2. IN BARRACKS AT FORT WILLIAM & BARRACKPORE
No sooner were we landed than the 19 Foot marched into the Fort the other
troop proceeding elsewhere for transmission up country forthwith viz. 42nd,
60th, 37th Rifle Brigade. The barracks occupied overlooked the river
or the nearest adjacent thereto; where at this time His Majesty the King of
Oude was a prisoner, his place of confinement being near to the Church and
that of several of his Ministers in the rooms of the barracks occupied by the
Officers 19th Foot, a guard and sentries being placed over them. Of
an evening at the setting of the sun they were allowed to come out of their
confinement; rooms, the King on the top of his building while of the others
the flat roof of the Officers quarters for a short time when they were again
removed into their apartments.
With regard to Fort William it is extensive and would require many men to garrison it should it at any time be besieged; its situation is low and material principally earth, one face of it protects the river while the opposite on three sides faces over a plain, the barracks built within its precincts are high and shake when even a salute is only fired and are excellent objects or targets for a besieging battery, besides a means for doing injury to the garrison by the falling debris in case of such a thing occurring. The interior is generally confined and hot, the guns being actually so hot (even in the what is called cold season) that one could scarcely bear to keep their hand upon them. Mosquitos are innumerable and are most annoying pests, besides Jackals too abound within the ramparts yelling and screeching of a night as to startle sleepers from their slumbers thinking as a newcomer would that some children were screaming.
Fort William is not a strong fort but in the hands of European troops is quite sufficient to keep the natives out of it.
20 Dec l857. The detachment 19 Foot which sailed in the "Merchantman" under command of Col. Bright in July l857 only arrived today and were landed and joined the Corps in the Fort.
A few days previous to this detachment arriving the cholera attacked the men principally in the Barracks occupied by No 10 Company several men out of which died as did also Col. Rooke CB, Commanding the Regt. and who was buried at Allepore.
By some misapprehension in respect of great coats of which only one for two men were brought from England as directed in the Queens regulations and no doubt a little spite on the part of some individuals for causes kept quiet the Regt. tho' over 1200 strong was kept at Calcutta till Feb l858 when it was only removed to Barrackpore 18 miles from thence leaving however a detachment to garrison the Fort and thus relieving the 35 Foot which proceeded to Dinapore and was afterwards engaged with the rebels. On arrival of the 19 Foot at Barrackpore it occupied the quarters that had been a hospital for the sick of the native regiments as well also empty bungalows, the accommodation being most unsuitable for the health or comfort of Europeans. In addition also to this force were a number of merchant seamen engaged in Calcutta for a term as with 5 field pieces and who were drilled by men of 19th Foot, our duties being to keep under surveillance some 3000 disarmed native troops encamped on the Maidan whose discharge fromthe service was proceeded with at a certain rate per week. From Barrackpore the l9th Foot detached three companies Nos. 1-7-9 to Dacca under Major Jennings besides also a small detachment to Ishapore 3 miles distant from Barrackpore. Thus at this period the
Corps garrisoned the following: Fort William including Calcutta, Barrackpore, Dacca and Ishapore.
Barrackpore it appears was the place or station where the first symptoms of mutiny among the native army showed itself and which occurred some time before the outbreak, resulting in the disbanding of the mutinous regiment curiously enough (the l9th Bengal Native Infantry) commanded by Colonel Wheeler, a no doubt pious and good man, but utterly unfit for his position at such a time There was nothing here on our first visit worthy of note as regards the size or particularly of the station, it being merely a military position for the native corps, as a support to the garrison of Fort William in cases of need, excepting that the Governor General or Viceroy as he is now designated has a house situated in a pleasant park on the banks of the Hoogly at this place tho' he scarcely or ever resides within its walls. In the park there is a fine collection of various animals and birds, and as well, a beautifully laid out garden which together with the scenery in the Park, the animals and birds attract such individuals who like to devote their leisure in this respect.
Opposite to Barrackpore on the other side of the river over which there is no bridge stands Serampore, formerly a Danish settlement, and which in itself is really a beautiful station, from the quantity of green foliage continually the year through to be seen, the bungalows or dwellings for Europeans being so nicely situated enveloped by the sweet smell from vegetation, flowers and foliage. At Serampore the railway stretching from Housah (the opposite of Calcutta) to Raneegunge passes and situated adjacent to the native part of the place is a well constructed station but the high or grand trunk road from the Punjab to Calcutta touches not on the Serampore side but goes through Barrackpore.
Tho' there are a great number of trees of large size in and about Barrackpore yet the seasons here are extremely hot especially the summer months (or as is otherwise termed hot seasons). Of a night after sun sets. millions of fireflies immerge forth end show up a most curious phenomenon while mosquitoes, and other small insects add their moiety of annoyance to the wretched Europeans when half stifled for want of a cool breeze and bathed as they generally are in continual perspiration.
So excessively hot was the season during May 1858 that several men of the 19 Foot were nightly carried from their barrack rooms to the hospital insensible by apoplexy or sunstroke there being no less than seven within two or three days all of whom died.
June 1858. Early this month the Quarter Master of the Regt Mr Rawding died, and in a few days afterwards his Serjeant as well, and in consequence of the death of the latter I was promoted in his place with a view to receiving the commission vacant by the death of D W Rawding and whom I as per my commission dated 8 Sep following.
During Sept or October 1858 and in the middle of the day two successive shocks of earthquake were felt at Barrackpore, and which too were felt in other parts of India, the latter being the sharpest and of longer duration. This being the first shock I had ever felt I knew not what it could be but on feeling the seconds which in a manner appeared as if rending the building (in which I was at the time) in two, and at the same moment causing to come from the walls a creaking noise and sensation of falling, clearly made me sensible what was then taking place and which I cannot but admit startled me not a little as I ran out of the building expecting every instant it would fall, and which tho' it stood the test in that sense nevertheless was damaged, an arch being split open from the bottom to the roof some three or four inches wide, the debris therefrom falling upon a native fast asleep beneath the way and who upon feeling the double sensation of an earthquake and falling bricks, bolted out of it as fast as his black legs could carry him and in no little consternation as to his ultimate fate, expecting as he did most likely the earth to open and to swallow him up.
Soon after the earthquake, perhaps a few days, we were assailed one night by a very heavy storm of wind and rain, such as are by no means few about this vicinity tearing up large trees by the roots and doing no little damage to life and property.
2nd July l858 Promoted Quarter Master Serjeant
27 Oct 1858 Having to change our quarters by order of the Government, the 19 Foot proceeded this day across the Hoogly in native boats to Serampore thence by rail for Raneegunge en route for Dinapore, the Fort William and Ishapore detachments joining the headquarters and the Corps being relieved by H.M. 48th Foot.