1759 - British relief of Patna
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The main campaign took place from February to June 1759
Description of events
During February 1759, Major-General Robert Clive received an earnest appeal from Mir Jafar, the nawab of Bengal, for British advice, assistance, and troops.
Prince Ali Gauhar (future Shah Alam II) who had rebelled against his father Azizuddin Alamgir II, the Mughal Emperor, succeeded in collecting a numerous army; at the head of which he was marching with the avowed intention of invading the territories of Nawab Mir Jafar. Prince Ali Gauhar had offered Clive large rewards for the countenance and support of the British in his undertaking; but was informed that any attempt to set at defiance the authority of the emperor, or any attack on the territories of Mir Jafar, would be relented by the British government. Copies of this correspondence were forwarded to Nawab Mir Jafar, who was informed that a British force was preparing to march to his assistance.
On February 25, Clive left Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) with all his available force. He took with him the 5 companies (the so called left wing of the regiment, the 5 coys of the right wing were already participating to the siege of Masulipatam) (present-day Machilipatnam) of the Bengal European Regiment and left at Calcutta and Chandernagore (present-day Chandannagar), 100 European Artillery, and 2,500 Sepoys (3rd, 4th and part of the 5th Battalions of the Bengal Sepoys).
Calcutta and Chandernagore were now garrisoned by the sick and recruits of the Bengal European Regiment, a few gunners, some lately-raised sepoys of the 5th Battalion of Bengal Sepoys) and the Calcutta Militia and Volunteers.
On March 8, the British force reached Murshidabad where it was joined by the army of the Nawab of Bengal under Mir Jafar's eldest son, Miran.
On March 13, the united forces marched from Murshidabad towards Patna.
On March 23, Prince Ali Gauhar launched a first assault against Patna but was repulsed with considerable loss. The prince then decided to lay siege to the city.
On April 4, Prince Ali Gauhar launched a second assault against Patna. The besieged defended themselves gallantly, and the Sepoys of the British (a few coys) factory, who had been left to aid the garrison, hastened to the breach and particularly distinguished themselves; the enemy however pressed on with great courage and increased numbers, but were so warmly received by the steady fire of the Sepoys, and so annoyed by powder bags, shells, and boiling pitch thrown down upon them, that they were finally compelled to retreat with heavy loss. The position of the defenders, however, was a very precarious one, they had also suffered considerably in the assault, the walls had been breached in several places, and had another attack been made, it would in all probability have been successful.
On April 5, a reinforcement arrived at Patna. It consisted of a detachment of Bengal Sepoys commanded by Ensign John Matthews, whom Colonel Clive, on learning the danger of the city, had sent forward by forced marches to its relief.
On April 8, the united forces arrived before Patna, to find that Prince Ali Gauhar, who had been vigorously assaulting that city, had raised the siege on hearing of the near approach of Clive's Army.
Prince Ali Gauhar had been reinforced by M. Law and his Frenchmen; but his army, composed of men of different nationalities and conflicting interests, had become so demoralised, that the prince was forced to take refuge within the territories of the rajah of Bundelkhand.
Clive, having repaired the defences of Patna, injured during the late siege, now cleared the country of the remnants of Prince Ali Gauhar's rebel army, and brought into subjection several petty chiefs in arms against the nawab; returning before the end of April to Patna. Here he left a detachment under Captain Cochrane, composed of 1 coy of the Bengal European Regiment; a detail of artillery with 2 field-pieces and 5 coys of various battalions of the Bengal Sepoys and 3 coys of Sepoys belonging to the local factory. He then set off for Calcutta.
In the month of June, Clive reached Calcutta with his main force.
In reward for these services Clive received something more than expressions of gratitude; Mir Jafar presenting him with the charge of zamindar (tax collector) of those districts south of Calcutta which had previously been rented to the East India Company, and the income of which was ₤ 30,000 per annum. These rents were afterwards a subject of contention between Clive and the East India Company.
This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Cambridge, Richard Owen: An Account of the War in India between the English and French on the Coast of Coromandel from the Year 1750 to the Year 1760 together with a Relation of the late Remarkable Events on the Malabar Coast, and the Expeditions to Golconda and Surat; with the Operations of the Fleet, London: T. Jefferys, 1761 pp. 241-243
- Innes, P. R.; The History of the Bengal European Regiment, now the Royal Munster Fusiliers and how it helped to win India, 2nd ed., London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1885, pp. 95-96
- Broome, Captain Arthur: History of the Rise and Progress of the Bengal Army, Vol. 1, Calcutta, 1850, p. 255-260