Such is the account which Clive gave of the battle in a journal written by him very shortly after, if not on the day after, it was fought
Continuing Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India,
our selection from Lord Clive; the foundation of British rule in India by Sir Alexander Arbuthnot published in 1899. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India.
Time: June 23, 1757
Our situation was very advantageous, being in a grove surrounded by high mud-banks. Our right and front were entirely covered by those mud-banks, our left by Placis’ house and the river, our rear by the grove and a large village. The enemy approached apace, covered a fine extensive plain in front of us as far as the eye could discern from right to left, and consisted, as we have since learned, of 15,000 horse and 35,000 foot, with more than 40 pieces of cannon, from thirty-two to nine pounders. They began to cannonade from this heavy artillery, which, though well pointed, could do little execution, our people being lodged under the banks. We could not hope to succeed in an attempt on their cannon, as they were planted almost round, and at a considerable distance both from us and each other. We therefore remained quiet in front, in hopes of a successful attack on their camp at night. At 300 yards from the bank under which we were posted was a pool of water with high banks all round it, and was apparently a post of strength. This the enemy presently took possession of, and would have galled us much from thence but for our advantageous position, with some cannon managed by 50 Frenchmen. This heavy artillery continued to play very briskly on the grove.
As their army, exclusive of a few advanced parties, were drawn up at too great a distance for our short sixes to reach them, one field-piece with a howitzer was advanced 200 yards in front, and we could see that they played with great success amongst those that were of the first rank, by which the whole army was dispirited and thrown into confusion.
A large body of their horse starting out on our right, and as by that movement we supposed they intended an attempt on the advanced field-piece and howitzer, they were both ordered back.
About eleven o’clock a very heavy shower of rain came on, and we imagined the horse would now, if ever, have attacked in hopes of breaking us, as they might have thought we could not then make use of our firelocks; but their ignorance or the brisk firing of our artillery prevented them from attempting it.
At noon, a report being made that a party of horse had attacked and taken our boats, the pickets were ordered, but, the account proving false, they were countermanded.
The enemy’s fire now began to slacken, and soon after entirely ceased. In this situation we remained until two o’clock, when, perceiving that most of the enemy were returned to their camp, it was thought a proper opportunity to seize one of the eminences from which the enemy had much annoyed us in the morning. Accordingly, the Grenadiers, of the 1st Battalion, with two field-pieces and a body of Sepoys, supported by four platoons and two field-pieces from the 2d Battalion, were ordered to take possession of it, which accordingly they did.
This encouraged us to take possession of another advanced post within 300 yards of the entrance to the enemy’s camp.
All these motions brought the enemy out a second time, but in attempting to bring out their cannon they were so galled by our artillery that they could not effect it, notwithstanding they made several attempts. Their horse and foot, however, advanced much nearer than in the morning, and by their motions made as if they intended to charge; two or three large bodies being within 150 yards. In this situation they stood a considerable time a very brisk and severe cannonade, which killed them upwards of 400 men, among whom were four or five principal officers. This loss put the enemy into great confusion, and encouraged us to attack the entrance into their camp and an adjacent eminence at the same time. This we effected with little or no loss, although the former was defended by the 50 French and a very large body of black infantry, and the latter by a large body of horse and foot intermixt together. During the heat of the action the remainder of the forces were two or three times ordered to join us, and that order as often countermanded on account of the movement of a large body of horse towards the grove, whom we had often fired upon to keep at a proper distance. Those afterwards proved to be our friends, commanded by Mir Jafar. The entrance to the camp being gained, a general rout ensued, and the whole army continued the pursuit for upwards of six miles, which, for want of horse, answered no other purpose than that of taking all their artillery, consisting of forty pieces of cannon, and all their baggage.”
Such is the account which Clive gave of the battle in a journal written by him very shortly after, if not on the day after, it was fought. It cannot be said that it furnishes a very clear or full narrative of the events of the day. It does not mention the death of Mir Mudin, the Nawab’s only faithful general, which appears to have occurred shortly after eleven o’clock, and was really the crisis of the battle. It contains no statement of the loss sustained, which, however, was very slight. Orme gives some particulars, but as regards the Europeans in a very imperfect form. He states: “This important victory was gained with little loss: only sixteen Sepoys were killed and thirty-six wounded. And of the Europeans about twenty were killed and wounded, of which number six of the killed and ten of the wounded were of the artillery, as were likewise the two officers who were wounded during the different operations of the day.” The numbers of killed and wounded are given somewhat more in detail by Malleson, although his totals agree with those given by Orme. By Malleson’s account, seven Europeans were killed and sixteen wounded. According to both these writers, the total number of killed and wounded in Clive’s force was seventy-two. The loss on the Nawab’s side appears to have been between five and six hundred.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history