Gujarat, Battle of


Gujarat, Battle of
(1849)
   The final and decisive engagement of the Second Sikh War. After the Battle of Chillianwala, the Sikh commander, Sher Singh, received reinforcements from his father Chattar Singh and also from the Amir of Kabul. On January 26, 1849, the Sikh fort of Multan in West Punjab surrendered to British forces and reinforcement was on its way to meet Baron Hugh Gough, commander-in-chief of British forces in India. Sher Singh decided to outflank Gough’s army at Gujarat by crossing the Chenab River but was thwarted in the venture by British irregular cavalry and forced instead to face a British attack in open country south of Gujarat. The Sikh defensive position was in the form of a crescent. A dry sandy nullah named Dwarah protected the Sikh right; their left was on a rivulet named Katela. The Sikh center rested on the two villages named Bara Kalra and Chota Kalra, respectively. Gough brought 24,000 soldiers to the field to engage a Sikh army 50,000 to 60,000 in number. The battle started on February 21 at 7.30 A.M . with a furious cannonade that continued for three hours. The distance between the Sikh forces and the British lines was 800 yards. Gough enjoyed qualitative and quantitative superiority in artillery over the Sikhs, and the 59 Sikh guns were silenced by 96 British guns. Gough then launched the First and Second divisions against the Sikh center and, at a cost of 600 casualties, captured the two villages. The Sikhs then retreated to their second defensive line. Meanwhile, the Third Division and the Bombay Brigade supported by field artillery advanced towards the Sikh left. About 1,500 Afghan cavalry charged from the Sikh left but were routed by Sindh Horse and the Ninth Lancers. The Sikh left then launched another attack of combined infantry and cavalry but were again driven back by the field battery and horse artillery of the Third Division. By one o’clock, the Sikhs were in full retreat. Gough won at the cost of 96 killed and 710 wounded. Sikh losses are unknown. Aside from ending the Second Sikh War in Britain’s favor, Gujarat witnessed the first ever use of anesthetics on British soldiers.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Cook, Hugh C. B. The Sikh Wars: The British Army in the Punjab, 1845–1849. London: L. Cooper, 1975.
   KAUSHIK ROY

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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