The Battle of Bobbili – A British Account

It’s a small fort, a petty bickering between two local Zamindars. But, the valour of the defendants made it legendary. While Orme said four ordinary soldiers, legend says the stabbing work was done by Tandra Papa Rayudu, the brother-in-law of Ranga Rao and his commander of chief, who was based at Rajam. The soldiers of Vijaya Rama Raju didn’t kill him, he committed ritual suicide.

The attack commenced at day-break, on the 24th of January, with the field-pieces against the four towers; and the defenders, lest fire might catch the thatch of the rampart, had pulled it down. By nine o clock several of the battlements were broken, when all the leading parties of the four divisions advanced, at the same time, with scaling ladders; but after much endeavour for an hour, not a man had been able to get over the parapet; and many had fallen wounded; other parties followed with as little success until all were so fatigued, that a cessation was ordered during which the field-pieces, having beaten down more of the parapet, gave the second attack more advantage; but the ardour of the defence increased with the danger. The garrison fought with the indignant ferocity of wild beasts, defending their dens and families; several of them stood, as in defiance, on the top of the battlements, and endeavoured to grapple with the first ascendants, hoping with them to twist the ladders down; and this failing, stabbed them with their lances, but being wholly exposed themselves, were easily shot by aim from the rear of the escalade. The assailants admired, for no Europeans had ever seen such excess of courage in the natives of Indostan, and continually offered quarter, which was always answered by the menace and intention of death; not a man had gained the rampart at two o’clock in the afternoon, when another cessation of the attack ensued; on which Rangarao assembled the principal men, told them there was no hopes of maintaining the fort, and that it was immediately necessary to preserve their wives and children from the violation of the Europeans, and the more ignominious authority of Vizeramrauze. A number called without distinction were allotted to the work; they proceeded, every man with a torch, his lance, and poniard, to the habitations in the middle of the fort, to which they set fire indiscriminately, plying the flame with straw prepared with pitch and brimstone, and every man stabbed without remorse, the woman or child whichsoever attempted to escape the flame and suffocation. Not the helpless infant clinging to the bosom of its mother saved the life of either from the hand of the husband and father. The utmost excesses whether of revenge or rage were exceeded by the atrocious prejudices which dictated and performed this horrible sacrifice. The massacre being finished those who accomplished it returned like men agitated by the furies, to die themselves on the walls. Mr. Law, who commanded one of the divisions, observed, whilst looking at the conflagration, that the number of the defenders was considerably diminished, and advanced again to the attack ;after several ladders had failed, a few grenadiers got over the parapet and maintained their fooing in the tower until more secured the possession. Rangarao hastening to the defence of the tower, was in this instant killed by a musquet-ball. His fall increased, if possible, the desperation of his friends; who crowding to revenge his death, left the other parts of the ramparts bare; and the other divisions of the French troops; having advanced likewise to their respective attacks, numbers on all sides got over the parapet without opposition; nevertheless none of the defenders quitted the rampart, or would accept quarter; but each fell advancing against, or struggling with an antagonist; and even when fallen, and in the last agony, would resign bit poignard only to death. The slaughter of the conflict being completed, another much more dreadful, presented itself in the area below: the transport of victory lost all its joy: all gazed on one another with silent astonishment and remorse, and the fiercest could not refuse a tear to the deplorable destruction spread before them. Whilst contemplating on it, an old man leading a boy, was perceived advancing from a distant recess: he was welcomed with much attention and respect, and conducted by the crowd to Mr. Law, to whom he presented the child with these words: ‘This is the son of Rangarao, whom I have preserved against his father’s will.’ Another emotion now succeeded, and the preservation of this infant was felt by all as some alleviation to the horrible catastrophe, of which they had been the unfortunate authors. The tutor and the child were immediately sent to Mr. Bussy, who, having heard of the condition of the fort, would not go into it, but remained in his tent, where he received the sacred captives with the humanity of a guardian appointed by the strongest claims of nature, and immediately commanded patents to be prepared appointing the son, lord of the territory which he had offered the father in exchange for the districts of Bobilee; and ordered them to be strictly guarded in the camp from the malevolence of enemies.

The ensuing night and the two succeeding days passed in the usual attentions, especially the care of the wounded, who were many; but in the middle of the third night, the camp was alarmed by a tumult in the quarter of Vizeramrauze. Four of the soldiers of Rangarao on seeing him fall, concealed themselves in an unfrequented part of the fort until the night was far advanced, when they dropped down the walls and speaking the same language; passed unsuspected through the quarters of Vizeramrauae; and gained the neighbouring thickets; where they remained the two succeeding days, watching until the bustle of the camp had subsided; when two of them quitted their retreat and having by their language again deceived those by whom they were questioned, got near the tent of Vizeramrauze; then creeping on the ground they passed under the back part, and entering the tent found him lying on his bed, alone, and asleep. Vizeramrauze was extremely corpulent, insomuch that he could scarcely rear himself from his seat without assistance; the two men, restraining their very breath, struck in the same instant with their poignards at his heart; the first groan brought in a centinel who fired, but missed; more immediately thronged in, but the murderers, heedless of themselves, cried out, pointing to the body. “Look here! We are satisfied.” They were instantly shot by the croud, and mangled after they had fallen; but had stabbed Vizeramrauze in thirty-two places, Had they failed, the other two remaining in the forest were bound by the same oath to perform the deed or perish in the attempt.

From A history of the military transactions of the British nation in Indostan, Robert Orme

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