Saturday, 26 June 2010

French Commanders

Marshal Soult

Marshal Soult was one of the most able of all Napoleon’s marshals, rising from the ranks to become the Grand Old Man of the French Army, and only the fourth man to be created Maréchal-général of the French army. In 1785 he enlisted as a private solider in the royal regiment of infantry.
In 1792, during the first military crisis of the revolution, he was commissioned in the grenadiers. Over the next four years he proved himself to be brave but not reckless, and in 1796 was promoted to general of brigade. In 1799 he took part in the Swiss campaign, fighting under General Masséna. Soult was prominent in this victory, and was promoted to general of division.
In 1800 Soult took part in the Italian campaign, once again serving with Masséna. This first campaign ended with the outnumbered French besieged in Genoa. This was when Soult first came to the attention of Napoleon, who up until this point only knew him by his reputation. Napoleon asked Masséna if Soult deserved his reputation, to which Masséna replied that “for judgement and courage his scarcely has a superior”. This high praise earned Soult a high command for the rest of the Italian campaign.
Soult was promoted to marshal in the “great creation” of 1804, part of the creation of Napoleon’s Empire. After the end of the Peace of Amiens, Soult was appointed to command the Army of England at Boulogne. Although the invasion never took place, in 1805 that army became the Grande Armée and would go on to win some of Napoleon’s most famous victories.
Soult commanded the right wing of the army at the battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805). It was this wing that captured the Pratzen heights, the key to the entire battle. This success won him great praise from Napoleon, who called him “le premier maneovrier de l’Europe”. Soult would also go on to play a prominent role at the battles of Jena (1806) and Eylau (1807).
Soult would spend most of the rest of the war fighting in Spain and Portugal, and would be one of the few French generals to emerge from the Peninsular War with his reputation largely intact.
Soult first entered Spain in 1808 during Napoleon’s personal intervention in the country. This campaign began with a series of French victories that allowed Napoleon to enter Madrid, but the French campaign was then disrupted by a British army under Sir John Moore. Believing that Napoleon was being delayed at Madrid, Moore decided to move north and attack Soult, whose army was defending the main line of communication back to France. The British reached Soult’s cavalry screen, winning a cavalry battle at Sahagun on 21 December 1808, before receiving news that Napoleon had left Madrid and was on his way north.
Moore’s response was to head north west towards Corunna, from where his army could be evacuated to safety. At first both Soult and Napoleon were in pursuit, but when Moore escaped across the river Esla, Napoleon dropped out of the race, leaving Soult in command.
Although Soult was able to defeat Moore’s Spanish allies at Mansilla on 30 December 1808, the British were able to reach Corunna. On 16 January Soult attacked the British position at Corunna and was repulsed. Moore was killed in the battle, but what was left of his army was safely evacuated.
Soult’s attention then turned to Portugal. In March 1809 he defeated a Portuguese army at Oporto, a victory marred by the collapse of a bridge carrying refugees out of the city. Once again the British responded by sending an army to Portugal under the command of Arthur Wellesley (soon to become Viscount Wellington). The British quickly moved against Soult, who was unable to prevent them from crossing the river Douro (battle of Oporto, 12 May 1809), and was forced to retreat back into Galicia.
The French response to the British intervention was to concentrate their armies. However, on 27-28 July 1809 at Talavera Marshal Victor attacked Wellington without waiting for Soult to arrive, and was defeated. When Soult, Ney and Mortier’s forces came together, Wellington was forced to pull back into Portugal.
Soult now became chief-of-staff to King Joseph, Napoleon’s brother. In this role he played a major part in the French victory at Ocana on 19 November 1809, which ended a Spanish campaign aimed at Madrid.
At the start of 1810 Soult was appointed to command the military district of Andalusia. Although he had 70,000 men in three corps, he was badly stretched. The Spanish had armies to his north and east, while a massive Allied garrison defended Cadiz. Soult spent most of 1810 involved in futile attempts to deal with these multiple threats.
He was also coming under increasing pressure to help Massena, who was struggling in Portugal. Soult responded by attacking the border fortress of Badajoz (French siege of Badajoz, 27 January-9 March 1811). A Spanish attempt to relief the siege was defeated (battle of the Gebora River, 19 February 1811), and the fortress fell on 9 March 1811. Soult then left a garrison in the fortress, and returned to Andalusia.
The British responded by besieging Badajoz themselves. Soult in turn attempted to relieve the siege, but on 16 May 1811 was defeated by Beresford (battle of Albuera). Despite this victory, the Allies were eventually forced to abandon the siege of Badajoz, which would not fall until the next year.
In the spring of 1813 Soult was summoned to Germany, to take part in Napoleon’s final campaign in Germany. He performed well at Lützen (2 May 1813), where he commanded the Guards, and at Bautzen (20-21 May 1813), but soon after that Napoleon learnt of Wellington’s great victory at Vittoria. Soult was dispatched back to Spain with orders to defend the frontier.
The result was the battle of the Pyrenees, a series of battles in the mountains that saw Soult attempt to force his way back into Spain. Soult himself was unable to break through at Roncesvalles on 25 July 1813, and the entire campaign ended with the British pushing towards the French border. During these battles Soult had sizable armies, but they were almost always made up of raw recruits, the last manpower available to the French.
Soult made a series of attempts to slow this invasion, but he was defeated at the Nivelle River (10 November 1813) and the Nive River (9-12 December 1813), and at the start of 1814 the Allies were besieging Bayonne. The final battle of the Peninsular War came on 10 April 1814 at Toulouse, where once again Soult was defeated. This battle came after Napoleon’s first abdication, but before the news had reached either Wellington or Soult.
After Napoleon’s first abdication Soult submitted to the government of Louis XVIII, but during the Hundred Days he returned to Napoleon’s side, serving as his chief of staff. This was not a happy appointment – Soult was ill at ease in the job. He fought at Ligny and Waterloo, and after Napoleon’s second abdication went into exile.
His exile ended in 1819. His honours were restored over the next few years, starting with the marshal’s baton in 1820, but he did not return to favour until the period of the July Monarch (1830-1848). Louis Philippe raised him to the peerage in August 1830, and he served as Minister of war (1830-4 and 1840-5) and Prime minister.
In 1838 he represented Louis-Philippe at the coronation of Queen Victoria where he met his old adversary Wellington, who is said to have seized his arms and said “I have you at last”, a tribute to his difficulties in Spain. In 1847 he was made Maréchal-général of the French Army, a title previously only granted to Turenne, Villars and Saxe.

Napoleon's Commanders: Vol 1Author: Philip Haythornthwaite Edition: Paperback Pages: 64 Publisher: Osprey Year: 2001

Although the emphasis is often on Napoleon, the wide spread nature of the Napoleonic Wars and the slow speed on communications on the battlefield means that his subbordinate commanders played a key role in the success or failure of French armies across Europe.

Volume one of Haythornthwaite's work covers the wars from Napoleon's campaigns in Italy in 1796, through to the Austrian campaign of 1809. It also includes a section on the system of promotion used by Napoleon. The volume contains details on the careers of Augereau, Bernadotte, Berthier, Carnot, Davout, Desaix, Junot, Kellerman, Kleber, Lannes, Lasalle, MacDonald, Massena, Moreau, Murat, Oudinot, Rapp, Serurier, Soult and Reynier

Jean-Baptiste Comte Jourdan, Marshal of France, 1762-1833Jourdan had one of the longest careers of any of Napoleon's Marshals, having served under Lafayette during the American War of Independence and then fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars, and on into the Napoleonic wars, surviving those to serve as governor of Les Invalides and Minister for Foreign Affairs under King Louis-Philippe. He became a Marshal in 1804 when he was appointed the commander of the Armee d'Italie which he commanded until September 1805. He became governor of Naples the following year and in 1808 became Chief of Staff to the Armee d'Espagne. He saw action at the battles of Talavera and Almonacid in 1809 returning to France in the October of that year. He returned to Spain in 1811 to become governor of Madrid and in 1812 fought at the battles of Salamanca and Vittoria while serving King Joseph as his Chief of staff. He was recalled to France in 1812 and retired in 1813 but this was not to last long. He was recalled to command the 14th and 15th Military divisions in 1814 but when the Bourbons retuned to power he quickly switched his allegiance back to the monarch and was made a Chevalier de Saint-Louis and commander of the 15th military division. After Waterloo he once again rallied to the monarchy and presided over the council of War that sentenced Marshall Ney to death. Despite his long record he was a timid commander more suited to the defensive warfare of a previous age than Napoleonic Warfare, Napoleon recognised this also and never gave Jourdan command of anything except secondary posts.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Indis: Sharpe's Tiger, Siege Seringapatam May 1799

This is the first of the Sharpe novels in India, 4th May 1799

Sir Walter Scott, commenting on the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, wrote:
Although I never supposed that he [Napoleon] possessed, allowing for some difference of education, the liberality of conduct and political views which were sometimes exhibited by old Haidar Ally, yet I did think he [Napoleon] might have shown the same resolved and dogged spirit of resolution which induced Tipu Sahib to die manfully upon the breach of his capital city with his sabre clenched in his hand.

Mysore Palace

The Siege of Seringapatam (4 May 1799) was the final confrontation of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore. The British achieved a decisive victory after breaching the walls of the fortress at Seringapatam (as Srirangapatna was then known) and storming the citadel. Tippu Sultan, Mysore's ruler, was killed in the action. The British restored the Wodeyar dynasty to the throne after the victory, but retained indirect control of the kingdom.

The battle consisted of a series of encounters around Seringapatam (as Srirangapatna was then called) in the months of April and May 1799, between the combined forces of the British East India Company and their allies, numbering over 50,000 soldiers in all, and the soldiers of the Kingdom of Mysore, ruled by Tippu Sultan, numbering up to 30,000. The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War came to an end with the defeat and death of Tippu Sultan in the battle.

When the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out, the British assembled two large columns under General George Harris. The first consisted of over 26,000 British East India Company troops, 4,000 of whom were European while the rest were local Indian sepoys. The second column was supplied by the Nizam of Hyderabad, and consisted of ten battalions and over 16,000 cavalry. Together, the allied force numbered over 50,000 soldiers. Tippu's forces had been depleted by the Third Anglo-Mysore War and the consequent loss of half his kingdom, but he still probably had up to 30,000 soldiers.
The British forces consisted of the following:
12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot
19th Light Dragoons
25th Light Dragoons
33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regiment of Foot
73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot
74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot
75th (Highland) Regiment of Foot
77th Regiment of Foot Scotch Brigade [later 94th Regiment]

The Indian (sepoy) forces consisted of the following:
1st Madras Native Infantry
2d Madras Native Infantry
1st Madras Native Cavalry
2nd Madras Native Cavalry
3rd Madras Native Cavalry
4th Madras Native Cavalry
Madras Pioneers
Madras Artillery
1st Bengal Native Infantry
2nd Bengal Native Infantry
Bengal Artillery

Seringapatam was besieged by the British forces on 5 April 1799. The River Cauvery, which flowed around the city of Seringapatam, was at its lowest level of the year and could be forded by infantry — if an assault commenced before the monsoon. When letters were exchanged with Tippu, it seemed that the Sultan was playing for time. He requested two persons to be sent to him for discussions and also stated that he was preoccupied with hunting expeditions. Tippu Sultan's prime minister, Mir Saadiq, was a traitor bought by the British. He pulled out the Mysore army for paying wages in the midst of the battle, thus allowing British forces to storm the boundary wall with little defence.
Another key treachery to help the British was the spilling of water in the basements where the Sultan's army stored its gunpowder, which rendered the gunpowder useless

The Governor-General of the East India Company, Richard Wellesley, planned the opening of a breach in the walls of Seringapatam. The location of the breach, as noted by Beatson, the author of an account of the Fourth Mysore War, was 'in the west curtain, a little to the right of the flank of the north-west bastion. This being the old rampart appeared weaker than the new.' The Mysorean defence succeeded in preventing the establishment of a battery on the north side of the River Cauvery on 22 April 1799. However, by 1 May, working at night, the British had completed their southern batteries and brought them up to the wall. At sunrise on 2 May, the batteries of the Nizam of Hyderabad succeeded in opening a practical breach in the outer wall. In addition, the mines that were laid under the breach were hit by artillery and blew up prematurely.

The leader of the British troops was Major General David Baird, an implacable enemy of the Sultan: twenty years earlier, he had been held captive by the Sultan for 44 months. The storming troops, including men of the 73rd and 74th regiments, clambered up the breach and fought their way along the ramparts.

After the Company troops had taken the city, the Sultan's body was found among the dead, shot in the head and stripped of his jewels.

The assault was to begin at 1:00 p.m. to coincide with the hottest part of the day when the defenders would be taking refreshment. Led by two forlorn-hopes, two columns would advance upon the defences around the breach, then wheel right and left to take over the fortifications. A third reserve column, commanded by Arthur Wellesley would deploy as required to provide support where needed.

At 11:00 a.m., on 4 May 1799, the British troops were briefed and whisky and a biscuit issued to the European soldiers, before the signal to attack was given. The forlorn-hopes, numbering seventy-six men, led the charge. The columns quickly formed, were ordered to fix bayonets, and began to move forward. The storming party dashed across the River Cauvery in water four feet deep, with covering fire from British batteries, and within 16 minutes had scaled the ramparts and swept aside the defenders quickly.
The column that rounded the northwest corner of the outer wall was immediately involved in a serious fight with a group of Mysorean warriors under a short fat officer, which defended every traverse. The officer was observed to be discharging loaded hunting weapons, passed to him by servants in his service, at the British. After the fall of the city, in the gathering dusk, some of the British officers went to look for the body of Tippu Sultan. He was identified as the fat officer who had fired hunting weapons at the offenders, and his body was found in a choked tunnel-like passage near the Water Gate.

Wilkie Collins's novel The Moonstone begins with the looting of the jewels removed from Seringapatam in 1799 from the legendary treasury of Tippu Saltan.
The Battle of Seringapatam was adapted, and was the main conflict in the novel Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell.
Two cannon captured by the British during the battle are now placed in front of the officers mess at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Elizabeth Longford (Elizabeth Harman Pakenham, Countess of Longford), 1996, Wellington: The Years of the Sword, Smithmark Pub, New York, ISBN 978-0831756468.
Moienuddin, Mohammad. Sunset at Srirangapatam: After the death of Tipu Sultan, Orient Longman, ISBN 8125019197
Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan and the Struggle with the Mohammadan Powers of the South, Cosmo (Publications, India), ISBN 8177554352
Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernization Under Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan (Anthem South Asian Studies), Anthem Press, ISBN 1843310244
Jac Weller, 2006, Wellington in India, Greenhill Books, London, ISBN 978-1853673979
"Maratha War Papers" by A Bennell 1998 ISBN 0750920696

India: Sharpe's Fortress, December 1803

This is the second novel of Sharpe in India at the battle of Assaye.

The Battle of Assaye

East India Company
Maratha Confederacy:Daulat Scindia Raghoji Bhonsle
Commanders Arthur Wellesley /Anthony Pohlmann
Strength 9,50017 cannon 50,000100+ cannon
Casualties and losses 428 killed1,156 wounded
18 missing Approx. 6,000 killed and wounded,
98 cannon lost

The Battle of Assaye was a major battle of the Second Anglo-Maratha War
fought between the Maratha Confederacy
and the British East India Company

It occurred on 23 September 1803 near Assaye in western India where an outnumbered Indian and British force under the command of Major General Arthur Wellesley (who later became the Duke of Wellington) defeated a combined Confederacy army of Daulat Scindia and the Raja of Berar. The battle was the Duke of Wellington's first major victory and one he later described as his finest accomplishment on the battlefield.

From August 1803, Wellesley's army and a separate force under the command of his subordinate Colonel James Stevenson had been pursuing the Maratha cavalry-based army which threatened to raid south into Hyderabad. After several weeks of pursuit and countermarching, Scindia reinforced the combined Maratha army with his Europeanised infantry and artillery as the British forces closed in on his position.

Wellesley received intelligence indicating the location of the Maratha encampment on 21 September and devised a plan whereby his two armies would converge on the Maratha position three days later. Wellesley's force, however, encountered the Maratha army – which was under the command of Colonel Anthony Pohlmann – 6 miles (9.7 km) farther south than he anticipated. Although outnumbered, Wellesley resolved to attack at once, believing that the Maratha army would soon move off. Both sides suffered heavily in the ensuing battle; Maratha artillery caused large numbers of casualties among Wellesley's troops but the vast numbers of Maratha cavalry proved largely ineffective. A combination of bayonet and cavalry charges eventually forced the Maratha army to retreat with the loss of most of their guns, but Wellesley's army was too battered and exhausted to pursue.

Wellesley's victory at Assaye, preceded by the capture of Ahmednagar and followed by victories at Argaon and Gawilghur, resulted in the defeat of Scindia and Berar's armies in the Deccan. Wellesley's progress in the Deccan was matched by Lieutenant General Gerard Lake's successful campaigns in Northern India and led to the British becoming the dominant power in the heartlands of India.

picture wellesley: Lord Mornington, the Governor-General of British India between 1798 and 1805, oversaw a rapid expansion of British territory in India.

Feuding between the two dominant powers within the Maratha Confederacy, Yashwant Rao Holkar and Daulat Rao Scindia, led to civil war at the turn of the 19th century. The hostilities culminated in the Battle of Poona in October 1802 where Holkar defeated a combined army of Scindia and Baji Rao II – the Peshwa and nominal overlord of the Confederacy.

Scindia retreated into his dominions to the north, but Baji Rao was driven from his territory and sought refuge with the East India Company at Bassein. He appealed to the Company for assistance, offering to accept its authority if he were restored to his principality at Poona. Lord Mornington, the ambitious Governor-General of British India, seized on the opportunity to extend Company influence into the Confederacy which he perceived as the final obstacle to British paramountcy over the Indian subcontinent.

The Treaty of Bassein was signed in December 1802 whereby the Company agreed to restore Baji Rao in return for control over his foreign affairs and a garrison of 6,000 Company troops permanently stationed in Poona. The restoration was commanded by Lord Mornington’s younger brother, Major General Arthur Wellesley, who in March 1803 marched on Poona from Mysore with 15,000 Company troops and 9,000 Hyderabad allies.

Wellesley entered Poona without opposition on 20 April, and Baji Rao was formally restored to his throne on 13 May.The treaty gave offence to the other Maratha leaders, who deemed that the system of subsidiary alliances with the British was an unwarranted interference into their affairs and fatal to the independent Maratha states. The Maratha leaders refused to submit to the Peshwa's authority and tensions were raised further when Holkar raided into Hyderabad in May, claiming that the Nizam of Hyderabad (a British ally) owed him money.

Mornington consequently engaged the various Maratha chieftains in negotiations. Lieutenant Colonel John Collins was sent to Scindia's camp to discuss his objections and propose a defensive alliance. However, Scindia had formed a military alliance with the Rajah of Berar in view to bringing the Maratha leaders into a coalition against the British, and had begun to mass his forces on the Nizam's border. Wellesley, who had been given control over the Company's military and political affairs in central India in June, demanded Scindia declare his intentions and withdraw his forces or face the prospect of war. After a protracted period of negotiations, Collins reported to Wellesley on 3 August that Scindia refused to give an answer and would not withdraw his troops. Wellesley's response was to declare war on Scindia and Berar "in order to secure the interests of the British government and its allies".

The East India Company attacked the two principal Maratha forces of Scindia and the Raja of Berar from the north and the south. Of the other Maratha leaders, Holkar was hesitant to enter the war in cooperation with his rival, Scindia, and remained aloof from the hostilities, and the Gaekwad of Baroda placed himself under British protection. Operations in the north were directed by Lieutenant General Gerard Lake who entered Maratha territory from Cawnpore to face Scindia's main army which was commanded by the French mercenary, Pierre Perron. A second British force under the command of Major General Wellesley confronted a combined army of Scindia and Berar in the Deccan. Wellesley was determined to gain the initiative through offensive action and told his senior subordinate, Colonel James Stevenson, that "a long defensive war would ruin us and will answer no purpose whatever".

The Maratha army in the Deccan was largely composed of fast-moving cavalry able to live off the land. Consequently, Wellesley planned to work in conjunction with a separate force under Colonel Stevenson to enable his slower troops to out-manoeuvre the Maratha army and force it into a position where it could not avoid a pitched battle. Stevenson was despatched from Hyderabad with an army of some 10,000 men to Jafarabad to deny Scindia and Berar the chance to raid east into the Nizam's territory.

In the meantime, Wellesley moved north from his camp near the Godavari River on 8 August with some 13,500 troops and headed towards Scindia's nearest stronghold – the walled town and fort at Ahmednuggur. The bulk of his forces were Company troops from Mysore: five sepoy infantry battalions of the Madras Native Infantry and three squadrons of Madras Native Cavalry. A contingent of European troops were supplied by the British Army and included cavalry from the 19th Light Dragoons and two battalions of Scottish infantry from the 74th and 78th Regiment of Foot. Irregular light cavalry were also provided by the Company's Mysore and Maratha allies.Wellesley reached Ahmednuggur later the same day after a 7-mile (11 km) march and immediately ordered an escalade assault on the town rather than enter into a time-consuming siege.

The walled town, which was garrisoned by 1,000 Arab mercenaries, upwards of 60 cannon and one of Scindia’s infantry battalions under the command of French officers, was captured with minimal losses after a brief action. The adjacent fort's defenders capitulated four days later once the walls were breached by British artillery. With the fortification providing a logistics base and point of support for future operations into Maratha territory, Wellesley installed a garrison and headed north towards the Nizam's city of Aurungabad. Along the way he captured Scindia’s other possessions south of the Godavari and established a series of guarded bridges and ferries along the river to maintain his communication and supply lines.

Map of the Assaye

The Marathas slipped past Stevenson and advanced on Hyderabad. After receiving reports of their movement on 30 August, Wellesley hurried east down to the Godavari to intercept. Stevenson, meanwhile, marched westwards to the Maratha city of Jalna which he took by storm. Scindia learned of Wellesley's intentions and returned to a position north of Jalna. Unable to make a clean break from the pursuing British he abandoned plans to raid into Hyderabad and instead assembled his infantry and artillery. The combined Maratha army was around 50,000 strong, the core of which was 10,800 well equipped regular infantry organised into three brigades, trained and commanded by European adventurer and mercenary officers.

Colonel Anthony Pohlmann, a Hanoverian and former East India Company sergeant, commanded the largest brigade with eight battalions. A further brigade with five battalions was provided by Begum Samru, and was commanded on her behalf by a Frenchman, Colonel Jean Saleur. The third brigade had four battalions and was commanded by Dutchman, Major John James Dupont. In addition, the Maratha force included 10,000–20,000 of Berar's irregular infantry, some 30,000–40,000 irregular light cavalry and over 100 guns ranging in size from one to 18-pounders.After several weeks of chasing down the Maratha army, Wellesley and Stevenson met at Budnapoor on 21 September and received intelligence that the Maratha army was at Borkardan, around 30 miles (48 km) to the north. They agreed a plan by which their two armies – moving separately along either side of a range of hills with Wellesley to the east and Stevenson to the west – would converge on Borkardan on 24 September. Wellesley's force reached Paugy on the afternoon of 22 September and departed camp before dawn. By noon, the army had marched 14 miles (23 km) to Naulniah, a small town 12 miles (19 km) south of Borkardan, where they intended to rest before joining Stevenson to attack the Maratha army the next day.

At this point, Wellesley received further intelligence that rather than being at Borkardan, the Maratha army was camped just 5 miles (8.0 km) north, but their cavalry had moved off and the infantry were about to follow. At about 13:00, Wellesley went forward with a cavalry escort to reconnoitre the Maratha position. The rest of his army followed closely behind apart from a battalion of sepoys left at Naulniah to guard the baggage. In all, Wellesley had 4,500 troops at his disposal plus 5,000 Mysore and Maratha horse and 17 cannon. Aware that the British were nearby, The Maratha chiefs had positioned their army in a strong defensive position along a tongue of land stretching east from Borkardan between the Kailna River and its tributary the Juah.

However, Scindia and Berar did not believe Wellesley would attack with his small force and had moved off from the area in the morning. Command of their army was given to Pohlmann, who had positioned his infantry to the east of the Maratha camp in the plains around the village of Assaye on the southern bank of the Juah.To his surprise, Wellesley found the entire combined army before him. Nevertheless, he resolved to attack at once, believing that if he waited for Stevenson, the Marathas would have the chance to slip away and force the pursuit to drag on. Wellesley was also eager to forge a reputation for himself, and despite his numerical disadvantage, he was confident that the Maratha’s irregular forces would be swept aside by his disciplined troops, and only Scindia’s regular infantry could be expected to stand and fight. Pohlmann struck camp and deployed his infantry battalions in a line facing southwards behind the steep banks of the Kailna with his cannon arrayed directly in front. The great mass of Maratha cavalry was kept on the right flank and Berar's irregular infantry garrisoned Assaye to the rear. The only observable crossing point over the river was a small ford directly ahead of the Maratha position. Pohlmann's strategy was to funnel the British and Madras troops across the ford into the mouth of his cannon, and then on to the massed infantry and cavalry behind. Wellesley's local guides assured him that no other ford existed nearby, but he quickly discarded the option of a frontal assault as suicide. While reconnoitring he had noticed two unguarded villages, Peepulgaon and Waroor, one on each bank of the Kailna beyond the Maratha left. On the assumption that a ford must exist between the two villages, Wellesley ordered the area to be further reconnoitred by his Chief Engineer, Captain John Johnson, who reported that there was indeed a ford at that spot.

Thus Wellesley led his army east to the crossing in an attempt to launch an attack on Pohlmann's left flank. At around 15:00, the British crossed to the northern bank of the Kaitna unopposed apart from a distant harassing fire from the Maratha cannon which was largely inaccurate but succeeded in decapitating Wellesley's dragoon orderly. Once across, Wellesley ordered his six infantry battalions to form into two lines, with his cavalry as a reserve in a third. His allied Maratha and Mysore cavalry were ordered to remain south of the Kaitna to keep in check a large body of Maratha cavalry which hovered around the British rear.

Pohlmann soon recognised Wellesley’s intentions and swung his infantry and guns through 90 degrees to establish a new line spread approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) across the isthmus with their right flank on the Kaitna and the left on Assaye. Although the new position secured the Maratha flanks, it restricted Pohlmann from bringing his superior numbers into action.The Maratha redeployment was swifter and more efficient than Wellesley had anticipated and he immediately reacted by extending his front to deny Pohlmann the opportunity to out-flank him. A battalion of pickets and the 74th Highlanders, which formed the right of the first and second lines, were ordered to move obliquely to the right. This allowed the 78th to anchor the left flank and Madras infantry battalions (the 1/10th, 1/8th, 1/4th and 2/12th) to form the centre of the British line. Wellesley's intention was to force back the Marathas from their guns and then – operating by his left to avoid the heavily defended Assaye – throw them back on the Juah and complete their destruction with his cavalry.

Map of the battle.

The British and Indian infantry move forward to attack the redeployed Maratha line.The Maratha cannonade intensified as the British redeployed. Although British artillery was brought forward to counter, it was ineffective against the mass firepower of the Maratha guns and quickly disabled through the weight of shot directed against it. British casualties mounted as the Maratha guns turned their attention to the infantry and subjected them to a barrage of canister, grape and round shot. Wellesley decided that his only option to neutralise the artillery and get his men out of the killing field was to advance directly into the mouth of the Maratha artillery. He ordered his cannon to be abandoned and gave the command for his infantry to march forward with bayonets fixed.

The Maratha cannonade punched holes in the British line, but the infantry maintained a steady pace, closing up the gaps in their ranks as they advanced. The 78th Highlanders were the first to reach the enemy in the southern sector next to the River Kailna. They paused 50 yards (46 m) from the Maratha gunners and unleashed a volley of musket fire before launching into a bayonet charge. The four battalions of Madras infantry to the right of the 78th, accompanied by the Madras Pioneers, reached Pohlmann's line shortly afterwards and attacked in the same fashion. The gunners stood by their cannon but were no match for the bayonets of the British and Madras troops who swiftly pressed on towards the Maratha infantry. However, instead of meeting the charge, the Maratha right broke and fled northwards towards the Juah, causing the rest of the southern half of the line to follow. The officers of the Madras battalions temporarily lost control as the sepoys, encouraged by their success, pushed too far pursuit. Maratha cavalry momentarily threatened to charge but were checked by the 78th who remained in order and re-formed to face the danger.

In the northern sector of the battle field however, Wellesley's right flank was in turmoil. The commander of the pickets, Lieutenant Colonel William Orrock, had mistaken his orders and continued his oblique path directly towards Assaye. Major Samuel Swinton of the 74th regiment was ordered to support the pickets and followed close behind. This created a large gap in the centre of the British line, and brought the two battalions under a barrage of cannonade from the artillery around the village and the Maratha left. The two battalions began to fall back in disarray and Pohlmann ordered his remaining infantry and cavalry forward to attack. The Marathas gave no quarter; the pickets were virtually annihilated but the remnants of the 74th were able to form a rough square behind hastily piled bodies of dead.

Realising that the destruction of his right would leave his army exposed and out-flanked, Wellesley ordered a detachment of British cavalry under Colonel Patrick Maxwell consisting of the 19th Light Dragoons and elements of the 4th and 5th Madras Native Cavalry into action. From their position at the rear, the cavalry dashed directly towards the 74th's square, crashed into the swarming attackers and routed them. Maxwell pressed his advantage and continued his charge into the Maratha infantry and guns on the left, driving them backwards and across the Juah "with great slaughter".

A number of Maratha gunners who had feigned death when the British advanced over their position re-manned their guns and began to pour cannon fire into the rear of the 74th and Madras infantry. Wellesley ordered his four sepoy battalions to re-form and ward off any threat from the Maratha infantry and cavalry while the 78th were sent back to retake the Maratha gun line. Wellesley, meanwhile, galloped back to 7th Madras Native Cavalry, which had been held back in reserve to the east, and led a cavalry charge from the opposite direction. The gunners again stood their ground but were eventually driven from their guns and this time it was ensured that all those who remained were dead.

While Wellesley was preoccupied with re-taking the gun line, Pohlmann rallied his infantry and redeployed them into a semicircle with their backs to the Juah; their right flank across the river and their left in Assaye. However, most of the Maratha cannon, which had inflicted heavy losses on Wellesley's infantry, had been captured or lay abandoned on the battlefield. Reluctant to join the fray, the Maratha cavalry lingered in the distance to the west. Most were Pindarries: loosely organised and lightly armed horsemen whose traditional role was to cut down fleeing enemy troops, harass convoy lines and carry out raids into enemy territory. They were not trained to attack well-formed infantry or heavily armed European cavalry, and did not play a further part in the battle.With the remanned Maratha artillery silenced, Wellesley turned his attention to Pohlmann's reformed infantry. Although Maxwell had suffered heavy losses, he had rallied his cavalry and returned to the field of battle. Wellesley ordered him to charge the Maratha left flank, while the infantry moved forward as a single line to meet the centre and right. The cavalry spurred forward but were met with a volley of canister shot which struck Maxwell, killing him instantly. Their momentum lost, the cavalry did not complete their charge but veered away from the Maratha line at the last moment. The British and Madras infantry marched on against the Maratha position but Pohlmann's men, their morale low, did not wait for the attack and instead retreated northwards across the Juah.

Descriptions differ as to the manner of their departure: Maratha sources claim the line marched away from the battlefield in an orderly manner on Pohlmann's orders but British accounts claim the Maratha infantry fled in an uncontrolled panic. Berar's irregulars inside Assaye, now leaderless and having witnessed the fate of the regular infantry, abandoned the village and marched off northwards at around 18:00, followed shortly afterwards by the Maratha cavalry. Wellesley's troops, however, were exhausted and in no condition to pursue and the native allied cavalry which had remained on the south bank of the Kailna and had not been engaged, refused to pursue without the support of the British and Madras cavalry.

Assaye elephant emblem awarded to the Madras Sappers

The East India Company and British Army casualties amounted to 428 killed, 1138 wounded and 18 missing; a total of 1,584 – over a third of the force engaged in combat. The 74th and the picket battalion were decimated; from a strength of about 500, the 74th lost ten officers killed and seven wounded, and 124 other ranks killed and 270 wounded. The pickets lost all their officers except their commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Orrock, and had only about 75 men remaining. Of the ten officers forming the general's staff, eight were wounded or had their horses killed. Wellesley himself lost two horses; the first was shot from underneath him and the second was speared as he led the charge to re-capture the Maratha gun line.

The number of Maratha casualties is more difficult to ascertain. Despatches from British officers give a figure of 1,200 dead and many more wounded but contemporary historians have estimated a total of 6,000 dead and wounded. The Marathas also surrendered seven stands of colours, large amounts of stores and ammunition and 98 cannon – most of which were later taken into service by the East India Company.

Although Scindia and Berar's army was not finished as a fighting force, several of Scindia's regular infantry battalions and artillery crews had been destroyed. Their command structure had also been damaged: many of their European officers, including Colonel Pohlmann and Major Dupont, surrendered to the Company – which had offered amnesty to Europeans in the service of the Maratha armies – or deserted and sought employment with other native chieftains.

The sound of the guns at Assaye was heard by Stevenson who immediately broke up his camp 10 miles (16 km) miles to the west in an attempt to join the battle. However, he was misled by his guide and marched first on Borkardan before he reached the battlefield on the evening of 24 September. Suspecting that his guide had intentionally led him astray, Stevenson later had him hanged. He remained with Wellesley to assist with the wounded – troops were still being carried from the battlefield four days after the engagement – until ordered to recommence the pursuit of the Maratha army on 26 September.

Wellesley remained to the south while he established a hospital at Ajanta and awaited reinforcements from Poona. Two months later, he combined with Stevenson to rout Scindia and Berar's demoralised and weakened army at Argaon, and shortly afterwards stormed Berar's fortress at Gawilghur. These victories, coupled with Lieutenant General Lake's successful campaign in the north, induced the two Maratha chiefs to sue for peace.

Wellesley later told Stevenson that "I should not like to see again such a loss as I sustained on the 23rd September, even if attended by such a gain", and in later life he referred to Assaye as "the bloodiest for the numbers that I ever saw". Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Munro, the Company's district collector at Mysore, was critical of the high proportion of casualties and questioned Wellesley's decision not to wait for Stevenson. He wrote to Wellesley: "I am tempted to think that you did it with a view of sharing the glory with the smallest numbers". In response, Wellesley politely rebuffed Munro's accusations and defended his action as necessary because he had received and acted upon incorrect intelligence regarding the Maratha position.

Assaye was 34-year-old Wellesley's first major success and despite his anguish over the heavy losses, it was a battle he always held in the highest estimation. After his retirement from active military service, the Duke of Wellington (as he later became known) considered Assaye the finest thing he ever did in the way of fighting even when compared to his later military career.Lord Mornington and his Council lauded the battle as a "most brilliant and important victory", and presented each of the Madras units and British regiments involved in the engagement with a set of honorary colours.

The British regiments and native units were also awarded the Assaye battle honour and most were later given permission to adopt an Assaye elephant as part of their insignia. A public monument was also erected by the East India Company at Fort William, Calcutta to commemorate the victory. The 74th Regiment of foot later became known as the Assaye regiment due to their stand at the battle and their modern-day successors, the Royal Highland Fusiliers (2 SCOTS), still celebrate the anniversary of the battle each year. Of the native infantry battalions, In the Indian Army, only the Madras Sappers survive in their original form but do not celebrate Assaye as it has been declared a repugnant battle honour by the Government of India.


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Biddulph, John (1899), The Nineteenth and their times, London: Murray

Black, Jeremy (1999), Britain as a Military Power, 1688-1815, London: Routledge, ISBN 185728772X

Bradshaw, John (1894), Rulers of India: Sir Thomas Munro and the British Settlement of the Madras Presidency, Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 8120618718,

Cooper, Randolph G. S. (2003), The Anglo-Maratha Campaigns and the Contest for India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521824443

Corrigan, Gordon (2006), Wellington: A Military Life, London: Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 1852855150

Gurwood, John, ed. (1837), The dispatches of Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington from 1799-1818, II, London: Murray, ISBN 054860472X

Holmes, Richard (2003), Wellington: The Iron Duke, London: Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-713750-8

Millar, Simon (2006), Assaye 1803: Wellington's First and 'Bloodiest' Victory, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1846030013

Roy, Kaushik (2004), India's Historic Battles: From Alexander the Great to Kargil, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, ISBN 8178241099

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Sandes, Lt Col E.W.C. (1948), The Indian Sappers and Miners, Chatham, Great Britain: Institution of the Royal Engineers

Severn, John Kenneth (2007), Architects of Empire: The Duke of Wellington and His Brothers, Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0806138106

Singh, Sarbans (1993), Battle Honours of the Indian Army 1757–1971, New Delhi: Vision Books, ISBN 81-7094-115-6

Thorn, William (1818), Memoir of the War in India, London: Thomas Egerton Weller, Jac (1972), Wellington in India, London: Longman, ISBN 058212784X

Wellesley, Gerald, ed. (1956), The Conversations of the First Duke of Wellington with George William Chad, Cambridge: Saint Nicolas Press

Saturday, 19 June 2010

94th (Scotch Brigade)

94th (Scots Brigade) Regiment of Foot 1802–1818, 1794Scotch Brigade, raised for Dutch service in 1568, placed on the British Establishment in 1794.
Edwards, T J (1953). Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Commonwealth Forces. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. Farmer, John S (1901). The Regimental Records of the British Army : a historical résumé chronologically arranged of titles, campaigns, honours, uniforms, facings, badges, nicknames, etc.. London: Grant Richards. Lawson, Cecil C P (1961).
A History of the Uniforms of The British Army, Volume III. London: Norman Military Publications. Swinson, Arthur (1972).
A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London: The Archive Press. ISBN 0855910003. Wickes, H L (1974).
Regiments of Foot: A History of the Foot Regiments of the British Army. Reading, Berkshire: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0850452201.

India: Sharpe's Fortress

This is third novel in the trilogy of Sharpe in India, it is set at the Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803

Gawilghur (also Gawilgarhor Gawilgad) was a well-fortified mountain stronghold of the Maratha Empire north of the Deccan Plateau, in the vicinity of Melghat Tiger Reserve, Amravati District, Maharashtra. It was successfully assaulted by an Anglo-Indian force commanded by Arthur Wellesley on the 15 December, 1803 during the Second Anglo-Maratha War. In popular culture, the campaign to take Gawilghur forms the background of the novel Sharpe's Fortress by Bernard Cornwell, the third in a trilogy of books covering the eponymous hero's time in the British army in India during the Napoleonic era.
The fort takes its name from the Gawli (cow herds) who inhabited the Berar (modern day Amravati) for centuries. Earlier the fort was likely just made of mud as were several such areas in the region. The exact date of construction is not known but the Persian historian, Firishta, records that Ahmed Shah Wali, the ninth king of the Berar dynasty built Gawilgarh when he was encamped at Ellichpur in 1425. Likely this was the date when major fortification was carried out.

After two failed attempts at the main gate by British and Sepoy companies, and many casualties, Captain Campbell led the 94th Scottish Brigade (light company) up the ravine dividing the inner and outer forts and into the inner fort by escalade. The Scots then forced the northern gatehouse and opened the many gates, allowing the remaining British forces entry. The British suffered few casualties in the final assault (approx. 150). The fortress was returned to the Marathas after making peace with the British but they abandoned it.
The fort has several inscriptions in Persian recording the date of building of each of its seven gates. It has two water tanks (Devtalav and Khantalav), which would have been the main water source in case the fort was besieged. Within the fort the ruins of a mosque are the most conspicuous. It stands at the highest point in the inner fort and is built in the Pathan style of architecture. The mosque has a square canopy with intricate stone lattice work and a seven arched façade. The mosque originally had two minarets, only one of which is intact today.
Gafur Ahmed, a jaglia (tenant) of the Narnala fort, tried to determine whether the chambers built into the fort of Narnala had any use by driving 20 sheep into them. One of the sheep turned up at Gawilgarh which is more than 20 miles away. So, probably there is an underground tunnel connecting the two forts.
There are several unrepaired breaches made by British guns, which remain to this day. The gun that killed five attackers with a single shot still stands, although now with graffiti running the length of the barrel.

ReferencesNaravane, M. S (2007). Battles of the honourable East India Company:making of the Raj. APH Publishing. ISBN 9788131300343.