Hat-wearers have no equals in the art of firing their artillery and musquetry, with both order and rapidity

Sunday, March 26th, 2023

William Dalrymple describes (in The Anarchy) how Clive and his troops were caught off-guard, outnumbered and in danger of being surrounded — but they kept their powder dry:

Then, towards noon, the skies began to darken, thunder boomed and a torrential monsoon storm broke over the battlefield, soaking the men and turning the ground instantly into a muddy swamp. The Company troops made sure to keep their powder and fuses dry under tarpaulins; but the Mughals did not. Within ten minutes of the commencement of the downpour, and by the time Clive had reappeared on the roof of the hunting lodge having changed into a dry uniform, all Siraj’s guns had fallen completely silent.

Imagining that the Company’s guns would also be disabled, the Nawab’s cavalry commander, Mir Madan, gave the order to advance, and 5,000 of his elite Afghan horse charged forward to the Company’s right: ‘the fire of battle and slaughter, that had hitherto been kept alive under a heap of embers, now blazed out into flames,’ wrote Ghulam Hussain Khan.

But as the nation of Hat-wearers have no equals in the art of firing their artillery and musquetry, with both order and rapidity, there commenced such an incessant rain of balls and bullets, and such a hot-endless firing, that the spectators themselves were amazed and confounded; and those in the battle had their hearing deafened by the continual thunder, and their eyesight dimmed by the endless flashing of the execution.

Among those killed was Mir Madan himself, ‘who made great efforts to push to the front, but was hit by a cannon ball in his stomach and died’.


At this point, Clive’s deputy, Major Kilpatrick, seeing several Mughal batteries being abandoned, in defiance of orders and without permission, advanced to hold the abandoned positions. Clive sent angry messages forward, threatening to arrest Kilpatrick for insubordination; but the act of disobedience won the battle.

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