CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST
Horne described the circumstances under which they considered the offer;
“The situation was critical in the extreme. On the one side, our numbers were fearfully reduced by death and disease, gunshot, privation, and hunger; our guns had been considerably damaged by the enemy; and even had they not been, they could make no adequate reply to the heavy fire of the enemy’s guns. Our ammunition was fast coming to an end, and our food supply had run out. With starvation staring us in the face, and black despair in our hearts, who could blame the wisdom of the decision that was at last reluctantly arrived at, in favor of capitulation?”
On the following day a flag of truce appeared over the entrenchment and the filthy and exhausted occupants – soldiers, women and children – were conducted down to the Ganges at dawn on the 27th.
“Behold us as we then appeared, like so many ghosts, tattered, emaciated, and begrimed! Many a woman and child whom I had seen enter with beautiful and smiling countenances now looked old, haggard, desperate and imbecile. There they stood, shoeless and stockingless, and destitute – objects fit to make the angels weep! The old – battered and bruised, like ships that come into port after being buffeted by storms – babbled like children; others had a vacant stare in their eyes, as if they beheld the visions of the future. Many a little child was raving mad, and it was pitiful to see their singular behavior”.
The survivors rode down to the river on elephants, escorted by rebel troops, and waded knee-deep into the water to mount the sides of the waiting boats, a process that took two hours, for many were wounded or exhausted. Horne and the others were unaware that treachery was afoot.
Instead of the sepoy crews setting off with their miserable passengers, a signal was given from the shore and they all leaped into the water and waded to the bank, after having first secreted burning charcoal in the thatch of most of the boats.
“Immediately a volley of bullets assailed us, followed by a hail of shot and grape which struck the boats. The two soldiers seated alongside of me were wounded, and crept into the shelter of the awning to escape being made further targets of. In a few minutes pandemonium reigned. Several of the boats were seen to be wrapped in flames, and the sick and wounded were burnt to death. Some jumped overboard and tried to swim to the opposite shore, but were picked off by the bullets of the sepoys. Others were drowned, while a few jumped into the water and hid behind their boats to escape the pitiless fire. But the guns continued their vile work, and grape and musketry were poured into the last-mentioned people from the opposite bank which soon became alive with rebels who had been placed there to intercept the refugees to that shore. A few succeeded in pushing their boats to the further side of the river, and were mercilessly slaughtered. The native cavalry waded into the river with drawn swords and cut down those who were still alive, while the infantry boarded the boats. The air resounded with the shrieks of the women and children and agonized prayers to God for mercy. The water was red with blood and the smoke from the heavy firing of the cannon and muskets and the fire from the burning boats lay like dense clouds over and around us”.
Horne was one of the few survivors not brought back into the town with the others. Dragged to the shore by a trooper of the 3rd Bengal Cavalry, she was taken to a hut and given Indian dress which, with her tanned face, enabled her to appear in public without causing notice. Some days later she underwent a ceremony of ritual purification in which she was forcibly converted to Islam (though she never actually foreswore Christianity). After several days she was taken with the rebel army towards Allahabad, in the capacity of a guide – for she knew the route – and was almost rescued by British troops who routed the mutineer column in the course of its march.
Eventually she was taken to Lucknow, even while the Residency was under siege, and held prisoner until the appearance of a British relief force in the city forced her captor to flee to his home village on the outskirts of Allahabad, where Horne was released.
She eventually settled near Calcutta, married a railway engineer, and lived the rest of her life in India.
TO BE CONTINUED
But not until next week -- got some traveling to do.
Meanwhile, for a more detailed background, Wiki's got a good article here;