Battle of Najafgarh
August 25th 1857
On 25th August a British force led by Nicholson engaged a Mutineers force around 30 kms west of Delhi in a pre-emtive strike. The Mutineers sought to intercept the siege train heading towards the Delhi ridge and then to come upon the rear of the British positions on the Ridge.
The British march towards the Mutineers has been treacherous as the ground had turned to a quagmire in the rain. Nicholson came upon the enemy at 4pm but despite the time decided to push on an attack.
The Mutineers had occupied an old serai with infantry and 4 guns. On either side and to the rear of the serai were three villages which the Mutineers had occupied with infantry and more artillery. A deep drainage cut or ‘nulla’ went around the Mutineers right and on around their rear with a stout bridge crossing directly to their rear. The nulla was swollen with the recent rain and even at the ford the water was chest high.
The British forces advanced across the ford and deployed to the south of the serai. Nicholson sent the infantry brigade of the 61st Foot, the EIC 1st Bengal Fusiliers, and the 2nd Punjab Infantry to capture the serai. He kept his cavalry along with elements of the infantry in reserve whilst he split his limited artillery between facing the serai and the remainder addressed the enemy to the west.
Despite the muddy ground significantly impeding their advance in the face of the Mutineers artillery the British forces stormed the serai and routed the enemy. The fighting in the villages was more sustained but within an hour the enemy had been routed and their guns captured.
“As the Infantry were about to advance, Nicholson thus addressed them: ‘Men of the 61st, remember what Sir Colin Campbell said at Chilianwala, and you have heard that he said the same to his gallant Highland Brigade at the Alma. I have the same request to make of you and the men of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers. Hold your fire until within twenty or thirty yards, then fire and charge, and the serai is yours.’ Our brave soldiers followed these directions to the letter, and, under cover of Artillery fire, carried the serai. Front was then changed to the left as had been arranged, and the line swept along the enemy’s defences, the rebels flying before them over the bridge.”
Frederick Sleigh Roberts
Forty-one years in India – From Subaltern To Commander-In-Chief
With the enemy routed Nicholson consolidated his position before heading back to the Delhi lines the next day.
Nicholson’s force captured 13 enemy guns as well as large quantities of ammunition, stores and animals; all of which were sorely needed by the British troops on the Ridge.
Mutineers Force – Commander Bakht Khan
4 Regiments of Mutineers – each of 6 bases
4 Regiments of Mutineers – each of 6 bases
Nimach Brigade (General Sudhari Singh & Brigade Major Hira Singh)
4 Regiments of Mutineers – each of 6 bases
Estimated Strength 8,000 troops and 13 to 16 guns
British Force – Commander Brigadier Nicholson
61st Foot (Colonel Rainer)
1st Bengal Fusiliers (Major Jacob) – 5 bases
400 of Cokes Rifles (400 Men) – 5 bases
Punjab Infantry (Green) (400 men) – 5 bases
1 Sqn 9th Lancers (Captain Sarel) – 3 bases
Linds Multani Horse (200 men) – 5 bases
Sqn Guides (Sandford) – 3 bases
Troop of 2nd Punjab Cavalry (Charles Nicholson) – 6 bases
3 Troops of Horse Artillery (Major Tombs) (16 Horse Artillery) – 8 guns
Approximately 2,500 ‘good troops’ – 1,600 infantry, 450 cavalry, and 16 guns.
Game Length: 7 Turns
Initiative: 1st turn British
Mutineers deploy 1 of their brigades in and around the Serai. The Other 2 Brigades deploy into the 2 villages nearest the Najafgarh Drain. 2 Sepoy units may be detached to occupy the village of Nagli.
The British set up is assumed after they have started to cross the ford across the nulla.
Notes about the terrain
Bridge – 84 foot long and 27 foot wide.
Nulla – can only be crossed at the ford, and even then difficult going due to the high flood. The Najafgarh Drain can only be crossed at the bridge.
The Serai is on a slight rise
Scenario Special Rules – The Sword and the Flame (The Sword in India variant)
The Serai counts as class IV cover, whilst the villages and sandbagged artillery are class III. The treed garden is class II.
The Mutineers have limited ammo.
The Mutineers deploy their entire force first.
Scenario Special Rules – Black Powder
The British European troops are treated as ‘Elite’ to represent their continued advance through the Mutineers defensive fire.
For Queen and Company Rules (and Fast and Furious)
‘I think I need to be somewhere else‘ – As soon as the British get troops between the Mutineers positions and Delhi the Mutineers suffer a -2 to all subsequent Moral tests.
“It’s bloody wet!” All movement should used the variable movement rates due to the waterlogged and flooded ground
Winning the Game
British Major Victory – The British must occupy uncontested the Serai and the three villages, as well as hold the bridge at the end of the game. To be uncontested no steady Mutineer infantry or artillery units can be within the serai or village.
British Minor Victory – The British hold both the Serai and the bridge uncontested and ensured that none of the Mutineer guns are in operation (captured, or either un-manned or reduced to one crew)
Mutineer Minor Victory – Hold the bridge and one of the villages uncontested
Mutineer Major Victory – Mutineers hold the bridge and both the Serai and two of the Villages uncontested.
Otherwise a draw which would be a Mutineer moral victory and still able to claim bragging rights.
Old Rosters created for Black Powder soon after it came out – I’d do them differently now and fix the org and command structure for the Brits, and address the overly generous command ratings at the same time.
Indian Forces: I’ve made estimates about the Indian forces by dividing down the 8,000 strength estimate across 3 brigades to get approximately 12 units at an assumed strength of approx. 600 to 700 men per unit. You could easily modify this by having more units if desired. I’ve taken the higher estimate of 16 guns and assumed that 3 were removed or destroyed before capture.
British force numbers based upon Roberts and Trotter
Fighting the Battle
This battle was fought using Black Powder with the British being ably led by Paul ‘Nicholson’, whilst the Mutineers were commanded by Steve ‘Bakht Khan’. We used an 8’ by 6’ table and 28mm figures in units of 24 infantry and 10 cavalry.
The Indians were deployed across their wide front with the major blocks of units being situated between the three villages. The guns were deployed in the sandbagged defences before the serai, as well as between the villages on either side the bridge. The British placed their cavalry on the right of their deployment zone with their artillery facing the serai. The infantry were placed to the left of the artillery.
The first turn opened with the Indian artillery bombardment doing little in the way of casualties but managed to disorder the 61st Foot. With the British movement Paul successfully passed the ‘Elite’ test a cleared the disorder from the 61st who were then able to advance towards the bridge whilst the remainder of the British foot advanced towards the Serai. The cavalry started to loop around the serai to the right. British fire managed to cause some casualties to the units within the serai as well as disorder one of them.
Turn two saw Steve attempt to move some of his infantry from the East towards the British but failed his command roll. He then started to take out his frustration on the British with his artillery. One unit of the Native infantry became disrupted whils the 61st took some casualties. The Briitsh responded and successfully charged the serai.
Within the next two turns the serai had fallen and the Indian brigade holding the area was broken. The British then focussed their attention on the forces around the bridge. Within a couple of turns the bridge was taken but not before the British 3rd Brigade was shaken and the the majority of the cavalry were also shaken following an ambitious attempt to confront the third Indian brigade to the east whilst unsupported by infantry. The end of the game all came down to Steves attempts to reinforce the troops around the bridge which unfortunately failed to recapture the bridge or force the British back. He did take some consolation from the situation when he finally broke the British cavalry brigade.
As the dust settled the Mutineers still had their third brigade almost intact and their second one was just hanging on but they were forced to concede a minor victory to the British having lost the serai, the bridge and all of their artillery.