My Dear Mother,
I received your kind and welcome letter, and am truly happy to hear you are in the enjoyment of good health as, thank God, this leaves ourselves with our dear little boy, quite well. Of course you must have got the news of his birth long before this, although by your last (letter), I see you had not received the news.
Dear mother, I am much pleased with the lock of hair you sent me, also the engraving of Auld Reekie ( Editors note: an affectionate name for Edinburgh).
Beccy is going to have a ring made for the hair; she is so taken with it. She wishes she could only get alongside the head that it came off and wouldn’t there be a kirlin match (Editors note: Scots for ‘a commotion’). But, dear mother, keep up your spirits, we must all look forward to better days; do not think you are forgotten although far away from you.
Dear Mother, the country about here is very quiet; they (Indian sepoy mutineers) have got more than they bargained for I guess, for there is scarcely a village standing round about this part of the country. There are very few depredations committed now, although there is a night or morning but there are a few hung. I was down that way a few nights ago at a funeral, and I saw six of them hanging up drying. We think nothing of it, but rather glory in it. They have the likeness of men, but their actions have made them worse than the wild beasts of the forest.
We have just received the news here, about Major General WILSON, the hero of Delhi, being knighted-no man deserves it better than he did, for he is an Officer and a Gentleman in every sense of the word; he is Commandant of Artillery.
If he had had command on the night of the 10th of May, very few of the mutineers would ever have seen Delhi. But in one sense it was a good job our troops did not leave the Station that night (as) it was thought there were about 50,000 Gaugers (Editors note: Gurjars-an ethnic group found in northern India,particularly the Gujarat, which is named after them) round the station, but the brutes will not stand like men; they do not like the Top-Khana-Wallahs (Artillerymen)-they do not like Long Bowling. They are a tribe I think that never were heard of before. All the country between Cawnpore and someway above this (Meerut) is infested with them; they are a people that will not work, they mostly live by plunder. There are another tribe, named Ghants-they are mostly the tillers of the the soil; the two are always at enmity with one another. We used to get the Ghants to bring us information about those fellows, and we would go and burn their villages; the order was to spare women and children.
Dear Mother, I have received another letter since I commenced this. I see you have got the news about little Jamie. Dear mother, he is such a dear little chap; Bec and I are so fond of him, he almost drags the whiskers off me every day. When he laughs, I very often see a great resemblance in little Georgy (PATERSON)-poor chap, he must be growing a fine fellow now. I suppose he almost forgets his uncle by this time.
Dear Mother you mention about the dreadful things that have occurred, but you only see the best side of it (the worst is hidden from public knowledge). I will mention a thing that occurred here on the night of the 10th May. You would see the name of a Mrs Captain CHAMBERS , mentioned among those that were murdered, she was very near confinement. At the time they opened her womb, took out the child, placed it on her breast and put her hands in it’s place. Her murderer was the first that was hung here, and I thought he would have been torn to pieces before they got him strung up. He was a Mussalman (Muslim), and the butcher of the Regiment that Captain CHAMBERS belonged to. Before hanging him, they shaved all his head and face and rubbed him over with pigs fat- which is worse than taking his life they think, and then strung him up to a tree, there being no gallows at the time. There are many others that I cannot mention, it is too horrible.
Bye the bye, try and see Robert PATON, my old chum Mrs (?) BURNESS; give him my best respects and tell him to tell John MACKENZIE (pressman), that his nephew Alexander MACPHEE was murdered on the night of the 10th of May. There were six murdered in the same bungalow. He was a Sapper (engineer) and was stationed in Meerut. At the time there were two other sappers passing through the Station and they all went to bid a person, the name of BROOKES, good-bye, when they were pounced upon by the innocent peaceful and harmless Sepoyand murdered; six in all, 4 males and 2 females. Mrs BROOKES expected to be confined that night, or the next day; they cut her breasts off and nailed them on the doors and then set fire to the bungalow. It will only hurt your feelings to hear those things enumerated dear mother. My heart sickened at some of the sights I saw. My dear mother, you say you want some news. I always see more news in the home papers than we hear out here. The road is open to Calcutta (but) everything is very dear here for all the winter supplies were destroyed on the road. Dear Mother, you must not be angry at me not writing sooner; I am very busy just now. I am scarcely evr at home before gun-fire 8 o’clock, and then I am tired out. Beccy has her hands full, so you must look over our past neglect in writing to you before now. Beccy is busy getting little Jamie’s short clothes made.
My Dear Mother, give my best respects to Aunt Agness in Auchterarder, and Uncle James in Drummond, and Alexander and the little ones. Remember me kindly to all enquiring friends and let them know I am well. Tell some of them to write; you don’t know what it is to get a letter or a newspaper from home. Little Jamie and Beccy joins in kind love to your own dear self. Beccy will send an epistle soon with a bit each of our hair.
So good bye at present from
Your affectionate son and daughter
James and Rebecca Johnston
P.S: I send a sketch of Delhi. It is the same as was sent to the Illustrated London News by a person the name of Sergt CROYDON. Belonging to the school, they gave him a great fuss, but he only copied it. He has cheek enough to take the credit of doing it! This is a later one, it has the advanced batteries that breached the walls before storming. Since commencing this, the invalids of the 60th Rifles left Delhi for home. Two or three strayed away from the remainder and were found murdered at a place called Subzee Mundee (all Mussalma’s graves). It caused a search and they found about 600 Mussalmans concealed. They have been hanging them so many every day until they finish them.
Editors Note: James Charles Johnston was born 14th September 1857