If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. — Rudyard Kipling

Maratha Wars

1775 to 1818
Marathas — versus — British East India Company

First Maratha War — 1775-1783      Second Maratha War — 1802-1803     
Third Maratha War — 1817-1818      Gwalior Campaign — 1843     

Introduction

The Marathas were originally a small Hindu tribe based in the western Deccan. During the oppressive reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), when Hindus were being severely harassed, there arose a great leader among the Marathas named Shivaji. He became the most determined foe of Aurangzeb and he united and inspired the Maratha warriors so that they became the predominant force in the region. When Aurangzeb died, the Moghul empire began a rapid decline, and the Marathas took control of an ever greater territory so by the time that the British became established in India, the Marathas controlled much of central India. Their conquests over the Moghul chiefs continued for years until finally, in 1759 they attempted to retake Delhi. There they suffered an overwhelming defeat at the Third Battle of Panipat. Had they succeeded, it would have been the first time in nearly 500 years that Hindus had controlled Delhi, but instead the Marathas lost over 50,000 of their finest warriors and were dealt a severe check in their rise to power.

By the end of the Carnatic Wars (1763), Britain was on good terms with some of the Marathas. Britain had established herself as the chief European power in India, but the amount of territory that she directly governed was still very small, consisting mainly of Bengal and the principality directly surrounding Madras. It was initially her ambition to make alliances with existing princes, rather than to rule directly. The East India Company was far more concerned about making a profit than governing India at this time so it was not following a policy of explicit expansion, but was rather attempting to increase its influence over various tribes in order to open up more trading opportunities, and also to prevent any other foreign power from gaining a foothold. The manner in which Britain (and other European powers) gained influence over a region was to offer their military services to one side of an ongoing dispute between princes, in return for the promise of trading privileges, and in this way gain a commercial advantages without the messy job of actually governing a region. Eventually this proved to be an impossible goal, but it was the model of diplomacy that led to Britain's involvement in the first two Maratha wars.

By the time that the British became involved with the Marathas, they were a loose confederacy of five ruling families. These include the Peshwas of Pune, the Sindhias of Gwalior, the Holkars of Indore, the Gaekwads of Baroda, and the Bhonstes of Nagpur. The most prominent of these tribes, who led armies against the British, especially in the second and third Maratha wars were the Sindhias and Holkars.

First Maratha War : 1775-1783

maratha
WARREN HASTINGS
The first Maratha War arose from a dispute between two candidates for a vacant Peshwa (the hereditary position of Prime Minister). One of the claimants sought help from the British stationed at Bombay, and receive the promise of aid, in return for the promise of territories and revenues, should he regain his position. A battle was fought but was inconclusive, and the Company at Calcutta opposed any further interference, and sought to nullify the arrangement. It almost seemed as though further war could be averted, until the opposing claimant granted the French, who were currently at war with Britain, a port on the Western coast. At this point, the situation became very serious for Britain, and she resolved to meet the Marathas in battle. The first engagement, at Wadgaon however, went badly for the British, and they agreed to relinquish all of the territory they had gained thus far. Warren Hastings, however, refused to ratify this treaty and instead, greatly stepped up the war effort. In the following year, Britain was everywhere victorious and the Marathas agreed to a new treaty which essentially restored the status quo. Britain and the Marathas agreed to maintain peace for twenty more years.



DateBattle Summary
1775  
Battle of Aras (First ) British victory
Fought May 18, 1775, between Raghunath Rao, the claimant to the Peshwaship, with 20,000 Mahrattas, and 2,500 British troops under Colonel Keating, and the army of the Mahratta chieftains, 25,000 strong under Hari Pant Phunhay. Raghunath's undisciplined levies fled, and threw the British line into confusion; but they rallied, and after hard fighting repulsed the Mahrattas with heavy loss. The British lost 222, including 11 officers.
  
1779  
Battle of Wargaom (First ) Marathas victory
Fought January 12, 1779, when a British force, 2,600 strong, under Colonel Cockburn, retreating from Poonah, was attacked by the Mahratta army, under Mahadaji Sindhia, and Hari Pant. The British succeeded in beating off the attack, and making good their position in the village of Wargaom, but at a loss of 352, including 15 officers, and ultimately a convention was signed by Sindhia, under which the British retired unmolested.
  
1780  
Battle of Ahmedabad (First ) British victory
This strong fortress, garrisoned by 8,000 Arabs and Scinde Infantry, and 2,000 Mahrattas, was taken by assault, after a short bombardment, by a British force under General Goddard, February 15, 1780. The British lost 106 killed and wounded, including 12 officers.
  
1780  
Battle of Deeg (Gwalior Campaign ) British victory
Fought 1780 between the British, 6,000 strong under General Fraser, and the Mahrattas under Holkar of Indore, with 14 battalions of infantry, a numerous cavalry, and 160 guns. The Mahrattas were utterly routed, leaving 87 guns on the field. The British lost 643, including General Fraser, killed.
  
1780  
Siege of Gwalior (First ) British victory
This strong fortress was captured from the Mahrattas, August 3, 1780, by a British force of about 2,000 men, mostly sepoys, under Captain Popham. The wall was scaled by two companies of sepoys, under Captain Bruce, supported by 20 Europeans, and followed by two battalions. The garrison was completely surprised, and an entrance effected without opposition, whereupon the place was surrendered to the assailants, who had not lost a man.
  
1780  
Siege of Bassein (First ) British victory
This place, held by a Mahratta garrison, was besieged by a British force under General Goddard, November 13, 1780. A serious attempt was made to relieve the garrison, but the defeat of the relieving force by Colonel Hartley at Dugaar, on December 10, completely discouraged the defenders, and they surrendered on the following day.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Raghunath Rao Claimant to the Peshwaship, who sought British protection and help.
sindia1 Maratha general, responsible for Maratha victory at Wargaom.
Captaim Popham British officer responsible for taking the Maratha fort at Gwailor.
General Goodard British officer in charge of operation for First Maratha War.
Warren Hastings Early Governor of India. Was tried for corruption, but acquitted after a lengthy trial.


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Hyder Ali and the Mahrattas  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Warren Hastings—War  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall


Second Maratha War : 1802-1803

maratha
LIEUT. PATTINSON RECAPTURES THE GUN
The second war with the Marathas was triggered, like the first one, by a complicated power struggle within the Maratha government. The Baji Rao II, the current Peshwa, had lost an important battle to one of his enemies, and fled to Britain for protection, promising territory, and favorable terms for Britain in return for their help. Again, Britain's motives were complicated by fear of the French, who had sent advisors and supplies to support the Marathas. (This occurred during the early years of the Napoleonic War, when France was actively trying to increase its colonial holdings at British expense.) The Marathas were appalled at this act of treachery on the part of the Peshwa, and readied themselves for war. This time, Britain was prepared, and knew how to fight the Marathas effectively. The war were short and decisive, and the Marathas sued for peace after only a year. They were allowed to keep much of their territory, but were required dismantle their standing army, and to own the British as overlords.



DateBattle Summary
1802  
Battle of Poonah (Second ) Rao victory
Fought October 25, 1802, between the forces of Jeswunt Rao, and the united armies of the Peshwa and Sindhia of Gwalior. After an evenly contested action, Jeswunt Rao got the upper hand, and gained a complete victory, Sindhia fleeing from the field, leaving behind him all his guns and baggage.
  
1803  
Battle of Aligurh (Second ) British victory
This fortress, the arsenal of Sindhia of Gwalior, was captured August 29, 1803, by the 76th Highlanders under Colonel Monson, forming part of General Lake's army. The place was strongly fortified and surrounded by a ditch 100 feet wide, containing to feet of water. The Highlanders carried the fortress by storm, blowing in the main gate, and fighting their way from room to room till the place was captured. Two hundred and eighty-one guns were taken. The British loss amounted to 223 killed and wounded.
  
1803  
Battle of Delhi (Second ) British victory
Fought September 11, 1803, between 4,500 British under General Lake, and 19,000 Mahrattas of Scindiah's army under Bourguin. The enemy occupied a strong position with the Jumna in their rear, and Lake, feigning a retreat, drew them from their lines, and then turning upon them drove them with the bayonet into the river, inflicting enormous loss upon them. The British lost 400 only.
  
1803  
Battle of Assaye (Second ) British victory
Fought September 23, 1803, when General Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) with 4,500 British and native troops routed the army of Sindhia of Gwalior, over 30,000 strong. All the camp equipment and 100 guns were taken. The Duke always considered this the bloodiest action, for the numbers engaged, that he ever witnessed. The British loss amounted to 1,566, or more than one-third of Wellesley's entire force.
  
1803  
Siege of Agra (Second ) British victory
The fortress was besieged October 4, 1803, by the British under General Lake, and was defended by a garrison of Sindhia's troops, 6,000 strong, who held the citadel, while seven additional battalions were encamped in the town. The latter force was attacked on the l0th and routed, losing 26 guns, while the survivors, 2,600 in number, surrendered on the following day. On the 17th the batteries opened fire on the citadel, and on the 18th the garrison surrendered.
  
1803  
Battle of Laswari (Second ) British victory
Fought November 1, 1803, between the British, 10,000 strong, under General Lake, and Scindhia's army, consisting of 9,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Scindhia's veteran infantry made a most gallant defense, standing their ground until 7,000 had fallen, when the survivors laid down their arms. The cavalry also suffered heavily. The British loss amounted to about 800. Seventy-two guns and a large quantity of ammunition and stores were captured.
  
1803  
Battle of Argaum (Second ) British victory
Fought November 28, 1803, between the British under Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) and the forces of the Rajah of Berar, under Sindhia of Gwalior. Three of Wellesley's battalions, which had previously fought well, on this occasion broke and fled, and the situation was at one time very serious. Wellesley, however, succeeded in rallying them, and in the end defeated the Mahrattas, withthe loss of all their guns and baggage. The British lost 346 killed and wounded. This victory ended the Second Mahratta War.
  
1804  
Battle of Delhi (Second ) British victory
The city was invested October 7, 1804, by 20,000 Mahrattas, with too guns, under Jeswunt Rao Holkar, and was successfully defended for nine days by a small British garrison. At the end of this period, Holkar withdrew. So small was the garrison, that they were on constant duty on the ramparts, throughout the siege, without relief.
  
1804  
Battle of Furruckabad (Second ) British victory
Fought November 14, 1804, between a small British force under Lord Lake, and an army of 60,000 Mahrattas under Jeswunt Rao Holkar. Holkar was signally defeated with heavy loss. The British casualties were only 2 killed and 20 wounded.
  
1804  
Battle of Deeg (Second ) British victory
The fortress, which was held by a garrison of Holkar's troops, was besieged December 11, 1804, by the British under Lord Lake. After six days' bombardment, it was stormed on the 23rd, and the citadel captured on the following day. Over 100 guns were taken.
  
1805  
Siege of Bhurtpur (Third ) Marathas victory
This city, garrisoned by about 8,000 of the Rajah's troops, was besieged by General Lake, January 4, 1805. Finding that his siege train was inadequate to reduce the town by the ordinary methods, Lake determined to carry it by storm. Four successive assaults were made, but without success, and on April 21 Lake was obliged to withdraw, having lost 3,200 men during the siege.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Baji Rao II Peshwa who fled to Britain for protection after loss to one of his enemies
sindia2 Maratha general who opposed Rao and lead the campaign against the British.
Jeswunt Rao Hoklar Leader of the Holkars of Idore. Fought Britain in the First and Second Maratha Wars.
General Lake British commander in charge of the Second Maratha War.
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Marquess Wellesley Governor-general of India, fought Second Maratha and Mysore wars. Later, promoted Catholic emancipation.


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How We Cleared the Road to Empire  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Warrior Chieftains  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Of Mysore, Marathas, and Mutiny  in  India  by  Victor Surridge


Third Maratha War, a.k.a. Pindaras War : 1817-1818

The Third Maratha War is better known as the Pindari War, because it was directed specifically against a band of robbers and bandits that were based in the Maratha provinces. The Marathas had always tolerated a degree of robbery and pillage by some of their forces, even during times of peace. When it became clear the Marathas would do nothing to about the problem, Lord Hastings, the governor-general, determined to act. The campaign against the Pindaris was elaborately planned and involved native soldiers from many surrounding provinces. The Pindaris would have to be surrounded on all sides, or they would flee into the open country and return as soon as the army retreated. The Maratha leaders who had protected the Pindaris were forced to withdraw their support and cooperate in their destruction. Several of the most troublesome Maratha leaders were given pensions by the British, and even more of the Maratha possessions fell into British hands.



DateBattle Summary
1817  
Battle of khadki (Third ) British victory
Fought November 5, 1817, between the Mahrattas under Bajee Rao, and a British force of one European and three native regiments, under Colonel Burr. On moving out of his entrenchments, the flanks of Burr's force were attacked by the Mahratta horse, but their charge was repulsed, and the British advancing drove off the enemy with a loss of over 500. The British loss was 75 killed and wounded.
  
1817  
Battle of Sitabaldi (Third ) British victory
Fought November 24, 1817, between a small force of Madras native troops, and some Bengal cavalry, in all about 1,300 men, under Colonel Scott, and the army of Nappa Sahib, Rajah of Nagpur, 18,000 strong, with 36 guns. The Sepoys held their ground for 18 hours, and eventually beat off their assailants, at a cost to themselves of about 300 men.
  
1817  
Battle of Mahidpur (Third ) British victory
Fought December 21, 1817, between the British, under Sir Thomas Hislop, and the army of Holkar of Indore. The Mahrattas, with 70 guns, were strongly posted behind the Sipra, which Sir Thomas crossed in the face of a heavy fire, and completely defeated them. The British lost 998 killed and wounded, the Mahrattas about 3,000.
  
1818  
Battle of Korygaom (Third ) British victory
Fought January 1, 1818, when a small British force of under 1,000 men, chiefly native troops, under Captain Staunton, was attacked by 25,000 Mahrattas, under the Peshwa, Baji Rao. The British held their ground gallantly all day, and the approach during the night of large reinforcements under General Smith determined the Peshwa to retreat, with a loss of 600. The British lost 275, including 5 out of 8 British officers.
  
1818  
Battle of Talneer (Third ) British victory
By the treaty of January 6, 1818, this fortress was surrendered by Holkar to the British, but on Sir Thomas Hislop, with a British force, arriving to take possession, on February 17, the commandant refused to hand it over. Though warned of the consequences, he fired upon the British, whereupon Hislop opened fire, and in the afternoon of the same day the place surrendered. By some misunderstanding, however, the Arab garrison of 300, were drawn up at one of the gates, and on the approach of two British officers and some Sepoys, cut them down. No quarter was then given, the garrison being killed to a man, and the commandant hanged.
  
1818  
Battle of Ashtee (Third ) British victory
Fought February 19, 1818, between the army of the Peshwa, Baji Rao, under Gokla, and the British under General Smith. The Peshwa fled before the action began, and Gokla, charging at the head of his cavalry, was killed, whereupon the Mahrattas broke and fled in confusion.
  
1818  
Battle of Chanda (Third ) British victory
This fortress, the chief stronghold of the Rajah of Nagpur, was besieged by a British force under Colonel Adams, May 9, 1818. It was defended by over 3,000 of the Rajah's troops, but after two days' bombardment the place was taken by storm, with small loss to the assailants, while the garrison had 500 killed, including the commandant.
  
1818  
Battle of Sholapur (Third ) British victory
Fought May 10, 1818, when a body of cavalry, under General Pritzen, forming part of General Monro's force, attacked and dispersed the retreating remnant of the Peshwa's army. Sholapur surrendered on the 15th, the operations having cost the British only 97 killed and wounded, while the loss of the Mahrattas exceeded 800 killed.
  
1819  
Siege of Asirghur (First ) British victory
This fortress, held by Jeswunt Rao, with a strong Mahratta garrison, was besieged by a British force under Sir John Malcolm and General Doveton, March 18, 1819. On the 21st the garrison was driven into the upper fort, and after a continuous bombardment, Jeswunt Rao surrendered April 7. The British loss during the siege was 313 killed and wounded; that of the garrison somewhat less.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Jeswunt Rao Hoklar Leader of the Holkars of Idore. Fought Britain in the First and Second Maratha Wars.
Baji Rao II Peshwa who fled to Britain for protection after loss to one of his enemies
Lord Hastings British Governor-General of India (1813-23). Served during Gurhkas and Marathas Wars.


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Plundered Land  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Pindaris and the Last Maratha War  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Unsheathed Sword  in  India  by  Victor Surridge
Rise of Wellington  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge


Gwalior Campaign : 1843

By the end of the Third Maratha War, most Maratha territory was either directly or indirectly under British control. The Sindhias of Gwalior, were still a powerful family that had control over a large area of Northern India. In 1843, the leader of the Gwaliors died, and was succeeded by a boy adopted by his widow. This caused a good deal of turbulence within the region, and given that the nearby Punjab region was also in great turmoil due to the death of Ranjit Singh, the British resolved to intercede. In order to prevent a worse war, Britain interfered in the tribal dispute by breaking up an army raised by a general of the Sindhia clan.



DateBattle Summary
1843  
Battle of Maharajpur (Gwalior Campaign ) British victory
Fought December 29, 1843, between the British, 14,000 strong, with 40 guns, under Sir Hugh Gough, and the troops of Bhagerat Rao Scindhia, 18,000 strong, with 100 guns. The Mahrattas occupied a strong position at Maharajpur, the exact locality of their lines being unknown to Sir Hugh, until his troops came under fire. The British at once charged and carried the batteries, and finally routed the Gwalior infantry at a cost of 787 killed and wounded. The Mahrattas lost 3,000 killed and wounded, and 56 guns.
  
1843  
Battle of Punniar (Hyderabad ) British victory
Fought December 29, 1843, between the left wing of Sir Hugh Gough's army, under General Grey, and a force of 12,000 Mahrattas, with 40 guns. The Mahrattas were totally routed.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Hugh Gough Important Military Commander in the early 19th century. Fought in Peninsular War, India and China.
Bhagerat Rao Scindhia Leader of the Sindhia forces during the Gwalior Campaign.


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Lieut. Pattinson recaptures the gun
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