Forde, Francis (DNB00)

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FORDE, FRANCIS (d. 1770), conqueror of Masulipatam and friend of Clive, was the second son of Mathew Forde of Seaforde, co. Down, and M.P. for Downpatrick in the Irish House of Commons, by Anne, daughter of William Brownlow of Lurpan. He is said to have married in 1728 Mrs. Martha George (Burke, Landed Gentry, ed. 1882); but this is improbable, for he is first mentioned in the 'Army List' as having been appointed a captain in Adlercron's (the 39th) regiment on 30 April 1746. This regiment was the first ever sent to India of the king's army, and it is worthy of remark that Eyre Coote (1726-1783) [q. v.], afterwards Sir Eyre, was only the junior captain when Forde was promoted major in it on 13 Nov. 1755. He first appears in Anglo-Indian history as the commander of a small party which was defeated at Nellore (Malcolm, Life of Clive, ii. 26); but Clive early perceived his great military abilities, and it was upon Olive's express invitation that Forde resigned his commission in the royal army in June 1758, and proceeded to Bengal in order to act as second in command to Clive in that presidency, and to be ready to succeed him in case of need.

The victory of Plassey had secured the possession of Bengal to the East India Company, but Clive felt that the British authority could not be considered as safely established until the French were driven out of the Deccan. The great danger lay in the powerful dominion erected by M. Bussy, the ablest French officer who ever served in India in the Northern Circars between the company's two eastern presidencies. Bussy had secured the grant of the coast districts known as the Northern Circars from the nizam, where he had established an efficient system of administration and organised a powerful army. At the beginning of 1759 the Comte de Lally, the governor-general at Pondicherry, suddenly recalled Bussy from Masulipatam, and appointed M. Conflans, an incompetent officer, to succeed him. At this juncture Colonel Forde, as he was called in anticipation of the colonel's commission which Clive had promised him from the East India Company, landed at Vizagapatam with a small force of five hundred Europeans, two thousand sepoys, and twelve guns. He at once advanced against Conflans, and, after defeating him at Condore, took Rájámahendri and all the baggage of the French army. He was then hindered by want of money; the ally of the English, Bassalat Jang, refused to pay; the European soldiers mutinied; and Forde was obliged to remain inactive for fifty days. At last he determined that any action was better than no action; he feared that the French fleet might throw reinforcements into Masulipatam, or that Bussy might return; and he quieted his soldiers by promising them the whole booty of the city. He thereupon determined to assault Masulipatam, though he had barely nine hundred men with him after deducting his losses by sickness and the garrisons he had left at Rájámahendri and Vizagapatam. At midnight on 25 Jan. the assault took place; 284, or nearly one-third of Forde's little army, were killed or wounded, but the city was taken, and five hundred French soldiers and 2,100 sepoys surrendered themselves prisoners. The result of this gallant action was that the French lost their foothold in the Deccan, and the Northern Circars were ceded to the East India Company. Forde was both publicly and privately thanked by Clive, but his disappointment was bitter when he found, on returning to Calcutta, that after having resigned his commission in the king's army the directors of the East India Company had refused to confirm his commission in their service. His disappointment was aggravated by the return to India of his junior, Eyre Coote, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the king's service, and the command of a fine regiment. Nevertheless he was ready to assist Clive in his operations against the Dutch at Chinsurah, and it was to Forde that Clive pencilled his famous note when Forde reported that the Dutch were in a favourable position to be attacked, and that he only wanted an order in council to attack. 'Attack at once; will send order in council,' was Clive's response on the back of a playing-card, and he then resumed his game. Forde did attack, and completely defeated the Dutch, and in the following year he returned to England with Clive. Clive obtained a company's commission for Forde, and his great quarrel with Sulivan and his party in the India House was largely due to Clive's advocacy of Forde for high military command in India, in opposition to the Sulivan candidate, Eyre Coote. Forde remained for some time in England, and in 1769 he was appointed, on Clive's recommendation, to be one of the three supervisors who were to be despatched to India with full powers to examine into every department of administration. The three supervisors, Mr. Henry Vansittart, M.P., Mr. Luke Scrafton, and Forde, set sail from Portsmouth in September 1769 on board the Aurora frigate; they touched at the Cape of Good Hope on 27 Dec. 1769, and were never heard of again.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, ed. 1882; Army Lists, 1754-8; Orme's Narrative of Affairs in Hindostan; Malcolm's Life of Clive; Mill's History of India; Stubbs's History of the Bengal Artillery, which contains good plans.]

H. M. S.