1760 - British operations on the coast of Coromandel

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1760 - British operations on the coast of Coromandel

The campaign took place from January 1760 to January 1761

Description

Early in 1760, 5 additional British ships were sent to India to reinforce Rear-Admirals Charles Stevens and Samuel Cornish.

On January 8, a French force under Crillon reached Arcot.

Until January 9, the British and French armies operating on the Coast of Coromandel remained in sight of each other, awaiting the result of their respective negotiations with Innes Khan and his Mahratta horse.

On January 10, 5,000 Mahratta horse joined the French army and only 200 the British.

In the evening of January 11, after three days of manoeuvring, the Comte de Lally-Tollendal divided his army into two columns, and leaving Bussy with one of them at Trivatore, made a forced march with the other (about 1,000 men) upon Conjeeveram (present-day Kanchipuram). The same evening, after reconnoitring the French positions, Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre Coote, convinced that the French would direct their first effort against Wandiwash, dispatched orders to Captain Sherlock, commanding there, to defend it to the last. Coote also instructed the 2 companies at Trivatore to join Sherlock immediately.

On January 12, the French army manoeuvred until nightfall and, effectively screened by the Mahratta cavalry, managed to turn Coote's right flank and suddenly appeared before Conjeeveram, at that time the hospital and store of the British force.

On January 13, Coote knew nothing of this manoeuvre until he received a message from Lieutenant Chisholm, commanding at Conjeeveram itself. Coote at once made a forced march to save the fort.

On January 14 at 1:00 a.m., Coote arrived at Conjeeveram and found that Lally had been content with the plunder of the market, without capturing the fort, and had marched to rejoin Bussy at Trivatore. The same day, taking 500 Europeans, 1,000 Sepoys, and 650 French and Mahratta horse, Lally left Trivatore and marched on Wandiwash, which had been his true object from the first. Coote received intelligence of his departure on the same evening.

On January 15, Coote marched also by the direct road to the same point. Lally meanwhile, anxious to recapture the post before Coote's arrival, had in the morning of the same day attacked a small British detachment in the southern suburb and driven it with some difficulty into the fort; after which he began to erect batteries against the walls.

On January 16, Coote was informed of Lally's arrival before Wandiwash.

On January 17, Lally learned from Bussy that Coote was advancing against him; by which time the British had actually arrived at Utramalore (probably Uthiramerur), about 24 km to north-east of Wandiwash. Here Coote halted, being secure of his communications with Chingleput and Madras (present-day Chennai), and resolved not to risk an action until the French were ready to assault the fort. The French works meanwhile progressed but slowly. Sherlock, the commanding British officer at Wandiwash, had 30 Europeans and 300 Sepoys stationed in the market of Wandiwash.

Before daybreak on January 19, Lally attacked with all his infantry in 2 columns. They were discovered and fired upon before they gained the foot of the wall, and the marines, who formed one column of attack, broke, and in their panic ran towards the other column composed of Lally Infanterie, which, thinking they were the British making a sortie, fired upon them for some time with much execution, before the mistake was discovered, after which both columns retired. At 8:00 a.m., the French were again formed for the attack and, shortly after that hour, moved on to the assault, but were soon brought to a stand from the heavy fire poured in upon them from the walls of the market. Lally galloped up to the head of his regiment, which was leading, dismounted and, calling for volunteers, rushed forward and was the first man to mount the walls. The whole column poured over after him and the troops in the market, having no order to defend it to extremity, gradually retired in good order and without loss into the fort. During this action the Madras European Regiment lost 5 men while the French suffered more than 30 men killed and 100 wounded.

On January 20, the French batteries opened fire on Wandiwash, Bussy's column having meanwhile joined Lally from Trivatore. Sherlock informed Coote that a breach had been opened. Coote resolved to force the French to raise the siege.

On January 21, Coote advanced to Trumbourge, within 11 km of Wandiwash.

On January 22, having directed that the rest of the army should immediately follow him, Coote went forward at sunrise with his cavalry to reconnoitre. In the ensuing Battle of Wandiwash, the British defeated the French army.

On January 23, Lally fell back to Chittapett (present-day Chetpet) and sent the Mahrattas and native troops to Arcot. At noon the same day, a note written by Coote on the battlefield arrived at the Government House at Madras.

On January 24, Lally retired to Gingee to cover Pondicherry (present-day Puducherry). Coote on learning of his withdrawal from Chittapett determined to attack that post, while yet he might, with his whole army.

On January 26, after repairing and strengthening Wandiwash, Coote marched on Chittapett.

On January 28, Coote invested Chittapett. During the night, he erected a battery.

On the morning of January 29, the British battery opened on the walls of Chittapett. By 11:00 a.m., the wall was nearly breached when the place surrendered. The garrison, commanded by the chevalier de Tilly, consisted of 4 officers, 54 Europeans, besides 73 who had been wounded in the late battle and were in hospital, 300 Sepoys and 9 guns. The British seized a large store of ammunition and 300 new muskets which were distributed among the Sepoys.

On January 30, Coote received intelligence that Captain Wood's detachment, which had been sent towards Arcot after the victory at Wandiwash, had advanced from Conerpauk, invested Arcot and driven the French out of the walled market with considerable loss. The same day, the news of the British victory at Wandiwash reached Trichinopoly. Lally ordered the French force to evacuate Seringham and to join him as soon as possible. However, the French could not conceal their intended retreat from Captain Joseph Smith of the Madras European Regiment, commanding at Trichinopoly. He marched after them and, before they reached Utatur, captured 30 European prisoners.

On January 31, Coote marched to Arnee (present-day Arani) where Captain Stephen Smith joined him with his detachment, 70 prisoners (20 Europeans, 50 Sepoys) and 2 brass field-pieces. Captain Smith had also picked up 3 commissaries travelling to Pondicherry. The same day, Ensign Horne of the Madras European Regiment took the small forts of Tokum and Cortalum, the only remaining posts occupied by the French in the region of Trichinopoly.

At the end of January, Coote detached Captain Vasserot at the head of 1,300 horse towards Pondicherry. Then, while Vasserot blockaded Pondicherry, Coote bent himself, after the fashion of Lord Jeffrey Amherst in North America, to systematic reduction of all the minor posts held by the French.

On February 1, Coote arrived before Arcot, the fortifications of which had been greatly improved since its defence under Clive in 1752: the ditch had been deepened, a glacis and a covered way carried all round, a strong ravelin mounting 6 guns projected from the centre of the north face, the walls had been widened and ramparts raised, the towers or bastions at each angle admitted of 3 guns and each of the others along the faces 1 gun.

The British erected 3 batteries: one to the east at 360 m., another at 260 m., and one to the south nearly opposite the south-west angle of the fort at 200 m.

On February 5, all 3 British batteries opened on Arcot.

On February 6 and 7, British approaches were advanced.

By February 9, the wall of Arcot was breached in 2 places and the French surrendered.

Early on the morning of February 10, the British grenadiers took possession of the gates and Coote became master of Arcot after a siege of a few days, capturing 11 officers, 247 Europeans, 300 Sepoys, 4 mortars, 22 guns and a large quantity of ammunition. Timery (unidentified location), a few km to south-east of Arcot, fell at the same time.

After the capture of Arcot, Coote encamped under Vellore which, to spare an attack, paid a tribute of 30,000 rupees.

On February 20, Coote marched back to Arnee.

On February 22, Coote reached Chittapett.

On February 23, Coote remained at Chittapet. He detached Captain Stephen Smith to take Trinomallee (unidentified location, maybe Thiruvannaamalai).

On February 29, Trinomallee surrendered.

On March 1, Coote marched against the hill-fort of Permacoil (unidentified location), lately occupied by a French garrison thrown into it after the battle of Wandiwash. The fort had never been invested by Europeans. It was situated on the top of a steep rock, the upper part regularly and strongly fortified after the Indian fashion: the lower fort was merely a wall and breastwork of loose stones for protection against cavalry or sudden alarm. Coote arrived at the north-east gateway of the walled suburb and was attacked by a sortie which was repulsed. The combatants entering the gateway together in confusion. The suburb was, after good resistance, taken and 4 guns captured. After an attempt to climb the upper fort had been made, in which Coote was wounded in the knee, the place surrendered. The garrison were made prisoners and 22 guns captured. Due to his wound, Coote could not assumed command which was entrusted to Major Monson.

On March 9, Monson pushed forward to Pondicherry.

On March 11, Lorraine Infanterie was retiring towards the boundary hedge when it was charged with spirit by the Madras European Regiment dragoons and thrown into considerable confusion, having several men sabred.

On March 12, the Fort of Alumparva (or Amalparrah unidentified location) was taken by assault. The garrison were made prisoners and 20 guns captured.

On March 28, Monson, with the help of Admiral Cornish's Squadron, which had arrived on the coast 6 weeks before, invested Carical (present-day Karaikal), the one French station left on the coast. This fort was an oblong square, completely fortified after the contemporary fashion by the French, although each of the 4 bastions mounted only 3 guns. Each curtain was covered by a large ravelin mounting 6 guns whilst a covered way and excellent glacis surrounded the whole. The possession of Carical was of importance, since, being an outlet from the rich Country of Tanjore (present-day Thanjavur), it could have kept Pondicherry supplied with provisions; while it was also a port wherein a French squadron could obtain not only victuals but also intelligence before proceeding to Pondicherry.

The British erected 3 batteries under cover of houses in a sector of the suburb about 100 m. from the north face of Carical. Another battery was also erected to the east and enfiladed the whole of the north face.

On April 3, a small British detachment under Captain Wood assaulted and took the small fort of Villaporam, garrisoned by 1,000 Indians.

On April 5, after several days of bombardment and cannonade, the garrison of Carical surrendered; 115 Europeans, 72 Topasses and 250 Sepoys were made prisoners. Besides small arms and stores of all sorts, 155 cannon, 9 mortars and a large quantity of ammunition were captured.

Lally, amid all his preparations for defence, in his heart gave up the capital for lost after its fall.

On April 7, Coote re-assumed command.

On April 8, Coote reconnoitred Valdore.

On April 12, Coote's army invested Valdore.

On April 14, Coote's batteries opened a continuous fire on Valdore.

On April 18, the Fort of Valdore surrendered to Coote despite the fact that a French relief force was deploying in position against the British. The fort contained 20 cannon.

During this time, the British division who had taken Carical marched via Devicotah against Chillumbrum (present-day Chidambaram) which was given up shortly after being summoned.

On May 1, the French withdrew close to the boundary hedge of Pondicherry. Coote had thus draw a chain of posts around Pondicherry from Alumparva to Chillumbrum; and was slowly closing upon the doomed city. Lally had allowed him to capture far too many of his men piecemeal in different garrisons; but he now called in all French troops from Trichinopoly (present-day Tiruchirapalli), Cuddalore and other posts in the south. Before abandoning Cuddalore, the French had demolished the parapets of the bastions, made several breaches and removed 3 gates. The British threw a garrison in Cuddalore.

On the night of May 10, a strong detachment of French launched a surprise attack on Cuddalore, dispersing the Sepoys and capturing 5 Tanjorines, 6 warrant officers and about 70 sick left in hospital there.

On the night of May 11, the French launched a new attack on Cuddalore but a party of regulars having reinforced the garrison, they were beaten back with a loss of 3 officers and 32 men killed or wounded.

On May 20, the French (700 French infantry, 150 hussars and 500 Sepoys) made another unsuccessful night attack on Cuddalore, losing 2 officers killed and more than 80 men killed or wounded.

On May 25, 3 companies (178 men) of the British Royal Regiment of Artillery with their guns joined Coote's army. They had just recently arrived from Great Britain. By this time, the French were confined within the limits of their camp near the boundary hedge and were reduced to the greatest distress for provisions. However, Lally had entered into an agreement with Hyder Ali, then commander of the forces at Mysore, engaging to concede large tracts of territory in return for the services of 8,000 men. These reinforcements were under way.

On June 4, the first division of the Mysorean army arrived at Thiagur which, according to treaty, was given up to them. This accession of strength to the enemy hampered Coote not a little for the moment.

By June 10, the Mysorean army had advanced as far as Tricatore in front of which they were repulsed. Nevertheless, the Mysorean cavalry, setting out with a large drove of bullocks, reached the French camp, although several parties were out to intercept them. The Mysoreans managed to pass in 300 bullocks, leaving several large herds behind in different places to be escorted in the following days. However, this plan was ruined by Ensign Turner who captured 900 bullocks and brought them into the British camp.

On June 28, the Mysorean cavalry marched towards Thiagur to collect more cattle and grain for the French.

On June 30, Coote despatched some of his dragoons, 500 Indian cavalry, 50 men of the Madras European Regiment and 400 Sepoys to reinforce Major More's detachment at Tricalore. Major More's party consisted of 180 European infantry, 30 Caffres, 50 dragoons and 1,600 Indian cavalry and infantry belonging to Kistnarow. The Mysoreans had 4,000 cavalry assisted by 1,000 Sepoys and 200 Europeans with 8 guns.

On July 17, More's force and the Mysoreans were advancing by different routes towards Trivadi and suddenly came upon one another not far from that place. More at once advanced to the attack but a panic seized his Sepoys and Indian cavalry. They immediately went about and fled. The British Europeans and the Caffres stood firm and made a gallant resistance. The British dragoons were all either killed or wounded and the infantry, fighting as they retired, reached Trivadi with a loss of 15 killed and 40 wounded.

On July 18, the Mysorean army made a junction with the French and it was expected that the united forces would prevent the reduction of the French Fort of Villenore (present-day Villianur) at that time invested. The left of the British rested on the foot of the Hill of Perimbé, the right extended 1,500 m. across the plain towards Villenore; to the centre and right of this position, two elevated roads led to Pondicherry from Tanjore and Trichinopoly. Coote immediately threw up entrenchments across these two roads and, in line with them, a field-work mounting 3 guns was constructed on a small detached hill in front of the left of the line. The plain between the right of the British position and Villenore was open but it was secured by the detachment holding the village near that fort and the besieging party bombarding it.

On July 20, The French and Mysorean armies advanced along the bank of the river, threatening to raise the siege. Coote immediately moved out with 2 battalions of the Madras European Regiment, the single company of the Bombay European Regiment, their guns, half the Sepoys and half the cavalry to meet them. The French and Mysoreans drew up in position but Draper's 79th Foot and Coote's 84th Foot having marched from the left and threatened their left flank and rear, they at once retired under the boundary hedge. In the evening however, the Mysorean cavalry brought 900 bullocks into their camp, having crossed the river to the south of the city. The same evening, the guards before Villenore were doubled and increased diligence employed in carrying on the operations of the siege. The fort was triangular, of solid masonry, surrounded by a ditch with covered way and glacis. The fortifications were strong and laid out after the modern fashion. The gateway and drawbridge were complete but the passage through the glacis was straight with no traverse or work thrown up to protect them. The garrison of the fort consisted of 30 Europeans, 12 Caffres and 8 field-pieces. The British erected a battery against the gateway and another near the village 300 m. to the north occupied by part of their troops.

Early on the morning of July 21, the 2 British batteries opened. About three hours later, the French and Mysoreans advanced along the bank of the river as they had done the previous day. Some of their cavalry and Sepoys with 3 field-pieces were pushed forward to skirmish whilst the rest of the line got under arms. Coote sent a strong reinforcement of Europeans with 4 guns to the 2 villages near the fort whose artillery had already been silenced by the British batteries. In the meantime, 2 British Sepoys companies rushed forward and got behind the brick-facing of the covered way, where the glacis had not been filled up. A few of them jumped over into the covered way, but still there was the ditch to cross and an impracticable breach to scramble up. Notwithstanding, the French commandant held out a flag of truce and the gates were immediately opened to a British detachment which hurried up and pulled down the French and hoisted the British flag. On seeing this the French and Mysorean armies halted and immediately retired under the guns of the Fort of Ariancopang (present-day Ariyankuppam). Thus, the premature surrender of the Villenore prevented an open battle.

Up to the end of July, the British force not being strong enough to undertake a regular siege of Pondicherry, Coote was obliged to content himself with a mere blockade. Meanwhile, the Mysorean cavalry met with several reverses while foraging which prevented them from spreading about so much. Consequently, the French were much straitened for provisions.

Around the end of July, 600 men arrived to replace vacancies in Draper's 79th Foot and Coote's 84th Foot.

On August 13, provisions had become so scarce in Pondicherry that the Mysorean troops left the French camp. On passing near the British lines, their cavalry was very severely handled by Lieutenant Eiser of the Madras European Regiment with 30 of his own men, 400 Sepoys and 100 Indian cavalry. In this action, the Mysorean cavalry lost 60 killed and 200 captured along with all its baggage and 900 bullocks. Even after the departure of the Mysorean army, Coote did not feel strong enough to undertake the siege of Pondicherry and continued to blockade the place.

On August 17, the Mysorean army arrived before Trinomallee and laid siege to it. The place was defended by a British detachment consisting of a few Europeans and 4 Sepoys companies. The Mysoreans stormed twice with much resolution but were repulsed. They eventually abandoned their guns and retired to Thiagur.

Later in August, 422 Marines were landed from the British naval squadron. Coote then decided to drive the French within the boundary hedge and to take the Fort of Ariancopang.

On September 2, further British reinforcements arrived for the East India Company's troops, together with half a regiment of Morris's 89th Highlanders under Major Hector Munro. Additionally, 3 men-of-war also came with the transports, raising the squadron before Pondicherry to 17 sail. Lally, rightly guessing that more vigorous operations would follow on this increase of the British Force, devised a plan of extreme skill and daring for the surprise of their camp; but fortune was as usual against him.

On September 4, Lally made an attack on the British camp which was repulsed after one redoubt had been taken by the French, 1 gun captured, 2 other spiked and a British officer and 3 men had been taken prisoners. Lally Infanterie was particularly distinguished in this occasion, losing 8 sergeants and 25 privates killed. In this action, 4 French prisoners were taken, including M. d'Auteuil.

Coote was now in a position to lay siege to Pondicherry and Lally surrendered on January 15 1761. Shortly after its capture, the fortifications and public buildings of Pondicherry were razed to the ground.

After the capture of Pondicherry, Mahé was reduced by the troops under Major Hector Munro, supported by 4 sail of the line under Rear-Admiral Cornish.

On February 10 1761, the place surrendered.

A few weeks then sufficed to reduce the few isolated fortresses which were still held by French garrisons and on April 5, 1761 the white flag of the Bourbons had ceased to fly in India.

In May 1761, Rear-Admiral Charles Stevens fell a victim to the unhealthiness of the climate of India. The French on the station were by that time practically helpless, and Cornish soon afterwards went to Bombay to refit. He then proceeded southward to meet an expedition which he had reason to believe was on its way out, under Commodore Keppel, to attack Bourbon and Mauritius; but all idea of this expedition had, in the meantime, been abandoned. The means taken, however, to apprise Cornish of the change of plans were not efficacious; and the rear-admiral was actually obliged, by scarcity of supplies, to go back to Madras without hearing any news from home. Two of his ships, however, the York (60), Captain Henry Cowell, and the Chatham (50), Captain Thomas Lynn, being unable to keep with the fleet, had to bear up for the Cape of Good Hope. There they learned from the Terpsichore (24), Captain sir Thomas Adams that Keppel was no longer to be expected; and in due course they carried the intelligence to the rear-admiral in India.

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. 508-509
  • 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, 175-202
  • 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. 224-225, 232
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 462-473