Battle of Plassey

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Battle of Plassey
Robert Clive after the Battle of Plassey
Robert Clive after the Battle of Plassey
date June 23, 1757
place Palashi , Bengal
output British East India Company victory
Territorial changes Annexation of Bengal by the British East India Company
Parties to the conflict

British East India CompanyBritish East India Company British East India Company

Troops of the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daula
French East India Company


Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive

Mir Jafar
M. Sinfray

Troop strength
3,000 men
9 cannons
50,000 men
53 guns

22 dead
53 wounded

around 500 dead

The Battle of Plassey took place on June 23, 1757 near Palashi (formerly Anglicizing Plassey ) in Bengal , a small village between Kolkata and Murshidabad . It was a battle between the forces of the British East India Company and those of Siraj-ud-Daula , the last independent nawab of Bengal.


The occasion of the battle was the attack and the conquest of Calcutta by the Nawab. To push back the increasing power of the company that made the Nawab of Bengal in Kolkata branches of the East India Company detain occupied and 146 Europeans. They are said to have been penned in a six-square-meter room that was the garrison's military prison and was notorious as the “Black Hole”. Only 23 people survived the first night of their detention. The incident sparked great outrage in Great Britain and the company then dispatched troops. These events were preceded by a dispute because the British had built new fortifications and set up cannons without asking the Nawab's permission. He was also bothered by the policy of the British, who preferred the Hindu Marwari traders to the local people.

The British Army was outnumbered, with only 800 Europeans and 2,200 Indians. The Nawab, on the other hand, had an army of around 50,000 men and a heavy artillery division with 53 cannons. The troop strengths were so unbalanced that General Robert Clive convened a council of war at Katwa on June 21 to consider the risk of a clash, especially since it would take place 150 miles from his base. Clive was initially skeptical, but was changed by the arguments of Major Eyre Coote, 39th Regiment. He had also received insurance from Mir Jafar , who wanted to switch sides. On June 22nd, Clive's forces crossed the river at Katwa Fort, leaving all the sick and redundant equipment behind. During the night Clive took up position in a mango grove on the left bank of the Bhagirathi .

The battle

Plan of the Battle of Plassey from an English publication from 1760. Under F a French artillery position.

Early on the morning of June 23, the army of the Nawab left their entrenchments and positioned themselves in line, including the British right flank. Clive left the grove. His left flank took up position in a stone walled Nawab hunting lodge, Plassey House. The line was divided into six departments. The Europeans in the middle formed four divisions, Major Kilpatrick commanded the Bengali infantry, Major Grant and Major Eyre Coote the 39th Infantry Regiment, and Captain Georg Friedrich Gaupp commanded the Madras infantry with the sepoys as two divisions on the wings.

Captain William Jennings commanded the artillery with three six-pounder cannons on each side. Clive and a small division, which also had the remaining two six-pounders and the howitzers , positioned themselves next to two stone walls, about 200 yards from the left division. The entire line was barely 1,000 yards wide.

The Nawab's troops were assembled in dense columns of cavalry and infantry, with artillery batteries of various strengths in between. Unimpressed by this, Clive's forces went on to attack, but inevitably concentrated on a small front. They were supported by their cannons on both flanks. The losses, however, were higher than the small force of Clives could afford. So he retreated into the cover of the grove, which offered a little protection from the fire. Meanwhile, the cannons continued to fire at the Nawab's forces. The sheer size of the Nawab's army and its spreading over a large area reduced the firepower that could be concentrated on the British somewhat. Still, British artillery casualties show that it took a steady blood toll. Clive was determined to continue cannonade during the day and launch another attack at night.

During the battle, a violent monsoon storm set in for an hour, soaking both sides to the skin. The Indian artillery could no longer fire as many shots because their gunpowder was not adequately protected from the moisture. The Indian cavalry attacked in the hope that the British artillery was also impaired in its rate of fire. However, after nine years of hard-won experience, the British gunners had their powder protected from moisture. The cavalry was repulsed with three volleys from all cylinders. The heavy losses suffered by the Indian cavalry amounted to a coup de grace from the Nawab's army. Mir Jafar hesitated no longer and left the left wing. The Indian main line of battle dissolved. Overall, the battle lasted only a few hours.

Indeed, the battle was decided beforehand. British General Robert Clive bribed the Nawab's uncle and chief of staff, Mir Jafar, who commanded the artillery and much of the army. Mir Jafar made himself hopes for the throne. In addition, the majority of the soldiers in the Nawab had been bribed to throw away their weapons, to surrender early, or even to turn their weapons on their own comrades.

The result was that Siraj-ud-Daula was abandoned by his best troops in the army. The British were able to defeat the remaining loyal troops. Mir Jafar nervously waited for Clive to arrive before taking the throne (masnad) . Siraj-ud-Daula was captured soon after and murdered by Mir Jafar's son Miran while trying to escape to Bihar .

Participating units

  • British:
    • 1st Coy Bengal Artillery (Commander: Captain William Jennings); (now 9 Plassey Battery, Royal Artillery): approx. 100 gunners; Total artillery: 12 × 6 pounder cannons and 2 howitzers
    • Marine artillery of the HMS Tiger : 50 gunners
    • Lascars: 150 men
    • His Majesty 39th Regiment of Foot (Major Eyre Coote, Major Grant); (now 1st Battalion Devon & Dorset Regiment): approx. 500 infantrymen
    • 2200 Indian soldiers (Sepoy)
      • Madras Infantry (Captain GF Gaupp)
      • Bengal Infantry (Major Kilpatrick)
  • Bengal:
    • 50,000 men with 53 cannons


The Battle of Plassey is considered to be the beginning of British rule in India. Jawaharlal Nehru writes in The Discovery of India (1946) that Clive won the battle by “ promoting treason and falsehood ”. He also notes that British rule in India “ got off to a bad start and has had a bit of that bitter aftertaste ever since. "

Bengal was one of the richest, if not the richest, provinces in India at the time. The Ganges was an ancient trade route that linked Bengal to the hinterland, Patna and Benares, the north and northwest - and by sea with East Asia. The British victory at Plassey was, according to Brooks Adams, the definitive turning point towards a western dominance in Asia. A hundred years earlier, India and China were culturally, technologically and economically superior to the West in many ways. “The British victory at Plassey and the subsequent 'pillage of Bengal' made waves ..." Adams continued: "Soon after Plassey, the Bengal booty began to arrive in London; and it seems that this had an immediate effect, for all experts agree that the industrial revolution began in 1760, an event which distinguishes the 19th century from all previous ages ... nothing can be compared to the speed with which the subsequent changes occurred ... Before the Indian treasure flowed in, and before the expansion of credit that followed, there was no potential sufficient for this purpose ... Perhaps since the beginning of the world has no investment ever made a profit like that which was struck from the Indian booty, because for almost fifty years Great Britain was without competition. "

Clive was bestowed the title of Baron Clive of Plassey and acquired lands in County Limerick and County Clare, Ireland. He baptized part of his property near Limerick City with the name Plassey. After Irish independence, these lands became state property. A technical college was established here in the 1970s, which later became the University of Limerick.


  1. Hans-Georg Behr : The Mughals. Power and splendor of the Indian emperors from 1369–1857. Econ-Verlag, Vienna et al. 1979, ISBN 3-430-11282-6 , p. 262.
  2. Father of Philipp Jakob Gaupp, see Kapregiment
  3. Brooks Adams [1896], The Law of Civilization and Decay, New Edition New York, Vintage 1955, pp. 255, 256 and 258-9


  • Peter Harrington: Plassey 1757. Clive of India's Finest Hour (= Osprey Military Campaign Series. Vol. 35). Osprey Publishing, London 1994, ISBN 1-85532-352-4 ( online at Google Books ).

Web links

Coordinates: 23 ° 48 ′ 0 ″  N , 88 ° 15 ′ 0 ″  E