1758 - Siege of Madras

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The siege took place from December 1758 to February 1759

Introduction

At the end of 1758, the Comte Lally at the head of all French forces that he could assemble advanced against Madras.

On December 13, Lally's entire force encamped in the plain, about 2 km to south-west of Fort St. George. Nearer approach to the fort was barred by two rivers, the more northerly of them, called the Triplicane, entering the sea about 1,000 meters south of the glacis; the other, known as the North River, washing the actual foot of the glacis, but turning from thence abruptly southward to join the Triplicane and flow with it into the sea. Lally therefore passed round to the other side of Fort St. George, the British evacuating the outer posts before him as he advanced.

In mid-December, Major Caillaud, who had been sent from Madras to obtain assistance from the King of Tanjore, from Tondeman and other palaiyakkarars (barons), set off from Tranquebar and reached Tanjore. He soon found that Monacjee had been replaced by a new prime minister. Caillaud was promised the assistance of 500 horse. Finally Caillaud managed to obtain 300 horse and 300 Sepoys.

Description of events

Plan of Fort St. George and the city of Madras - Source: Salmon, T., "Modern History or, the Present State of all Nations", 1739

On December 14, Lally established himself in the town of Madras on the north-western front of the fort, and thence along its northern side to the sea. With his right thus resting on the town and his left on the beach, be prepared to open the siege of Madras. Lally Infanterie took its quarters near the beach while Lorraine Infanterie and the Bataillon de l'Inde took position on the rising ground to its right. The town was rich, and the French troops, with the indiscipline now become habitual to them, fell at once to indiscriminate plunder, with the result that in a short time a great many of them were reeling drunk. Colonel Draper thereupon proposed a sortie in force from Fort St. George, and the suggestion was approved as tending to raise the spirit of the garrison.

At 11:00 a.m. on December 14, Draper with 500 men and 2 guns marched out from the western ravelin of the fort, and holding his course westward for some distance turned north into the streets of the town to attack the French right, while Major Brereton with another 100 men followed a route parallel to him, but nearer to the fort, in order to cover his retreat. By some mistake Draper's drummers began to beat the Grenadiers’ March directly when they entered the town, and so gave the alarm. The French formed in a cross street to receive the attack, but in the confusion mistook the line of the British advance and awaited them at the head of the wrong street, too far to the westward. Draper therefore came up full on their left flank, poured in a volley, and bringing up his guns opened fire with grape. In a few minutes the whole of the French had taken refuge in the adjoining houses, and Draper, ordering his guns to cease fire, rushed forward to secure 4 cannon which the French had brought with them. The French officer in charge of them offered to surrender both himself and his guns, when Draper, looking behind him, found that he was followed by but four men, the rest having, like the enemy, fled for shelter to the houses. Had the British done their duty Draper's attack would probably have put an end to the siege then and there; but as things were, the Bataillon de l'Inde, hearing the guns cease, quickly rallied, and streaming out of the houses in superior numbers opened a destructive fire. Draper was obliged to abandon the guns and order a retreat, the French following after him in hot pursuit. His position was critical, for he could not retire by the route of his advance, but was obliged to take a road leading to the northern face of the fort. The way was blocked by a stagnant arm of the North River with but one bridge; and it lay within the power of Lally Infanterie, on the left of the French position, to reach this bridge before him and so to cut off his retreat. Bussy, however, who was in command on the French left, took no advantage of this opportunity. Brereton came up in time to cover Draper's retreat, and the British re-entered the fort in safety. They had lost over 50 killed, 50 wounded, and 103 prisoners in this abortive attack; and though the French had suffered as great a loss (Saubenet was mortally wounded), yet they were victorious whereas the British were demoralised. Had Lally Infanterie done its duty Madras would probably have fallen in a few days. So ended an episode most thoroughly discreditable to both parties.

The same day (December 14), Chief Engineer J. Call supervised the construction of a dam to shut up communication between the river and the ditch, thus preventing the ditch to be drained. He also set up a palisade in an opening under the south flank of the Royal Bastion.

On December 15

  • French
    • Lally began the construction of batteries over against the north and north-western fronts of the fort, from the town to the sea. However, his siege guns were still at sea.
  • British
    • The British started the erection a battery on the glacis before the shoulder of the east face of the North-East Bastion and of a palisade before the Sea Gate.
    • Captain Preston, who commanded the garrison at Chengalaput (present-day Chengalpattu), never ceased to harass the French by constant petty attacks and threatening of their communications.

At 11:00 p.m. in the night of 15 to 16, 40 volunteers and 40 Sepoys tried to make a sortie but were immediately driven back.

On December 16, 100 British soldiers and 55 Sepoys were assigned to complete the work on the battery and palisade started the day before. These works were completed the following night.

On December 17, the British assigned 100 men, 2 sergeants, 1 corporal and 200 natives to working parties but rain prevented any serious progress.

On December 17or 18, Captain Preston sent Lieutenant Airey from Chengalaput to intercept a French convoy, nailing a large mortar and two guns and carrying off some ammunition with all the bullocks. By then 33 men had deserted the French army and taken refuge in Madras.

In the night of December 17 to 18, the French erected a breastwork from the houses on the beach near the Old Town to the sea side.

On December 18, the British working party consisted of 100 men.

In the night of December 18 to 19, the French erected a 15 m. long breastwork, about 100 m. closer to Fort St. George.

In the night of December 19 to 20

  • French
    • The French began to work on a parallel, erecting some 50 m. of it to the west of their most advanced breastwork.
    • The first French guns planted behind their first breastwork finally opened.
  • British
    • The British launched a sortie with 21 Europeans and some Sepoys but they were immediately driven back.
    • A detachment of 10 Sepoys coys advancing towards St. Thomas' Mount was easily repulsed.

On December 20, a British working party of 100 men finished the parapet of the North-East Bastion.

In the night of December 20 to 21, the British artillery regularly fired in the direction of the French works.

On December 21 at 10:00 a.m., 20 British and 1,000 Sepoys under the command of Town-Major Bannatyne and Ensign Crawley set out of Fort St. George and advanced southwards but retreated when they saw a superior force blocking their way. British guns of the Nawab's Bastion fired on limbered French guns progressing towards the breastworks. The British then sent out 300 Sepoys from the Western Gate to nail these guns. However, the rapid intervention of 200 French horse forced them to retire. The Nawab of Arcot was evacuated from Madras by sea and landed at Negapatam (present-day Nagapattinam) from whence he proceeded to Trichinopoly ( present-day Tiruchirapalli). His cavalry then gradually deserted Madras.

In the night of December 21 to 22, the British artillery regularly fired in the direction of the French works.

On December 22, the guns for the French breaching batteries arrived on board the sloop Harlem.

In the night of December 22 to 23, the British artillery regularly fired in the direction of the French works.

On December 23, the Thames arrived at Madras with the news of Forde's victory over the Marquis de Conflans at the Battle of Condore.

In the night of December 23 to 24, the British artillery intensified its fire in the direction of the French works.

In the night of December 24 to 25, the British artillery kept a lively fire in the direction of the French works.

In the night of December 25 to 26, the British artillery kept a lively fire in the direction of the French works which did not progress significantly.

On December 26

  • British
    • The British had 100 Europeans and 300 Sepoys assigned to working parties.
    • Muhammed Yusuf Khan, the Subahdar (provincial governor) of Nellore, returned to Chengalaput at the head of Sepoys of the East India Company after having reduced several small posts and ravaged the country in all directions.

In the night of December 26 to 27, the British artillery kept a lively fire on the north front.

On December 27

  • British
    • 100 Europeans and 250 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.
    • The cavalry of Muhammed Yusuf Khan was despatched to ravage with fire and sword the country around Conjeeveram (present-day Kanchipuram) from which the French drew their supplies.
    • Muhammed Yusuf Khan's infantry; supported by 80 men of the Madras European Regiment, 2 field-pieces and 6 Sepoys coys (600 men); left Chengalaput and marched towards St. Thomas' Mount.

In the night of December 27 to 28, the French threw up some earth among the ruins of the houses a little to the north of the old hospital. They also thickened and heightened their work to the north which now looked more like a battery than a parallel.

On December 28

  • British
    • 100 Europeans and 300 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.
    • Another unsuccessful sally was launched from Fort St. George through the Triplicane.

In the night of December 28 to 29

  • French
    • The French formed a stout parapet with three embrasures to the westward.
  • British
    • The British artillery kept a lively fire to the north and west.

On December 29

  • French
    • In the afternoon, the French worked on their battery.
  • British
    • 100 Europeans and 300 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.
    • Muhammed Yusuf Khan was joined by his cavalry which had previously been detached against Conjeeveram.
    • Around 10:00 a.m., the defenders of Madras saw that a red flag had superseded the French white flag on top of St. Thomas' Mount and correctly assumed that Captain Preston and Muhammed Yusuf Khan had retaken the position.

In the night of December 29 to 30, the British artillery kept a lively fire, preventing the French from working much.

On December 30

  • French
    • A detachment of 500 Europeans (including 100 cavalry), 300 Cipayes and 800 cavalry sent by Lally attacked Muhammed Yusuf near St. Thomas' Mount. Lally's detachment was repulsed and the British captured 2 field-pieces. In this action, the French lost 15 men killed and Colonel Kenelly, 1 captain and 25 men wounded.
  • British
    • 100 Europeans and 300 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

In the night of December 30 to 31

  • French
    • The French worked on two batteries to the west of Fort St. George.
  • British
    • The artillery kept a particularly lively fire.

On December 31

  • British
    • At daybreak, a large body of British Sepoys, the 1st Grenadier Company and the troop of horse went over the bar to the southward and surprised an outpost occupied by French Cipayes in the village of Trivelcane, intercepting several letters.
    • 100 Europeans, 40 Coolies, 30 Lascars, 10 Peons and 60 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.
    • Around 10:00 p.m., the defenders were informed that Preston's force had repulsed an attack at St. Thomas' Mount.

At the beginning of January 1759, M. de La Tour seized the Fort of Sadras (present-day Sadurangapattinam), belonging to the Dutch. The Dutch soldiers were then replaced by a French garrison.

On January 1, the British had 100 Europeans, 40 Coolies, 30 Lascars, and 100 Sepoys assigned to working parties.

In the night of January 1 to 2, the British artillery kept a particularly lively fire.

On January 2

  • French
    • At daybreak, the two French western batteries (“Lorraine” consisting of 4 cannon and 2 mortars, and “Lally” consisting of 4 13-inch mortars) opened on Fort St. George. Some 10 British heavy pieces answered and soon knocked 2 French guns to pieces. By 8:00 a.m., the French had withdrawn their guns from the battery. However, the French mortars continued to bombard the place until 7:30 p.m., throwing 80 shells into the fort, causing much mischief to the building but neither killing or wounding a single person.
    • Major-General de Soupire at the head of 650 Europeans including 150 cavalry attacked the three divisions of Muhammed Yusuf Khan at Trevambore near St. Thomas' Mount. Their initial attack put the first division in some disorder and they captured its two guns. The first division retired and joined the second division. Together, they counter-attacked and put the French to flight and retaking the lost guns. In this action, the French lost 100 men killed or wounded, including 2 officers. The Madras European Regiment lost 6 men killed or wounded and the Sepoys 180.

In the night of January 2 to 3

  • French
    • The French closed up the embrasures of their western battery and strengthened the northern one.
  • British
    • The artillery fired at the French works.

On January 3, the British had 100 Europeans and 200 Sepoys assigned to working parties.

In the night of January 3 to 4, the British artillery fired at the French works. The French opened the epaulment of their northern battery and repaired part of their western battery.

On January 4, the British had 100 Europeans and 250 Sepoys assigned to working parties.

In the night of January 4 to 5

  • French
    • The French finished the facing, almost opened seven embrasures in their northern battery where they placed three guns. They also placed three guns in their western battery.
  • British
    • The artillery fired at the French works.

On January 5

  • French
    • The French did not fire on Fort St. George.
  • British
    • 100 Europeans and 200 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.
    • At 6:00 p.m., 100 men were assigned to the erection of a battery of five guns behind the covered way in the saliant place of arms before the demi-bastion.

In the night of January 5 to 6, the British artillery fired very briskly at the French works.

On January 6

  • French
    • At daybreak, the artillery bombarded Fort St. George with the northern battery (6 guns and 6 mortars) and the western battery (7 guns and 1 howitzer), continuing till about 5:00 p.m. and throwing some 150 shells, besides shot, chiefly into and over the town.
  • British
    • 100 Europeans were assigned to working parties
    • The artillery answered boldly.

In the night of January 6 to 7, the cannonade from both sides was very sporadic. Around 4:00 a.m., three boats, previously captured from the British at Sadras, landed at the British sea gate. These boats were loaded with 150 24-pdr shot, 100 empty cartridges, 50 steel caps, 50 barrel of powder and 1,500 sand bags destined to the besiegers.

On January 7

  • French
    • The artillery fire continued very brisk till 5:00 p.m.
    • The French began to work on a new battery near the burying-ground.
  • British
    • Lieutenant Brooke of the artillery was killed.
    • The working parties could do nothing.

The French batteries continued to bombard the fort throughout the month, but with no very great effect. The indiscipline which Lally had permitted during his earlier operations told heavily upon the efficiency of the besieging force; and everything moved slowly and with friction.

On January 8, the British assembled a pioneer company (2 officers, 6 sergeants, 6 corporals, 88 privates). Two similar companies were created with Sepoys. In the evening 100 Europeans and 100 Sepoys repaired the embrasures, platforms and forwarded the battery in the covered way before the demi-bastion.

On January 9

  • French
    • The French opened two additional embrasures in their battery near the burying-ground. During that day, their fire was very brisk from their cannon but few shells were thrown.
    • In the evening, two French ships anchored near St. Thomas' Mount.
  • British
    • The British posted 10 grenadiers in the north-east angle of the covered way to fire into the French embrasures and two 12-pdrs were fired from the new British battery.
    • 100 Europeans and 100 Sepoys with 6 artificers were assigned to working parties who were employed in repairing the embrasures, platforms and other damage and in cutting up a damaged stone platform on the old north-east bastion, and laying one of wood. A 12 feet thick and 7½ feet high blind was begun 11 m. behind the flank of the demi-bastion to cover the people on that work from enemy's shot.

in the night of January 9 to 10

  • French
    • After 11:00 p.m., the French threw a good many shot and shells.
    • The French carried on part of a zig-zag about 30 m., nearly westward of their northern battery and, taking a turn, another zig-zag of about 60 m. towards the sea side; drew part of a trench from the little house in the Pettah towards the bridge; and repaired their shattered merlons with sand bags.
  • British
    • The artillery was almost silent.
    • 100 pioneers, 50 grenadiers and 160 Sepoys with 6 artificers were assigned to working parties. They completed the covered way battery (4 guns), filled bags of earth at the foot of the demi-bastion, repaired the parapets of many bastions and layed two wooden platforms on the first bastion, replacing two damaged stone platforms.

In the night of January 10 to 11

  • French
    • The artillery was almost silent.

The French deepened the zig-zags begun the preceding night and extended the zig-zag stretching towards the sea almost to the beach, drawn their trench from the house to the bridge of Pettah and opened a battery (2 guns) from the kitchen of the new hospital.

  • British
    • 90 pioneers, 60 grenadiers and 160 Sepoys were assigned to working parties. They repaired the damaged merlons and platforms of the north front, dismounted some disabled guns and made blinds before the doors and windows of the hospital under the old west curtain.

On January 11

  • French
    • The French brought a couple of field pieces near the bar. French artillery kept a pretty brisk fire but threw very few shells.
  • British
    • Several guns of the fort were dismounted.

In the night of January 11 to 12, a British party disturbed work on the enemy's zig-zags to the northwards. The British had the pioneer coy and 170 Sepoys assigned to working parties.

On January 12

  • French
    • The French were now directing the brunt of their attack against the northern bastions of the fort and additional defences were begun in that quarter.
    • At 7:00 p.m., a French party advanced towards the north-east saliant angle of the covered way and opened fire.
  • British
    • At daybreak, the British grenadiers of the 3rd Battalion under Captain Campbell supported by 100 Europeans and 300 Sepoys all under Major Brereton advanced by the sea side towards the bar of the Triplicane, bypassing a French outpost. They marched to the Governor's garden-house and found 50 men and 2 small field pieces drawn in a street south of that house. The French fired two discharges of grapeshot within 50 paces and then broke and fled. The British captured the 2 guns and took 1 officer and 6 men prisoners. The French lost about 12 men killed or wounded; the British lost 1 men killed, Lieutenant Robson mortally wounded and 9 men wounded.

In the night of January 12 to 13

  • French
    • The French fired from their approaches on a small British party posted on the saliant angle. They also fired with four guns from the new hospital. They covered the head of their zig-zag near the sea by a small return or crochet.
  • British
    • 78 pioneers and 180 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 13

  • French
    • The Cipayes worked to raise a breastwork to the southward of the bar for their defence.
    • A British shell fell behind Lally's battery and set fire to a few houses which communicated to a powder magazine and blew it up.

In the night of January 13 to 14

  • French
    • The French managed to complete the crochet which they had begun the night before.
  • British
    • The British fired musketry and grape shots in the direction of the crochet being built at the head of the French zig-zag. They also fired from the Royal Bastion and a demi-bastion to impede work.
    • 75 pioneers, 120 Europeans and 170 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who carried away the earth accumulated at the shoulder of the demi-bastion, repaired the palisade of the bastion, cleared away the ruined parapets of the north-east bastion, and erected a new one.

In the night of January 14 to 15, the British maintained a brisk fire of musketry, cannon and mortars from their covered way and the works of the north front at the enemy's approaches. The British had the pioneer coy, the 1st grenadier coy, 90 Europeans and 2 Sepoy coys assigned to working parties who finished the parapet of the old north-east bastion and mounted 3 guns in it; cleared the earth from the face of the demi-bastion.

On January 15, the French artillery kept a very brisk fire and their north battery was augmented to 10 cannon which fired in salvoes on the old north-east bastion and dismounted two of its three guns.

In the night of January 15 to 16

  • French
    • The French drove out a party guarding the boats. They also enlarged their north battery to 12 embrasures and advanced their works some 20 m.
  • British
    • The British kept up a lively fire on the French approaches.
    • 64 pioneers, 60 grenadiers of the 2nd Battalion and 130 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who repaired the parapet of the old north-east bastion and the palisade before the battery near the sea.

On January 16, the French threw several shells into the town, particularly in the north end, and killed or wounded more men than in any preceding days.

In the night of January 16 to 17

  • French
    • The French completed their zig-zag and covered it by a crochet.
  • British
    • The British kept an incessant musketry fire from the covered way.
    • The British made a sally (1 officer and 12 men) which was rapidly driven back; the officer was killed and 3 of his men wounded.
    • 76 pioneers, the 1st Grenadier Company, 24 European NCOs and 130 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

In the afternoon of January 17, the French batteries dismounted 3 guns on the works. The British battery in the covered way was deemed no longer useful and the guns brought back. The French thickened the sand bank to the right of their battery close to the sea.

In the night of January 17 to 18

  • French
    • The French brought 2 guns down the bar. Their artillery threw several shells into the town and into the works. They extended their parallel at the foot of the glacis some 15 m.
  • British
    • 76 pioneers, the 2nd Grenadier Company and 130 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

In the morning of January 18

  • French
    • The French opened three new embrasures near the sea. Their north battery (“Lally”) now consisted of 16 embrasures.
  • British

In the night of January 18 to 19

  • French
    • Despite the defensive fire, the French advanced by a third zig-zag across the saliant angle of the glacis.
  • British
    • 1 officer, 3 sergeants and 56 pioneers, the 1st Grenadier Company and 32 European NCOs were assigned to working parties.

On January 19, the French fired pretty smartly from their musketry behind their first crochet. They also brought two heavy guns to the south of the bar. French shells set fire to the sorting warehouse, to a warehouse in Gloucester lane and to some saltpeter in the Middle Gate Street.

In the night of January 19 to 20

  • French
    • The artillery fired very few shells and shots.
    • The French made the third zig-zag from the ridge of the glacis obliquely to the sea-side.
  • British
    • The pioneer company and 120 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 20, the British made two sallies from the fort with little loss and less success.

In the night of January 20 to 21

  • French
    • The artillery remained almost silent.
    • The French thickened their second zig-zag and crochet and laid some sand-bags for their musketry.
  • British
    • The pioneer company and 120 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 21 around 5:00 p.m., the British sent out a party of 1 sergeant and 10 men by the sea side while another of 1 officer and 20 men, supported by 1 engineer, 1 captain and 40 men, issued from the barrier in the north-east angle of the covered way. The soldiers made themselves masters of the second crochet and covered the pioneers while they destroyed the lodgment forming on the ridge of the glacis. In this engagement, the British lost 2 sergeants killed and 4 pioneers wounded. A detachment of the Madras European Regiment distinguished itself in this affair.

In the night of January 21 to 22

  • French
    • The French thickened their second crochet and third zig-zag and raised the head of their sap on the ridge of the glacis. They fired a few shells into the works.
  • British
    • Only had 1 sergeant, 12 pioneers and 100 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 22, the French fired a few shots from their northern battery.

In the night of January 22 to 23

  • French
    • The French opened a new battery of 4 embrasures in their third zig-zag to fire on the right face of the north ravelin.
  • British
    • The British kept up a brisk musketry fire on the French approaches.
    • 63 pioneers and 100 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 23, the French advanced a battery nearer the works and for some time fired with considerable effect, until ammunition began to fail and its fire slackened.

In the night of January 23 to 24, there was an small engagement which lasted some three hours when the French tried to push gabions close to the covered way. The British lost some 12 men killed or wounded in this engagement. The British had 60 pioneers and 100 Sepoys assigned to working parties.

On January 24, the British garrison received intelligence of the arrival on the coast of some ships with reinforcements from Great Britain.

In the night of January 24 to 25

  • French
    • The French pushed on their approaches in a line parallel to the east face of the covered way almost to the sea.
  • British
    • A party of pioneers pulled several enemy's gabions into the covered way.
    • 53 pioneers and 100 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

On January 25 around 2:00 p.m., the British made another successful sally with 20 guards and 20 pioneers. In this action, they lost Captain Black and Lieutenant Fitzpatrick of the Madras European Regimentwounded; and 1 sergeant and 3 men killed.

In the night of January 25 to 26

  • French
    • The French pushed on their approaches in a line almost parallel to the north face of the covered way before the demi-bastion. The French works now completely embraced the saliant angle of the covered way, making it impossible for the British to maintain troops therein.
  • British
    • 53 pioneers and 88 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who shut up the damaged Great Gate.

On January 26, the French fired most of their shot into the town and threw shells towards the defensive works on the north front.

In the night of January 26 to 27

  • French
    • The French widened and rose the work erected the preceding night.
  • British
    • 47 pioneers and 90 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired the north-east bastion.

In the afternoon of January 27, there was an engagement west of Egmore between the French and the corps of Captain Preston and Yusuf Khan.

In the night of January 27 to 28, the British started to work on a mine. They had 32 pioneers and 80 Sepoys assigned to working parties who made some repairs.

In the morning of January 28, the French drew their native horse, their Cipayes and their European cavalry in a line between Egmore and Maskelyne’s Gardens.

In the night of January 28 to 29

  • French
    • The French drew off one of their guns southwards.
  • British
    • 37 pioneers and 60 Sepoys were assigned to working parties.

Around 2:00 p.m. on January 29, the British saw that the French were making a covered sap to open the counterscarp. Some grenadiers were immediately sent to fire into the hole and throw grenades, thus putting a stop to the work.

In the night of January 29 to 30

  • French
    • The French threw plenty of shells into the town and at the north ravelin.
  • British
    • 45 pioneers and 75 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who resumed work on the mine and did some repairs.

In the evening of January 30, the Shaftsbury, a hospital ship of the East India Company arrived at Madras with ammunition and specie, both of which were sorely needed. Having anchored in the roads, she was exposed to a constant fire.

In the night of January 30 to 31

  • French
    • A French frigate came near Madras and received a broadside from the Shaftsbury. She then sailed southwards.
  • British
    • 48 pioneers, including 12 men who worked at the mine, were assigned to working parties.

On January 31

  • French
    • Early in the morning, the French opened four embrasures on the north face of the covered way before the demi-bastion. However, they fired only some 30 shot before realising that their guns were ill located.
    • In the afternoon, the French frigate returned in the road of Madras. The Harlem, a Dutch Indiaman seized by the French, advanced against the Shaftsbury who slipped her cable and stood under the guns of Fort St. George.
    • Just before nightfall, two French batteries seized the opportunity to fire a few shot on the Shaftsbury.

In the night of January 31 to February 1

  • French
    • The French repaired the damaged merlons of their battery. They threw just a few shells.
  • British
    • 54 pioneers and 35 Sepoys were assigned to working parties among them 24 pioneers pushed on the mine gallery.

On February 1

  • French
    • In the morning, the French briefly fired three guns on the fort. Meanwhile, the Harlem, the French southern battery and one gun of their northern battery fired on the Shaftsbury.
  • British
    • In the evening a British 24-pdr burst on St. Thomas Bastion, wounding six men among which four were mortally wounded.
    • In the evening, the Cuddalore schooner came near the Madras road and then stood away northwards.

In the night of February 1 to 2

  • French
    • The French repaired the parapet and lowered the embrasures of their battery on the crest of the glacis.
  • British
    • 51 pioneers and 100 Sepoys were assigned to working parties; 27 men worked on the gallery.
    • The Harlem and the French frigate anchored northwards so that the Shaftsbury had only two guns firing at her from the south and one from the north.

On February 2

  • French
    • In the morning, the French opened five embrasures of their battery on the crest of the glacis and fired with two guns on the angle of the demi-bastion.
  • British
    • Preston advanced at St. Thomas' Mount with his small force. Lally with 300 Europeans, 600 Cipayes and 6 field-pieces attacked him. Between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., an engagement took place. Preston and Yusuf Khan stood their ground and the French retreated with considerable loss.

On February 3

  • French
    • In the morning, the French sprung a mine behind the counterscarp of the ditch, opposite the east end of the cuvette, and opened the wall about 7 m.
  • British
    • A working party of 54 pioneers and 44 Sepoys was employed on the mine and counter-mine and thickened the parapet of the demi-bastion near the saliant angle.

In the night of February 3 to 4

  • French
    • The French lowered the embrasures to allow their guns on the glacis to bear on the demi-bastion and north-east bastion.
  • British
    • 53 pioneers and about 55 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who thickened the parapet of the demi-bastion and carried on the two galleries.

In the morning of February 4, the French fired a few shots from their guns on the glacis but soon closed the embrasures, the fire of the British artillery being too superior.

In the night of February 4 to 5

  • French
    • The French fired a good deal of musketry.
  • British
    • 53 pioneers and 40 Sepoys were assigned to working parties at the demi-bastion, the north ravelin and the two galleries.

On February 5

  • French
    • The French fired a few rounds from two guns on their breaching battery but were soon silenced. Two other guns fired slowly from the old hospital.
  • British
    • Early in the morning, the British sighted seven sail. They initially thought they were the ships expected from Bombay but soon realised that they were French vessels.
    • A red flag could be seen from Fort St. George on St. Thomas Mount, suggesting that Captain Preston and Yusuf Khan had taken position there.

Around that date, Caillaud, after endless difficulties at Tanjore, finally reached Chengalaput with his 300 horse and 300 Sepoys. From there, Caillaud personally set out for St. Thomas' Mount.

In the night of February 5 to 6, the British had 50 pioneers and 50 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired the parapet of the demi-bastion and carried on the two galleries.

On February 6

  • French
    • The French breaching battery remained silent, but the mortars and another battery kept up their fire.
    • In the evening, all the French horse along with Cipayes and a strong detachment of infantry moved into the plain.
  • British
    • In the morning, 30 sailors were landed from the Shaftsbury to assist the artillery and the ship, no longer apprehensive of the enemy, went out into deeper water.
    • Preston and Muhammed Yusuf Khan were still at St. Thomas' Mount

In the night of February 6 to 7, the British had 50 pioneers and 50 Sepoys assigned to working parties who raised and repaired the left face of the north ravelin, repaired two embrasures on the north face of the Royal Bastion and carried on the galleries.

On February 7

  • French
    • Early, the French opened with four guns and one mortar from their grand battery against the old north-east bastion. Overall, the French had
      • a battery of two guns at the old hospital plunging into and enfilading the whole north front
      • a battery of four guns at the old burying ground battering the face of the demi-bastion
      • a grand battery of four guns firing on the saliant angle of the demi-bastion and on the old north-east bastion; and one mortar throwing shells of ten inches into the town.
      • three mortars on the zig-zag which crosses the ridge of the glacis, throwing eight and ten inches shells in to the demi-bastion, the north-east bastion, the blind and the fascine battery
  • British
    • At 2:00 a.m., Major Caillaud joined Preston at St. Thomas' Mount. There, he found that Yusuf Khan with 1,500 Sepoys and 2,000 horse, had been joined by Captain Preston with 600 Sepoys, 50 Europeans and six 3-pdrs from the garrison of Chengalaput. Furthermore, Captain Vasserot with 10 of his troopers was there. Caillaud’s reinforcements increased these force by 300 Sepoys and 300 Tanjorine horse. Though half of the Sepoys and the whole of the horse were worth little, their combined forces now amounted to 103 men of the Madras European Regiment (including 12 artillerymen and 10 mounted troopers), six 3-pdrs, 2,500 Sepoys and 2,000 Tanjorine horse. Assuming command of this combined force, Caillaud occupied the houses and enclosures at the bottom of the steps on the east side of the mount; the strongest wall enclosure was round a house of Colonel Lawrence, and to the east of it was another called Carvalho's garden, which was considered the key of his position. Caillaud stationed 80 Europeans and 4 field-pieces in this garden. He also posted 20 Europeans, 300 Sepoys, and 2 field-pieces at the Sawmy house or choultry to the south of the enclosure. The left of Caillaud's position was protected by paddy-fields which extended all round the north and north-east of the enclosures. The inlets to the different lanes were barricaded, and the mud walls lowered for the guns or loopholed for musketry. The cavalry were encamped to the north under the hill and the rest of the Sepoys occupied different posts along the north and faces of the mount; about 1,700 were also distributed in the enclosures along the front (south side) of the hill, and communications opened in their different walls and enclosures. This growth of numbers in his rear, and the knowledge that Pocock's squadron was on its way from Bombay (present-day Mumbai) to relieve Madras, forced Lally to take strong measures against Chengalaput.

In the night of February 7 to 8, the British had 50 pioneers and 27 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired the embrasures on the north face of the Royal Bastion and those of the old north-east bastion and pushed on the galleries.

On February 8

  • French
    • In the morning, the French fired with four guns from their grand battery.

In the afternoon, a French ship arrived.

  • British
    • In the afternoon, the defenders were informed of Major Caillaud’s arrival at St. Thomas Mount.
    • The defenders, fearing that the French ship was loaded with shells for the mortars resolved to attack her. However, this attack was canceled.

In the night of February 8 to 9, the British had 51 pioneers and 27 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired the demi-bastion and the north-east bastion and carried on the galleries.

On February 9, Lally detached a force of 600 French foot, 1,500 Cipayes, 200 dragoons, approx. 100 hussars, and 1,000 Maratha horse, with 8 field-pieces, under the command of Colonel Lally (a relative) to attack Caillaud in earnest. At dawn, the cannonade began. The French were perceived advancing in two columns, one (300 European cavalry, 600 European infantry, 8 field-pieces) on the east or left flank, from the direction of Mammelong; the other (1,500 Cipayes, 1,000 Maratha horse) having no guns, on the front or south, across the plain. The Tanjorine cavalry under Caillaud, headed by the 10 mounted troopers, formed in front of the enclosures. Caillaud planned to wait until the French had advanced within a flanking fire of the field-pieces at the Sawmy house and then to charge them. However, Caillaud's cavalry marched to the French who came on at a trot and, suddenly halting, poured in a fire from their carbines which knocking over a few men and horses, all, with the exception of Caillaud and his 10 troopers, went to the right about and fled. Some pushed into the lane in their rear, followed by the French who, coming within range of the guns at the Sawmy house, were severely checked and obliged to retire. The rest of the Tanjorine horse rushed towards the lane between the left enclosure and the foot of the mount, hotly pursued by the French hussars who, whilst wedged up in the narrow road, fell under a close and galling fire from some of the Sepoys posted there. This obliged them in turn to fly and they rejoined their line of infantry which advanced to within 200 meters of the front of the British position. Around 10:00 a.m., the French attack ceased and their artillery cannonaded the strong defensive positions on the hillock. Lally realised that he would be obliged to first make himself master of the advanced post at the Sawmy house before considering an attack on the enclosures. Around 4:00 p.m., Lally sent 100 Europeans to storm it. They approached within 30 meters before being repulsed. Lally sent them to the attack again and they were pushed back once more. Thirty minutes later, after reinforcing this detachment with 200 Europeans, he launched a third unsuccessful assault on the Sawmy house. The retiring detachment was then pursued by all the Sepoys posted at the house along with a few Europeans under Lieutenant Airey. Getting into disorder in hot pursuit, the British detachment was charged by the French horse and routed. The French then pursued the fleeing troops up to the gate of Lawrence's compound where they were stopped by the fire of Muhammed Yusuf's Sepoys. The French cavalry suffered some losses and got confused, gallopping along the face and round the flank of the enclosures under a severe artillery and musketry fire. The British abandoned their position at Sawmy house which was soon occupied by the French who planted some guns there to cannonade the enclosures. At the close of the evening, the French retired. About two hours later, Caillaud, who had no ammunition left for his artillery, retired towards Chengalaput. In this affair, the French had lost more than 50 Europeans killed or wounded while the British lost 7 killed and 13 wounded.

In the afternoon of the same day (February 9), taking advantage of the ongoing combat at St. Thomas Mount, the defenders sent out two Sepoy companies to the bar. They then occupied the Garden-House which had been abandoned by the French. They destroyed siege works and returned to Fort St. George.

In the night of February 9 to 10

  • French
    • After unloading ammunition, the French ship went off.
  • British
    • Pioneers and 48 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who repaired the demi-bastion and the north-east bastion and carried on the galleries.

On February 10

  • French
    • The French fired smartly from their northern battery against the houses in the town.
    • Lally’s position was now desperate. Supplies, money, ammunition, all were failing, and his troops, both Indian and French, were melting away by desertion. He had succeeded in battering a breach in the fort, but his officers were averse to attempt an assault.
  • British
    • Major Caillaud retired to Vandalur. However, Chengalaput, that terrible thorn, remained still rankling in Lally's side.

In the night of February 10 to 11, the British had 56 pioneers and 133 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired two embrasures and thickened a traverse on the demi-bastion, cleared the rubbish from the mint bastion, laid a platform and made another embrasure near the beach at the fascine battery. The gallery under the counterscarp being advanced about 29 m., two chambers were made and loaded with powder.

In the night of February 11 to 12

  • French
    • The French repaired a breastwork at the end of the stockade near the sea.
  • British
    • 57 pioneers and 33 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who repaired the north-east bastion and the demi-bastion and lengthened out the fascine battery quite into the surf.

On February 12, the fire of the French artillery sightly diminished.

In the night of February 12 to 13

  • French
    • Around 2:30 a.m., the French launched an attack on the fascine battery with 30 Europeans and 50 Cafres but were easily driven back. The whole garrison repaired to their posts and plenty of shells and grapeshot were thrown into the French approaches. In this affair, the British lost 1 captain and 1 soldier wounded; the French 6 men killed.
  • British
    • 57 pioneers and 48 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who repaired the demi-bastion and the north-east bastion, cleared the rubbish from the north curtain and the earth from the right face of the north ravelin.

On February 13, the fire of the French north battery was very brisk.

In the night of February 13 to 14, the British fascine battery kept a brisk fire on the French stockade on the seaside, fearing an attack from this direction. The British had 24 pioneers and 30 Sepoys assigned to working parties who repaired the embrasures of the north-east bastion and of the demi-bastion, and the caponniere before the blind.

Probably the same night (February 13 to 14), Caillaud marched from Chengalaput towards Fort Sadras to surprise it. His force was delayed and it arrived in front of Sadras late the next day.

On February 14 about 6:00 a.m., a British party of 1 subaltern and 15 men was sent along the covered way to the flank of the French stockade; while 2 captains and 40 men advanced directly in front of the stockade, accompanied by 1 engineer and 20 unarmed men. The French abandoned the stockade which was immediately occupied and destroyed.

In the night of February 14 to 15

  • French
    • The French replaced the gabions which had been overset at the stockade and worked on a traverse but the fire of a 12-pdr from the fascine battery and the shells from the demi-bastion seriously impede their work.
    • The French frigate returned and anchored in St. Thomas road.
  • British
    • 35 pioneers and 40 Sepoys were assigned to working parties who repaired the north-east bastion, the embrasures of the demi-bastion one embrasure of the Royal Bastion and the demi-caponniere before the blind.
    • The British mine was now loaded and attended by 3 pioneers, covered at night by 10 grenadiers.
    • The British sent back on board the Shaftsbury the sailors on shore along with 30 marines to attack the French frigate but, by the time they were ready the French frigate was out of sight.

Probably the same night (February 14 to 15), one of Caillaud's patrol intercepted one of Lally's messenger with a letter dated February 14 for the Governor of Pondicherry, disclosing his intent to raise the siege of Madras. The letter was immediately sent to Madras. Caillaud then retired.

On February 15, the fire from six guns of the French grand battery, three guns at the burying ground and two guns at the old hospital was very brisk. From 5:00 p.m., only three guns of the grand battery and two guns at the burying ground continued to fire.

In the night of February 15 to 16, the British reinforced their defensive positions on the beach and added an iron 12-pdr to the fascine battery.

On February 16

  • French
    • The artillery kept on a brisk fire but threw very few shells.
  • British
    • Around noon, a small sloop informed the defenders that she had met British ships, with reinforcements from Great Britain and Bombay.
    • About 5:00 p.m., six sail could be seen northwards.
    • Fearing a last attempt by the French, the whole garrison was ordered to lay on their arms at the several posts during the night.

In the night of February 16 to 17 about 10:00 p.m., Captain Richard Kempenfelt, with two 20-gun ships and six other vessels, containing men and stores, anchored in Madras road. They were the long-expected British ships expected from Bombay. About 2:00 a.m., the French fired musketry and fires appeared at the same time in their trenches.

The British reinforcements relieved Madras while threatening Pondicherry. It was the end of Lally's project.

On February 17

  • French
    • In the morning Lally hastily raised the siege and marched to St. Thomas' Mount and crossed the Choultry plain, destroying the powder mills at Egmore Buildings on their way. Lally left much of his siege artillery (52 guns among which only 26 had been spiked), large quantities of stores and ammunition, and 40 sick and wounded men behind him.
  • British

So ended the siege of Madras, the last offensive movement of the French in India. It had cost the garrison 33 officers, 580 British and 300 Sepoys killed, wounded and prisoners, while over 400 more of the Sepoys had deserted. Happily Pocock's squadron brought reinforcements which made good the loss of British troops. The French lost 700 Europeans killed, wounded or taken prisoners. The 2,000 surviving French Europeans were demoralised. Lally retired with bitter rage in his heart against the authorities at Pondicherry, to whose apathy and selfseeking he attributed his failure.

References

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, 149-162
  • 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. 146-196
  • Clowes, Wm. Laird, The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 174-181
  • Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 428-438