Sunday, 10 April 2011

Captain's Carpenter column moves inland, 1783

Figure 1. Exterior of Mirjan Fort.

The forces from Bombay, were quickly reinforced by a brigade brought up from Ponnani on the Malabar Coast where they had narrowly escaped defeat by Tipu Sultan's forces, after a disastrous expedition to Palghat.

Carpenter calculated that  

"the troops already assembled, under Gen. Matthews, I may, I think, venture to state, that the whole amount of force employed on this occasion, in the invasion of Kanara, did not exceed, at the utmost, 5,800 men; of whom scarcely 1,200 were European soldiers." [1]

General Matthews then determined to attack Mirjan Fort which lay up river along the route that would have to be taken to Compta (or Kumta as it is currently known.) and on to Onore.

Figure 2. Map showing the location of Mirjan Fort,
which threatened the flank of the General's army should it wish
to march to Onore which was situated south of Kumta,
which lay on the route the troops would have to take. 
[Please click on image for larger version.]

The attack on Mirjan started off rather inauspiciously for the East India Company force, however it was quickly realised that the garrison in the fort at Mirjan was not able or willing to put up any significant resistance.

"The arrival of this powerful addition to our force, seems to have determined the General to employ a part of the troops in an immediate attack on Merjee, which looked so invitingly down the river, at the distance of about four or five miles. The division destined for this under Col. Mc'Leod, was accordingly embarked on the river; Lieut. Ross, with whom I became now for the first time acquainted, and myself, with a detachment from the second batt. being ordered on dutv with this force.

We had, however, scarcely entered our boats, when having, for some reason or other, abandoned this design for the present, the General countermanded his orders, and we re-landed.

It is, however, to be acknowledged, that in this change of plan, Gen. Matthews acted with the soundest discretion; since it is sufficiently obvious that by a waste of time, which might have been incurred in attacking a place of such minor importance, the paramount object of the expedition would have been exposed to the hazard of defeat. It is probable that he therefore determined to establish a more centrical, and more eligible basis for his operations, by the reduction of Onore.

Not many nights preceeding, a body of the enemy supposed to belong to the garrison of that place, had made their appearance in the cocoa-nut tope or grove, immediately under the fortified post, at Compta; which I have already mentioned to have been occupied by Capt. Lampard and his corps of grenadiers. With a caution which exposed him to ridicule, that officer, instead of attacking these undisciplined irregulars, chose to cram his whole batt. about four hundred strong, into a work where there was hardly standing room for the men. The enemy deriving courage from this unusual proof of deference, became, as was to be expected, more daring and insolent; although they immediately withdrew on the appearance of the reinforcement, which was hastening to the relief of the post."

Figure 3. Compta or Kumpta today. 
[Please click on image for larger version.][2]

While it is not possible to be certain where Captain Lampard and his grenadiers had built their fortified post. However Google Earth shows that today Kumpta stands on top of a kidney shaped ridge, some 20 to 25 metres higher than the surrounding fields and plantations. It is very probable that this ridge was the scene of the post and Lampard's humiliation.

Figure 4. Kumta today from Google Earth showing the
kidney shaped ridge that was probably the site
of Captain Lampard's post.
[Please click on image for larger version.]

"Whether this circumstance might not have had some influence in drawing the attention of the General more immediately to that quarter, I cannot pretend to say. But the whole united force was shortly afterwards in full march for Onore; Capt. Carpenter's batt. the old second, to which I was attached, or the greater part of it, being left to protect the stores and other equipments, that remained at Rajamandroog."

General Matthew's main force moved off to Onore (known today as Honavar.), approximately 15 miles to the south, where he and his force set about besieging the town. Captain Carpenter's force was set the task of acting as a covering force, moving towards the west and the foothills of the ghats.

"To our unfeigned satisfaction, our confinement at Rajamandroog was now to terminate. Our commandant having received orders, from head quarters, to proceed with his batt. into the districts within land of Onore to the eastward; for the purpose of repelling any attempt that might be made by the enemy in that direction. We marched accordingly in the direction indicated to us; our corps becoming thus a moving column of observation; acting about sixteen or eighteen miles to the eastward of Onore, and in the direct road as we afterwards found to the Bilghy gauht."

The position this column took cannot be determined exactly, but it is very likely that it was on the line of the modern road from Kumta heading inland towards Siddapura. The road traverses the Bilgi Ghat which rises to about 540 metres in about 2 miles as the Crow flies, although many more by actual twists and turns of the road.

Figure 5. Google Earth Image showing the location of the
Bilgie Ghat. It is probable that Carpenter's force was
stationed in the plain at the toe of the Ghat.

"I am disposed to think, that the corps with Capt. Carpenter at this period, after deducting the men detached, could not have mustered more than three hundred firelocks; one-half of which, however, were veteran grenadiers, inured to service.

To these latter, under Lieuts. Hodges and Weldon, I was now attached. The officers present were—Capt. Carpenter, Lieuts. Hodges, Weldon, Fyfe and Lawrence, Ensigns Morris, Lonsdale, and myself. Lieut. Ross must have been left in command at Rajamandroog."

As so often was the case with 18th Century armies, the column had little or no logistical support, and was expected to forage for it's own rations.  

Lieutenant's Weldon and Price troops were engaged in plundering stocks of rice from one unfortunate village when they came under attack. It is not clear if the attackers were infuriated villagers, or part of a relief force heading towards Onore in support of that towns resistance to East India Company attack. 

"Be this as it may, Lieut.Weldon and myself, with part of the grenadiers, were one day on the advanced guard, in front of an obscure hamlet, called Moordnulla, no longer perhaps in existence; and as we held the commissariat in our own hands, the sepoys were engaged in thrashing rice from the straw, which lay stacked about the villages; being at the time the only source from which we derived our subsistence. There was in front, a rice ground, about a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards over; skirted on the other side by a pretty thick wood of forest trees; and we had on our left, a shallow and transparent river, running over a bed of rock and gravel; and, I am inclined to think, the same river that runs by the fort of Merjee to Rajamandroog."

Figure 6. A modern photo taken by trekker's showing
the river near Kumta, with the ghats in the background.
Although it is impossible to be sure if it is the same 
location described, it gives a very good idea of the
type of territory the column was operating in.

"We had a small advanced party in the outskirts of the wood in our front; and it might have been about one or two in the afternoon, when some musket shot from the wood rendered it necessary that our sepoys should relinquish their employment of threshing, and betake themselves to their arms. In the meantime, I was sent forward by Lieut. Weldon, to bring off our party from the wood. While I was calling in the sentries, several shot were fired at us; and the sepoy orderly who attended me, received a dangerous wound between the thighs, which lamed him for life. I was observing their movements of the few matchlock men that made their appearance squatting among the trees, when a shot struck one of the trees by which I was standing; and a splinter grazed the corner of my eye; without, however, any great injury. I thought it, nevertheless, rather a narrow escape—and I now withdrew the party, and regained the advanced guard, which stood to their arms coolly, awaiting the attack. As the enemy gave no further indication of their presence, they must have immediately retired. And this was probably nothing more than what, in magniloquent terms, might be called a reconnaissance, to discover our force and position.

With that decision which marked his character, Capt. Carpenter, at the head of the main body of our diminutive force, immediately advanced to our support; and as if to demonstrate our readiness to accept the challenge, we all together entered the wood in our front: and having pushed through to the opposite side and some distance beyond, without discovering any vestige of the enemy, we took up our ground for the day."[4]

The small column now decided to advance up the ghats. This must have been a daunting task as they faced a steep climb in the dark up a twisting mountain path, that they had never seen or marched up before. The path would be lined on both sides with dense forest. Today the area is very popular with trekkers and wildlife tourists.

"At our evening parade of the same day, Lieuts. Hodges and Weldon received orders to march with both companies of grenadiers, immediately after night-fall, for the purpose of attacking the enemy— now known to have taken post in some strength, in the Bilghy gauht (or ghat—or pass of the mountains) at the distance of about twelve or fourteen miles. Immediately after dusk, accordingly, we set off; and having continued our march during the greater part of the night, about three in the morning, or at all events some time before day-break, we began to ascend the pass—not without considerable difficulty, in preserving the connection of our files in the darkness, and through the ruggedness of the road.

At last, without meeting with any other obstacle, we came to a gateway defended by a tower, with guns on each flank; which we immediately assailed. Lieut. Weldon being lifted up by myself into one of the embrasures, while I pushed myself round the flank and came upon the rear ;—the enemy making off with great precipitation. Seizing a Frenchman, who had been posted here to manage the guns, I held him up in my arms to remove the gate fastenings, which were otherwise above our reach; and the gate being thus thrown open, the sepoys entered without difficulty. We now hastened forwards; and at a short distance further up the pass, came upon a second gateway, fortified in the same manner with the first. This was also immediately attacked and carried, after a very slight resistance."

Figure 7.  The head of the Bilgi Ghat. Even today, and without a tower
commanded by a solitary Frenchman in residence, it is a stiff climb

"On this occasion, having warded off the push of a spear from under the eaves, which had nearly taken my eye, I ascended the tiled roof of the gateway; and the ground rising abruptly in the rear, I jumped down, as it happened, without injury.

Day was now breaking, and we continued to advance to a considerable distance, perhaps more than a mile, beyond the summit of the pass; until we came to the enemy's bazaar, which we found abundantly furnished with every thing we could desire for the supply of our brave and faithful sepoys. All this was accomplished, as far as I am able to recollect, without a single casualty; which, considering how strongly fortified and armed these gateways were found to be, could not have been the case, unless the enemy had been completely panic stricken."

Following the fall of Onore, General Matthews had marched inland to Bednur using a route that ran to the south of the Bilgie Ghat route. His success in marching inland may have diverted attention away from the route Captain Carpenter's force was taking. Unfortunately Matthews was over stretching himself and disaster would follow.

Meanwhile Captain Carpenter's detachment found itself in what sounds to have been a very pleasant and hitherto untouched settlement. As so often in war, the arrival of troops resulted in a disaster for the inhabitants, who after a brief resistance, took to the nearby hills, forced to look on in horror as their town was ransacked for food and valuables.

"In the course of the two following days, Capt. Carpenter joined with the remainder of the detachment; and we had by this time learnt, that the town of Bilghy, the capital of the district, lay at the distance of about twelve or fourteen miles to the eastward of the pass, of which we had so fortunately obtained possession. On the night of the third, or at latest of the fourth day, after such possession, the whole detachment was on the march to attack the town. We encountered neither obstacle nor interruption until a little before day-light; when a small guard at a sort of barrier gate at the entrance of the place, discharged their matchlocks at us; but immediately making off, left us an unmolested passage.

When day-light came, the town being completely evacuated by the inhabitants, we took possession of the palace of the Rajah; a spacious mansion at the eastern extremity of the long street, of which the town of Bilghy is principally composed; and we found it stored to profusion, with the richest stuffs, shawls, sauries, and other splendid articles of dress; which, at a proper market, might have been disposed of at considerable value. We afterwards learned, to our regret, that all this was the property of the Rajah, said to be favourably disposed towards the British government. Of all, however, we had, without ceremony, taken possession; making on the spot a fair and equitable distribution of the property. There were, however, other articles of considerable value, which we could not so conveniently dispose of; in particular, an extensive assortment of brass and copper ware of every variety, to the value of thirty or forty thousand rupees, which we were constrained to leave untouched.

It may be needless to observe that our operations required despatch, as the enemy must have been in superior force close at hand; and there was full in our view to the eastward, at the distance of not more than eight or nine miles, a respectable looking hill fort, to which our information assigned the name of Goopty. Indeed we must reasonably have expected, considering the paucity of our numbers, that our retreat to the gauht would not be accomplished without molestation.

Having therefore passed the day and the ensuing night, in, and about, the palace of Bilghy, we were assembled about four in the morning round a blazing fire, in the square of the palace; when a jassous or courier, entered, and delivered a note into Capt. Carpenter's hand. The note was from Gen. Matthews himself; announcing the triumphant intelligence, that he was in possession of the ancient and opulent metropolis of Bednour."[5]

The enthusiasm with which this most welcome intelligence was hailed, may be easily conceived— nor shall I ever forget the joy, amounting almost to extacy, with which the sepoys passed to each other the triumphant word "Nuggar lear—Nuggar is fallen."* This gratifying information must then have been received by us about the 31st January, 1783; as Gen. Matthews is known, from his own letters, to have entered Bednour, at the invitation of Ayauz Saheb (usually called Hyat Saheb) on the 29th of that month. The General's note conveyed at the same time an order, that our small force should proceed immediately to the northward, for the reduction of the enemy's forts and districts, north of the river of Merjee. The resolution to withdraw from our present position, which had been taken prior to this information, was thus confirmed or enforced, by the instructions of our Commander-in-Chief.

Figure 8. Bilgie Village.

You get the sense that David Price and the other members of the column found a rather special village at Bilghie, and one that was different to the many others they had visited in their campaigns. Sadly they were like to pillage the village like many other generations of soldiers before and since them.

"I have perfect recollection of the singular cleanness exhibited in every part of the very pleasing little town of Bilghy. The small verandah, in front of every house, was the very pattern of neatness and purity; and I do not bear in mind the image of any place that, in this respect, I can venture to compare with Bilghy as it then stood; unless it be the neat and well ordered weaving town of Gohkauk, below the fall of the river Gutpoorba. It was, however, a complete solitude: for, during the day and night which we remained there, we did not see a single living being, ourselves excepted, in the shape of an inhabitant."

The poor inhabitants watching on from the nearby hills, must have been very pleased to see them leaving for the coast.

It is not possible from the Google Earth images to readily identify the Raja's Palace. Has anybody ever visited Bilgie?

If you live in the area, I would be fascinated to see pictures of the village, and especially any of the older houses. Do they still have verandas?

[1] David Price. Memoirs of the early life and service of a field officer, page 68.
[2] Photo taken by Natasha Chanda Acharga, posted on the IndiaMike website. 
[3] David Price. Memoirs of the early life...
[4] David Price. Memoirs of the early life...
[5] David Price. Memoirs of the early 76.

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

Captain's Carpenter and his operations around Rajahmundroog, 1783

Figure 1. Mouth of River Aghanashini near Fort Rajahmundroog.
This river used to be called the Merjee or Mijan River by the EIC. Photo courtesy of Shoba.

Most people reading the history of the British involvement in India read about the events that occurred during the 19th Century, the Mutiny, the Sikh Wars or the North West Frontier.

With hundreds, if not thousands of books written about this period, and with these wars ending in most cases in British victories, it leaves the majority of readers with the impression that the development of the Empire was a forgone conclusion, and that all the action in India had taken place during these major campaigns.

This concentration on the 19th Century in India masks a far more fascinating stories. These come from the far less well known campaigns fought and often lost across the Deccan and Southern India during the 18th Century.

In the last couple of years with the huge increase in the availability of digital copies of original accounts thanks to the huge effort that Google has made to scan in these otherwise inaccessible books, it is becoming possible to piece together the fascinating and other otherwise virtually unknown stories of some of these campaigns.

In many of these accounts there are absolutely fascinating stories about minor or subsidiary campaigns fought in support of the major campaigns. With all of the campaigns run on a shoe string, by under resourced forces, these "second or third fronts" were often undertaken by a mere handful of European's and locally recruited Sepoys, who were taking on substantial Indian states like Mysore, with large armies that were often technically at least as well equipped as the East India Company was itself.

The following is the story of Captain Carpenter's campaign fought in 1783 between the modern towns of Karwar and Honavar on the west coast of India.

Figure 2. Google Earth Image showing the general location of Rajahmundroog and the operations undertaken by Captn. Carpenter's Detachment. Please click on this image for a larger version.

In order to try to divert pressure away from the East India Company's settlements and forces on the Coromandel Coast, which were under sustained attack by Hyder Ali and Tipu, it had been decided to send a force from Bombay to land in Karnaka at Rajahmundroog, called today Kagal Kote, north of the town of Honavar.

Hyder Ali had died in December 1782, but Tippoo Sahib as he was then known by the British had already shown that he was a formidable opponent in his attack on Ponnani.

The purpose of the expedition was set out in the following orders sent to Captain Carpenter by General Mathews.

" To Captain Carpenter.
" Sir,—It is necessary that an active, although small party, should remain in the field, and I have thought of you to command it. You will therefore proceed to Chundoor or Comptah, and collect your partizan force. It will at first consist of two iron three-pounders, drawn by bullocks, and the ammunition carried by men. And whatever men of the European artillery and lascars as can be drawn from Rajahmundroog and Onore, and as many sepoys as can be spared from each place, that is, from the immediate service and security of both garrisons. If you get 15 Europeans, and 150 sepoys, it will be reckoned a small army. The object is to protect the country from plunder and conflagration, and by seizing with spirit and judgment every opportunity of attacking the enemy, you may drive them from the frontiers of this district. It will be a fortunate circumstance if you can approach either the fort of Bilghie or Gurripah pass, as it may serve to keep the enemy at a distance, and alarm them for fear that you should really ascend the hills. The garrison of Mirjee also deserves your attention, and you should endeavour to keep them on the north side of the river. Being lightly equipped, and without tents or baggage, your movements may be as rapid as your sense may render them judicious. In short, all the country between the rivers of Mirjee and Onore, are under your protection ; and Capt. Torriano, who commands the garrison of Onore, has orders to supply you with every thing you may want, and to send all recovered officers and men, whether European or Native, to join you. You will strictly observe to keep this one material point constantly in view, which is, the safety of Onore, on account of our stores, provisions, and many etceteras: Capt. Torriano has orders to detain no more sepoys than the necessary guards. When we begin to act to the southward, the enemy may draw off part of their force ; then will be your time to make an impression, and I have hopes of hearing that the fort of Bilghie will, in a fortnight or three weeks, be in your possession. Capt. Torriano will send 2 three-pounders, and 2 artillery-men, with a few Europeans and what sepoys can be spared. You will keep up a constant correspondence with Capt. Torriano, who will occasionally acquaint me of your motions. Your command will be separate from his, unless he finds it necessary to call your party into Onore, for its apparent security, in which case only, you are to act under his orders. I wish you health and success.

(Signed) "r.mathews.
" Onore, 12th Jan. 1783."
It is very hard to understand how it was thought that a force of 15 European's and 150 Sepoys were going to be able to successfully take on the inhabitants of a substantial province well equipped, defended by large and well built forts.

This small force seems to have been intended act in a similar way to the Chindit columns sent into Burma in 1944, operating behind any force from Mysore sent to attack the larger landings at Onore or Mangalore.

One of the best accounts of the expedition comes from David Price's account which was published in 1834.

David Price was a young Ensign who had only landed in India during the previous year. He had however already taken part in the sieges of Negapatam and Trincomalee.

"On the eve of embarkation on a service of such perilous importance, I shall endeavour to bring to mind the nature and amount of that force which was thus about to be employed. There must have been a considerable detachment of artillery, although I have no recollection of the number, under the command of Capts. Toriano and Jackson, with, I think, Lieuts. Jacob Thompson and West; a corps of European infantry, of about four hundred strong, under- Col. Jackson; the basis of two grenadier batts. under Capts. Lampard and Dunn; and the first batt. of sepoys, under Capt. Edward Nugent. To these must be added sundry details, destined to join' the several native batts. already on the coast. There were, moreover, proceeding to the same destination from Surat and Broach, the third, fifth, and fifteenth batts. under Capts. Richardson, Eames, and Maccullock; which would add to the force already mentioned, probably two thousand rank and file; with some very valuable and experienced officers ; and altogether making a total of about three thousand eight hundred rank and file, of every description. The merit of Lieut. Oakes was already so highly appreciated, that he had allotted to him the command of a separate and independent corps. But with the exception of Lieut. now Gen. Blachford, I have not been able to bring to my recollection the names of any other officers of engineers, who accompanied the expedition.

Of the precise date of our departure from Bombay on this occasion, I have preserved no memorandum; but as far as I am now able to judge, it must have been early in the month of December, 1782—just fifty-two years ago, calculating to the year 1834. There was not among the whole of us, I sincerely believe, a single individual who did not entertain the brightest hopes of success ; and our short voyage of three or four days, for it required no more to bring us to the scene of action, passed in cheerful and unalloyed enjoyment. Ensigns Morris, Lonsdale, and myself, with the detail for the second batt. were embarked on board of a Surat battela, a quarter-deck vessel, peculiar to the north west of India ; which may accommodate from an hundred to one hundred and fifty men."

Captain Carpenter's force was part of a larger force that was going to make landings at Honavar or Onore as it was known at the time. The force was carried down the coast by the ships of the Bombay Marine commanded by Commodore Emptage in his 28 gun flag ship Bombay.[2]

The area where the landings were made are surprisingly unchanged since these events took place in 1783, and it is quite easy to follow the course of the actual events on the ground, on maps and in Google Earth.

The landings were initially going to be made at the mouth of the Mergee or Aghanashini River at the Tadri Creek on the north bank near the modern town of Gokarna, with the intention that the force should attack and destroy a ship building yard at Tadri,where allies of Tipu were building a 50 gun ship, with the potential to out gun most East India Company vessels.

However at the last minute the force went for Rajahmundroog on the south bank. There are several potential landing beaches shown on Figure 3 below. It seems that Price's boat went straight for the smallest beach directly under the walls of the fort, whilst others landed on the slightly larger beach at 3.

"On our arrival at a short distance to the northward of the river Merjee, a small sandy bight or cove was pointed out to us, as the spot on which we were likely to land. This would have brought us immediately on the rear of Tudry, where there was on the stocks, what was called a fifty-gun ship. It was, at all events, a vessel of considerable burden, at a subsequent period, burnt by my friend Ross. We had however, scarcely time to deliberate, when we were hailed to make for the beach, south of the river, just under the straggling fort of Rajamundroog. "We accordingly made for the shore, and ran the battela [3] aground. For some minutes we were rather unpleasantly exposed to the guns of the fort—and several shot passed over us. A party of our troops was approaching at the same time from the land side, to attack the gateway, which looked to the east: and we hastened also in the direction of the gateway, from whence a pretty sharp firing of musketry was kept up on the party under Lieut. Stewart, the major of brigade. The gateway was flanked by two towers with guns; and we were close at hand, when we saw Mr. Stewart lifted up by the sepoys into one of the embrasures ; on which the gateway was immediately thrown open to admit of our entrance.

Figure 3. The landing beach and fort at Rajahmundroog. Please click on image for larger version.

"The garrison, whatever they were composed of, had entirely disappeared, with the exception of one man, a Carnatic matchlock man; who suddenly arose from among the long grass, with a wisp of hay in his mouth, and threw himself at our feet. I cannot but remember this man, who was one of the tallest and stoutest natives I ever saw; and I often met him afterwards, as he became enrolled among our ordnance lascars. The fort contained about twenty iron guns of different calibres."

Figure 4. Rajahmundroog Fort, showing ruined building sites. Please click on image for larger images.

"The troops were now disembarking in various directions, particularly from the river, which enters the sea immediately below the hill on which the fort is erected; and was of sufficient depth to admit the anchoring of the old Bombay Grab, a ship of twenty guns. They were encamped across the ridge of the hill to the eastward of the fort, looking directly towards Merjee; which, in a declining sun, appeared rather formidable, with its double line of walls and towers, fausse-bray, and ditch. One of the grenadier batts. was detached under Capt. Lampard to occupy the post at Compta, a little hill fort on the beach, about five miles to the southward. A few days afterwards we were joined by the troops from Malabar: consisting of the forty-second, and hundredth, King's regiments, under Cols. Mc'Leod, and Humberstone: the second, eighth, and eleventh batts. of sepoys; with a proportion of artillery, under Capt. Hislop, a very promising officer of that corps, in the King's service. He was killed not long afterwards in the attack of Hyder gauht, on the march to Bednour. Adding these to the troops already assembled, under Gen. Matthews, I may, I think, venture to state, that the whole amount of force employed on this occasion, in the invasion of Kanara, did not exceed, at the utmost, 5,800 men; of whom scarcely 1,200 were European soldiers."[5]

It is possible to locate quite closely the probable site of the camp to the east of the fort, and from there it is clear that Merjee or Mirjan Fort must have appeared very formidable as it showed up in the setting sun, which would have been behind David Price's shoulders. With that red stone set into the green hill it must have been very impressive.

It must also have been frightening to think that you might have to try to climb up its walls in a few days time.

Figure 5. Image showing possible site of camp and the view towards Mijan Fort. Please click on image for larger version of image.

As the following photo clearly shows the fort at Mirjan was a very formidable one, and it was going to require a very substantial attack if it was going to be taken.

Figure 6. Mirjan Fort, looking towards Rajahmundry. [6]

If you live near these forts or have pictures that you have taken of either Rajahmundroog or Mijan Fort, I would love to have a copy of those photos.

If you are able to point me in the direction of other accounts of these actions, I would also love to hear from you, especially if they come from the Indian point of view. From similar projects in Kerala I am aware that there are a surprising large number of oral stories preserved within the communities affected by these events, and they can be extremely accurate.

If you have one of these please contact me.

Figure 7. Mirjan Fort from Google Earth.

In a future blog I will attempt to follow the fortunes of this expedition as it moves inland.

[1] David Price. Memoirs of the early life and service of a field officer, page 65 & 66.
[2] C. R. Low, The History of the Indian Navy, volume 1. page 180.
[3] Battela, a word that seems to come from Portuguese originally, that is applied today to a particular type of double ended rowing boat, but which seems to have been applied in this case to a local type of ship from Surat with a deck at the stern and substantially larger than the modern Portuguese Battela.
[4] David Price. Page 67.
[5] David Price. Page 68.
[6] Photo by Ranjaub see This thread has many more photos of this very interesting and impressive fort, that appears to be undergoing a substantial restoration.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Karachi in 1866

Figure 1.  Kurrachee, from Frere Hall, 1866 NE.
For larger versions of this photo or any of the others,
please click on image

 The photographs in this blog were taken by, or collected by Captain Charles James Barton who was stationed at Karachi from about 1865 until 1867 with A Battery 18th Brigade, Royal Artillery.

Charles Barton commanded this unit from 1862 to 1867. During this period it had previously been stationed at Belgaum and Hyderabad in Scinde. It was the first breech loading artillery to be deployed to India equipped with Armstrong Guns.

Figure 2.  A/18 R.A. Karachi, Persians [referring to the horses]
The arrow leads to Capt. C.J. Barton.

Figure 3. Kurrachee from Frere Hall 1866 NW

Figure 4. Frere Hall 1866

Figure 5.  Trinity Church Kurrachee 1866

Figure 6. Kurrachee R.A. Lines 1866. Patterson Barton, son of 
Charles Barton, also an RA Officer has added a note
to say that he also lived in the same house from 1898 to 1900.

Figure 7.  R.A. Lines Kurrachee 1866.

Figure 8.  Kurrachee 1866.  View from R.A. 2 Bgd.

Figure 9. Kurrachee 1866. View from R.A. Lines Front Row.


Figure 10. Sir Bartle Frere, Miss Frere, Moore CS. Mansfield CS.
Manston, Lady Frere, Miss Frere.

Figure 11. Revd. Mr Bagnell, Chaplain at Karrachee. 1866.

If you are able to locate any of these buildings today, I would be pleased to hear from you, and I would also like to be able to put biographical details to the people in the photos.

My email address is