[Illustrated with over one hundred maps, photos and portraits, of the battles, individuals and places involved in the Indian Mutiny]
The siege of Lucknow remains, even after one hundred and fifty years have passed, the most iconic struggle of the Indian Mutiny of 1857; the British, their families and loyal sepoys were surrounded in the rambling buildings of the Residence. Other British forces were on their way to relieve the garrison, which was surrounded by 10,000 furious rebel troops and internally wracked by hunger, filth, cholera, dysentery and small pox. The question remained, would the relieving forces be able to reach the beleaguered men women and children in Lucknow in time?
A hero emerged from the unlikeliest source; among the non-combatant civil service men holed up in the residence was an Irishman named Thomas Henry Kavanagh inspired by the chance to win undying glory. “I resolved to die in the struggle,” he writes, “rather than survive it with no better fame than I took into it.” He engaged in every dirty and dangerous job during the siege; leading a group of fellow civil service volunteers as a mobile reserve around the most embattled parts of the fortifications, manning field mortars, counter-tunnelling against a bomb attempt by the rebels.
However, his lasting fame rests on his epic quest to escape the garrison disguised as a sepoy, and guide the relieving forces into the city of Lucknow and past the defences of the mutineers. This journey was as difficult as one can imagine and forms the subject of this famous book; the perilous journey would be recognized as one of the bravest feats of the entire conflict Kavanagh was awarded the coveted Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery, one of only five civilians to ever do so.