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"Looking for reference books on the Sikh Wars" Topic

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Minis is my Waterloo Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 4:54 p.m. PST

Hey folks, anyone have suggestions for some reference books on the Sikh Wars? I'm looking for TO&E info for both sides, but also some good stories about battles would be nice. Pictures and/or painting guides would be a plus.

I'd welcome your advice…

Personal logo Buckeye AKA Darryl Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 5:07 p.m. PST

Try the list on The G Dog's blog:


dbf167601 Aug 2018 6:23 p.m. PST

Armapal Singh also has a great book on the 1st Anglo-Sikh War.

Glengarry501 Aug 2018 6:55 p.m. PST

If you can wait a year this is coming out from Osprey!

Basha Felika02 Aug 2018 12:18 p.m. PST

Andrew Preziosi's ‘Sikh War Source Book' is the one to wait for, but you may have to be patient…

Dennis03 Aug 2018 1:13 a.m. PST

If the search function is working now, try a search for prior discussions here on TMP. Some years back Andrew Preziosi, Patrick Wilson, John Watts, Ray Garbee (the G-Dog) and I had some detailed discussions about sources for the two Anglo-Sikh wars and related topics-probably half or more of my posts over the years have been about those wars.

Ray's list, mentioned above by Darryl, is a good general list. Cook is a good book if you can find a copy, it's part of a series about various British colonial wars-all of which are pretty good and where else can you find a book about the Kandyan war.

As for older sources, there are M'Gregor's History of the Sikhs, Cunningham's History of the Sikhs and Carmichael-Smyth's Reigning Family of Lahore, and nearly contemporary sources like the Annals of India, Commentaries on the Punjab Campaign, Gough and Innes' History of the Sikh wars, Thackwell's History of the Second Sikh War, Burton's History of the Sikh Wars (recently republished), etc.

Back to more recent books, about 2005 Osprey published Ian Heath's "The Sikh Army, 1799-1849." As with most Ospreys, it is a mix of potted history, some details, and some useful pictures. All in all it is a pretty good book, although I disagree with Mr. Heath's contention that a majority of the Sikh army regular infantry were armed with percussion muskets. There is no contemporary evidence that the Sikhs had approximately 30,000 percussion muskets (a majority of the Sikh regular infantry) and I think it very unlikely that they would have been able to obtain a significant number of percussion muskets under all the circumstances.

Bruce's "Six Battles for India" is also a pretty good general history of the wars and was one of Fraser's sources for his Flashman book on the Sikh wars.

Armapal Singh has books on both the First and Second Anglo-Sikh wars, and he devoted a lot of attention to the sites of the battles-for example, he prepared new maps and photos.

One of the British Wargames magazines, I believe it was Wargames Illustrated, published about six or eight article about the Anglo-Sikh Wars about 15 years ago or so. About 4 or 5 of the articles were by John Watts, and had pretty much all information then available about uniforms and flags.

Our Andrew Preziosi wrote a book containing the best know OBs for the First Anglo-Sikh war about a dozen or so years ago. It is out of print, but used copies might be available. When his Sikh Wars Source Book is finally published it should contain complete OBs for both sides and both wars. I have seen some of the draft information and it is very detailed. At one time, I believe, Patrick Wilson offered for sale complete OBs for Anglo-Sikh Wars prepared by Andrew Preziosi. Those OBs are no longer listed on Patrick's Virtual Armchair General Web Site, and I suspect they were withdrawn because they were to be included in Andrew's book when it is published.

With all of that said, I suspect from your questions that you are looking for a degree of detail that doesn't exist for the Sikhs. There have been other questions here-I don't remember if it was you or another who asked them-about the facing colors for the Sikh army and whether they wore turbans in facing colors for example. I am fairly well-read in the period, and I am aware of no such information from contemporary sources and seriously doubt it exists.

Details of military equipment and uniforms simply wasn't of interest to eyewitnesses in the mid 19th Century. The only reason we have the details we do about the organization of the Sikh Army is because the army pay records survived into the 20th Century. As I mentioned above, we don't know whether the Sikh Army regular infantry was armed with flintlock muskets (most likely for the majority in my opinion) or percussion muskets. The only surviving contemporary Sikh account that mentions armament, that I know of, actually describes Sikh regular infantry as being armed with matchlocks. I also consider it unlikely that a significant number of Sikh regular infantry were armed with matchlocks and think the references to matchlocks as the armament of regular infantry was probably an error in translation from the original Persian in which the account was written-albeit I think it likely that Sikh irregular cavalry and infantry were armed with matchlocks. There is contemporary evidence that the Sikhs bought tens of thousands of flintlock muskets from the HEIC (and millions of flints) and also evidence that muskets seized from the Sikhs at the end of the second war were flintlocks, so I think it very likely that the flintlock musket was the main firearm of the Sikh infantry regulars.

Anyway, for general information, look at the above books. For details on painting British Royal Service and HEIC troops there are lots of sources, including the articles by John Watts. And for details about the Sikh army, read Ian's book, look for Andrew's first book and wait for his second, and accept that there are many details that we will never know.


Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 6:26 a.m. PST

Great information. Thank you Dennis.

Minis is my Waterloo Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 8:00 a.m. PST

Wow, what an incredible response! And here I thought I was a loner in wanting to game this really kind of obscure war! I did find two Featherstone books on Amazon…At them with the bayonet, and Victorian Colonial Warfare-India…both probably aimed more at the gamer than the scholar?…but still thought they'd be good reads.

I've obviously got a lot of digging to do to find some of the items Dennis mentions above…would love to find the old Wargames Illustrated articles.

Andrew Preziosi's book looks great!…but by a year from now I hope to have both armies painted and veterans of the game table so sadly I won't be waiting on that.

Thanks again, folks, for all the good info…now I've got to start digging!

Minis is my Waterloo Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

I did forget one thing…right now I'm buying figs, and my need is to get a feel for how big British infantry and foot regiments were in comparison to the Sikh/Khalsa units. Anyone got that info off the top of their heads?

DukeWacoan Supporting Member of TMP Fezian03 Aug 2018 9:09 a.m. PST

Flashman and the Mountain of Light

Dennis03 Aug 2018 11:12 a.m. PST

I'm happy I could help with your project. I've a bit of an update on some of the information.

First of all, the Featherstone books are very much wargamer resources. Good reads, but not serious scholarship.

Back in 2006 Foundry Books published a book in their Armies of the 19th Century Series-"The British in India 1825-59" by John French. French's book contains a nice brief account of the two Anglo-Sikh wars. His sources are mostly secondary-including Featherstone- but he also used the casualty rolls as a source for British/HEIC units present at the various battles.

A somewhat independent source to identify British/HEIC units (but not strengths) for the various battles is Leslie's The Battle Honours of the British and Indian Armies 1695-1914.

As for Andrew Preziosi's first book-"The First Sikh War 1845-1846 Order of Battle Book." I dug out my copy and checked it for Sikh and Brit OBs. I'd forgotten that Andrew wrote it before I got him a copy of the Khalsa Darbar Records (KDR), and his OB for that book was based on an appendix in Carmichael-Smyth, Fauja Singh Bajwa's "Military System of the Sikhs" and an old article or two by Sita Ram Kohli on the Sikh Army.

Bajwa's hard information comes from the KDR and is mostly good, albeit he is unreliable on many details (his firearms stuff is awful) and he doesn't provide the detail Andrew wanted. The KDR is a translated copy of the Sikh Army pay records for the relevant periods and so is pretty much authoritative. Andrew's forthcoming book draws heavily on the KDR and so should be more accurate and have more detail than his earlier work.

With the above said, a quick skim of Andrew's earlier book leads me to believe the Sikh Army regular infantry battalions were about 700-1000 men strong. The irregular cavalry and infantry were exactly that-irregular and varied considerably even if the figures are accurate. It looks like the regular cavalry varied from 200-600 men and were brigaded with the regular infantry and artillery at the rate of one cavalry regiment, 3 or 4 infantry battalions and an artillery battery or two in each brigade. This is from Andrew's first book and so is NOT directly from the KDR and so is probably not the best information and would not apply to irregular units or the fauj-i-kaus (the Sikh elite brigade).

The Perry brothers wrote an article on Sikh uniforms that was published in the May 1996 issue of Wargames Illustrated. According to the Perrys, the Sikh regular army, the Fauj-i-ain, was organized in brigades consisting generally of 3-4 battalions of regular infantry (consisting of 800-1000 men each), I regiment of regular cavalry (200-500 men) and 1 or 2 artillery batteries (3-15 guns each), while the elite regular brigade (the Fauj-i-kaus) had 2 cavalry regiments and 4 infantry battalions. This is all consistent with Andrew's first book.

John Watts' articles, The Miniature Wargames Guide to the Sikh Wars, was published in Miniature Wargames, issues 156, 157, 158, and 159-May through August 1996. He also had a short article on Sikh War Flags published in the October 1997 issue of Miniature Wargames (no. 173). The Flag article has no real information on Sikh flags.

Sources on the British army should give you an idea of the size of the Royal Service and HEIC units in the wars. For my project-long delayed-I will have the Sikh regular and British/HEIC infantry units roughly the same size, with the Sikhs somewhat bigger.


Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 11:40 a.m. PST


ANYTHING that Dennis McKinney says about the Sikhs/Khalsa/etc is GOLD.

If this man had the time (perhaps in retirement?) he's the fellow who should write THE book on these and related subjects.

Andrew Preziosi--God Bless Him--may never finish the second edition of the "Sikh Wars Source Book," though I would love publicly to eat triple portions of crow to be proved wrong.

And, just an observation, there is still one source that might have the information most of us seek (no pun intended) concerning such issues as whether there was any system of turban colors related to Paltan's or Brigades, as well as any regulations concerning unit flags--the "Zafarnamah" of the Khalsa. A few copies seem to exist, and most or all in protected libraries in Lahore and elsewhere.

I--among others--have been on the trail of the "Dead Sikh Scrolls" (thank you, Andy) for over twenty five years now, and still can't seem to make contact with a copy. Its text would be in Persian, and photos of sample pages appear in Fauja-Singh-Bajwa's "Military System of the Sikhs," as it was the official drill and regulations book of the Khalsa under Ranjit Singh.

This work could fairly be called the "Holy Grail/Ark of The Covenant" rolled into one for Khalsa researchers, and it's going to take the librarian equivalent of Indiana Jones to find it, apparently.

Great to see you're still in there pitchin', Dennis!


John Leahy Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 5:23 p.m. PST

Wargames illustrated digital membership is 1 pound for the first month. It's about 8 US dollars after that. It has a digital version of every issue ever done. You can download them and they are yours to keep. You can also search by topic, issue, etc. I have been doing it since January and am very pleased with it. Of course, you also get every new issue too.
I checked. There are pics of the Sikh wars by Howard Wihitehouse are Issue 199. Issue 47 has an article about John Company. There is some organizational and uniform info in it.

May be worth a look for 1 pound.

Dennis03 Aug 2018 10:59 p.m. PST

Thanks for the kind words Patrick, but I think I will leave the book writing to Andrew.

Rob; upon reflection it strikes me that you and others may have taken my book list as a list of books anyone interested in the Sikh wars should have. Actually, unless you want to study the wars intensely and in great detail, a much shorter list will do nicely-I only intended my list to be a non-exhaustive list of some useful books on the topic.

For wargamers and those with a general interest in the wars, I'd recommend a general history or two, some sort of contemporary book about the subject, and a painting and organizational guide. The magazine articles by John Watts and the Perry brothers I mentioned above and/or Ian Heath's Osprey, and some Ospreys or equivalents on the colonial British army will do nicely for organization and uniform guides.

George Carmichael-Smyth's "A History of the Reigning Family of Lahore: With Some Account of the Jummoo Rajahs, the Sikh Soldiers and Their Sirdars" is probably the best contemporary history of the general period, and is available in a variety of inexpensive used and reprint editions. George McDonald Fraser leaned heavily on Carmichael-Smyth in his Flashman and the Mountain of Light and it was one of Andrew Preziosi's sources in his OB book on the first Anglo-Sikh war.

As for general histories; John French's book and Donald Featherstone's three books are easy reading, as are Cook's Sikh Wars and Bruce's Six Battles for India. You should be able to find used copies of Featherstone, Cook and Bruce in decent condition for $10 USD-30 or so-French's book may be harder to find and more expensive. I personally like Burton's history of the two wars as he served in India, albeit in the late 19th Century, and he also wrote histories of Wellington's campaigns in India and the Maratha and Pindari war, so he has a good general understanding of colonial warfare in British India-Burton's book is somewhat skimpier than the some of the others. Reprints and used editions of Burton are also generally available and relatively cheap. I also like Gough and Innes, but any of the above is a more than adequate potted history of the wars.

Finally, Amarpal Singh's two books, one on each war, go into considerably more detail than do the other general histories. The only negative point about Singh's books is that they are more expensive than the other general histories.

Oh, and of course Andrew's book when it is published.

If anyone has any questions about any of the above sources, or other sources or questions, please feel free to PM me or post the question on the British Colonial message board with the title including the terms Sikh Army. I'll probably see the posting, and if so will be happy to offer what I can.


Minis is my Waterloo Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2018 8:30 a.m. PST

I have to say, I've been absolutely AMAZED at the amount of info I'm hearing about and finding on these wars. I swear you'd think they were bigger than the World Wars for all the material I'm finding!! Thank you all for all the good info.

Dennis, I wasn't overwhelmed by your list…more like majorly impressed! I did go with the two books by Donald Featherstone, if for no other reason than they are by the Grand Old Man of gaming. Might go with some more scholarly ones, but I'll have to see.

I did jump in feet first with Patrick at TVAG…got John Company with supplements, and of course the whole Chapatti of flags!!! Love chapattis anyway…

I also joined the premier club with WI and have downloaded half a dozen mags, printed several articles from others…what a deal that is!! For anyone who grew up pawing through those old WIs that were so hard and costly to get from England back in the day, that's a great way to get old material. I searched for "Sikh" and found articles all the way to issue 18!!

Now I'm going to poke at an old friend who is the whole reason I am going crazy on this period now…Hal Thinglum of (need I say it…) MWAN fame showed off some new figs he got recently and the bug bite me hard to join him…thanks a lot, Hal!

Keep gaming, my friends,

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