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Seven Years' War: Battle of Plassey

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Seven Years' War: Battle of Plassey

Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, by Francis Hayman (c. 1762)

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Battle of Plassey - Conflict & Date:

The Battle of Plassey was fought June 23, 1757, during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763).

Armies & Commanders

British East India Company

  • Colonel Robert Clive
  • 3,000 men

    Nawab of Bengal

  • Siraj Ud Daulah
  • Mohan Lal
  • Mir Madan
  • Mir Jafar Ali Khan
  • approx. 53,000 men
  • Battle of Plassey - Background:

    While fighting raged in Europe and North America during the French & Indian/Seven Years' War, it also spilled over to the more faraway outposts of the British and French Empires making the conflict the world's first global war. In India, the two nations' trading interests were represented by the French and British East India Companies. In asserting their power, both organizations built their own military forces and recruited additional sepoy units. In 1756, fighting began in Bengal after both sides began reinforcing their trading stations.

    This angered the local Nawab, Siraj-ud-Duala, who ordered military preparations to cease. The British refused and in a short time the Nawab's forces had seized the British East India Company's stations, including Calcutta. After taking Fort William in Calcutta, a large number of British prisoners were herded into a tiny prison. Dubbed the "Black Hole of Calcutta," many died from heat exhaustion and being smothered. The British East India Company moved quickly to regain its position in Bengal and dispatched forces under Colonel Robert Clive from Madras.

    The Plassey Campaign:

    Carried by four ships of line commanded by Vice Admiral Charles Watson, Clive's force re-took Calcutta and attacked Hooghly. After a brief battle with the Nawab's army on February 4, Clive was able to conclude a treaty which saw all British property returned. Concerned about growing British power in Bengal, the Nawab began corresponding with the French. At this same time, the badly outnumbered Clive began making deals with the Nawab's officers to overthrow him. Reaching out to Mir Jafar, Siraj Ud Daulah's military commander, he convinced him to switch sides during the next battle in exchange for the nawabship.

    On June 23 the two armies met near Palashi. The Nawab opened the battle with an ineffective cannonade which ceased around noon when heavy rains fell on the battlefield. The Company troops covered their cannon and muskets, while the Nawab's and French did not. When the storm cleared, the Clive ordered an attack. With their muskets useless due to wet powder, and with Mir Jafar's divisions unwilling to fight, the Nawab's remaining troops were forced to retreat.

    Aftermath of the Battle of Plassey:

    Clive's army suffered a mere 22 killed and 50 wounded as opposed to over 500 for the Nawab. Following the battle, Clive saw that Mir Jafar was made nawab on June 29. Deposed and lacking support, Siraj-ud-Duala attempted to flee to Patna but was captured and executed by Mir Jafar's forces on July 2. The victory at Plassey effectively eliminated French influence in Bengal and saw the British gain control of the region through favorable treaties with Mir Jafar. A pivotal moment in Indian history, Plassey saw the British establish a firm base from which to bring the remainder of the subcontinent under their control.

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