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Carnatic Wars

1746-1763

British Trading Company and Indian Allies — versus — French Trading Company and Indian Allies


Introduction : 


carnatic
 Clive himself sprang to a gun.

The Carnatic Wars were a series of battles, primarily between the British and French, for control of the trading ports of India during the years 1746 to 1763. These wars, however, were complicated by a number of factors which makes their progress somewhat difficult to follow. First of all, the period during which they were fought spanned two European wars, namely the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), and the Seven Year's War (1756-1763). The First and Third Carnatic Wars were essentially the Indian Colonial front in these two international wars.

Secondly, the agencies which were in charge of the colonial posts were trading companies, who had their own soldiers, but cooperated with the military of the home country. They also formed alliances with various native princes, and these alliances changed somewhat over the years. Since it was always possible for the French and British to fight each other by attaching themselves to whatever war was currently being fought between native princes, there was not necessarily a lull in hostilities even when Britain and France were officially at peace. The battles fought in the interim period between the two international wars are referred to as the Second Carnatic war, and were presumably driven by rows between native princes, although the European powers with whom they had aligned themselves, took leadership of many of the battles.

Third, the political situation in India was highly unsettled at the time of the Carnatic wars. The Moghul empire had broken up, and various native Indian factions were vying for control of territory. The European trading companies had operated for over 150 years under the Moghul empire without territory disputes, but the break-up of a unified empire on the sub-continent opened up India to all forms of imperial aggression. The desire of the native princes to acquire western armaments in their battles with each other, played directly into the hands of various western imperialists who sought to increase colonial influence in the region. The Carnatic wars were driven by opportunism on all sides, and though the native princes had no idea of surrendering their territory to an outside power, they often cooperated willingly with Europeans in order to gain access to western arms and improve their own position.

Book Links
Story of Lord Clive  by  John Lang


First Carnatic War, a.k.a. "War of Austrian Succession" in India : 1746-1748


carnatic
 To Clive was given the command of the storming party.

The primary French trading station in the Carnatic region was at Pondicherry. The primary British station was at Madras. While France and Britain were at peace, the commanders of the forts were on friendly terms, but when war broke out, they prepared for battle. The Indian prince tried to avert war between the two forts, but the French defied his orders, captured Madras, and took the entire garrison prisoner. Later on, several of the English prisoners, including Clive, escaped and took refuge in another fort, where they awaited reinforcements from Britain, and then joined in an attack on Pondicherry. The siege of Pondicherry was not successful, but peace between the two countries was soon declared, and Madras was returned to the British.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Negapatam
Drawn Battle (British vs.French)
Fought 1746, off the Coromandel coast between a British squadron of 6 ships, under Captain Peyton, and 9 French ships, under Labourdonnais. The fight was conducted almost entirely at long range, and was indecisive, but after the action Peyton sheered off and made for Trincomalee, thus practically admitting defeat, though the French had in fact suffered the heavier loss.
Siege of Madras
French defeat British
This city was invested by the French under Labourdonnais, with 9 ships and about 3,700 troops, mostly Europeans, September 14, 1746. It was defended by a garrison of 200, and after a week's bombardment, surrendered September 25. The garrison lost 5 men only; the French not a single man.
Siege of Pondicherry
French defeat British
This place was invested by the British, under Admiral Boscawen, with a fleet of 30 sail, and a land force of 6,000 men, August 30, 1948, and was defended by a French garrison of 4,800, under Dupleix. The siege was grossly mismanaged, and in October Boscawen was forced to withdraw, having lost by sickness or in action nearly a third of his land force. The French lost 250 only during the siege.



Commander
Short Biography
Joseph Francois Dupleix Governor of the French trading company in India; rival of Clive for control of Bengal;
Labourdannais French General

Story LinksBook Links
Clive goes to India  in  Story of Lord Clive  by  John  Lang




Second Carnatic War : 1749-1754


carnatic
 Attacking the French guns at Kaveripak.

The second Carnatic war was started due to an ongoing battle between several native princes. To briefly summarize a very complicated situation, the Moghul empire, which had reigned in India for 200 years under a largely Moslem government was breaking up and losing influence. Hindu princes were everywhere anxious to wrest power for themselves from the crumbling empire. Dupleix, The governor of the French trading had formed elaborate plans for increasing French influence in the region by making alliances with some of the up-and-coming Hindu Princes, in this case, Muzzaffar Jang and Chundra Sahib. Britain naturally took the side in opposition to the French, and supported the Moslem princes, in this case, Mohammad Ali.

The war opened as Chundra and Muzzaffar, with their French allies, defeated the Nawab of Carnatic at Ambur. They later besieged Trichinopoli where their rival had taken refuge. The case was nearly hopeless when Clive, who had played a very minor role in the wars up until this point devised a radical plan for saving Trichinopoli by attacking Arcot, the nearly deserted capital of Chundra Sahib. The desperate plan worked brilliantly—Trichinopoli was relieved, the French were dealt an unexpected setback, and Clive made a name for himself. In the following year Clive won several other dramatic victories for the British and foiled Dupleix at every turn. Eventually Britain's name became great among the native princes and even some of the Marathas, which was the largest Hindu confederacy in the region, decided to thrown in its lot with Britain.

The second Carnatic War was finally concluded in 1754 when Mohammad Ali, the Nawab that the British had supported, was recognized by all parties at the legitimate ruler of the Carnatic. The ruling family, which was also related to the Nizam of Hyderabad, were thereafter powerful allies of the British. As a result of these defeats, Dupleix was recalled to France in disgrace


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Devicotta
British defeat Tanjores-French
This fortress, held for Pertab Singh by a garrison of the Tanjore army, was captured in 1749, after a three days' bombardment, by a British force of 2,300 men under Major Lawrence. An attack upon the breach, headed by Clive, was nearly disastrous, as the Sepoys hung back, and of the Europeans engaged, only Clive and three others escaped, but Lawrence arriving opportunely with the main column, the place was stormed.
Battle of Ambur
Chunda-French defeat Nawab Arcot
Fought 1749, between the army of Anwar-ud-din, Nawab of Arcot, 20,000 strong, and the combined forces of Muzuffer Jung and Chunda Sahib, aided by a French contingent under M. d'Auteil. Anwar-ud-din was defeated and slain, and Muzuffer Jung assumed the title of Subandar of the Deccan, Chunda Sahib that of Nawab of Arcot.
Siege of Arcot
British defeat Chunda-French
This fortress was captured by Clive, with a force of 200 Europeans and 300 Sepoys, in August, 1751. The garrison, 1,100 strong, offered no resistance, but marched out on Clive's approach. In the course of the autumn Arcot was beleaguered by an army of 10,000 natives, and 150 Frenchmen under Chunda Sahib, the French nominee for the Nawabship of Arcot. Against this overwhelming force, Clive, whose garrison had been reduced by sickness to 120 Europeans, and less than 200 Sepoys, held out for seven weeks, till the approach of a Mahratta army forced Chunda Sahib to raise the siege. The garrison had 45 Europeans and 30 Sepoys killed.
Battle of Arnee
British defeat French
Fought 1751, shortly after the relief of Arcot, between 900 British troops, under Clive, with 600 Mahratta horse under Basin Rao, and a French force of 4,800, including 300 Europeans, who were in charge of a convoy of treasure. Clive took up a position in swampy ground, crossed by a causeway along which the convoy must pass. The French were thrown into disorder, and forced to retreat, but night saved them from complete destruction. The treasure was captured.
Battle of Coverypank
British defeat French
Fought February 1752, between the British, 380 Europeans, and 1,300 Sepoys, under Clive, and the troops of Rajah Sahib, with 400 Frenchmen, in all about 5,000. Clive's advance guard marched into an ambush, and with difficulty held its ground against the fire of 9 guns. Meanwhile Clive passed round the enemy's position, and attacked them vigorously in the rear, whereupon they fled in panic. Most of the Frenchmen and the guns were captured.
Siege of Covelong
British defeat French
This fortress, held by a French garrison of 350, was captured by Clive in 1752, after a few days' siege. Clive had only 200 European recruits and 500 Sepoys, and had great difficulty in getting his men to face the French fire. Having, however, managed to erect a battery which commanded the place, the Governor surrendered. On the following day Clive ambushed and defeated, with a loss of 100 men, a relieving force approaching from Chingleput.
Siege of Chingleput
British defeat French
This fortress, defended by a French garrison of 40 Europeans and 500 native troops, was captured, 1752, by Clive, with a force of about 700 recruits and Sepoys.
Battle of Bahur
British defeat French
Fought August, 1752, between the French, numbering 2,500, including natives, under M. Kirkjean, and 2,000 British troops, with 4,000 of Mohammed Ali's levies, under Major Lawrence. The French were totally defeated, losing heavily in men, guns and stores. This victory determined the Mahrattas, who were wavering, to throw in their lot with the British.
Battle of Seringham
British defeat French-Mysoris
Fought 1753, between 1,000 British troops, under Major Laurence, and the French, with their Mahratta and Mysori allies, under M. Astruc. The French attacked in force an isolated post, held by 200 Sepoys, and carried it before Major Laurence could come up. He then attacked, and in turn carried the position, driving off the French, and the Mahrattas who came up to their support, and captured three guns.
Battle of Golden Rock
British defeat French
Fought August 7, 1753, between 1,500 British under Major Lawrence, together with 5,000 Tanjore troops under Monakji, and a detachment of French and Mysoris, forming part of the army besieging Trichinopoly. The Golden Rock was taken by assault, and the enemy driven off in confusion, but the victory would have been more decisive had the Tanjore horse pursued with more vigour.
Battle of Sugar-loaf Rock
British defeat French
Fought September 20, 1753, between the British, about 3,000 strong, under Major Laurence, and the French army which was besieging Trichinopoly, under M. Astruc. Laurence attacked before daybreak, and the native auxiliaries with the French army were seized with a panic and fled, leaving the Europeans unsupported. In the end the French were defeated, with a loss of 100 killed and 200 prisoners, including Astruc. The British lost 40 killed and wounded.
Battle of Tondeman's Woods
French-Mysoris defeat British
Fought February 14, 1754, when a convoy to revictual Trichinopoly, escorted by 180 British and 800 native troops, was attacked by 12,000 Mysore and Mahratta horse, under Hyder Ali and Morari Rao, supported by a small French force. The Sepoys at once laid down their arms, but the Europeans made a gallant defense, until the arrival of the French force, when, hopelessly outnumbered, they also surrendered. The convoy and the whole detachment were captured.



Commander
Short Biography
Sir Robert Clive British soldier, who rose to be a hero in the Carnatic Wars and delivered Bengal to Britain at the Battle of Plassey.
Joseph Francois Dupleix Governor of the French trading company in India; rival of Clive for control of Bengal;
Mohammad Ali Prince of Carnatic Region supported by the British
Chundra Shahib Prince of Carnatic Region supported by the French
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.
Major Lawrence Commander of British forces in the south during the Carnatic Wars

Story LinksBook Links
How Clive Saved the English  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice  Home
Siege of Arcot  in  Story of Lord Clive  by  John  Lang
Kaveripak and Samiaveram  in  Story of Lord Clive  by  John  Lang
Siege of Arcot  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
Coming of Clive  in  India  by  Victor  Surridge
Robert Clive  in  Great Englishmen  by  M. B.  Synge
Robert Clive  in  Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B.  Synge



Third Carnatic War, a.k.a "Seven Years War" in India : 1756-1763



 The Duke of Dorset fighting the Dutch fleet in the Hoogly.

The next phase of the Carnatic Wars occurred near Calcutta in Bengal, far to the north of Madras and Pondicherry. Bengal was the wealthiest and most powerful of the Indian coastal states and its Nawab, Surajah Dowlah, permitted various European trading stations in his territory, but he disliked the British and sought to drive them out. He therefore attacked their post with an overwhelming force and put the survivors to death in a gruesome manner. By this time Clive had returned to Madras, and he was put in charge of the infantry sent to demand restitution. After winning several battles in the region, Surajah Dowlah submitted to British demands, but meanwhile Clive had made arrangements with Mir Jafar, one of the Nawab's generals, to help the English overthrow him. Depending on Jafar's promise, Clive lead a small Indian force against an overwhelmingly superior force at Plassey and gained a signal victory. Surajah Dowlah was deposed and Mir Jafar, who was largely under British control, assumed control of the government. The first concern of the Eastern India Company, as always, was money, so they demanded and received an enormous tribute from Jafar which greatly enriched the company, but caused untold strife within Bengal.

By this time the Seven Years War had broken out between France and England, and fighting resumed in the Carnatic region. Battles fought in 1759-1760 at throughout the south resulted in more victories for the British. The decisive battle was probably at Wandiwash and the great hero of the wars in the Carnatic region this period was Eyre Coote, who after Clive, became the most influential British commander in India. While the fighting still raged in the south, the Dutch in Bengal formed a conspiracy with Mir Jafar to try to dislodge the English from Bengal. Clive took part in these battles along the Hoogly river, and was again victorious. As a result of this rebellion the British forced Mir Jafar to abdicate in favor of his son-in-law Mir Cossim. For several years after the installation of Mir Cossim, India was at peace, but eventually Mir Cossim also tired of the British trading company's demands and led a rebellion in Bengal to try to throw them off. The British however, were by this time too powerful to be overthrown, and these battles, which occurred in 1763-64 only served to entrench Britain's dominance in the region even further.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Siege of Calcutta
Nawab Bengal defeat British
Siege was laid to the city June 16, 1756, by Sarabjah Daulah, Nawab of Bengal, with a large force. The garrison, consisting of 514 regulars and militia, and 1,000 matchlock men, under Captain Minchin, was quite inadequate to man the defenses, and it was decided to abandon the city, remove all non-combatants to the ships, and only defend the fort. The Governor, Mr. Drake, was among those who left the place, and he was accompanied by Captain Minchin, who deserted his post, as did many of the militiamen, with the result that only 190 remained for the defense of the fort. An assault was repulsed, with a loss to the defenders of 95 killed and wounded, but on the l0th the little garrison surrendered. The survivors were thrust into a small room, known as the Black Hole, and used as a soldiers' prison, and out of 146 only 23 survived the horrors of the night.
Siege of Chandernagore
British defeat French
This place was besieged March 14, 1757, by Clive, with 2,000 Company's troops, and defended by 600 Frenchmen and 300 Sepoys. On the 19th three British ships under Admiral Watson arrived, and on the 24th a joint attack by sea and land resulted in the capture of the place.
Battle of Plassey
British defeat Nawab Bengal
Fought 1757, between the British, 3,000 strong, with 8 guns, under Clive, and the army of Surabjah Daulah, Nawab of Bengal, aided by a small force of Frenchmen. Clive was encamped in a grove of mango-trees, where he was attacked by the Nawab. He beat off the attack, and then stormed the Nawab's lines, totally routing his army, which fled in panic, with a loss of about 500. The British lost 72 only.
Siege of Fort St. David
French defeat British
This fortress was besieged, May 14, 1758, by a French force under Lally Tollendal, and defended by a garrison of 800 British and 1,600 native troops. The defense was not energetically conducted, and, on the arrival in the roads of a French fleet under Comte d'Aché, the garrison surrendered, June 2.
Battle of Fort St. David
Drawn Battle (British vs.French)
A naval action was fought off this place, April 29, 1758, between 7 British ships under Admiral Pococke, and a squadron of 9 French vessels under Comte d'Aché. After a short and indecisive engagement, the French sheered off, but the British were too severely damaged in the rigging to give chase. The French lost one ship, driven ashore.
Siege of Tanjore
Tanjore defeat French
This place was besieged, August, 1758, by the French, under Lally-Tollendal, and was defended by a garrison, under Monacji. After five days' bombardment, the walls were still insufficiently breached, and owing to lack of ammunition, Lally determined to retire. Hearing this, Monacji made a sortie, and nearly succeeded in surprising the French camp. He was with difficulty beaten off, and the French withdrew, with the loss of all their siege guns and heavy baggage.
Battle of Carrical
British defeat French
An action was fought off this place August 2, 1758, between a British squadron under Admiral Pococke, and the French under Comte d'Ache. After a severe engagement, the French fleet drew off, but the English pursuit, owing to damaged rigging, was ineffectual, and d'Ache reached Pondicherry without the loss of a ship.
Battle of Rajahmundry
British defeat French
Fought December 9, 1758, between 2,500 British troops, under Colonel Forde, in conjunction with about 5,000 native levies, and the French, 6,500 strong, under Conflans. The native troops did little on either side, but Forde's 500 Europeans routed Conflans' Frenchmen, and the latter fled with considerable loss.
Siege of Madras
British defeat French
On December 16, 1758, Madras was invested by Lally-Tollendal with 2,000 European and 4,000 native troops. The garrison consisted of 4,000 men, more than half of whom were Sepoys, under Colonel Lawrence. After a bombardment lasting from January 2, 1759, to February 16, Lally-Tollendal was on the point of ordering an assault, when the arrival of the British fleet caused him to raise the siege and retire. The garrison lost during the siege 1,341 killed and wounded. The French losses amounted to 700 Europeans, besides Sepoys.
Siege of Masulipatam
British defeat French
This fortress, held by a French garrison, under Conflans, was besieged by the British, about 2,500 strong, under Colonel Forde, in March, 1759. After a fortnight's bombardment the place was taken by storm, the resistance being very feeble, and Conflans surrendered with his whole force, which considerably outnumbered the assailants. One hundred and twenty guns were taken in the fortress.
Battle of the Hooghly
British defeat Dutch
Fought November 24, 1759, between three British ships, under Commodore Wilson, and a Dutch squadron of seven sail. After two hours' fighting, the Dutch were completely defeated, and all their ships captured. Meanwhile a force of 700 Europeans and 800 Sepoys landed from the Dutch fleet, was defeated with heavy loss by 330 British troops and 800 Sepoys, under Colonel Forde.
Battle of Trincomalee
Drawn Battle (British vs.French)
Fought August 10, 1759, between a British squadron of 12 sail, under Admiral Pococke, and a French fleet of 14 sail, under the Comte d'Ache. After an engagement lasting two hours, the French were worsted, but sailing better than the British, as usual at this period, eluded pursuit and lost no ships.
Battle of Trivadi
French-Mysore defeat British
Fought 1760, between 5,000 Mysoris, under Hyder Ali, and a British force of 230 European and 2,700 native troops, under Major Moore, Notwithstanding his inferior numbers, Moore attempted to prevent the junction of Hyder Ali with the French, and was totally defeated.
Battle of Pondicherry
British defeat French
In August, 1760, Colonel Coote, with about 8,000 British and native troops, invested this place, which was held by a French garrison, 3,000 strong, under Lally-Tollendal. Coote was almost immediately superseded by Colonel Monson, but the latter having been wounded, Coote resumed the command. Fire was not opened from the breaching batteries till December 8th, and on the 31st a terrific hurricane wrecked all the land batteries, and drove ashore six ships of the blockading squadron. On January 10, 1761, however, fire was reopened, and the town surrendered on the 15th.
Battle of Morshedabad
British defeat Nawab Bengal
Fought July 24, 1763, between the troops of Mir Cossim, the deposed Nawab of Bengal, and a British force of 750 Europeans and a large body of native troops, under Major Adams. The British stormed Cossim's entrenchments, driving out his army in confusion, and followed up their victory by the occupation of Morshedabad, without further opposition.
Battle of Gherain
British defeat Nawab Bengal
Fought August 2, 1763, between the army of Mir Cossim, the deposed Nawab of Bengal, and the British under Major Adams. A severe engagement, lasting four hours, ended in a signal victory for the British.
Battle of Oondwa Nullah
British defeat Nawab Bengal
Fought September, 1763, when 3,000 British and native troops, under Major Adams, carried by storm the entrenchments and the fort held by Mir Cossim's army of 60,000 men with 100 guns. Mir Cossim fled and his army was entirely dispersed.
Battle of Buxar
British defeat Oude
Fought October 23, 1764, between 7,000 British troops and sepoys under Major Monro, and the army of Oude, 40,000 strong, under Surabjah Daulah, who was accompanied by the Great Mogul, Shah Allum. The British gained a signal victory, Surabjah Daulah abandoning his camp with a loss of 4,000 men and 130 guns. The British lost 847 killed and wounded.



Commander
Short Biography
Sir Robert Clive British soldier, who rose to be a hero in the Carnatic Wars and delivered Bengal to Britain at the Battle of Plassey.
Mir Jafar Succeed to the position of Nawab of Bengal after Clive won the Battle of Plassey.
Sir Eyre Coote After Clive, greatest of British generals during early years of British Rule in India. Fought at Porto Novo.
Compte Lally French general from an Irish Jacobite family who was falsely accused of treason and executed, so that the French might have a scapegoat.
Siraj Ud Daulah Last independent Nawab of Bengal. Lost his kingdom to Clive at Plassey.
Surabjah Dowlah Prince who allied himself with Mir Cossim, but was overthrown by the British in the Bengal Wars.
Colonel Forde Put down the French incursions in the third Carnatic War.
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.
Mir Cossim Son-in-law of Mir Jafar, who was raised to the Nawabship by the British, but rebelled against them.
George Pocock British Naval commander during the Seven Years War. Won victories off the Coast of India.

Story LinksBook Links
Plassey  in  Stories From English History: III  by  A. J. Church
From the Black Hole to Plassey  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice  Home
Black Hole of Calcutta  in  Story of Lord Clive  by  John  Lang
Battle of Plassey  in  Story of Lord Clive  by  John  Lang
Black Hole  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
Battle of Plassey  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
The Story of the Black Hole of Calcutta  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
How Bengal was Won  in  India  by  Victor  Surridge
Black Hole of Calcutta  in  Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B.  Synge
Plassey  in  Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric  Wood



Map Links
India after the Carnatic Wars
India in the time of Clive and Hastings


Image Links
Clive Examining the Enemy's Lines  in Stories From English History: III Fort St. George, Madras, Built in 1750  in Hanoverians War elephants charge the gates of the fort at Arcot  in India: Peeps at History
To fight or not to fight: Clive's solitary reflections before the Battle of Plassey in India: Peeps at History To Clive was given the command of the storming party  in Story of Lord Clive Attacking the French guns at Kaveripak  in Story of Lord Clive
Clive on the roof, watching the battle of Plassey  in Story of Lord Clive The Duke of Dorset fighting the Dutch fleet in the Hoogly  in Story of Lord Clive Clive fired one of the guns himself.  in Our Empire Story
Storming of Geriah, 1756  in India Clive himself sprang to a gun  in India Clive at Plassey  in Great Englishmen