First Anglo-Sikh War

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First Anglo-Sikh War
Punjab map (topographic) with cities.png
Topographical map of the Punjab; The Land of Five Waters
Date11 December 1845 – 9 March 1846
Location
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg East India Company
Patiala flag.svg Patiala State [1] [2]
Jind State [3]
Sikh Empire flag.jpg Sikh Empire

The First Anglo-Sikh War was fought between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company in 1845 and 1846. It resulted in partial subjugation of the Sikh kingdom and cession of Jammu and Kashmir as a separate princely state under British suzerainty.

Contents

Background and causes of the war

The Sikh kingdom of Punjab was expanded and consolidated by Maharajah Ranjit Singh during the early years of the nineteenth century, about the same time as the British-controlled territories were advanced by conquest or annexation to the borders of the Punjab. Ranjit Singh maintained a policy of wary friendship with the British, ceding some territory south of the Sutlej River, [4] while at the same time building up his military forces both to deter aggression by the British and to wage war against the Afghans. He hired American and European mercenary soldiers to train his artillery, and also incorporated contingents of Hindus and Muslims into his army.

Aided by disunity among the Afghans, the Sikhs conquered the cities and provinces of Peshawar and Multan from them, and also incorporated the states of Jammu and Kashmir into their empire. Once order was restored in Afghanistan, the British became obsessed with the idea that Emir Dost Mohammed Khan of Afghanistan was conspiring with Imperial Russia and launched the First Anglo-Afghan War to replace him with the compliant Shuja Shah Durrani. This move had Sikh support, in return for the formal cession of Peshawar to the Sikhs by Shuja Shah. Initially successful, the British invasion took a disastrous turn with the Massacre of Elphinstone's Army, which lowered the prestige of the British, and the Bengal Army of the British East India Company in particular. The British finally withdrew from Afghanistan, and from Peshawar which they held as an advance base, in 1842.

Events in the Punjab

The Sikh trophy guns The Sikh trophy guns.jpg
The Sikh trophy guns

Ranjit Singh died in 1839. Almost immediately, his kingdom began to fall into disorder. Ranjit's unpopular legitimate son, Kharak Singh, was removed from power within a few months, and later died in prison under mysterious circumstances. It was widely believed that he was poisoned. [5] He was replaced by his able but estranged son Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh, who also died within a few months in suspicious circumstances, after being injured by a falling archway at the Lahore Fort while returning from his father's cremation. [6]

At the time, two major factions within the Punjab were contending for power and influence: the Sikh Sindhanwalias and the Hindu Dogras. The Dogras succeeded in raising Sher Singh, the eldest illegitimate son of Ranjit Singh, to the throne in January 1841. The most prominent Sindhanwalias took refuge on British territory, but had many adherents among the Army of the Punjab.

The army was expanding rapidly in the aftermath of Ranjit Singh's death, from 29,000 (with 192 guns) in 1839 to over 80,000 in 1845 [7] as landlords and their retainers took up arms. It proclaimed itself to be the embodiment of the Sikh nation. Its regimental panchayats (committees) formed an alternative power source within the kingdom, declaring that Guru Gobind Singh's ideal of the Sikh commonwealth had been revived, with the Sikhs as a whole assuming all executive, military and civil authority in the State, [8] which British observers decried as a "dangerous military democracy". British representatives and visitors in the Punjab described the regiments as preserving "puritanical" order internally, but also as being in a perpetual state of mutiny or rebellion against the central Durbar (court).

Death of Jawahar Singh, Vizier of Lahore - Illustrated London News, 29 November 1845 War-elephant-illustrated-london-news.jpg
Death of Jawahar Singh, Vizier of Lahore - Illustrated London News , 29 November 1845

Maharajah Sher Singh was unable to meet the pay demands of the army, although he reportedly lavished funds on a degenerate court. In September 1843 he was murdered by his cousin, an officer of the army, Ajit Singh Sindhanwalia. The Dogras took their revenge on those responsible, and Jind Kaur, Ranjit Singh's youngest widow, became regent for her infant son Duleep Singh. After the vizier Hira Singh was killed, while attempting to flee the capital with loot from the royal treasury (toshkana), by troops under Sham Singh Attariwala, [8] Jind Kaur's brother Jawahar Singh became vizier in December 1844. In 1845 he arranged the assassination of Peshaura Singh, who presented a threat to Duleep Singh. For this, he was called to account by the army. Despite attempts to bribe the army he was butchered in September 1845 in the presence of Jind Kaur and Duleep Singh. [9]

Jind Kaur publicly vowed revenge against her brother's murderers. She remained regent. Lal Singh became vizier, and Tej Singh became commander of the army. Sikh historians have stressed that both these men were prominent in the Dogra faction. Originally high caste Hindus from outside the Punjab, both had converted to Sikhism in 1818.

British actions

Immediately after the death of Ranjit Singh, the British East India Company had begun increasing its military strength, particularly in the regions adjacent to the Punjab, establishing a military cantonment at Ferozepur, only a few miles from the Sutlej River which marked the frontier between British-ruled India and the Punjab. In 1843, they conquered and annexed Sindh, to the south of the Punjab, in a move which many British people regarded as cynical and ignoble. [10] This did not gain the British any respect in the Punjab, and increased suspicions of British motives.

The actions and attitudes of the British, under Governor General Lord Ellenborough and his successor, Sir Henry Hardinge, are disputed. By most British accounts, their main concern was that the Sikh army, without strong leadership to restrain them, was a serious threat to British territories along the border. Sikh and Indian historians have countered that the military preparations made by these Governors-General were offensive in nature; for example, they prepared bridging trains and siege gun batteries, which would be unlikely to be required in a purely defensive operation. [8]

The British attitudes were affected by reports from their new political agent in the frontier districts, Major George Broadfoot, who stressed the disorder in the Punjab and recounted every tale of corrupt behaviour at the court. For some British officials, there was a strong desire to expand British influence and control into the Punjab, as it was the only remaining formidable force that could threaten the British hold in India and the last remaining independent kingdom not under British influence. The kingdom was also renowned for being the wealthiest, the Koh-i-Noor being but one of its many treasures. Despite this, it is unlikely that the British East India Company would have deliberately attempted to annex the Punjab had the war not occurred, as they simply did not have the manpower or resources to keep a hold on the territories (as proven by the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Sikh War).[ citation needed ]

Nevertheless, the unconcealed and seemingly aggressive British military build-up at the borders had the effect of increasing tension within the Punjab and the Sikh Army.

Outbreak and course of the war

Raja Lal Singh, who led Sikh forces against the British during the First Anglo-Sikh War, 1846 Raja Lal Singh, of First Anglo-Sikh War, 1846.jpg
Raja Lal Singh, who led Sikh forces against the British during the First Anglo-Sikh War, 1846

After mutual demands and accusations between the Sikh Durbar and the East India Company, diplomatic relations were broken. An East India Company army began marching towards Ferozepur, where a division was already stationed. This army was commanded by Sir Hugh Gough, the Commander in Chief of the Bengal Army, and was accompanied by Sir Henry Hardinge, the British Governor General of Bengal, who placed himself beneath Gough in the military chain of command. The British East India Company forces consisted of formations of the Bengal Army, with usually one British unit to every three or four Bengal infantry or cavalry units. Most of the artillery on the British side consisted of light guns from the elite Bengal Horse Artillery.

Outpost of Rhodawala Outpost of Rhodawala.jpg
Outpost of Rhodawala

The Sikh Army at that time was led by General Raja Lal Singh who, with Tej Singh, betrayed the Sikhs during the course of the war. [11] Lal Singh was regularly supplying information and even receiving instructions from British officers. [12] [13]

In response to the British move, the Sikh army began crossing the Sutlej on 11 December 1845. Although the leaders and principal units of the army were Sikhs, there were also Punjabi, Pakhtun and Kashmiri infantry units. The artillery consisted mainly of units of heavy guns, which had been organised and trained by European mercenaries.

The Sikhs claimed they were only moving into Sikh possessions (specifically the village of Moran, whose ownership was disputed) on the east side of the river, but the move was regarded by the British as clearly hostile and they declared war. One Sikh army under Tej Singh advanced towards Ferozepur but made no effort to surround or attack the exposed British division there. Another force under Lal Singh clashed with Gough's and Hardinge's advancing forces at the Battle of Mudki on 18 December. The British won an untidy encounter battle.

The Battle of Ferozeshah Battle of ferozeshah(H Martens).jpg
The Battle of Ferozeshah

On the next day, the British came in sight of the large Sikh entrenchment at Ferozeshah. Gough wished to attack at once, but Hardinge used his position as Governor General to overrule him and order him to wait for the division from Ferozepur to arrive. When they appeared late on 21 December, Gough attacked in the few hours of daylight left. The well-served Sikh artillery caused heavy casualties among the British, and their infantry fought desperately. On the other hand, the elite of the Sikh army, the irregular cavalry or ghodachadas (alt. gorracharra, horse-mounted), were comparatively ineffective against Gough's infantry and cavalry as they had been kept from the battlefield by Lal Singh.

By nightfall, some of Gough's army had fought their way into the Sikh positions, but other units had been driven back in disorder. Hardinge expected a defeat on the following day and ordered the state papers at Mudki to be burned in this event. However, on the following morning, the British and Bengal Army units rallied and drove the Sikhs from the rest of their fortifications. Lal Singh had made no effort to rally or reorganise his army. At this point, Tej Singh's army appeared. Once again, Gough's exhausted army faced defeat and disaster, but Tej Singh inexplicably withdrew, claiming that British cavalry and artillery which were withdrawing to replenish ammunition were actually making an outflanking move.

British troops crossing the Sutlej (Punjab) in boats. 10 February 1846 British troops crossing the Sutlej (Punjab) in boats. 10 February 1846.jpg
British troops crossing the Sutlej (Punjab) in boats. 10 February 1846

Operations temporarily halted, mainly because Gough's army was exhausted and required rest and reinforcements. The Sikhs were temporarily dismayed by their defeats and by their commanders' actions, but rallied when fresh units and leaders joined them, and Maharani Jind Kaur exhorted 500 selected officers to make renewed efforts.

The Battle of Aliwal Bataille d'Aliwal 1.jpg
The Battle of Aliwal

When hostilities resumed, a Sikh detachment crossed the Sutlej near Aliwal, threatening Gough's lines of supply and communications. A division under Sir Harry Smith was sent to deal with them. Sikh cavalry attacked Smith continually on his march and captured his baggage, but Smith received reinforcements and at the Battle of Aliwal on 28 January 1846, he won a model victory, eliminating the Sikh bridgehead.

Firing the Tower Guns on Monday night, for the victories in India Towerguns.jpg
Firing the Tower Guns on Monday night, for the victories in India

Gough's main army had now been reinforced, and rejoined by Smith's division, they attacked the main Sikh bridgehead at Sobraon on 10 February. Tej Singh is said to have deserted the Sikh army early in the battle. Although the Sikh army resisted as stubbornly as at Ferozeshah, Gough's troops eventually broke into their position. The bridges behind the Sikhs broke under British artillery fire, or were ordered to be destroyed behind him by Tej Singh. The Sikh army was trapped. None of them surrendered, and the British troops showed little mercy. This defeat effectively broke the Sikh army.

Aftermath

Maharaja Dalip Singh, entering his palace in Lahore, escorted by British troops after the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46) Maharajah Duleep Singh (1838-1893), entering his palace in Lahore, escorted by British troops.jpg
Maharaja Dalip Singh, entering his palace in Lahore, escorted by British troops after the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46)

In the Treaty of Lahore on 9 March 1846, the Sikhs were made to surrender the valuable region (the Jullundur Doab) between the Beas River and Sutlej River. The Lahore Durbar was also required to pay an indemnity of 15 million rupees. Because it could not readily raise this sum, it ceded Kashmir, Hazarah and all the forts, territories, rights and interests in the hill countries situated between the Rivers Beas and Indus to the East India Company, as equivalent to ten million of rupees. [14] In a later separate arrangement (the Treaty of Amritsar), the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, purchased Kashmir from the East India Company for a payment of 7.5 million rupees and was granted the title Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. [15]

Grand field day at Calcutta - arrival of the captured Sikh guns Grand field day at Calcutta.jpg
Grand field day at Calcutta - arrival of the captured Sikh guns

Maharaja Duleep Singh remained ruler of the Punjab and at first his mother, Maharani Jindan Kaur, remained as Regent. However, the Durbar later requested that the British presence remain until the Maharaja attained the age of 16. The British consented to this and on 16 December 1846, the Treaty of Bhyroval provided for the Maharani to be awarded a pension of 150,000 rupees and be replaced by a British resident in Lahore supported by a Council of Regency, with agents in other cities and regions. [16] This effectively gave the East India Company control of the government.

Sikh historians have always maintained that, in order to retain their hold on power and maintain the figurehead rule of Duleep Singh, Lal Singh and Tej Singh embarked on the war with the deliberate intent of breaking their own army. In particular, Lal Singh was corresponding with a British political officer and betraying state and military secrets throughout the war. [13] [12] [ page needed ] Lal Singh's and Tej Singh's desertion of their armies and refusal to attack when opportunity offered seem inexplicable otherwise.

The Sikh empire was until then one of the few remaining kingdoms in India after the rise of the company and the fall of the Mughal empire. Although the Sikh Army was weakened by the war, resentment at British interference in the government led to the Second Anglo-Sikh War within three years.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ranjit Singh Maharaja of Punjab

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the leader of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. He survived smallpox in infancy but lost sight in his left eye. He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel the Afghans in his teenage years and was proclaimed as the "Maharaja of Punjab" at age 21. His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.

Second Anglo-Sikh War conflict

The Second Anglo-Sikh War was a military conflict between the Sikh Empire and the British East India Company that took place in 1848 and 1849. It resulted in the fall of the Sikh Empire, and the annexation of the Punjab and what subsequently became the North-West Frontier Province, by the East India Company.

The Battle of Chillianwala was fought in January 1849 during the Second Anglo-Sikh War in the Chillianwala region of Punjab, now part of modern-day Pakistan. The battle was one of the bloodiest fought by the British East India Company. Both armies held their positions at the end of the battle and both sides claimed victory. The battle was a strategic check to immediate British ambitions in India and a shock to British military prestige.

Sikh Empire Empire in the Indian subcontinent that existed from 1799 to 1849

The Sikh Empire was a state originating in the Indian subcontinent, formed under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who established a secular empire based in the Punjab. The empire existed from 1799, when Ranjit Singh captured Lahore, to 1849 and was forged on the foundations of the Khalsa from a collection of autonomous Sikh misls. At its peak in the 19th century, the Empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north. Religiously diverse, with an estimated population of 3.5 million in 1831, it was the last major region of the Indian subcontinent to be annexed by the British.

Jind Kaur Maharani of Sikh Empire

Maharani Jind Kaur was regent of the Sikh Empire from 1843 until 1846. She was the youngest wife of the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh, and the mother of the last Maharaja, Duleep Singh. She was renowned for her beauty, energy and strength of purpose and was popularly known as Rani Jindan, but her fame is derived chiefly from the fear she engendered in the British in India, who described her as "the Messalina of the Punjab", a seductress too rebellious to be controlled.

Battle of Sobraon battle

The Battle of Sobraon was fought on 10 February 1846, between the forces of the East India Company and the Sikh Khalsa Army, the army of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The Sikhs were completely defeated, making this the decisive battle of the First Anglo-Sikh War.

Battle of Aliwal battle

The Battle of Aliwal was fought on 28 January 1846 between British and Sikh forces in northern India (now Punjab. The British were led by Sir Harry Smith, while the Sikhs were led by Ranjodh Singh Majithia. Britain's victory in the battle is sometimes regarded as the turning point in the First Anglo-Sikh War.

Battle of Mudki battle

The Battle of Mudki was fought on 18 December 1845, between the forces of the East India Company and part of the Sikh Khalsa Army, the army of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The British army won an untidy encounter battle, suffering heavy casualties.

Battle of Ferozeshah battle

The Battle of Ferozeshah was fought on 21 December and 22 December 1845 between the British and the Sikhs, at the village of Ferozeshah in Punjab. The British were led by Sir Hugh Gough and Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge, while the Sikhs were led by Lal Singh. The British emerged victorious.

Battle of Gujrat

The Battle of Gujrat was a decisive battle in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, fought on 21 February 1849, between the forces of the East India Company, and a Sikh army in rebellion against the Company's control of the Sikh Empire, represented by the child Maharaja Duleep Singh who was in British custody in Lahore. The Sikh army was defeated by the British regular and Bengal Army forces of the British East India Company. After it capitulated a few days later, the Punjab was annexed to the East India Company's territories and Duleep Singh was deposed.

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Sikh Khalsa Army

The Sikh Khalsa Army (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਫੌਜ, Khalsa or simply Sikh Army was the military force of the Sikh Empire, formed in 1799 with the capture of Lahore by Ranjit Singh. From then on the army was modernized on Franco-British principles. It was divided in three wings: the Fauj-i-Khas, Fauj-i-Ain and Fauj-i-Be Qawaid. Due to the lifelong efforts of the Maharaja and his European officers, it gradually became a prominent fighting force of Asia. Ranjit Singh changed and improved the training and organisation of his army. He reorganized responsibility and set performance standards in logistical efficiency in troop deployment, manoeuvre, and marksmanship. He reformed the staffing to emphasize steady fire over cavalry and guerrilla warfare, improved the equipment and methods of war. The military system of Ranjit Singh combined the best of both old and new ideas. He strengthened the infantry and the artillery. He paid the members of the standing army from treasury, instead of the Mughal method of paying an army with local feudal levies.

The Treaty of Lahore of 9 March 1846, was a peace treaty marking the end of the First Anglo-Sikh War. The Treaty was concluded, for the British, by the Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge and two officers of the East India Company and, for the Sikhs, by the seven-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh Bahadur and seven members of Hazara, the territory to the south of the river Sutlej and the forts and territory in the Jalandhar Doab between the rivers Sutlej and Beas. In addition, controls were placed on the size of the Lahore army and thirty-six field guns were confiscated. The control of the rivers Sutlej and Beas and part of the Indus passed to the British, with the proviso that this was not to interfere with the passage of passenger boats owned by the Lahore Government. Also, provision was made for the separate sale of all the hilly regions between River Beas and Indus, including Kashmir, by the East India Company at a later date to Gulab Singh, the Raja of Jammu.

Sir Frederick Currie, 1st Baronet English official and diplomat in the British East India Company and Indian Civil Service

Sir Frederick Currie, 1st Baronet was a British diplomat, who had a distinguished career in the British East India Company and the Indian Civil Service. His posts included Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, Member of the Supreme Council of India, Resident at Lahore and Chairman of the East India Company.

Prince Pashaura Singh was one of the sons of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His mother was Rani Daya Kaur. After the assassination of Maharaja Sher Singh he made a bid for the throne of the Sikh Empire.

Lal Singh traitor Indian Sikh commander

Raja Lal Singh was Wazir of the Sikh Empire and commander of Sikh Khalsa Army forces during the First Anglo-Sikh War. Along with Tej Singh, Lal Singh betrayed the Sikhs during the course of the war. Lal Singh was regularly supplying information and even receiving instructions from British officers, communicating through Captain Peter Nicholson.

Tej Singh Commander of the Sikh army

Tej Singh or Teja Singh was a Sikh commander in the Sikh Empire. He was appointed as Commander in chief of the Sikh Khalsa Army during the First Anglo-Sikh War.

The First Anglo-Sikh War Memorial, located in Aliwal, Taran Taran, Punjab, was built in 1853 by the British in remembrance of the First Anglo-Sikh War to honour the bravery of the Sikh soldiers. In the presence of Manpreet Singh Ayali, the memorial was inaugurated on 6 October, 2015 by Jathedar Avtar Singh Makad, ex-president, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.

Raja Dhian Singh Dogra was the longest serving prime minister of the Sikh empire, during the reign of its first Maharajah Ranjit Singh, and four of his heirs. He held the office for twenty five years, from 1818 up till his death. In the turbulent four years following the emperor's death on 27 June 1839, Dhian remained at the helm, grappling with a power struggle in which three successive emperors and one empress died suddenly, in the build-up to the First Anglo-Sikh War.

Jawahar Singh (wazir)

Jawahar Singh Aulakh, also anglicised as Jawaheer Singh or Jawahir Singh, was Wazir of the Sikh Empire from 14 May 1845 until his assassination by the Sikh Khalsa Army on 21 September of the same year, under his nephew Maharaja Duleep Singh. He was the elder brother of Jind Kaur, Duleep's mother.

References

  1. "patiala3". www.royalark.net.
  2. January 14, Asit Jolly; January 23, 2012 ISSUE DATE; January 17, 2012UPDATED; Ist, 2012 13:41. "Punjab polls 2012: Six clans that control the state". India Today.
  3. Hunter, William Wilson (9 August 2004). Ranjit Singh: And the Sikh Barrier Between British Empire and Central Asia. Cosmo. ISBN   9788130700304 via Google Books.
  4. Allen 2001, p. 28.
  5. Hernon 2003, p. 546.
  6. Grewal 1998, p. 120.
  7. Hernon 2003, p. 547.
  8. 1 2 3 allaboutsikhs.com Archived 18 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine - dead link
  9. Hernon 2003, p. 548.
  10. Farwell 1973, p. 30.
  11. Cunningham 1853, p. 257.
  12. 1 2 Sidhu 2013.
  13. 1 2 Jawandha 2010, p. 64.
  14. Terms of the Treaty of Lahore
  15. "Terms of the Treaty of Amritsar". Archived from the original on 5 January 2009.
  16. Terms of the Treaty of Bhyroval

Sources

Preceded by
Third Anglo-Maratha War
Indo–British conflictsSucceeded by
Second Anglo-Sikh War