Misl refers to a fighting clan. The period from 1716 to 1799 in Punjab was a highly turbulent time politically and militarily. This was caused by the overall decline of the Mughal Empire, particularly in Punjab, caused by Sikh military action against it. This left a power vacuum that was eventually filled by the Sikh Confederacy. This Confederacy was made up of individual Sikh kingdoms that were ruled by Sikh barons. Each of these barons has his own army, which was commanded by and loyal to him. Each individual army had its own specific name, but the armies were referred to in general as misls.
General military structure
Each Misl was made up of members of soldiers, whose loyalty was given to the Misl's Baron (Misldar). A Misl could be comprised of a few hundred to tens of thousands soldiers. Every soldier was free to join any Misl he chose and free to cancel his membership of the Misl to whom he belonged. He could, if he wanted, cancel his membership of his old Misl and join another (provided certain procedures were followed). The Barons would allow their armies to combine or coordinate their defences together against a hostile force if ordered by the Misldar Supreme Commander. These orders were only issued in military matters affecting the whole Sikh community. These orders would normally be related to defence against external threats, such as Afghan military attacks (typically initiated by Afghan Kings).
The head Barons of each kingdom, in a council, democratically elected the Misldar Supreme Commander. Previous Supreme Commanders include Nawab Kapur Singh Virk and Sultan Ul Quam Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.
The Sikh Confederacy is a description of the political structure, of how all the Barons' Kingdoms interacted with each other, (politically), together in Punjab.
- Bhangi or Bhuma Army first led by Baron Hari Singh Dhillon -(Strength - 20,000 regular horsemen)
- Karorh Singhia Army (also known as Panjgarhia), first led by Baron Karora Singh Virk -(Strength - 10,000 regular horsemen)
- Nakai Army, first led by Baron Hira Singh Nakai Sandhu-(Strength - 7,000 regular horsemen)
- Ahluwalia Army, first led by Baron Sultan ul Quam Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia -(Strength - 6,000 regular horsemen)
- Ramgarhia Army, first led by Baron Nand Singh Sanghania and then by Jassa Singh Ramgarhia -(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Kanahiya Army, first led by Baron Jai Singh Kanhaiya Mann-(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Dallewalia Army, first led by Baron Gulab Singh Dallewalia Khatri -(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Shaheed Army, first led by Baron Baba Deep Singh -(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Faizalpuria or Singhpuria Army, first led by Baron Nawab Kapur Singh Virk -(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Shukarchakia Army, first led by Baron Naud Singh -(Strength - 5,000 regular horsemen)
- Nishanwalia Army, first led by Baron Dasaundha Singh Gill -(Strength - 2,000 regular horsemen)
- Phulkian Army, first led by Choudhary Phool Singh -(Strength - 4,000 regular horsemen). (Expelled in August 1765). However, it had attained exalted status when Guru Gobind Singh, tenth Sikh Guru asked Rama and Tiloka sons of Phool for help in fighting the Hill Rajas proclaiming "tera ghar mera asay" meaning Your House Is My Own in a self written Hukamnama (royal edict) in 1696 A.D. It is because of this blessing of Guru Sahib that the Phoolka States were never attacked by the other 11 Misls despite some provocations. The sons of Phool, Ram Singh and Tilok Singh were baptized with Khande da Pahul by Guru Gobind Singh himself at Damdama Sahib. The ruling families of Patiala , Nabha and Jind are descended from Phool, their eponym, from whom are also sprung the great feudal families of Bhadaur and Malaudh , and many others of lesser importance.
- Ian Heath, The Sikh Army, 1799-1849 (Men-at-arms), Osprey (2005) ISBN 1841767778
- Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs, second rev. ed., Manohar (1994) ISBN 8173040648
- Hari Ram Gupta, History of the Sikhs: Sikh Domination of the Mughal Empire, 1764-1803, second ed., Munshiram Manoharlal (2000) ISBN 8121502136
- Hari Ram Gupta, History of the Sikhs: The Sikh Commonwealth or Rise and Fall of the Misls, rev. ed., Munshiram Manoharlal (2001) ISBN 8121501652