1757 - Operations in Carnatic
The campaign lasted from April to September 1757
In February 1757, Major Caillaud who commanded the British garrison of Trichinopoly (present-day Tiruchirapalli) was forced to lead an expedition to the districts of Madura (present-day Madurai) and Tinnevelly (present-day Tirunelveli) to curb plots made by French intrigue.
In April, the necessity for collecting the revenues of the Nawab Mohammed Ali led the British authorities at Madras (present-day Chennai) to send a further expedition to Nellore on the Pennar River. This latter enterprise, entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Forde of the 39th Regiment of Foot, was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Leyrit, the French governor of Pondicherry (present-day Puducherry), seeing that the British forces were divided between two points so remote as Tinnevelly and Nellore, ordered M. d'Auteuil to attack the British Fort of Elvasanur.
On April 6, d'Auteuil left with a force consisting of 200 Europeans and 1,000 Cipayes and soon captured Elvasanur. The same month, the Marquis de Bussy was preparing to march to the relief of Chandernagore in Bengal at the head of 500 French and 4,000 Cipayes when he heard that the place had surrendered.
On May 12, d'Auteuil concentrated all his troops (150 Europeans, 2,000 Cipayes and 10 pieces of artillery) and, leaving Pondicherry almost defenceless, advanced on Trichinopoly.
Meanwhile, on May 15, Bussy's force laid siege to Vizagapatam (present-day Visakhapatnam).
French failure in front of Trichinopoly
On May 14, d'Auteuil's force appeared before Trichinopoly. The position of the British garrison was never more critical during the whole course of the war than at this moment. The best of the troops were absent with Caillaud; and Captain Joseph Smith, who was left in command, had but 700 Sepoys and less than 165 British (150 men of the Madras European Battalion and 15 artillerymen) with which to hold the fortifications and to guard 500 French prisoners who were still within the walls. D'Auteuil, thinking to capture Trichinopoly at small cost, tried to scare Smith into surrender by bombardment and by incessant petty attacks, but Smith held his ground.
On May 15, the Madras government was informed of the arrival of a French force in front of Trichinopoly. They instructed Colonel John Adlercron to launch a diversionary attack.
On May 20, d'Auteuil summoned the British garrison to surrender but Smith rejected his offer.
On May 21, d'Auteuil heard that Caillaud was on his way from Madura with 120 Europeans and 1,200 Sepoys to relieve Trichinopoly. To prevent Caillaud from entering the town, d'Auteuil deployed his troops to the south and east of Trichinopoly.
On May 25, Caillaud appeared, having hastened back with all speed from Madura and by extreme skill and perseverance passed his force by night unnoticed through the midst of the French camp into Trichinopoly. The same day, Adlercron, at the head of the 39th Foot (430 men) and 800 Sepoys, marched out against the town of Uttamatur (present-day Uttamapalaiyam located about 150 km to the south-west of Trichinopoly) defended by 100 Sepoys and 10 French artillerymen.
This had the desired effect of alarming the French. D'Auteuil retired to Pondicherry and Trichinopoly was once more in safety.
Meanwhile Adlercron had captured Uttamatur while the small French garrison managed to take refuge in Wandewash (present-day Vandavasi). However, the French soon reoccupied the town. Adlercron pursued the French and laid siege to Wandewash.
Bussy captures Vizagapatam
Since May 15, Bussy's force (500 French and 4,000 Sepoys) had been besieging and bombarding Vizagapatam which was defended by only 150 British soldiers and 500 Sepoys.
On June 25, the garrison of Vizagapatam finally surrendered. The British also lost to the French their factories of Madapollam (June 27), Ingeram (June 29) and Bunderbalanka (June 30) located at the mouth of the Godavari River.
On June 27, the British garrison of the town of Masulipatam (present-day Machilipatnam), located on one of the mouths of the Krishna River on the Bay of Bengal, surrendered to a small French force.
British retreat from Wandewash
The French soon assembled a relief force to lift the siege of Wandewash. The expedition was placed under the command of Colonel Saubinet and consisted of 400 Europeans and 200 Cipayes.
On June 1, when the French relief force finally reached Wandewash, it was too late to prevent the surrender of the town who was now in the hands of the British. However, the British retired to Madras after setting fire to the town. Saubinet then encamped near Wandewash.
On June 15, Saubinet advanced on Conjeeveram with 200 Europeans, 500 Cipayes and 2 guns. This city, to the exception of its pagoda was unfortified. The pagoda was garrisoned bt 2 coys of Sepoys commanded by Sergeant Lamberton who disputed every street of the town until driven in upon the pagoda. Sergeant Lamberton made such excellent dispositions at the pagoda to receive the French, that they were repulsed with severe loss, and obliged to leave the town. However, before leaving, the French made many destructions in the town and in the surrounding area.
The British authorities in Madras then ordered Adlercron to return to the area of Conjeeveram.
On June 19, Adlercron left St. Thomas' Mount. His corps soon made its junction with Colonel Lawrence's force, crossed the Paliar and advanced on Wandewash. Adlercron then made a halt at Utramalore to await some reinforcements, meanwhile Saubinet entrenched his force near Wandewash.
On June 29, an epidemic broke out in the British camp at Utramalore.
On July 5, Adlercron moved his camp and the epidemic ceased almost instantly.
On July 11, Adlercron encamped very near Saubinet's entrenchments. A British force of about 2,700 men (700 men from the 39th Foot and from the Madras European Battalion, 2,000 Sepoys) was now facing a French force of some 2,300 men (700 European infantry, 100 hussars, 1,500 Cipayes).
On July 16, 500 cavalrymen of the nawab's army arrived at the British camp to reinforce Adlercron. The same day, Lawrence assumed general command of the British force.
On July 17, Lawrence attacked the French entrenchments with 300 Indian cavalrymen closely followed by 100 Europeans and a gun. This attack gave no result.
On July 26, Lawrence retired towards Conjeeveram.
On July 28, Lawrence's force arrived at Conjeeveram. Lawrence left 500 Europeans and 1,500 Sepoys to defend this town, the rest retiring to the different posts they had been taken from.
In August, orders from Great Britain arrived, recalling Colonel Adlercron and the 39th Foot. However, the War Office allowed the men to enter the Company's service and most of them volunteered, those in Bengal joining the Bengal European Regiment and those at Madras joining the Madras European Battalion serving in Carnatic.
Commodore James, of the East India Company's service, in the Revenge (22), had been stationed off Pondicherry to watch the motions of the French and had been joined there by the HMS Triton (24).
In September, a strong French squadron arrived at Pondicherry and drove off Commodore James' two vessels.
On September 8, the City of Madura, after having twice stood British assaults since last February, was finally carried by storm.
On September 9, a French squadron disembarked the 2nd and 3rd battalions of Lorraine Infanterie (1,000 regular troops) and 50 artillerymen under the command of Colonel Antoine-Séraphin Baudoin, Chevalier de Soupire. However, even after the arrival of this reinforcement, the French movements were of small importance. Indeed their inactivity at this period was no less surprising than welcome to the British, for the Presidency of Madras, in the face of their superior numbers, had been obliged to withdraw all its troops into garrison and to stand strictly on the defensive. Indeed, Rear-Admiral Pocock's ships were in a rather bad condition and some of them temporarily unfit for action. Furthermore, an expected British reinforcement under Commodore Charles Stevens, had been detained at Bombay (it arrived on the coast of Coromandel only on January 20 1758).
The secret of the French forbearance was that the governor of Pondicherry, having received positive orders from France to await the arrival of further succours, was fain to content himself with the reduction of a few of the outlying forts of the Carnatic.
Accordingly, in mid-September, Saubinet with a force of 400 Europeans (unspecified number of Cipayes) and some siege artillery besieged and stormed the Fort of Chittapet. A few days later, Saubinet besieged and captured Trinomali.
Thus the campaign of 1757 closed with the advantage to the French. The British now held only a few places in Carnatic.
This article incorporates texts from the following book which is 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, 134-137
- Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, p. 164
- Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 426-428
Castex, Jean-Claude: Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 81-82, 244, 337-338, 518-519, 521-522, 531-532, 537-539, 542-544