Rao Tula Ram was one of the most important leaders of the 1857 revolt. He was born on 9th December, 1825 in the well known Rao family in village Rampura (Rewari). His father was Puran Singh and his mother's name was Gyan Kaur. He was educated according to the then prevalent customs and he knew Persian, Urdu, Hindi and a smattering of English. In November 1839, Rao Tula Ram ascended the throne on the death of his father.
In 1857, on hearing the news of rebellion at Meerut and other places, the people of the Rewari rose up in revolt. In the Rewari area, lead was given by Rao Tula Ram. His cousin Gopal Dev also stood by him. The forefathers of the Raos had helped the Marathas in 1803 in their light against the British and as a result when the latter came out successful in the struggle, they confiscated their Jagir and gave instead an 'istamarari' grant of about 58 villages. This was a great blow to the Raos which shattered their position and made them unhappy with British Raj. On l7 May, 1857,the Rao went to the tehsil headquarters at Rewari with four to five hundred followers and deposed the tahsildar and thanedar. They appropriated the cash from the tehsil treasury, took all the government buildings in their possession and proclaimed, under the sanction of Emperor Bahadur Shah, their rule over the pargana of Rewari, Bhora and Shahjahanpur. For their headquarters, they chose Rampura, a small fortified village, one mile south-west of Rewari. Tula Ram, the elder Rao became Raja and Gopal Dev his commander-in-chief.
After assuming charge, Tula Ram organized the revenue department and collected revenue and taxes. He took donations and loans from the mahajans of Rewari. He raised a force (about five thousand men) and set up a large workshop in the fort of Rampura where a substantial number of 'guns, gun-carriages, and other small Arms and ammunition were manufactured. The Rao enforced law and order and defended his State from outside attacks. These activities pleased Bahadur Shah and he confirmed Rao Tula Ram in his Jagirs of Rewari, Bhora and Shahjahanpur. Tula Ram in return rendered all possible help to Emperor Bahadur Shah and those rebels waging war against the British in Delhi. He sent Rs.45,000 through General Bakht Khanat such a critical time when non-payment of the salaries to the sepoys had caused great insecurity and anxiety, though this small sum did not improve the situation. The Rao also supplied the Delhi forces with large quantities of necessary commodities.
But this help could not protect Delhi which fall to the British on September 2O, 1857. Soon after Brigadier-General Showers led out a column (from Delhi) of 1,500 men with a light field battery, 18 two-pounder guns and two small mortars, "to attack and destroy Rao Tula Ram and his follower and to raze his fort (at Rewari)." The column had light skirmish with some Rewari-sowars on October 5 at Pataudi, 37 miles from Delhi. In the words of Hodson, who accompanied the column : "They fired at Our advance and bolted at speed." The column's next attack was direct, on Rewari which was still held by Rao Tula Ram. The situation was serious and the Rao foresaw that a fight with the British forces in the mud fort of Rampura, in the changed circumstances after the fall of Delhi, would result in the complete destruction of his army without any serious loss to the British. So he left his fort before Showers' arrival.
The British column reached Rewari on October 6. The fort of Rewari (Rampura) was taken without any opposition. Immediately after the Occupation of the fort of Rewari, Brigadier-General Showers sent a messenger to Tula Ram telling him that if he submitted along with guns and arms, he would be treated on merits. But Tula Ram turned down the inducement. The British authorities at Delhi were alarmed by these developments. They sent a strong column comprising about 1,500 strong under Colonel Gerrard, an officer of conspicuous merit on November 10, 1857. The column reached Rewari three days later. They occupied the abandoned fort of Rampura. Here they were joined by two squadrons of the Carabineers.
After a few days rest at Rewari (Rampura), Col. Gerrard proceeded to Narnaul via Kanaud and reached there in the evening. In the night he was joined by the Haryana Field Force. On November 16, Gerrard marched to Narnaul. As the track was sandy, the column reached Nasibpur, a small village, two miles northwest of Narnaul and halted for a short rest. The rebel force, having abandoned their strong fort in the center of the town pounced on them. Rao Tula Ram's first charge was irresistible and the British forces scattered before them. The Patiala Infantry and the Multani Horse on the British left were completely disheartened. The whole of the right Bank tied. But at this juncture, the Guides and the Carabineers came to their rescue and saved the situations.
The English fire, especially of the artillery was too much for the rebels. The Guides and the Carabineers, under the cover of the artillery fire, made a heavy attack. Next, the 1st Bengal Fusiliers swooping upon the weak rebel Artillery, captured some of their guns. This encouraged the British cavalry on the right and they pressed through the Indian ranks and successfully overpowered them on right and in the center. But soon the situation took an Unexpected turn when Col. Gerrand, the British Commandant, was mortally wounded by a musket ball, with the result that the British too were demoralized. Taking full a advantage of the circumstances, Rao Tula Ram swooped down upon them. The British could not stand the charge and the Multani Horse fled away in bewilderment. They recaptured their guns and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. The right and the left wings of the British forces were thrown into confusion.
Appreciating the gravity of the situation Major Caulfield, the officiating British Commandant, ordered his artillery to start heavy bombardment and his cavalry and infantrymen to charge straight on with full force in to their front ranks. Rao Tula Ram's forces fought back furiously and stood their grounds. The British artillery fire, nevertheless, broke their backbone and split their forces into two parts-one engaged in the close quarter battle and the other fleeing to go out of the range of the British guns. Meanwhile Kishan Singh and Ram Lal, the two best commanders, received musket shots and died. This disheartened Rao Tula Ram's forces and they retreated. The British resumed advance until they came to a dry bed of a stream flowing between Nasibpur and Narnaul. The British guns were unable to cross the stream owing to sand, so they diverged to the right and took up a position near the Horse Artillery guns, whilst the 23rd Panjab Infantry and Patiala Infantry with other units of the cavalry crossed the stream and advanced towards the camp.
The heavy artillery and infantry fire confused Rao Tula Ram; and they ran pell-mell in all directions. Mostly, they retreated to the town and hide in the buildings. The pursuit of the fleeing soldiers was quick and inexorable, and they were very soon driven out of the town after a little fighting Rao Tula Ram lost the day and, when the sun went down, there remained none in Narnaul except heaps of corpses here and there. Though Tula Ram and Abdus Samad Khan escaped, Rao Kishan Singh, Ram Lal, Samad Khan's son and many other top-ranking officers were killed in action. The British captured nine guns and other arms. The total loss on the British side was 70 killed and 45 wounded. They lost their commander, Col. Gerrard and Capt. Wallace, while Lieutenants Graije, Kennedy and Pearse were severely wound.
The battle of Narnaul was undoubtedly one of the most decisive battles of the Uprising of 1857. The English felt jubilant over their success in this confrontation, for it resulted in the marked the Close of the crucial period of the struggle in the Haryana region and northern Rajasthan.
After the battle, Rao Tula Ram moved into Rajasthan; then joined Tantya Tope's forces for one year. After the British proclamation of promising unconditional pardon, amnesty and oblivion to all offences against the British to all except those who directly or indirectly took part in the murder of British subjects (issued on November 1,1858). He sent a petition to the Governor-General, Lord Canning, on December 24, 1858. He stated that he considered himself "an offender, but as he looked up to the government as his protector, he begged to solicit that an inquiry might be directed to be instituted and that he As well as his followers pardoned." He was refused pardon for he was chief instigator and prime mover of revolt. He therefore, left India in 1862. He went to Iran; then to Afghanistan in the winter of 1862, where he died of dysentery at Kabul on 23 September 1863 at a young age of 38.
His cousin Gopal Dev also fled from Narnaul and took asylum with one of his relatives at Udairamsar, a village in Bikaner State. He stayed there in perfect secrecy for four years. Offers of surrender were made to him through his friends by the Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon but he shunned all enquiries. In consequence, his Jagir of 41 villages was confiscated. He died in 1862. With the end of the revolt, the vengeance of the British started. Hundreds of people were hanged or shot dead and their villages burnt. Rao Tula Ram and Gopal Dev were dispossessed of their Jagirs.