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PLASSEY (Palasi)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 784 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PLASSEY (Palasi), a village of Bengal on the river Bhagirathi, the scene of Clive's victory of the 23rd of June 1757, over the forces of the nawab Suraj-ud-Dowlah. The fall of Calcutta and the " Black Hole " atrocity led to instant action by the East India Company, and Clive, with as many troops as could be spared, undertook a campaign against, the nawab, and soon reoccupied Calcutta. Long and intricate negotiations, or rather intrigues, followed, and at the time of the battle the loyalty of most of the nawab's generals had been effectually undermined, though assistance, active or passive, could hardly be counted on. With this doubtful advantage, Clive, with 'too European and 2100 native soldiers, and to field-pieces, took the field against the nawab, who had 50,000 men, 53 heavy guns, and some French artillery under M. de St Frais. Only the river Bhagirathi separated Clive's little force from the entrenched camp of the enemy, when the English leader, for once undecided, called a council of war. Clive and the majority were against fighting, Major Eyre Coote, of the 39th Foot, and a few others for action. Coote's soldierly advice powerfully impressed Clive, and after deep consideration he altered his mind and issued orders to cross the river. After a fatiguing march, the force bivouacked in a grove near Plassey early on the 23rd. The nawab's host came out of its lines and was drawn up in a huge semicircle almost enclosing the little force in the grove, and St Frais' gunners on the right wing opened fire. Clive replied, and was soon subjected to the converging fire of 5o heavy guns. For hours the unequal fight was maintained, until a rainstorm stopped it. The English covered up their guns, but the enemy took no such precaution. Mir Mudin, the only loyal general of the nawab's army, thinking that Clive's guns were as useless as his own, made a disastrous cavalry charge upon them; he lost his own life, and his colleagues then had the game in their hands. Mir Jagar persuaded the nawab to retire into the entrenchments. St Frais stood fast until one of Clive's officers, Major Kilpatrick, successfully drove him in. Clive followed up this success by cannonading the camp at close range. But the rank and file of the native army, ignorant of the treachery of their leaders, made a furious sortie. For a time Clive was hard pressed, but his cool general-ship held its own against the undisciplined valour of the enemy, and, noticing Mir Jagar's division in his rear made no move against him, he led his troops straight against the works. After a short resistance, made chiefly by St Frais, the whole camp fell. into his hands. At a cost of 23 killed and 49 wounded this day's work decided the fate of Bengal. The historic grove of mangoes, in which Clive encamped on the previous night, has been entirely washed away by changes in the course of the river; but other relics of the day remain, and a monument has recently been erected.
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