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Guide to the Henry George Austin Vicars diaries, 1853-1865

Summary

Henry George Austin Vicars was a British Army officer stationed in India in the 1850s and 1860s. He entered the army in October 1851, and was Adjutant of the 61st Regiment during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 and 1858. In his diaries, dated 1853-1855, 1857-1860, and 1864-1865, he reports on the mutinies, the Delhi siege and massacres, executing mutineers, cholera epidemics and fevers, and daily life as a soldier. Entries discuss his daily routine, the weather, his amusements and engagements, his clothing, his friends and fellow officers, his travels with the army, news and rumors he has heard, sermons and other church services he attended, and his home leave in London.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.01332
Title
Henry George Austin Vicars diaries
Date
1853-1865
Creator
Vicars, Henry George Austin
Extent
1 Linear Feet, 16 Items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Material in English

Collection Overview

Collection consists of nine diaries kept by Vicars, largely during his service in India, as well as a small amount of loose pages originally tucked into the volumes. The diaries are dated 1853-1855, 1857-1860, and 1864-1865. Volumes are all Letts's Diary, including almanacs and other reference materials printed at the front of the book; they are in varied physical condition, ranging from fair to poor. They contain daily entries discussing Vicars's routines, including his daily schedule, military activities and movements, his amusements and leisure time, sermons he heard and news he read, correspondence and other communications he maintained, and his general thoughts and personal prayers. Entries discuss army life including parades, drills, firing and target practice, distribution and preparation of Enfield rifles and ammunition, and other changes in British uniforms and clothing during this period. Vicars also records his work as adjutant in attending different court marshals and punishments for army men due to theft, drunkenness, or more serious crimes. More routine topics discussed include the climate and weather; his current view and location at different forts and locales in India, Mauritius, Ceylon, at sea, and England; hobbies and pursuits he enjoyed such as horseback riding, shopping, reading, photography, and cricket; and different dinners and events he attended as an officer.

Vicars's volumes for 1857 and 1858 contain detailed reports about his regiment's role in suppressing the Sepoy Rebellion. He records hearing initial news of the Delhi massacre in May 1857, and describes his march and movement toward Delhi and his participation in the battles of July 1857. Later entries describe attending the execution of mutineers, ongoing cholera epidemics and fevers plaguing British troops, and the fallout from ongoing conflict throughout India. The battles of 1857 had a lasting impact on Vicars; he refers to the anniversary of the Delhi siege and sorties in the 1864 volume.

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More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of volume, page, and date], Henry George Austin Vicars diaries, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Information folder about the collection and Henry Vicars
Box 2
Loose items removed from the diaries, 1850s-1860s

Includes a clipping about Vicars, a "sketch map of the probable track of the cyclone" from 1864 Oct. 4-6, and other stray manuscript pages and Letts's Diary appendices.

Box 2
Diary, 1853

Letts's Diary with loose spine. Cloth cover is labeled "Private" by hand and autographed by Henry Vicars. Title page is autographed by Vicars with note "Kupowhi [Khopoli?] 1853." Pages for January through May have been re-copied onto a new set of paper (appears to be done by Vicars's hand) which was then sewed into the volume; the original diary's entries begin on the page for May 22.

Box 2
Diary, 1854

Letts's Diary for Vicars' "third year in India which I have enjoyed thank God excellent health and have been comparatively very happy" (Jan. 1 1854 entry). Vicars's location in India is "Wuzurabad" which appears to be Wazirabad, Delhi. He references accounts with Agra Bank. Vicars writes he is an ensign in the 61st Regiment. Entries for January 11-February 15 have been tipped into the volume; Vicars writes on Feb. 17 that "I got this book today." Also includes a list of correspondence, accounts/debts, and other notes.

Box 1
Diary, 1855

Letts's Diary with loose pages laid in for Vicars's fourth year in India. "Here I am at Wuzurabad in my little bungalow I am the world will say, prosperous - may I endeavor to be a servant of Xt [Christ] and [?] up for myself happiness for futurity by living a Xtian life..." (Jan. 1 1855 entry). Vicars's location in India is "Wuzurabad" which appears to be Wazirabad, Delhi. Vicars writes he is a lieutenant and adjutant for the 61st Regiment. Loose entries for January 1-February 10 have been laid into the volume; the diary's printed pages for those dates are largely blank (it appears Vicars started copying his entries in, but then opted to just include the loose pages instead.) Also includes a list of correspondence, accounts/debts, and other notes.

Box 1
Diary, 1857

Letts's Diary with loose pages laid in for Vicars's sixth year in India. Vicars's initial location in India is "Ferazipore" (Firozpur). Vicars is Lietenant and Adjutant for the 61st Regiment. This volume contains Vicars' accounts of the growing mutinies across India. News of the May 10 Delhi massacre reached him on May 13. Entry reads: "astounding intelligence came that the Europeans at Delhi had all been murdered! and that troops at Lahore had mutinied. A council of war was held at once and it was resolved to remove all families to our Barracks..." (May 13, 1857). Later entries remark that "the news from the Puujab satisfactory but around Delhi the insurgents are committing outrages, robbing treasuries and little amusements of that kind" (May 31, 1857). Vicars's entry on June 12-June 13 includes a drawing of the layout of the fort and scaffold for the execution of the 45th mutineers; the execution is described in the entry of June 13: "10 of them were fastened on to the muzzles of the guns which had been loaded with powder. They seemed quite cool and said they were martyrs, etc. etc. The guns were fired together and a shower of legs arms and heads etc was all that remained of the mutineers. The others were let off with transportation. It was a fearful sight." Entries of Sept. describe the siege, fighting, and British retaking of Delhi and his participation in the looting of the king's apartments ("I got a curious cane and a pistol", Sept. 20). The remainder of the diary contains more routine military activities. Also includes a list of correspondence, accounts/debts, and other notes.

Box 1
Diary, 1858

Letts's Diary with entries from Vicars's seventh year in India; he records he is Lieutenant and Adjutant for the 61st Regiment. Vicars's initial location for 1858 is Delhi. The pages are blank from Feb. 24 through June 2; June 2's entry reads "This Diary turned up only today the one sent before having been lost in transit. It is nearly 3 months since I have left off my Diary I wonder if I shall take to it kindly again." Ongoing news and accounts of the rebellion and the aftermath of the seige of Delhi is reported in this diary, as well as routine activities by Vicars as adjutant.

Box 1
Diary, 1859

Letts's Diary with entries from Vicars's eighth year in India; he records he is Lieutenant and Adjutant for the 61st Regiment. Vicars records his location for 1859 as Delhi. Includes a list of draft and correspondence packets sent and received by Vicars. The early pages of the year are blank; entries begin on Feb. 25 where Vicars writes they "march from Agra"; the movements of his unit being detailed for the next several weeks. Vicars describes a cholera outbreak in June and July 1859, and a sea voyage from Poona to Mauritius in July 1859: "there is a considerable degree of monotony in one's present life on board ship" (July 21). After reaching Mauritius, Vicars paused entries for August and offered a summary (dated Sept. 11 but written on pages for August 2-16) of his activities since arrival. His recap includes the various crimes, largely "habitual drunkenness," he prosecuted; he mentions "one man Ph Downy committed suicide by shooting himself through the head without any apparent reason." Vicars's regular entries resume Sept. 11 and revert to routine activities.

Box 1
Diary, 1860

Letts's Diary for 1860, with cloth boards and loose spine. Vicars records he is Lt. and Adjutant for the 61st Regiment, stationed at Mauritius. The diary includes description of his travel to London by ship from February to March 11, when "we were greeted with snow! It did not fall much but it was terribly cold all day. Sheet and rain. I landed in old (and cold) England as soon as possible" (Mar. 11). The remainder of the entries record Vicars's activities in England and Scotland. The volume is blank from Sept. 4 through the end of the year.

Box 1
Diary, 1864

Letts's Diary for 1864; missing cover boards and introductory printed pages. Vicars's first entry reads "At Sea 4 days W. of Galle [Sri Lanka]. Here I am beginning a diary again after 3 years cessation - I don't mean to keep it up though regularly. I am on my way to India with Sir John Lawrence as his ADC. We left ... London on 9th Dec. another fortnight D.V. will see us in Calcutta" (Jan. 1). This volume contains regular but sometimes brief entries for 1864. One entry records "The 7th anniversary of the Storm of Delhi. Col. Norman gave a dinner to all the Delhi men and we mustered our 30 and enjoyed ourselves and made a good noise" (Sept. 14). Vicars includes a list of names of men who attended the dinner.

Box 2
Diary, 1865

Letts's Diary with cloth boards. Vicars writes that he is "B. Major and Capt. 1st Batl., 18th Royal Irish ADC to H. G. the Viceroy of India", based in Calcutta. Contains routine daily entries about military and personal activities.

Box 2
 

Historical Note

Henry George Austin Vicars was a British Army officer in the 61st Regiment of the Foot, and later in the 18th Regiment (Royal Irish); he was stationed in India in the 1850s and 1860s. He entered the army in October 1851, and was Adjutant of the 61st Regiment during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 and 1858. He was present at the siege and attacks on Delhi in July 1857, and described them in his diary. He was awarded the British Army's Indian Mutiny Medal and clasp for his service during the rebellion. Vicars was promoted to brevet-major in Nov. 1863, and appointed as aide-de-camp of John Lawrence, the Governor General of the East Indies. Vicars died in 1867.


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Provenance

The Henry George Austin Vicars diaries were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1975. Purchase was supported through the Hamilton endowment.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library staff, 1975. Finding aid completed by Meghan Lyon, 2019.