On the evening after the battle, Clive’s force halted at Daudpur, six miles beyond Plassey.
Today’s installment concludes 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.
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Previously in Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India.
Time: June, 1757
Place: Bengal, India
Considering the great disparity of numbers, the loss to Clive’s force was ridiculously small. Indeed, as Sir Alfred Lyall justly observes in his interesting review of The Rise and Expansion of the British Dominion in India, the so-called battle of Plassey was a rout rather than a battle. As a military achievement it cannot be compared with the defence of Arcot, or with the fight at Kaveripak, or with some other actions in which Clive was engaged. At the same time its results were far-reaching and of the greatest political importance. Indeed, it is universally regarded by historians as the starting-point of British dominion in India.
Had Plassey been lost, the establishment of British rule in India would in all probability never have taken place; and although Plassey was followed in a very few years by other contests far more severe, such as Adams’ fights at Gheria and at Andhanala, and Sir Hector Munro’s victory over the Mogul’s and the Nawab Vazir’s troops at Buxar, the political importance of Plassey, which placed the ruler of the richest provinces in India in subjection to the English company, can hardly be overestimated. Nor, although the victory was so easily won, was it less remarkable than Clive’s other military achievements for the strategy which he displayed or for the unfailing nerve and coolness with which he encountered the enormous odds against him. Clive had not anticipated that the Nawab would be able to array against him so large a force. When day broke on that June morning, and revealed to his astonished gaze the 50,000 horse and foot and the large artillery force, to which he had to oppose his 3,200 infantry, his eight light field-pieces and no cavalry, it must have needed an amount of nerve which is rarely possessed even by the bravest men to make his dispositions for the approaching battle. But on this, as on other occasions, Clive’s nerve never failed. Indeed, the greater the danger, the more clear was his judgment and the more keen his courage.
The position which Clive took up in the mango-grove, protected as it was by the trees and by the mud-bank surrounding it, which rendered the heavy artillery of the enemy practically innocuous, and the skill with which his few field-pieces were directed, were important elements in securing the victory. Indeed, the most remarkable feature in the battle is that while the artillery force of the enemy was enormously superior in the weight of metal and in the number of guns to that of Clive, the contest was mainly an artillery contest, and was practically decided by that arm. The death of the Nawab’s only faithful general, Mir Mudin, who was mortally wounded by a cannon-shot, was, as we have said, the crisis of the battle. It so disheartened the Nawab that from that moment he gave himself up in despair, and became only too ready to listen to the insidious advice of the leaders who had betrayed him, that he should quit the field and leave it to them to continue the battle. Important as Plassey was, and well as it was fought by Clive and his small force, it is not a battle that can be held to redound to the credit of British arms. Looking to the enormous disparity of numbers, and making every allowance for the superior courage and training of the victorious force, it can hardly be supposed that the result could have been what it was had it not been for the treachery of the Nawab’s principal generals.
On the evening after the battle, Clive’s force halted at Daudpur, six miles beyond Plassey. There on the next day he was joined by Mir Jafar, the latter not altogether at ease as to the reception he might meet with after his somewhat ambiguous attitude both before and during the engagement; but Clive at once reassured him, and saluted him as the Nawab of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, advising him to proceed at once to Murshidabad, to secure the person of Suraj ud Daulah and prevent the place being plundered.
Suraj ud Daulah had fled from the battle-field some time before the issue was finally decided, and had arrived that same night at Murshidabad. On the following night Mir Jafar reached that place. The whole of that day Suraj ud Daulah had passed in a state of the greatest perplexity as to the course he should pursue, whether he should submit to the English or should make a stand in the city. Some of his principal officers advised the former, some the latter, course. He had decided to resist, and had ordered his troops to be massed for this purpose, when he heard of the arrival of Mir Jafar. Then he resolved upon flight, and accompanied by his favorite wife and a single eunuch, he left his palace in disguise, and entering a boat which had been engaged for the purpose, reached Rajmahal, ninety miles distant, on the evening of the fourth day. There the rowers were obliged to halt for a rest, and taking refuge in a deserted garden, the Nawab was seen by a fakir whose ears he had caused to be cut off thirteen months before and was handed over to Mir Jafar’s brother, who resided at Rajmahal. He was at once captured, sent back to Murshidabad, and handed over to Mir Jafar on July 2d. He pleaded earnestly for his life, offering to give up everything else, and Mir Jafar, probably remembering the kindness he had received from the grandfather of his prisoner, was at first disposed to spare him, but afterward consulted with his higher officials, some of whom advocated a policy of clemency, while others, including Mir Jafar’s son, Miran, a truculent youth, not unlike Suraj ud Daulah in disposition, urged that the only security against a fresh revolution lay in the death of the prisoner. The latter accordingly was made over to Miran, by whose orders he was brutally murdered in the course of the night.
This ends our series of passages on Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India by Sir Alexander J. Arbuthnot from his book Lord Clive; the foundation of British rule in India published in 1899. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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