Sunday, 10 April 2011

Captain Little's Detachment & the Fort of Jaigarh [or Jaigur] 1790

Figure 1. Jaigad Fort. Showing one of the surviving towers.
Click on image for larger version.

If like me you enjoy reading dusty old books filled with tales of long ago, one of the greatest pleasures of recent years has been the ability to actually visit those places from the comfort of my own study.

It is now possible to visualise the places that these events actually took place in. No longer are we limited to black and white illustrations and tiny maps.

With many books now readily available on Google Books for the first time, and with the internet becoming readily available in India, many people are beginning to visit the places described in these books, and it is becoming possible to trace the routes of some of the many expeditions described so vividly in these old books.

It is surprising just how many of the places and locations can still be found to have remains that witnessed those events so long ago.

The following blog is based around my research into the route that was followed by Captain Little's Detachment in 1790. A fascinating account of this long forgotten expedition was written by Edward Moor, (1771-1848) one of the officers who accompanied this detachment. It is called "A narrative of the operations of captain Little's detachment"[2]

The first troops under Captain Little, consisting of the 800 men from both the 8th, and 11th Bombay Native Infantry, supported by one company of European, and two companies of Native Artillery equipped with six 6 pounder guns, left Bombay on the 23rd May 1790 and sailed south to Jaigur [3]

Amongst the officers who went in the first detachment before Captain Little was his good friend and colleague Lieutenant David Price. Price has left a particularly good record of this expedition.

The mobilisation of the first detachment and its departure from Bombay are described below.

"About that period, a detachment having been ordered to hold itself in readiness, under the command of Capt. Little, to join a Mahratta force, destined to operate against the northern part of Tippoo Sultaun's dominions, and finding that our battalion the ninth, was not to form a part of this detachment; on the contrary, that a junior corps, the eleventh, had received the preference; I applied to be removed to Capt. Little's battalion the 8th. and succeeded in my application. My friends Boden and Foster joined the eighth at the same time.

The detachment was composed of a company of European artillery, under Capt. now Col. Thompson, with Lieuts.West and Ireland; and of the eighth and eleventh, batts- of native infantry, each completed to eight hundred rank and file; with six six-pounder field pieces: constituting, altogether, a force of about 1700 strong. It cannot fail to be remarked, that on this, and many other occasions, the functions of a Brigadier were discharged by a Captain of infantry. 
On Monday, the 24th of May, 1790, with the fourth company of the eighth batt. I embarked from the pier-head, at Bombay, on board of a batella, named the Ruparel, which seems to have been a favorite appellation with this description of craft. Our expedition commenced with sorrow; for while the embarkation was going on, the tolling of the church bell, announced to us, the funeral of a very amiable and interesting young woman; the dearly beloved, and recently departed, wife of our gallant commander—Little—whose feelings at such a crisis, may be easier conceived than described.
At seven in the morning, we weighed anchor, by signal from the Wolf gallivat; and, in company with the other vessels which conveyed the detachment, stood to sea; and having cleared the entrance of the harbour, directed our course to the southward. On the 25th of May, we were off Jinjerah; recently described as among the last of the remaining possessions of the Siddees; at one time of considerable note on the coast, and in the Dehkan. At twelve o'clock, the breeze became fresh and fair, and we passed fort Victoria in the course of the afternoon. A ship was observed proceeding to the northward; and at midnight we came to anchor by signal from the Wolf— our Commandant being on board that vessel. [4]

The expedition was intended to support a Mahratta force under Putseram Bhow which was going to attack Tipu Sultan's Mysore. The East India Company was under threat from Tipu, as were his other neighbours the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Mahrattas.

The East India Company hoped to reduce Tipu's numerical superiority by forming a coalition with the Nizam and the Mahrattas, and to thereby be able to threaten Tipu's borders from all sides.

It seems extraordinary today how such small forces could be projected over such long distances, and into parts of India which were so little known by the English at this time.

Even today this area is little frequented, and has relatively poor communications.

First the expedition sailed 180 miles south from Bombay to Jaigur. Then it sailed perhaps another 50 miles up the river from Jaigur, to cover the 25 miles, the Crow would have flown.

The troops then disembarked and started to march overland covering 275 miles in a relatively straight line to Dharwad, but which was probably much further on foot for the poor Sepoys and camp followers.

The first force arrived in late May 1790 in time to be caught in the onset of the Monsoon rains.

Moor's description of this first detachment is quite brief.[5]

A second contingent was sent down the coast as reinforcements after the Monsoon had blown out. The arrival this second detachment under the command of Colonel Frederick, that had departed from Bombay on the 19th of November 1790, is described in more detail by Moor who was present with this fleet.

"The fleet of boats, with the Intrepid, anchored in the bay, formed by the entrance of Jaigur river, on the 21 st of November, and saluted the fort with five guns, to which one was returned. The entrance to this river is defended by forts on each side, considerably elevated under the southern one of which it is necessary to pass, and which would, were they in repair, be a sufficient defence. A wall of communication is carried up the side of the hill to the southern fort, from a battery of eleven embrasures on a level with the water, which, like the other fortifications, are in very bad repair. The bay will shelter small vessels from the violence of the south-west monsoon, but has not sufficient water to admit any of considerable draft, there being but two and a half fathoms on the bar at three quarters ebb, and the Intrepid grounded at low water. Lieutenant M'Luer says, there are eight fathoms near the fort, which he calls Zyghur, and observed it to be in latitude; 17°. 16'. N. " [6]

From Figure 2 below, it is easy to see how the fort dominated the river entrance.

Figure 2. Google Earth Image showing the entrance
to the Jaigad River. Click on image for a larger version.
The white bar at the left of the image is 1 mile long.

Most of the Fort survives much as it must have looked in 1790. Sadly this magnificent lonely spot is currently being redeveloped as the site of a port for a coal jetty for a 1200 MWe Coal fired power station.

Figure 3. Google Earth Image showing the fort as well as the lower batteries
along the
Jaigad River, as well as the surviving connecting walls. 
The white scale bar measures 100 metres.
Click on image for a larger version.

The local Mahratta commander of the fort must have had a commanding view out to sea. It is just possible to make out the headland to the north around which Captain Pickett brought his small fleet of Country vessels containing the reinforcements for the force besieging Dharwad.

Figure 4. Photo showing one of the Fort Towers looking out to sea.
Click on image for larger version.

The small port can be seen below.

Figure 5. Photo showing the small port looking out to sea.
Click on image for larger version.

The arrival of the first detachment is best described by Lieutenant David Price.
"On Wednesday, the 26th of May, at five in the morning, we weighed anchor; and soon after perceived that we had left Sevendroog to the northward. At nine o'clock we were off Gopalgurr, commonly called Dabul. At noon, or shortly afterwards, the breeze continuing auspiciously favourable, we rounded Cape Z ; and about two in the afternoon we entered Jygurr, or Zygurr, river, anchoring abreast of the fort. At this moment a boat passed to the shore from the Wolf; and soon returning on board, the signal was made for proceeding up the river. We now received a pilot on board, weighed anchor, and crossed the bar, about five o'clock—the channel lying close to the south bank. Both banks of the river wild, hilly and inhospitable, in appearance; but beautifully wooded to the water's edge. Winding in its course to right and left, every few hundred yards, and as smooth and transparent as a mirror, the river itself was as beautiful as it was romantic ; and this, with the gilding of hope fresh upon our minds, rendered our inland voyage indescribably delightful. About nine o'clock, the tide having turned, we came to an anchor; by the pilot's account about four kutcha, or short, kosse, or about five miles from the entrance of the river. We had observed a few solitary hovels, in the recesses on either side.

On the 27th of May, we weighed at day-light; and gliding upwards with the tide, the surface of the river continued unruffled and transparent as crystal; while the alternate receding and overlopping of the wooded banks, exhibited the appearance of a chain of lakes. Nothing could be more enchanting than the varied scenery which we surveyed during this short passage. The banks as we advanced upwards, began to exhibit marks of cultivation, as they lost their mountainous character, and became more level." [9]

Figure 6. Photo showing the headland on the northern side of the estuary near the spot in Figure 2, labelled Possible Site of Second Battery.
Click on image for larger version.

The following sailing directions published in 1820 by Hamilton, based on the surveys carried out by Lieutenant Dominicetti, of the Bombay Marine, who was based at Fort Victoria through the Mahratta War of 1817 to 1818, describe the port in more detail.

"Zyghur (or Jaighur).—A sea-port on the sea coast of the Concan, 123 miles S. by E. from Bombay. Lat. 17° 14' N. long. 73° 23' E, The two points that form the entrance of Zyghur bay are about five miles distant, and it is about two miles and a half deep. The entrance of the river is about three quarters of a mile broad, with three fathoms and a half depth, at the least. The channel is navigable for a considerable way inland, and has a large town on the south side about 13 miles above the fort. There is no town at the mouth of the river, but there are several straggling villages on both sides. There is plenty of good water in the upper fort, and at some of the adjacent villages, but in the lower fort, and near the usual landing place, the water is brackish. In most respects the river is as safe and commodious as that of Viziadroog, only a little more caution is requisite while entering. At the entrance of both, the water is usually quite smooth during the S. W. monsoon; and inside, vessels of any draught of water may lie completely sheltered at all seasons of the year.—(Lieutenant Dominicette, etc.)"[11]

Edward Moor goes on to describe the journey up the river.

Figure 7. The River Mouth, showing the bar at the entrance.

The first detachment anchored at Noon on the 27th May and commenced landing. It is not possible to be sure where thus is, except that it was on the south bank of the river.

Moor and his party landed at a place called Cadona, and it may well have been the same place David Price describes. Here's Moor's description of the landings.

"The boats continued on the river, dropping down with the tide, until the 26th, when the troops disembarked near Cadona, a small village, and marched five miles to Sungumseer, the same encampment formerly occupied by Captain Little. Cadona, where we disembarked, is not, we conjecture, more than twenty-five miles from Jaigur, although much more by water, from the river having so many turns among hills, which generally rife abruptly near its banks, and are chiefly covered with wood. Many villages, and some cultivation are seen, when the hills discontinuing allow any extensive prospect." [12]

Figure 8. The Jaigad River approximately 16 miles
from the coast as the Crow flies. Perhaps 25 to 30 miles by boat.

David Price describes Captain Little's detachments next stage on the march as follows.
"We anchored at noon; and the rest of the boats gradually arriving, did the same. We now landed, and proceeding on board the Wolf, we there found that Capt. Little had just returned from an interview with some of the native authorities up the river; and we received orders to disembark immediately, on the south side. Our landing appears to have been attended with some difficulty which is not explained. About five in the afternoon, Lieut. Ross, our brigade major, and myself, with the disembarked men of the eighth batt. marched after Lieut. Boden, who had proceeded with his division to the ground marked out for our halting place.

During our short march, we experienced a violent thunder storm, with heavy rain; and reached our ground at dusk in the evening, completely drenched. We found our friend Boden with his division, attended by a Brahmin, said to have been the Killadaur, or military governor of Retnagheriah. Capt. M.c. Donald's batt. the eleventh, dropped in by degrees in our rear. We were accommodated in a set of chuppers, pendals, or leaf-roofed huts; formed for our reception, of the green-leafed branches of trees, which the neighbouring woods furnished in abundance. Our temporary cantonment had its rear in a bend of the river; with our right flank towards the gauht, stated to be at the distance of two days' march to the south-east.

On the 28th May, the guns and stores were gradually coming in; and we continued stationary on our ground, which we now understood to be near a village called Sungmiser, or Sungumiswara, the "confluence of Iswara." It was here that I first pitched my raouty, a description of tent, with dwarf walls, and no fly. At ten o'clock at night, Lieut. Boden with his company was sent forward to ascend the Ambah gauht, in order to protect the ammunition and stores, which proceeded at the same time. The guns and tumbrels were all brought up during the day and night.
On Sunday, the 30th of May, still stationary: sending off" stores and provisions. The guns and tumbrels moved forwards at ten o'clock at night, during which we had much lightning and some rain.
On the 31st of May, we continued on our ground, expecting however to march on the morrow; the stores and other equipments having now been all sent forward. We had thunder and rain, and every symptom of an approaching monsoon, during the former part of the night. Capt. Thompson marched, notwithstanding, with the artillery.
On the 1st of June, the morning was fair and pleasant. At six o'clock, Lieut. Heath marched with part of the eleventh battalion." [14]

From the above detailed descriptions, it is possible to develop a map setting out the likely route of the detachments. To do this I have used an American military map produced in the 1950's. It was probably developed from earlier British military mapping.

Figure 9. Probable routes followed by the two detachments
of East India Company Troops in May and October 1791 to the Amba Ghat. Please Click on image for a larger version. [15]

Figure 10. Probable site of the camp at Candona. In the 1950's a village named as Kondya on the US Military maps was located here, and inspection of Google images suggest that very few other suitable sites are as readily accessible on the south bank for boats.

In my next installment I will follow Captain Little's detachment up over the Amba Ghaut [Ambaghat] and onto Darwar [Dharwad]

If you come from the area mentioned in this blog I would really like to hear from you.
From my other research in Thalaserry and Cuddalore, I am aware that there are many Indian's with proud heritages that go back to events two hundred years ago. Did your family march with the Mahrattas to Darwar and Seringapatam?

If you have photos of any of the locations mentioned, I would be fascinated to receive copies.

My email address is

[1] Photo from, by Kiran Patre.
[2] Edward Moor, "A narrative of the operations of captain Little's detachment," available at
[3] Jaigur River is the spelling used by Edward Moor in 1790. These days it is spelt Jaigad, or sometimes Jaygad.
[4]David Price. Memoirs of the early life and service of a field officer. Published 1839. Page 180.

[5] Edward Moor, A narrative of the operations of captain Little's detachment, page 2.
[6] Edward Moor, A narrative of the operations of captain Little's detachment, page 10 & 11.
[7] Photo by Exploredy from
[8] Photo by Toufique Shaikh.
[9] David Price.Memoirs, Page 180 & 181.
[10] Photo by Phynex.
[11] Walter Hamilton. A geographical, statistical, and historical description of Hindostan. Volume 2. Published 1820. Page 214.

[12] Edward Moor, A narrative of the operations of captain Little's detachment, page 10 & 11.
[13] Photo by Harshsurve.
[14] David Price. Memoirs, Page 181 & 182.
[15] Map draw from 1950's American Military Maps available from


frank said...

Hello Nick...during the course of researching for my book on Col. Gardner, I came upon the Capt. Little's detachment. What is interesting is that two young officers with a penchant for writing managed to quite vividly record the journey of that detachment. David Price who went on to become Major lost his leg during the siege of Dharwad. He then worked for Charles Malet for a while when he was Resident in Poona. Malet managed to get Price a good position in Surat, where he did some fantastic work in documenting old Persian manuscripts etc.. My memory is sketchy and this is all off hand. Capt Moor was in Poona for a while and has written good stuff, he in fact in his book describes a visit to the famous Parvati temple during some occasion when the Peshwa was also there with his entourage doing some charity work and he mentions that he (Moor) was with Capt. Gardner. Col. Gardner spent a bit of time in Poona and was rubbing shoulders with these officers...there was during this time another rather interesting figure in Poona by the name of John Parker Boyd in the employ of the Peshwa.

Good stuff.

frank said...

I have something on J P Boyd which I acquired from the CUP called The Yankee Mughal...if you like I can send it to you....most interesting stuff.

Nick Balmer said...

Hello Frank,

I haven't come across John Parker Boyd at all, so I would be very interested to learn about him.

We are incredibly lucky to have both Moor and Price's accounts. I have been researching both books and some others including Sir Thomas Munro who also good at this period. The difficultly is writing it up. I get so involved in the books, I forget to follow through.

Moor lived in Suffolk in his retirement and played a big role in local affairs. Many of my non-Anglo Indian ancestors lived in villages very close to his retirement home. I often wonder if they knew each other.

David Price was very lucky to survive a disaster that over took a column descending the Periah Pass in 1797. With only one leg, we somehow got away. The column was led by Major Cameron, first husband of one of my 4 x great aunt's. They had only been in India for a few months, and aged 17 she was already a widow. That's when my 4 x great uncle Thomas Baber was able to marry her.

I am aware of Malet's books, but I have read only a little of his work. My connections with Poona are a generation, so I have concentrated on them. William Chaplin and the 1820's.

I have tried quite hard to map the Dharwad siege but I am struggling because the town has expanded quite a bit. I can find fragments of the wall and a gate, but it needs field walking on the ground to work out how to fit the accounts to the town.

I have really enjoyed the letters you have posted elsewhere. The 1818 Mahratta War is another of my interests. I have been collecting material for those campaigns. I have a great deal now, and know where much much more is.

I would really like to be able to map the marches of the columns over a time line, because even with Valentine Blacker's excellent work and maps, it is an incredibly hard campaign to get your head around with all those columns moving over such a great area. It is much easier with these earlier campaigns.