1755 - British expedition in Madura and Tinnevelly

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The campaign lasted from February to June 1755

Description

On January 5 1755, a truce was signed between France and Great Britain in India. It stated that the two nations would "not to interfere in any difference which might arise between the princes of the country."

However, a month had not yet passed that the Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan, asked to the East India Company for its assistance against the palaiyakkarars (barons) controlling the districts of Madura (present-day Madurai) and Tinnevelly (present-day Tirunelveli). The nawab considered these two towns to be his tributaries. It was very important for his revenues to collect the tribute of these towns which produced immense income. He also wanted to induce the numerous palaiyakkarars and all subordinate governors to acknowledge his rights as nawab. However, he lacked the military power to force these towns to comply. The authorities of the East India Company at Madras (present-day Chennai) immediately agreed to assist him.

At the end of January, a force of the East India Company (2,500 men, including 500 Europeans of the Madras European Regiment), under Colonel Alexander Heron, marched to Manapar, a village about 50 km from Trichinopoly (present-day Tiruchirappalli).

Soon after his arrival, Heron was joined by the agents of four neighbouring palaiyakkarars, who came to settle their accounts, promising soon to pay the balance. They also signed a paper acknowledging Muhammad Ali Khan as their nawab. However, Lachynaig, one of the palaiyakkarars, refused to pay the remainder of his tribute.

On February 10, upon the nawab's request, Heron moved with his army close to a fort at the border of the country of the dissident palaiyakkarar.

On February 12, Heron made himself master of the two forts of the country. The palaiyakkarar and the inhabitants had taken refuge on the surrounding hilltops. In this affair, Heron lost 14 Sepoys and a few coolies (unskilled labourers).

Muhammad Ali Khan then let his brother, Mahfuz Khan, and Lieutenant-Colonel Heron resumed the expedition. The roads were excessively bad through the woods for the carriage of the heavy cannon. Some breastworks thrown up in the narrow passes were abandoned when the army approached. Beyond the woods, the people of Madura were fortifying a stone fort but they evacuated it. In this fort, Heron captured four cannon, ammunition and some grain. He threw some troops in the fort and advanced on Madura, a large walled town. The garrison retired to a small fort a little farther into the country. Mahfuz Khan and Heron resolved to quarter the army in Madura.

Colonel Heron, having written circular letters to all neighbouring palaiyakkarars, as well as to the people of Tinnevelly, marched on the fort where the governor of Madura had taken refuge. This fort was in fact a fortified pagoda.

The governor retreated with all his horse, elephants, camels and treasure, leaving a few sepoys to defend the pagoda. Initially, the garrison of the pagoda fired very briskly. Heron returned fire with cannon and small arms and the garrison surrendered. Three brass and iron cannon, a number of 'Malabar guns' and a great quantity of ammunition were found in the captured pagoda.

After taking two other small forts, Heron's Army marched for Tinnevelly.

On February 25, Heron's Army arrived at Tinnevelly. Some palaiyakkarars came in, others sent their agents to settle everything amicably.

The Governor of Madura, having cut a party sent to surprise him, came to the very gates of Tinnevelly while Heron's Army was there and plundered the neighbouring villages.

The Palaiyakkarar of Maravai (present-day Melamaravakkadu), a large country on the sea-coast, to the south of Madras and to the east of Madura, offered free passage to British troops. The King of Tanjore (present-day Thanjavur) protested against the fact that the British treated with Maravai and raised some troops. Madras sent instructions to Colonel Heron to break all further treaty with Maravai.

Meanwhile, Nizam Salabat Jung of Hyderabad and Bussy were marching towards Mysore and Heron's Army was ordered to return as soon as possible to Trichinopoly.

Salabat Jung entered the territory of Mysore and levied the revenues of that rich province.

At the beginning of May, Heron set out and, on his way, invested a fort at the request of Mahfuz Khan. Lacking proper artillery, Heron abandoned the siege of the fort and continued his march to Madura.

On May 21, Heron arrived at Madura.

On May 28, Heron set off from Madura and marched to the Colguddy Pagoda where he seized a large number of religious images and demanded a ransom. The Brahmins refused to pay the ransom and Heron carried these religious images off. The Brahmins convinced the Coolies to rescue their gods. They attacked Heron's baggage as it was passing a defile in the Natam woods, recovered their idols, destroyed several carriages, stabbed 100 bullocks, killed some men and carried off a quantity of baggage.

On June 6, Heron's Army reached Trichinopoly.

Heron was encamped with his force before Trichinopoly when he was summoned to Madras to be court-martialed. He was ordered to leave a garrison of 500 men in Trichinopoly under the command of Major Killpatrick.

Heron was judged guilty of accepting bribes and of malversation. Heron was consequently dismissed from the service of the East India Company.

General Nanderauze (probably Prime Minister Nanjarajiah) was encamped near Trichinopoly at the head of a Mysorean army. He planned to capture the place during a night attack. He contacted M. de Saussey at Seringam (present-day Srirangam) and asked him to join him in this attack. Saussey refused and, since there was a suspension of arms between the French and British, he warned Major Killpatrick of the impeding threat, offering his support if Trichinopoly was attacked.

However, Nanderauze precipitously returned to the Kingdom of Mysore when he heard that Salabat Jung, the Nizam of Hyderabad, was marching towards his country.

On July 9, a British force under Captain Polier set out (of Trichinopoly?), escorting Muhammad Ali Khan, the nawab of Arcot, to his capital.

On July 16, Polier's force reached and forded the Cauvery (present-day Kaveri River) at Condor (unidentified location).

On July 17, Polier's force halted and General Monagee paid a visit to Muhammad Ali Khan, assuring him of the support of the King of Tanjore and offering the assistance of 5,000 horse if the nawab needed them.

On August 19, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan reached the vicinity of Arcot. Here he was met by Colonel Lawrence, Mr. Palk and Mr Walsh, deputed to invite him to Madras.

On August 21, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan made his entry into Arcot.

On August 30, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan visited Madras where he was received by the governor and Rear-Admirals Watson and Pocock.

At the end of October, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan set out of Madras accompanied by Major Killpatrick with a detachment of 300 Europeans and 1,500 sepoys to collect his revenue.

Until the end of the year, Killpatrick's Army was either encamped or in motion in the district of Arcot, collecting revenues for the Nawab of Arcot.

References

This article contains texts from the following sources, which are now in the public domain:

  • An anonymous staff officer; Historical Record of the Honourable East India Company's First Madras Regiment, London: Smith, Elder and Co; 1843, pp. X-xvi, 119-120
  • Cambridge, Richard Owen: An Account of the War in India between the English and French on the Coast of Coromandel from the Year 1750 to the Year 1760 together with a Relation of the late Remarkable Events on the Malabar Coast, and the Expeditions to Golconda and Surat; with the Operations of the Fleet, London: T. Jefferys, 1761, pp. 82-88
  • Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 406-407