There is evidence that Edwin H. Tetley was born at Allygurh in the Bengal
Presidency circa 1832. At the time of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in
May of 1857, Edwin was an uncovenanted civil servant, employed as a
Sectioner in the Board of Revenue in the Secretariat at Agra. Edwin was
also a member of the Agra Militia Cavalry, having enlisted upon the
formation of the unit in June of 1857. According to a Memorandum of
Instruction, by M.E. Reade:
“The (Agra) Militia is composed of military officers of regiments which have
mutinied, or have been disarmed, of members of the Civil Service holding
appointments, of salaried clerks in the public offices, of sectioners, of men
drafted from the European regiments, of pensioners, of Christian drummer,
musicians, &c., from Native regiments, and of individuals not heretofore in
the service of Government. It is an additional complication that some of the
Agra Volunteer Horse now serve in the Militia, and some of the Militia have
been drafted into the recently constituted Rifle Company.”
Allen’s Indian Mail of August 21st, 1857, quoting the Mofussilite Press of
June 30th states:
The Agra Militia was embodied last Friday and Saturday mornings, and was
drilled yesterday for the first time, on the parade ground at Hurree Purbut.
The cavalry portion of the force, which is under the immediate command of
Captain Prendergast, musters about fifty sabres; while the infantry, under
Captain Lamb, is divided into four companies, each numbering about forty
five—this is independent of the infantry under Captain Rawlins, which
parades near the Metcalfe Testimonial. The men have taken to their work
kindly; and although they may never become adepts at drill, yet they will
nevertheless be sufficiently instructed in a few days to render them a very
serviceable force, fully equal to encounter five times their number of armed
When the residents of Agra learned in early July that the Neemuch mutineers had reached Futtepore Sikri, a city about twenty
miles distant from Agra, the civilians residents of Agra abandoned their homes in the city and moved into the Fort for the
protection it offered. The Fort had been made as habitable as possible and had been well provisioned by the authorities.
In a census of Agra taken during the Mutiny, Edwin Tetley is shown as serving in the Militia Cavalry at position “F” in the Agra
Fort, which was “The Gateway from the Armoury Square.” Other individuals with the surname Tetley listed in the census as
living in the Fort during the Mutiny were C.S. Tetley and his wife (believed to be Edwin‘s father and mother); H. J. Tetley, a
civil pensioner, and his wife; and C. G. Tetley of the Agra Militia Infantry (possibly Edwin’s brother).
Edwin Tetley’s Indian Mutiny medal is named in the correct manner for a civilian, i.e., impressed initials and surname, without any
unit or regiment. Edwin’s entitlement to the Indian Mutiny medal is verified by the Return for the Agra Militia, which indicates
that along with 75 other members of the Militia Cavalry, Edwin was recorded as having actually been “under fire” with the
mutineers. While the medal roll does not state the occasion or occasions when that occurred, the Agra Militia Cavalry was in
action several times with the mutineers, including near Agra on the 4th and 5th of July, 1857, near Allyghur on the 24th of
August, and at the battle of Agra on the 10th of October when the Militia Cavalry served with the Movable Column under the
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Greathed.
Numerous accounts exist which praise the Agra Militia Cavalry’s conduct on the various occasions when they were in action
against the mutineers. An account of the action near Agra in early July of 1857 contained in Annals of the Indian Rebellion by
N. A. Chick records:
On the 4th July, one of the advance videttes had seen and interchanged compliments with a couple of the rebels' patrols,
and so Lieut. James, the officer in command, communicating the circumstance to the authorities, retired upon the plains
before Agra, adjacent to Shahgunge. Here Major Prendergast, commandant, met the militia cavalry and told them of the
coming strife on the morrow. The men were then dismounted and directed to picket their horses, when simultaneously with
a roaring storm and a tearing shower of rain, was heard from the opposite quarter of the road first a brisk fusilade and
then a dropping fire.
The Kotah contingent, false traitors, who had come to aid them in battle, had mutinied and discharging their pieces at their
officers, had killed the serjeant major, narrowly missing the doctor. The militia cavalry, not quite forty strong, were alone
on the field with these black hearts, yet Prendergast, undaunted by fearful odds, with only six of his men (Rushton, Goodall,
White, Kinlock, Hyland and Salt) galloped into the rebellious camp, and favoured by the heavy rain and the confusion, positively,
in view of the whole main body, secured their artillery of two guns with every charge of ammunition!
The gunners at once submitted and surrendered. Prendergast now called up all the cavalry, and dividing the forty,
pursued the fleeing cravens with one portion, while the other under Page was left to guard the captured and much
prized guns. The pursuit was by no means a fruitless one. The Kotah contingent convoy consisting of eighty camels, laden
with their small ammunition and their bedding and cooking utensils, was taken, the guard over it cut up, stragglers put to
the sword, and the rear ranks of the compact mass itself charged by the intrepid Prendergast. The hand of Providence
was over the volunteers that eve!
Next day was the 5th July, when the battle of Sussia was won and lost, a battle which, however misunderstood and
misrepresented by commentators at a distance from the scene of action, was in truth a singularly bold and brave affair.
If disgraceful to the officer commanding, it was pregnant with glory to the soldiers engaged. With eminent courage, for
nearly four hours, the troops presented a solid and immoveable front to the swarming enemy, under circumstances
disadvantageous in themselves, but made doubly fatal by the blundering leadership of their palsied Captain. Not the
destructive thunder of the foes artillery, not the appalling numbers of the emboldened enemy could stir the firmly
planted foot of the inconsiderable European force.
Then the enemy, driven at the point of the bayonet from the village which gives the battle its name, driven from the
mangoe tope behind the village, their ammunition like that of our own expended, their largest gun leaped upon and spiked
by the gallant old Colonel Fraser, were effectually cowed, and had actually broken ground, when horrible infatuation,
Brigadier Polwhele sounded the retreat. Gnashing their teeth in maddening rage, the victorious soldiers fell back. The
routed enemy, seeing no body running after them, stopped running away themselves, and now our humiliation commenced.
The rebels harassed our retreat to within range of the fort guns, and not a shell was sent in among them! During the
battle the militia cavalry made a dashing charge into a body of horse who threatened the guns on the right. The
little band seemed swallowed up for a time in the overpowering numbers of the enemy, and they returned not till
after several of their number had fallen. Among these were O'Connor, Jourdan, the two brothers Home, Smith and
Carlton. Among the wounded on this day were Prendergast, Rae, Blackburn, White, and Doyle. Many more had their horses
killed under them, and it was a very small minority indeed that came off "scot-free." The militia infantry steadily
acted rear-guard in the retreat. The militia artillery, though they repeatedly volunteered, were sternly bid to keep
their post's upon the fort bastion.
Reminiscences of the Sepoy Revolt, by S. Dewe′ White gives this account of the same action:
But I must not forget here to mention that a gallant charge was made by our sixty mounted militia, composed of
members of the Civil Service, officers of mutinied and disarmed native regiments, clerks, and some equestrians of a
wandering circus from France. This mere handful of men had the boldness to charge the mutineer cavalry. Of course
they were far too few to make any impression, except this—that Englishmen, when once their blood is up, are too plucky to
count the numbers of their foe! They returned with the loss of their head man of the circus, Monsieur Jordan, who was
killed, and six others were mortally wounded in the hand-to-hand combat.
Like many of the units which were quickly raised during the Indian Mutiny, the Agra Militia was disbanded after the Mutiny
and replaced by a local levy.
Edwin H. Tetley was to survive the Mutiny and is recorded as having married Matilda Kirk in India in 1863. No additional
biographical information about Edwin has come to light.