Battle of Bahur, 6 September 1752

The battle of Bahur (6 September 1752) was a British victory over a French army that had been threatening Fort St. David, but one that had little long term impact.

In the first half of 1752 the French had suffered two major defeats, when their siege of Trichinopoly (July 1751-10 April 1752) had been lifted by the British, and their besieging forces themselves trapped on Srirangam and forced to surrender (10 April-13 June 1752). The French supported candidate for Nawab of the Carnatic, Chanda Sahib, had been killed at the end of that second siege, and for a period the French position looked to be very weak.

By the end of the year Governor Dupleix, the overall French commander in the south of India, had managed to restore the situation. The British success had been achieved with the help of troops from Tanjore, Mysore and the Marathas, but during the second half of 1752 Dupleix managed to convince the Tanjore contingent to go home and the Marathas and Mysore contingents to change sides (although this didn’t become public until early in 1753. One of the conditions for this change of side was that the French would have to distract the main British army, pulling it away from Trichinopoly.

After suffered from incompetent military commanders Dupleix appeared to have found a more suitable general in his nephew, Jacques Kerjean. He defeated a British army at Gingee (6 August 1752), and was now placed in command of an army of 450-500 Europeans, 1,500 Sepoys and 500 Indian cavalry and was ordered to blockade Fort St. David.

The British ordered Stringer Lawrence to push this army away from Fort St. David. Lawrence was given 400 Europeans, 1,700 Sepoys and 400 Indian cavalry, so the two forces were of very similar size and composition.

When Lawrence approached the French position Kerjean fell back into the territory of Pondicherry. This area was officially French, and as Britain and France were at peace in 1752 Lawrence was forbidden to follow any further.

Lawrence decided to pull back to Bahur in the hope that the French would follow. Kerjean fell into the trap and advanced back out of French territory. Lawrence was waiting for this, and at 3am on 6 September his army left its camp and advanced towards the French. The Sepoys were in the front line, the British in the second and the India cavalry was posted on the right, behind a high bank that ran up to the French camp.

Just before dawn the British Sepoys clashed with the French outposts. At first light the French were found drawn up in a line between the high bank and a pond. Lawrence moved his British troops into the front, and they advanced towards the French. After exchanging a number of musket volleys the two bodies of troops collided in a rare bayonet fight. This lasted for some time before the British grenadiers managed to break through the French centre. The rest of the French line then retreated, although Lawrence’s Indian cavalry missed a change to destroy them and instead chose to plunder their camp.

French losses are unknown, although Kerjean, 15 offices and 100 men were captured. The British lost one officer killed, four wounded and 78 dead and wounded amongst the men.

This victory had surprisingly little long term impact. Lawrence wasn’t strong enough to take advantage of it, and still wasn’t allowed to attack Pondicherry. Dupleix’s efforts with the Indians were set back, but not by much, and at the start of 1753 they openly changed sides, marking the start of a second siege of Trichinopoly.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 January 2012), Battle of Bahur, 6 September 1752 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_bahur.html

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