Letters of Mr. Martin to J. V. Sturt published as an appendix to the account of John Venables Sturt experiences at the outbreak of the Rebellion. This account was published after the death of Sturt in 1899 by his wife, a copy of which is held in the British Library. Sturt was stationed near to Jhansi in 1857 but he has little to say of events there. Nonetheless his wife included with the account extracts from three letters from "a Mr. Martin" which Sturt had stored with his manuscript. There is no mention of who Mr Martin might have been or the source of his information. It is reasonably certain that this is the T. A. Martin whose letter to Damodhar Rao we have via Parasnis' book.
The letters are reproduced here as published and preceded by Mrs Sturt's comments.
Mrs Sturt's comments:
A propos of the Rani of Jhansi who is generally supposed to have been responsible for the massacre of the Europeans at Jhansi Fort, and afterwards to have been killed fighting on horseback in battle at Gwalior, there are with the manuscript three letters written to Mr. Sturt by a Mr. Martin who was evidently in possession of reliable information on the subject. It will be seen from the which we make that the writer denies that the Rani was anxious to rebel, but after much hesitation took up arms, believing herself to have been unjustly treated by the Company. He also emphatically denies that she was in any way responsible for the massacre of the Europeans, of which the mutinous Native Officers alone were guilty. In the third place it appears that the Rani was not killed by the sabre of a British trooper at the battle of Gwalior, though one of her female attendants was so killed. The rani being mortally wounded by a stray bullet, committed sati by burning herself to death in a hayrick. Of the courage and ability of this remarkable woman there is not the least doubt. The letters were all written in the summer of 1897 from different places in the United Provinces.
Extract from Mr Martin's Letter no. 1
Where the Rani is mentioned she is said to have been slain in battle, but I know for a fact that while watching the fight which was raging a stray bullet struck her in the back. Feeling herself mortally wounded and making over her adopted son, Damodhan Rao Bhoonoo? (sic) at Indore to the care of her female attendant Koshin (?) - one of the two who threw in their lot with their mistress, Moondar(?) the other having been killed that very day by a sabre cut across the body - and refusing the assistance of Tantia Topee who offered to take her off, she ordered a ladder to be planted against a hayrick which was close by, ascended it unassisted, and ordered her people to set fire to it, which was done. This happened in Goosain's Bagh near Phoolbagh. I went and saw the spot. I could say a great deal more in favour of this unfortunate woman whom I knew personally.
Extract from Mr Martin's Letter no. 2
I enclose a letter just received from the adopted son of the late Rani of Jhansi as well as his autobiography, the perusal of which I feel certain will prove interesting. Return them both please after perusal. He is a political pensioner at Indore, drawing the small pittance of Rs 200 per mensum [ie per month]. As soon as he sends me the History of the Rani's life whether in Maharathi(sic) or English I will not fail to send it to you, and if you will but try to remove the stain of rebellion resting against her name I will consider myself amply repaid for the trouble I have and am still taking to afford you proofs of her innocence. That she did not rebel until called upon by Sir Robert Hamilton to surrender unconditionally, I can vouch for. This she would have done but for Murdan(?) sing of Banpaore, who told her that if she gave herself up, she would be hung by sweepers. That she supplied all the Europeans who fled pell-mell into the Fort for two days until stopped by the Subadar Major of the 12th N.I. there can be no doubt of, and it was only after the massacre - in which she certainly took no part - and after the rebellious troops had left that she took possession of her country, of which she had always thought she was unjustly deprived by the British Government. She fought Dattia and Tehri combined when they attacked her with the intention of wresting her territory from her possession and dividing it between themselves. - thinking they would have to fight a defenceless woman - but she had managed to muster a small force of Arabs and Rohillas within an incredibly short space of time, and beat back the invaders as often they attacked her in her stronghold, and yet both these dastardly chiefs of Dattia and Tehri were not asked why with the resources at their command they were not able to protect and save the lives of our people from the hands of only half a Regiment of Infantry and half of the 16th Bengal Cavalry. The Rani had no more than 20 or 30 retainers when the massacre took place..... It would have been the wisest and best course for her to surrender when she was called upon to do so but she valued her reputation better than her life and - fate is inexorable - it was so to be. Murdan Sing saved the Euroipean residents of Lallitpur and disarmed a whole company of sepoys; why couldn't Dattia and Tehri have done the same at Jhansi if so inclined?
Extract from Mr Martin's Letter no. 3
I have just received a letter from Damadhan Rao, adopted son of the Rani of Jhansi, giving me a true and faithful account of her last battle and end. Nothing could be more reliable as he was an eyewitness of all that occurred. He also sent me her life in Maharathi(sic) which is being translated by the editor of a paper at Calcutta, but the English footnotes being extracts from the reports of Sir Hugh Rose and others as well as extracts from the work of other historians who have written accounts of the mutiny....
(The remainder of the page is half missing. From the unfinished sentence which ends the page it is clear that at least another page is missing.)
[ It is unclear if this final comment is from Mrs Sturt or some subsequent transcriber.]