Henry Cayley (1834-1904 – see A Banker’s Family) rose to be Deputy Surgeon-General in the British Army in India; after his retirement volunteered to serve in the Second Boer War; and became Honorary Surgeon to King Edward VII. Early in his military career the Indian Mutiny took place. My aunt inherited one letter he wrote during this time to my great-grandfather Arthur Cayley, who was one of his brothers. It is dated 3 November, with no year, but was probably written in 1857 as it refers to the Siege of Cawnpore. It ends by describing an incident in which the British Commander-in-Chief was nearly captured.
The letter is now held in the British Library: Add MS 79532 C.
My dear Arthur
I sent a letter to Willy [another brother, Dr William Cayley, 1836-1916] last mail & will try to send one to you by the post which goes out to day if the Mosquitos will let me but they are swarming to such an extent & biting so fiercely that I am almost driven mad, my hands legs & neck are all covered with lumps from their bites which itch horribly. I suppose you are now a student of K.C.L. & consequently a great man wearing stickups [shirt collars which stick up] & tail coats when in company. I hope you will like London but you must find it rather dull especially at first. I hope you will write to give an account of yr visit to Switzerland in the Summer wh.[ich] must have been very jolly. Tell Willy that Layton[?] came up [to?] Benares a few days ago & will probably remain for some time. Just before he left Calcutta he happened to go to Colvin & Co my agents & appoint him as his agent also & there he found a letter from Willy which for some wild reason or another he had directed there, it was the merest chance that Layton ever got it. I am still attached to a Queens Regiment (the 37th) & shall probably be with them for some time. My detachment has had no fighting tho we are surrounded by mutineers but they never came very near this fort wh. has just been made at Raj Ghat, so that there is no excitement of any sort & it is rather dull, there are no birds to shoot. I can’t get a horse to ride & the whole country round is nothing but ploughed fields. We had an old & oar[?] boat on the river a short time ago but she is now out of the water being mended & painted & I am afraid she will be some time getting ready again. The Ganges is a splendid river for rowing on I have bathed in it once or twice but there are so many dead bodies floating down that it is not very pleasant. The fighting is going on in many places as hard as ever especially at Lucknow where General Havelock after marching there & relieving the garrison is now himself surrounded & fighting every day & he can’t get back again but a large force has gone to his rescue from Cawnpore & will probably be at Lucknow by this. Tell Willy that Darby[?] when the mutiny broke out escaped to Lucknow & a few weeks ago was safe but there is still a good deal of danger, his wife & child were certainly killed at Cawnpore. Sir Colin Campbell [Commander-in-Chief of the British army in India] was very nearly nabbed by the enemy coming up here the other day from Calcutta, he was travelling in a carriage, & altogether his party consisted of 12 or 15 in different carriages, they were very nearly surrounded by 500 cavalry but as soon as he saw them he ordered the carriages to gallop back as hard as they could wh. they did for 10 miles when they met a party of English soldiers & escaped what a thing it would have been if the commander in chief had been taken prisoner. I have been interrupted so often that I have not had time to write a long letter. I remain, yr very affect.[ionate] Brother