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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.

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