Friday, April 29, 2011

Patna Relief Day!

In November 1759, the army of the Great Moghul, Shah Alam II, commenced to besiege the British & Bengali forces at Patna, having become concerned regarding the British intentions to extend control over the sub-continent. The army, under the command of the Great Moghul, retreated when the garrison was reinforced by 300 Europeans, 1000 sepoys and 6 guns, commanded by Major Caillaud (later Brigadier-General and CinC India).

Patna c.1814

The Great Moghul again attempted to besiege the Britsh in February 1760. At this time the garrison comprised 170 Europeans and 400 sepoys under the command of Captain Cochrane and some 15,000 Bengali troops under the command of the Nawab's son, Mir Miran. Cochrane deployed on the plain and was promptly over run by Mahratta cavalry. The survivors and the Bengali troops retreated inside the city walls.

Shah Alam - The Great Moghul-reigned 1759 to 1806

Caillaud returned and on 22 February gave battle to the Great Moghul, personally leading sepoys in a countercharge against the Moghul horse and causing the Moghul army to retreat. Caillaud later wrote of Mir Miran:

He for some time stood the shock well, but being wounded and turning his elephant-which in plain English is running away - the whole army in an instant were following his example.Luckily for him, however, I brought up a battalion of sepoys...thus ended the Battle of Seerpore with a loss of about 500 killed and wounded on both sides.

And further, a pursuit was impossible:

On account of two scratches from arrows which he was pleased to think were very dreadful wounds...we set out for the dancing girls of Patna.

Caillaud commenced the pursuit of the Great Moghul on 2 March, stripping Patna of its troops. Soon he was alerted to the fact that the French, under Law, had also arrived at Patna and awaited the further arrival of the Great Moghul. The Moghuls arrived in late April and by the 28th of that month had breached the city walls.

On 29 April a relief force of 200 Europeans and approximately 600 sepoys arrived under the command of Captain Ranfurly Knox, having marched 300 miles in 13 days - hardly an easy task!  The garrison of Patna sallied out, catching the Great Moghul's army at their mid-day meal. The Great Moghul then withdrew from Patna, pursued by the British. Today marks the 251st anniversary of the relief.

Tomb of Shah Alam II, died 1806


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