- Delhi, Battle of
- (1803)A key battle of the Second Maratha War in India. When war broke out between the Marathas and the British East India Company in August 1803, General Louis Bourquein took command of the French-trained Maratha infantry in north India. Bourquein decided for a battle near Delhi on the bank of the Hindun River, a tributary of the Jamuna. He deployed 100 guns for support of the infantry. To prevent any outflanking move by the company’s cavalry, the two flanks of the Maratha line rested on marshes. When, on September 11, 1803, General Gerald Lake, commander of the company’s force in north India, discovered the Maratha position on the bank of Hindun, his infantry was still half a mile in the rear. Lake needed to buy some time to allow his infantry to come up. So he ordered his cavalry to charge the Maratha line. When the Maratha artillery opened fire, Lake’s cavalry turned back. The Marathas believed that the company’s troops were retiring in confusion and left their entrenchments to come out in pursuit. Lake immediately ordered his cavalry to turn back and charge the Maratha infantry. The Maratha infantry, in their eagerness to attack, had broken ranks. Now they were disordered as a result of the sudden counterattack of Lake’s cavalry. At that juncture, the company’s infantry arrived. As they advanced, Maratha artillery opened up with grape and chain shot. When the infantry advanced within 100 yards of the Maratha artillery line, they bought their muskets at their shoulder level and fired a volley. After firing, they charged with their bayonets at the Marathas who broke and ran. Lake’s army suffered 485 casualties and the Marathas lost more than 1,500 men. The Marathas vacated the fort of Delhi, and on September 15, Lake occupied it without opposition.FURTHER READING:Cooper, Randolf G. S. The Anglo Maratha Wars and the Contest for India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.KAUSHIK ROY
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.