The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-05) was the second conflict among the three conflicts of the Anglo-Maratha War. It was a conflict between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India. In the end, the Maratha power was destroyed and British supremacy was established.
During the First Anglo-Maratha War, the British supported the “fugitive” Peshwa Raghunathrao and later his son, Baji Rao II. Baji Rao II was not as brave as his father but excelled in deception and conspiracy, along with a cruel streak.
Baji Rao II’s actions, including ordering the killing of a relative of Yashwant Rao Holkar, provoked hatred from the Maratha chief of Indore. The Maratha Empire was a confederacy of five major chiefs
- the Peshwa at Poona,
- the Gaekwad chief of Baroda,
- the Scindia chief of Gwalior,
- the Holkar chief of Indore, and
- the Bhonsale chief of Nagpur
However, internal quarrels between the chiefs made them vulnerable to British interference. Despite repeated offers of a subsidiary treaty from the Governor-General of British India to the Peshwa and Scindia, Nana Fadnavis refused.
In 1802, the armies of Peshwa Baji Rao II and Scindia were defeated by Yashwantrao Holkar at the Battle of Poona. Baji Rao II fled to British protection and later signed the Treaty of Bassein in December of the same year, ceding territory for a subsidiary force and agreeing to a treaty with no other power. This treaty became the “death knell of the Maratha Empire.”
The Maratha chieftains, including the Scindia rulers of Gwalior and the Bhonsale rulers of Nagpur and Berar, were terrified and disgusted by the Peshwa’s actions, leading them to contest the agreement.
In response, the British developed a strategy that involved Arthur Wellesley securing the Deccan Plateau, Lake taking Doab and then Delhi, Powell entering Bundelkhand, Murray taking Badoch, and Harcourt neutralizing Bihar. With a force of over 53,000 men available to help achieve their objectives, the British were well-prepared.
Once the logistic assembly of his army was complete, Wellesley ordered an attack on the nearest Maratha fort on August 8, 1803, with a total of 24,000 men. On the same day, they successfully took the walled Pettah of Ahmednagar, which was adjacent to the fort, by escalade.
On the 12th of August, the fort surrendered after an infantry attack exploited an artillery-made breach in the wall. With both the pettah and fort now under British control, Wellesley extended his control southwards to the river Godavari.
In September 1803, Scindia forces suffered defeats at the hands of Lord Gerard Lake at Delhi and Wellesley at Assaye. On October 18, British forces took the pettah of Asirgarh Fort with minimal casualties. The fort’s garrison surrendered on October 21 after the attackers had erected a battery.
The British also pounded ancient ruins used by Scindia forces as forward operating bases with artillery, further eroding their control. In November, Lake defeated another Scindia force at Laswari, followed by Wellesley’s victory over Bhonsle forces at Argaon (now Adgaon) on November 29, 1803.
Treaty of Deogaon
The Treaty of Deogaon was signed on 17 December 1803, between Raghoji II Bhonsale of Nagpur and the British, following the Battle of Argaon. The treaty resulted in the cession of the province of Cuttack, which included the Mughal and coastal parts of Odisha, Garjat/princely states of Odisha, Balasore Port, and parts of the Midnapore district of West Bengal.
Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon
Similarly, after the Battles of Assaye and Laswari, the Daulat Scindia signed the Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon on 30 December 1803, which led to the cession of several territories to the British, including Hisar, Panipat, Rohtak, Rewari, Gurgaon, Ganges-Jumna Doab, the Delhi-Agra region, parts of Bundelkhand, Broach, some districts of Gujarat, and the fort of Ahmmadnagar.
Treaty of Rajghat
The British initiated hostilities against Yashwantrao Holkar on 6 April 1804, but he proved to be a formidable opponent and harassed the British forces through guerilla warfare.
However, the lack of support from Scindia, who had already signed a treaty with the British, forced him to seek help from Ranjeet Singh in Punjab, which proved unsuccessful. Eventually, due to a shortage of resources, Holkar came to terms with the British.
The Treaty of Rajghat was signed on 24 December 1805, which compelled Holkar to cede Tonk, Rampura, and Bundi to the British.
After defeating the Maratha soldiers, the British Empire established several treaties.
One of them was the Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon in 1803 between the British East India Company and Daulat Scindia.
The Treaty of Deogaon was also signed in 1803 between the British East India Company and the Bhosle of the Maratha Confederation, resulting in the British gaining control of the western part of the Wardha River, Cuttack, and Balasore.
Another treaty, the Treaty of Rajghat, was signed in 1805 between the British East India Company and the Holkars, which required them to cede the Rampura, Bundi, and Tonk regions to the British company.
Lord Wellesley was the Governor General during the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
The Second Anglo-Maratha War arose primarily from the defeat of Peshwa Baji Rao II by the Holkars, one of the major Maratha clans. In December 1802, the Peshwa accepted British protection by signing the Treaty of Bassein, but not all the chiefs of the Maratha federation agreed with its provisions, leading to the outbreak of the war.