William Taylor: The Defence of Arrah House

During the sepoy rebellion, also known as the First War of Indian Independence, the house at Arrah situated in Bihar State in northeast India, was attacked in early July 1857 by mutineers from Dinapore under the command of 80 year-old Veer Kunwar Singh. Inside were six officials, the Judge, Collector, Magistrate, Assistant Magistrate, Civil Surgeon and Deputy Opium Agent, together with 3 railway engineers. As the situation became more tense, the group moved into a two story billiard room. This room, the “house” as depicted, had been fortified by Richard Vicars Boyle, one of the railway engineers, by bricking up the verandah arches. They were joined by fifty loyal Sikhs, and provisioned with cases of port and sherry. The mutineers looted the treasury and attacked the Arrah House laying siege to it and offering bribes to the Sikhs to hand over the British. The relief, when it came three weeks later on August 3, was led by Major Vincent Eyre.Defence of Arrah House

This recently acquired print was from a painting by William Tayler (1808-1892), Commissioner of Patna. It shows the exact position of the attacking party, the house of which the mutineers took possession, and from which they attacked the besieged; and the small building from which the garrison defended themselves against 8,000 men.

The hand-colored lithograph measuring 33 x 48 cm. was published in London by W. Thacker and Co., the lithography by Maclure and Co. It was accompanied by a small pamphlet entitled Brief narrative of the defence of the Arrah Garrison written by Boyle, and the print was dedicated by the artist to the latter ‘to whose skill and forethought the safety of the Garrison is principally to be attributed’. Taylor himself published an account of the defense in The Friend of India on August 30, 1857.

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