relinquished control and on August 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation with a new Declaration of Independence and became the first prime minister of India.