I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. — James Madison

Burmese Wars

1823 to 1887
Burmese — versus — British

First Burmese War — 1823-1826      Siege of Bhurtpore — 1827     
Second Burmese War — 1852-1853      Third Burmese War — 1885-1887     

The Burmese nation rose to power in the mid 1700's under a great king named Alompra, at about the same time that Clive was laying the foundation of the British Empire in India. Burmah was a rather barbarous state, but under the dynasty founded by Alompra it became powerful and conquered much territory in southeast Asia.

First Burmese War : 1823-1826

burmese
THROUGH PATHLESS FORESTS AND FEVER-LADEN JUNGLES
In the early 1820's Burmah conquered the territory adjacent to Bengal, and tens of thousands of refuges from the area fled into Indian territory. The Burmese fought with spear and swords, and had no idea of the power of western weapons, so they when Britain refused to return the refugees, who the Burmese claimed as slaves, they declared war. Britain did not want to fight but was eventually provoked when the Burmese overran an island occupied by British India. The British were unfamiliar with the territory, but assumed that if they took the Capital, the Burmese would quickly capitulate. Therefore they steamed up the Irrawaddy and took Rangoon, but the Burmese fled into the Jungles and resorted to guerilla tactics. Although the British won every battle, the war took a terrific toll on their army through disease and starvation. It took two years to conquer the Burmese, and during that time, the British lost over 20,000 men, and spent a great deal more for provisions and soldiers than they had intended. The treaty left the Burmese in control of their original territory, but most of the northern territories they had conquered to the north were ceded to Britain.



DateBattle Summary
1824  
Battle of Kemendine (First ) British victory
Fought June 10, 1824, when 3,000 British troops, under Sir Archibald Campbell, stormed a series of stockades, occupied by a large force of Burmans, and drove out the defenders with heavy loss.
  
1824  
Battle of Kamarut (First ) British victory
Fought July 8, 1824, when a small British force, under Sir Archibald Campbell, stormed a series of stockades held by 10,000 Burmans, under Tuamba Wangyee. The Burmans left 800 dead on the field, including their leader.
  
1824  
Battle of Kokein (First ) British victory
Fought December 12, 1824, when 1,800 British troops, under Sir Archibald Campbell, stormed and captured two large stockades, garrisoned by about 20,000 Burmans, under Maka Bandula.
  
1825  
Battle of Donabew (First ) British victory
Fought March 7, 1825, when General Cotton, with about 700 troops, attacked three strong stockades held by 12,000 Burmans under Maha Bandoola. The smallest of the three was carried, but Cotton's force was too small, and it was not till the 25th that Sir Archibald Campbell arrived, and, shelling the stockade, forced the Burmans to evacuate the position. Maha Bandoola was killed.
  
1825  
Battle of Pagahar (First ) British victory
The only occasion during the war when the Burmans met the British in the open. In 1825 Sir Archibald Campbell, with 1,300 men, encountered 15,000 Burmans, under Zay-ya-Thayan but the battle was almost a bloodless one, for the Burmans failed to make any stand, their general being the first to flee.
  
1825  
Battle of Watigaon (First ) Burmese victory
Fought November 15, 1825, when Brigadier-General M'Donell, with four native regiments, advanced in three columns, against a large force of Burmans, under Maha Nemyo. The columns failed to keep touch, and were repulsed in detail, with a loss of 200 men, including the Brigadier.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Sir Archibald Campbell British commander in charge of the first Burmese War
Lord Amherst British ambassador to China, and then governor of India. Fought first Burmese War.


Story Links
Book Links
First Burmese War  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Golden King  in  India  by  Victor Surridge
Annexation of Burma  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge


Siege of Bhurtpore : 1827

The Burmese war did much to damage the prestige of the British military. It was highly controversial and everyone from the Indian sepoys involved in the campaign to the directors of the East India Company had serious complaints. Worst of all, rumors spread that the British had been defeated, which encouraged natives who were prone to rebellion. Very soon after the close of hostilities in Burmah, an Indian prince openly defied the British by seizing the throne of Bhurtpore. At first Amherst refused to interfere, because Bhurtpore was the most strongly fortified city in India, and the British had failed to take it on several previous occasions. But when the rebel raised an army of 25,000, Wellesley knew he would have to act. He raised a large force, but the British could make no progress by besieging the city using conventional methods. Instead, they dug an enormous mine beneath the walls and used a great deal of powder to blow the fortifications away. The effect was tremendous, and the British reclaimed Bhurtpore.



DateBattle Summary
1827  
Siege of Bhurtpur (Siege of Bhurtpur ) British victory
The city was again besieged by the British under Lord Combermere in 1827, a dispute having taken place as to the succession, and the Rajah who was under British protection having been expelled. After a bombardment of two months, which had little effect on the fortress, it was taken by assault.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Lord Amherst British ambassador to China, and then governor of India. Fought first Burmese War.
Raja of Bhurtore Prince who murdered his uncle and siezed the throne of Bhurtpore


Story Links
Book Links
Siege of Bhurtpore  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall


Second Burmese War : 1852-1853

The Second Burmese war was brought about by a dispute over relatively minor treaty violations such that, had Britain desired to avoid war, it could undoubtedly have been avoided. Once commenced, it was a relatively one-sided affair. Britain was well enough established in the region to avoid most of the calamities of the first Burmese war. After encountering only slight resistance from the Burmese, the British annexed lower Burma, which contained most of the seaports that she was interested in, and withdrew her forces.


Commander
Short Biography
Lord Dalhousie Made major reforms and increased British holding in India, shortly before the mutiny.


Third Burmese War : 1885-1887

Britain already controlled much of the coastal regions on the Bay of Bengal, and had absorbed the regions under her control into her colonial system. However, by the 1880's France had become very active in the Indo-China region, and when it appeared that the government of Burma was discussing treaties with France, Britain became concerned. It wasn't particularly difficult to find a pretext for war, since there were ongoing disputes between the British trading company in the area and the Burmese government. The British simply sent a very large naval force up the Irrawaddy, so quickly that the Burmese government had no time to prepare defense. It quickly capitulated and all of Burmah was annexed to the British empire.


Commander
Short Biography
Sir Harry Prendergast Naval commander during the third Burmese War


Image Links


Through pathless forests and fever-laden jungles
 in India