he following are some of the main facts in connection with the District  in the period leading up to the British period, which began nominally in 1815, and  actually in 1833.  113A.D.- Gaja Bahu makes tirukoil the southern limit of the Vanniya country. 1433 to 1477. A Vannichchi is said to have to reigned over Panichchenkerni,* and her descendants from 1477 to 1552. 1759. – Date of the first Mudaliyar of the Province, Don Paulo Irumarapum Tuya, Mapane Mudaliyar.  1759. Date of the first Mudaiyar, Chetty Kandar. In 1815  Was held “the Convention” with the Kandyan Chiefs, by which the boundary between the Maritime Districts, acquired by the British in 1796, and the Dominions of the Sinhalese Monarchy was clearly defined.


 1804.- Captain Johnston’s famous march from Batticaloa to Kandy. Major Johnston, in his “Narrative of the Operations of a Detachment in an Expedition to Kandy, in the Island of Ceylon, in the Year 1804, with some Observations on the previous Campaign and on the nature of the Kandyan Warfare,” &c.,states as follows:-  In 1800 I commanded a Corps of Pioneers, which opened a road for General MacDowall’s embassy to Kandy. After that period, till the commencement of the Kandyan war, I was chiefly entrusted with the command of remote districts, uniting in my own person the civil and military authorities.


 On the breaking out of that war in 1803 I was appointed to command a free corps composed principally of Malays, and was generally employed in escorting supplies to and from the different depots, a service which led to frequent skirmishes with the enemy. *Ribeyro says  that there was a kingdom formerly near Balany, which was called Saula (Chola), which extended three leagues along the coast and two leagues inland, but it was submerged and changed into a bed of salt. Mr.Lee, in his translation, identifies it with Panichchenkerni. The tradition is that a Vannichchi reigned here.When the army returned to Colombo and Trancomalee after having seated Boodoo Swamy(the prince whose cause the English espoused) on the throne of Kandy, I was appointed First Commissoner for regulating the affairs of the Provinces ceded by that Prince to the British Government. Illness, however, obliging me to repair to the seacoast for the benefit of a change of air, I thus fortunately escaped the massacre which shortly after took place in the capital.

 On the re-establishment of my health I was appointed to command the district of Batticaloa, which, in common with most of our other Provinces, was invaded by the enemy, who not driven out till after repeated skirmishes.  I continued at Batticaloa till September 1804, when I received the instructions, in my conception of which originated the expedition to Kandy, and which General Wemyss has obligingly permitted me to publish.

 On my return to Colombo I was nominated to the command of Hambingtotte, into which the enemy had penetrated, under the Desave of the Ouva , and from whence I was so fortunate as to expel them, with little loss on our side.  Thus, during a residence of nearly twelve years in Ceylon, the greater part of that time employed either in active military scenes, or in the discharge of civil duties, I had frequent opportunities of observing the nature of the country, and making myself acquainted with the corrector and customs of its inhabitants, and their mode of warfare.


Having been led, since my return to Europe, to consider the importance of the Island of the Ceylon as a colony, which, I trust will never again revert the enemies of Britain, I have been induced to commit to the press occurred to my observations during my continuance there, in the hope of promoting His Majesty’s service, by giving to officers, who may hereafter be employed in the interior of the Island, that information which they may not have had the means of obtaining, in regard to a species of warfare peculiar to it, and which has not, to my knowledge, been noticed in any former work.

A memoir that was published with this new edition gives the following personal information regarding Colonel Johnston.  Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Johnson was the eldest son of the late   John Johnston, of Clare, in the country of Tyrone, whose ancestor ( of the ancient house of Lover hay, a branch of the Annandale family) left Dumfriesshire in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and purchased considerable estates in the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh.  Colonel Johnston, the subject of this narrative, was born in 1778, and when very young received his Ensigns and Lieutenant’s commissions in the 19th Regiment, and accompanied that crops to Ceylon, where he early attracted the attention of the Governor of the Island, and was placed on hi staff.His command of a detachment of his regiment to Kandy in 1840 is still spoken of in Ceylon with admiration. Major forbes, in his work on Ceylon, recently published, makes frequent mention of it, and says:-   That the gallantry of captions Johnston and his party taught the Kandyans a respect for British troops, which they had not felt before, and afterwards reluctantly admitted; and that one of the chief who harassed Caption Johnston’s retreat assured him that the commander of that party have been in alliance with supernatural powers. His personal escape while passing through such a continual ambush and his superior judgment and energy were uncountable, unless this explanation were admitted.

 His naturally fine constitution, however, never recovered the effects of that serve and trying expedition, and he was shortly obliged to return to Europe, soon after which he joined the Senior Department of  he royal Military College at Wickham as student, and was selected by the Commandant to act for him during his absence in Spain. On the return of Sir Howard Douglass he was made Assistant Commandant, a situation which he held till the conclusion of the war; and when inquiries were started as to what retrenchment could be made in that Department, he suggested that his appointment could better be dispensed with than many others.

He married Martha, eldest daughter of Thomas Smith, of Shalden, in Hampsshire. He died and was buried at Shalden, in June 1824.

 Extracts from Major Johnston’s Account of the Expedition

and of what led to it.

Our knowledge of the interior of Ceylon is still extremely imperfect. The ruggedness of the country, and the insalubrity’s  of the climate at any distance  from the coast, have hitherto prevented our obtaining an  accurate survey even of those parts in the interior under our immediate control. Of those in possession of the Kandyans, consisting principally of step and lofty mountains, in many places covered with impenetrable forests, still less is known. Well aware that our ignorance of their passes and defiles forms one of the best safeguard of their independence, the rulers of the Kandyan nation take all possible care to prevent our acquiring information on this subject. They watch the ingress and egress of their territory with unremitting vigilance. This is the less difficult, as the access is by paths along which two men can seldom go abreast. In these paths gates are fixed, and guard stationed to prevent the entrance of strangers, and to examine all passengers. Few Europeans, even in the time of peace, venture to approach these barriers; and the continued detention of Major Davie, since the unfortunate fate of detachment, notwithstanding the unwearied exertions of Governor North and General Maitland to effect his liberation, is an example of the extreme difficulty of escape.

It does not appear that the Portuguese and Dutch armies, which at different times penetrated the interior, were accompanied by men of science capable of taking topographical surveys of the country. Indeed, the officers who commanded those armies do not seem to have attached so much importance to this species of military knowledge as we now find it to deserve. They have not left us any general description of the country, nor even those parts, which were the scenes of their own operations. The accounts, which remain of their campaigns, abound indeed, in detail of battles and marches describing the sufferings and privations of their troops, but convey no topographical information.


The Government of Kandy, like most Eastern Governments, is purely despotic. The standing army consists of a few hundred men, chiefly mercenaries, who are generally stationed about the King’s person. There are arrived with muskets, taken at different times, or purchased from where European invaders. Although they possess little, if any me what is considered discipline in Europe, yet the Kanyans have acquired in their frequent conflicts with the Portuguese and Dutch a considerable Knowledge and dexterity in that spacies of warfare which is best suited to the nature of the country and the disposition of the inhabitants. Conscious of their inhability to resist the regular attack of European troops and aware of the advantages they possess in being familiar with the country and inured to the climate, they avoid close combat, preferring an irregular and desultory warfare. They harass the enemy in as march, hanging on his flanks, cutting off his supplies, interrupting the communication between his divisions, and occupying the heights which command the passes, from  whence they fare in perfect security from behind the rocks and tree. They aim principally at the coolies who carry the ammunition and provisions well knowing that, without these, a regular force can make but little progress.


To dislodge them from mehbferhbferh   height is a task of extreme difficulty, as the paths leading to them are mostly on the opposite side of the mountains, and only know  To dislodge them form mess heights is a task of extreme difficulty, as the paths laciness to them are mostly on the opposite sides of the mountains, and only known to the inhabitants. They are accustomed to impede the march of hostile troops by felling, and placing as abates. large trees across the defiles. In narrow passes, where they can not avoided, this contrivance presents a most serious obstacle to the march of  troops ; for cutting up and removing a large tree is not the business of a movement.


One of their maximums is seldom to press closely an enemy marching into their country ; being certain that the diseases incident to Europeans in that climate, and the want of provisions, will soon oblige him to fall back; the father he advances the better he promotes their scheme of defence, as they can thus throw more numerous impediments in the way of his     return. In the meantime they think it most probable that he will attempt to retreat when encumbered by a long train of sick and wounded, exhausted by fatigue and want of provisions, and frequently Destitute of ammunition (which frequently happens from desertion of the coolies), then it is, and then only, that they attack him, exerting all their energies and still to harass and cat off his retreat.


What makes the situation of the troops under these circum – stances still more distressing is that every man who falls into the hands of the enemy is certain of immediate death. Nor does this inhuman practise arise from thirst of  blood, or the gratification of revenge ; it is a consequence of the reward offered by the King of Kandy for the heads of the desire of affording proofs of personal courage. The Kandyans will even decapitate their own countrymen when Killed in action, and carry the heads to Chiefs, as belonging to any enemy, in order to obtain this reward and distinction. I had frequent opportunities of ascertaining this fact. On surprising their posts at night, which we often effected without the lose of a mane, and afterwards passing over the ground, we invariably found their slain without heads.

The Nobles held their lands by tenure of service, and are obliged when called upon to join the King at the head of a third of their vassals, should that number be required. This enables the King to dispense with a large regular force, which would be burthensome to his finances, and to bring into the field, on any emergency, a considerable portion of the male population of his Kingdom.

Each soldier is provided with a musket, and carries with him fifteen days provision and small cooking vessel. A few are armed with bows and arrows. A left of the tulip tree…… protects him from the heat of sun …………. and two men by placing the broad end of their leaves together ………. from a tent…… by night.

The provisions of the Kandyan are equally portable with his tent. Although in most parts of the Continent of India rice forms the principal article of food amongst all ranks of natives in Ceylon, and particularly in the interior of the Island, it is reserved for the higher classes, and is a luxury, of which the lowest order of the people seldom partake. The chief food of the poorer sort is a grain that grows on the hills with little cultivation and without watering. This, together with a root dug from the bottom of the tanks, and a decoction of the bark of a tree found in abundance in the forests, constitute their principal means of support. Men accustomed to such diet cannot be supposed to acquire many luxuries in the field. Two or three cocoanuts, a few cakes made of the grain I have just described, and a small quantity of rice compose the whole of the soldier’s stock for the campaign. His other wants he is certain of being always able to supply.

 Thus equipped the Kandyan soldier follows his chief, to whom he is accustomed to pay the most implicit obedience …….. At the end of fifteen days he is relieved by a fresh requisition from the village ….. the party relieved always carrying home their sick and wounded compatriots.

In the year 1802 a wanton act of violence on the part of the Kandyans, for which reparation was in vain demanded, terminated in open hostility between the two Governments. Without any pretence of aggression, our merchants, in carrying on their trade in the Kandyan territory, had been attacked and plundered of considerable property. After repeated remonstrance’s on the part of the British Government against this outrage and evasive delays and violated promises on the part of the Kandyans, Mr.North felt himself under the painful necessity of proceeding to hostile measures. On the 31st January, 1803,a division of our forces, under the command of the Genaral MacDowall; composed of the flower of the Ceylon Army, began their march from Colombo, and after suffering much delay from want of coolies, entered the enemy’s territory on the 6th of February. On the 20th, in the neighbourhood of Kandy, they formed a junction with the division of colonel Baebut, which had marched about the same time from Trincomalie. Their united force amounted to 3,000 soldiers; and as usual, they met with little opposition from the Kandyans in their advance.

 On the following morning the troops crossed the great Kandyan river, Mahavilla-ganga, and took possession of the capital of Kandy, which was totally deserted by its inhabitants on their approach. Not an individual was found in the place; and almost every article of value had been removed to the mountains. The possession of the capital, which,in most countries would be considered as an object of great importance, if not decisive of the conquest, here afforded no advantages whatever to the captors.

 No advantage because difficult to get provisions locally, as foraging parties were attacked, and eventually all supplies had to be got from Colombo. The coolies got sick and deserted, and it was difficult to get supply columns through enemy country.  About the middle of March the rains set in, which rendered the conveyance of farther supplies from the coast nearly impracticable. It was, there fore, judged advisable to withdraw all the troops from the interior that could prudently be spared. Accordingly, in the beginning of April, the main body of the forces marched from the Kandyan territory towards Colombo and Trincomalie, leaving 1,00 soldiers, consisting of Europeans and natives, under the command of colonel Bar but, for the defence of Kandy.  A truce having been concluded between General MacDowall and the Adigar (Prime Minister of the Kandyans), and the fortifications being finished, this force was deemed sufficient for any probable contingency.

 Before the departure of the General Mooto Swamy, the English Government supported in his claims on the throne of Kandy, was crowned in the palace with all the forms of Eastern ceremonial. But not one of the Kandyans appeared to support his pretensions. This prince entered into a treaty with the English, to whom, amongst other valuable concessions, he ceded the Province of the Seven Corles.The Kandyans broke faith, and, finding the garrison was weakened by illness, they attacked and invested Kandy on the 23rd of June, and the weak state of the garrison induced Major Davie, who had taken up the command on the death of Colonel Bar but, to surrender the town the next day, on condition of being allowed to march with his garrison to Trincomalie, and that the sick and wounded should be taken care of by the Kandyan Government. The Kandyans broke all terms, murdered and mutilated mooto Swamy and two of his relations, massacred the European troops, and murdered in cold blood the 120 sick and wounded in the hospital at Kandy. Of the whole detachment, Major Davie, captains Rumley and Humphries, and Corporal Barnsley of the 19th were the only survivors.

All the other posts in the interior also fell successively into the hands of the enemy; the last, Dambadinia, about 60 miles from Kandy, fell on 2nd July.The Kandyans tried, and failed, to attack the coast,ports,and the English army was reinforced form the cape of Good Hope and Bengal.The Government thus strengthened, considered itself in a position to retaliate on the enemy; and detachments entered the country from various points, laying it waste wherever they penetrated. This mode of warfare, however repugnant to the feelings of Government, appeared the only one now left us to pursue; and while it contributed to the security of our districts from invasion, it held out a hope that, by convincing the King of Kandy of his inability to protect his people, he might ultimately be led to negotiation for peace.” In 1817.-A rebellion broke out in Uva, and the garrison of Batticaloa was sent, under the command of captain Jones. With the voluntary assistance of Mr.Sawers, who was previously Collector of Batticaloa, and at the time Third Commissioner in Kandy,the rebellion was soon suppressed. But Captain Jones returned to Batticaloa an invalid, and died there. He was a relative of Mr.H.White, C.C.S; his commanding officer, Lieutenant- Colonel Kelly, thus refers to his services:-

It would be difficult for me to render adequate justice to the merits of this officer, whose conduct, while placed under my command; I have had the honour in a former letter to bring before the notice of his Excellency. To his unwearied and well-directed exertions in the discharge of a duty of no ordinary importance I must in a great degree attribute the success with which our troops have been hitherto supplied; and to his judicious endeavours to inspire the Moor men of Wellassa with confidence, I ascribe the fidelity they have hitherto evinced to our Government. It is much to be feared that to this arduous discharge of his duty, and the great anxiety consequent thereon, are to be attributed the illness and death of Captain Jones.A tablet to the memory of this gallant officer faces the main entrance of St.Peter’s Church, Colombo. The following is the inscription on the monument at Batticaloa dedicated to his memory, now in the William Ault memorial hall:-








The manly firmness of Captain Jones’s military conduct was shown in the steady discipline of the men under his command.

The friendly kindness of his private life was rewarded by the general confidence and esteem of the Regiment in which he served. Captain Jones was the third son of John Lloyd Jones, Esq, of Maesmawr, in the County of Montgomery. He married, on the 4th of February, 1813, Susan, the second daughter of W.Thornes, Rector of Cardeston and Vicar of Alberbury, in the county of Salop. His afflicted widow and three young children are left to mourn his loss.

In 1818 another rebellion was attempted by the Chiefs of Uva, who assembled at Wellassa, under the pretence of a great deer hunt. Their leader, Gonigada Pandita Mudiyanse, Dissawa of Wellassa and Bintenna, who wasresponsible for the management of his Division to the Collector of Batticaloa, was dismissed from the service, and the Division was placed under the direct administration of the Collector.      In 1819 the practice of whipping was “restricted to ignominous offences, such as stealing and fraud” (October, 1819: from the secretary, Kandyan Provinces, to the several Agents of Government). 1845,-Government allowed reserves for the Veddas.1855 saw the opening of the Batticaloa Library. Until 1868 the public peace was preserved by one constable, at 12 per annum.

      In 1870 murrain of an unusually violent type broke out early in the year, and spread within a space of six months over a greater part of the Province, destroying no less than 8,579 head of cattle; a serious loss where the cultivation depends so much on the aid of buffaloes as here. In May, 1870, Batticaloa was made the headquarters of the Government Agent, and Trincomalee was made, in turn, the Assistant Agency.In 1876 the rest house at Tirukovil was built. In the same year mails were transmitted under contract, for the first time, between Batticaloa. and Badulla. The service is said to have been some what accelerated and regular. An appreciable change taken place after thirty-five years, by the establishment of the motor mail service in July 1913.  In 1878 there was a huge flood, such as had not been known for forty years; and the following year is remembered as one visited with distress beyond any thing that the oldest inhabitant can remember. In 1880 a cemetery  for the town for Batticaloa was completed, and office were acquired for the combined Postal and Telegraph Departments.

 In 1882 the government resumed possession of the lands irrigable from the Kanthalai tank leased to the Jaffna-Batticaloa Commercial and Agriculture Co.,Ltd., owing to the failure of the letter to fulfill  the stipulations of their contract with the Government. It is said that the failure was only what was to expected, in that the stipulation (to bring the lan dunder rice cultivation) were impossible of strict fulfillment, and that the company was doomed  to failure, when it originators held out the premise or expectation of profits such as any one familiar with agriculture operations in this country must have known could not possibly be realized.

 In 1883 a new rest house was provided at Kirankulam, on the south coast road, thus completing the chain of rest house from the town of Komari, a distance of fifty-eight miles. In 1888 the irrigation rules that, while the paddy field are under crop, the buffaloes are to be taken to place to be determined by the village council, came into operation. In 1891 one great improvement in the means of communications in the district was effected by the late  Mr. O.S de O' Grady, one of the largest landed proprietors of the district at the time. I refer to the small steamer “ Shamrock” which ran daily between Batticaloa and Kiddanki, two miles from Kalmunai. It’s speed was, on an average, seven or eight miles an hour, the whole journey being accomplished in three and a half an hours.

 The year 1900 saw the commencement, by Mr.Halliley, of the topographical survey, which resulted in the discovery of the existence of lead and plumbago in Bintenna pattu, and the ruins of Buddhist temples, palaces, and  towns. The highway mentioned in the Mahawansa as running from Tissamaharama to Anuradhapura was traced in several places, the broad line of rubble stones which indicated its position being covered with heavy forest. In the same year the Batticaloa Planters’ Association was established. In 1901 the motor boat “Alice” started running regularly between Batticaloa and Kiddanki, for Kalmunai.  In 1905 the local branch of the Ceylon Agricultural Society was formed. In 1907 the Batticaloa Association was started. In the same year the steamship “Trowbridge” went ashore off Komari Point during April, and the steamship “Lady Havelock” stranded off Kalkuda during the great cyclone. In December Dr.and Mrs.Seligmann visited several Vedda settlements in the Batticaloa District, on scientific research.


 In February, 1908, the steamship “ Amaryllis” of the stag Line, was wrecked at Vendeloos Point, near Kalkuda. In September the steamship “Sir John Jackson,” of the West minister Line, Stranded off Batticaloa, and became a total wreck. She had run short of coal off the Basses, owing to obtain to bad weather, and made for Batticaloa to obtain fresh supplies. The stranding was due to miscalculation of distance from the shore at night, and to consequent failure to seek an anchorage far enough out. Eleven lives were subsequently lost, owing to poisonous gases, in the course of salvage operations.