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Book IV. was aware that his character had fallen low with the army, could not brook the imputation of retreating before his enemy; he prepared, therefore, to meet the attack of the English army, and to continue his operations. It was the policy of the English commander to leave the enemy at work, till they were ready to assault the fort, when he was sure of his choice, of attacking separately, either the troops engaged in the siege, or those who covered them. His movements were judiciously made; and on the morning of the 22d, he was on the ground before the French camp, drawn up in two lines in a most advantageous position, where he had a free communication with the fort, and one of his flanks protected by its fire. The French occupied the ground in front of their line, where the field of battle had previously been marked out. The English army consisted of 1900 Europeans, of whom eighty were cavalry, 2100 Sepoys, 1250 black horse, and twenty-six field-pieces. The French, including 300 marines and sailors from the squadron, consisted of 2,250 Europeans, and 1,300 Sepoys; for the Mahrattas kept aloof at the distance of some miles from the field of battle.* Lally, and apparently with reason, complains that his troops did their duty ill in the action. While the English army were advancing, Lally, who imagined he perceived some wavering on their left, occasioned by the fire of his artillery, though Mr. Orme says they had not yet come within cannon shot, put himself at the head of the cavalry, to profit by the favourable moment. The cavalry refused to march. The General suspended the Commanding Officer, and ordered the second Captain to take the command. He, also, disobeyed. Lally addressed himself to the men ; and a Cornet crying out that it was a shame to desert their General in the day of battle, the officer who commanded on the left offered to put the troop in motion. They had not advanced many paces when a single cannon-shot, says Lally, the rapid firing of two pieces, says Mr. Orme, put them to flight, and they galloped off, leaving him absolutely alone upon the plain.f Lally returned to
* Orme, ii. 582. Lally (Mem. p. 161) gives a very different account of the respective numbers: that the French had 900 infantry, 150 cavalry, 300 marines and sailors, in all 1,350 Europeans, with 1,800 Sepoys; and that the English had 2,500 infantry and 100 cavalry, all Europeans; of black troops nearly an equal number with the French.—There is some appearance that Mr. Orme's account of the French force is conjectural, and hence exaggerated, as all his numbers are round numbers, one regiment 400, another 700, another 400, cavalry 300, &c. Perhaps we ought to trust to Lally's account of his own forces, because it was given in the face of his enemies, who were interested, and well able, to contradict it if untrue; and we need not hesitate to take Mr. Orme's account of the English, where his knowledge was complete.
t Mr. Orme, ii. 583, says, that two field-pieces, which fired several times in one minute, and brought down ten or fifteen men or horses, caused the flight.
the infantry, and brought up his line. The French fired rashly, and ineffec- Chap. IV. tually, both with artillery and musketry; the English leader, who was cool, andv
perfectly obeyed, made his men reserve their fire, till sure of its execution. The regiment that occupied the enemy's right, when the distance between them and the English was now inconsiderable, threw themselves into column, and rushed forward at a rapid pace. Coote, directing the opposite regiment to be firm, and preserve their next fire, gave the command to pour it in, at fifty yards distance. It fell heavy, both on their front and flanks. Yet it stopped not the course of the column; and in an instant the two regiments were mingled at the push of the bayonet. The weight of the column bore down what was opposed to it; but as it had been left unprotected by the flight of the cavalry, posted on its right, its flanks were completely exposed, and in a few moments the ground was covered with the slain, when it broke and fled in disorder to the camp. Almost at the same time a tumbril blew up in the redoubt in front of the enemy's left; and during the confusion, which this accident produced, the English took possession of the post. No part of the French line continued firm much longer. When ordered to advance, the Sepoys absolutely refused. Bussy, who put himself at the head of one of the regiments, to lead them to the push of the bayonet, as the only chance of restoring the battle, had his horse wounded under him, was abandoned by the troops, and taken prisoner. Lally frankly acknowledges, that his cavalry, who had behaved so ill at the beginning of the action, protected his retreat with great gallantry: He was thus enabled to wait for the junction of the detachment at Wandewash, and to carry off his light baggage and the wounded. The black cavalry of the English were too timid, and the European too feeble in numbers, to impede the retreat.
Lally retired to Chittapet, from which, without strengthening the garrison, he proceeded the following day towards Gingee. The enterprise next resolved on by Colonel Coote was the reduction of Arcot, toward which, the day after the battle, he sent forward a body of troops. Intelligence however of the defenceless state in which the enemy had left Chittapet, gave him hopes of making Chittapet and that a previous acquisition. In two days the English effected a breach, and the rende'redto"^ garrison surrendered. On the 1st of February, Coote arrived at Arcot. On thethe En6Ush5th three batteries opened on the town. On the night of the 6th the army began their approaches. Although operations were retarded for want of ammunition, on the morning of the 9th the sap was carried near the foot of the glacis; and by noon, two breaches, but far from practicable, were effected; when, to the great
Book IV. surprise of the English, a flag of truce appeared, and the place was surrendered. ''Not three men had been lost to the garrison, and they might have held out ten days longer, before the assault by storm could have been risked.
From Gingee Lally withdrew the French troops to Valdore, both to prevent the English from taking post between them and Pondicherry, and to protect the districts to the south, from which alone provisions could be obtained. The difficulties of Lally, which had so long been great, were now approaching to extremity. The army was absolutely without equipments, stores, and provisions, and he was destitute of resources to supply them. He repaired to Pondicherry to demand assistance, which he would not believe that the governor and council were unable to afford. He represented them as embezzlers and peculators; and there was no imputation of folly, of cowardice, or of dishonesty, which was spared against him in return. Further plans To proceed with the reduction of the secondary forts which the enemy held
and operations •
of the En- indifferent parts of the province; to straiten Pondicherry; and, if sufficient glish. force should not arrive from France for its relief, to undertake the reduction of that important place, was the plan of operations which the English embraced.* The country between Alamparva and Pondicherry was plundered and burnt; Timery surrendered on the 1st of February; Devi-Cotah was evacuated about the same time; on the 29th of the same month Trinomalee surrendered; the fort of Permacoil was taken after some resistance in the beginning of March; and Alamparva on the 12th. Carical now remained the only station on the coast, except Pondicherry, in possession of the French; and of this it was important to deprive them, before the shortly expected return of the fleet. A large armament was sent from Madras, and the officer who commanded at Trichinopoly was ordered to march to Carical with all the force which could be spared from the garrison. Lally endeavoured to send a strong detachment to its relief; but the place made a miserable defence, and yielded on the 5th of April before assistance could arrive. On the 15th of that month Valdore surrendered after a
* Lally says (Tableau Histor. de l'Expedition de l'lnde, p. 32), and apparently with justice, "II n'est pas douteux que si l'ennemie se fut port6 tout de suite [after the battle of Wandewash] sur Pondichery, il s'en fut rendu maitre en huit jours. II n'y avoit pas un grain de ris dans la place; les lettres, prieres, ordres, et menaces que le Comte De Lally employoit depuis deux ans vis-a-vis du Sieur de Leyrit, n'avoient pu le determiner a y former un seul magazin." The English leaders appear to have had no conception of the extremely reduced state of the French, and how safe it would have been to strike a decisive blow at the seat of the colony.
feeble resistance; as did Chillambaram on the 20th. Cuddalore was taken Chap. IV. about the same time, and several strong attempts by the enemy to regain it v ^~""^
• 1760. were successfully resisted. •
By the 1st of May the French army was confined to the bounds of Pondicherry, The English and the English encamped within four miles of the town; the English powerfully tacTptondi-*'" reinforced from England, and elated with remembrance of the past, as well as hope cherryfor the future; their antagonists abandoned, by neglect at home, to insuperable difficulties and looking with eager eyes to the fleet, which never arrived. On the part of the English, Admiral Cornish had reached the coast with six ships of the line, before the end of February: On the 25th of April Admiral Stevens, who now commanded in room of Pococke, arrived with four ships of the line; and on the 23d of May came another ship of the line, with three companies of the royal artillery on board.
As the last remaining chance of prolonging the struggle for the preservation Laiiy endeaof the French colony, Lally turned his eyes towards the natives; and fixed upon tain assistance the Mysoreans as the power most capable of rendering him the assistance which f^omMysore• he required. The adventurer Hyder Ali was now at the head of a formidable army, and, though not as yet without powerful opponents, had nearly at his disposal the resources of Mysore. Negotiation was performed; and an agreement was concluded. On the one hand the Mysorean chief undertook to supply a certain quantity of bullocks for the provision of Pondicherry, and to join the French with 3,000- -select horse, and 5,000 Sepoys. On the other hand the French consented to give the Mysoreans immediate possession of the fort of Thiagar, a most important station, near two of the principal passes into Carnatic, at an easy distance from Baramahal, and about fifty miles E. S. E. from Pondicherry. Even Madura and Tinivelly were said to be promised, if by aid of such valuable allies the war in Carnatic were brought to a favourable conclusion. This resource proved of little importance to the French. The Mysoreans (who routed however a detachment of the English army sent to interrupt their march) were soon discouraged by what they beheld of the condition of the French; and soon recalled by an emergency which deeply affected Hyder at home. They remained in the vicinity of Pondicherry about four weeks, during which time Lally had found it impossible to draw from them any material service; and departing in the night without his knowledge they marched back to Mysore. A few days before their departure six of the English Company's ships arrived at Madras with King's troops to the amount of 600 men: On the 2d of September, one month later, several other ships of the Company arrived, and VOL. II. x
Book IV. along with them three ships of war, and a portion of a Highland regiment of 'the King, increasing the fleet in India to the amount of seventeen sail of the
I7oO. . line.
Lally had now, and it is no ordinary praise, during almost eight months since the total discomfiture of his army at Wandewash, imposed upon the English so much respect, as deterred them from the siege of Pondicherry; and, notwithstanding the desperate state of his resources, found means to supply the fort, which had been totally destitute of provisions, with a stock sufficient to maintain the garrison for several months. And he still resolved to strike a blow which might impress them with an opinion that he was capable of offensive operations of no inconsiderable magnitude. He formed a plan, which has been allowed to indicate both judgment and sagacity, for attacking the English camp by surprise in four places on the night of the 4th of September. But one of the four divisions, into which his army was formed for the execution of the enterprise, fell behind its time, and disconcerted the operations of the remainder.
A circumstance now occurred in the English army, which affords another proof (we shall find abundance of them as we proceed) of the impossibility of governing any country well from the distance of half the circumference of the globe. No government, which had any regard to the maxims either of justice or of prudence, would deprive of his authority a commander, who, like Colonel Coote, had brought a great and arduous service to the verge of completion, at the very moment when, without a chance of failure, he was about to strike the decisive blow which would give to his preceding operations the principal part of their splendour and renown. Yet the East India Company, without intending so reprehensible a conduct, and from their unavoidable ignorance of what after many months was to be the state of affairs, had sent out a commission, with the fleet just arrived, for Major Monson the second in command, to supersede Coote who was destined for Bengal. Monson was indeed directed to make no use of his commission while Coote remained upon the coast; but the spirit of Coote would not permit him to make any advantage of this indulgence; and had he been less a man of sense and temper, had he been more governed by that boyish sensibility to injury, which among vulgar people passes for honour, this imprudent step of the Company would have been attended with the most serious consequences. When Coote was to proceed to Bengal, it was the destination of his regiment to proceed along with him. The Council of Madras were thrown into the greatest alarm. Monson declared that if the regiment were removed he would not undertake the siege of Pondicherry. Coote consented that his regi