1759 - British operations on the Malabar Coast

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1759 - British operations on the Malabar Coast

The main campaign took place from February to March 1759

Introduction

In 1758, several merchants and inhabitants of Surat, a city some 280 km north of Bombay (present-day Mumbai), asked to Mr. Ellis of the Presidency of Bombay for assistance against the Maratha and the representative of the Great Mughal. They proposed to appoint Pharass Khan as governor of the place.

In 1759, Mr. Spencer succeeded Ellis at Bombay.

Two of the principal men in the government of Surat, Siddee Jaffier and Velley Ullah engaged to contribute all in their power to secure the castle for the East India Company on the condition that Pharass Khan would be made governor of the town. Siddee Jaffier could field some 1,700 men. For his part, the present governor of the place, Meah Atchund could count on 4,000 Sepoys.

Description of events

At the beginning of February 1759, Captain Richard Maitland of the Royal Regiment of Artillery was ordered by the governor and council of Bombay to undertake an expedition against the city and castle of Surat. Vice-Admiral Pocock consented to send the Sunderland (60) and the Newcastle (50) to accompany this expedition.

On February 9, Maitland embarked with 800 men of the Bombay European Regiment, 50 artillerymen and 1,500 Sepoys.

On February 15, Maitland’s force landed at Dentilowry (unidentified location) about 14 km from Surat. He encamped there for 3 to 4 days.

On February ??, when Captain Maitland approached Surat, he found some of Atchund’s people had taken post in the French garden from whence he dislodged them after a hot dispute of four hours, in which he lost 20 men. He then directed the engineer to look out for a proper place for a battery.

In the following night (February ?? to ??), the British started to erect the battery of two 24-pdrs and a 13-in mortar.

On February ?19?, the British completed the battery. A brief fire was kept up. The enemy had taken possession of the English garden and Siddee’s custom-house, securing them with works and strong palisades.

The British battery played very briskly against the walls of Surat for 3 days. Seeing that the fire of his artillery had little effect, Maitland called a council of war where it was decided to launch a general attack. Accordingly, Maitland ordered his little fleet to wrap up the Tapi River in the night and anchor in a line of battle opposite one of the strongest fortified posts called the Bundar.

In the night of February ?19 to 20?, bomb ketches and grabs (a type of ship common on the Malabar Coast combining an indigenous hull form with a pointed prow, with or without a bowsprit, and European rigging on two to three masts), belonging to the East India Company, warped up the river.

Early in the morning of February ?20?, the bomb ketches and the grabs anchored opposite the custom-house and then a general attack began from the vessels and the battery to drive the enemy from their batteries and so facilitate the landing of the infantry, who were embarked on board the boats. Around 8:00 a.m., a signal put a stop to the fire of the British vessels and battery. The boats then put off and landed under the cover of the vessels. The infantry soon put the enemy to flight and took possession of all the outer town. Three mortars were planted about 640 m. from the castle and 450 m. from the inner town.

On February ?21? at about 6:00 a.m., the mortars began to play very briskly against the castle and town, and continued to do so till February ?22? at 2:00 a.m.

On March 4, unable to take the place the British came to an agreement with Meah Atchund whereby the latter kept his post but Pharass Khan was promoted to Naib of Surat and the Siddee and his troops were expelled from the town. Atchund immediately opened the inner town gate. The British then peaceably took possession of the castle and town of Surat, one of the richest cities in India.

In this expedition, the British had lost about 100 Europeans but the loss by desertion was greater.

On June 7, the Mughal Emperor agreed to this treaty. So did the Marathas.

References

This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Anonymous, A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 477-478
  • 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. 218-222

Other sources

Surat History