On 13 January 1779, the Marathas defeated the British forces on the concluding day of the Battle of Wadgaon. This Battle was part of the First Anglo Maratha War (1775-1782) which began with the Treaty of Surat signed on 6 March 1775 and ended with the Treaty of Salbai, signed on 17 May 1782. This article lucidly explains the important events that took place in the Battle of Wadgaon.
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Battle of Wadgaon Background
- The Battle of Wadgaon was part of the First Anglo-Maratha War.
- After the death of the third Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao in 1761, there was a power struggle in the Maratha camp. Balaji Baji Rao’s son Madhavrao had succeeded him as the Peshwa. However, Madhavrao’s uncle Raghunathrao also nurtured hopes of becoming the Peshwa. For this, he sought help from the British who were ever-willing to interfere in the internal matters of the Indian rulers in a bid to control more territory. Meanwhile, Madhavrao had died and his brother Narayanrao was made the Peshwa. But he was murdered and Maratha chiefs led by Nana Phadnavis made his infant son the new Peshwa.
- Raghunathrao signed the Treaty of Surat (1775) with the British officials in Bombay according to which Salsette and Bassein were given to the English East India Company and in return, he got 2500 troops.
- The combined army of the company and Raghunathrao attacked the Peshwa and defeated him. However, the British Council in Calcutta annulled the Surat Treaty and the Peshwaship of Raghunathrao was not recognised. He was promised just a pension as per the new Treaty of Purandhar (1776), which was signed between the British Calcutta Council and Nana Phadnavis.
- The Bombay government went against this and gave refuge to Raghunathrao. Nana Phadnavis then, in retaliation, gave the French a port on the west coast.
- This led the British to advance troops towards Pune, the seat of the Peshwas. A battle was fought at Wadgoan (Vadgaon) near Pune on 12-13 January 1779.
- The Company possessed about 4000 troops. They were joined by Raghunathrao’s troops as well. The Marathas had forces drawn from the various federations.
- The Marathas were commanded by Tukojirao Holkar and General Mahadji Shinde. Mahadji’s able command ensured that the British were cut off from supplies and harassed at Talegaon. They began to retreat when the Marathas attacked them forcing them to halt at the village of Wadgaon.
- On 12 January, the British were surrounded and on the next day, they surrendered to the Marathas. This was a decisive victory for the Marathas. The Treaty of Wadgaon was signed as per which all the territories acquired by the Bombay office of the company since 1773 were relinquished.
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