revolt of the Cotiote Rajah[ war between Pazhassi Rajah and East India Company at Tellicherry.]

Private Lappe's Providential Escape following the outbreak of the Pyche Raja Rebellion






It is only very rarely that we can get a glimpse into the lives of an ordinary soldier in India, let alone come across their individual names.

Here is the story of one such man, Private Lappe, who was extraordinarily lucky to survive a ferocious ambush at the outbreak of the war between the Pazhassi Rajah and the East India Company at Tellicherry.

The date that the actual battle took place is unclear, possibly before the 4th of November 1796, but certainly by the 18th of January 1797.  The following account however only appeared in the Sussex Advertiser many years later on Monday the 1st of September 1800.[1]

Had Private Lappe by that time been invalided home?

Perhaps he told his story to the local Sussex  reporter.

We will probably never know.

PROVIDENTIAL ESCAPE

A soldier, of the name of Lappe, who belonged to an European battalion, and who made his escape from the Jungle, after the action between a detachment of Europeans and Sepoys belonging to the Bombay Army, and the insurgents in the Cotiote country, has related the following" miraculous “ account of his gaining the British Military post, after the defeat of the detachment, given at Bombay, the 4th of November:—"I was shot, says Lappe) about noon, with a musket ball, in my right breast; and, to resist or escape being utterly impossible, as the only means left me to save my life, I threw myself down among the mortally wounded and the dead, without moving hand or foot. Here, in the evening, the Chief Surveying his conquest, ordered a Jamedar to begin instantly to dispatch those who were likely to survive. This fellow, having already killed Captain Bowman, and several other Europeans, left the remainder to die of themselves, or to fall a prey to the voraciousness of the wild creatures with which the Jungle abounds; for in places it is almost impenetrable. They then filed off to the right, towards the hills, carrying along with them five or six prisoners alive; I believe they were all Sepoys but one, with their hands tied behind their backs, of whom I never since have heard. When I apprehended these sanguinary rebels had entirely left the scene of action, it being very quiet, and rather dark, I found means, on my hands and feet, to creep out from among the carnage, for many men were killed that day by the Rajah's troops, owing to our force having been weakened by sending it in small detachments into the Jungle, where they had never before been, and the enemy firing at them in ambush, where it was impossible to trace them: I got at length at some distance from the place where I lay, and met another of our party, who was less wounded than myself, with whom, after some days wandering in torment and despair, not knowing which way to proceed for fear of being intercepted, we at last fortunately arrived at the military post, worn out with fatigue and the loss of blood, where, we understood, the account of the defeat had been received four days before.

The news slowly spread out from London to the regional towns of England and Scotland.  Many families with relations in India must have anxiously wondered what had been happening in the passing months, it took news to travel around the globe.

On Saturday 5th July 1797, readers in Norfolk came across the following report in their newspaper.

We learn from the Coast of Coromandel, that on the 18th of January [1797] the Rajah of the Cotiote had commenced hostilities against us, and that Captain Bowman and Lieutenant Bond, who had been sent to take possession of One of his strong holds, had, the perfidy of their guide, been led into defile, where they were both killed with most the Sepoys of their party. Captain Lawrence, who went to relief, was like wise led into a defile, from whence he fought his way to a pagoda, where passed the night and following day, till permitted to proceed with his party to Tillicherry. Captain Troy, on his return from a muster of the native troops, had been killed, and Captain Shean desperately wounded. Twenty-four Sepoys were killed, and 50 wounded and missing. General Stuart immediately appointed Major Anderson to march against the Rajah with 250 of the Bombay regiment, a detachment of light artillery, 1,000 Sepoys, and Mopals.

Over the following weeks, more details came out from Leadenhall Street. Readers of the Oxford Journal on Saturday the 29th of July 1797, were given more details about the outbreak started by the Pychy Rajah.

From the Madras Gazette, January 28. By letters from the Malabar coast of the 15th instant, we have been advertised of the revolt of the Cotiote Rajah on that coast, who is said to have commenced his refractory conduct on the 28th instant, by firing on a detachment of Sepoys under the command of Capt. Lawrence, in the neighbourhood of Cootiungarry. On the same day, Capt. Bowman and Lieut. Bond were sent with a detachment to take possession of a strong hold, near the last mentioned place, and were decoyed by an Hircarrah, employed on the occasion, into a narrow defile, where, a strong party of Nairs, in ambuscade, availing them selves of the disadvantageous situation of the detachment, and their mode of attack, beset the party with a ferocity peculiarly their own, when Captain Bowman and Lieutenant Bond were almost immediately overpowered and killed. Several Sepoys, it is also added, were killed and wounded on the spot. Captain Lawrence, on hearing the report of the musquetry, proceeded with all possible expedition, at the head of a body of grenadiers, towards the succour and support of Captain Bowman's detachment; but having experienced a similar breach of faith in his guide, was also attacked in the same defile, but after a warm and fortunate resistance effected his retreat, and took post in a Pagoda the whole night, and part of the next day, hemmed in by upwards of a thousand of the Rajah's troops. On the 9th, however, he was permitted to retire with his men to Tellicherry. In addition to the above melancholy relation, Captain Troy, who had been employed in mustering the native troops, and Captain Shean on his return from a visit, fell in with a party of these sanguinary savages, who having surrounded them, coolly and unprovokedly put the first to death, and wounded the latter in a shocking and barbarous manner. General Stuart, to whom the intelligence was sent to Cannanore, recommended to Major Anderson immediately to take the field to punish so daring an outrage. The force to be assembled for this purpose, will consist of 250 men of the Bombay regiment under the command of Captain Grammant. A detachment of artillery, with light guns, about one thousand Sepoys, together with a Corps of Mopals, consisting of about 200, raised expressly for the purpose of hunting and counteracting the Nairs in the woods and fortresses. The unhappy fate of so many officers, in being cut off from their friends' and relations, in this cruel and insidious manner, cannot be too much lamented; and provides a melancholy example of the inherent ferocity which has ever been the characteristic of the cast of Nairs.


[1] The Old Soldier's Story - Edward Bird (1772–1819), ca 1808.
[2] These reports and many more from British regional newspapers going back to 1700 are now available
at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

FROM BLOG BY NICK BALMER

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Calicut Prison Break outs & Riots, 1802 to 1808






During the putting down of the Pazhassi Rajah's uprising and the associated outbreaks of resistance by the Moplahs to the presence of the East India Company in the Malabar, large numbers of Indian's were thrown into gaols in Calicut, Tellicherry and Canannore.

These gaols were run both directly by the East India Company and also by private gaolers would contracted with the EIC to run prisons.

The gaols were almost certainly highly over crowded and insanitary. The prisoners inside the gaols were actively in planning their escape and attempting to make prison break outs.

The following two accounts from Calicut in 1802 and 1808 describe events during these breakouts. It is not entirely clear exactly when these events took place.

Communications were often slow in those days. The first breakout probably took place in the months immediately before March 1803. The second event probably took place a year to 18 months before the news of the event appeared in the British papers.

The first breakout was yet another worry for the future Duke of Wellington as he was planning the concentration of his forces in the South of India for the campaign he was to fight later that year with the Mahrattas, and which would be capped with his victory at Assaye on the 23rd of September 1803.

Lieut. Stuart.

'Camp at Tuddus, 17th March, 1803

'I have received a letter from Colonel Montresor, from Calicut,of the 6th, from which I learn that the rebellion has spread much in Malabar, and that the rebels were in force not far from that place. The criminals confined in the gaol at Calicut had also got loose; sixty had made their escape, many were killed and some wounded in attempting it. The guard over the gaol had been surprised. Those people were chiefly rebels confirmed by Colonel Stevenson. 'I mislaid Colonel Montresor's letter yesterday evening, otherwise I should send it to you, but I have above stated the outlines of the information which it gives. I now enclose a letter which I have written to Colonel Montresor upon this subject, and if you should approve the directions it contains, I beg you will allow it to be forwarded to him. In fact, no more can be done in this season than I have there stated. It will be useless to leave more posts, or to have more men in Wynaad than the post at Manuntwaddy and those on the tops of the ghauts. If there were two battalions in that district they would be obliged to remain shut up in their posts, where they would be useless; at the same time, the greater the number of troops to be left in Wynaad, the greater will be the difficulty of providing for them. 'I received yesterday your letter of the 15th instant. I have sent Govind Rao with a message to Bappojee Scindiah of the same kind with that which I formerly sent, of which you approved. 'I shall march to-morrow to Misserycotta, where I shall halt next day to allow Major Malcolm to join me, and to give time to Govind Rao to arrange every thing with Bappojee Scindiah'

Believe me,

Lieut. General Arthur Wellesley. [1]

The second report is taken from the Morning Chronicle, one of Britain's leading papers at the time published in London, and reports a desperate act of resistance on the part of a band of Moplah's or Mappilas who knew that they otherwise had no hope of surviving beyond the following morning, when they were going to be executed by the EIC authorities.

They went down fighting, successfully killing and wounding several of the EIC forces.

"The following very extraordinary circumstance lately took place at Calicut: -Seven desperate Mallays who had been the terror of the adjacent country, having carried away the cattle, set fire to the cottages, and murdered several of the natives who opposed their depredations, were apprehended and lodged in the public gaol, when, during the period of their confinement, they behaved in the most refractory and resolute manner. On being brought to trial, several charges were brought home to them,. and they-all received sentence of death; but the evening previous to their execution, they rose on their guards, whom they murdered ; and possessing themselves of their muskets, 'bade defiance to the keeper of the prison and his assistants. The Officer commanding in the district, with a small detachment of seapoys, attempted to scale the walls of the prison; the doors and windows being blockaded. within; but he was repulsed with the lost of several men ; the assailants however being reinforced from an adjacent station, and the desperadoes finding themselves overpowered, set fire to that part of the prison in which they were confined, and refusing all assistance, perished in the flames. Fortunately the rest of the prisoners were rescued, and a part of the building was saved from destruction. [2]

[1]The dispatches of ... the duke of Wellington, compiled by Lieut. colonel John Gurwood, 1837... page 422.
[2] Morning Chronicle. Monday 08 August 1808. From the British Newspaper Archive Site.
Prison photo courtesy of Epoch Times.
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FROM  BLOG BY NICK BALMER