The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783

By A. T. Mahan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
EVENTS IN THE EAST INDIES, 1778-1781. -- SUFFREN SAILS FROM BREST, 1781. -- HIS BRILLIANT NAVAL CAMPAIGN IN THE INDIAN SEAS, 1782, 1783.

THE very interesting and instructive campaign of Suffren in the East Indies, although in itself by far the most noteworthy and meritorious naval performance of the war of 1778, failed, through no fault of his, to affect the general issue. It was not till 1781 that the French Court felt able to direct upon the East naval forces adequate to the importance of the issue. Yet the conditions of the peninsula at that time were such as to give an unusual opportunity for shaking the English power. Hyder Ali, the most skilful and daring of all the enemies against whom the English had yet fought in India, was then ruling over the kingdom of Mysore, which, from its position in the southern part of the peninsula, threatened both the Carnatic and the Malabar coast. Hyder, ten years before, had maintained alone a most successful war against the intruding foreigners, concluding with a peace upon the terms of a mutual restoration of conquests; and he was now angered by the capture of Mahé. On the other hand, a number of warlike tribes, known by the name of the Mahrattas, of the same race and loosely knit together in a kind of feudal system, had become involved in war with the English. The territory occupied by these tribes, whose chief capital was at Poonah, near Bombay, extended northward from Mysore to the Ganges. With boundaries thus conterminous, and placed centrally with reference to the three English presidencies of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, Hyder and the Mahrattas were in a position of advantage for mutual support and for offensive operations against

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