Battle of Gingee, 11 September 1750

The battle of Gingee (11 September 1750) was one of the most impressive French military achievements during the Second Carnatic War, and saw them capture the fortress of Gingee, widely believed to be invulnerable, in a single night.

During 1750 the British-supported candidate, Nasir Jang, was Nizam of Hyderabad, while the French-supported candidate, Chanda Sahib, was Nawab of the Carnatic. His British supported rival, Mohammad Ali, accompanied Nasir Jang as he advanced towards Pondicherry, but after Nasir Jang retreated to Arcot, Mohammad Ali was vulnerable to attack. Both Nasir Jang and the British sent him troops, but their combined army was defeated by the French at Tiruvadi (30 July 1750). The British then withdrew, allowing the French to attack and defeat Mohammad Ali for a second time, again at Tiruvadi (1 September 1750). In the aftermath of this battle Mohammad Ali fled towards Arcot, while around 10,000-12,000 of his men fled towards Gingee. There they joined around 1,000 English trained Sepoys and eight field guns.

Gingee (or Jingee) was a very strong fortress that had resisted attacks by both the Marathas and the Moguls (surrendering on terms in the first case and after a prolonged blockade in the second). The town was overlooked by three high peaks, forming a triangle, each with a separate citadel on top. The citadels were well garrisoned, well supplied and well armed.

Despite the strength of this position, Joseph Dupleix, the French governor of Pondicherry, decided to risk attacking it, aware that its capture would put the French in a very strong position in southern India. The victorious army from Tiruvadi was split into two. Bussy, with 250 Europeans, 1,200-1,500 Sepoys and four field guns was sent ahead, while d'Auteuil, with just over 1,000 European troops, 1,200-1,500 Sepoys and 1,000 cavalry led by Chanda Sahib, followed behind.

Bussy's men reached Gingee on 11 September. Mohammad Ali's army was camped outside the town, and its commanders must have recovered some of their confidence, for they now decided to attack the outnumbered French advance guard.

Bussy waited until the advancing Indian cavalry was within pistol range, and then ordered his men to advance, while the field guns opened fire. The Indian cavalry abandoned their attack and fell back. At this point d'Auteuil's main force came into site, and the Indian army broke and tried to flee back into Gingee. Bussy was almost able to follow then into the fortified town, but the gates were shut just in time. This was a short respite for the defenders. Bussy used a gunpowder charge to blow the doors open, and by nightfall had taken possession of the town.

This still left the three strong citadels in enemy hands. Bussy split his men into three detachments and waited until the moon had gone down. He then launched simultaneous attacks on the three citadels, leading the force attacking the highest of the three in person. By daybreak on the following day all three citadels had fallen to the French, in one of the most impressive feats of arms of the period.

In the aftermath of this French victory, Nasir Jang decided to take to the field and try and restore the situation. For two months Nasir Jang and the French faced each other in positions close to Gingee. During this deadlock the French managed to subvert some of Nasir Jang's key supporters, and on 16 December he was killed by some of his own men. The French supported candidate for the post of Nizam, Muzaffar Jang, who had been held prisoner within Nasir Jang's army, was now acclaimed Nizam. The French and their allies appeared to be on the verge of gaining a dominant position in southern India.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 December 2011), Battle of Gingee, 11 September 1750 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_gingee_1750.html

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