ROBERT CLIVE REPORTS ON THE BATTLE OF PLASSEY, 1757

plassey

Colonel Clive to the Secret Committee of the Directors, 26 July 1757
I gave you an account of the taking of Chandernagore; the subject of this address is an event of much higher importance, no less than the entire overthrow of Nabob Suraj-u-Dowlah, and the placing of Mir Jafar on the throne. I intimated, in my last, how dilatory Suraj-u-Dowlah appeared in fulfilling the articles of the treaty. This disposition not only continued but increased, and we discovered that he was designing our ruin, by a conjunction with the French. To this end Monsieur Bussy was pressingly invited to come into this province, and Monsieur Law of Cossimbazar (who before had been privately entertained in his service) was ordered to return from Patna.
About this time some of his principal officers made overtures to us for dethroning him. At the head of these was Meer Jaffier, then Bukhshee to the army, a man as generally esteemed as the other was detested. As we had reason to believe this disaffection pretty general, we soon entered into engagements with Meer Jaffier to put the crown on his head. All necessary preparations being completed with the utmost secrecy, the army, consisting of about one thousand Europeans, and two thousand sepoys, with eight pieces of cannon, marched from Chandernagore on the 13th, and arrived on the 18th at Cutwa Fort, which was taken without opposition. The 22nd, in the evening, we crossed the river, and landing on the island, marched straight for Plassey Grove, Where we arrived by one in the morning. At daybreak, we discovered the Nabob’s army moving towards us, consisting, as we since found, of about fifteen thousand horse, and thirty-five thousand foot, with upwards of forty pieces of cannon. They approached apace, and by six began to attack with a number of heavy cannon, supported by the whole army, and continued to play on us very briskly for several hours, during which our situation was of the utmost service to us, being lodged in a large grove, with good mud banks. To succeed in an attempt on their cannon was next to impossible, as they were planted in a manner round us, and at considerable distances from each other. We therefore remained quiet in our post, in expectation of a successful attack upon their camp at night. About noon, the enemy drew off their artillery, and retired to their camp, being the same which Roy Dullub had left but a few days before, and which be had fortified with a good ditch and breastwork. We immediately sent a detachment, accompanied with two field-pieces, to take possession of a tank with high banks, which was advanced about three hundred yards above our grove, and from whence the enemy had considerably annoyed us with some cannon managed by Frenchmen. This motion brought them out a second time; but on finding them make no great effort to dislodge us, we proceeded to take possession of one or two more! eminences lying very near an angle of their camp, from whence, and an adjacent eminence in their, possession, they kept a smart fire of musketry upon us. They made several attempts to bring out their cannon, but our advanced field-pieces played so warmly and so well upon them, that they were always drove back. Their horse exposing themselves a good deal on this occasion, many of them were killed, and among the rest four or five officers of the first distinction, by which the whole army being visibly dispirited and thrown into some confusion, we were encouraged to storm both the eminence and the angle of their camp, which were carried at the same instant, with little or no loss; though the latter was defended (exclusive of blacks) by forty French and two pieces of cannon; and the former by a large body of blacks, both foot and horse. On this, a general rout ensued, and we pursued the enemy six miles, passing upwards of forty pieces of cannon they had abandoned, with an infinite number of hackeries, and carriages filled with baggage of all kinds. Suraj-u-Dowlah escaped on a camel, and reaching Moorshedabad early next morning, dispatched away what jewels and treasure he conveniently could, and he himself followed at midnight, with only two or three attendants.
It is computed there are killed of the enemy about five hundred. Our loss amounted to only twenty-two killed, and fifty wounded, and those chiefly blacks. During the warmest part of the action we observed a large body of troops hovering on our right, which proved to be our friends; but as they never discovered themselves by any signal whatsoever, we frequently fired on them to make them keep their distance. When the battle was over, they sent a congratulatory message, and encamped in our neighbourhood that night. The next morning Meer Jaffier paid me a visit, and expressed much gratitude at the service done him, assuring me, in the most solemn manner, that he would faithfully perform his engagement to the English. He then proceeded to the city, which he reached some hours before Suraj-u-Dowlah left it.
As, immediately on Suraj-u-Dowlah’s flight, Meer Jaffier found himself in peaceable possession of the palace and. city, I encamped without, to prevent the inhabitants from being plundered or disturbed; first at Maudipoor, and afterwards at the French factory at Sydabad. However, I sent forward Messrs. Watts, and Walsh to inquire into the state of the treasury, and inform me what was transacted at the palace. By their representations I soon found it necessary for me to be present, on many accounts; accordingly, I entered the city on the 29th, with a guard of two hundred Europeans and three hundred sepoys, and, took up my quarters in a spacious house and garden near the palace. The same evening I waited on Meer Jaffier, who refused seating himself on the musnud till placed on it by me; which done, he received homage as Nabob from all his courtiers. The next morning he returned my visit; when, after a good deal of discourse on the situation of his affairs, I recommended him to consult Jugget Seit on all occasions, who being a man of sense, and having by far the greatest property among all his subjects, would give him the best advice for settling the kingdom in peace and security.
On this, he proposed that we should immediately set out together to visit him, which being complied with, solemn engagements were entered into by the three parties, for a strict union and mutual support of each other’s interests. Jugget Seit then undertook to use his whole interest at Delhi (which is certainly very great), to get the Nabob acknowledged by the Mogul, and our late grants confirmed; likewise to procure for us any firmans we might have occasion for.
The substance of the treaty with the present Nabob is as follows:
1st. Confirmation of the mint, and all other grants and privileges in the treaty with the late Nabob.
2ndly. An alliance, offensive and defensive, against all enemies whatever.
3rdly. The French factories and effects to be delivered up, and they never permitted to resettle in any of the three provinces.
4thly. 100 lacs of rupees to be paid to the Company, in consideration of their losses at Calcutta and the expenses of the campaign.
5thly. 50 lacs to be given to the English sufferers at the loss of Calcutta.
6thly. 20 lacs to Gentoos, Moors, &c., black sufferers at the loss of Calcutta.
7thly. 7 lacs to the Armenian sufferers. These three last donations to be distributed at the pleasure of the Admiral and gentlemen of Council, including me.
8thly. The entire property of all lands within the Mahratta ditch, which runs round Calcutta, to be vested in the Company: also, six hundred yards, all round, without, the said ditch.
9thly. The Company to have the zemindary of the country to the south of Calcutta, lying between the lake and river, and reaching as far as Culpee, they paying the customary rents paid by the former zemindars to the government.
10thly. Whenever the assistance of the English troops shall be wanted, their extraordinary charges to be paid by the Nabob.
11thly. No forts to be erected by the government on the river side, from Hooghley downwards.
12thly. The foregoing articles to be performed without delay, as soon as Meer Jaffier becomes Subadar.
On examining the treasury, there were found about 150 lacs of rupees, which being too little to answer our demands, much less leave a sufficiency for the Nabob’s necessary disbursements, it was referred to Jugget Seit, as a mutual friend, to settle what payment should be made to us; who accordingly determined, that we should immediately receive one half of our demand, two thirds in money and one third in gold and silver plate, jewels, and goods; and that the other half should be discharged in three years, at three equal and annual payments. The part to be paid in ready money, is received and safely arrived at Calcutta; and the goods, jewels, &c., are now delivered over to us; the major part of which will be bought back by the Nabob for ready money, and on the remaining there will be little or no loss. A large proportion was proposed to have been paid us in jewels; but as they are not a very saleable article, we got the amount reduced one half, and the difference to be made up in. money.
It is impossible as yet to form a judgement how much the granted lands will produce you, as the Europeans are quite ignorant of the extent of the country between the river and lake; but, in order to give you some idea of the value, I’ll venture to estimate it at ten lacs per annum. An officer on the part of the Nabob is already dispatched to Calcutta to begin the survey, in company with one of ours.
Suraj-u-Dowlah was not discovered till some days after his flight; however, he was at last taken in the neighbourhood of Rajahmahul, and brought to Moorshedabad on the 2nd inst., late at night. He was immediately cut off by order of the Nabob’s son, and (as it is said) without the father’s knowledge. Next morning the Nabob paid me a visit, and thought it necessary to palliate the matter on motives of policy; for that Suraj-u-Dowlah had wrote letters on the road to many of the zemindars of the army, and occasioned some commotions, among them in his favour.
Monsieur Law and his party came as far as Rajahmah-ul to Suraj-u-Dowlah’s assistance, and were within three hours’ march of him when he was taken. As soon as they heard of his misfortunes, they returned by forced marches; and, by the last advices, had passed, by Patna, on the other side of the river. A party of Europeans and sepoys were quickly dispatched after them; but I am doubtful if we shall be able to overtake them before they get out of the Nabob’s dominions. Strong letters have been wrote from the Nabob to the Naib of Patna, to distress them all in his power, and to take them prisoners if possible. A compliance with which I am in anxious expectation of.
I ought to observe, that the French I spoke of in the action were some fugitives from Chandernagore, who had assembled at Sydabad. It was by their advice, and indeed by their hands, that the English factory at Cossimbazar was burned and destroyed, after our gentlemen had quitted it on the renewal of the troubles.
The present Nabob has every appearance of being firmly and durably seated on the throne. The whole country has quietly submitted to him, and even the apprehension of an inroad from the side of Delhi is vanished; so that this great revolution, so happily brought about, seems complete in every respect. I persuade myself the importance of your possessions now in Bengal will determine you to send out, not only a large and early supply of troops and good officers, but of capable young gentlemen for the civil branches of your business.
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From: A. Berriedale Keith, ed. Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750-1921. Vol. I. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1922, 6-13.