1760 - British operations on the coast of Coromandel
The campaign took place from January 1760 to January 1761
Early in 1760, 5 additional British ships were sent to India to reinforce Rear-Admirals Charles Stevens and Samuel Cornish.
Colonel Coote had taken position at Cauverypauk (probably Kaveripakkam) with his army (2,100 Europeans, 4,000 Sepoys and 1,500 native horse).
On January 8, the French troops assembled at Arcot were joined by Crillon’s detachment which had operated in the area of Seringham. Envoys were sent to Mora Rao to obtain the assistance of a party of Marathas. A detachment was also sent to Salabat Jung, the Nizam of Hyderabad. They failed to convince Salabat Jung to supply troops but managed to come to an agreement with one of his chiefs who supplied a considerable number of native horse and Cipayes who accompanied them to Arcot.
Until January 9, the British and French armies operating on the Coast of Coromandel remained in sight of each other, awaiting the result of their respective negotiations with Innis Khan and his Maratha horse.
On January 9
- Innis Khan, Mora Rao’s chief officer, arrived at Arcot with 3,000 Maratha horse and a number of foot. Lally himself was at the head of 2,500 Europeans at Arcot.
- Only 200 Maratha horse joined the British.
On January 10, Lally marched with his whole force from Arcot by the road of Wandewash.
On January 11
- In the evening of January 11, after three days of manoeuvering, the Comte de Lally-Tollendal divided his army into two columns, and leaving Bussy with one of them at Trivatore, made a forced march with the other (about 1,000 men) upon Conjeeveram (present-day Kanchipuram).
- In the evening, after reconnoitring the French positions, Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre Coote, convinced that the French would direct their first effort against Wandewash, dispatched orders to Captain Sherlock, commanding there, to defend it to the last. Coote also instructed the 2 companies at Trivatore to join Sherlock immediately.
On January 12, the French army manoeuvred until nightfall and, effectively screened by the Maratha cavalry, managed to turn Coote's right flank and suddenly appeared before Conjeeveram, at that time the hospital and store of the British force. The place was defended by 2 Sepoy coys.
On January 13, Coote knew nothing of this manoeuvre until he received a message from Lieutenant Chisholm, commanding at Conjeeveram itself. Coote precipitously set off from Cauverypauk and force marched to save the fort.
On January 14
- Upon Coote’s approach, the French parties posted around Conjeeveram retired and joined the main army at Papatangel (maybe Punganandal), a town on the road from Conjeeveram to Wandewash which was defended by Captain Sherlock with 150 Europeans and 8 Sepoy coys.
- Taking 500 Europeans, 1,000 Sepoys, and 650 French and Mahratta horse, Lally left Trivatore and marched on Wandewash, which had been his true object from the first.
- At 1:00 a.m., Coote arrived at Conjeeveram and found that Lally had been content with the plunder of the market, without capturing the fort, and had marched to rejoin Bussy at Trivatore.
- In the evening, Coote received intelligence of Lally’s departure.
On January 15
- In the morning, Lally, anxious to recapture Wandewash before Coote's arrival, attacked a small British detachment (3 Sepoy coys) in the southern suburb and drove it into the fort; after which he began to erect batteries against the walls.
- Considering that Wandewash was too important to allow it to fall without making some attempt to relieve it, Coote decided to march by the direct road towards the place.
On January 16, Coote was informed of Lally's arrival before Wandewash.
At that time, the Presidency of Madras received a supply of money from Bengal allowing it to pay the army.
On January 17
- Lally learned from Bussy that Coote was advancing against him.
- The French works progressed but slowly.
- Sherlock, the commanding British officer at Wandewash, had 30 Europeans and 300 Sepoys stationed in the market of Wandewash.
- Coote’s Army arrived at Utramalore (probably Uttiramerur), about 24 km to north-east of Wandewash. Here Coote halted, being secure of his communications with Chingleput and Madras (present-day Chennai), and resolved not to risk an action until the French were ready to assault the fort.
On January 19,
- Before daybreak, Lally attacked with all his infantry in 2 columns. They were discovered and fired upon before they gained the foot of the wall, and the marines, who formed one column of attack, broke, and in their panic ran towards the other column composed of Lally Infanterie, which, thinking they were the British making a sortie, fired upon them for some time with much execution, before the mistake was discovered, after which both columns retired.
- At 8:00 a.m., the French were again formed for the attack and, shortly afterwards, moved on to the assault, but were soon brought to a stand from the heavy fire poured in upon them from the walls of the market. Lally galloped up to the head of his regiment, which was leading, dismounted and, calling for volunteers, rushed forward and was the first man to mount the walls. The whole column poured over after him and the troops in the market, having no order to defend it to extremity, gradually retired in good order and without loss into the fort. During this action the Madras European Regiment lost 5 men while the French suffered more than 30 men killed and 100 wounded.
On January 20
- The French battery (1 x 24-pdr, 3 x 18-pdrs) began to fire against the walls of the Fort of Wandewash.
- Bussy's column had joined Lally from Trivatore.
- Sherlock sent a message to Coote informing him that a breach had been opened.
- Coote resolved to force the French to raise the siege.
On January 21
- During the day, Coote received Sherlock’s message.
- In the evening, Coote advanced to Trumbourge (unidentified location) where he encamped, within 11 km of Wandewash.
On January 22, having directed that the rest of the army should immediately follow him, Coote went forward at sunrise with his cavalry to reconnoitre. In the ensuing Battle of Wandewash, the British defeated the French army.
On January 23
- At noon, a note written by Coote on the battlefield arrived at the Government House at Madras.
- Lally fell back to Chittapett (present-day Chetpet), 30 km from the field of battle, and sent the Marathas and native troops to Arcot.
On January 24
- Coote on learning of his withdrawal from Chittapett determined to attack that post, while yet he might, with his whole army. He sent out two detachments to harass the French. Captain Wood was ordered to invest Arcot.
- Lally assembled the remains of his broken army at Gingee to cover Pondicherry (present-day Puducherry).
On January 26
- After repairing and strengthening Wandewash, Coote marched on Chittapett.
- Lally decided to retire with his army from Gingee within the walls of Pondicherry.
When Coote was informed of Lally’s retreat, he sent fresh orders to Captain de Vasserot, who commanded the cavalry (1,300 horse) to destroy the French country round Pondicherry as Lally had previously done round Madras.
Coote bent himself, after the fashion of Lord Jeffrey Amherst in North America, to systematic reduction of all the minor posts held by the French.
Innes Khan was still posted between Arcot and Chittapett with his 3,000 Maratha horse. Colonel Coote summoned him to quit the country mentioning that he should expect no quarter if the British advanced against him. With the French unable to pay him, Innes Khan evacuated the country without hesitation.
As he devastated the country around Pondicherry, Captain de Vasserot took 4,000 head of cattle.
On January 28, Coote marched to Chittapett and began to erect a battery, at the same time summoning the Chevalier de Tilly to surrender.
On the morning of January 29, the British battery opened on the walls of Chittapett. By 11:00 a.m., the wall was nearly breached when the place surrendered. The garrison, commanded by the Chevalier de Tilly, consisted of 4 officers, 54 Europeans, besides 73 who had been wounded in the late battle and were in hospital, 300 Cipayes and 9 guns. The British seized a large store of ammunition and 300 new muskets which were distributed among the Sepoys.
On January 30
- Coote received intelligence that Captain Wood's detachment, which had been sent towards Arcot after the victory at Wandewash, had advanced from Conerpauk, invested Arcot and driven the French out of the walled market with considerable loss.
- The news of the British victory at Wandewash reached Trichinopoly.
- Lally ordered the French force (500 European horse and foot) to evacuate Seringham and to join him as soon as possible. However, the French could not conceal their intended retreat from Captain Joseph Smith of the Madras European Regiment, commanding at Trichinopoly. He marched after them and, before they reached Utatur, captured 30 European prisoners.
On January 31
- Coote marched to Arnee (present-day Arani) where Captain Stephen Smith joined him with his detachment, 70 prisoners (20 Europeans, 50 Sepoys) and 2 8-pdr brass field-pieces. Captain Smith had also picked up 3 commissaries traveling to Pondicherry.
- Ensign Horne of the Madras European Regiment took the small forts of Tokum and Cortalum, the only remaining posts occupied by the French in the region of Trichinopoly.
On February 2, Captain Wood was joined by Colonel Coote and the entire army before Arcot. Coote encamped some 3 km from Arcot. The fortifications of Arcot had been greatly improved since its defence under Clive in 1752: the ditch had been deepened, a glacis and a covered way carried all round, a strong ravelin mounting 6 guns projected from the centre of the north face, the walls had been widened and ramparts raised, the towers or bastions at each angle admitted of 3 guns and each of the others along the faces 1 gun. Coote immediately began to erect batteries: two batteries of five 18-pdrs against the tower and curtain west of the south-west corner tower; and one battery of 12-pdrs against the North Gate to enfilade the west front.
On February 3, the French defenders of Arcot threw a number of shells without much effect.
On February 5, all 3 British batteries opened on Arcot.
On February 6, two British guns were disabled, and 2 men killed and 4 wounded. Nevertheless, approaches were advanced.
By February 8, the British approaches to the south-west were within 240 m. of the crest of the glacis; and the approaches to the west, within 230 m. Coote then summoned the French commander of the place, Captain Huffey to surrender. The latter answered that he would deliver the place within six days if he was not relieved on condition that the garrison would be allowed the honours of war. The siege then resumed.
On February 9, the British approaches were carried on within 55 m. of the crest of the glacis and the wall of Arcot was breached in 2 places. The garrison surrendered prisoners of war. The same day, 27 French hussars deserted and came over to the British.
On February 10
- Early on the morning, the British grenadiers took possession of the gates and Coote became master of Arcot after a siege of a few days, capturing 11 officers, 247 Europeans, 300 Sepoys, 4 mortars, 22 guns and a large quantity of ammunition.
- Major Monson planted his artillery before the Fort of Timmery, a few km to south-east of Arcot. Its garrison (20 Europeans) surrendered as prisoners after the British artillery had thrown a few shells.
After the capture of Arcot, Coote encamped under Vellore which, to spare an attack, paid a tribute of 30,000 rupees.
On February 20, Coote marched back to Arnee.
On February 22, Coote reached Chittapett.
On February 23
- Coote remained at Chittapet. He detached Captain Stephen Smith to take Trinomallee (unidentified location, maybe Thiruvannaamalai).
- Rear-Admiral Cornish arrived at Madras with his squadron to cooperate with the British land forces.
On February ?, the Falmouth (50) forced the Harlem to run ashore 10 km north of Pondicherry.
On February 29, Trinomallee surrendered.
On March 1, Coote marched against the hill-fort of Permacoil (unidentified location), lately occupied by a French garrison thrown into it after the Battle of Wandewash. The fort had never been invested by Europeans. It was situated on the top of a steep rock, the upper part regularly and strongly fortified after the Indian fashion: the lower fort was merely a wall and breastwork of loose stones for protection against cavalry or sudden alarm. Coote arrived at the north-east gateway of the walled suburb and was attacked by a sortie which was repulsed. The combatants entering the gateway together in confusion. The suburb was, after good resistance, taken and 4 guns captured. After an attempt to climb the upper fort had been made, in which Coote was wounded in the knee, the place surrendered. The garrison were made prisoners and 22 guns captured. Due to his wound, Coote could not assumed command which was entrusted to Major Monson.
On March 9, Monson pushed forward to Pondicherry.
On March 11, Lorraine Infanterie was retiring towards the boundary hedge when it was charged with spirit by the Madras European Regiment dragoons and thrown into considerable confusion, having several men sabred.
On March 12, the British stormed the Fort of Alumparva (or Amalparrah unidentified location). The garrison were made prisoners and 20 guns captured.
On March 28, Monson, with the help of Admiral Cornish's Squadron, which had arrived on the coast six weeks before, invested Karikal (present-day Karaikal), the one French station left on the Coast of Coromandel. This fort was an oblong square, completely fortified after the contemporary fashion by the French, although each of the 4 bastions mounted only 3 guns. Each curtain was covered by a large ravelin mounting 6 guns whilst a covered way and excellent glacis surrounded the whole. The possession of Karikal was of importance, since, being an outlet from the rich Country of Tanjore (present-day Thanjavur), it could have kept Pondicherry supplied with provisions; while it was also a port wherein a French squadron could obtain not only victuals but also intelligence before proceeding to Pondicherry.
The British erected 3 batteries under cover of houses in a sector of the suburb about 100 m. from the north face of Karikal. Another battery was also erected to the east and enfiladed the whole of the north face.
On March 21, Vice-Admiral Pocock, who still was at Bombay with his fleet, dispatched Rear-Admiral Stevens for the Coast of Coromandel with the Grafton (70), Elizabeth (64), Tiger (60) and Newcastle (50).
On April 3, a small British detachment under Captain Wood assaulted and took the small fort of Villaporam, garrisoned by 1,000 Indians.
On April 5, after several days of bombardment and cannonade, the garrison of Karikal surrendered; 115 Europeans, 72 Topasses and 250 Sepoys were made prisoners. Besides small arms and stores of all sorts, 155 cannon, 9 mortars and a large quantity of ammunition were captured.
Lally, amid all his preparations for defence, in his heart gave up the capital for lost after the fall of Karikal. The French now had not a single man in the Indian peninsula to the exception of a small garrison at Mahé on the Coast of Malabar, another at Gingee and the troops besieged within the walls of Pondicherry.
On April 7
On April 8, Coote reconnoitred Valdore.
On April 11, Rear-Admiral Stevens sent a letter to Pocock to inform him that he had retaken three small British vessels from the Malwan pirates off the Vingorla Rocks and that there was no account of the French squadron since last October.
On April 12, Coote's army invested Valdore.
On April 14, Coote's batteries opened a continuous fire on Valdore.
On April 17, Admiral Pocock anchored at Anjengo (present-day Anchuthengu) on his way for Great Britain.
On April 18, the Fort of Valdore surrendered to Coote despite the fact that a French relief force was deploying in position against the British. The fort contained 20 cannon.
During this time, the British division who had taken Karikal marched via Devicotah against Chillumbrum (present-day Chidambaram) which was given up shortly after being summoned.
On April 21, Admiral Pocock sailed from Anjengo heading for Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.
On May 1, the French withdrew close to the boundary hedge of Pondicherry. Coote had thus draw a chain of posts around Pondicherry from Alumparva to Chillumbrum; and was slowly closing upon the doomed city. Lally had allowed him to capture far too many of his men piecemeal in different garrisons; but he now called in all French troops from Trichinopoly (present-day Tiruchirapalli), Cuddalore and other posts in the south. Before abandoning Cuddalore, the French had demolished the parapets of the bastions, made several breaches and removed 3 gates. The British threw a garrison in Cuddalore.
On the night of May 10, a strong detachment of French launched a surprise attack on Cuddalore, dispersing the Sepoys and capturing 5 Tanjorines, 6 warrant officers and about 70 sick left in hospital there.
On the night of May 11, the French launched a new attack on Cuddalore but a party of regulars having reinforced the garrison, they were beaten back with a loss of 3 officers and 32 men killed or wounded.
On May 20, the French (700 French infantry, 150 hussars and 500 Sepoys) made another unsuccessful night attack on Cuddalore, losing 2 officers killed and more than 80 men killed or wounded.
On May 25, 3 companies (178 men) of the British Royal Regiment of Artillery with their guns joined Coote's army. They had just recently arrived from Great Britain. By this time, the French were confined within the limits of their camp near the boundary hedge and were reduced to the greatest distress for provisions. However, Lally had entered into an agreement with Hyder Ali, then commander of the forces at Mysore, engaging to concede large tracts of territory in return for the services of 8,000 men. These reinforcements were under way.
On June 4, the first division of the Mysorean army arrived at Thiagur which, according to treaty, was given up to them. This accession of strength to the enemy hampered Coote not a little for the moment.
By June 10, the Mysorean army had advanced as far as Tricatore in front of which they were repulsed. Nevertheless, the Mysorean cavalry, setting out with a large drove of bullocks, reached the French camp, although several parties were out to intercept them. The Mysoreans managed to pass in 300 bullocks, leaving several large herds behind in different places to be escorted in the following days. However, this plan was ruined by Ensign Turner who captured 900 bullocks and brought them into the British camp.
On June 18, Admiral Pocock arrived at Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he found the Colchester (50) and the Rippon (60) waiting to escort 17 ships of the East India Company, three of which being of extraordinary great value (a large quantity of rich goods and diamonds from Bengal). Pocock decided to wait for the arrival of this fleet and to take command of it on its way to Great Britain.
On June 28, the Mysorean cavalry marched towards Thiagur to collect more cattle and grain for the French.
On June 30, Coote despatched some of his dragoons, 500 Indian cavalry, 50 men of the Madras European Regiment and 400 Sepoys to reinforce Major More's detachment at Tricalore. Major More's party consisted of 180 European infantry, 30 Caffres, 50 dragoons and 1,600 Indian cavalry and infantry belonging to Kistnarow. The Mysoreans had 4,000 cavalry assisted by 1,000 Sepoys and 200 Europeans with 8 guns.
On July 7, the whole fleet being ready to sail, Vice-Admiral Pocock took command and set off from Saint Helena for Great Britain.
On July 17, More's force and the Mysoreans were advancing by different routes towards Trivadi and suddenly came upon one another not far from that place. More at once advanced to the attack but a panic seized his Sepoys and Indian cavalry. They immediately went about and fled. The British Europeans and the Caffres stood firm and made a gallant resistance. The British dragoons were all either killed or wounded and the infantry, fighting as they retired, reached Trivadi with a loss of 15 killed and 40 wounded.
On July 18, the Mysorean army made a junction with the French and it was expected that the united forces would prevent the reduction of the French Fort of Villenore (present-day Villianur) at that time invested. The left of the British rested on the foot of the Hill of Perimbé, the right extended 1,500 m. across the plain towards Villenore; to the centre and right of this position, two elevated roads led to Pondicherry from Tanjore and Trichinopoly. Coote immediately threw up entrenchments across these two roads and, in line with them, a field-work mounting 3 guns was constructed on a small detached hill in front of the left of the line. The plain between the right of the British position and Villenore was open but it was secured by the detachment holding the village near that fort and the besieging party bombarding it.
On July 20, The French and Mysorean armies advanced along the bank of the river, threatening to raise the siege. Coote immediately moved out with 2 battalions of the Madras European Regiment, the single company of the Bombay European Regiment, their guns, half the Sepoys and half the cavalry to meet them. The French and Mysoreans drew up in position but Draper's 79th Foot and Coote's 84th Foot having marched from the left and threatened their left flank and rear, they at once retired under the boundary hedge. In the evening however, the Mysorean cavalry brought 900 bullocks into their camp, having crossed the river to the south of the city. The same evening, the guards before Villenore were doubled and increased diligence employed in carrying on the operations of the siege. The fort was triangular, of solid masonry, surrounded by a ditch with covered way and glacis. The fortifications were strong and laid out after the modern fashion. The gateway and drawbridge were complete but the passage through the glacis was straight with no traverse or work thrown up to protect them. The garrison of the fort consisted of 30 Europeans, 12 Caffres and 8 field-pieces. The British erected a battery against the gateway and another near the village 300 m. to the north occupied by part of their troops.
Early on the morning of July 21, the 2 British batteries opened. About three hours later, the French and Mysoreans advanced along the bank of the river as they had done the previous day. Some of their cavalry and Sepoys with 3 field-pieces were pushed forward to skirmish whilst the rest of the line got under arms. Coote sent a strong reinforcement of Europeans with 4 guns to the 2 villages near the fort whose artillery had already been silenced by the British batteries. In the meantime, 2 British Sepoys companies rushed forward and got behind the brick-facing of the covered way, where the glacis had not been filled up. A few of them jumped over into the covered way, but still there was the ditch to cross and an impracticable breach to scramble up. Notwithstanding, the French commandant held out a flag of truce and the gates were immediately opened to a British detachment which hurried up and pulled down the French and hoisted the British flag. On seeing this the French and Mysorean armies halted and immediately retired under the guns of the Fort of Ariancopang (present-day Ariyankuppam). Thus, the premature surrender of the Villenore prevented an open battle.
Up to the end of July, the British force not being strong enough to undertake a regular siege of Pondicherry, Coote was obliged to content himself with a mere blockade. Meanwhile, the Mysorean cavalry met with several reverses while foraging which prevented them from spreading about so much. Consequently, the French were much straitened for provisions.
On August 13, provisions had become so scarce in Pondicherry that the Mysorean troops left the French camp. On passing near the British lines, their cavalry was very severely handled by Lieutenant Eiser of the Madras European Regiment with 30 of his own men, 400 Sepoys and 100 Indian cavalry. In this action, the Mysorean cavalry lost 60 killed and 200 captured along with all its baggage and 900 bullocks. Even after the departure of the Mysorean army, Coote did not feel strong enough to undertake the siege of Pondicherry and continued to blockade the place.
On August 17, the Mysorean army arrived before Trinomallee and laid siege to it. The place was defended by a British detachment consisting of a few Europeans and 4 Sepoys companies. The Mysoreans stormed twice with much resolution but were repulsed. They eventually abandoned their guns and retired to Thiagur.
Later in August, 422 Marines were landed from the British naval squadron. Coote then decided to drive the French within the boundary hedge and to take the Fort of Ariancopang.
On September 2, further British reinforcements arrived for the East India Company's troops, together with half a regiment of Morris's 89th Highlanders under Major Hector Munro. Additionally, 3 men-of-war also came with the transports, raising the squadron before Pondicherry to 17 sail. Lally, rightly guessing that more vigorous operations would follow on this increase of the British Force, devised a plan of extreme skill and daring for the surprise of their camp; but fortune was as usual against him.
On September 4, Lally made an attack on the British camp which was repulsed after one redoubt had been taken by the French, 1 gun captured, 2 other spiked and a British officer and 3 men had been taken prisoners. Lally Infanterie was particularly distinguished in this occasion, losing 8 sergeants and 25 privates killed. In this action, 4 French prisoners were taken, including M. d'Auteuil.
Coote was now in a position to lay siege to Pondicherry and Lally surrendered on January 15 1761. Shortly after its capture, the fortifications and public buildings of Pondicherry were razed to the ground.
On September 22, Pocock at the head of his convoy finally anchored in the Downs with the richest convoy that ever arrived at one time in England.
After the capture of Pondicherry, Mahé was reduced by the troops under Major Hector Munro, supported by 4 sail of the line under Rear-Admiral Cornish.
On February 10 1761, the place surrendered.
A few weeks then sufficed to reduce the few isolated fortresses which were still held by French garrisons and on April 5, 1761 the white flag of the Bourbons had ceased to fly in India.
In May 1761, Rear-Admiral Charles Stevens fell a victim to the unhealthiness of the climate of India. The French on the station were by that time practically helpless, and Cornish soon afterwards went to Bombay to refit. He then proceeded southward to meet an expedition which he had reason to believe was on its way out, under Commodore Keppel, to attack Bourbon and Mauritius; but all idea of this expedition had, in the meantime, been abandoned. The means taken, however, to apprise Cornish of the change of plans were not efficacious; and the rear-admiral was actually obliged, by scarcity of supplies, to go back to Madras without hearing any news from home. Two of his ships, however, the York (60), Captain Henry Cowell, and the Chatham (50), Captain Thomas Lynn, being unable to keep with the fleet, had to bear up for the Cape of Good Hope. There they learned from the Terpsichore (24), Captain sir Thomas Adams that Keppel was no longer to be expected; and in due course they carried the intelligence to the rear-admiral in India.
This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 508-509
- An anonymous staff officer: Historical Record of the Honourable East India Company's First Madras Regiment, London: Smith, Elder and Co; 1843, pp. X-xvi, 175-202
- 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. 253-254, 260-270
- Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 224-225, 232
- Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 462-473