Late Medieval India
Ready for a Revolution in Military Affairs?-Part III
is the third in the series of articles on indigenous Indian
infantry. The previous articles covered the Berads, the Jats,
and the Ruhelas—this article has been reserved for the Purbias.
Their story covers a long period of nearly three
centuries—from the heyday of the Mughal Empire, to the
spectacular rise of the Maratha power, and ending with their
role in the 1857 revolt against the British East India Company.
In Mughal Service
Defence of Faith
Bengal to Punjab
The New Armies
Scindia, the Dictator of Delhi
Battle of Merta, 1790
De Boigne's Corps
Purbia Rajput States
in Hindi means “east” hence, Purbias are residents
of the eastern provinces of
. However these eastern provinces do not include Bengal, Orissa,
Assam or the hilly North-Eastern states—the Purbia term
applies only to Allahabad, Avadh, and Bihar—all to the immediate east of Delhi and Agra. Although most Purbias were Rajputs,
there was a sprinkling of Brahmans among them, especially in the
British period. These Brahmans were of the non-priestly land
owning class. Other castes like Yadavs followed their caste
occupation of cattle-herding and stayed away from soldiering but
even they could take to plundering when the opportunity
: Purbia lands
This Purbia country is a flat alluvial plain crisscrossed by
numerous rivers and streams. An ancient network of roads
connects the various cities, towns, and villages of this thickly
populated region—not surprisingly this land has been a centr
of Indian civilization for millennia. This region, along with
, provided a steady stream of revenue to the Mughal Empire. The
local rebels were treated with ferocious cruelty whenever they
rose up against their overlords [[i]].
However far from instilling fear such brutality had an entirely
opposite effect on these soldier-farmers.
with matchlocks, spears, and sticks the Purbias would not pay
land revenue to their overlords without fighting. A powerful
Rajput clan would go further and make aggressive attacks on
those who claimed to be their rulers—sometimes two or more
clans would make common cause and profit from the battles fought
between outside powers in their neighborhood. They would take
prisoners or rob the soldiers of defeated armies and plunder
their wealth, women, and equipment. For hundreds of years such
had been the fate of the broken armies of Afghan rebels and of
Mughal princes like Khusro and Sulaiman Shikoh—this aggressive
nature of the peasants was also noted by the later British
1659, barely two years into Aurangzeb’s reign, large numbers
of Rajputs of the Bais clan rebelled and plundered the highways
and villages of Baiswara—other hardy clans were the Bhadaurias
and the Panchkotis. Such risings were common occurrences
throughout the Purbia country for the entire period of the
Mughal Empire—whether for plunder or in reaction to Mughal
tyranny. Just like the large states in Rajputana there were
numerous Rajput statelets
in this vast region, each with its mud forts and rustic armies.
But their influence on the course of Purbia history will be
related in the conclusion of this article.
unjustly high land revenue extracted by the Mughals meant that
these peasants could not lead a life of contentment on their
farms. From the numerous sons in a Rajput family, a few would
join the local Raja or landlord’s army while most others would
travel to the Mughal power centers and join the imperial forces.
These men were exclusively infantrymen—the Purbia country has
no breed of indigenous horses and the foreign horses were too
expensive for these peasants.
the sixteenth century the matchlock had become a universal
weapon for foot soldiers and the Purbias also adopted this
firearm. Foot soldiers in the Mughal army were made to stand
along the cannon and shoot down the charging enemy cavalry or to
protect the camp in the rear. The Mughals did not provide any
formal training to these infantrymen—they were considered to
be part of the department of artillery (mir-e-atish)!
However in local village disputes and in hunting expeditions
these Purbias learnt to excel in the use of firearms and became
steady, disciplined marksmen.
the Mughal records the Purbias are named after some towns and
districts of these eastern provinces. Thus Aurangzeb demanded
the recruitment of more and more Kanojias (from Kannauj
in eastern Uttar Pradesh) in his army but they were described
most frequently as Baksarias
(from the coal district of Buxar
). The Marathas used the curious term Hindustani
(North Indian) for these men—probably to distinguish them from
the Telegu infantry in their ranks. The British [[iii]]
referred to them as “Avadh and Buxar men”.
from their role as infantrymen these Purbias also garrisoned the
Mughal forts and acted as guards of the Mughal palaces and
harem. Unlike the Rajput soldiers from Rajputana, Bundelkhand,
or the northern hill-states the Purbias of the Mughal army were
not organized into compact clans—they did not enter the field
led by their Raja or Thakur. Instead different clans were just
lumped together in the numerous armies of the Mughal mansabdars.
But this did not rob them of their spirit or ability to take
concerted action—usually provoked by Mughal bigotry or
Defense of Faith
bigoted orders with regard to non-Muslims, and their
implementation, roused the Jats, Sikhs, and Satnamis to
rebellion. The Rajputs of Rajputana, Malwa, Bundelkhand, and the
fought in defence of the seats of their religion. The Purbia
were also affected by the Mughal Emperor’s bigoted
orders—although there may have been many instances of them
rebelling or rising in mutiny only a scattered few are mentioned
in the Mughal records.
in 1669 the wandering Hindu saint, Uddhav
Bairagi, was imprisoned, “as a punishment for his
seduction of men to falsehood.” Two of his Rajput (i.e. Purbia) disciples in
took revenge by stabbing to death Qazi Abul Mukaram.
1694 Sri Krishna Bairagi was arrested by the Mughal censor at
and fifteen idols were confiscated. Then the Rajputs (i.e.
Purbias) assembled and attacked the Censor’s
mansion—whereupon the Bairagi was released.
Wazir’s grandson, Mirza Tafakkhur, used to sally out of his
to plunder the shopkeepers and abduct women. Once he laid his
hand on a Hindu artilleryman’s (i.e. Purbia’s) wife,
whereupon that man’s comrades broke out in mutiny. They were
pacified when the randy youth was put under house arrest.
the Marathas divided up the Mughal Empire among their numerous
fell to the share of the Bhonsles of Nagpur. Their cavalry,
armed with swords, spears, and some matchlocks, stormed into
and faced the army of the Bengal Nawab in 1742.
latter’s army was composed of Afghans, Sayyids, and numerous Baksari
infantry (i.e. Purbias). With this army the Nawab
could only fight defensive battles and was unable to prevent the
plunder of his province. Worse, the Afghan cavalry soon rebelled
against the Shia Nawab and decided to create their own kingdom—now only
fellow Shia Sayyids and the doughty Purbias were left. This army
was successful in defeating the Afghan rebels but after a bloody
and draining ten year conflict the Nawab had to cede Orissa and
promise an annual tribute from Bengal to make peace with the
Maratha Raja of Nagpur [[v]]
north the Shia Nawab
of Avadh also
came to rely increasingly on the Purbia infantry for his defence.
As discussed in RMA-II the Nawab’s Sunni soldiers (Mughals)
had deserted him out of bigotry and his other cavalry troops
proved disloyal and unreliable. Later on this Purbia army was
trained and led by the English who came to dominate the Avadh
kingdom after 1764.
1756 the Purbia infantry in
(under Rao Man and Harjiu
Singh) mutinied at not getting their pay. They blocked the
Red Fort gates and prevented people from traveling from the city
until their demands were met.
year earlier in
soldiers rebelled against the local governor and tried to take
over the administration. Then the Purbia artillerymen, in a body
of 7000, attacked these rebels and protected the governor.
throughout the Indian sub-continent these Purbias had made their
name as disciplined soldiers, who were excellent marksmen. Only
some training and leadership was needed to transform these
infantrymen into an irresistible force. That training came from
a foreign source.
the mid-eighteenth century
was in great political and military ferment—the new ideas that
would raise humanity to the next level of civilization were
gathering steam. Military developments in artillery, musketry [[vi]],
and the handling of infantry were also sprouting up with
regularity. Thus it was no accident that French military
adventurers made the greatest impact on the development of the science
of war in
Frenchmen organized the regular battalions of Telegus and Berads
for the kingdoms of
respectively. By this time the British East India Company had
and raised armies at its
settlements. The soldiers recruited in both
were Purbias while Telegus filled the army at
the English sorely lacked was good cavalry—in
Madras this was provided by the Nawab of Arcot while in Bengal a
Persian adventurer, Mirza
Najaf Khan, brigaded his cavalry with the Company forces
after the Battle of Buxar in 1764[[vii]].
This Mirza Najaf Khan accompanied the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam
supported by the Marathas and the British. Najaf Khan rose to be
the Wazir of the Delhi Empire and raised a new army modeled on
the European style. It was composed primarily of Purbia soldiers
who had received English training but had broken away under
their own leaders (Gangaram
and Bhawani Singh
commandants) to make their fortune in the messy political
Najaf was also joined by French adventurers leading similar
Purbia battalions—Rene Madec, Lesteneau, Le
Vassoult, and Walter Reinhardt of Sombre
With this military force the Mirza overpowered the Ruhelas to
the east of
and the Jats in the south but failed in his invasion of Jaipur [[ix]].
After that he sadly gave himself up to senseless debauchery and
the Delhi Empire now passed into the capable hands of Mahadji Scindia—the
Maratha chief [[x]]
who had been supporting Mirza Najaf’s administration and at
that time was building up his estate around Gwalior.
Scindia took the Mughal Emperor under his protection and was
then joined by all these forces of the Delhi Empire, added to
his own Maratha cavalry and Telegu battalions (under Ramru
the Telegu commandant), and now by a new adventurer—Le
borgne de Boigne.
Scindia, Dictator of
Mughal Empire had shrunk to a thin sliver of land along the
covering the cities of
by the middle of the 18th Century—hence historians
prefer to use the term “Delhi Empire” to describe the
possessions of the descendant of Akbar and Aurangzeb. However as
described in RMA-II, after the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761,
even this small area was divided between the Jats and Ruhelas
while the Mughal heir Shah Alam had escaped to the shelter of
Awadh. He and the Awadh Nawab then fought the disastrous Battle
of Buxar described above and came under the power of the British
while the Maratha chief Mahadji Scindia built up his estate in
the region of Malwa and
with sustained but expensive efforts.
had thus added a bankrupt Delhi Empire to his already bloated
military expenses. He now looked around for money to satisfy
this vast military force under him—and found it in the
Scindia poured his army into the Jaipur lands in the summer of
1787 but the Rajputs [[xii]]
entrenched with their old-style cavalry and artillery. Within a
few weeks the Maratha’s money supply ran out, the Mughal
cavalry deserted to the Rajputs, followed soon by the Purbia and
Telegu battalions—only the few battalions of the Europeans
remained loyal. When Scindia was driven across the
only De Boigne remained by his side.
Frenchman raised two new Purbia battalions for Scindia while his
master collected money from his estate in Madhya Pradesh. The
Delhi-Agra region passed into the unworthy hands of the Mughal
cavalry under Ismail Baig
joined by the deserted Purbia and Telegu battalions. Another
player now came on the scene. Ghulam
Qadir Ruhela found the field clear to take revenge on the
Delhi Emperor, who had destroyed the power of his family. This
Ruhela had also hired several Purbia battalions under the
commandant Maniyar Singh.
Baig’s money supply soon ran out and the Telegu battalions
under Ramru deserted him. Both Ismail and Ghulam Qadir were
where after committing atrocious abuse [[xiv]]
on the Mughal royal family, the Ruhela was caught and put to
death by Scindia.
of Merta, 1790
withdrawing from Jaipur, Mahadji Scindia had taken a public
pledge that, “If I ever return, I shall reduce Jainagar
to ashes.” After hunting out Ghulam Qadir, Scindia turned to
settle accounts with these Rajput states. Jaipur was knocked out
at the Battle of Patan and within two months Scindia’s army
and faced off with the Rathor cavalry gathered at Merta.
Boigne’s force consisted now of fifty pieces of artillery and
twelve battalions of Purbias—6500 bayonets. The Maratha
cavalry numbered 30000.
had raised a national levy of 26000
horsemen—although only half
this number was present at Merta—supported by twenty-five
antique guns and 10,000 Naga Sannyasis as infantrymen. From the safety of their
desert home the Jodhpur Rajputs had been seeing the deadly
effects of the new system of war for several years—now they
wisely hired Ismail Baig to collect some wandering Purbia and
Ruhela infantry and get something matching De Boigne’s force.
this new force could join the advance guard at Merta, De Boigne
and the Marathas stormed out of
and by a relentless night march reached Merta on the 9th
of September. The next morning they attacked the surprised
Boigne’s invincible battalions led the attack—the Maratha
cavalry was almost a mile behind them. They attacked at a tangent, targeting the just
awakened Naga infantry on the far left with showers of grapeshot
and flintlock fire. All the Rajput guns had been placed in the
Naga lines and these were now captured by the exultant Purbias,
while the naked ash-covered monks broke and ran pell-mell
towards the town of
. Captain Rohan at
the head of three battalions rushed forward to loot the Naga
Rajputs, after a night of opium drinking, awoke along with the
Naga sadhus and watched open-mouthed as the Purbia infantry bore
down on their left wing. The supreme commander of the Rajput
force was Bakshi Bhimraj
minister—who considered the battle lost and rode away with
But a race of brave men cannot perish in
utter inaction even through the folly of its leaders[xv].
Individual Thakurs and Rawats collected their family contingents
and prepared to defend their motherland. One such group saw
Captain Rohan’s battalions breaking away from the main Purbia
force—profiting from this tactical mistake this Rajput
contingent quickly bore down on the doomed battalions and rode
them down, cutting up half
other cavalry contingents pointed their swords at De Boigne’s
main force. That Frenchman was aghast at the destruction of
Rohan’s battalions and saw a huge, towering wave of horsemen
preparing to race towards him. He quickly abandoned his guns and
formed his Purbias into a massive square—on each face were a
line of Purbias on their knees with bayonets extended; behind
them were standing more lines of Purbias firing repeated,
murderously accurate rounds from their flintlocks; and De Boigne
himself in the center riding from point to point and encouraging
Rajputs stormed through the line of the guns and sabered the
gunners. Several of their comrades began falling from the
musketry of the Purbias but quite undaunted these cavaliers
enveloped the infantrymen from all sides, looking for an opening
to get through and cut them up. But on all sides a wall of iron,
with razor-sharp bayonets angling out, held them off while the
withering fire of the flintlocks dropped down dozens of their
saddles. Then through the noise and the dust these Rajputs
turned their horses towards the Maratha cavaliers in the rear.
horsemen had expected De Boigne’s brigade to defeat and
scatter the Rajput army while all they had to do was pick off
the rag-tag survivors and loot their enemy’s rich camp. Now
when they saw the same enemy, unbroken and in compact formation,
thundering towards them; these Marathas turned rein and fled to
the rear. Another mile
in the rear were the few thousand horsemen of Holkar who
gathered the scattered Scindia cavalry and faced off with the
this time the momentum of the Rajputs was gone; their horses had
been exhausted and their men were spent from their relentless
exertion in the heat and dust. Hence they turned away from a
conflict with the Marathas and cantered back to their own
lines—on the way back several of their saddles were brought
down by De Boigne who had now recovered his guns.
the Rajput army was defeated—but the Rajput spirit
was still unbeaten. A picked body of 3000 horsemen decided to
make one last do or die attack on the battalions—these men now
put on their saffron robes [[xvi]].
De Boigne lined up his fifty guns and dressed his Purbias in two
long rows behind them—in the distance a sea of reddish-orange
gathered pace and came rolling towards them. While the ground
shook beneath them, De Boigne ordered his gunners to
fire—gaping holes appeared in the enemy force but trampling
over their comrades, the Rajputs surged across the guns and
attacked the infantrymen.
Purbias opened a withering fire and more of the enemy dropped
down without touching their opponents. Even then smaller bodies
of horsemen continued their attacks—one group even attacking
De Boigne on foot before they were cut up by the Purbia
bayonets. And at last the attacks died out of their own steam.
The furious Purbias who had been forced to fight, what they had
thought to be a won battle, for two hours, now advanced and
bayoneted the numerous wounded Rajputs writhing on the ground [[xvii]].
slaughter was stopped by De Boigne who also accepted the
surrender of 2000 other Rajputs who had taken shelter in the
town of Merta.
De Boigne’s Corps
the victory at Merta, De Boigne was allowed to add another
brigade to his force, thus receiving promotion in rank to General
from Scindia. A third brigade was added in 1793 and two more by
his successor, General Perron,
in 1801 and 1802.
brigade had ten battalions of just over 700 bayonets
each—divided further into companies. The company commander had
the rank of Lieutenant, the battalions were led by Majors, and
the brigades were commanded by Colonels. Each brigade had fifty
guns attached to it, in addition to a separate park of artillery
controlled directly by De Boigne!
forces were attached to every brigade—200 horsemen and a 1000
Ruhelas armed with inferior matchlocks—for skirmishing,
storming hill-features, attacking from the rear etc. An
excellent supply system provided water, food, and powder to all
the brigades. In addition a separate regiment of cavalry, with
over 400 mounts, acted as the General’s personal
bodyguard—no European was employed in any of the cavalry
the East India Company forces, there was no organization into
regiments, and there were no European regiments to bolster the
Purbias. However De Boigne’s corps attracted the second
largest number of Purbia recruits, after the Bengal
army—sometimes men of the same village and even family were
present in both formations.
short note on the defeat
of the Sikh cavalry needs to be added here. The numerous
Sikh misls, after expelling the Afghan invaders, had been
launching raids on the rich towns and villages around Delhi and
Some of their leaders had developed into Rajas ruling over small
kingdoms (esp. south of the Sutlej River), while others were
still members of wandering armies.
the Ruhela foot-musketeers of Najib Khan, nor the semi-trained
of Mirza Najaf had been able to thwart their annual raids. But
now Louis Bourquien
at the head of one of De Boigne’s brigades repeatedly defeated
numerous Sikh bands and collected tribute from Patiala, Jind,
and Kaithal (in 1801).
a solitary adventurer like George Thomas [[xx]],
at the head of two Purbia battalions (Buniad
Singh and Bakhtawar
Singh commandants) defeated Gurdat Singh of Ladwa, raided
Patiala, and scared away Sikh raiders from across the Sutlej. So
just like the Rajputs at Merta, the Sikh cavalry had met an
enemy formation, which it could not defeat.
Boigne’s corps ceased to exist as a result of the third
Anglo-Maratha war—the sickening details of that conflict
are beyond the scope of this article. The English proclamations
at the outset broke the resolve of the Europeans in the
corps—they deserted to the English side after war broke out.
The battalions then chose their own leaders (Baji
Rai Bhadauria and Sarwar
Khan) and defended forts like Aligarh and Agra or fought
pitched battles at Patparganj and Laswari.
eluded the Purbias of De Boigne in this war fought in 1803 (just
as it would elude their brethren of the EIC[xxii]
later in the 1857 revolt) because they had no staff officers to
plan campaigns or even coordinate the movements of their
battalions. But they fought well at the tactical level and
excited the admiration of their English enemy—General Lake in
North India and General Wellesley in the south.
Purbias had become attuned to infantry warfare over
centuries—why they could not form a large power center in
their own homeland, on the basis of this proficiency, is an
important question. True, small states like Sasni, Bhojpur,
Jagadishpur and the numerous Rajput Taluqdars of Avadh had
always existed. They continued with their age-old practice of
withholding revenue, profiting from the internal disputes of
their overlords, and waylaying and plundering soldiers and
camp-followers of defeated armies.
Raja Prithipat of Pratabgarh
joined the Ruhela invaders when they poured into Safdar Jang’s
lands of western Avadh in 1752. Similarly Udwant
Singh of Jagadishpur
joined the Afghan rebels against the Bengal Nawab in 1746; the Rajas of Tekari and Bhojpur
helped the same Nawab against the Maratha invaders; Balwant
Singh of Sasni
withheld tribute from the Avadh Nawab and was only tamed when a
British force destroyed his mud fort and scattered his
soldiers of these Rajas, even though of the same blood as those
in the Bengal Army or in De Boigne’s Corps, were unable to
hold their own in pitched battles on open ground. The
most obvious reason was the poverty of these small states.
It was not enough to just buy muskets, shot, and powder, hand
these over to the Purbias and expect them to make disciplined
marches or engage in concerted firing—these tasks required
extended training under experienced officers. Such training used
up even more money.
The second reason was the lack of a
manufacturing capacity in these rural territories.
Swords and spears were easily (and cheaply) fashioned by the
village blacksmith—the manufacture of muskets was a more complicated, exacting task. Moreover
required saltpeter, sulphur, and other materials, which had to
be imported from different regions—such imports only made it
to the major towns and cities along trading routes. Hence the
armies of these Purbia states had to be equipped by weapons and
supplies bought from towns under Mughal, Maratha or British
The third reason was the psyche of the
Rajas ruling in these areas.
For centuries they had seen the domination of cavalry in open
battles—thus just like the Berads (RMA – I) in South India,
or the Jats and Ruhelas (RMA – II) in the north, the first
priority of an ambitious Raja was to buy horses and build a
force of cavalry. As late as in the 1857 revolt, Kunwar Singh of Jagadishpur preferred to direct the rebel battalions
mounted on horseback along with his close followers—instead of
raising infantry units of his own.
these disabilities ensured that the rustic levies of these
states would break and run at the first pressure of enemy
formations in open battles. However their proficiency
in musketry was still an important factor—in accuracy
of fire they still had no match from among other North Indian
races. Thus in defending fortified positions and fighting from
well-protected trenches these local Purbias were more than a
handful for their enemies.
were over 2000 (!) mud forts in this vast region—each defended
by the Purbia musketeers. From the strength of these forts the
Rajas defied invaders like the Afghans and Marathas, and
withheld revenue from their local overlords. It took the British
to finally destroy these mud forts, defeat the rustic followers
of the Rajas, and settle their territories—these operations
took decades. Beginning with the takeover of the Avadh administration in
the 1800s and extending beyond
the 1857 revolt.
It would be a harsh judgment on our part
if we condemn our ancestors for failing to adapt to the new
methods of warfare—because these new methods became apparent
in a very small time frame of fifty years (1750-1800). On the
other hand Europe had developed these same methods, by trial and
error, and a long experience of over three hundred years
References and Footnotes
of the Mughal Empire – Volumes I, II, III, and IV by Sir
of Aurangzeb by Sir Jadunath Sarkar.
The men being butchered and their families taken as slaves.
Arthur Wellesley in 1804: “…the village people attack
the defeated enemy in their rear and in the flanks, cut off
stragglers, and will not allow a man to enter their
It is wrong to assume that the British had a recruitment
policy favoring these high-caste Hindus (implying a distrust
of Muslims). The fact was that these Purbias had always
dominated the infantry portion of medieval armies—whether
they were led by Mughals or Marathas. The British merely
inherited these armies from the former rulers.
The Raja of Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) received an order from
Aurangzeb to destroy all temples in his dominions—the Raja
in defiance had them covered with gold plating instead!
This tribute was the chauth or a quarter of the
standard revenue of the province. After the Battle of
Plassey in 1757 and the Battle of Buxar in 1764 the British
East India Company gained control of Bengal but they
continued to pay chauth to the Bhonsles for some
The bayonet being one such important innovation.
The British defeated the Nawab of Avadh and the refugee
Mughal Emperor Shah Alam in this battle. These two had been
attempting to fill the power vacuum in North India after the
Third Battle of Panipat had removed the Marathas and Afghans
from the scene.
Sombre was pronounced Samru in the Indian language.
Hence Walter’s wife, the Kashmiri dancing girl, became
known to history as Begam Samru.
Jaipur was ruled by a boy-King and all its nobles were in
revolt, but the walled city of Jaipur (built by Sawai Jai
Singh at great cost) held out under its well-armed garrison
of 17,000 men.
After the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 Maratha interests
in North India were represented by individual chiefs like
Holkar and Scindia
Perhaps expecting the mythical crores [in RMA-II] hoarded by
the Rajput Rajas!
The Raja of Jodhpur sent 5000 horsemen to his
Several Shahzadas were killed, Shah Alam was blinded, and
many Shahzadis were raped. Ghulam Qadir’s taunting words,
“I shall order my Ruhelas to drag away the Mughal
princesses without wedlock, so that from their seed a
manlier race may spring!”Two of these Mughal virgins were
rescued in the nick of time by the gallant Purbia Maniyar
Quoted from Jadunath Sarkar’s Fall of the Mughal Empire
Thus called kesaria in Rajasthani and Hindi; and
zard-kaprawala (red-robed) in Urdu.
This battle has been described for two reasons. First it
shows the superiority of the battalions—the attack was
made by infantry unsupported by cavalry. Second it shows
that the Rajput cavalry charge—which had swept away every
enemy formation for centuries—failed completely against
the Purbia infantry formed into a square.
One such raid was led by Sahib Singh of Patiala at
the head of 14,000 Sikh cavalry. They reached Hardwar on 10
April 1796, the last day of the Kumbh Mela—and began
looting and massacring the pilgrims! Around 500 innocent
monks and merchants were put to the sword (!) and many
others drowned while escaping across the river. A Purbia
battalion from Avadh, led by Captain Murray, happened to be
there—these men stopped the Sikh advance and forced the
raiders to turn away.
The battalions under Gangaram and Bhawani Singh led a Mughal
force against a large body of Sikh cavalry. The Sikhs
attacked first but the Purbia firing blunted their advance
and these raiders withdrew—the Purbias advanced several
miles in chase. The Sikhs then made a wide detour and
attacked the main Mughal force far in the rear and destroyed
it. Finding themselves all alone the Purbias marched away in
formation and took shelter in a nearby fort—from which
place they negotiated their unmolested return to Delhi.
George Thomas was an Irishman who joined Sombre’s
force and became Begam Samru’s lover. Later he cooperated
with Scindia’s brigades against the Sikhs and finally set
himself up as a Raja in Haryana. His force increased to
seven battalions and he was joined by a few European
officers. George Thomas was finally defeated by Major
Bourquien in 1801 and died the very next year.
First a threat to any British subject in Maratha
service that they would be tried for treason. Second a
promise to European mercenaries that their pay and
allowances would be continued after the war. Third all
natives of Avadh or British India (i.e. the Purbias) in
Maratha service were promised employment in the Company
forces or suitable monetary compensation.