Lally-Tollendal, Thomas Arthur Comte de
Lally baron de Tollendal, Thomas Arthur Comte de
French general in India (1756-61)
born January, 1702, Romans, Dauphiné, France
died May 9, 1766, Paris, France
Lally was the son of Sir Gerard O'Lally, an Irish Jacobite who married a French lady of noble family.
In 1721, Lally entered the French Army.
In 1734, during the War of the Polish Succession, Lally served against Austria.
On June 27 1743, Lally was present at the Battle of Dettingen.
On May 11 1745, at the Battle of Fontenoy, Lally was commander of his own regiment in the famous Irish Brigade. He was made a brigadier on the field by Louis XV. The same year, Lally accompanied Charles Edward Stuart to Scotland.
On January 17 1746, Lally served as aide-decamp at the Battle of Falkirk. After the defeat of the Young Pretender at Culloden on April 16 of the same year, Lally managed to escape to France where he served under the Maréchal de Saxe in the Low Countries.
In 1748, after the capture of Maastricht, Lally was promoted maréchal-de-camp.
In 1756, when war broke out with Great Britain, Lally was given the command of a French expedition to India. This expedition took a certain time to organize and finally left Brest in May 1757 and took almost twelve months to reach India.
On April 7 1758, Lally arrived at Pondicherry with his staff. Even though he was still waiting for some troops to arrive, he ordered d'Estaing to advance against the British in Madras. He also took extreme measures to replenish the hitherto empty treasury, levying contributions from the local rulers, the French Compagnie Des Indes, as well as from members of his own staff. In May, his troops captured Cuddalore. On June 2, it was the turn of Fort Saint-David to capitulate in front of Lally's forces. The British forces in Madras then began to prepare for an attack on the city. However, Lally decided to return to Pondicherry instead. Later the same month, he conducted another expedition to forcibly raise funds from various Indian districts in the region of Tanjore. During this raid, he looted temples and executed priests, thus alienating the locals. Lacking supplies, he then retired to Pondicherry. In December, Lally laid siege to Fort Saint-George (Madras). A French fleet under d'Aché failed to blockade Madras, allowing the British Navy to relieve the fort and to reinforce it with the 79th Draper's Regiment of Foot.
Consequently, on February 17 1759, Lally was forced to raise the siege of Madras. He retired to Pondicherry.
On January 22 1760, Lally was defeated by Sir Eyre Coote at the Battle of Wandewash. He once more retired to Pondicherry. The British then undertook the Siege of Pondicherry. On September 3, a sortie conducted by Lally failed.
On January 16 1761, Lally was forced to capitulate at Pondicherry where he had been besieged for several months. The fortress was razed and Lally was sent to Great Britain as a prisoner of war. While captive in London, he heard that he was accused of treachery in France.
In 1763, Lally finally returned to France where he was imprisoned at the Bastille, waiting for his trial. He was charged with High Treason.
On May 6 1766, after many painful delays, Lally was sentenced to death and beheaded three days later. Louis XV used him as a scapegoat for the failure of French arms in India.
Lally was a man of courage and a capable general. However, his pride and ferocity made him disliked by his officers and hated by his soldiers. Furthermore, he regarded Indians as slaves and despised their assistance. Because of all these characteristics, he rarely obtained the best from his collaborators.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 - Thomas Arthur, Comte De Lally
Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 428-473.
Kirby, Mike: Comte de Lally-Tollendal - A Brief Biography, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 3