Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV. - The History of British India, vol. 3
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CHAP. IV. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 3 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 3.
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Renewal of the war with the French in Carnatic—Arrival of Lally.—French power superior to the English.—English power superior to the French.—Pondicherry taken—and the French driven out of Carnatic.
book iv.Chap. 4. 1756.When the English detachment for the recovery of Calcutta, and the French detachment for the relief of Bussy, left Carnatic, the contending parties were so far diminished in force, as to meditate quietness and forbearance: the English, till the troops which they had sent to Bengal should return; the French, till the armament should arrive, which they expected from Europe. In the mean time it was felt by the English as a grievous misfortune, that though their Nabob Mahomed Ali was now without a rival in Carnatic, its pecuniary produce was remarkably small. The governors of forts and districts, the zemindars, polygars, and renters, employed, as usual, all their means of artifice and force, to withhold their payments; and the rabble employed by Mahomed Ali, as soldiers, ill paid and weakly governed, were found altogether inadequate to the establishment of an efficient authority in the province. The notion which was early entertained of the great pecuniary supplies capable of being drawn from Madura and Tinivelly, appears still to have maintained a determining influence in the councils of Madras; and notwithstanding the general resolution to remain inactive, Captain Calliaud, the commanding officer at Trichinopoly, before the end of the year 1756, received instructions to renew his attempts for the reduction of those dependencies. In the hope of prevailing upon the Kingbook iv.Chap. 4. 1757. of Tanjore to afford some assistance; a hope which, as usual, he took care to disappoint; Captain Calliaud directed his march through Tanjore, and crossing Marawar, arrived in Tinivelly. The troops who accompanied him, joined to the body of Sepoys who had remained in the country, and the troops of the Polygars who had espoused the English interest, composed a formidable army. But it was unable to proceed to action for want of money; and the utmost exertions of Calliaud produced but an insignificant supply. Intelligence that the rebellious polygars were treating with the Mysoreans, who had a station at the fort of Dindigul, presented in strong colours the necessity of expedition; yet he was unable to leave Tinivelly before the 10th of April; when he marched to attack Madura with 180 Europeans, 2,500 Sepoys, six fieldpieces, and 500 horse. Upon arriving at the town, he found it a place of much greater strength then he had been led to suppose; and, without battering cannon, not easy, if possible, to be reduced. He planned an effort to take it by surprise. The first ladders were planted; and Calliaud himself, with twenty men, had got into the fausse-bray, when the guard within received the alarm, and they were obliged to retreat. Two companies of Sepoys were soon after dispatched to bring two pieces of battering artillery from Trichinopoly; and Calliaud had commenced an intrigue with some of the jematdars or captains of the enemy’s troops, when he received intelligence that the French had arrived at Trichinopoly.
During these efforts to obtain possession of the revenues of Madura and Tinivelly, similar efforts had been undertaken in other parts of the province. A brother of the Nabob, by name Nezeeb Oolla, book iv.Chap. 4. 1757. who was Governor of Nelore and its district, situated in the northern quarter of Carnatic, evaded or refused payment of the sums demanded of him; and the Nabob, who possessed not the means of coercion, was urgent with the English to perform it in his stead. The rupture between the two brothers took place towards the end of February, and it was the 1st of April before the English troops were ready to march. By the end of the month they had erected batteries against the fort; on the 2d of May a breach was effected, which they deemed practicable; and a storm was attempted the next morning. But the English were repulsed from the breach, nor was it deemed expedient to renew the attack till more battering-cannon should be received from Madras. In the mean time the detachment received orders to return to the Presidency with all expedition.
The Government of Pondicherry, notwithstanding the pacific policy inculcated by the recall of Dupleix, and the commands which they had received to abstain from all operations of hazard, till the arrival of the forces which they expected from Europe, determined, when they saw the English so largely at work, and their small force separated to such a distance as Tinivelly and Nelore, to avail themselves of an opportunity which good fortune seemed to present. They took the field on the 6th of April; but, to cover their designs, with only a small number of troops, and for an object of minor importance. By forced marches they appeared before Ellavanasore on the 10th, a fort possessed by a chief, who had hitherto refused to acknowledge either the English or the French Nabob. In a sally, in which he threw the French army into great jeopardy, he received a mortal wound, of which he died in a few days, and the garrison, during the night, evacuated the fort. The French, after this acquisition, marched in thebook iv.Chap. 4. 1757. direction leading to the territory of some polygars with whom they had disputes; and Captain Calliaud received a letter from the Madras Presidency, on the very day on which he attempted to surprise Madura, that from the late intelligence received of the motions of the French, no design on their part was apprehended against Trichinopoly.1 The season for the arrival of the English troops from Bengal was elapsed; and it was impossible now that any should return before September. The French, therefore, suddenly, barring their garrisons; leaving in Pondicherry itself none but invalids; and enrolling the European inhabitants to man the walls, dispatched every soldier to the field; and the army took post before Trichinopoly on the 14th of May. The garrison, deprived of the troops which had marched to Madura, were insufficient to guard the walls; and they had 500 French prisoners in the fort. Calliaud received intelligence before Madura of the imminent danger of Trichinopoly, at three o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st; at six he was on his march; on the 25th at day-break he halted nineteen miles from Trichinopoly. An army five times as great as his watched his approach, and guarded every avenue by which it was supposed he could enter the fort. On one side of the town was a large plain, about seven miles in extent, consisting of rice fields, covered with water, which the French deemed impassable. Calliaud continued his march, as if he intended to enter by one of the ordinary inlets, till night; when he suddenly took another direction; and arrived at the margin of the rice fields about ten o’clock. The fatigue of marching through the rice fields up to the knees in mud, book iv.Chap. 4. 1757. after forced marches of several days, was excessive. At day-break, however, the main body of the detachment reached the fort, and were received with that ardent welcome by its inmates which the greatness of the danger, and the exertions which the detachment had made to save it, naturally inspired. The French commander, astonished at the news of their entrance, and now despairing of success, marched away for Pondicherry the following day.1
Intelligence of the march of the French against Trichinopoly, and of the repulses sustained by their own troops, in the two assaults upon Madura and Nelore, reached the Presidency of Madras at nearly the same time. They recalled immediately the detachment from Nelore; sent as many troops as possible into the field; and were uncertain whether, to relieve Trichinopoly, they should recall the French to the defence of their own settlements, or march to attack them before the place; when the welcome news arrived of the fact and consequences of Calliaud’s return. To possess and garrison the forts which were scattered over the country, and which, by commanding the adjacent districts, afforded the only chance of revenue, was a principal object of desire to both contending parties. Several transactions took place about this time, relating to places of minor importance; but Wandewash was a fortress to the reduction of which peculiar value was attached. The Governor of Wandewash had paid no revenue since 1752; he had perpetually favoured the French; who from that station had been enabled to make incursions into every part of the province; it not only afforded a large revenue, it was also a barrier to the surrounding districts. In hopes that it might bebook iv.Chap. 4. 1757. taken before the French army could arrive from Trichinopoly to its relief, the English commander, sent to the attack, was ordered to push his operations with the greatest vigour. He got possession of the town, which was contiguous to the fort, after a slight resistance. The French, however, were now hastening to its relief; and Colonel Aldereron, whose march had not displayed any wonderful dispatch, thought it prudent to renounce the enterprise before they arrived. At his departure he set fire to the defenceless town though no peculiar circumstance is alleged to justify an act so cruel to the innocent inhabitants.
The English Presidency, to whom the nabobship of Arcot continued as yet but little productive, were straitened in their treasury. Anxious therefore to diminish expense, they gave directions, upon hearing that the army had retired from Wandewash, for its proceeding immediately to the Presidency. Unhappily the enemy were in the field, of which they were thus left entirely the masters; and they performed a successful incursion as far as Conjeveram, where they burned the town, to revenge the outrage committed upon Wandewash. The Presidency, now aware of their blunder, ordered back the army into the field. The two armies were nearly equal. The English offered battle; but the French kept within their entrenchments. The English, after remaining in their presence for some weeks, retired again at the end of July; and marched to the several stations from which they had been drawn. The French were no sooner masters of the field, than they renewed their incursions, collected the revenues, and levied contributions in several districts.
A pressure was now sustained of another description. The Mahratta general Balagee Row had paid a visit of exaction to the kingdom of Mysore the preceding book iv.Chap. 4. 1757. season; and, upon marching back to his own country, before the period of the rains, left an officer with a large detachment, who, after taking several intervening forts, made himself master of one of the passes into Carnatic, about sixty miles north-west from the city of Arcot, and sent a peremptory demand of the chout for the whole nabobship. The city of Arcot was thrown into the utmost alarm: the Nabob dreaded the incursion of Mahratta parties into the very town; and accepted the invitation of the English to send his family to Madras. The Mahrattas pretended that the chout had been settled by Nizam al Mulk, at 600,000 rupees a year; two thirds for Carnatic, and one for Trichinopoly and the southern dependencies. Of this they asserted that six years were due; and presented their demand, in the whole, at 4,000,000 of rupees. The Nabob, who knew the weakness of his physical, if not of his intellectual resources, was glad to negotiate. After much discussion, the Mahratta agent consented to accept of 200,000 rupees, in ready money, and the Nabob’s draughts upon the governors of forts and the polygars, for 250,000 more. To these terms the Nabob agreed; but he required that the money should be found by the English, and should be furnished out of the revenues which he had assigned to them for the expenses of the war. At this time the English might have obtained important assistance against the Mahrattas. Morari Row, and the Patan Nabobs of Savanore, Canoul, Candanore, and Cudapa, who, since the assassination of Nazir Jung, had maintained a sort of independence, offered their alliance. But the English could spare no troops; and were as much afraid to admit such allies into the province as the Mahrattas themselves. After as much delay and evasion as possible, they were induced, not withstanding the danger of the precedent, in fear ofbook iv.Chap. 4. 1757. greater evils, to comply with the demand.
During all this period the attention of the Presidency of Madras may be considered as chiefly divided between two objects; the French in Carnatic, and the Polygars of Madura and Tinivelly. When Calliaud was obliged to march from Madura for the defence of Trichinopoly, he left about sixty Europeans, and upwards of 1,000 Sepoys, who were not inactive; and, as soon as he was convinced that no further danger was to be apprehended from the French, he dispatched a reinforcement from Trichinopoly. In compliance with the recommendation of the Presidency, Calliaud himself, with as great a portion of the troops from Trichinopoly as it was safe to withdraw, marched on the 25th of June, and arrived at Madura on the 3d of July. Having effected a breach on the 10th, he resolved to storm. He was repulsed with great loss. For some days the operations of the besiegers were retarded by the sickness of their leader. The admission of supplies into the town was now, however, cut off; and the negotiations for its surrender were renewed. After some time was spent in bargaining about the price, Calliaud, on the 8th of August, on payment of 170,000 rupees, was received into the town.
On the 8th of September a French fleet of twelve ships anchored in Pondicherry road; but, after landing about a thousand men, it again set sail for Mauritius. This was not the grand armament which the government at Pondicherry expected; and, till the arrival of which, all operations of magnitude were to be deferred. The army, however, which had been scouring the country, was still in its camp at Wandewash. It was now strongly reinforced by the troops newly arrived; and marched against the fort book iv.Chap. 4. 1757. of Chittapet. The Nabob, Mahomed Ali, had a personal dislike to the Governor of Chittapet, and had infused into the English suspicions of his fidelity, which imprudently diminished the efforts necessary for his support. He fell, defending his fort to the last extremity; and thus another place of considerable importance was gained by the French. From Chittapet they marched to Trinomalee, which was abandoned by the Governor and garrison, upon their approach. After this they divided themselves into several detachments; and before the 6th of November, when they were recalled, they had reduced eight forts in the neighbourhood of Chittapet, Trinomalee, and Gingee; and established collectors in the dependent districts.
On the news of the arrival of the French fleet, Captain Calliaud returned to Trichinopoly, with all the Europeans, and was soon after followed by the Sepoys, who, however, went back, as soon as it appeared that Trichinopoly was not in danger. The Mysoreans, who had been long expected to the assistance of the confederate Polygars, arrived in the month of November, took the fort of Sholavenden, and plundered to the walls of Madura, under which they remained for several days. They allowed themselves, however, to be attacked in a narrow pass, by the commander of the British Sepoys, and suffered a severe defeat. In the mean time Captain Calliaud, under the safeguard of a passport from Pondicherry, repaired in person to the Presidency, to represent the state of the southern dependencies, for the reduction of which so many useless efforts had been made; and declared his opinion that the settlement of the country could not be achieved, or a revenue drawn from it, without a greater force, or the removal of Maphuz Khan. It was agreed with the Nabob that an annual income, adequate to his maintenance,book iv.Chap. 4. 1757. should be offered to this his elder brother, provided he would quit the province and disband his troops. Maphuz Khan, however, would listen to no terms importing less than the government of the whole country; and the confederates continued in formidable force.
Though, after the recall of the French troops in November, no army was in the field; the garrisons left in the several forts continued to make incursions upon one another, and mutually ravaged the unhappy country. As these operations, “being always levelled at defenceless villages, carried,” says Mr. Orme, “the reproach of robbery, more than the reputation of war;” each side, too, losing by them more than it gained; the French officer at Wandewash proposed a conference, for the purpose of ending this wretched species of warfare; and an English officer was authorized to conclude an agreement. The governments of Madras and Pondicherry were both now disposed to suspend their efforts—the French, till the arrival of the forces which they boasted were to render them irresistible in Carnatic—the English, that they might husband their resources for the danger with which they were threatened. In this situation they continued till the 28th of April, when a French squadron of twelve sail arrived in the road of Fort St. David.
Upon the breaking out of the war between France and England in 1756, the French ministry resolved to strike an important blow in India. The Count de Lally, a member of one of those Irish families, which had transported themselves into France along with James II., was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the French forces in India. He had distinguished himself in the battle of Fontenoy, where he took several English officers with his own hand, and received book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. the rank of Colonel from the King, upon the field of battle: It was he who proposed the daring plan of landing in England with 10,000 men, while the Prince, Charles Edward, was trying his fortune for a crown in another part of the island: And his hatred of the English, and his reputation for courage, now pointed him out as the fittest person to crush the pretensions of that nation on the coast of Coromandel. He was accompanied with his own regiment of Irish, 1080 strong; with fifty of the royal artillery, and a great number of officers of distinction. They left the port of Brest on the 4th of May, 1757, when a malignant fever raged in the town, of which they carried the infection along with them. No fewer than 300 persons died in the fleet before they reached Rio Janeiro, where they remained for two months, and, after all, departed with a residue of the sickness on board. At Mauritius they were joined by a part of the ships which had landed the troops at Pondicherry in the preceding year; and, after a tedious voyage, made the coast of Coromandel on the 25th of April.
The court of Versailles anticipated nothing but triumphs from this splendid armament; and the presumption of Lally well assorted with that of his government. It was even laid down in the instructions of the ministers, that he should commence his operations with the siege of Fort St. David. For this purpose, before communicating with the land, he made the fleet anchor at the place of attack. He proceeded with two of the vessels to Pondicherry, where he arrived at five in the afternoon;1 and before the night closed he had 1,000 Europeans, and as manybook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. Sepoys, on their march to Fort St. David. In military operations, notwithstanding the importance of dispatch, something more than dispatch is necessary. The troops marched without provisions, and with unskilful guides, who led them astray, and brought them to Fort St. David at seven o’clock in the morning, worn out with hunger and fatigue.1 This gave them a motive and an apology for commencing a system of plunder and insubordination, from which they could not easily be recalled.
These troops had scarcely arrived at Fort St. David, when the ships in the road descried the English fleet making way from the south. Mr. Pococke, with the ships of war from Bengal, had arrived at Madras on the 24th of February; on the 24th of the following month a squadron of five ships from Bombay had arrived under Admiral Stevens; and on the 17th of April, the whole sailed to the southward, looking out for the French. Having in ten days worked as high to windward as the head of Ceylon, they stood in again for the coast, which they made, off Negapatnam, on the 28th, and, proceeding along shore, discovered the French fleet at nine the next morning, riding near Cuddalore. The French immediately weighed, and bore down towards Pondicherry throwing out signals to recall the two ships which had book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. sailed with Lally; and the English Admiral gave the signal for chase. The summons for the two ships not being answered, the French fleet stood out to sea, and formed the line of battle. The French consisted of nine sail, the English only of seven. The battle was indecisive; the loss of a few men, with some damage to the ships, being the only result.1 Both fleets fell considerably to leeward during the engagement; and the French were six days in working up to the road of Pondicherry, where the troops were landed. Lally himself had some days before proceeded to Fort St. David with the whole force of Pondicherry, and the troops from the fleet were sent after him, as fast as they came on shore.
The English were thrown into the greatest alarm. So much was the power of the enemy now superior to their own, that they scarcely anticipated any other result, than their expulsion from the country; and had Dupleix been still the guide and conductor of the enemy’s affairs, it is more than probable, that their most gloomy apprehensions would have been realised.6 Not only had an overwhelming addition been made to a force, against which they had previously found it difficult to maintain themselves; but in the mean time, Bussy, in the northern parts of Deccan, had obtained the most important advantages, and brought upon the English the heaviest disasters. After the brilliant exploit of 1756, when he defended himself at Hyderabad against the whole power of the Subahdar, and imposed his own terms upon his enemies, he hadbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. proceeded to the Northern Circars, where his presence was necessary, to collect the revenues, and, by an adjustment of the government, to provide for the future regularity of their payment. He began his march on the 16th of November of that year, with 500 Europeans and 4,000 Sepoys; leaving only a small detachment to attend the person of the Subahdar.1 In accomplishing his progress through the country, he encountered no considerable resistance. The Polygar of Bobilee defended his fort to the last extremity; and exhibited the customary spectacle of Hindu desperation, the fortress in flames, and the people in garrison butchered by their own hands: But he was excited to this desperation by the command to exchange the government of his present for that of another district, on account of the annoyance he gave to a neighbouring Chief, from whom Bussy had received a train of important services. When Bussy had nearly completed the arrangement which he intended to make, he received about the 1st of April letters from Suraja Dowla, inviting him, by the largest offers, to assist him in expelling the English from Bengal. Bussy waited on his northern frontier, ready to march through Orissa into Bengal, as soon as he should receive satisfactory intelligence; but, learning the capture of Chandernagor, and the imbecility of the Subahdar, he changed his purpose, and proceeded to the attack of the English establishments within the Circars. There were three factories, on three different branches of the Godavery, in a district remarkable for the excellence and cheapness of its cloths. They book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. were places of no strength, and surrendered on the first requisition. Vizigapatam, however, was one of the places of greatest importance belonging to the English in India. It was a fort, garrisoned by 150 Europeans, and 300 Sepoys; but so injudiciously constructed, that the attempt to defend it was unanimously determined to be vain. The van of Bussy’s army appeared before it on the 24th of June; and a capitulation was concluded; that all the Europeans, both military and civil, should be regarded as prisoners, and all the effects of the Company as prize of war. The Sepoys, and other natives, Bussy allowed to go where they pleased; he also promised to respect the property of individuals. “And he kept his word,” says Mr. Orme, “with the utmost liberality, resigning, without discussion, whatsoever property any one claimed as his own.”
During these transactions, however, a great revolution was preparing in the army of Salabut Jung. He had two younger brothers, whom Bussy, acquainted with the temper of Oriental governments, had advised the Subahdar to provide with establishments, and every indulgence suitable to their rank, but from whom he had exhorted him carefully to withhold those governments and places of power, which, in the hands of the near relations of the Prince, were the cause of so many revolutions in India. This prudent course was pursued till the period of the alienation from Bussy of the mind of the Subahdar; when that Prince was easily persuaded, by his designing courtiers, to reverse the policy which the sagacity of Bussy had established. The eldest of the two brothers, Bassalut Jung, was appointed Governor of the strong fort and country of Adoni; and Nizam Ali, the youngest and most dangerous, was made Governor of Berar, the most extensive province of Deccan, of which the Mahrattas now possessed thebook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. principal part.
Towards the end of the year 1757, while a body of Mahrattas insulted Aurengabad, which was then the residence of the Subahdar, a mutiny, under the usual shape of clamour for pay, was excited in his army. The utmost alarm was affected by the Duan, or minister, who took shelter in a strong fort: The Subahdar, without resources, was driven to dismay: Nizam Ali, who had acquired some reputation, and intrigued successfully with the troops, offered to interpose and allay the tumults, provided the requisite powers, and among other things the great seal of the Subah, were committed to his hands: the requisition was obeyed: and Nizam Ali, leaving only the name of Subahdar to his brother, grasped the wholepowers of the state. With an affectation of indifference he committed the seal to his brother Bassalut Jung, but under sufficient security that it would be used agreeably to his directions.
Bussy received intelligence of these events in the beginning of January; immediately began his march with the whole of his army; and by a road never travelled before by European troops, arrived in twenty-one days at Aurungabad, a distance by the perambulator of nearly 400 miles.1 Four separate armies were encamped about the city; that of Nizam Ali from Berar; that of the Subah, of which Nizam Ali had now the command; that of Bassalut Jung from Adoni; and that of the Mahrattas commanded by Balagce Row. The presence of Bussy, with his handful of Europeans, imposed respect upon them all; and every eye was fixed upon his movements. His first care was to restore the authority of the Subahdar, book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. whom the presence alone of the French detachment, which had vigilantly guarded his person, had probably saved from the assassination which generally forms the main ingredient of Indian revolutions.
The two brothers at first assumed a high tone; and when obliged to part with the seal, exhibited unusual marks of rage and indignation. Bussy clearly saw that the safety of the Subahdar, and the existence of the present government, demanded the resumption of the power which had been entrusted to Nizam Ali; but when the proposition of a large pension was made to him in lieu of his government, he had the art to interest his troops in his behalf, and Bussy found it necessary to temporize. To remove still further the umbrage which he found was gaining ground at the uncontrolable authority with which a stranger disposed of the powers of Deccan, and of the sons of the great Nizam al Mulk, he re-committed the seal of state to Bassalut Jung, but under securities which precluded any improper use.
To provide a permanent security for his predominating influence in the government of the Subah, there was wanting, besides the distant provinces which yielded him the necessary revenue, a place of strength near the seat of government, to render him independent of the sudden machinations of his enemies. The celebrated fortress of Dowlatabad, both from locality and strength, was admirably adapted to his views. It was at present in possession of the prime minister, the mortal foe of Bussy, the chief actor in the late commotions, and the assured instrument of others in every hostile design. By a sum of money, Bussy gained the Deputy Governor to admit him secretly with his troops into the fort; and this invaluable instrument of power was gained without the loss of a man. As the utmost efforts, however, of the resentment of the minister were now assured,book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. Bussy secured the means of rendering him a prisoner in the midst of the camp of the Subahdar, at the very hour when he himself was received into the fort of Dowlatabad. These events alarmed Nizam Ali into submission; and an accommodation was effected, by which he agreed to divest himself of his government of Berar, and accept of Hyderabad in its stead. When holding his court, to receive the compliments of the principal persons, before his departure for his new government, he was waited upon, among others, by Hyder Jung, the Duan of Bussy. This personage was the son of a Governor of Masulipatam, who had been friendly to the French; and he had attached himself to Bussy, since his first arrival at Golconda. Bussy was soon aware of his talents, and soon discovered the great benefit he might derive from them. He became a grand and dexterous instrument for unravelling the plots and intrigues against which it was necessary for Bussy to be incessantly on his guard; and a no less consummate agent in laying the trains which led to the accomplishment of Bussy’s designs. To give him the greater weight with his countrymen, and more complete access to the persons and the minds of the people of consequence, he obtained for him titles of nobility, dignities, and riches; and enabled him to hold his Durbar, like the greatest chiefs. He was known to have been actively employed in the late masterly transactions of Bussy; and an occasion was chosen on which a blow might be struck, both at his life, and that of Salabut Jung. A day was appointed by the Subahdar for paying his devotions at the tomb of his father, distant about twenty miles from Aurungabad; and on the second day of his absence, Nizam Ali held his court. Hyder Jung was received with marked respect; but, on book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. some pretext, detained behind the rest of the assembly, and assassinated. The first care of Bussy, upon this new emergency, was, to strengthen the slender escort of Salabut Jung. The next was, to secure the person of the late minister; of whose share in the present perfidy he had no doubt, and whom he had hitherto allowed to remain under a slight restraint in the camp. That veteran intriguer, concluding that his life was in danger, excited his attendants to resist, and was slain in the scuffle. Struck with dismay, upon the news of this unexpected result, Nizam Ali abandoned the camp in the night, taking with him his select cavalry alone; and pursued his flight towards Boorhanpore, about 150 miles north from Aurungabad, with all the speed which the horses could endure. Thus was Bussy delivered from his two most formidable enemies, by the very stroke which they had aimed against him; and in this state of uncontrolable power in the wide-extended government of Deccan, was he placed, when the arrival of Lally produced an extraordinary change in his views; and insured a new train of events in the Subah.
The character of that new Governor was ill adapted to the circumstances in which he was appointed to act. Ardent and impetuous, by the original structure of his mind, his early success and distinction had rendered him vain and presumptuous.
With natural talents of considerable force, his knowledge was scanty and superficial. Having never experienced difficulties, he never anticipated any: For him it was enough to will the end; the means obtained an inferior portion of his regard. Acquainted thoroughly with the technical part of the military profession, but acquainted with nothing else, he was totally unable to apply its principles in a new situation of things. Unacquainted with the character andbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. manners of the people among whom he was called upon to act; he was too ignorant of the theory of war, to know, that on the management of his intellectual and moral instruments, the success of the General mainly depends.
He began by what he conceived a very justifiable act of authority, but which was in reality a cruel violation of the customs, the religion, and, in truth, the legal rights of the natives. As there was not at Pondicherry, of the persons of the lower castes, who are employed in the servile occupations of the camp, a sufficient number to answer the impatience of M. Lally, in forwarding the troops to Fort St. David, he ordered the native inhabitants of the town to be pressed, and employed, without distinction of caste, in carrying burdens, and performing whatever labour might be required. The terror and consternation created by such an act was greater than if he had set fire to the town and butchered every man whom it contained. The consequence was, that the natives were afraid to trust themselves in his power; and he thus insured a deficiency of attendants.1
book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. The feeble bullocks of the country, and the smallness of the number which the Governor and Council of Pondicherry were able to supply, but ill accorded with Lally’s ideas of a sufficiency of draught cattle. The very depressed state of the treasury precluded the possibility of affording other facilities, the want of which his impatience rendered a galling disappointment. He vented his uneasiness in reproaches and complaints. He had carried out in his mind one of those wide and sweeping conclusions, which men of little experience and discrimination are apt to form; that his countrymen in India were universally rogues: And to this sentiment, that ignorance and avidity, at home, which recalled Dupleix, were well calculated to conduct him. The Directors had told him in their instructions; “As the troubles in India have been the source of fortunes, rapid and vast, to a great number of individuals, the same system always reigns at Pondicherry, where those who have not yet made their fortune hope to make it by the same means; and those who have already dissipated it hope to make it a second time. The Sieur de Lally will have an arduous task to eradicate that spirit of cupidity; but it would be one of the most important services which he could render to the Company.”1 Every want, therefore, which he experienced; every delay which occurred, he ascribed to the dishonesty and misconduct of the persons employed;2 and had so little prudence as incessantly to declare thosebook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. opinions in the most pointed and offensive terms which his language could supply. These proceedings rendered him in a short time odious to every class of men in the colony; precluded all cordial co-operation, and insured him every species of ill-office which it was safe to render. The animosity at last between him and his countrymen became rancour and rage; and the possibility of a tolerable management of the common concerns was utterly destroyed.
On the 1st of May, Lally himself arrived at Fort St. David; and when joined by the troops from the ships, and those whom he had drawn from the forts in Carnatic, he had, according to Mr. Orme, 2,500 Europeans, exclusive of officers, and about the same number of Sepoys, assembled for the attack. The garrison consisted of 1,600 natives, and 619 Europeans, of whom eighty-three were sick or infirm, and 250 were seamen.1 The place held out till the 1st of June, when, having nearly expended its ammunition, book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. it yielded on capitulation. It was expected to have made a better defence; and the English historians have not spared the conduct of the commanding officer. He had courage and spirit in sufficient abundance; but was not very rich in mental resources, or very accurate in ascertaining the conduciveness of his means. In consequence of instructions brought from France, Lally immediately issued orders for razing the fortifications to the ground: As soon as the fort capitulated, he sent a detachment against Devi-Cotah, which the garrison immediately abandoned; and on the 7th of June, he returned with the army, in triumph, and sung Te Deum at Pondicherry.
The English, in full expectation that the next operation of Lally would be the siege of Madras, had called in the troops from all the forts in the interior, except Trichinopoly; and had even debated whether they should not abandon that city itself. All the troops from Tinivelly and Madura were ordered to return to Trichinopoly, and, together with the garrison, to hold themselves in readiness for any emergency.
The great poverty, however, of the French exchequer; and the inability, created or greatly enhanced by the unpopular proceedings of Lally, of supplying its deficiencies by credit; cramped his operations, and sharpened the asperities of his temper. He had written from Fort St. David to the Governor of Pondicherry, in the following terms; “This letter shall be an eternal secret between you, Sir, and me, if you afford me the means of accomplishing my enterprise. I left you 100,000 livres of my own money to aid you in providing the funds which it requires. I found not, upon my arrival, in your purse, and in that of your whole council, the resource of 100 pence. You, as well as they, have refused me the support ofbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. your credit. Yet I imagine you are all of you more indebted to the Company than I am. If you continue to leave me in want of every thing, and exposed to contend with universal disaffection, not only shall I inform the King and the Company of the warm zeal which their servants here display for their interest, but I shall take effectual measures for not depending, during the short stay I wish to make in this country, on the party spirit and the personal views, with which I perceive that every member appears occupied, to the total hazard of the Company.”1
Despairing of funds from any other source, he resolved to devote to this object the next operations of the war.2 He at the same time recalled Bussy, against whose character he fostered the strongest prejudices, and the importance of whose transactions under the Subahdar he treated as interested pretence and imposture.
Two plans presented themselves for the supply of book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. his wants. All the western and northern districts of the nabobship, evacuated by the English, lay open to his incursions, and in the rents which might be collected offered a certain resource. But the collection of rents was a tedious operation, and the expected produce a scanty supply. The King of Tanjore, when pressed in 1751 by Chunda Saheb and the French, had, among his other efforts to procrastinate and evade, given his bond, which still remained at Pondicherry, for 5,600,000 rupees. This sum, could it only be extorted from him, was a large and present resource; and in Fort St. David, as a prisoner, had been found the pretender to the throne of Tanjore, who might now be employed as an instrument to frighten the Rajah into compliance. The expedition against Tanjore was accordingly undertaken; and on the 18th of June Lally took the field.1
From the terror of the natives, the alienation of the Europeans, and the want of money, the equipment of the expedition, in attendants, draught cattle, and even provisions and ammunition, was in the highest degree defective. In seven days the army arrived at Carical, not without suffering, at this early stage, both from fatigue and from hunger.2 At this place Lally was met by a messenger from the King, who was desirous to treat. Lally understood, that some of hisbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. predecessors had been duped into impolitic delay, by the artful negotiations of the King of Tanjore. He resolved to display superior wisdom, by a conduct directly the reverse. He proceeded to Nagore, a town accounted rich, about four miles to the north of Negapatnam; but the merchants had time to remove their most valuable effects, and the acquisition yielded only a trifle. On the 28th he arrived at Kiveloor, the seat of a celebrated Pagoda, which eastern exaggeration represented as containing enormous riches, the accumulated offerings of the piety of ages: Had it been plundered by a Mahomedan conqueror, and the transaction recorded by a Persian historian, he would have described his hero as bearing away, in his fortunate chariots, a mountain of gold. Under the vulgar persuasion, Lally ransacked, and even dug the houses; dragged the tanks, and took away the idols; but no treasures were found, and the idols, instead of gold, were only of brass. Six unhappy Brahmens lingered about the camp, in hopes, it is probable, of recovering some of their beloved divinities. The suspicions of Lally took them for spies; his violence and precipitation took his suspicions for realities; and he ordered the six Brahmens to be treated as the Europeans are accustomed to treat the natives convicted as spies; that is, to be shot away from the muzzles of the guns. The King’s army took the field; but after a slight show of resistance retreated to the capital, near which Lally arrived on the 18th of July. Conferences ensued: The King offered a sum of money, but greatly inferior to what was required: Lally offered to abate in his pecuniary demand, provided he were furnished with 600 bullocks, and a supply of gunpowder. His agents were more prudent than himself, and suppressed the article of gunpowder, the deficiency of which, if known to the King, book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. was not likely to improve his disposition to compliance: and the bullocks, the King observed, that his religion did not permit him to grant. The cannonade and bombardment began. After a few days the King renewed his efforts for an accommodation. The obliquities of Eastern negotiation wore out the temper of Lally; and he threatened to carry the King and all his family slaves to Mauritius. This outrage produced in the Hindu a final resolution to defend himself to the last extremity. He had early, among his applications for assistance, implored the co-operation of the English; and Captain Calliaud at Trichinopoly was commissioned to make all those efforts in his favour which his own security might appear to allow. That officer sent to him without delay a small detachment, which might feed his hopes of a more efficient support, and afford him no apology for making his peace with the French. But he was afraid to entrust with him any considerable portion of his troops, fully aware that the French might at any time make with him an accommodation, and receive his assistance to destroy the very men who had come to protect him. Upon this last occurrence Calliaud inferred that the time for accommodation was elapsed, and sent an additional detachment. Lally continued his operations, and on the 7th of August effected a breach.
At this time, however, only 150 charges of powder for the cannon, not twenty cartouches a man for the troops, and not provisions for two days, remained in the camp.1 The next morning intelligence was received, that the English fleet, after a fresh engagementbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. with the French, had anchored before Carical, from which alone the French army could derive its supplies. Lally summoned a council of war. Out of thirteen officers, two, the Count d’Estaign, and M. Saubinet, advised an immediate assault, considering the success as certain, and the landing of the English at Carical, while the French fleet kept the sea, as highly improbable. It was determined, in conformity with the opinion of the other eleven, to raise the siege.1 Intelligence of this resolution of the enemy, and of the negligence and security in which they encamped, encouraged the Tanjorines to attempt a surprise; which brought Lally and his army into imminent danger. After a disastrous march, in which they suffered severely, from the enemy, from fatigue, and from famine,2 they arrived on the 28th at Carical, and saw the English fleet at anchor off the mouth of the river.
After the first of the naval engagements, the English fleet, before they could anchor, were carried a league to the north of Sadras; the French, which had suffered less in the rigging, and sailed better, anchored fifteen miles to the windward. The English as soon as possible weighed again, and after a fruitless endeavour to reach Fort St. David, discovered the French fleet on the 28th of May in the road of Pondicherry. book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. The next day, the French, at the remonstrance of Lally, who sent on board a considerable body of troops, got under sail; but instead of bearing down on the English, unable to advance against the wind, proceeded to Fort St. David, where they arrived on the evening after the surrender. The English sailing badly, fell to leeward as far as Alamparva, where intelligence was received of the loss of the fort. The admiral therefore, not having water on board for the consumption of five days, made sail, and anchored the next day in the road of Madras. The fleet had numerous wants; Madras had very scanty means of supply; and nearly eight weeks elapsed before it was again ready for sea. On the 3d of July three of the Company’s ships arrived from Bengal, with money, merchandize, and stores, but no troops. The monsoon had obliged them to make the outward passage towards Acheen, and they came in from the southward. The French Admiral, after touching at Fort St. David, had stood to the southward, to cruize off Ceylon; in opposition to the remonstrances of Lally, who desired the fleet to co-operate in the destined enterprise against Madras. Lally hastened from Fort St. David to Pondicherry, and summoned a council by whose authority he recalled the fleet. The injunction reached the Admiral at Carical on the 16th of June, and he anchored the next day in the road of Pondicherry. Had he continued his destined course to the southward, he could not have missed the three English East Indiamen from Bengal, and by their capture would have obtained that treasure, the want of which alone disconcerted the scheme of English destruction. On the 25th of July the English fleet were again under sail; and on the 27th appeared before Pondicherry, where the French lay at anchor. They put to sea without delay; but the difficulties of the navigation, and the aims of the commanders, madebook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. it the 2d of August before the fleets encountered off Carical. The French line consisted of eight sail; the English, as before, of seven. The fight lasted scarcely an hour; when three of the French ships being driven out of the line, the whole bore away, under all the sail they could carry. The English Admiral gave chase; but in less than ten minutes the enemy were beyond the distance of certain shot. Toward night the English gave over the pursuit, and came to anchor off Carical. The French steered for Pondicherry, when the Admiral declared his intention of returning to Mauritius. Lally sent forward the Count D’Estaign to remonstrate with him on the disgrace of quitting the sea before an inferior enemy, and to urge him to renewed operations. D’Estaign offered to accompany him on board, with any proportion of the troops. Lally himself moved with the army from Carical on the 24th of August, and, having passed the Coleroon, hurried on with a small detachment to Pondicherry, where he arrived on the 28th. He immediately summoned a mixed Council of the administration and the army, who joined in a fresh expostulation to the Admiral on the necessity of repairing to Madras, where the success of an attack must altogether depend upon the union of the naval and military operations. That commander, representing his ships as in a state of the greatest disablement, and his crews extremely enfeebled and diminished by disease, would yield to no persuasion, and set sail with his whole fleet for Mauritius on the 2d of September.1
book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. If we trust to the declaration of Lally, his intention of besieging Madras, still more his hopes of taking it, were abandoned from that hour. Before the fleet departed, an expedition against Arcot, with a view to relieve the cruel pressure of those pecuniary wants which the disastrous result of the expedition to Tanjore had only augmented, was projected and prepared. Arcot, the capital of Carnatic, had been left under the government of one of the principal officers of Mahomed Ali, the English Nabob, with a small body of Sepoys and native cavalry. With this officer, Rajah Saheb, (the eldest son of the late Chunda Saheb,) now decorated by the French with the title of Nabob, had opened a correspondence; and a treaty was concluded, according to which the Governor was to deliver up the place, to receive as a reward 13,000 rupees, and to be taken, along with his troops, into the pay and service of Lally. As auxiliary measures, the previous possession of the secondary forts of Trivatore, Trinomalee, Carangoly, and Timery, was deemed expedient. Lally divided his army into four parts, to two of which the forts of Carangoly and Timery surrendered without resistance; Trivatore and Trinomalee were taken by assault. On the terms of a pretended capitulation, on the 4th of October, Lally, amid the thunder of cannon, made his entrance into Arcot.
The fort of Chingliput, the occupation of which, from want of funds, or ignorance of its importance, Lally had postponed to the acquisition of Arcot, covered the country whence chiefly, in a case of siege, Madras would find it necessary to draw its provisions. In the consternation under which the English had withdrawn their troops from the country forts,book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. upon the arrival of Lally, Chingliput among the rest had been left in a very defenceless condition; and when the French marched against Carangoly, they might have taken Chingliput by escalade in open day. The English, awakened to a sense of its importance, left Arcot to its fate, and made all their exertions to save Chingliput. A fleet had arrived from England in the middle of September, which brought 850 of the king’s troops, and with them Colonel Drapier and Major Brereton: Captain Calliaud, with the whole of the European troops, was recalled from Trichinopoly: And before Lally entered Arcot, Chingliput was supplied with a strong garrison. The applications of Lally to the government of Pondicherry for 10,000 rupees, which were necessary, after the acquisition of Arcot, to put the troops in motion for Chingliput, were answered only by representations of the complete exhaustion of their resources; and that General, obliged for want of funds to place the troops in cantonments, returned to Pondicherry full of mortification and chagrin.1
He had been joined by Bussy about the time at which he entered Arcot. That officer, who had conducted himself with such rare ability in the dominions of the Subahdar, and with his handful of French had raised himself to an elevated station among the princes of India, had left the Subahdar on a tottering throne, which nothing but his strong support could much longer uphold. The Subahdar, when informed of the intended departure of the French, was too much amazed to believe the dreadful intelligence; and, when too well assured of its ominous reality, took his leave of Bussy, in an book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. agony of grief and despair. Bussy, it is possible, took his departure with the more alacrity, as he hoped, through the representations which in person he would be able to make, that he could prevail upon Lally to send him back, and with augmented force, to his important station. Having, on his march, been joined by Moracin, the Governor of Masulipatam, who with his troops was also recalled, he left the march to be conducted by Moracin, and under a safeguard granted him from Madras hastened to the meeting with Lally.
The head of that General was filled with the importance of his own project, the expulsion of the English from India; and with contempt for the schemes of Bussy, as of all other men who had different views from his own. In his letter to Bussy, upon the taking of Fort St. David, he had said, “It is the whole of British India which it now remains for us to attack. I do not conceal from you that, having taken Madras, it is my resolution to repair immediately, by land or by sea, to the banks of the Ganges, where your talents and experience will be of the greatest importance to me.” Bussy employed every effort to convince him of the importance of retaining the advantages which he had gained in the dominions of the Subahdar; and the most pressing and passionate letters arrived from the Subahdar himself.1 But Lally, who had already treated the representations of Bussy as the visions of a madman, and had told the Governor of Pondicherry that he thought himself too condescending in reading his letters, lent a deaf ear to remonstrances which inwardlybook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. he regarded as the fruit of delusion or imposture.1 Apprized of the money which Dupleix had raised on his personal credit, he was not without hopes that Bussy might be possessed of similar resources; and he states as a matter of great surprise, mixed with incredulity, the averment of Bussy, that in this way he was altogether incapable of aiding the general cause.
A high testimony from another quarter was yielded to the merits of Bussy. His rank as an officer was only that of Lieutenant-Colonel. Besides a Major-General, six Colonels had arrived with the army of Lally. The six Colonels, yielding to the nobler impulses of the human mind, signed a requisition that Bussy might supersede them. “Their names,” says Mr. Orme, “highly worthy of record on this occasion, were mostly of ancient and noble descent; D’Estaign, de Landivisiau, de la Faire, Breteuil, Verdiere, and Crillon.”
To whatever quarter Lally turned his eyes, he found himself beset with the greatest difficulties. The government at Pondicherry declared, as they had frequently declared before, that in their exhausted situation it was altogether impossible for them to find the means of subsisting the army at Pondicherry. When a council of war was called, the Count D’Estaign, and other officers, pronounced it better to die by a musket ball, under the ramparts of Madras, than by hunger, within those of Pondicherry. The idea of undertaking a siege, says Lally, the total want of funds excluded from the mind of every one. But it was deemed expedient to bombard the place, book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. to shut up the English within the fort, to obtain the pillage of the black town, and to lay waste the surrounding country.1
The Governor of Pondicherry declared that he was destitute of every species of resource, either for the pay or the maintenance of the soldiers. Lally advanced 60,000 rupees of his own money, and prevailed upon some members of the council, and other individuals in Pondicherry, to follow, in some degree, his example. From this species of contribution or loan, he obtained 34,000 rupees, which, added to his own, made a sum of 94,000. This was the treasure with which at the head of 2,700 European troops, and 4,000 Indians, he marched against Madras.
The expedition was ready for its departure at the beginning of November, but the continuance of the rains retarded its arrival before Madras till the 12th of December, when Lally had not funds to ensure the subsistence of the army for a single week. The English had made active use of the intervening period for providing themselves with the means of defence. When Admiral Pococke quitted the coast in October to avoid the monsoon, he left behind him the marines of the squadron, and was expected back in January. A body of cavalry, under an adventurer of the country, was taken into pay; and so posted, along with the Sepoys from Trichinopoly, as to make war upon the line of the enemy’s convoys. The veteran Laurence, who was still in Madras, was put at the head of the troops; and took post with the greater part of the army on elevated ground at some distance from the town. It was not, however, his intention to run the risk of an action; and as the enemy advanced, he gradually yielded ground, till on the 12th he entered the fort with all his army. The command in the fort belonged to the Governor, Pigot. But hebook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. was an intelligent, and an active man; and the harmony of the defence experienced no interruption. The military within the walls now consisted of 1,758 Europeans, 2,220 Sepoys, and 200 horse of the Nabob, on whom by experience little dependance was placed. The other Europeans were 150 men, who were employed without distinction in serving out stores, and other auxiliary operations.
On the 13th the enemy remained on the plain, and reconnoitred the place. On the 14th, early in the morning, they took possession of the black town, where the soldiery, from want of skill, or authority, on the part of their commander, abandoned themselves to intemperance and disorder. In hopes of profiting by this opportunity, the English made a strong sally with 600 chosen men. They penetrated into the black town before the enemy were collected in sufficient numbers; but were at last opposed by a force which they could not withstand; and, had the division of the enemy, which was under the command of Bussy, advanced with sufficient promptitude to cut off their retreat, it is highly probable that few of them would have made their escape. Lally adduces the testimony of the officers, who commanded under Bussy, that they joined in urging him to intercept the English detachment; but that he, alleging the want of cannon, absolutely refused. Mr. Orme says that he justified himself by the delay of Lally’s orders, without which it was contrary to his duty to advance. To gain however a great advantage at a critical moment, a zealous officer will adventure somewhat, under some deficiency both of cannon and of orders. The loss on the part of the English was not less than 200 soldiers, and six officers. book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. In mere numbers that of the enemy was nearly the same.
The capture of the black town had furnished to Lally for the demands of the service only 80,000 livres, lent to him by an Armenian merchant, whom he had saved from plunder; and to these were added 12,000 livres furnished by an Hindu partizan. With these funds he began to construct his batteries, in the intention, as he repeats, of only bombarding the place, when intelligence was brought, on the 24th of December, that a frigate from the islands had arrived at Pondicherry with a million of livres. It was this circumstance, he says, which now determined him to convert the bombardment into a siege.
With only two engineers, and three artillery officers, excepting the few who belonged to the Company, all deficient both in knowledge and enterprise; with officers in general dissatisfied and ill-disposed, with only the common men on whom he could depend, and of whose alacrity he never had reason to complain, he carried on the siege with a vigour and activity which commanded the respect even of the besieged, though they were little acquainted with the difficulties under which he toiled. By means of the supplies which had plentifully arrived from Bengal, and the time which the Presidency had enjoyed to make preparation for the siege, the English were supplied with an abundance both of money and of stores. The resolution to defend themselves to the utmost extremity, which has seldom been shared more universally and cordially by any body of men, inspired them with incessant vigilance and activity. The industry of the enemy was perpetually counteracted by a similar industry on the part of their opponents. No sooner had those without erected a work, than the most active, and enterprising, and oftenbook iv.Chap. 4. 1758. skilful exertions were made from within to destroy it. Whatever ingenuity the enemy employed in devising measures of attack was speedily discovered by the keen and watchful eyes of the defenders. A breach, in spite of all those exertions, was however effected; and the mind of Lally was intensely engaged with preparations for the assault; when he found the officers of his army altogether indisposed to second his ardour. Mr. Orme declares his opinion that their objections were founded on real and prudential considerations, and that an attempt to storm the place would have been attended with repulse and disaster. Lally, however, says that the most odious intrigues were carried on in the army, and groundless apprehensions were propagated, to shake the resolution of the soldiers, and prevent the execution of the plan: that the situation of the General was thus rendered critical in the highest degree, and the chance of success exceedingly diminished; yet he still adhered to his design, and only waited for the setting of the moon, which in India sheds a light not much feebler than that of a winter sun, on the very day on which an English fleet of six sail arrived at Madras.
The fleet under Admiral Pococke, which had left Madras on the 11th of October, had arrived at Bombay on the 10th of December, where they found six of the Company’s ships, and two ships of the line, with 600 of the King’s troops on board. On the 31st of December the Company’s ships, with all the troops, sailed from Bombay, under the convoy of two frigates, and arrived on the 16th of February, at a critical moment, at Madras. “Words,” says Lally, “are inadequate to express the effect which the appearance book iv.Chap. 4. 1758. of them produced. The officer who commanded in the trenches deemed it even inexpedient to wait for the landing of the enemy, and two hours before receiving orders retired from his post.”
Lally was now constrained to abandon the siege. The officers and soldiers had been on no more than half pay during the first six weeks of the expedition, and entirely destitute of pay during the remaining three. The expenses of the siege, and the half pay, had consumed, during the first month, the million of livres which had arrived from the islands. The officers were on the allowance of the soldiers. The subsistence of the army for the last fifteen days had depended almost entirely upon some rice and butter, captured in two small vessels from Bengal. A very small quantity of gunpowder remained in the camp; and not a larger at Pondicherry. The bombs were wholly consumed three weeks before. The Sepoys deserted for want of pay, and the European cavalry threatened every hour to go over to the enemy. The defence of Pondicherry rested upon 300 invalids; and, within twelve hours, the English, with their reinforcements, might land and take possession of the place. On the night of the 17th the French army decamped from Madras; and the English made no efforts to molest their retreat.1
We may judge of the feelings, towards one another, of Lally and his countrymen, when he tells us, that the retreat of the army from Madras produced at Pondicherry the strongest demonstrations of joy,book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. and was celebrated by his enemies as an occasion of triumph.
The Nabob, Mahomed Ali, who had retreated into Madras when the French regained the ascendancy in the province, had been removed during the siege to Trichinopoly; and of his two refractory brothers Abdul Wahab and Nejeeb Oolla, who had taken the side of the French, the former returned to the English connexion, before the siege of Madras, and was joined to the party of the English kept in the field to act upon the enemy’s communications; the latter, induced by the event of the siege to anticipate success to the party which he had renounced, murdered all the French in his service, except a single officer, and professed himself a partizan of the English.
The English now elevated their hopes to the recovery of the province, but found their operations cramped by the narrowness of their funds. It was the 6th of March before the army, consisting of 1156 Europeans, rank and file, 1570 Sepoys, 1120 collieries (irregular troops of the southern Polygars,) and 1956 horse, was in a condition to move. The countries of Madura and Tinivelly at the same time recalled the attention of the Presidency. No sooner had the troops been withdrawn for the defence of Madras, than the refractory chiefs began their encroachments. Only the towns of Madura and Palam-Cotah, preserved by the steadiness of the Sepoys in garrison, remained in obedience to the English. And Mahomed Issoof, who had commanded with reputation the Company’s native troops, in their former attempts in that country, was now sent back, in the quality of renter, with a body of Sepoys, for the recovery of the country.
book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. The French army had marched from Madras in the direction of Conjeveram; and there the French and English armies remained in sight of one another, without any operation of importance, for two and twenty days. The English, at the end of this time, made a march upon Wandewash; took possession of the town, and began to open ground against the fort. This brought the French army to defend it; upon which the English decamped in the night; by a forced march of two days arrived at Conjeveram, and took it by assault. The two armies continued to watch one another till the 28th of May, when they both went into cantonments.
On the 28th of April, Admiral Pococke had arrived upon the coast from Bombay, but had continued to windward of Pondicherry, and principally at Negapatnam, with a view to intercept the French squadron, which was expected from the isles. And near the end of June, three of the usual ships arrived at Madras, with 100 recruits of the Company, and intelligence that Lieutenant Colonel Coote, with 1000 of the King’s troops, might be shortly expected on the coast. The satisfaction, however, which this good fortune was calculated to excite, was grievously damped by an attendant piece of advice; that the Court of Directors, “dazzled,” as Mr. Orme expresses it, “by representations of the great wealth acquired by the conquest of Bengal, and of its sufficiency to supply their other presidencies, had determined to send no more treasure to any of them till the year 1760.” From the first moment of Indian conquests to a late period in their history, were the Company led into blunders, and were but too successful in misleading the councils of the nation, by their absurd estimates of the pecuniary value of Indian dominion. This intelligence was so disastrous, andbook iv.Chap. 4. 1759. full of discouragement, “that for every reason,” says Mr. Orme, “it was kept within the Council.”
Towards the end of July five of the expected ships, with the first division of the troops, arrived at Negapatnam, and having given out the provisions and stores which they had brought for the use of the squadron, sailed for Madras. On the 20th of August the squadron left Negapatnam, and sailed for Trincomalee in the island of Ceylon, where the French fleet was descried, on the 2d of September. D’Aché had been reinforced by the arrival of three ships from France; but as the resources of the islands were inadequate to refit and supply the fleet, not only much time had been lost, but he had been compelled to return to sea, in a state of very imperfect equipment. It was the 10th of September before the state of the winds and the weather permitted the encounter of the fleets. The English having the wind, came down a-breast, while the French, who were farthest out at sea, lay-to in line of battle a-head. The English squadron consisted of nine ships of the line, a frigate, the Queensborough, two of the Company’s ships, and a fire ship. The French were eleven sail of the line, and three frigates; and their total battery exceeded that of the English by 174 guns, and consequently, by eighty-seven in action. The engagement lasted searcely two hours, when the greater part of the French ships having quitted the line, the whole fleet sailed away, and, in a few minutes were beyond the reach of the English shot. Such was the indecisive character of naval actions in general, at the period to which we now refer. The English, though they had clearly the victory, had also the principal share of the loss. In point of men the injury was supposed to be nearly equal on both sides; but all book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. the French ships, one only excepted, carried topsails when they retired from the fight; none of the English ships, after the engagement, could set half their sails, and two were obliged to be taken in tow. The English fleet anchored the next day in the road of Negapatnam, and the French in four days arrived at Pondicherry.
As nothing could exceed the distress of the French in respect to supplies; so their hopes were ardent of relief by the arrival of the ships. The fort of Covrepawk had surrendered upon summons, to a detachment of the English army, in the beginning of July. In the beginning of August, Lally’s own regiment mutinied for want of pay, and, by their example, subverted the discipline of the whole army. The confidence of the English had mounted so high, that Major Brereton, who commanded the troops, and who burned for an opportunity of performing some exploit before the arrival of Coote, persuaded the Presidency to sanction an attempt for the reduction of Wandewash. After waiting till the roads were passable, the whole army marched from Conjeveram on the 26th of September. The principal part of the French forces were concentrated at Wandewash; and the enterprize was unsuccessful. The English made a spirited attack on the night of the 29th, but were resisted with great gallantry, and finally repulsed with a loss of more than 200 men. In this action, a detachment of grenadiers were very expeditiously quitting the vicinity of danger; when their officer, instead of calling after them, an imprudence which would, in all probability, have converted their retreat into a flight, ran till he got before them, and then, turning suddenly round, said, “Halt,” as giving the ordinary word of command. The habit of discipline prevailed. The men stopped, formed according to orders, and marched back into the scene of action.book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. But this success of the French, however brilliant, neither clothed the men, nor provided them with provisions. Neither the English nor the French had ever been able to draw from the districts which they held in the country sufficient funds to defray the expense of the troops, employed in conquering and defending them. A considerable portion of those districts, which the French had been able to seize upon the arrival of Lally, the English had again recovered. The Government of Pondicherry, left almost wholly destitute of supplies from Europe, was utterly exhausted, first, by the long and desperate struggle in which they had been engaged; and secondly, (for the truth must not be disguised, though the complaints of Lally have long been treated with ridicule) by the misapplication of the public funds: a calamity, of which the violent passion of individuals for private wealth was a copious and perennial fountain. Lally had, from his first arrival, been struggling on the borders of despair, with wants which it was altogether out of his power to supply. The English had received, or were about to receive, the most important accession to their power. And nothing but the fleet, which had now arrived, and the supplies which it might have brought, could enable him much longer to contend with the difficulties which environed him.
M. d’Aché had brought, for the use of the colony, 16,000l. in dollars, with a quantity of diamonds, valued at 17,000l., which had been taken in an English East Indiaman; and, having landed these effects, together with 180 men, he declared his resolution of sailing again immediately for the islands. Nothing could exceed the surprise and consternation of the colony upon this unexpected and alarming intelligence. book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. Even those who were the most indifferent to the success of affairs, when the reputation of Lally, and the interest of their country alone were at stake, now began to tremble, when the very existence of the colony, and their interests along with it, were threatened with inevitable destruction. All the principal inhabitants, civil and military, assembled at the Governor’s house, and formed themselves into a national council. A vehement protest was signed against the departure of the fleet. But the resolution of the Admiral was inflexible; and he could only be induced to leave 400 Caffres, who served in the fleet, and 500 Europeans, partly marines and partly sailors.
At the same time the departure of Bussy had been attended, in the dominions of the Subahdar, with a rapid succession of events, ruinous to the interests of the French. An expedition from Bengal, fitted out by the English against the Northern Circars, those important districts of which Bussy had obtained the dominion from Salabut Jung, had been attended with the most brilliant success; had not only driven the French entirely out of the country, but had compelled the Subahdar to solicit a connexion with the English. Nizam Ali, whose audacious and aspiring character rendered him extremely dangerous to the feeble resources and feeble mind of his brother, had returned from the flight, to which he had been urged by the spirit and address of Bussy, at the head of a considerable army; and compelled the Subahdar to replace him in that commanding situation, from which he had recently been driven. Bassalut Jung, the second of the three brothers, who anticipated the revolution which the victorious return of Nizam Ali portended, promised himself important advantages from the assistance of the French, in the changes which he expected to ensue; and dispatched a letterbook iv.Chap. 4. 1759. to Lally, in which he told him he was coming to throw himself into his arms.1 Bussy urged in strong terms the policy of declaring Bassalut Jung Nahob of Carnatic. This was opposed by the step which had been recently taken by Lally, of making this declaration, with much ceremony and pomp, in favour of the son of Chunda Saheb. It was, however, agreed that a body of troops, under the command of Bussy, should be sent to join Bassalut Jung, who hovered upon the borders of Carnatic. He had left Hyderabad, under pretence of regulating the affairs of his government of Adoni; but he soon directed his march toward the south-east, supporting his army by levying contributions as he proceeded, and approached Nelore in the month of July.
M. Bussy arrived at Wandewash the very day after the repulse of the English; and, having placed himself at the head of the detachment, which was destined to accompany him to the camp of Bassalut Jung, proceeded on his march. But the French army, which had long been enduring extraordinary privations, now broke out into the most alarming disorders. More than a year’s pay was due to them; they were destitute of clothing, and many times ill supplied with provisions. The opinion was disseminated, that a much larger sum than was pretended had been left by the fleet; and that the General was acquiring immense wealth by dilapidation. On the 16th of October the whole army was in mutiny, and the officers deprived of all authority. Intelligence of these disastrous events overtook Bussy at Arcot, and induced him to suspend his march. The troops were at last restored to obedience by the payment of six book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. months of their arrears, and a complete amnesty. But the delays which had intervened had exhausted the resources which enabled Bassalut Jung to remain on the borders of Carnatic: He was at the same time solicited, by a promised enlargement of his territory, to join with Nizam Ali, who dreaded the reappearance of M. Bussy in the territories of the Subahdar: His ardour for the French alliance was cooled by the intelligence of the disorders among their troops: He was alarmed by the presence of an English corps of observation, which had been sent to act upon his rear, if he should advance into the province: And on the 19th of October he struck off across the hills into the district of Kurpa; where Bussy, who followed him by a different route, arrived on the 10th of November. Bassalut Jung offered to accompany the French detachment to Arcot, provided he was recognized by the French as sovereign of Carnatic, and furnished with four lacks of rupees for the payment of his troops. The French were not without objections to the first of these conditions, and altogether incapable of fulfilling the last. The negotiation, therefore, proved fruitless; and Bussy returned; with an addition, however, of 400 good horse, whom he had found the means of attaching to his service.1
Urged by the necessity of making efforts for the supply, and even subsistence, of the army, Lally, shortly after the reconciliation of his troops, thought proper to divide his army into two parts; with the one of which he proposed to collect the rents of the southern; with the other, stationed at Wandewash and Arcot, to protect what belonged to the Frenchbook iv.Chap. 4. 1759. in the northern districts. De Leyrit and the Council of Pondicherry represented the danger, which could not be concealed from Lally himself, of dividing the army in the presence of a superior enemy; but they pointed out no means by which it was possible to preserve it together. On the 20th of November, the division which marched to the south took possession of the rich island of Seringham, which the garrison at Trichinopoly was too feeble to defend.
The English took the field. Colonel Coote, with the last division of his regiment, had arrived on the 27th of October; and on the 21st of November proceeded to Conjeveram, where the troops were cantoned for the rains. The first of his acts was to assemble a Council of the principal officers; that he might obtain from them a knowledge of facts, and profit by their observations. To divide the attention of the enemy, he began, with movements which indicated an attack upon Arcot; but his real intention was to gain possession of Wandewash; which was attacked and carried on the 29th. The inaction of the French army, at Chittapet, which, probably deeming itself too weak, made no effort for the protection of Wandewash, induced the English to march immediately to Carangoly, which made a feeble resistance, and surrendered on the 10th of December.
The loss of Arcot, and with it the command of all the northern districts of the province, now presented itself to the eyes of Lally as threatened to an alarming degree. The greater part of the troops was hastily recalled from Seringham; Bussy at the same time arrived from his expedition to the camp of Bassalut Jung; a Mahratta chief and his body of horse were taken into pay; and Lally book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. was eager to strike a blow for the recovery of Wandewash.
Bussy, on the other hand, was of opinion, as the French were superior in cavalry, which would render it dangerous for the English to hazard a battle, except in circumstances of advantage, that they should avail themselves of this superiority, by acting upon the communications of the English, which would soon compel them either to fight at a disadvantage, or retire for subsistence to Madras: whereas if they besieged Wandewash, the English would have two important advantages; one, that of fighting with only a part of the French army, while another part was engaged in the siege; the other, that of choosing the advantage of the ground, from the obligation of the French to cover the besiegers.
At the same time the motives of Lally were far from groundless. The mental state of the soldiers required some brilliant exploit to raise them to the temper of animated action. He was deprived of all means of keeping the army for any considerable time in the field. By seizing the English magazines, he counted upon retarding for several days their march to the relief of Wandewash; and as the English had breached the fort and taken it in forty-eight hours, he counted, and not unreasonably, upon rendering himself master of the place before the English could arrive.
Amusing the English, by some artful movements, he surprized and took Conjeveram, which he concluded was the place of the English magazines. The fact however was, that the English had no magazines, but were dependant on the purchases of the day, and already straitened for supplies by the extensive excursions of his Mahratta horse. Lally repaired to Wandewash; but several days elapsed before his battery was ready to play; and in the meanbook iv.Chap. 4. 1759. time the English approached. Lally throws the blame upon his engineer; whom he ordered to batter in breach with three cannon upon one of the towers of the fort, which was only protected by the fire of a single piece, and which, five weeks before, the English with inferior means had breached in forty-eight hours. But the engineers insisted upon erecting a battery in exact conformity with the rules of the schools; and the soldiers in derision asked if they were going to attack the fortifications of Luxemburgh.1
The project of Lally having in this manner failed, now was the time, at any rate, to have profited by the judicious advice of Bussy, and, abandoning the siege, to have made war upon the English means of supply. But Lally, who was aware that his character had fallen low with the army, could not brook the imputation of retreating before his enemy; he prepared, therefore, to meet the attack of the English army, and to continue his operations. It was the policy of the English commander to leave the enemy at work, till they were ready to assault the fort, when he was sure of attacking separately, at his choice, either the troops engaged in the siege, or those who covered them. His movements were judiciously made; and on the morning of the 22d, he was on the ground before the French camp, his army drawn up in two lines in a most advantageous position, where he had a free communication with the fort, and one of his flanks protected by its fire. The French occupied the ground in front of their line, where the field of book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. battle had previously been marked out. The English army consisted of 1900 Europeans, of whom eighty were cavalry, 2100 Sepoys, 1250 black horse, and twenty-six field-pieces. The French, including 300 marines and sailors from the squadron, consisted of 2,250 Europeans, and 1,300 Sepoys; for the Mahrattas kept aloof at the distance of some miles from the field of battle.1 Lally, and apparently with reason, complains that his troops did their duty ill in the action. While the English army were advancing, Lally, who imagined he perceived some wavering on their left, occasioned by the fire of his artillery, though Mr. Orme says they had not yet come within cannon shot, put himself at the head of the cavalry, to profit by the favourable moment. The cavalry refused to march. The General suspended the Commanding Officer, and ordered the second Captain to take the command. He, also, disobeyed. Lally addressed himself to the men; and a Cornet crying out that it was a shame to desert their General in the day of battle, the officer who commanded on the left offered to put the troop in motion. They had not advanced many paces, when a single cannon-shot, says Lally, the rapid firing of two pieces, says Mr. Orme, put them to flight, and they gallopped off, leaving him absolutely alone upon the plain.1 Lally returned to the infantry,book iv.Chap. 4. 1759. and brought up his line. The French fired rashly, and ineffectually, both with artillery and musketry; the English leader, who was cool, and perfectly obeyed, made his men reserve their fire, till sure of its execution. The regiment that occupied the enemy’s right, when the distance between them and the English was now inconsiderable, threw themselves into column, and rushed forward at a rapid pace. Coote, directing the opposite regiment to be firm, and preserve their fire, gave the command when the enemy were at fifty yards distance. The fire fell heavy, both on their front and flanks. Yet it stopped not the course of the column; and in an instant the two regiments were mingled at the push of the bayonet. The weight of the column bore down what was opposed to it; but as it had been left unprotected by the flight of the cavalry, posted on its right, its flanks were completely exposed, and in a few moments the ground was covered with the slain, when it broke, and fled in disorder to the camp. Almost at the same time a tumbril blew up in the redoubt in front of the enemy’s left; and during the confusion which this accident produced, the English took possession of the post. No part of the French line continued firm much longer. When ordered to advance, the sepoys absolutely refused. Bussy, who put himself at the head of one of the regiments, to lead them to the push of the bayonet, as the only chance of restoring the battle, had his horse wounded under him, was abandoned by the troops, and taken prisoner. Lally frankly acknowledges, that his cavalry, who had behaved so ill at the beginning of the action, protected book iv.Chap. 4. 1760. his retreat with great gallantry: He was thus enabled to wait for the junction of the detachment at Wandewash, and to carry off his light baggage and the wounded. The black cavalry of the English were too timid, and the European too feeble in numbers, to impede the retreat.
Lally retired to Chittapet, from which, without strengthening the garrison, he proceeded the following day towards Gingee. The enterprise next resolved on by Colonel Coote was the reduction of Arcot, toward which, the day after the battle, he sent forward a body of troops. Intelligence however of the defenceless state in which the enemy had left Chittapet, gave him hopes of making that a previous acquisition. In two days the English effected a breach, and the garrison surrendered. On the 1st of February, Coote arrived at Arcot. On the 5th three batteries opened on the town. On the night of the 6th the army began their approaches. Although operations were retarded for want of ammunition, on the morning of the 9th the sap was carried near the foot of the glacis; and by noon, two breaches, but far from practicable, were effected; when, to the great surprise of the English, a flag of truce appeared, and the place was surrendered. Not three men had been lost to the garrison, and they might have held out ten days longer, before the assault by storm could have been risked.
From Gingee Lally withdrew the French troops to Valdore, both to prevent the English from taking post between them and Pondicherry, and to protect the districts to the south, from which alone provisions could be obtained. The difficulties of Lally, which had so long been great, were now approaching to extremity. The army was absolutely without equipments, stores, and provisions, and he was destitute of resources to supply them. He repaired to Pondicherrybook iv.Chap. 4. 1760. to demand assistance, which he would not believe that the governor and council were unable to afford. He represented them as embezzlers and peculators; and there was no imputation of folly, of cowardice, or of dishonesty, which was spared against him in return.
To proceed with the reduction of the secondary forts which the enemy held in different parts of the province; to straiten Pondicherry, and, if sufficient force should not arrive from France for its relief, to undertake the reduction of that important place, was the plan of operations which the English embraced.1 The country between Alamparva and Pondicherry was plundered and burnt; Timery surrendered on the 1st of February; Devi-Cotah was evacuated about the same time: on the 29th of the same month Trinomalee surrendered; the fort of Permacoil was taken after some resistance in the beginning of March; and Alamparva on the 12th. Carical now remained the only station on the coast, except Pondicherry, in possession of the French; and of this it was important to deprive them, before the shortly expected return of the fleet. A large armament was sent from Madras, and the officer who commanded at Trichinopoly was ordered to march to Carical with all the force which could be spared from book iv.Chap. 4. 1760. the garrison. Lally endeavoured to send a strong detachment to its relief; but the place made a miserable defence, and yielded on the 5th of April before assistance could arrive. On the 15th of that month Valdore surrendered after a feeble resistance; as did Chillambaram on the 20th. Cuddalore was taken about the same time, and several strong attempts by the enemy to regain it were successfully resisted.
By the 1st of May the French army was confined to the bounds of Pondicherry, and the English encamped within four miles of the town; the English powerfully reinforced from England, and elated with remembrance of the past, as well as hope for the future; their antagonists abandoned, by neglect at home, to insuperable difficulties; and looking with eager eyes to the fleet, which never arrived. On the part of the English, Admiral Cornish had reached the coast with six ships of the line, before the end of February: On the 25th of April Admiral Stevens, who now commanded in room of Pococke, arrived with four ships of the line; and on the 23d of May came another ship of the line, with three companies of the royal artillery on board.
As the last remaining chance of prolonging the struggle for the preservation of the French colony, Lally turned his eyes towards the natives; and fixed upon the Mysoreans as the power most capable of rendering him the assistance which he required. The adventurer Hyder Ali was now at the head of a formidable army, and, though not as yet without powerful opponents, had nearly at his disposal the resources of Mysore. Negotiation was performed; and an agreement was concluded. On the one hand the Mysorean chief undertook to supply a certain quantity of bullocks for the provision of Pondicherry, and to join the French with 3,000 select horse, and 5,000book iv.Chap. 4. 1760. Sepoys. On the other hand the French consented to give the Mysoreans immediate possession of the fort of Thiagar, a most important station, near two of the principal passes into Carnatic, at an easy distance from Baramhal, and about fifty miles E. S. E. from Pondicherry. Even Madura and Tinivelly were said to be promised, if by aid of such valuable allies the war in Carnatic were brought to a favourable conclusion. This resource proved of little importance to the French. The Mysoreans (who routed however a detachment of the English army sent to interrupt their march) were soon discouraged by what they beheld of the condition of the French; and soon recalled by an emergency which deeply affected Hyder at home. They remained in the vicinity of Pondicherry about four weeks, during which time Lally had found it impossible to draw from them any material service; and departing in the night without his knowledge they marched back to Mysore. A few days before their departure six of the English Company’s ships arrived at Madras with king’s troops to the amount of 600 men: On the 2d of September, one month later, several other ships of the Company arrived, and along with them three ships of war, and a portion of a Highland regiment of the King, increasing the fleet in India to the amount of seventeen sail of the line.
Lally had now, and it is no ordinary praise, during almost eight months since the total discomfiture of his army at Wandewash, imposed upon the English so much respect, as deterred them from the siege of Pondicherry; and notwithstanding the desperate state of his resources, found means to supply the fort, which had been totally destitute of provisions, with a stock sufficient to maintain the garrison for book iv.Chap. 4. 1760. several months. And he still resolved to strike a blow which might impress them with an opinion that he was capable of offensive operations of no inconsiderable magnitude. He formed a plan, which has been allowed to indicate both judgment and sagacity, for attacking the English camp by surprise in four places on the night of the 4th of September. But one of the four divisions, into which his army was formed for the execution of the enterprise, fell behind its time, and disconcerted the operations of the remainder.
A circumstance now occurred in the English army, which affords another proof (we shall find abundance of them as we proceed) of the impossibility of governing any country well from the distance of half the circumference of the globe. No government, which had any regard to the maxims either of justice or of prudence, would deprive of his authority a commander, who, like Colonel Coote, had brought a great and arduous service to the verge of completion, at the very moment when, without a chance of failure, he was about to strike the decisive blow which would give to his preceding operations the principal part of their splendour and renown. Yet the East India Company, without intending so reprehensible a conduct, and from their unavoidable ignorance of what after many months was to be the state of affairs, had sent out a commission, with the fleet just arrived, for Major Monson the second in command, to supersede Coote who was destined for Bengal. Monson was indeed directed to make no use of his commission while Coote remained upon the coast; but the spirit of Coote would not permit him to make any advanvantage of this indulgence; and had he been less a man of sense and temper, had he been more governed by that boyish sensibility to injury, which among vulgar people passes for honour, this imprudent step of thebook iv.Chap. 4. 1760. Company would have been attended with the most serious consequences. When Coote was to proceed to Bengal it was the destination of his regiment to proceed along with him. The Council of Madras were thrown into the greatest alarm. Monson declared that if the regiment were removed he would not undertake the siege of Pondicherry. Coote consented that his regiment should remain, to encircle the brows of another with laurels which belonged to his own.
Around Pondicherry, like many other towns in India, ran a hedge of the strong prickly shrubs of the country, sufficiently strong to repel the sudden incursions of the irregular cavalry of the country. As the position of the French was contrived to give it whatsoever protection this rampart could yield, the first operation of Monson was intended to deprive them of that advantage. The attack was indeed successful; but through mismanagement on the part of some of the officers, the plan was badly executed; and considerable loss was incurred. Among the rest, Monson himself was wounded, and rendered incapable for a time of acting in the field. Colonel Coote had not yet sailed for Bengal; and Monson and the Council joined in requesting him to resume the command. He returned to the camp on the 20th of September, and actively proceeded with the reduction of the outposts. When the rains began, in the beginning of October, the camp was removed to an elevated ground at some distance from the town; and during the rains no efforts were made, except those on the part of the French, to introduce provisions, and those on the part of the English, to frustrate their attempts. About the beginning of December, the rains drawing to a close, preparations book iv.Chap. 4. 1761. were made for improving the blockade into more expeditious methods of reduction. Several batteries were prepared, which played on the town from the 8th to the 30th of December. On that day a dreadful storm arose, which stranded three of the English ships in the road, and seriously damaged the greater part of the fleet; while it tore up the tents of the soldiers, and threw the camp into the utmost confusion. Fortunately the inundation produced by the storm rendered it impracticable for the enemy to move their artillery, nor could the troops carry their own ammunition dry. The greatest diligence was exerted in restoring the works. An attempt failed, which was made on the 5th of January, to obtain possession of a redoubt still retained by the enemy. But on the 12th of January the trenches were opened. The enemy were now reduced to the last stage of privation. Lally himself was sick; worn out with vexation and fatigue. The dissensions which raged within the fort had deprived him of almost all authority: A very feeble resistance was therefore made to the progress of the English works. The provisions, which such arduous efforts had been required to introduce into the fort, had been managed without economy; the importunities of Lally to force away the black inhabitants, who consumed the stores of the place with so much rapidity, were resisted, till matters were approaching to the last extremity. While provisions for some days yet remained, Lally urged the Council, since a capitulation must regard the civil as well as the military affairs of the colony, to concert general measures for obtaining the most favourable terms; and procured nothing but chicanery in return. The device of the Council was to preserve to themselves, if possible, the appearance of having had no share in the unpopular transaction of surrender, and the advantage, dear to their resentments,book iv.Chap. 4. 1761. of throwing with all its weight the blame upon Lally. When at last not two days’ provisions remained in the magazines, Lally informed them that he was reduced to the necessity of delivering up the military possession of the place; for the civil affairs it rested with them to make what provision was in their power. Towards the close of day on the 14th, a commissioner from Lally, together with a deputation from the Council, approached the English camp. The enemy claimed the benefit of a cartel which had been concluded between the two crowns, and which they represented as precluding them from proposing any capitulation for the town of Pondicherry. As a dispute respecting that cartel remained still undecided, Coote refused to be guided by it, or to accept any other terms than those of an unconditional surrender. Their compliance, as he concluded with sufficient assurance, the necessity of their affairs rendered wholly indispensable.
On the fourth day after the surrender, there arose between the English civil and military authorities a dispute, which, had the military been as daring as the civil, might have been attended with the most serious consequences. Mr. Pigot, the Governor of Madras, made a formal demand, that Pondicherry should be given up to the Presidency, as the property of the East India Company. Coote assembled a council of war, consisting of the chief officers, both of the fleet and the army, who were of opinion that the place ought to be held for the disposal of the King. Pigot, with a hardihood which subdued them; though, in a man without arms in his hands, toward men on whose arms he totally depended, it might have been a hardihood attended with risk; declared that, unless Pondicherry were given up to book iv.Chap. 4. 1761. the Presidency, he would furnish no money for the subsistence of the King’s troops or the French prisoners. Upon this intimation the military authorities submitted.
Two places in Carnatic, Thiagar, and the strong fort of Gingee, still remained in possession of the French. The garrisons, however, who saw no hope of relief, made but a feeble resistance; and on the 5th of April Gingee surrendered, after which the French had not a single military post in India: for even Mahé and its dependencies, on the Malabar coast, had been attacked and reduced by a body of troops which the fleet landed in the month of January. The council of Madras lost no time in levelling the town and fortifications of Pondicherry with the ground.
Dreadful was the fate which awaited the unfortunate Lally, and important are the lessons which it reads. By the feeble measures of a weak and defective government, a series of disasters, during some preceding years, had fallen upon France; and a strong sentiment of disapprobation prevailed in the nation against the hands by which the machine of government was conducted. When the total loss of the boasted acquisitions of the nation in India was reported, the public discontent was fanned into a flame: and the ministry were far from easy with regard to the shock which it might communicate to the structure of their power. Any thing was to be done which might have the effect to avert the danger. Fortunately for them, a multitude of persons arrived from India, boiling with resentment against Lally, and pouring out the most bitter accusations. Fortunately for them, too, the public, swayed as usual by first appearances, and attaching the blame to the man who had the more immediate guidance of the affairs upon which ruin had come,book iv.Chap. 4. 1761. appeared abundantly disposed to overlook the ministry in their condemnation of Lally. The popular indignation was carefully cultivated; and by one of those acts of imposture and villany of which the history of ministries in all the countries of Europe affords no lack of instances, it was resolved to raise a screen between the ministry and popular hatred, by the cruel and disgraceful destruction of Lally. Upon his arrival in France, he was thrown into the Bastille; from the Bastille, as a place too honourable for him, he was removed to a common prison. An accusation, consisting of vague or frivolous imputations, was preferred against him. Nothing whatsoever was proved, except that his conduct did not come up to the very perfection of prudence and wisdom, and that it did display the greatest ardour in the service, the greatest disinterestedness, fidelity, and perseverance, with no common share of military talent, and of mental resources. The grand tribunal of the nation, the parliament of Paris, found no difficulty in seconding the wishes of the ministry, and the artificial cry of the day, by condemning him to an ignominious death. Lally, confident in his innocence, had never once anticipated the possibility of any other sentence than that of an honourable acquittal. When it was read to him in his dungeon, he was thrown into an agony of surprise and indignation; and taking up a pair of compasses, with which he had been sketching a chart of the Coromandel coast, he endeavoured to strike them to his heart; but his arm was held by a person that was near him. With indecent precipitation he was executed that very day. He was dragged through the streets of Paris in a dirty dung cart; and lest he should address the people, a gag was stuffed into his mouth, so large as to project beyond book iv.Chap. 4. 1761. his lips. Voltaire, who had already signalized his pen by some memorable interpositions in favour of justice and the oppressed, against French judges and their law, exerted himself to expose, in a clear light, the real circumstances of this horrid transaction; which Mr. Orme scruples not to call “a murder committed with the sword of justice.” It was the son of this very man, who under the name of Lally Tolendal, was a member of the Constituent Assembly, and by his eloquence and ardour in the cause of liberty, contributed to crumble into dust a monarchy, under which acts of this atrocious description were so liable to happen. Thus had the French East India Company, within a few years, destroyed three, the only eminent men who had ever been placed at the head of their affairs in India, Labourdonnais, Dupleix, and Lally. It did not long survive this last display of its imbecility and injustice.1
Cambridge, p. 140.
Orme, ii. 197–217; Cambridge’s War in India, p. 137—153; Wilks’ Historical Sketches of the South of India, p. 392, 393.
He himself complains that little preparation was made to co-operate with him. Among the proofs of carelessness, one was that he was saluted with five discharges of cannon, loaded with ball, of which three pierced the ship through and through, and the two others damaged the rigging; Memoire pour Lally, i. 39.
Lally complains, and with good reason, of the deplorable ignorance of the French Governor and Council. They could not tell him the amount of the English forces on the coast; nor whether Cuddalore was surrounded with a dry wall or a rampart; nor whether there was any river to pass between Pondicherry and Fort St. David. He complains that he lost forty-eight hours at Cuddalore, because there was not a man at Pondicherry, who could tell him that it was open on the side next the sea; that he was unable to find twenty-four hours’ provisions at Pondicherry; and that the Governor, who promised to forward a portion to him upon the road, broke his word; whence the troops were two days without food, and some of them died. Ibid. 40, 41.
A French ship was driven on shore, and obliged to be abandoned; but this was owing to an accident after the battle.
Lord Clive himself said, in his evidence before the Committee, in 1772: “Mr. Lally arrived with such a force as threatened not only the destruction of all the settlements there, but of all the East India Company’s possessions, and nothing saved Madras from sharing the fate of Fort St. David, at that time, but their want of money, which gave time for strengthening and reinforcing the place.” Report, ut supra.
Orme (ii. 104) says he left 100 Europeans and 1,000 Sepoys. Wilks (Histor. Sketches, p. 387) says he left 200 Europeans and 600 Sepoys. Orme again (Ibid. p. 264) speaks of the detachment as consisting of 200 Europeans and 500 Sepoys.
Mr. Orme states the days on report merely; but we may presume it was the best information which that careful historian could procure.
This, at least, is stated by the English historians, and by the numerous and too successful enemies of Lally. In the original correspondence, there is no proof that I can perceive. In one of Lally’s letters (to De Leyrit, 18th of May) he presses him to prevail upon the inhabitants of Pondicherry, by extra rewards, to lend their assistance. This looks not like a general order to impress the inhabitants. The truth is, that he himself brings charges, which were too well founded, of oppression committed by others against the natives. In his letter to De Leyrit, 25th of May, 1758, he says, “J’apprend que daus votre civil et dans votre militaire, il se commet des vexations vis-a-vis des gens du pays qui les éloignent et les empêchent de vous faire les fournitures necessaires à la subsistance de l’armée.” Lally says in his Memoire, p. 50, “Des employés du Sieur Desvaux, protégé par le Sieur de Leyrit, arrêtoient des provisions qui arrivoient au camp, et exigeoient de l’argent des noirs, pour leur accorder la liberté du passage. Un de ces brigauds avoit été pris en flagrant delit. On avoit saisi sur lui un sac plein d’especes et de petits joyaux enlevés aux paysans.”
Mem. pour Lally, p. 21. In their letter of the 20th March, 1759, they say; “Vous voudrez bien prendre en consideration l’administration des affaires de la Compagnie, et l’origine des abus sans nombre que nous y voyons: Un despotisme absolu nous paroit la premiere chose a corriger.”—They add, “Nous trouvons par-tout des preuves de la prodigalité la plus outrée, et du plus grand desordre.”
There is no doubt at all, that the neglect of all preparation, to enable him to act with promptitude, though they had been expecting him at Pondicherry for eight months, was extreme, and to the last degree culpable. There was a total want of talent at this time at Pondicherry; a weak imagination that the expected armament was to do every thing, and that those who were there before had no occasion to do any thing; otherwise, with the great superiority of force they had enjoyed since the arrival of the 1,000 Europeans, in the beginning of September, they might have performed actions of no trifling importance, and have at least prepared some of the money and other things requisite for the operations of Lally.
Orme. Lally (Mem. p. 42) says, “Il y avoit dans le Fort de Saint David sept cent Européens, et environ deux mille Cipayes. Les troupes du Comte de Lally consistoient en seize cents Européens, et six cents noirs, tant cavalerie qu’infanterie, ramassés à la hâte. Son regiment, qui avoit essayé un combat de mer, ou il avoit perdu quatre-vingt-quatre hommes, et à qui on n’avoit donné depuis son débarquement à Pondicherry, que quarante-huit heures de repos, etoit à peine en etat de lui fournir deux piquets.” It is at least to be remembered, that this statement of facts was made in the face of Lally’s numerous and bitter enemies.
Memoire, ut supra, Piéces Justificatives, p. 30. De Leyrit defended himself by asserting the want of means; “Je vous rendrai compte,” says he, “de ma conduite, et de la disette de fonds dans laquelle on m’a laissé depuis deux ans, et je compte vous faire voir que j’ai fait à tous égards plus qu’on ne devoit attendre de moi. Mes ressources sont aujourdui epuisés, et nous n’en avons plus à attendre que d’un succès. Ou en trouverois-je de suffisantes dans un pays ruiné par quinze ans de guerre, pour fournir aux depenses considerables de votre armée et aux besoins d’une escadre, par laquelle nous attendions bien des especes de secours, et qui se trouve au contraire denuée de tout?” Ib. No. 20. Lett. du Sieur De Leyrit au Comte de Lally, 24th May, 1758. Lally, however, asserts that he had received two millions of livres by the arrival of the fleet. Mem. p. 49.
This at least is the account of the English historians. Lally himself says, that it was his own design to proceed directly from Fort St. David to Madras; but the commander of the fleet absolutely refused to co-operate with him; would go upon a cruize to the south, for the purpose of intercepting such vessels as might arrive from England; and carried with him the detachment which Lally had put on board to prevail upon him to trust himself again at sea alter the hist engagement. Mem. p. 57.
Lally repeats with what regret he postponed the siege of Madras; and shows that it was by earnest persuasions of the Governor, and the Jesuit Lavaur (a missionary of a most intriguing spirit, who had contrived to gain a vast influence in the Councils of Pondicherry), that he undertook the expedition to Tanjore. Mem. p. 62.
Lally was, of course, obliged to trust to the information of those acquainted with the country; and the letters of Lavaur and De Leyrit make it sufficiently appear that they extenuated beyond measure the difficulties of the undertaking; and made him set out upon representations which they knew to be false, and promises which were never intended to be fulfilled. In fact it would have required a cooler, and a more fertile head than that of Lally, to counteract the malignity, to stimulate the indifference, and to supply the enormous deficiencies, by which he was surrounded.
This is the statement of Orme (ii. 27). That of Lally is—qu’il ne restoit au parc d’artillerie que trois milliers de poudre pour les canons, et vingt coups par soldat en cartouche—he adds, that he had no other balls for the cannon but those which were shot by the enemy, of which few corresponded with the calibre of his guns; that twenty-four hours’ battering were still requisite to make the breach practicable; that he had but a few days’ provisions for the European part of his army, while the native part and the attendants were entirely without provisions, and had, the greater part of them, deserted. Mem. ut supra, p. 73.
Lally says, that he had at the same time received a letter from the Commanding Officer at Pondicherry, announcing that a body of 1,200 English, who had marched from Madras, were menacing Pondicherry; and one from Gopal Row the Mahratta, threatening with a visit the territory of the French, if their army did not immediately evacuate Tanjore. Mem. p. 73.
Notwithstanding their hardships and fatigues Lally asserts that they lost but little. Ib p. 81.
These events are minutely recorded by Orme, ii. 197–352. The sketches and criticisms of Col. Wilks, p. 379–398, are professional and sensible. Cambridge, p. 135–185, goes over the same ground. A spirited abstract is given, p. 96–102, by the author of the History and Management of the East India Company. For the operations of Lally, his own Memoir, with the original documents in the appendix, is in the highest degree instructive and entertaining.
Mem. pour le Cornte de Lally, p. 86–99; Orme, ii. 341–370.
Lally himself informs us, that these letters uniformly began with such expressions as these, “Renvoyez moi M. de Bussy avec un corps de troupes; vous savez que je ne peux pas m’en passer;” or, “vous savez que je ne peux pas me passer de M. de Bussy; renvoyez le moi avec un corps de troupes,” &c. Mem. pour le Comte de Lally, p. 93.
Letter to De Leyrit, 28th June, 1758. Mem. ut supra, Appen. No. xxxvi.
Mem. ut supra, i. 98, 100.
Orme, ii. 383–459; Mem. pour Lally, p. 99–117. Of the sick and wounded, those who were too ill to be removed, to the number of thirty-three, according to Lally’s own account, to that of forty-four according to Mr. Orme’s, were left behind, and recommended by a letter of Lally to the English commander. They were treated, as Lally himself declares, with all the care which the laws, both of war and of humanity, prescribed.
Mem. pour Lally, p. 135.
In the account of Bussy’s march, I have followed his own and Orme’s account. Lally (Mem. p. 136) complains of his delays, and insinuates that to the misconduct through which these delays took place, the loss of Bassalut Jung’s alliance ought to be ascribed.
Mem. pour Lally, p. 161;—Orme, ii. 577, says that cannon for the battery, which did not open till the 20th, six days after Lally took possession of the Pettah or town adjoining the fort, were brought from Valdore on carriages sent from Pondicherry.
Orme, ii. 582. Lally (Mem. p. 161) gives a very different account of the respective numbers: that the French had 900 infantry, 150 cavalry, 300 marines and sailors, in all 1,350 Europeans, with 1,800 Sepoys; and that the English had 2,500 infantry and 100 cayalry, all Europeans; of black troops nearly an equal number with the French.—There is some appearance that Mr. Orme’s account of the French force is conjectural, and hence exaggerated, as all his numbers are round numbers, one regiment 400, another 700, another 400, cavalry 300, &c. Perhaps we ought to trust to Lally’s account of his own forces, because it was given in the face of his enemies, who were interested, and well able, to contradict it if untrue; and we need not hesitate to take Mr. Orme’s account of the English, where his knowledge was complete.
Mr. Orme, ii. 583, says, that two field-pieces, which fired several times in one minute, and brought down then or fifteen men or horses, caused the flight.
Lally says (Tableau Histor. de l’Expedition de l’Inde, p. 32), and apparently with justice, “Il n’est pas douteux que si l’ennemie se fῦt porté tout de suite [after the battle of Wandewash] sur Pondichéry, il s’en fῦt rendu maitre en huit jours. Il n’y avoit pas un grain de ris dans la place; les lettres, prieres, ordres, et menaces que le Compte De Lally employoit depuis deux ans vis-a-vis du Sieur de Leyrit, n’avoient pu le determiner à y former un seul magazin.” The English leaders appear to have had no conception of the extremely reduced state of the French, and how safe it would have been to strike a decisive blow at the seat of the colony.
For these events see Mem, pour le Comte de Lally; Mem. pour le Sieur De Leyrit; Mem: pour Bussy; Orme, vol. ii.; Cambridge; Wilks; Voltaire, Fragmens Hist. sur l’Inde, et sur la Mort du Comte de Lally.