Queen Victoria's Family


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
page 9 of 13

hundred yards and run. As the Russians come within six hundred yards, down goes that line of steel in front, and out rings a rolling volley of Minié musketry. Their energy is mis-spent. The distance is too great; the Russians are not checked, but still sweep onwards through the smoke, with the whole force of horse and man, here and there knocked over by the shot of our batteries above. With breathless suspense everyone awaits the bursting of the wave upon the line of Gaelic rock, but ere they come within a hundred and fifty yards, another deadly volley flashes from the line of levelled rifles, and carries death and terror into the Russians. They wheel about, open files right and left, and fly back faster than they came. ‘Bravo, Highlanders! well done shout the excited spectators; but events thicken. The Highlanders and their splendid front are soon forgotten; men scarcely have a moment to think of this fact, that the 93rd never altered their formation to receive the shock of the tide of proud horsemen. ‘No,’ said Sir Colin Campbell, ‘I did not think it worth my while to form them even four deep.’ The ordinary line of Highlanders, two deep, was sufficient to repel the attack of these Muscovite cavaliers.” The action which followed, when our Heavy Brigade cut its way through a body of the finest of the Russian cavalry six times its number, and the charge of the Light Brigade which followed, have been justly reckoned amongst the most brilliant deeds ever accomplished in war; but the latter, from a military point of view, was a blunder for which there can be no defence. After a year’s siege Sevastopol was taken, when Russia sued for peace.

Six years to a day after the opening of the great Exhibition in Hyde Park, there occurred a deed which filled with horror every heart in Britain and throughout the civilised world -- the insurrection of the Sepoys at Meerut, in India, and the massacre of the British officers in the Indian army there, along with the British residents in and around that town. This, too, was only the first spark in a conflagration which raged in bloodshed and horror throughout the whole of British India, and which practically only ended with the thorough reconquest of these great dominions. The suppression of this awful rebellion not only cost us the lives of hundreds of our bravest and noblest soldiers, but during the fierce and often ghastly struggle the blood of innocent women and children, many of whom belonged to our noblest and most refined families, was cruelly and lavishly spilt; on one memorable occasion with a blood-thirstiness which might have belonged to the most savage days of early and uncivilised warfare.

It began as a war of caste, but before it was ended it had resolved itself into a war of religious fanaticism of the fiercest kind, whose object was the extermination of the British, and the complete annihilation of their rule. It is well known that there is no Hindoo but would lay down his life readily rather than lose his caste. Their religion forbids them to touch in any form the fat of either the cow or the hog, on pain of losing caste for ever, the first of these animals being held as most sacred, whilst the second is regarded as abominably unclean. During the year preceding the Mutiny the British Government had been distributing the new Minie[diacritical] rifle to the Sepoys. This rifle necessitated the use of greased cartridges. It was whispered amongst some of the native regiments that these cartridges were greased with the loathed fat, which would make unclean every Hindoo who touched them. There was no truth in this, however; but the Sepoys would not believe the official denial, and the report spread like wildfire through every native regiment, and the result was that rebellion, which, for cold-blooded massacre and


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