Indian Mutiny Medal, with bar for Central India, awarded to Pvt. Patrick MacDonald, 1858

Image["Indian Mutiny Medal, 1858-1859"]

Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria

Image["Indian Mutiny Medal, 1858-1859"]

Reverse, Britannia before a lion standing facing left, she with a wreath in her right hand

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Indian Mutiny Medal, 1858

The Indian Mutiny of 1857, now regarded in some quarters of India as the First Indian War of Independence, has a history far too complex to be fairly explained here. In briefest summary, resentment at British snubbing of both Hindu and Muslim religious practices among the Sepoy (indigenous) troops of the British East India Company, whose complaints were regarded as mere superstitious nonsense by the European officers of the Company, became the spark that ignited a metaphorical powder keg of Bengali and Northern Indian resentment at the Company's taxation policies, its ever-more-extensive expropriations of Indian landowners' and rulers' territories under threat of arms, and its rearrangement of the Indian economy to suit the Company's entirely commercial interests.
Initial arson attacks and insubordination in early 1857 were followed by whole-unit mutinies and before long coordinated attacks by indigenous soldiery on Europeans in Indian towns. Full-scale war followed, and an initially-slow British resistance, still aided by many Indian troops, entailed perhaps as vicious a set of atrocities against the rebels as they or their civilian cohorts had committed against Europeans. Indian forces were uncoordinated, despite Bahadur Shah Zafur, Emperor of the Mughal rump state around Delhi, being proclaimed Emperor of all India and Sepoy rebels rallying to his standard. British and pro-British forces had secured the country again by mid-1858, and a programme of purges that became known as "the Devil's Wind", including thousands of executions, sometimes of whole village populations, attempted to ensure that the event would not be repeated. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, and the East India Company's rule taken over directly by the British Crown.
Although most of the fighting in the rebellion took place in Bengal and the North, Rani Lakshmi Bai, widow of the Raja of Jhansi whose state had been annexed by the East India Co. in 1853 under the controversial Doctrine of Lapse, used the rebellion to attempt to regain power in her Central Indian state. Her attempts to safely expel the British from her city, whose sincerity has been questioned, failed, and thereafter she had not only to face invasions from the neighbouring Rajas of Datia and Orccha but, with those repelled, an implacable British campaign against her. Jhansi fell in March 1858 after a short siege, but Lakshmi Bai escaped. Her substantial but poorly-equipped forces gave battle in vain at Kalpi in May 1858, and then fell back to Gwalior, which they captured from its loyalist Scinde rulers on 1st June. Here the Rani's luck finally ran out when she was killed in the first days of the subsequent British siege later in the month.
For participation in this campaign the Central India bar was awarded to the Indian Mutiny Medal in 1858. One recipient of it was Private Patrick MacDonald of the 3rd Bombay European Regiment, whose medal this is. Lester Watson purchased it at some point before 1928.


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