Battle of Gingee, 6 August 1752

The battle of Gingee (6 August 1752) was the first setback suffered by the British after their successes at Trichinopoly and Srirangam had appeared to give them the advantage over their French rivals in southern India (Second Carnatic War).

In the aftermath of the French surrender at Srirangam both of the best British commanders, Stringer Lawrence and Robert Clive, had been forced from the field by illness, leaving the less capable Swiss Major Gingens in command. Governor Dupleix put a great deal of effort into detaching Britain’s Indian allies, which at this point included Mysore, Tanjore and the Marathas. Dupleix’s efforts would be greatly helped if the British suffered a military setback, and they now proceeded to supply him with just such a disaster.

Mohammad Ali, the British supported Nawab of the Carnatic, wanted to gain possession of the fortress of Gingee, one of the strongest in India. This place had fallen to the French on 11 September 1750, a success that had greatly increased their prestige. Lawrence was opposed to the idea, for Gingee had been considered impregnable, and had fallen in the aftermath of a defeat on the battlefield, but Governor Lawrence overruled him. Gingens was ordered to send a force to try and take the place.

He chose to send 200 Europeans, 1,500 Sepoys and 600 of Mohammad Ali’s cavalry, under the command of Major Kinnear, an officer who had only recently arrived in India. Dupleix realised that this gave him his chance. Kinnear’s force was far too weak to actually attack Gingee, so Dupleix decided to try and trap him against the fortress and force him to attack the French in a pre-chosen position.

Kinnear fell into the trap. On 6 August he arrived at Gingee and summoned it to surrender. Unsurprisingly the commander of the garrison rejected this call, leaving Kinnear unsure of what to do next. In the meantime a French army, under the command of Colonel Jacques Kerjean, Dupleix’s nephew, took up a strong position at Vieravandi, cutting Kinnear off from the main British army, which was then in the area of Tiruvadi.

The French were deployed with their field guns behind their main line, and protected by a strong wall. Kinnear decided to launch an immediate attack on the French lines. Kerjean ordered his men to fall back in front of the British, drawing them on to his guns. The British came under a heavy fire. Kinnear was wounded, his European troops wavered and his Sepoys began to retreat. Kerjean then completed the victory by launching a flank attack. The British now also retreated, having lost 40 of their 200 dead.

Although this was a comparatively minor victory it helped to restore French prestige after their defeats earlier in the year, and made it easier for Dupleix to split the British from their Indian allies. In the following year the French made a more dramatic comeback, and the last two years of the war were dominated by a long second siege of Trichinopoly (3 January 1753-August 1754).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 January 2012), Battle of Gingee, 6 August 1752 ,

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