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King George II (1727-1760)
Courage Under Fire : Robert Clive turned seven hundred frightened recruits into crack troops by sheer force of personality.
Courage Under Fire

Robert Clive, who arrived in India as an ill-disciplined prankster with no military training, rose rapidly in the militia of the East India Company to become, in the words of William Pitt the Elder, a ‘heaven-born general’.

IN the Spring of 1752, Robert Clive’s poor health prompted him to return to England, but he was determined to rob the French of the forts of Covelong, a fishing village twenty-five miles south of Madras, and neighbouring Chingleput, before he left.*

The Company gave him five hundred newly-enlisted Sepoys and two hundred raw recruits drawn from some of the more unruly slums of London. Of these, many fled at the first sound of the Covelong fort cannon; one deserted his post for the comparative safety of fifteen hours in a nearby well.

Such was Clive’s authority that he made men of them nonetheless, and they not only took the fort at Covelong, but plundered an approaching relief-column. That so alarmed the commander of Chingleput that he conceded his fort without a fight.

Clive now retired to Madras, where he married Margaret Maskelyne, sister of his friend Nevile, a mathematician and later the Astronomer Royal, before leaving for England.

* Madras is the British name for Chennai, which lies on the east coast of India, somewhat towards the south of the country: map. Covelong is known as Kovalam and is the location of Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury beach resort; Chingleput is Chengalpattu, an important railway and manufacturing town.

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Modern History (130) History of British India (16) Georgian Era (106) British Empire (25) Robert Clive (4) History (393)

Picture: © Vinoth Chandar, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
A greengrocer’s stall in Chengalpattu (Chingleput) some 35 miles from Chennai (Madras) in India.
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By Thomas Babington Macaulay
(1800-1859)

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