1757 - Operations in Carnatic

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The campaign lasted from April to September 1757


At the beginning of 1757, the British factories of Ingeram (unidentified location) and Bandermalanka (unidentified location) were taken by the French.

In February 1757, Captain Caillaud, who commanded the British garrison of Trichinopoly (present-day Tiruchirapalli), was ordered to march to the assistance of Yusuf Khan with 120 Europeans, 500 Sepoys and 2 guns. Madura (present-day Madurai) was in the possession of Mahfuz Khan, the rebel brother of the Nawab of Arcot. This forced Caillaud to take a large circuit to get into the Province of Tinnevelly (present-day Tirunelveli) by another road.

Mahfuz Khan vainly tried to oppose Caillaud's march.

On March 5, in France, the second squadron (Zodiaque (74), Belliqueux (64), Guirlande (22)) of d’Aché’s fleet under his personal command, sailed from Brest ( first squadron of 19 vessels had already sailed from France under the command of the Chevalier de Soupire in November 1756). However, a collision between the Guirlande and the Belliqueux and the dismasting of the Zodiaque forced the squadron to return to Brest for repairs.

On March 17, Captain Caillaud effected a junction with Yusuf Khan. Caillaud's Corps then consisted of more than 120 Europeans, some 1,500 Sepoys, 5 guns, and about 550 cavalry.

Caillaud then advanced on Mahfuz Khan's forces (strictly cavalry) who made their escape among the woods.

British failure in front of Nellore

In April, Lieutenant-Colonel Forde of the 39th Regiment of Foot was sent by the British authorities at Madras (present-day Chennai), at the request of the nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan, against his brother Nazeabulla Khan, governor of Nellore on the Pennar River who had refused to pay his arrears. Furthermore, Nazeabulla had obtained the assistance of the French commander at Masulipatam (present-day Machilipatnam) who had sent him some 75 Europeans and a few Sepoys. Abdul Wahab Khan, who commanded the nawab's troops in Nellore, could not pay his men and had been forced to retire from Nellore. Nazeabulla had ceded the ports of Ramahatam (unidentified location) and Krishnapatnam to the French in recognition for their services. Lieutenant-Colonel Forde was at the head of 100 Europeans, 50 Cafres and 300 Sepoys with artillery (2 field pieces, 1 x 18-pdr and 3 royals). The Sepoys were sent by land to Krishnapatnam and Forde and his European troops proceeded by sea to the same destination.

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 Elavanasur.

On April 6, d'Auteuil marched from Pondicherry with a force consisting of 200 Europeans and 1,000 Cipayes against Mir Sahib, the Governor of Elavanasur.

On April 11, a reinforcement of 50 men was ordered from Fort St. David (near Cuddalore) to march with all speed to Trichinopoly.

On April 13, d'Auteuil made himself master of the Fort of Elavanasur.

Leaving a small garrison at Elavanasur, d'Auteuil then advanced to Verdachilum (probably Virudhachalam) where he was joined by reinforcements sent from Pondicherry, Karikal (present-day Karaikal) and all other garrisons.

On April ??, Absul Wahab Khan effected a junction with Forde's Corps at Krishnapatnam. Nellore, some 25 km from Krishnapatnam, was about twice as large as Madras. It had five gates (two large and three small), was surrounded by a mud wall and almost completely surrounded by a dry ditch, except on the northern side along the river.

On April ??, Forde's Corps advanced on Nellore.

The same month (April), the Marquis de Bussy was preparing to march to the relief of Chandernagore (present-day Chandannagar) in Bengal at the head of 500 French and 4,000 Cipayes when he heard that the place had surrendered.

At the beginning of May, Caillaud's Corps marched on Madura.

On May 2 in France, d’Aché finally sailed from Brest aboard the Zodiaque (74) to join ships of the Compagnie des Indes at Lorient.

On May 3, Forde began battering the walls of Nellore. On the same day in France, d’Aché’s squadron (Zodiaque (74) and ships of the Compagnie des Indes) sailed from Lorient for Madagascar, on its way to India.

On May 4, d'Auteuil marched from Verdachilum to Worriarpollam (probably Udayarpalayam).

On May 5, Forde's artillery made a practicable breach in the walls of Nellore. At daybreak, he launched an assault: the 50 Cafres led by Ensign Elliot advanced to the foot of the breach, followed by the 300 Sepoys (in 3 coys). However, the Sepoys took cover in a ditch some 60 paces from the breach and refused to advance any farther. The 100 Europeans joined the Cafres at the breach. Together, they advanced to the top of the breach where they were warmly received by the defenders with pikes, firelocks and stones. After a fight of some 45 minutes, Forde retreated. In this action, Forde lost 40 Europeans killed or wounded and about 50 Cafres and Sepoys. Colonel Forde then sent a report to the Presidency of Madras and awaited further instructions.

When the Presidency of Madras heard of Forde's failure in front of Nellore and of the presence of a French force at Worriarpollam, it prepared 300 Europeans and 500 Sepoys to march southwards from Madras and instructed Colonel Forde to effect a junction with this corps.

On May ??, while preparations were underway at Madras, Captain Polier, who was posted at Chengalaput (present-day Chengalpattu) and Carangoly (unidentified location), was ordered to capture the French fort of Utramalore (present-day Uttiramerur). As Polier arrived in front of the fort, the Cipayes garrisoning it retired. Polier threw 40 Sepoys into the fort and returned to Chengalaput where he encamped.

On May ??, troops were sent by sea from Pondicherry to reinforce the French garrison of Allumparva (unidentified location), bringing it to 100 Europeans and Topasses and 300 Sepoys. This garrison rapidly retook Utramalore.

On May 7, d'Auteuil tried to force the forest passes leading from Worriarpollam towards Trichinopoly but was repulsed. He then buy his passage from the palaiyakkarars (barons) controlling these passes.

On May 12

  • French
    • An advanced party of d'Auteuil's forces encamped near the island of Seringham (present-day Srirangam).
  • British
    • Caillaud arrived in front of Madura, a large town fortified in the old way with two walls, round towers and a dry ditch. Mahfuz Khan had managed to assemble a force of 850 cavalry and 3,000 foot and 14 guns to defend the place.

On May ??, Captain Caillaud sent to Trichinopoly for some battering guns. While making preparations for the attack of the place, he received a letter from the Presidency of Madras informing him that a French force was in motion, probably against Trichinopoly.

On ???, Captain Caillaud launched a surprise attack on Madura. The advanced party managed, using ladders, to get over the first wall unnoticed. It was spotted as it prepared to climb the inner wall. The defenders illuminated the scene with blue lights (a mix of sulphur and antimony) and began to fire from the walls. The advanced party retreated with few losses. The same day, Caillaud received another letter from the Presidency, informing him that the French did not seem to be marching on Trichinopoly and that a small reinforcement had been sent from Fort St. George for the garrison of Trichinopoly.

Caillaud was then informed that the French were advancing on Trichinopoly. He immediately set off for Trichinopoly with all his European troops and 1,000 of the best Sepoys with four days provisions, leaving the rest of his army behind to blockade Madurai.

On May 13, d'Auteuil crossed the Kaveri River with his entire army (150 Europeans, 2,000 Cipayes and 10 pieces of artillery) and took position at Worriour (present-day Woraiyur), a pagoda 4 km west of 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 place had strong fortifications and commanded a large tract of country. It was a the key to Madurai and Tinnevelly. 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.

Map of Trichinopoly - Source: "History of the British Army" volume II by J. W. Fortescue

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 (a battalion of 900 men, some 3,500 Sepoys, 100 European cavalry and hussars and a great number of native horse) in four divisions, forming a chain across the plain to the south and east of Trichinopoly; his cavalry, divided in small parties, was posted in front of these divisions. However, a tract of rice paddies extending some 15 km west of Trichinopoly had been considered unpassable and left unguarded.

Captain Caillaud received exact intelligence of the French positions and decided to advance across these unguarded rice paddies.

On May 25

  • British
    • Caillaud appeared, having hastened back with all speed from Madura. Around 2:00 p.m., he set out on the direct plain road to deceive the French. At the close of the evening, he struck out of the road. Around 10:00 p.m., his troops got into the rice fields. Caillaud detached 2 companies of Sepoys to the right to draw the attention of the French blockading forces which they successfully accomplished. Meanwhile, Caillaud's main body pursued its exhausting march for seven hours before reaching the fort of Trichinopoly.
    • The expedition intended by the Presidency of Madras to relieve Trichinopoly finally set out from Fort St. George under the command of Colonel Adlercron. It consisted of the 39th Foot (430 men) and 800 Sepoys. Avoiding the direct road to Fort St. David (near Cuddalore) where two French redoubts could delay his advance, Adlercron took the road of Chengalaput and Wandiwash (present-day Vandavasi).

In the night of May 26 to 27

  • British
    • The 2 detached companies of Sepoys rejoined the rest of Caillaud's small army in Trichinopoly. *French
    • D'Auteuil retired to the island of Seringham. He was blamed for his bad manoeuvre and ordered to return to Pondicherry. Trichinopoly was once more in safety.

From May 26, when the French withdrew from the neighbourhood of Trichinopoly, Captain Caillaud was at liberty to proceed for the reduction of Madurai. However, he could not count on any reinforcements from Madras, all troops being engaged against the French.

When d'Auteuil arrived at Pondicherry, the command of the army was taken from him.

As Adlercron was approaching Utramalore, its garrison (100 Sepoys and 10 French artillerymen) retired to Wandiwash. Adlercron then stopped at Utramalore to destroy the French fort and wait for the arrival of Forde's Corps.

While Adlercron was at Utramalore, he received letters from the Presidency of Madras informing him that Captain Caillaud had managed to throw additional forces in Trichinopoly and that Adlercron's intervention was no more necessary. Consequently, he was ordered to invest the Fortress of Wandiwash.

Bussy captures Vizagapatam

Since May 15, Bussy's force (500 French and 4,000 Cipayes) had been besieging and bombarding Vizagapatam which was defended by only 140 British soldiers and 420 Sepoys and Topasses.

On June 20, Bussy passed the Chicacole with 600 Europeans and 6,000 Cipayes with 30 cannon. They were accompanied by 4,000 pikemen supplied by the nizam.

On June 24 around 3:00 p.m., a large party of horse forming the van of Bussy's Army approached Vizagapatam.

On June 25, Bussy's entire army arrived in the vicinity of Vizagapatam. Bussy immediately summoned the chief of the factory who accepted to capitulate and the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war.

On June 27, the British garrison of the town of Madapollam (probably present-day Matlapalem), located on one of the mouths of the Krishna River on the Bay of Bengal, surrendered to a small French force.

On June 29, Bussy’s forces made themselves master of the British factory of Ingeram (unidentified location).

On June 30, Bussy’s forces captured the British factory of Bunderbalanka (unidentified location) located at the mouth of the Godavari River.

The capture of Vizagapatam and of the other factories located at the mouth of the Godavari River gave the French the entire possession of the coast from Ganjam to Masulipatam.

British retreat from Wandewash

The greatest part of the French army, who had besieged Trichinopoly, reached Pondicherry. 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 5, Colonel Adlercron marched to Wandiwash with his army.

On June 6, Adlercron entered the town of Wandiwash but before his heavy pieces could open on the fortress, the French relief force finally reached Wandiwash. It was too late to prevent the surrender of the town who was now in the hands of the British but the fortress was still intact.

Adlercron withdrew from the town of Wandiwash after setting fire to the town and waited for further instructions from Madras. Saubinet then encamped near Wandiwash.

The Presidency of Madras instructed Adlercron to return to Madras.

As Adlercron retreated, the French closely followed his army. A few hours after Adlercron's Army had left Utramalore, the French reoccupied it.

On June 15, Saubinet advanced from Utramalore on Conjeeveram (present-day Kanchipuram) with 200 Europeans, 500 Cipayes and 2 guns. This city, to the exception of its pagoda was unfortified. The pagoda was garrisoned by 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. In this action, the French lost 1 officer and 6 Europeans killed; and 10 Europeans wounded. 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's column left St. Thomas' Mount near Chengalaput.

On June 22, Colonel Lawrence landed at Sadras (present-day Sadurangapattinam) with about 100 men from Fort St. David and marched to effect a junction with Adlercron's Army near Chengalaput.

His corps 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 27, Captain Caillaud marched from Trichinopoly on Madura at the head of 90 Europeans, 400 Sepoys and two 24-pdrs. With this force, he effected a junction with Lieutenant Rumbold who had maintained his post before Madura with the Cafres and Sepoys previously left under his command.

On June 29, an epidemic broke out in Adlercron's camp at Utramalore.

On July 5, Adlercron moved his camp and the epidemic ceased almost instantly.

On July 9, Caillaud's battery opened on the walls of Madura and, before noon, a breach was made. At 2:00 p.m., Caillaud launched an assault against the breach but was driven back. In this attack, he lost about 35 Europeans and Cafres and 100 Sepoys. Caillaud then took dispositions to reduce the place by famine. Mahfuz Khan opened negotiations. The amount of his compensation was finally agreed and Madura was delivered to Caillaud who threw a large garrison of Sepoys into the town and then returned to Trichinopoly.

On July 10, Adlercron's Army then advanced once more on Wandiwash where the French army occupied strong entrenchments.

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 army of the Nawab of Arcot 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 of the nawab's horse supported by 100 Europeans and a gun. This attack gave no result.

On July 26, Lawrence, considering the French positions too strong to be attacked, sent back part of the army to Chengalaput and Carangoly and the remainder to 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 July, d’Aché’s squadron, which was on its way to India, finally reached Madagascar after a difficult voyage, where it had lost 19 officers and 300 men to scurvy.

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.

Maratha incursions

In 1757, the bodies of Maratha horse who roamed Deccan under the command of Prime Minister Balaji Baji Rao had made themselves master of the Province of Sira bordering the country of Kadapa. The prime minister left General Balwant Rao with about 8,000 horse at Cadanattam (unidentified location) some 130 km from Arcot, charging the general to collect the long overdue tributes from the countries of Arcot and Trichinopoly.

General Balwant Rao sent an agent to the Nawab of Arcot and another to Pondicherry. The Nawab of Arcot managed to negotiate a reduced tribute but had to ask the Presidency of Madras to advance the money. The Maratha agent in Arcot and the Nawab of Arcot were invited to Madras to discuss the matter.

On August 8, the Nawab of Arcot and the Maratha agent, Amoorta Rao, arrived at Madras to initiate negotiations on the tribute due by to the Marathas by the Nawab of Arcot. Finally, the Presidency accepted to deduct the tribute from the nawab's next payments to the East India Company.

At about that time, Mora Rao proposed to the Nawab of Kadapa Abdul Majid Khan, to the Namab of Kanul and to the King of Mysore to ally together to retake the Province of Sira from the Marathas. As soon as the Maratha General Balwant Rao heard about these diplomatic negotiations, he marched against the Nawab of Kadapa, killed him in battle and made himself master of the greatest part of his country. However, Abdul Mahomed Khan, with some of the relations and troops of the late nawab, took refuge in the fort of Sidhout. He was finally obliged to accommodate with the besiegers for a sum of money and to deliver half the country to the Marathas.

While Balwant Rao was invading the country of Kadapa, The Maratha agent Amoorta Rao advanced with a part of the Maratha troops against Trepalour (unidentified location), a dependency of Kadapa. He was driven back, mortally wounded and brought back as prisoner. He died a few days afterwards.

The Marathas then turned back and rejoined Prime Minister Balaji Baji Rao at Poona (present-day Pune).

French reinforcements

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).

By September, the French had 1,900 Europeans on the Coast of Coromandel, excluding Bussy's forces. For its part, the East India Company could field 1,300 men (Europeans?). This force was increased by the enlistment of 334 men of the 39th Foot, only 84 soldiers of this regiment re-embarked for Great Britain on the China ships.

On September 8, Soupire’s squadron (8 vessels of the French Navy, 11 vessels of the Compagnie des Indes) reached Pondicherry, driving off Commodore James' two vessels.

On the same day (September 8), the City of Madura, after having twice stood British assaults since last February, was finally carried by storm.

On September 9, Soupire’s 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. Furthermore, some 600 sailors were also landed. 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.

The French naval squadron then returned to Île de France (present-day Mauritius Island).

On September 20, Saubinet's French army, who had remained entrenched near Wandiwash, detached a force of 400 Europeans (unspecified number of Cipayes) and some siege artillery against the Fort of Chittapet (unidentified location) which was defended by Nizar Mahomed Khan with a party of Sepoys, assisted by a sergeant and 16 men from Fort St. George. The French stormed the place.

At that time, the East India Company could field 1,300 men (Europeans?). This force was increased by the enlistment of 334 men of the 39th Foot, only 84 soldiers of this regiment re-embarked for Great Britain on the China ships.

A few days later, Saubinet besieged and captured Trinomali.

Being outnumbered, the British resolved to suspend all operations and to collect their troops in several garrisons. Accordingly, they recalled the army from Conjeeveram to Madras; redirected Major Polier to protect Tripety, threatened by Nazeabulla Khan, the governor of Nellore; and recalled Captain Caillaud from Madura to Trichinopoly with all his Europeans and most of his Sepoys, instructing him to leave Yusuf Khan with the rest of the Sepoys to protect Madura and Tinnevelly.

Thus the campaign of 1757 closed with the advantage to the French. The British now held only a few places in Carnatic.

On December 14, d’Aché reached Port Louis in Île de France with the second squadron of his fleet. There it resupplied and was joined by the first squadron, which had already disembarked 1,000 foot at Pondicherry in India.


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
  • 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. 103-123
  • 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

Other sources

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

Hartmann, Claude: Les trois batailles aux Indes d'André-Antoine de Serquigny comte d'Aché (avril et août 1758-septembre 1759). In: Outre-mers, tome 98, n°370-371, 1er semestre 2011. Le contact colonial dans l'empire français : XIXe-XXe siècles. pp. 231-243