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camp, and ultimately left the Carnatic. In this, action Captain Cosby,
at the head of his corps, the 6th Sepoys, was particularly mentioned
by the Commander-in-Chief as having borne a conspicuous part.

The retreat of the enemy gave, however, but short respite to the
Company's army, which was ordered to retaliate by entering the
Mysore country ; and, in 1768, Captain Cosby was again actively
employed, being detached with his own corps, a corps of grenadier
Sepoys^ and a troop of dragoons, against one of Hyder's most active
partisans, Muotum Saib, whom be defeated and dislodged from
under the guns of Bangalore, the poligar, or chief, of which place he
obliged to accompany him to the English head-quarters.

Captain Cosby was afterwards placed in advance of the army, in
command of a force consisting of his own corps, a company of Euro-
pean grenadiers, a corps of Sepoy grenadiers, some European cavalry,
and a field train^ with orders to reduce the forts of iknicul and Den-
canicota jn the Mysore country, which service he completely ac-
compUshed, whilst the Commander-in-Chief, BrigadierrGeneral Jo-
seph Smith, was making preparations for the attack of the enemy's
principal forts ; a^nd being soon after ordered to reinforce a division
of the army acting under Colonel John Wood, an action took place
near Arlier between that oflScer and Hyder Ally in person, in which
Captain Cosby received a severe contusion from a cannon-ball.

In 1769 a peace was concluded with Hyder, and the army went
into quarters. Captain Cosby's battalion making part of the garrison

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The Rojah of Tanjore having at last been brought to terms, but not
before Brigadier-General Smith had proceeded some length in the
approaches, the army went into cantonments ; Vellum was however
retained in the hands of the English as a security: for the fulfilment^
of the Rajah's engagements ; and the garrison being increased. Cap-
tain Cosby was appointed to the permanent conunand, as appears by
the following document.

Extract from Brigadier-General Joseph Smith's letter to the Ho-
nourable Josias Du Pre, president of Fort St. George, dated " Camp,
fifteen miles S. W. of Tanjore, 13th Nov. 1771 :—

" I have left Captain Cosby in the command of Vellum, with his
own battaUon complete, two companies of European infantry, a
subaltern and thirty artillerymen. Captain Alexander's battalion of
Sepoys, and a hundred Lascars. Captain Cosby's great care and
assiduity during the siege merit my warmest recommendation of him
to you, sir ; for, I confess, had he not seasonably sent me a supply of
rice, which he took from the Polygars, we should have been under
the necessity of raising the siege.

(Signed) ** Joseph Smith, Commander-in-Chief."

The distress of the army under Brigadier-General Smith, for pro-
visions during the siege, is further illustrated by the following letter.

" At the Siege of Tanjore, Oct. 17, 1771.
^* Dear Cosbt,-^! have received your several letters and the con-
voy safe; we had not a grain of rice left when it made its first ap-
pearance ; and but for the supply you sent, God knows what the coa- —
sequence mi^t have been, for our Sepoys began to grow very trouble-
some, and I wonder not at it, considering the fatigue they undergo.
(Signed) ^^ Joseph Smith, Commander-in-Chief.'"

In ^772, Capt Cosby was appointed Brigade-Major to the army, *^
at that period the highest staff situation on the coast, and as such

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acted under Brig.-Gen. Smith at the reduction of the forts of Ramna-
dapram and Callacoil, in the southern provinces of the Carnatic. In
1773, he was raised to the office of Adjut.-Gen. with official rank
as Lieut.-Col. being the first officer appointed to that situation in

In the latter capacity, and as head of the staff under Brig.-Gen.
Smith, he served at the second siege of Tanjore ; which being at last
carried by assault, after a passage had been effected over the ditch. Col.
Cosby was deputed by the general to treat with the Rajah, who, with
a chosen body of men, had, on the breach being carried, returned into
his palace, and appeared determined to defend himself in that posi-
tion to the last. Col. Cosby, with only an interpreter, was admitted
to his presence, after passing through several intricate passages filled
with men, who it seems had devoted themselves to die with their chief,
and which their gloomy countenances strongly indicated they would
have done. He found him in a small chamber, surrounded by a few
of the most confidential of his people. The interview was solemn and
impressive, but it took not long to convince the Rajah of the im-
prudence of further resistance ; and when Col. Cosby assured him he
was fully authorized to promise, not only that his life should be pro-
tected by the English, but that also every delicacy and respect should
be observed towards himself, the females, and rest of his family, and
reminded him of Gen. Smith's well-known honourable character, he,
after a heavy sigh or two, asked Col. Cosby if he would swear to that
effect by the sword he then held in his hand, and that he was properly
authorised to give him protection. The reply being in the affirmative,
he arose, said he was satisfied, and gave orders to his people to lay
down their arms, as he relied on the honour of the English, and pro-
per guards were immediately appointed by Col. Cosby for the protec-
tion of the palace.

In 1775j Col. Cosby was sent to England with despatches of a con-
fidential nature from the Commander-in-Chief, and on this occasion
received the following letter from him.

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^* To lAeut.^ol. Coshy^ Adjut.^en.
" Sir,— As you are proceeding to England, I think it incumbent
on me, as your commanding officer, to give you this voluntary testi-
mony, and to assure the honourable court of directors, that during
the last ten years of my service on this coast, you never were absent
from the field in the many campaigns their troops have made ; that
your zeal, abilities, and merit, as an officer, have more than once been
pubHcly noticed ; and that on every occasion you gained my entire
approbation. These proofs will, I hope, recommend you to the coun-
tenance and protection of our honourable employers, who, I make no
doubt, will have a due sense of your services. — Wishing you a happy
passage, I am. Sir, your most obedient Servant,

" Joseph Smith, Brig.-Gen. and Com.-in-Chief
** Madras, 4dh July, 1775."

Colonel Cosby returned to his station at Madras in 1777. A few
weeks after his arrival, (although somewhat out of the general usage
of the army, being still Adjut.-Gen.) he was appointed, by the govern-
ment of Madras, to command a force consisting of three battalions of
Native infantry, with their field train, a battalion of the Nabob's troops,
some cavalry, and the forces of the Calastry, and Vencatigherry Ra-
jahs, to take the field against Bom Rauze, a Rajah of the first consi-
deration, possessing an extensive tract of country, about ninety miles
N. W. of Madras, which had never yet been penetrated with the least
success by an enemy, and, from its peculiar advantages, its capital
being in the midst of hills, roads, and ravines, had deterred any serious
hostile attacks even from Hyder or the Mahrattas ; nor were bat-
teries mounted with cannon wanting to complete its defence, or a large
force well disposed to avail themselves of these advantages ; yet such
was the superiority of £nglish discipline, and the art of tactics
brought into use on this occasion, that by diverting the attention of
the enemy by false demonstrations, and turning their flanks, while
others were making more serious attacks on their principal barriers,
they were driven from one to another, until the English gained such

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a footing in the country as to alarm and thereby occasion a fluctua-
tion of opinion amongst their chiefs as to the probable success of a
further resistance ; which ultimately induced the Rajah to capitulate,
and agree to the terms settled by the Nabob of Arcot, whose tributary
he was, or those on which he would be allowed to retain liis situation,
and admitted Col. Cosby to take j>ossession of Cavaretty, his capital,
till every thing was finally adjusted, and military roads cut through
the country. The loss on this occasion was trivial, but Col. Cosby
had himself a narrow escape, his orderly-seijeant being killed close
to him. The whole business was accomplished in the course of six
weeks, witli so much enterprize and judgment, that Col. Cosby re-
ceived the thanks of the Madras government on this occasion, who
were pleased to say the service had been performed with a celerity that
far surpassed their expectation, and particularly fortunate, as the rainy
season was just beginning; and the Nabob addressed a letter to
government in Persian, dated Oct. 28th, 1777, of which the follow-
ing is a translation : —

" Lieut-Col. Cosby, whom the government of Madras appointed
with some of the Company's troops to punish Bomrauze, has behaved
with the greatest bravery and activity in that affair, and has settled
matters to my entire satisfaction. I am, therefore, to return thanks
to the Company and the governor and council, and am convinced
that they will recommend the colonel to the Company.*'

In 1778, intelligence being received at Madras, by an over-land
despatch, of the breaking out of the war between Great Britain and
France, the army on the coast of Coromandel was ordered to take
the field for the purpose of attacking Pondicherry. Lieut.-Col.
Cosby, being still adjutant-general, had shortly before, in consequence
of an appHcation to the government from the Nabob of Arcot, been
appointed Commandant of all his regular cavalry, then consisting of
seven regiments, 550 each, with 200 light infantry, forty artillerymen,
and four six-pounders attached to each regiment, forming together a

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mo8t complete legion of 5180 men, with twenty-eight pieces of can-
non; and although this appointment was of itself no doubt of sufficient
consequence to call forth all his exertions, yet, at the particular re-
quest of the Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Sir Hector Munro, Col.
, Cosby readily agreed to act in both capacities during the siege, and
actually executed those important duties till the fall of the place,
which, being most skilfully defended by Gen. Bellecombe, at that
time one of the best officers in the French service, did not surrender
till 9 practicable breach was made in the face of the queen^s bastion,
and a passage effected across the ditch. On the completion of this
important service. Col. Cosby was permitted to resign the office of
adjutant-general, and on that occasion received the following flatter^
ing mark of approbation from the select committee of the Madras
government, and the commander-in-chief of the army : —

*« Fort St. George, nth Dec. 1778.
" General Orders.

^^ Lieut-Col. Cosby having been permitted, at his own request, to
resign the office of adjutant-general, Lieut.-Col. Thomas Burrows is
appointed thereto. In justice to Lieut.-CoL Cosby, the select com-
mittee think it proper to publish the Commander-in-Chiefs approba-
tion of his conduct, which he has expressed to them in the following

^^ Gen. Munro regrets much the loss of an officer who filled the
office of adjutant-general with such ability that he not only gave
entire satisfaction to the general, but to the whole army ; and that his
being appointed to the command of the Nabob's cavalry is the sole
cause of his resigning the office of adjutant-general."

In 1780, the Carnatic was suddenly invaded by Hyder Ally Cawn,
with a powerful army, consisting of 14,000 of his best stable horse,
12,000 Sillidar horse, 2000 Savenore horse, 15,000 regular infantry,
12,(X)0 select and veteran peons, 18,000 peons selected from the gar-
rison, 10,000 tributary Polligars, 2000 rocket men, 5000 well-equipped

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pioneers, and 100 guns, making 90,000 cavalry and infentry, and
100 pieces of cannon, many of the corps commanded by experienced
French officers.

CoL Cosby, then at Madras, was immediately appointed by the
govemm^it to proceed to the southward, in order to collect all the
disposable force south of die Coleroon ; whilst CoL Baillie, from the
northern provinces, was ordered to proceed south, in order that their
respective detachments should join at Conjeveram, the appointed
rendezvous of the whole, about fifty miles west of Madras, where Sir
Hector Munro was to take the command : the troops in the vicinity
of the presidency of Madras, under Lord Mac Leod, and those at
Pondicherry, under Col. Braithwaite, being ordered to proceed to the
same point. Col. Cosby was also provided with a large sum of
money to discharge arrears due to the cavalry in the southern pro-
vinces; without which, it was apprehended, they could not move
from their cantonments.

The colonel, with only a few attendants, succeeded, at very con-
siderable risk, in getting to Tanjore, — the country being by this time
overrun by the enemy's cavalry and light troops,— and from that gar-
rison, and the garrison of Trichinopoly, and the Tinnevelly country,
collected two regiments of cavalry, and about 2000 infantry, with six
light guns ; and, with this force, lost no time in repassing the rivers
Coleroon and Covery, which, at this period, were at their greatest
height and rapidity ; and having, with much fatigue and difficulty,
accomplished that object, chiefly by the means of basket boats covered
with leather, and the indefatigable industry of the officers and troops
under his command, proceeded, with the greatest expedition, north-
ward for Conjeveram, the place appointed, as before-mentioned, by
the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hector Munro, for the general ren-
dezvous of the whole,

The colonel's orders being discretionary, he, on his route, attempted
to carry by assault the strong fort of Chitteput, having a fausse bray,
wall, and wet ditch, of which the enemy had just got possession ; and
in tius hazardous undertaking, he succeeded so far as to cross the

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ditch, enter the iausse bray, and even plant his ladders against the
inner ramparts, and would certainly have accomplished his object,
had not the garrison been prepared, by the treachery of one of the
Nabob's Subadahs, who accompanied him as a guide frcmi Gingee,
and by whom Hyder's commands in the fort was informed of the
meditated attack, as was afterwards proved by various circumstances,
and the desertion of the guide, who suddenly disappeared, just as the
attack began. The consequence was, the ramparts were completely
manned ; but notwithstanding this, and a heavy flank fire, it was not
relinquished till several of the ladders were broken, and two officers,
Capt. Billcliff and Lieut, Eastland, and a number of men, were killed
and wounded between the walls ; and day-break rendering a further
perseverance no longer prudent, the wounded were withdrawn, and
the retreat effected in the best possible order.

The colonel, afler allowing a few hours repose to his men, marched
for Wandiwash, a fort belonging to the Company he had to pass,
and on the glacis of which he ordered his tents to be pitched and left
standing, in the care of the garrison, as a blind to the enemy, who
he knew watched his motions, and gave notice of them to Hyder ; and
having heard a heavy firing, though at the distance of near forty miles,
in the direction of Conjeveram, moved as soon as it was dark, and
marched the whole of that night for the general rendezvous. This
firing afterwards proved to be the action between the detachment
under Col. Baillie, and Hyder, in which the former was completely
defeated, the whole being either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners ;
and, in consequence. Sir Hector Munro, not thinking it prudent,
after such a loss, to risk an action with Hyder, destroyed his heavy
guns, and retreated from Conjeveram the same evening, to Chinglepul,
followed by large bodies of the enemy.

Such was the melancholy and unpromising state of affairs when Col.
Cosby arrived within ten miles of the rendezvous, and was met by a large
detachment of the enemy's cavalry, &c. flushed with their late success
over Col. Baillie, and by Sir Hector Munro's retreat, and on the look-
out for him, as they supposed, an easy prey ; and at the same moment.

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and not till then, he, by the greatest good fortune, learnt from a
wounded Sepoy, who had escaped from the fatal action, what had
happened, and thus found himself placed in one of those critical and
trying situations wiiich do not often occur.

There was but a choice of two measures to adopt : The first, and
which seemed to promise most safety, was to retreat southwards to-
wards Cudalore ; the other, to effect, if yet possible, a junction with
Sir Hector Munro, to whom such a force as the colonel had was now
of the greatest consequence. He adopted the latter, concealing
from all but a few of his officers the alarming news he had just re^
ceived ; and to do this and assign a reason for changing bis line of
march, gave out that he had received instructions to move on Chin-
gleput, in order to bring up provisions and stores placed there for the
army ; and, countermarching his line, now formed in column, with a
r^ment of cavalry in front and one in rear ; ordering his cannon, in
the first instance, to the head of the line, with directions not to open
till it should become absolutely necessary, and then by a successive and
regular discharge down the right flank of the column, the left being
covered by the river Palar, till the rear of it came up to them, then to
relirober, and, by a rapid movement, to regain the front : repeating
this manoeuvre without intermission, the column moved progressively
on, at a steady pace, whilst skirmishing parties of the rear regiment
of cavalry, commanded by Major Jourdan, kept at bay the most
daring of the enemy, who continued to increase in numbers during
the whole, march, being joined by those who had pursued our army
the night before, and were now returning, and at times pressed hard
on the rear and right flank ; but the disposition already mentioned,
and the effect produced by the almost constant fire of the field pieces,
effectually drove the enemy back, and Col. Cosby reached the ford of
the river, about a mile from Chingleput, with inconsiderable loss
on his side, whilst the enemy suffered severely.

When within about three miles of Chingleput, this detachment
was discovered on the plain by some officers, from the top of a high
building in that place, and at first taken for Hyder's regular troops,

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till the firing of the field pieces, and the enemy's rockets, and ulti-
mately by means of glasses, the English standards were discovered,
and proved to be CoL Cosby's division ; and being reported to Sir
Hector Munro, he ordered such troops as could be immediately col-
lected to move down to cover his crossing the river ; but before the
first party could reach him, the enemy, thinking further atten^>t8
firuitless, had retired. ^^ The joy which the main army fi^lt on this
occasion was heightened by surprise, as Col. Cosby had marched
nearly 200 miles in a very short space of time, though great part of
the country through which he came from Trichinopoly, was overrun
by the enemy*."

Previous to Col. Cosby's junction. Sir Hector Munro had thoughts
of moving the army direct to the Dutch settlement of Sadras, on the
sea coast, about ten miles ofi*, as the most secure position for ensuring
the receipt of supplies by sea from Madras ; and fi>r finally embark-
ing the European part of the army, if such should be found at last
necessary. Col. Cosby's arrival, however, occasioned an immediate
change in these measures, it being then determined to march directly for
Madras ; and he was appointed to lead the line with his own division.
The army, accordingly, moved from Chingleput the same evening,
and reached St. Thomas's Mount, a strong position nine miles west
of Madras, by noon the next day, a few only of the enemy's irregular
cavalry having been seen during the march, although there was every
reason to suppose that Hyder would have followed up his late suc-
cess, by attempting to prevent its reaching Madras ; which, had he
succeeded in doing, there is no saying what the consequences might
have been-f*.

Soon after this. Sir Eyre Coote, then Commander-in-Chief in India,

• History of the War io India, from 17S0 to 1784.

t It may here be observed^ that Sir Hector Munro was a most exceHent and well-^
meaning character, but unfortunately too easily guided ; and that, at thb periody he bad
about him those who had little experience. — Colonel Cosby's junction was of the greatest
consequence, and was so acknowledged by the whole army. The firte of the Caniatic de*
pended upon it^ and the Company's army reaching Madras befiore the enemy's.


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Sir Eyre Coote soon after having assembled the arn^y, in order to

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raise the nege of Arcot, liien besieged by the ^emy^ Col Cosby wm
honoured with the command of the advanced corps of the army
during the remainder of that campaign, which (Arcot having sur-^
rendered) was chiefly consumed in watching Hyder's motions ; until
news arriving that a large French fleet was on the coast, and appre-
bending the^ might effect a landing of troops at Poudicherry, which,
although it had been dismantled after our taking it, might still afford
them a position, and facilitate a junction with Hyder, Sir Eyre
Coote marched for that {dace with all possible expedition, and en*
camped on the Red Hills, about three miles from thence, on the
7th of February 1781.

The next morning, under the persuasion, from the various intelli-
gence he had received, that Hyder was still at or near Arcot, at least
eighty miles ofi^, he took three battalions with him from the line c^
encampment into Pondicherry, for the purpose of destroying all the
boats, which might otherwise be employed in disembarking any
troops the French might have on board. Sir Eyre Coote had scarcely
left the encampment, with Col. Owen, who commanded the de-
tachm^at before mentioned, when Col. Cosby's duty, as commandant
of the cavalry, having led him to visit the grand guand, about two
miles distant, no sooner arrived there, than he perceived, from a
rising ground, the whole c^ Hyder's army, in full march, on the Per-
macoil road, towards the Red Hills, on which the En^ish army
was encamped. He immediately dispatched one of his dragoon
wrdarlies, with a penciled note, after Sir Eyre Coote, towards Pondi-
cherry, informing him of this circumstance ; and returning directly
to the Une of encampmait, took upon himself the responsibility of
ordering the drums to beat to arms, as he gallopped along the front,
as the surest and most expeditious method of calling in strag^^rs,
many being out foraging, and preparing the army against an attack ;
the line of encampment being at this lime open in parts by the
departure of the three battalions.

Sir Eyre Coote,. on receiving Col. Cosby's note, immediately re-
turned, and soon after put the army in motion towards Cudalore,

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apprdiengive that Hjdcr might get there befiure him, and possess him-
self of dlat place, containing the only supply of provision the Engf*
lish then had to look to. But Hyder, fortunately not knowing of the
state of the English army, as above-mentioned, and having that morn-
ing made a very long march, instead of pushing for the Red HiUs^
deliberately took up his ground about five miles distance, on the op-
posite side of a large tank, where he remained till the British army
was on the march for Cudalore in the evening, when he again put his
in motion, and soon getting on the right flank of ours, cannonaded
and annoyed us with flights of rockets during the greater part of the
night, and till within a few miles of the Bound's Hedge of Cudalore,
Mrhen he drew off, but not before his light troops had at one time
penetrated between the rear of the English line and the rear guard,

Online LibraryJohn PhilippartThe East India military calendar: containing the services of ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 2 of 45)