British troops massacre hundreds of civilians in Multan

Brigadier General Henry Dundas.
Source Wikimedia Commons.

2 January 1849

On 2 January 1849, British soldiers, under the command of Brigadier-General the Honourable Henry Dundas, raped, pillaged and murdered hundreds of civilians, after fighting their way into the city of Multan, located in what is today the province of Punjab in Pakistan. Historian Saul David comments that ‘the brutal treatment of innocent citizens did the assaulting troops little credit.’1 One British corporal recalled that ‘every one was plundered whom our men could lay their hands upon, regardless of their pitiful cry, and in some instances were women and children shot down amongst the men.’ He added that he saw one soldier shoot ‘a poor, grey-headed old man, while he was begging that he would spare, and not hurt, his wife and daughters’ and of another who ‘went into a room, and took a young girl from her mother’s side, and perpetrated the offence, for which he has to answer before the God who heard that poor girl’s cries and petitions.’2

In Britain, the public remained blissfully unaware of such atrocities. One typical report lauded the capture of the city, declaring that British troops had ‘behaved most gallantly’3 and Lord Stanley declared in parliament that ‘we may congratulate ourselves, the country and those gallant men, as their cause was one of justice,’ as fellow members shouted ‘hear, hear.’4  Similarly in the streets, the general mood of was one of exuberant self-congratulation and celebration and reenactments of the ‘storming of Mooltan,’ with ‘pyrotechnic effects’, were staged daily in London ‘at the request of numerous families of distinction.’5


  1. Saul David, Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire, Penguin Books, London, 2007, p. 123.
  2. Quoted in Ibid., p. 124.
  3. ‘Capture of the City of Mooltan,’ Downpatrick Recorder, 3 March 1849, p. 1.
  4. ‘Thanks to the Army in India,’ The Morning Post, 25 April 1849 p. 2.
  5. ‘Storming of Mooltan,’ The Morning Advertiser, 14 June 1849, p. 1.

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© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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