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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Mudki Part 2

The battle of Mudki began at 4.pm when both sides exchanged artillery fire. At this point General Lal Singh deserted his army leaving it without orders or a commander.  The cannonade continued for an hour with neither side gaining the upper hand. 

General Gough ordered Brigadier Gough’s cavalry to join White’s cavalry on the British Right.  The British cavalry supported by Horse Artillery then advanced on both flanks.  The Sikh cavalry were unable to challenge their progress, either because they fought and lost or having no orders withdrew.  




Some of them are said to have dismounted and joined the infantry. Possibly the dismounted cavalry were Sikh Dragoons but we don't know and matchlock armed Gorchurra could have fought on foot too.

The British Horse Artillery then enfiladed the Sikh infantry flanks while the cavalry attempted to attack the rear of the Sikh line.   These efforts proved unsuccessful due to the close terrain and the strong resistance of the Sikhs who, from cover, inflicted significant losses. 


Gough seeing little was being accomplished withdrew his mounted troops.



The British infantry then advanced in echelon leading with the 1st Division on the right flank.  Dust, darkness, hillock and jungle meant that fire combat often occurred at fairly close range.  Sometimes the British were only aware of the Sikhs once they had received their fire. The British response was often a bayonet charge.  



The ground broke up Gough’s formations and soldiers were told to form or rally on the nearest officer they could see.  For the next two hours’ fierce close range skirmishing and fighting took place.  

The British captured Sikh guns only to lose them again to Sikh counter attacks.  No quarter was asked or given on either side.  The Sikhs launched two charges to no avail and given the discrepancy in numbers it is perhaps doubtful that they made contact.  

On both British flanks squares were formed to repel cavalry but amid the darkness, smoke and dust and constant din of Sikh kettle drums it is uncertain if any Sikh horse had presented a threat.

The final stage of the battle was a Sikh fighting retreat that covered about two miles and left Gough in control of the battle field.

Gough captured 15 guns on the day, their Sikh gunners as British officers noted all fought to the death. Total British losses were 215 men killed and 657 wounded.  

We have seen Gough’s tactics were more sophisticated than he is often credited with. By reinforcing the cavalry on his right flank he ensured he enjoyed local superiority there.  He turned both Sikh flanks and enfiladed their battle line.  That the terrain and the courage of the Sikh troops negated this manoeuvre does not detract from its successful execution. Nor did he leave his cavalry to be shot down in the rough by Sikh snipers.  This was not a general whose only tactic was the "Tipperary Rush".

Gough’s infantry assault, in echelon, was also eventually successful but it was costly. Among the British dead were Brigadiers McCaskill and Bolton, Brigadiers Mactier and Wheeler were wounded and Major General Sir Robert ‘Fighting Bob’ Sale died of his wounds the day after the battle. 



Readers will recall neither Gough or Hardinge had thought the Khalsa capable of a stand up fight.  Mudki proved them wrong and the level of British casualties, including popular figures and a Cabinet Minister's son, seems to have resulted in Gough solely being blamed. Hardinge as Governor General was deemed too important to be tainted and seems to have played a part in scapegoating Gough.

The Sikh casualties were reckoned by a British officer who toured the battlefield the next day to be somewhere around 300.  Many of these were wounded men who, rejecting British succour, chose to die where they lay on the battlefield.  

The Sikh Brigadiers abandoned by their general had fought an action against superior numbers of professional troops for six hours and then conducted a fighting retreat.  They were clearly very capable officers.

As a wargame Mudki poses a number of challenges which we can now consider.

General Gough had more guns but most of them were lighter than their Sikh equivalents, and that, with the close terrain probably explains why his barrage made little headway. There is good reason to think the Sikh gunners were were simply better too.  Three days later a British officer would opine that they were more accurate than the British and faster-3 shots for every British 2.

The three units of Sikh cavalry need to be allocated between two flanks.  Split them evenly and it makes a unit and wing on each flank. Or, favour one flank with two units and the other with one.  Either way once Lal Singh ran away there was no one to give them orders.  

I'm inclined to play them as static until they are subject to artillery fire or the threat of a charge and then they might withdraw or counter charge. If they withdraw one unit could join the infantry and fight dismounted. Its tempting to think of some of the Sikh sniping so prominent in the battle being carried out by Gorchurra with their long jezzail like muskets. But it could have been Dragoons with carbines.

British infantry units that break up due to losses and terrain should be allowed to reform with other similarly placed soldiers and then proceed as if new units. I'd say this would not apply to any who route.

The Sikh infantry had high morale and the gunners higher still.  The two Sikh Brigadiers were clearly at the top of their game but can only influence their own commands. All of this needs to be reflected in the game.  A glance at the Sikh casualties shows how effectively they exploited the terrain and I would start the game with all dismounted Sikh units in cover.

Next time we will have an AAR of the Mudki refight or a figure review. Then its back to the Rani for an AAR and after that a first look at the Tai Ping.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Battle of Mudki Part One

The battle of Mudki began late, around 4pm on a December day and continued until midnight.  Gough’s army had marched hard and were tired and thirsty.  The Sikhs were well rested. Most of the battle was fought in darkness on broken ground or in jungle.




The battle can be divided into three stages an artillery duel, the advance and withdrawal of the British cavalry and the infantry fight.  

I’m going to follow Sidhu’s account as being the most rigorous and up to date.  As you will see there are some things we do not know, where I might hazard a guess and so might you.  We will look at the ground at Mudki, then at the respective forces and finally, in part two at what seems to have happened.

The terrain at Mudki had a great influence on how the battle was fought.  

The British faced onto some cultivated land and newly cleared jungle, beyond that were sandy hillocks big enough to obscure vision and hinder movement and bushes dense enough to hide Sikh sharpshooters. The movement of the troops threw up clouds of dust that further reduced visibility. The ground on both Sikh flanks was mainly jungle as was the rear of their position. The Sikh centre seems to have drawn up near or among the sandy hillocks and their flanks in the adjacent jungle.




According to Captain Nicholson (Gough's Assistant Political Officer) the Sikh army at Mudki consisted of 2000 regular Khalsa infantry and artillery men serving 22 guns. The cavalry consisted of 1,500 men and were a mixture of regulars and Gorchurra. Nicholson’s information came directly from the Sikh Generals collaborating with the British, and I would consider it reliable. The subsequent official British account credits the Sikhs with an additional 9,000 cavalry I think it safer to go with Nicholson’s figures.

The Sikh army deployed as follows.  Metab Singh’s Brigade formed the Sikh right flank with some of the Fauj I Khas comprising the centre and Bahadhur Singh’s Brigade on the left flank.  Many skirmishers were sent forward.  The Sikh guns formed with the infantry. The Sikh cavalry formed on both flanks of the infantry.




The British army had 12,350 men and 42 guns, 36 of which were horse artillery. The cavalry was initially organised into three brigades.


The First Division under Sir Harry Smith formed the British right.  It's first brigade under Bolton consisted of HM 31st Foot and the 24th   and 47th Native Infantry.  It may be the 24th was left as a camp guard at the Village of Mudki. 

On Bolton's left Brigadier Wheeler commanded the second brigade comprising HM 50th Foot and the 42nd and 48th Native Infantry.  White’s cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Light Dragoons and one wing of the 4th Bengal light cavalry formed to the right of the infantry.

The Second, and weakest, Division formed the British centre and consisted of two brigades consisting of the 2nd, 16th and 45th Native Infantry.  Gough’s Brigade of cavalry comprising the 5th Bengal light cavalry and the Governor General’s body guard also formed with the Second Division but was subsequently transferred to the First Division.

The Third Division on the British left was commanded by Brigadier McCaskill.  He had, in the 1st Brigade, HM 26th Foot and the 73rd Native Infantry. In the 2nd Brigade were HM 80th Foot.  Also on the left Brigadier Mactier led the 9th Bengal Irregular Horse and one wing of the 4th Bengal light cavalry.



Most of the British artillery was positioned in front of the infantry.


I have translated the armies for the table top using Piquet’s Field of Battle with a battalion of 500 men represented by a 4 base unit, a full cavalry unit also as 4 bases, a wing of cavalry as 2 bases and a model battery of 2 guns representing 6-8 guns and crew.




The Sikh Army needs a little rounding up for the infantry and artillery.  If you wish to round down give them three batteries. I think the Sikh artillery was heavy.

The Sikh army using this method has 5 units of regular infantry, 4 batteries of artillery and 3 cavalry units.  We don’t know how many of the cavalry were regular.  I’m going for 2 regular and 1 Gorchurra but that could be reversed and still comply with the information we have. 

The British Army would have 11 units of infantry or 12 if you think the 24th NI were present, 4 units and 1 wing of cavalry and 7 batteries. I would give the British one heavy battery to be deployed in the centre alongside 4 batteries of Horse artillery.  The cavalry brigades deployed on the flanks were accompanied by Horse Artillery I have opted for 1 battery each. I've guessed at one wing of cavalry for the Governor General's body guard.

Clearly Gough enjoyed a significant advantage in numbers but this would be offset by the nature of the ground at Mudki and the tenacity of the Khalsa.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A British Army for the First Anglo Sikh War Part 2

Previously we examined some background to the war and noted that the British army as a whole was a good and professional one.  There were of course differences among the troops.




India was a difficult climate for white troops who died like flies regardless of whether or not there was a war on. In the hottest times of the year heat and dust could impair effectiveness and thirst could even drive men beyond the constraints of discipline.


The Queen’s cavalry regiments had a fine sense of their social as well as racial standing and did perform on the battle field with notable dash.


The Sepoys and Sowars tended to be better physical specimens than many of their white equivalents.  The Company had its pick of the manhood of India. Soldiering was regarded as an honourable and remunerative occupation by sections of Indian society who had lived by it for generations .




British troops were tough and could decide to fight to the last man (Gandamack) but they could also run away (outside the cantonment at Kabul) just like any other soldiers who think all is lost.

There is also the quality of the opposition to be considered. In his memoirs a Sepoy wrote that prior to the Sikh War he was used to giving the enemy a volley or two and then charging as they began to run away.

The Sikh War was not like that and of course a British army had recently been lost in Afghanistan.  Therefore it is interesting to note that the British officer class, and consequently the men, seem to have believed that the Khalsa was hopelessly suborned by democratic republicanism and therefore no longer could operate in a disciplined manner.  Sidhu gives us a British eye witness here.

So confident were our officers and men that the Sikh army was composed of nothing but a rebel mob, that they did not believe they would hazard an engagement with us – and I heard several officers say (even after the cannonading had commenced),’O, they will run away before we get up to them – they will not fight us’, and several other expressions of similar kind, showing how very ignorant we were of their real strength and intentions; and in this ignorance of the Sikh army, it is wonderful that all were alike involved, even the Governor and the Commander- in- Chief, each of whom, it should fairly be supposed ought to have been possessed of correct information on so important a subject.”

With hindsight we can see the Battle of Mudki must have been something of a shock.

My starting point for an army list (FOB) for the Sikh War is to recognise that the strength of the British army lay in professionalism, discipline and fire power. As many of their Indian opponents testified, British command and control, mostly, worked very well indeed.  British fire power, Afghans in ambush aside, had always prevailed. The soldiers themselves were all well trained regulars save for bands of irregular cavalry.

I try to reflect a flavour of the foregoing in the ratings list.  As ever if you disagree feel free to amend as you see fit.

I am rating (FOB) all Sepoys and Sowars and the majority of other troops simply as regular. The Queen’s cavalry regiments have the combat capabilities of elite troops but remain regulars in other respects.  Queen’s infantry regiments have the combat capabilities of regulars but are otherwise Crack.  Ghurkhas and the Rifles are rated Crack. The idea is to reflect both the self - image and the reality of the various formations.  

A British army for the Sikh War might look like this.



Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
80th
Musket
 D8
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
31st
Musket
 D12+1
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
16th NI
Musket
D10 
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
24th NI
Musket
 D8
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
44th NI
Musket
 D12
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
47th NI
Musket
 D10
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
Ghurkhas
Musket
 D10
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
Rifles
Rifle
 D12
D8
0-2
3-4
4-8

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
5th Dragoons
Carbine
D12
D6
0-1
2
3
Lancers
Lance
D12+1
D6
0-1


Bengal Light Horse
Carbine
D8
D6
0-1
2
3
Light Horse
Carbine
D10
D6
0-1
2
3

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
HM Foot Artillery
9lb Gun
D10
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Company Foot Artillery
9lb Gun
D12
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Bengal Horse Artillery
6lb Gun
D8
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Bengal Horse Artillery
6lb Gun
D10
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16

Irregulars
Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Bengal Irregular Horse *
Mixed
D8
D6
0-1
-
-
Irregular Horse
Mixed
D6
D6
0-1
-
-


The irregular horse in contemporary illustrations are shown with a variety of arms. I have given them short range fire power here to reflect a pistols and matchlocks or possibly even bows.  The *Bengalis are intended to be the fellows with razor sharp swords mentioned earlier on this blog.  


We can see that the British will enjoy an advantage in regular infantry firepower.  When we consider the artillery the pendulum swings towards the Sikhs who have heavier guns.  With the cavalry once again the Sikhs will enjoy an advantage.  The British therefore will have to rely on command and control, discipline and infantry fire power to carry the day.  I think this is entirely the right effect for gaming the First Anglo Sikh War.