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Battle of Aberdeen

South Andaman, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

March 23, 2022

Ever since the establishment of a penal settlement in Andamans by the British, they faced a series of attacks by the Great Andamanese.

The act of organized resistance against the British reached its climax on 17 May 1859, in the ‘Battle of Aberdeen’. An escaped freedom fighter of 1857 named Dudhnath Tiwari, who had escaped from Ross Island on 23 April 1858, with 90 other fellow freedom fighters, was kindly treated by the aborigines. He lived with them for about a year. He had some suspicion of the preparation going on for the attacks on the British. Dudhnath Tiwari found 20 canoes with 250 Great Andamanese leaving the place where he stayed. After they had landed on the mainland (South Andaman), another party of Great Andamanese joined them.

These two batches of aborigines reached within two miles of Aberdeen on the afternoon of 16 May and encamped there for the night. Dudhnath Tiwari got definite information that the aborigines would attack the settlement the next morning. At dead of night, when the men were asleep, Dudhnath left the camp. He arrived at Aberdeen at about 2 a.m. and told this story to the authorities. Dr. J.P.Walker, the Superintendent of the penal settlement immediately made arrangements for the defence. But before he could complete his plans, the aborigines began the attack early in the morning of 17 May 1859. One part of the Great Andamanese proceeding along the shore was stopped by the gunfire of the Naval guard, but another party, in spite of gunfire reached the convict station and occupied it. A small number of the Andamanese were killed and seriously injured during the Battle of Aberdeen.

It was the most desperate and determined attack of the aborigines ever made on the settlement. The intention of the aborigines was to exterminate outsiders.

This event in history is known as the Battle of Aberdeen. Later, a memorial was raised in the year 1995 in memory of those Great Andamanese who were killed in the “Battle of Aberdeen” fought on 17th May 1859. This memorial symbolizes the heroic deeds of the Great Andamanese.

Source: Yashaswini B, IAS 2020 (AGMUT)