Sunday, April 25, 2004
Fallujah and Cawnpore: history repeating?
.........The last and largest room in the Carlisle museum--- which wasn’t much bigger than the bedroom that Pippy and I shared at home--- had a large case in the center, filled with weapons for the most part: Malay knives, and ancient pistols and swords, but the most curious thing of all was on a little stand in the center.
“What’s with that?” JP asked, “It doesn’t belong here at all.”

It was a white muslin baby’s cap, one of those lacily ornate Victorian bonnets, with ruffles and eyelet, and dangling ties that would make a bow under the baby’s soft little chin. Our family’s christening dress was about the same style, carefully sewn with tiny, tiny stitches, out of fine cotton muslin, but the dress was in pristine condition, and this little bonnet had a number of pale rusty blotches on it. We looked at it, and wondered what on earth a baby’s cap was doing in a case of guns and knives, and I walked around to the other side of the case, and found the card that explained why.
“Oh, dear, “ I said, “They found it at the well in Cawnpore… The local regiment was one of the first to re-enter the city.” I looked at the stains, and knew what they were, and what had happened to the baby who wore that little bonnet, and I felt quite sick.
“Cawnpore?” Pippy asked, “What’s that to do with it?”

By the time I finished explaining, poor Pippy looked very green. I knew about the Sepoy Mutiny, because I read a lot, and some of Kipling’s India stories had piqued my interest in history not covered in American public schools. The British garrison--- and their wives and dependents, and any number of civilians-- in the town of Cawnpore stood off a brutal siege by elements of their rebelling Indian soldiers, and local nobles who thrown in their lot with the mutineers in hopes of recovering their old position and authority. Reduced by disease, shot and starvation, the survivors had surrendered on the understanding that they be allowed to take boats down river, but they were massacred at the landing, in front of a large crowd, in as grisly and brutal a fashion as the killings in Fallujah last week. ..............

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