A battle ensued on February 5th, in which Clive, with 1350 Europeans, 800 Sepoys, and 7 field-guns, beat the Nawab’s force of 40,000 men, including 18,000 cavalry, 40 guns, and 50 elephants.
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: February, 1757
Place: Outside Calcutta, India
The select committee at Calcutta, as the Governor’s council was then designated, called upon Clive to surrender the powers with which he had been invested, and to place himself under them. His reply was a decided refusal. “I do not,” he wrote, “intend to make use of my power for acting separately from you, without you reduce me to the necessity of so doing; but as far as concerns the means of executing these powers, you will excuse me, gentlemen, if I refuse to give them up. I cannot do it without forfeiting the trust reposed in me by the select committee of Fort St. George. It does not become me, as an individual, to give my opinion whether the conduct of the gentlemen of Fort St. George has been faulty or not. That point must be determined by our superiors.”
The attitude of the Calcutta committee was described by Clive in a letter to his friend Pigot in the following terms: “I am sorry to say that the loss of private property and the means of recovering it seem to be the only objects which take up the thoughts of the Bengal gentlemen. Believe me, they are bad subjects and rotten at heart, and will stick at nothing to prejudice you and the gentlemen of the committee. Indeed, how should they do otherwise when they have not spared one another? I shall only add, their conduct at Calcutta finds no excuse even among themselves, and that the riches of Peru and Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them.”
Immediately after the recapture of Calcutta, Clive, in conjunction with Watson, moved up the river to Hugli, and captured that place without difficulty, securing booty which was estimated at fifteen thousand pounds, and destroying some large and valuable granaries. They had also planned an expedition to Dacca, the capital of Eastern Bengal, when they learned that the Nawab was again marching upon Calcutta with a large force. A battle ensued on February 5th, in which Clive, with 1350 Europeans, 800 Sepoys, and 7 field-guns, beat the Nawab’s force of 40,000 men, including 18,000 cavalry, 40 guns, and 50 elephants. The greater part of the battle was fought in a dense fog, and Clive’s men, losing their way, came under the fire of their own guns and of those in Fort William. At one time the position of the troops was very critical. The English loss was heavy, amounting to 57 killed and 117 wounded, of whom 39 and 82 respectively were Europeans, and it included Clive’s aide-de-camp and secretary, who were killed by his side. But the battle, although attended by this heavy loss to the English, was even more disastrous to the Nawab’s troops, whose casualties amounted to 1300, among whom were 2 noblemen of high rank and 22 of lesser note.
Clive’s account of this engagement is contained in the following letter, addressed by him, a few weeks after it was fought, to the Duke of Newcastle. It has been for many years deposited among the manuscripts in the British Museum, whence, by the kindness of Dr. Richard Garnett, a copy has been furnished to the writer of this memoir. It is believed that the letter has not been published before.
From Lieutenant-colonel Robert Clive to Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke of Newcastle, First Lord Of the Treasury:
May it please your Grace: The countenance your Grace was pleased to shew me when I left England encourages me to address you on the subject of the East India Company.
No doubt your Grace hath been acquainted with the capture of the Town of Calcutta and Fort William by the Moors, the principal settlement in the Kingdom of Bengall and of the utmost consequence to the E. India Company. The loss of private property only is computed at more than 2 millions sterling.
When this unfortunate news arrived at Madrass, the President and Council applied to Vice-Admiral Watson for assistance in recovering the rights and possessions of the Province of Bengal, and for the same purpose ordered a large body of land forces to embark under my command; and I have the pleasure to inform your Grace this expedition by sea and land has been crown’d with all the success that could be wished.
The Town of Calcutta and Fort William was soon retaken, with several other Forts belonging to the Enemy. This news brought down the Nabob, or Prince of the Country, himselfe at the head of 20,000 horse and 30,000 foot, 25 pieces of cannon, with a great number of elephants — our little army, consisting of 700 Europeans and 1200 blacks, arm’d and disciplined after the English manner, lay encamped about 5 miles from the Town of Calcutta. On the 4th of February the Nabob’s Army appear’d in sight, and past our camp at the distance of 1-1/2 miles, and encamp’d on the back of the town. Several parties of their horse past within 400 yards of our advanc’d battery, but as wee entertain’d great hopes of a peace from the Nabob’s promises, wee did not fire upon them.
On the 5th, agreeable to the Nabob’s desire, I despatch’d two gentlemen to wait upon him, in hopes everything might be settled without drawing the sword, but the haughtiness and disrespect with which he treated them convinced me nothing could be expected by mild measures. This determin’d me to attack his camp in the night time, for which purpose I aply’d to Admiral Watson for 500 sailors to draw our cannon, which he readily sent me, and at 3 o’clock in the morning our little army, consisting of 600 Europeans, 500 blacks, 7 field-pieces and the sailors above mentioned, set out for the attack.
A little before daybreak wee entred the camp, and received a very brisk fire. This did not stop the progress of our troops, which march’d thro’ the enemie’s camp upwards of 4 miles in length. Wee were more than 2 hours passing, and what escaped the van was destroy’d by the rear. Wee were obliged to keep a constant fire of artillery and musketry the whole time. A body of 300 of the enemy’s horse made a gallant charge, but were received with so much coolness by the military that few escaped. Several other brisk charges were made on our rear, but to no purpose, and wee returned safe to camp, having killed by the best accounts 1300 men and between 5 and 600 horse, with 4 elephants, the loss on our side 200 men killed and wounded. This blow had its effect, for the next day the army decamp’d and the Nabob sent me a letter offering terms of accommodation; and I have the pleasure of acquainting your Grace a firm peace is concluded, greatly to the honour and advantage of the Company, and the Nabob has entered into an alliance offensive and defensive with them, and is returned to his capital at Muxadavad.
As I have already been honour’d with your Grace’s protection and favour, I flatter my selfe with the continuance of it, and that, if your Grace thinks me deserving, your Grace will recommend me to the Court of Directors. — I am, with the greatest respect, your Grace’s most devoted humble servant,
CAMP NEAR CALCUTTA, “23d Febry. 1757.”
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