The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

The Seven Years War can easily be called a World War. The British fought the French all over the planet - in Europe, in North America, in the West Indies, on German soil, and in India. By the end of 1759, the French had lost ground almost everywhere. You could say that the beginning of the end of their Indian territories was the sanguinary Battle of Madras, fought over a bitter two month period from December of the previous year to January of that year.

Fort St George was the British redoubt in the heart of the 'white town' of Madras. The 'black' town lay below and around it was where fifty thousand Indians lived. The fort was the first built by the British East India company, and served as its headquarters for the south. It became the primary target for the French assault on British dominions in India.
Fort St. George (1754) by Jan Van Ryne 
Four thousand British and Indian defenders were besieged within the fortress. Attacking them were 8,000 French and Indian soldiers, who had already looted and devastated the black town. In an earlier skirmish, the British had managed to wound the French raiders. Although the French successfully chased the enemy back into the fortress, they suffered from a fall in morale. It had taken a while to bring up their siege guns, but once they were installed, they pounded Fort St George for five days continuously. The British fired back as enthusiastically, and even managed to disable the French artillery for a brief period. The statistics of the munitions expended were impressive. 'The British defenders used up 1,768 barrels of gunpowder, 26,554 cannonballs, 7,502 mortar shells, 2,000 hand grenades and fired 200,000 cartridges from their muskets.'[1] Nearly one-third of the combatants on both sides perished.

The French even set off a mine under the fort. The British were barely discomfited; in despair, 150 French troops deserted to the other side. Meanwhile, an Indian army allied under Yusuf Khan allied with the British began a rearguard action against the French. They captured two French guns - but at so great cost to themselves that they didn't have the heart to re-enter the conflict, and withdrew. 

It was becoming clear that unless the French broke the resistance at Fort St George, they themselves would succumb from lack of supplies and morale. The coup-de-grace was delivered when the Royal Navy managed to break the naval blockade of Fort St George, and land 600 troops ashore. The French saw the writing on the wall, and retreated.

Their Irish commander Thomas Arthur Lally, the Comte de Lally-Tollendal, never quite recovered his reputation after his debacles in India.

[1] Frank McLynn, 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World, Jonathan Cape, London, 2004.


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