1758-12-09 - Battle of Condore
Prelude to the Battle
In September 1758, Bussy, who was commanding a French corps in Deccan, was recalled with his troop to reinforce Lally and support him for the siege of Madras. The only French military presence in this region now consisted of a very small corps under M. de Conflans occupying the Northern Circars. Furthermore, a local rajah revolted against the French.
From December 6 to 8, Forde's and Conflans' army faced each other on the road leading south to Rajahmundry. On December 8, both commanders simultaneously framed independent designs for extricating themselves from the dead-lock. Conflans' plan was to send 6 guns with a sufficient force to a height which commanded the British camp, and which Forde had omitted to occupy. Forde, for his part, had decided to make a detour of 5 km to Condore (unidentified location), from where he could turn Conflans' position and regain the high road to Rajahmundry.
Description of Events
On December 9 at 4:00 am, according to his plan, Forde marched away with his own troops while the rajah's army, which though warned was not ready to move, remained in the camp.
Forde had not proceeded far before he heard the sound of Conflans' guns in his rear and received piteous messages from the rajah for assistance. Turning back he met the rajah's troops in full flight and rallied them, after which the whole force pursued its march and at 8:00 am arrived at Condore.
Conflans, thinking that he had defeated Forde's entire army, followed him quickly, with the idea of preventing his return to his former camp; and in his haste to advance allowed his line to fall into disorder. His French battalion was in his centre, with 13 field-pieces distributed on its flanks, while his right and left wings were composed each of 3,000 Sepoys with some native guns.
As soon as the British forces had occupied Condore, the French army appeared 1 km in their rear moving towards Forde's left flank.
Forde then formed his line. In his centre, he posted the Bengal European Regiment, with 6 guns on their flanks, and his Sepoys, in 2 divisions each of 900 men, on either wing. Forde deployed the rajah's troops on both flanks of his own army. He then advanced under a heavy cannonade from the enemy for some distance before Condore, and halted with his centre in rear of a field of Indian corn, which entirely concealed the British but left the Sepoys uncovered on the plain on either hand. These Sepoys on either flank - for Anunderaj's troops had by this time decamped and concealed themselves in a hollow - were in full sight of the enemy. Now the Sepoys accompanying the British force had, by Clive's order, recently been clothed in red. The French had never seen the scarlet except on the bodies of British troops, and Forde was fully aware of the fact; for he ordered the Sepoys to furl the old-fashioned company flags, which they still carried, as also their regimental colours, that they might be the more easily mistaken for a regular battalion of British. Completely deluded, Conflans advanced his French Europeans towards the 2nd Native Battalion; Forde, who at once saw the enemy were at fault, rode up to the 2nd Native Battalion to encourage them.
In the ardour of their advance Conflans' infantry out-marched their guns and moved forward without them. Their line, from its superiority in numbers, far outflanked the British on both wings; but as it drew nearer, the French battalion in the centre suddenly inclined to the right towards Forde's left wing of Sepoys. Conflans had swallowed the bait laid for him by Forde. The French battalion evidently mistook the Sepoys for British, for before engaging them it dressed its ranks, and then opened fire by platoons at a distance of 180 meters. Long though this range was for the old musket, the 2nd Native Battalion seeing French in front and natives menacing their flank hardly stood to deliver a feeble volley, but immediately broke, despite all the efforts of Forde, and fled away in the direction of Chambole pursued by the enemy's horse.
Conflans, now thinking he had put the British Europeans to flight, at once detached several platoons of his French troops to join in the pursuit. These advanced rapidly, obliquing to their right, but in so doing became somewhat scattered. Forde grasped the opportunity, and directing the Bengal European Regiment to change front and to take the French in flank.
Conflans to his dismay saw a second line of scarlet filed steadily up from behind the Indian corn to the ground whereon the Sepoys had stood, halted and fronted as coolly as if on parade, and then with equal coolness opened fire by volleys of divisions from the left (a battalion of 500 men would have been in 5 divisions, each of 100). The first volley brought down half of the French grenadiers of the Bataillon des Indes, and by the time that the fifth and last division had pulled trigger the whole of Conflans' French battalion was broken up, and flying back in disorder to its guns, 800 meters in rear.
The Bengal European Regiment, elated with their success, now vigorously pursued the enemy, charging in echelon of companies, left in front. Captain Adnet, who commanded the regiment, was leading and captain Yorke with No. 4 company was acting in reserve, to afford immediate assistance to any of our companies needing succour.
The French rallied at their guns and opened a hot grape fire on the advancing British troops. Adnet being mortally wounded and several of his men falling. However, the French had not time to fire more than a round or two when the British fell upon them, drove them from their batteries and captured the 13 guns.
In the meantime the 1st Native Battalion had been taking a leading part in the fight; attacked by the French Native infantry, who vastly outnumbered them; but the British Sepoys held their ground with tenacity.
The French Sepoys, seeing their European comrades in full flight and their guns captured, also fled, and the1st Native Battalion rejoined the British Europeans. The 2nd Native Battalion, who had early in the day fled towards Chambole, now returned to the field and joined the British Army.
No sooner were the Native battalions come than Forde made fresh dispositions, and marched on without losing a moment to attack Conflans' camp, determined to rapidly follow up his success. Forde also attempted to induce Anunderaj to send some of his cavalry ahead, but they were all concealed in the hollow and refused to expose themselves to danger. Forde, therefore, pushed on single-handed without his guns, which, on account of the muddy state of the roads, were left in rear.
The remnants of the French battalion were posted in a hollow way before their camp and had placed in position some heavy guns to protect it and to dispute the British advance.
Forde halted for his guns, deployed his infantry, and took up a position from which he could, at a moment's notice, make a dash on the French positions. This movement had just been completed when the British artillery appeared. Forde then ordered the leading company of the Bengal European Regiment to advance and deliver a volley; when the enemy fled, leaving his camp and remaining guns in the possession of Forde's troops.
The British army now hotly pursued the French. Many of the fugitives threw down their arms and surrendered; the rest, together with the remainder of the French army, ran away in hopeless confusion.
Conflans, after sending off his military chest and 4 field-guns, jumped on a horse and galloped away, not stopping except to change horses till he reached Rajahmundry, 60 km distant.
From the Bataillon des Indes, Conflans lost 6 Officers and 80 men killed or mortally wounded, and 6 officers and 70 men made prisoners or wounded. Furthermore, he lost 32 brass cannon, 50 tumbrils and other carriages, 7 mortars, 3,000 draught bullocks, and all the camp equipage.
The British lost captain Adnet and 15 men of the Bengal European Regiment killed, 4 officers and 30 men wounded, amongst the latter Mr. Johnson political officer serving as a volunteer with the grenadier company of the Bengal Europeans; and over 200 men of the Bengal Native Infantry killed or wounded.
Had the rajah's cavalry been of a better quality, the losses of the French would have been far greater; but Forde's promptness in following up his first success made his victory sufficiently complete.
Order of Battle
British Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: lieutenant-colonel Francis Forde
Summary: 7,600 foot, 500 horse, 6 guns
- Forde's force
- Bengal European Regiment (5 coys) under captain Adnet
- European Artillery (1 coy)
- 6 brass field-pieces
- 6 x 24-pdr battering-pieces
- 1 howitzer
- 3 mortars
- Lascars (100 men)
- Sepoys (1,800 Sepoys)
- Anunderaj's force
- Cavalry (500 men)
- Infantry (5,000 men mostly armed with pikes and bows)
- European gunners (40 men) under Bristol
- 4 field-pieces
French Order of Battle
Summary: 6,500 foot, unknown number of levies, no cavalry and at least 30 guns
- Bataillon des Indes (500 men)
- Sepoys (6,000 men)
- Native levies (2,000)
- Artillery: 13 field guns and at least 17 native guns
This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books 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, 145-146
- Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 442-445
- Innes, P. R.; The History of the Bengal European Regiment, now the Royal Munster Fusiliers and how it helped to win India, 2nd ed., London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1885, pp. 76-80