The Battle of Kaveripauk - 23rd February 1752


Robert Clive of India

European interest in the subcontinent of India was still in its relative infancy in the early part of the eighteenth century and as per usual it was the two rival powerhouses of Great Britain and France that began to expand on that under the guise of "trading", both nations developing their own East India Trading Company's.


Although classed as non-military organisations these companies both relied heavily on their sovereign nation's navies to provide a show of strength to the natives and help keep their European rivals in no doubt that they meant business. As time went by, these "trading" companies began to create their own land forces to ensure their business interests were protected and it became a rather blurred line between a being a private company and actually a nation's armed forces occupying foreign soil in all but name.


The south east region of India, known as Carnatic, was technically a dependency of Hyderabad, a princely state in the centre of India, however within Carnatic were several rival local warlords and nobles who each vied for extending their own personal power and wealth, and as tensions grew between them they turned to the Europeans for help in fighting their battles with the promise of increased trade and spheres of influence. It was only a matter of time before long time enemies France and Britain found themselves in conflict, with each supporting rival factions of natives and between 1746 and 1748 the First Carnatic War ensued, which was in effect the Indian involvement in the War of The Austrian Succession in Europe and it gave the junior British officer, Robert Clive, his first experience of fighting in India. As that war ended so did hostilities in Carnatic, however in 1749 the locals began fighting each other over who should be the Nabob (a royal status regional governor) of Carnatic and both the French and British began to chose sides and inevitably war broke out again. The French supported the Nabob of Arcot, Chunda Sahib, while the British opted for Mohammed Ali, the son of the previous Nabob of Carnatic.


In that year 1749, as the monsoon season began, the British fleet departed once more for England leaving French ambitions more viable nd they quickly established control over much of Carnatic and other southern Indian states. In 1751 Chunda Sahib with an army of 8,000 natives and 400 French regulars moved to lay siege to Trichinopoly, held by Mohammed Ali and ally of the British. who quickly moved to reinforce Ali, seeing the loss of Trichinopoly as a severe blow to British prestige on the continent if it were to fall. Robert Clive though preferred a different tactic, and with the support of the British governor in Madras, he planned to distract Chunda by directly attacking his home city of Arcot, which he captured after a brief siege. Clive then went on to win victories at Arni and Conjeveram, leaving only Trichinopoly left to be relieved, it now being of major importance to both sides. In another attempt of brilliant outmaneuvering Chunda Sahib sent his son, Raju Sahib at the beginning of February 1752 with a mixed force to attack the lightly defended town of Vendalur, which is very close to the great city of Madras, the headquarters of the British East India Company and the seat of their Governor, Thomas Saunders. This had the desired result of scaring the British authorities in Madras and the ordering of the immediate return of Clive and his forces to defend the city, which he duly did with all haste.


A French Sepoy

On the 22nd February, leaving a small but reinforced garrison in the city, Clive set out from Madras with a force of 300 British, 6 cannon, and 1,300 native Sepoys, to advance of Vendalur and attack Raju and his men. Unfortunately for Clive, Raju had better intelligence reports than he did, so was fully aware of his approach and left before the British arrived. The following day Clive again marched his men to intercept Raju, who once more was one step ahead and had again dispersed before the British arrived, this time heading for Arcot in an attempt to recapture it by treachery having stuck a deal with several gatekeepers. This plot though failed, as the the gatekeepers intentions were discovered and the city was kept safe. Frustrated, Raju decided to turn back and set an ambush for Clive's men as they followed him, which they did near the town of Kaveripuak.



Suggested initial set up for the Battle of Kaveripauk

ORDERS OF BATTLE using the ratio 1:25 figures/men


BRITISH

Robert Clive - Commander in Chief - experienced, excellent tactician, inspiring leader

As deployed on the map left to right

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

British Regulars (150 men) - 6 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, veteran, stubborn, musket

Artillery ( 2 guns and crew) - 1 model - medium gun, well trained, disciplined, veteran

British Regulars (150 men) - 6 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, veteran, stubborn, musket

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

British Regulars (100 men) - 4 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, veteran, stubborn, musket

Artillery (4 guns and crew) - 2 models - medium gun, well trained, disciplined, veteran

British Regulars (200 men) - 8 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, veteran, stubborn, musket

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket


FRENCH

Raju Sahib - Commander in Chief - experienced, impetuous, basic tactician

As deployed on the map left to right

6 x Sahib's own native cavalry (6 x 400 men) 6 x 16 figures - open order light horse, native/militia, experienced, impetuous, cautious morale

French Regulars (150 men) - 6 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, experienced, musket

French Regulars (150 men) - 6 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, experienced, musket

Sepoys (400 men) - 16 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

Sepoys (400 men) - 16 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

Sepoys (400 men) - 16 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

French Regulars (50 men) - 2 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, experienced, musket

French Regulars (50 men) - 2 figures - close order infantry, well trained, disciplined, experienced, musket

Artillery (9 cannon and crew) - 4 models - medium guns, well trained, disciplined, steady

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket

Sepoys (200 men) - 8 figures - native infantry, trained, experienced, steady, musket


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED


As the sun began to sink in the sky on the 23rd February, Clive and his men were almost at Kaveripauk where they intended to make camp for the night. The small town was just in sight, silhouetted against the skyline when suddenly to their right cannons opened fire, heralding the start of an ambush. Raju had lined the edge of a mango grove 250 yards to the right of the road and protected by both a ditch and a stream which surrounded the grove with his nine cannon, supported by a small number of French regulars and two larger groups of Sepoys. Ahead of Clive appeared French infantry and to his left a sizable number of cavalry were also spotted in the fading light.


Always the quick thinker, Clive immediately deployed his men. He sent his baggage to the rear with a platoon of infantry (beyond the edge of the battle map above) and then two of his cannon, with a another platoon of British regulars and 200 sepoys across a dried out watercourse to protect his flank and encirclement from the cavalry threat. He then deployed his remaining artillery on the road's edge to exchange fire with the enemy guns, and took his remaining infantry into the dried riverbed to take cover. Raju then sent his men into the watercourse to advance on the British while his cavalry charged Clive's forces protecting the left flank. Steady musket fire and artillery shots, chased the cavalry back, and in the watercourse it appeared an even standoff for some time, but by 10pm Clive noticed his cannon were taking a heavy pounding from the French guns and unless something could be done, this alone would force his retreat.


Clive sent a sepoy sergeant called Shawlum, who was local and knew the terrain, to reconnoitre the mango grove and how it may be silenced. He returned to say it appeared undefended at the rear, which turned out incorrect, but the news prompted Clive to assemble a force of 200 British and 400 sepoys to take the mango grove and knock out the French cannon. He initially led the group himself through the moonlit countryside until an urgent message was ran to him to say the forces in the watercourse were being overwhelmed by the French, at which he left a Lieutenant Keene in command of the mango grove assault party while he hurried back through dark to rally his men, arriving just in time. At the same time Raju's cavalry who had now regrouped, made another charge on the flank, bu again the small British and sepoy force held them back with muskets and cannon.


As Keene rounded the back of the mango grove he had his men stay still about 300 yards away while he sent his Ensign called Symmonds to do a final reconnaissance. As he crossed the stream and entered the grove he was challenged by sepoy sentries, and thinking fast he replied to them French that he was an officer on their side, sufficiently well to let him pass. In the moonlight he could then see the French guns in front of him with no rearguard. Slipping back to his men with the news, Keene acted swiftly. He brought his men even further around the grove to enter beyond the sepoy sentries and stealthily had his men position just 30 yards behind the French cannon then pour a deadly volley of musket fire into them, silencing the guns immediately before then charging the French sepoy infantry, now to their rear, at the bayonet point and sending them fleeing into the night.


Across the battlefield the sudden silence of the French guns alerted Raju that there was a problem, which was confirmed by several French survivors fleeing the grove and stumbling into them. The already fragile cavalry force decided to flee the field, quickly followed by the infantry in the watercourse. It had been a very close run thing, but Clive's quick thinking and decisive action had won the day and would in years to come earn the simple title of Clive Of India.

That night his men tended their wounded and at daylight they collected the nine French cannon and prisoners before continuing on to Kaveripauk and eventually returning to Madras.

Raju had lost 50 french soldiers and 300 sepoys/natives, Clive suffered 40 British dead and 30 sepoys killed.


WARGAMING THE BATTLE


The relatively small numbers would lend itself well to a large skirmish game, especially where leader's character and ability are accounted for in the rules.

Although not a common period to game, it is certainly a colourful one with varied troop types, even more so than it's later more popular cousin period, the Indian Mutiny one hundred years later.


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