TODAY -

Battle of Khongjom
- Part 1 -

Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh *

The battle of Khongjom - RKCS Painting
The battle of Khongjom
Warning: These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery



After the execution of the British Officers including Mr. J. W. Quinton, Chief Commissioner of Assam by the public executioner of Manipur at Manipur on the night of 24th March, 1891 the British troops in the Residency and Pologround retired that very night towards Cachar.

The British sepoys of 43rd Gurkha Regiment at Langthabal under Jamadar Birbal Nagar Koti in Command of 35 Gurkha fled towards Tamu the following day. This party again came with Lieutenent C.J.W. Grant, 1 2th (Burma) Madras Infantry on 28th March 1891 in the hope of saving the British Officers and reached Thoubal Athokpam and fought there with the Manipuris.

On 9th April, on receipt of a letter dated 3rd April 1891 from Captain Presgrave, he retreated with his party at 7 p.m. and met Captain Presgrave about 2 a.m. of April 10th. The united party had halted at Pallel. As Captain Presgrave had orders to return to Tamu, the united party marched one stage from Pallel.

There they received a letter from Major Sir Charles Leslie, saying he was coming on with a party of 2-4th Gurkhas. They accordingly turned back and marched again to Pallel. On 1 8th April the whole of the advance body of the Tamu Column, under Sir Charles Leslie, had arrived at Pallel.

It consisted of about 400 rifles, 2-4th Gurkhas under Sir Charles Leslie, with Captains Rundall, Drury and Carnegy, and Lieutenants Grant, Ducat and Peterson, and Dr. Clarkson;! 00 rifles of the 12th Burma Regiment with Captain Presgrave and Lieutenant Grant; 40 Mounted Infantry, also of the 1 2th, under Lieutenant Cox, and two Guns of No. 2 Mountain Battery under Lieutenant Persise.

The force were not to take the field against the Manipuris (their enemy), but they were to keep a watch on their movements. For this purpose the Mounted Infantry under Lieutenant Cox went out daily and patrolled. On certain occasions the Manipuri sepoys fired a volley at the reconnoitering party of British.

Lord Lansdowne, the Viceroy and Govenor General were at Nainital on the night of Sunday, the 29th March 1891, when his Excellency heard for the first time that Tikendrajit Singh, the Jubraj of Manipur could not be arrested and that the British Officers including Mr. J,W. Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam were in the hands of the Manipuris as war prisoners: His Excellency the Viceroy abandoned his projected tour into the Kumaon Hills and came to Simla hastily where his council was quickly assembled.

Thinking that the British Officers might be war captives* only, the Government of India with the hope of saving the lives of the Chief Commissioner and his companions ordered the British troops to advance on Manipur from three directions -North, West and East (i.e. Kohima, Silchar and Burma).

Captain Cowley of 43rd Regiment with 200 men who was on his march back from the Lushai country had also already been ordered to advance to Manipur. On receipt of the news of the disaster at Manipur many volunteers came up from British India.

The constitution of three British columns to advance to Manipur was published in the Gazette of India, Part 1, April, 11, 1891, on pp 188-89.

Three British Columns were constituted by the Govt, of India in order to advance to Manipur as follows :
Military Department, Simla, the 10th April 1891, Field Operations Manipur No. 340- The Governor General in Council has been pleased to sanction the dispatch of a force, as detailed below, for operations in Manipur. The force will be styled the "Manipur Field Force."

The following officers are detailed for the staff of the force , and their appointments will have effect from the dates on which they respectively enter the duties thereof.

The Tamu Column



To be continued ...

o Browse picture gallery on Khongjom day observation on 23rd April 2009 - Part 1 | Part 2




N. Khelchandra Singh


* Oja Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh is a Padmashri (Literature) recipient. This article is reproduced & reprinted from the Manipur Today special issue Vol. XV No. 2 and was published by DIPR Manipur on the eve of Khongjom day 2009. This article was webcasted on June 30, 2009.


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