The Indian Campaign. Project

The project of expedition to India is sometimes described in literature like a fantastic idea of the "Mad tsar Paul" who, in his adherence to England, could not see the difference between reality and fantasy. "This fact -writes Russian historian Korniloff - clearly reflects the madness of Paul I and terrifying consequences, that it would lead to". N. Schiller, like many others, describes the difficulties and sufferings of Cossacks on march sent by Paul I on the spot to non-prepared expedition without information on resources of the countries located on the way to India without sufficient subsistence, wagon-trains ambulances and even without maps[26].

European Buildings in Calcutta
European Buildings in Calcutta
We believe, however, the above historians were true in a way. According to the available documents we are more biased to the fact that this project was thoroughly thought out. It provoked a real concern in London.

The expedition to India was designed like a deep military operation and was supposed to involve the allied French-Russian military actions.

This top-secret project, elaborated in St Petersburg, bears the traces of French origin. As we shell see below, there was a kind of "system" in that "madness" and to justify this we would need a precise point of view on the events that follow. Firstly, there was a desire of Paul I "de fair bouger" the Cossacks i.e. to limit their freedom and privileges and to introduce more order and discipline in their ranks during military actions. Secondly, the Indian project matches well Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition in 1798. And if nobody accuses Napoleon for his "fantastic" expedition to the Nile and further, why should we blame Russian tsar for his "mad" project related to India...?

A View of Calcutta
A View of Calcutta
Here is what Napoleon writes at St. Helena: "... During my expedition to Egypt, 1 organized the corps of "armed camels" composed of several detachments each having 5 camels, 2 horses, 11 fusiliers supplied with provision for 1 month and water sufficient for 4 days. With such a corps I would fight all the Arabs because I would send "armed camels' to destroy Arabs' camps. Besides, these detachments proved to be a good experience in finding the adequate military instrument for the conquest of India. I intended to buy 12 000 Africans in Derfur and, with the assistance of European instructors, I would train good soldiers out of them. As a result, I would have the basis of an army of 60 000 - 70 000 men. I would forward them across the desert with daily marches covering the distance of 10 miles. I would organize the army in three columns by echelons in order to have enough water for everyone in wells. Each column would have a required number of camels for transportation of sick soldiers and baggage Only guns would be transported by horses This system would provide me an easy access to the river Ganges and then would let me destroy British power in India. To reach this river it is necessary to cover 1 000 miles and I would organize a great bivouac on the banks of the river Euphrates and in other places that I find necessary. Camels would transport our rations of rice, meal and coffee and soldiers would be supplied with 1 lbs. ration per day. Reaching India I would make an alliance with Maharattcs and they would provide me with best cavalry. Besides, the Sepoys arc the original population of India. That is why the Englishmen were very concerned about my expedition.

This threat motivated them to take Alexandria. However later they would see what Russians had been preparing for them. For Russians it is quite easier to reach India as they are already in Persia. Russia, faster than other powers moves forward to world's control...'"[27]. The plan of campaign to India as we already mentioned was a top-secret scheme and consisted of three independent military movements. Let us describe them one alter another.

Dr. Alex Zotov, FINS, St.Petersburg, Russia


Historical magazine Gatchina Over the Centuries