The present kingdom of Maisur47 (Mysore) is bounded on the north-west by Darbar, in the Bombay Presidency, and by the Portuguese territory of Goa; on the north-east and east by the districts of Ballari, Kadapa, and Karnul; on the south-west by the province of Burg; on the south-east by Arkat; and on the south by the Nilgiris. At the time when the genius of its Muhammadan ruler made its name formidable to the English, Maisur comprehended an extent of territory far greater. Not only did it include southern India as far as Travankur, but its
- ruler held likewise a portion of south and north Arkat, and made his influence felt sometimes even to the very walls of Madras. For a moment it seemed even possible that Madras itself might be swallowed up. It is of the campaign which forced him to relax the firm grip he had taken of the Karnatak, and which so far as related to the danger of the predominance of Haidar Ali in southern India was decisive, that I propose now to write.
Very little is known of the early history of Maisur. According
to the preserved tradition two young men of the tribe of Yadava left the court of Vijayanagar in search of adventure, at a time when the influence of the Rajahs of Vijayanagar extended over nearly the whole of southern India; reached the little fort of Hadava, a few miles from the site of the present town of Maisur, and rescued from a marriage which would have disgraced her the only daughter and heiress of the petty lord of the Boil. The elder of the two then married her, and became the founder of the Hindu dynasty which still governs the province.
Such is the tradition. The little domain acquired by the marriage enjoyed for many years that followed the inestimable advantage of attracting no notice from its larger neighbours. It is known, however, that in 1524 a descendant of the Yadava intruder, Kam Raj by name, moved the capital from Hadava to Maisur, and that in 1571 another successor, Hira Kam Raj, not only refused to pay tribute to Vijayanagar, but took possession of Shrirangapatam, and greatly enlarged his borders. From the date of his rule the enlargement became progressive. In the course of a few years (1638), the hero of the race, Kanti Reva Narsi Raj, whose exploits are to this day, far more than those of the Muhammadan Haidar Ali, the favourite themes of the bards and storytellers of Maisur, and whose stone bed is still preserved in the royal palace, came to increase further the ancestral territories. In the reign of his successor, Dud Deo Raj, those dominions assumed the dimensions of a kingdom. It was this Rajah who set on the hill overlooking Maisur, popularly known as the hill of Chamundi, the colossal figure of Shiva’s bull, which, for the beauty of its design and the skill with which it has been executed, commands to this day admiration.
By this time the kingdom had become sufficiently large to attract the notice and the jealousy of the neighbouring potentates. We hear of one Rajah levying tribute from Trichinapalli; of another attacking Madura, of the son of another defeating
the Marathas in a pitched battle. It was on the strength of this victory that the descendant of the Yadava adventurer, Chik Deo Raj, felt emboldened to send an embassy to the great Aurangzib. The Mughul emperor rejoiced to welcome as a friend one who had been able to defeat his bitterest enemies, received the embassy with great cordiality (1700), conferred upon the Rajah many titles of honour, and conceded to him the right of sitting upon an ivory throne.
The descendants of Chik Deo failed, however, to maintain by force of arms the position which that sovereign prince had acquired. We find his grandson, Dud Kishen Raj, compelled, in 1724, to buy off, by the payment of a million sterling, the attack made upon him by the Nuwabs of Karnul, Kadapa, and Savanur, and the Maratha chief of Gutti. Two years later the Marathas extorted a similar price for their forbearance; and, although the money expenditure was to a large extent made good by the capture, in 1728, of Savendrug, the accumulated treasures of which fell into the hands of the Maisur Rajah, still the Hindi dynasty never recovered from the blow which the payment of the money for release from the demands of a conqueror always inflicts.
It was about this time that the power of the Rajahs of Maisur glided from their hands into the hands of their hereditary ministers, the Dalwais. It was a custom not unknown to Hindu races. It had prevailed in the great Maratha dynasty enthroned in western India. Whilst the descendant of Sivaji was a pageant sovereign, the Peshwas descending in a hereditary line exercised all the power. And now the principle took root in Maisur. The Dalwais were said by tradition to be descended from the younger of the two Yadava adventurers who had laid the foundation of the kingdom. The same tradition affirms that the
- right to hold in perpetuity the office of prime minister had been made, at that early period, hereditary in their family. It was only, however, when the royal dynasty began to show signs of
decrepitude and decay that the right was offensively asserted. In 1736 the representative of the Dalwai family, Deo Raj, was a man of remarkable ability. The reigning prince being distinguished for his vices, Deo Raj deposed him, placed on the throne a distant relative to exercise the ornamental functions of royalty, whilst he himself, as mayor of the palace, should really govern.
This Dalwai, Deo Raj, restored the fortunes of Maisur by defeating in a pitched battle the army of Dost Ali, Nuwab of the Karnatak. When he felt his strength begin to decay, he made over his power to his brother, Nanjiraj, a man whose abilities were but little inferior to his own. Under the command of Nanjiraj, the Maisurians stormed the stronghold of Deonhalli, and took a prominent part in the contest, nominally between Chanda Sahib and Muhammad Ali, really between the French and the English, for supremacy in the Karnatak. Alike in the storming of Deonhalli, and in the contests which followed, Nanjiraj was greatly assisted by the skill, the valour, and the enterprise displayed on every occasion by a Muhammadan soldier of fortune whom he had enlisted under his banners, and to whom, after a time, he entrusted very high commands.
The name of this soldier of fortune was Haidar Ali. Haidar Ali was the second son of Fateh Muhammad, a nail or commander of peons, or irregularly-armed infantry, in the service of the Nuwab of Sera. Fateh Muhammad, after a career which might be termed successful, for he had been able to attach to his name the coveted title of “Ebert,” and to receive the jaghir of Budikota, was slain in one of those sanguinary contests which followed the attempt of the Subahdar of the Dakhan to found an independent principality in southern India. At that time his elder son, Shabaz, was nine years old; the younger, Haidar, was seven. The death of the father obliterated the recollection of his services. Under the pretext that some moneys had not been accounted for by the deceased naik, the son of the man for whom that naik had given his blood demanded payment from the
widow and her children, and, when compliance with the demand was evaded, he did not hesitate to apply torture, in its most cruel and ignominious form, to the two boys, and probably, it is said, to their mother. Young as he was, Haidar neither forgot nor forgave the indignity; nor did he fail to avenge it.
The death of his father and the subsequent misfortunes of his family deprived Haidar Ali of the advantages of education. To the end of his life he had never mastered even the faculty to read and write. His character as a young man was peculiar. He was always in extremes. Impatient of restraint, he would absent himself for weeks from his family, and pass his time in voluptuous riot; then, suddenly awaking, would proceed to the opposite extreme of abstinence and excessive exertion. The political disorders of the age at length forced him to take a decided part. His brother, Shabaz Sahib, had, some time previously, through the kind offices of a Hindu officer of rank, obtained a position as a subordinate officer of peons in the service of the Dalwai. By good conduct he had gradually risen to the command of two hundred horse and a thousand peons, and at their head he formed part of the army which, in 1749, was besieging Deonhalli. Haidar, tired of an aimless life, joined that body of men as a volunteer.
His service at this siege settled his future career. Daring, cool, and resolute, Haidar distinguished himself as the first on the field of danger, the foremost in every fray. He did more than that. It was Haidar who suggested the plan by which the enemy was to be baffled, the manoeuvre which was to prelude success. He attracted the attention of the all-powerful Nanjiraj; and Nanjiraj, always eager to attach talent to himself, appointed him, on the fall of Deonhalli, to command a body then consisting of fifty horsemen and two hundred footmen, gave him orders to recruit and augment it, and placed him in charge of the principal gate of the conquered fortress.
From this time the rise of Haidar was assured. We find him
in the following year combating the Marathas, and, by a visit to Pondichery, laying the foundation of that regard for the French which lasted to the end of his days. In 1751–52 we hear of him, his corps augmented to a thousand, fighting before Trichinapalli, and distinguishing himself in every encounter. The following year he was appointed by Nanjiraj to take charge of the important fortress of Dindigal, ceded by Muhammad Ali. At this time his command was increased to fifteen hundred horsemen, three thousand regular infantry, and two thousand armed footmen, with four guns. It is generally believed that at this period of his life his mind first conceived those ambitious designs which he afterwards so effectually carried out.
It would take too long, and it would be foreign to the purpose of this work, to narrate the means by which Haidar Ali gradually built up for himself an enduring position in the Maisur State. It must suffice to state that his wonderful knowledge of men, and the address which was born of that knowledge, soon made him the most popular man in southern India; that, aided by a confederate, Kande Rao, whom he placed at Maisur to watch the proceedings of the court, to furnish him with information, and to support his demands, he made himself in a very short time necessary to the Dalwai; that when, in 1758, the Dalwai, Deo Raj, died, and the Maisur army mutinied to obtain its arrears of pay, Haidar Ali, by means peculiarly his own, settled their claims; that having thus assumed the character of a general benefactor of the State, he took care that his troops should take all the guards of the fortress of Shrirangapatam; that he then compelled the Marathas who had invaded Maisur to quit the country and to renounce their claims on the territories previously ceded to them in pledge; that, on his return, he was received by the pageant Rajah, and now, by his means, the almost pageant Dalwai, in full darbar, and greeted with the title of Bahadur, or hero, which was ever afterwards affixed to
his name; that, having felt his power, he then, acting under the shadow of the name of the Rajah, turned all his influence against his original benefactor, the Dalwai, Nanjiraj, forced him to relinquish all his appointments, to proceed in forced retirement to Kunnur, some twenty-five miles west from Maisur, and appointed his own adherent, Kande Rao, under the name of Diwan, to fill the vacated post; that Kande Rao having a little later, in collusion with the Rajah, turned against him, and even defeated him in the field, Haidar, by an artifice which did great credit to his imaginative powers, crushed his enemy and more than recovered his position; that, as a consequence, he assumed charge of the whole country, assigning three lakhs of rupees for the personal expenses of the Rajah, and one lakh for those of Nanjiraj; that he then increased the dominions of Maisur, by the defeat of Murari Rio, the conquest of Bednur, of Bellari, the submission of many independent chiefs, the extension of his territories to the Malabar coast; more than doubling the extent and more than quadrupling the resources of the kingdom, which was now virtually his own. In 1766, the pageant Rajah having died, Haidar, after a mock installation of his successor, resumed the grant of three lakhs, plundered the palace of its jewels, and confined the Rajah within its four walls. Thenceforth he was supreme.
In the course of these events, of which I have given the briefest possible summary, Haidar Ali had never come in contact as a principal with the English. He had met them in the field before Trichinapalli, and that was all. The time was now approaching when his experience of them was to be more varied. The English, after the position gained by their decisive victory over the French in southern India had been confirmed and established by the peace of Paris (10th February 1763), had proceeded on lines widely different from those on which they had travelled in Bengal. There they had effectually asserted themselves, had controlled the policy of the
puppet they had set up. But in southern India they had been content with playing “the secondary part in politics, the first in the field.” They allowed, in fact, the puppet whom they had placed on the semi-regal throne of the Karnatak to pursue his own foreign policy, and they were content blindly, and without inquiry, to fight for that policy. Now, Muhammad Ali, whom British efforts alone had placed in a position of power, had entertained a great jealousy of the rising power of Haidar, and he had formed an alliance to crush him with Nizam Ali, Subahdar of the Dakhan, and with the Marathas. In the campaign which they contemplated, both Muhammad Ali and the Subahdar designed to place the English in the front line of battle. The English, no longer under the direction of a guiding mind, were not unwilling. They were content – to use the words of the contemporary historian, Colonel Willis – “to engage in the contest in the exclusive character of dupes.”
Haidar Ali was equal to the occasion. He possessed one great advantage, that he fought for one hand, and that hand his own. His enemies were animated by four interests, all really opposed the one to the other. By the payment of thirty-five lakhs of rupees, and the cession – intended only to endure until he was able to re-occupy it – of some territory, he bought off the Marathas. He then cajoled the Subahdar, Nizam Ali, to renounce his alliance with Muhammad Ali, and, conjointly with himself, to invade the Karnatak. Entering that country, Haidar fought – 3rd September 1767 – with the English at Changamah a battle, which, whilst it was so far a victory for that people, inasmuch as they repulsed every attack, was followed, two hours later, by their retreat to Trinomalli from the position which they had victoriously maintained. To Trinomalli Haidar and his ally followed them. He might then have starved them into a surrender, for his own position before it was unassailable. Pressed by his ally, however, he again tried the fortune of war, and on the 26th September moved into the plain to attack his
enemy, led, as on previous occasions, by Colonel Joseph Smith; attacked him; and was defeated with great loss of men and of material. One result of this defeat was recrimination between the two allies, each casting the blame of the mishap on the other. The formidable character, up to this point, however, of the invasion may be realised from the consideration of the fact that, whilst the battle was being fought, Tipu (Tippoo), then a boy of seventeen, undergoing for the first time “the baptism of fire,” was engaged, under the guidance of an experienced officer, Ghazi Khan, in plundering the country houses of the Members of the Council of Madras.48
The defeat of Trinomalli was a blow, but it was not a decisive blow. It warded off for a time Haidar’s meditated attack upon Madras. For a month after its occurrence Haidar remained encamped at Kallimodu, in the district known as Baramahal, watching the movements of the English army. He soon ascertained that the English leader was adopting a system of which he would be able to take advantage, the system of can-toning his army in three places, each at a great distance from the other – Kanchipuram, Wandiwash, and Trichinapalli. The moment he ascertained that the distribution had been completed, Haidar broke up his camp, captured Tripatur and Vaniambadi, and laid siege to Amber (15th November).
Amber was a strong place, situated on the summit of a mountain of pure granite, accessible only on one face, terminating the valley of Baramahal, on the north, and overlooking the fertile valley which, forming a right angle with Baramahal, extends to the eastward down to Whir and Arkat. It is about a hundred and ten miles from Madras. When Haidar approached it, it was garrisoned partly by the troops of the native Kiladar, or commandant, partly by a small body of English troops under Captain Calvert.
Again did British skill and British valour baffle Haidar.
Calvert, despite of the discovered treachery of his native ally, the Kiladar, made an excellent defence, and kept Haidar before the place a time sufficiently long to enable Colonel Smith to re-collect his scattered forces and advance to his relief. Then came the turn of Haidar to fall back. He effected this operation with considerable skill; covered with his own army the retreat of the more disorganised forces of his ally, the Subahdar; risked a skirmish, to gain this object, with the English at Vaniambadi; then, abandoning that place and Tripatur, fell back on the previously prepared and strongly fortified position of Kaveripatam.
The fortifications of Kaveripatam were so formidable that Smith, who had closely followed up Haidar, would not, under the circumstances, have ventured to attempt them. But the discord, the divisions, the perplexities, which reigned in the camp of the allies, came soon to relieve him from all anxiety. Haidar maintained a bold front only until his own heavy guns and baggage, and the greater portion of the army of Nizam Ali, with Nizam Ali himself, had had time to re-ascend the ghats leading to the elevated plateau of Bangalor. As soon as he heard that this ascent had been safely accomplished, he followed himself, leaving behind him only a strong division, chiefly cavalry, to watch the English. Again, unwittingly, had he lost an opportunity. He had lost the chance which comes always to those who know how to wait. For the two days previous to his retirement the English army had been without food! His retreat alone enabled them to fall back, in security, to search for it
The campaign effectually detached Nizam Ali from Haidar. That potentate returned to his alliance with the English. It had further the result of giving birth to a hope of independence amongst the recently subdued chiefs on the Malabar coast. To crush this nascent feeling, Haidar, with great skill and promptitude, transported his army by forced marches before Mangalur
(May 1768); compelled the bulk of the English garrison49 who had been sent to feed the insurrection, to take refuge in their boats; the remainder, consisting of the sick and wounded, to surrender. Having, by this vigorous action, crushed every spark of rebellion on the coast, Haidar re-ascended the ghats, and prepared on the Maisur plateau for the campaign he intended to inaugurate on the cessation of the rainy season.
Meanwhile the English army, divided into two divisions, led respectively by Colonels Smith and Wood, had been engaged, preparatory to an ascent of the plateau, in driving the garrisons of Haidar from the strong places occupied below the passes, from Vaniambadi on the north to Dindigal and Palghat on the south-east and south-west. On the 8th June, an advanced division, commanded by Colonel Donald Campbell, ascended the pass to Budikota, reduced Venkatagadi, and thence opened out the pass leading to the vale of Velar. Campbell next bribed the Kiladar of the strong fort of Molwagal, one of the strongest in the country, and with the connivance of that traitor took possession of it. Colonel Smith’s main division then advanced, and, joined by Colonel Campbell, took Baghir on the 28th June, and Huss& (Ossoor) on the 11th July. At this place the army halted, waiting partly for the recovery from sickness of Muhammad Ali, Nuwab of the Karnatak, who was with it, partly for the appearance of Colonel Wood on the south-western surface of the plateau, and the junction of Murari Rao, from whom a promise of co-operation had been obtained. Murari Rao joined with three thousand horse and two thousand irregular footmen on the 4th August. The very same day saw Haidar Ali, returning from his victorious expedition to the western coast, march into Bangalor.
The two principals in the contest were now within striking
distance – for Hussur is but twenty-four miles from Bangalor – nor did any great length of time elapse before their troops came in contact. Having ascertained that Murari Rao was encamped about half a mile to the right of the English position, Haidar, on the night of the 22nd August, made an attempt to beat him up. The attack failed. Haidar then, having made sufficient provision for the safety of Bangalor, resolved, with the instincts of a great commander, to move with great rapidity to the eastward and overwhelm Wood before that officer could have notice of his approach.
Meanwhile Wood, having completed the conquest of the strong places to the south-west, had returned to Baramahal, and, unsuspicious of danger, was marching through a long defile to Budikota. Haidar, endeavouring to conceal his movements from Smith, and believing that that officer would be content to await Wood’s arrival at Malur, two marches short of Budikota, had taken up a position whence he could open an enfilading fire on Wood’s men as they should emerge from the defile. He had not calculated, however, on the energy of Colonel Smith. That officer, divining Haidar’s plans, far from halting at Malur, had marched not only to Budikota, but beyond it, and had taken up, unknown to his enemy, a position on the other side of the defile. Haidar, then, was effectually baffled. Indeed, but for the ill-advised action of Colonel Wood,50 which informed him of the vicinity of Smith, and enabled him to make a precipitate retreat, he could scarcely have escaped a great disaster.
The English, after the junction, marched to Kolar, whilst Haidar made a circuitous march at once to recruit his army, and to overawe the vassals whom his ill-success had incited to acts bordering on rebellion. At length he, too, considerably
reinforced, approached Kolar. He was not very eager for combat. In every encounter in the field with the English he had been worsted. But something he must attempt. One half of his territories and a large number of his strong places were in the possession of the enemy. Those territories and strong places he must recover. But how?
The answer was not very clear at the moment. Still in the prime of life, he never questioned the possibility of success. But many things made him anxious for a speedy settlement, and, influenced by the hope to obtain one, he made advances to the English. He proposed to pay ten lakhs for the expenses of the war, and to cede to them the country below the passes, known as Baramahal – the country intervening between the passes and the dominions of Muhammad Ali51 – between Vaniambadi and Palghat. The English, however, flushed with victory, and eager for money, pressed upon Haidar the necessity of his paying the entire expenses of the war, calculated at a very extravagant rate, of his yielding tribute to Muhammad Ali, of making concessions to Murari Rao, and of surrendering a territory very much larger than Baramahal. Haidar, indignant at these demands, broke off the negotiation, and appealed to the God of armies.
The appeal was not made in vain. Rarely have rapacity and extortion met with a prompter punishment. Driven to bay, the wild and untutored genius asserted itself. I have already told how, corrupting the Kiladar, Colonel Campbell had by a stratagem mastered the strong mountain fortress of Malwagal. Adopting the same process of corruption, Haidar now recovered it. Knowing that the English would not permit such an important place to remain in his hands, Haidar then, selecting his choicest troops, moved at their head, unperceived, into a position from which he could operate on an advancing enemy in such a manner as, humanly speaking, to ensure their destruction. His first
anticipations were realised. The English, eager to recover Malwagal, detached a force under Colonel Wood, now restored to command, to retake it. From his lair Haidar watched his enemy engage himself in the difficult ascent, capture the lower fort, and attempt in vain the stronghold on the summit. The next morning he sent a small and apparently isolated party to skirmish near the English position, with orders to fall back if they should be pursued. Wood fell into the snare, followed the light horsemen who challenged him, until suddenly Haidar was upon him. Never did the soldiers of Maisur behave better. Emboldened by a confidence which their numbers, their splendid position, the isolation of their enemy, gave them, their infantry charged home with the bayonet – and with effect. They carried point after point, drove the English from one position to another, and were on the very verge of consummating their triumph, when, suddenly, an act of heroism – a stratagem inspired by genius – baffled them. On the English side all was lost, when Captain Brooke, who had been left, wounded, to guard with four weak companies the baggage, the sick, wounded, and followers, in the lower fort, noticing the impending disaster, conceived a plan which, carried out with spirit and vigour, might avert it. He had observed a flat-surfaced rock, rising at the edge of the jungle on the left flank of the enemy. To this rock he moved silently through the jungle with every man who could crawl, and two guns. Unperceived, he mounted the two guns, loaded with grape, on its summit. Then, suddenly, discharging them on the dense masses of the enemy, he showed his detachment, the men waving their caps with joy, and shouting “Smith! Smith!” each shout followed by a hurrah. Haidar’s troops, to whom the name of the commander-in-chief of the English army was familiar, seeing the shouting soldiers, rushed to the conclusion that the main army had come up to relieve their comrades. Wood’s men drew the same conclusion. The result was a sudden pause in the till then victorious attack
on the one side, a return of confidence on the other. Wood drew his men together, took up a stronger position, and opposed a new front to the enemy. Haidar, who had soon discovered the stratagem, was unable to recover the advantages of which its exercise had deprived him. The moral superiority which surprise had given him had vanished. After some more desperate efforts to break the English, he gave up the attack. He had lost, it was surmised, about a thousand men; but he had killed eight officers and two hundred and twenty-nine of his enemy, and had captured two guns. Both sides had expended nearly the whole of their ammunition.
Though he had not succeeded in destroying Wood, Haidar drew good augury from the events of the day. He had numbers on his side, numbers which the resources of the country enabled him to maintain, and he felt that a few more such battles as that of Malwagal would place him in a position to dictate rather than to ask for terms. He maintained his position, then, until fresh supplies of ammunition should reach him.
Meanwhile the conduct of the English was marked by the vacillation which accompanies a divided command. The presence with the army of the Nuwab of the Karnatak, and the position which he assumed as supreme director of the operations, in which the English were to play the part of allies subordinate to himself, had greatly embarrassed Colonel Smith. The embarrassment now reached so great a height that that officer wrote to represent to the Council at Madras the impossibility of carrying on successful operations on such a system. The result was that Muhammad Ali was invited to Madras, avowedly to consult with the Council regarding the plan of the campaign. To deprive the invitation of its real significance, Colonel Smith was asked to accompany him. The command of the army was thus left (14th November) with Colonel Wood, who, being a fair specimen of the class which succeeds, on the strength of vigorous self-assertion and small successes, in establishing a
great reputation, was believed by the Council to be their only general.
Meanwhile Haidar, taking advantage of the inactivity which these changes had caused in the English camp, had, after one or two demonstrations, marched rapidly on Hossur and besieged it. Wood, now commander-in-chief, proceeded at the head of about four thousand men, of whom seven hundred were Europeans, with the usual proportion of artillery and two brass 18-pounders, to relieve the place. He reached Baglur, about four miles short of it, on the 17th. Leaving in this walled town all his baggage, his stores, his camp-equipage, and the two brass 18-pounders, he set out the same night with the intention of surprising the enemy’s camp. But Haidar had been a close observer of his movements. Learning or divining his adversary’s expectations, he had withdrawn his troops from the siege, and taken up a position to the north-west of Hossur. No sooner did he notice that Wood’s advanced guard was entering that place, than, masking his operations by a cloud of cavalry, he interposed his whole army between the main body of the English and Baglur, and, still covered by his cavalry, dashed against that place.
Baglur was styled a walled town. But its walls, made of mud, were from fifteen to twenty feet high, and but eighteen inches thick at the summit. It was garrisoned by one of Muhammad Ali’s best native regiments, commanded by Captain Alexander, and encumbered with the baggage, not yet arranged, which had been left behind by Colonel Wood. Against it, thus in a state of disorder, Haidar dashed with the full strength of his artillery and infantry. He did not dash in vain. The two brass 18-pounders, left outside because the gate was too narrow to admit them, fell first into his hands; the town and the greater part of the baggage followed. Alexander and his regiment had but just time to make their way into the fort. Haidar made no attempt upon that. All his care was directed
to see that the captured guns and the spoils were promptly despatched on the road to Bangalor. This done, he followed, knowing well that Colonel Wood, on discovering the ruse to which he had been a victim, would promptly retrace his steps.
It was so, indeed. Some hours elapsed before Wood had ascertained the direction taken by Haidar’s infantry and artillery, but the moment the conviction flashed upon him he returned to Baghir. He arrived there to see in the extreme distance Haidar’s army en route to Bangalor, driving before it his two heavy guns, some two thousand of his draught bullocks, and nearly the whole of his stores, baggage, and camp equipage. He could not follow him. Uncertain how to act, he threw the stores and ammunition that remained to him into Hossur and then marched – the evening of the 21st – to Alya, on the road to Kolar, where there was a small further supply. On his march thither, Haidar, who had safely disposed of his trophies, suddenly attacked him. Wood, whose dash and energy up to this point had led him into misfortune, now tried opposite tactics, and, when a vigorous charge might have forced a passage for himself and his men, contended himself with a defensive attitude – an attitude which, without bettering his position, cost him before nightfall seven officers, twenty Europeans, and two hundred sipahis. But Haidar had not finished with him. Knowing the real character of the man, he, as soon as the shades of evening fell, made a show of retreating to a distant position. Wood, deceived as to his real intentions, thought the moment opportune to complete the movement he had begun in the afternoon. Accordingly, about 10 o’clock at night, he gave the order to advance. Scarcely, however, had he cleared the ground on which he had fought, than Haidar was upon him. All night long was he engaged in repulsing attacks on his rear and on his flank. When day broke a fresh column of the enemy appeared in his front. Wood was now compelled to halt and place his men amongst the rocks, with which the country abounded, their
faces to the enemy. Here for several hours they offered a gallant and successful resistance. About noon, however, their ammunition all but exhausted, utterly worn out, they were on the point of succumbing, when Haidar, apparently to them without cause, drew off his troops. Good cause, however, had Haidar. A relieving force, gallantly led by Major Fitzgerald, appeared on his flank. Leaving his work unfinished, he drew off his troops, and returned towards Baglur.
Fitzgerald’s movement was one of those brilliant deeds which stamp an officer. It was entirely spontaneous. Rumour had brought to him, at Venkatagadi, where he was posted with a small force, intelligence of the surprise at Baglur. Deeming that Wood’s position might be critical, he called in all his detachments and marched in the direction he thought it likely he would take. The firing on the morning of the 22nd fixed that direction beyond a doubt. He pushed on, and arrived just in time to save the British force from destruction.
The events of those four days had completely shattered the only general of the Madras Council. On the representation by Fitzgerald of the state of the army, Wood was removed from command, and was replaced by Colonel Lang. Haidar, who was kept well informed of all the movements in the British camp, no sooner learned that an officer other than Smith52 had succeeded Wood, than he prepared to execute the plan he had long meditated, the plan which of all others commended itself to his natural genius, that of carrying the war into the enemy’s country.
Most effectually did he pursue that plan. Remaining for the moment himself on the plateau of Maisur, he despatched his best general, Fazal ullah Khan, with instructions to burst upon the lowland country by the gateway of Koimbatur (Coimbatore).
That officer, feeling his way, set out in November at the head of a well-organised party of seven thousand infantry and cavalry, well provided with guns, forced the passes of Kaveripuram and Gujalhati, occupied Koimbatur on the 4th December, and, pushing on south-eastwards to Durapuram, drove the sipahi garrison, commanded by Captain Johnson, from that place to the very gates of Trichinapalli. Haidar himself, on learning from his lieutenant that Koimbatur had been secured, descended eastward by the passes of Pallikod and Tapia into Baramahal. He was preceded by crowds of emissaries, who spread the information far and wide that he had destroyed the British army, and was now marching to the conquest of Madras. The ruse completely discouraged the garrisons, consisting mostly of the Nuwab’s sipahis, of the strong places, and these fell before him with a rapidity scarcely surpassed by that which characterised the yielding of the garrisons of the strong places of Prussia after the defeats of Jena and Auerstadt. Lang, as soon as he had received information of the movement, had despatched Fitzgerald with a well-equipped corps of five thousand men, of whom one-fifth were Europeans, to follow the daring ruler of Maisur. Fitzgerald, notwithstanding his rapid marches, could for a long time only trace the course of Haidar by the places which had surrendered to him. At one time he arrived almost within striking distance of him; but Haidar, by a skilful movement, induced his adversary to march to Trichinapalli, in the belief that he himself was about to attack that stronghold; then, profiting by his adversary’s error, he took possession of the considerable town of Karur, and pressed forward thence to invest the more strongly garrisoned Yirod (Erode).
Then occurred an event previously unparalleled in the history of English wars in India. On his march to Yirod, Haidar intercepted, attacked, and completely destroyed a detachment of fifty Europeans and two hundred sipahis, sent from
that place to procure supplies from Karur. Flushed with his victory, he pressed on to Yirod, and, displaying a flag of truce, demanded the services of an English surgeon. The surgeon came, dressed the wounded, and returned. Haidar then, again under a flag of truce, requested that Captain Orton, the commandant, would come out to confer with him regarding the capitulation of the place, promising him that he might return if terms were not agreed to. Orton, who, it is said, had dined, complied. At the interview which followed, Haidar pointed out to Orton that the officer second to him in command, Captain Robinson, had violated his parole, by carrying arms against him after having given his word not to serve during the remainder of the war; and added that the dereliction in this respect of Robinson absolved him from the maintenance of his own promise. He therefore required Orton to write an order to Robinson for the surrender of the place, engaging in that case for the safe conduct of the whole garrison to Trichinapalli: Orton resisted for twenty-four hours, but in the end he yielded to pressure, and Yirod surrendered.
Having thus, by his daring march, recovered, in the space of six weeks, the whole of the country which it had taken the English two campaigns to wrest from him, two untenable places excepted, Haidar despatched the corps of Fazal Ullah to operate from Dindigal upon the provinces of Madura and Tinneveli, whilst, crossing the Kaveri, he directed his own march to the eastward, along the northern bank of that river. It was whilst he was engaged in this march (January 1769) that the Madras Government, bitterly regretting the insanity which had prompted them to refuse the fair terms pressed upon them by Haidar in the month of August preceding, made advances for an accommodation.
Negotiations followed. Captain Brooke, an officer of high character and ability, was deputed to the camp of the great warrior, and was at once accorded an interview. The conversation
which followed was of a most interesting character. Haidar, who could be frank and straightforward when it suited his purpose, opened his whole soul to his visitor. He told him plainly that their ally, the Nuwab of the Karnatak, had been alike the cause of the war, the cause of the rejection of his offers in August, and that he would be the cause of its continuance; that he had ever wished and tried to be on terms of solid friendship with the English, but that Muhammad Ali had always baffled his efforts. Proving his case by references to facts which could not be denied, he expressed his willingness still to make peace with the English, if they would exclude Muhammad Ali from their councils, negotiate for their own interests only, and send Colonel Smith, or a Member of Council, with full powers to treat. He added that the moment was especially critical; that the Marathas were at the very moment contemplating an invasion of southern India; that he would much prefer to ally himself with the English against that marauding people; but that he could not consent to be the victim of both; if the English refused his alliance, he was bound to accept that of the Marathas. Captain Brooke found it difficult to gainsay any of these assertions; but he had no power to treat on so broad a basis. He could only forward to Madras a detailed account of the conversation, and await instructions. The result, after a vain attempt to induce Haidar to accept terms falling far short of his own proposals, was the despatch to the British camp of Colonel Smith and Mr. Andrews, the former to assume command of the army, the latter to proceed to Haidar’s camp to negotiate. After some tedious delays, Mr. Andrews agreed to convey personally to Madras the terms beyond which Haidar would not give way, and a truce of twelve days was agreed upon to await the reply of the Council. That reply proved unfavourable, and hostilities were resumed on the 6th March.
Haidar was equal to the occasion. Knowing that the Madras Council, alarmed for the safety of Madras, had, in the manner of
the Aulic Council, invested Colonel Smith with very restricted powers, he resolved to strike a blow which they should feel. After some manoeuvres designed to puzzle the enemy, he marched with his whole army southward, to draw away the English. Smith, believing it to be Haidar’s intention to march southward, then to turn suddenly and pounce upon Madras by the route followed by Paradis in 1746, felt bound to follow his army. No sooner had the rival forces reached a point nearly a hundred and forty miles south of Madras, than Haidar struck his blow. Directing his main body to retire through the pass of Ahtur, as if marching westward, he, with a select body of six thousand horsemen and two hundred of his choicest infantry,53 dashed suddenly at the Presidency town. Marching a hundred and thirty miles in three days and a half, he found himself with his cavalry, on the 29th March, within five miles of Madras.54 He at once despatched a letter to the Governor, stating that he had come for peace, and requesting that Mr. Dupré, whose character he esteemed, might be sent to him to negotiate. The Governor complied, and Mr. Dupré was sent to St. Thomas’s Mount, where Haidar had his quarters. Orders were at the same time transmitted to Colonel Smith to abstain from hostilities, and to halt at a fixed distance – in excess of thirty miles – from Haidar’s main army.
Haidar, in fact, was master of the situation. The native town and the private houses of Madras were at his mercy. In the panic which his arrival had caused, the fort itself might have fallen. He was in a position to dictate his own terms, and, virtually, he did dictate them.
The main provisions of this treaty were as follow:– 1st, That all hostilities should cease between the contracting parties and their allies; 2nd, That in case of either of the contracting
parties being attacked, they should, from their respective countries, mutually assist each other to drive the enemy out; 3rd, That the treaty should include the Presidency of Bombay; 4th, That all prisoners taken on both sides should be promptly released; 5th, That all conquests made on both sides should be restored, except the fort of Karur and its districts, which would be held by Haidar. With the Nuwab of the Karnatak, Muhammad Ali, Haidar persistently refused to negotiate. The difficulty was solved by the English negotiating in their own name, for their own possessions and the Karnatak – Muhammad Ali agreeing officially to signify his consent to the procedure – a promise which, by the way, he did not keep.
I must pass lightly over the next eleven years. In their course, Haidar was invaded by the Marathas; invoked, and was refused, the assistance of the English; made, after a bad defeat, a disadvantageous peace with the invaders; then conquered and annexed Kurg (Coorg); then avenged himself on the Marathas, and recovered more than he had lost; seized the Ballari districts and Gutti; extended his dominions southwards; discussed with the Marathas a scheme for a general alliance against the English, but, his clear vision recognising the certain ascendancy of that people, offered to them an alliance whereby, yielding to them on the east, for a sum of twenty lakhs of rupees, the lowland districts of Baramahal, of Shelam (Salem), and of Ahtur, he should keep for ever the Maisur plateau, and the country to the coast on the west. The rejection of these terms made him resolve to drive the British from southern India. With this view he turned his earnest attention to the French – now recovering their influence – and between whom and the English hostilities were now impending.
In 1778 the expected war between the rival European nations broke out in India. Before Haidar was ready to intervene, Pondichery, beleaguered on the 8th August, had fallen (18th
October). Flushed with their victory, the English sent their fleet to attack Mahé.
The conquest by the English of a town such as Pondichery, on the eastern coast, separated by large tracts of territory from his own possessions, had only caused to Haidar the regret which is naturally produced in the mind of a man by the strengthening of his enemies and the weakening of his friends. But the case of Mahé was far different. On the western coast, contiguous to his own dominions, the possession of Mahé by the English would be a standing threat to himself. It would give them an eye to see, a base whence to strike at his very heart. When, therefore, the Governor of Madras intimated to Haidar his intention of sending an expedition to reduce Mahé, the ruler of Maisur replied explicitly that he should regard such an attack as a breach of the understanding which had placed the possessions of the European powers on the western coast virtually under his protection, and that in the event of the Governor carrying out his intention he should retaliate by detaching a body of troops to lay waste the province of Arkat. Undeterred by this declaration the Governor of Madras persisted in his determination. The English fleet sailed, and, in spite of the fact that Haidar displayed the Maisur standard on the walls of Mahé, took possession of the place (March 1779). As soon as Mahé had fallen, the Governor, to still the resentment of Haidar, despatched an envoy to offer explanations and excuses. The envoy selected was Mr. Gray, formerly of the Bengal Civil Service. Whilst in his selection of that gentleman no fault can be found with the Governor and Council of Madras, it must be admitted that the offerings with which he was charged were of a nature to convey at once insult and contempt. To the powerful prince, accustomed to receive handsome presents, the Madras Government sent only a saddle and a gun; the former not only made of pigskin, and therefore totally unsuited as a present to a Muhammadan, but of such a
shape that to ride upon it would have been a trial. Nor was the gun much better. It was made to load at the breech; but the ammunition sent with it could only be used, and used ineffectually, in the ordinary manner. Haidar, who, in his reception of Mr. Gray, had displayed considerable temper, returned these valuable presents. In the interview which followed,55 he plainly told the British envoy that he had satisfied himself that the English were a people whom no treaties could bind; that in 1769 he had come to terms with them, and that they had promised to aid him in case he should be attacked; but that when, the following year, he was attacked by the Marathas and demanded the promised aid, it was refused him; that, since then, the English had conquered Tanjur, though that place had been guaranteed by treaty; on various occasions had afforded aid to his rebellious subjects; and, with respect to Mahé, had deliberately chosen a course which they knew must lead to war. Haidar concluded with these significant words: “Formerly I was of opinion that the English excelled all other nations in sincerity and good faith; but, from late experience, I am convinced that they have no longer any pretensions to those virtues.” Mr. Gray was dismissed without further audience.
Once resolved on war, Haidar determined it should be war with a vengeance – a war which should exterminate his enemies. He assembled at Bangalor an army, eighty-three thousand strong, extremely efficient in all its departments, attached to it a corps of four hundred Frenchmen, and in June set forth on his expedition. Of all the wars undertaken against the foreigner in southern India, this was the most popular. For its success, fervent prayers were offered alike in the mosques of the Muhammadans and the temples of the Hindus. The inhabitants
of the villages through which his army passed turned out to help the national leader, to invoke for him the protection of heaven. In the person of Haidar were concentrated the hopes of the populations of southern India.
Descending the passes, and marching through the territories below them, Haidar maintained the most perfect order and discipline. It was only when he entered the country which formed the semicircle of which Madras was the centre – the country peculiarly British – that he marked his advance by merciless desolation, by the burning of towns and villages, and the deportation of the population. The English, so bold in their action regarding Mahé, had made no preparations to meet the war, of the breaking out of which – if they should persist in that action – Haidar had fairly warned them. Almost before they had made a single movement in their defence, Haidar had established his head-quarters at Kanchipuram (Conjeveram), forty-two miles from Madras.
Information that Haidar, with his centre and part of his right wing, was at Kanchipuram; that his left wing, commanded by his son, Tipu Sahib, was proceeding by forced marches towards Guntur; that a portion of his right wing, under his second son, Karim Sahib, had penetrated to Porto Novo, some twenty-five miles from Fort St. David, reached Madras on the 24th July. At that date the forces at the disposal of the Government at Madras and in its immediate vicinity, consisted of the 73rd Highlanders, the Madras European Regiment, four regiments of sipahis, and some artillerymen, in all five thousand two hundred and nine men. But at Guntur, two hundred and twenty-five miles from Madras, Colonel Baillie was stationed with a corps amounting, of all arms, to two thousand eight hundred and thirteen men, and, on the first news of the outbreak of hostilities, orders had been transmitted to him to march with all haste to Kanchipuram, at which place he would be joined by the whole available English force from Madras. Yet, so
dilatory had been the proceedings of the English, and so rapidly had Haidar moved, that the latter had occupied the place appointed for the junction, Kanchipuram, before Baillie had set out from Guntur, whilst Tipu Sahib was on his way to that place, and before an English soldier had moved from St. Thomas’s Mount!
Here was a dilemma! Who were the men at Madras capable of meeting it?
The Commander-in-Chief of the Madras army was the Hector Munro whom we have seen so daring, so eager to court danger, so ready in resources, so calm and cool under fire, when combating the Nuwab-Vazir of Awadh at Baksar. When I introduced him on that occasion to the reader, I stated that the daring tactics which were admirably adapted to the occasion then under record, might be turned against himself by a resolute and watchful enemy. The occasion had now arrived for Munro to show whether to the brilliant qualities of the dashing leader he added the cautious skill of the tactician, whether acting with vigour he could act also without passion.
It so happened that the then existing law required that the Commander-in-Chief should remain at Madras itself, to complete the complement of the Members of Council. Were that law to be enforced, the command of the troops in the field would devolve upon Lord McLeod, an officer who had just arrived from England in command of the 73rd; and, in fact, this officer did receive the order to proceed to Kanchipuram, to effect there the designed junction with Baillie. But Lord McLeod was far too clear-headed a man to carry out, without remonstrance, a military movement which, in his opinion, would involve the English force in a destruction extending possibly to Madras itself. In a remarkably able and judicious letter he pointed out the inevitable consequences to Baillie of still insisting upon the junction at Kanchipuram, and urged that that officer should be at once directed to change his course to Madras. This opinion
so nettled the Commander-in-Chief that he resolved to assume the command himself, and to prove practically that his own opinion was correct. An illegal arrangement was made to complete the quorum in Council, and Sir Hector Munro assumed the command of the army in the field. Before setting out, he directed Colonel Braithwaite, who commanded at Pondichery, to move with his force of fifteen hundred men of all arms to Chengalpatt, and thence to Madras; and Colonel Cosby, who was at Trichinapalli, to march with his force of two thousand sipahis, two regiments of the Nuwab’s native infantry, and two guns, from the north bank of the Kolrun, to act on the enemy’s communications. We shall see that the dispositions of Haidar rendered it impossible for either of these officers to carry out their orders. Having issued them, and equipped his force, Munro set out, on 25th August, for Kanchipuram.
Meanwhile, Haidar had not been idle. Leaving Kanchipuram he had, on the 12th August, invested Wandiwash, a town to the south-west of Madras and Chengalpatt, distant from the former seventy-two miles, and from Arkat thirty-eight. Its central position thus invested it with a vast importance, and Haidar was so sensible of its value that he had purchased its native commandant, who had agreed to deliver it up on the appearance of Haidar’s army before it.
But, this time, the presence of mind and daring of a single Englishman baffled Haidar. The record is remarkable, though happily not unique, in the history of our country. Colonel Braithwaite, who, we have seen, had received orders to march from Pondichery to Chengalpatt, was well aware that the occupation of Wandiwash by the enemy would checkmate him, and that the only chance he had – a slender chance at the best – of preventing that occupation was to detach an officer, upon whom he could depend, to replace the Kiladar in the command. He selected for this purpose Lieutenant Flint, an officer whose name betokened his resolute and daring character. Flint, accompanied
by a hundred sipahis, made a rapid and fatiguing march across unfrequented paths, successfully avoided the enemy’s army, then hovering round the place, and reached the vicinity of Wandiwash the forenoon of the 11th August. He at once sent a message to the Kiladar announcing his approach, and demanding admission. The Kiladar, already bought by Haidar, returned for reply that he would be fired upon if he should attempt to come within range of the fort’s guns, and sent a party to stop him at the verge of the esplanade. Flint, however, advanced, and meeting the party, used the influence which prestige had already secured for the European in India to persuade the officer in command of it that he had mistaken his orders. He continued to advance pending a reply to the reference made to the Kiladar; again, when that reply was unsatisfactory, pending an answer to a second, until he had arrived within musket-shot of the ramparts, which were lined with troops; the gates, also, were shut. Flint then halted, and sent a message to the Kiladar to the effect that he had a letter from the Nuwab, his master, which he was authorised to deliver into his hands only. The Kiladar, after some hesitation, agreed to receive the letter in the space between the gate and the barrier of the sortie. To this space Flint was admitted with four attendants; men whom he had fully instructed as to his intentions. He found the Kiladar seated on a carpet, attended by his officers, thirty swordsmen, and a guard of a hundred men. After the usual compliments, Flint admitted that he had no letter from the Nuwab, but merely the order of his own Government written in communication with Muhammad Ali, which was fully equivalent to a letter; and that the order directed him to assume command of the place. The Kiladar treated the pretension with derision, and, angry at having been, as he perceived, duped into a conference, ordered Flint to return whence he came.
But Flint was equal to the occasion. As the Kiladar, his
wrath rapidly increasing, was in the act of rising to his feet, Flint suddenly seized him, and declared that he would kill anyone who dared to wag a finger on his behalf. The four sipahis backed the movement by bringing their bayonets to the charge. The suddenness of the action, its daring, the surprise it caused, and, above all, the prestige of the European, paralysed the followers of the Kiladar. Before they could recover from that paralysis, the English sipahis admitted their comrades, and the fort was won!
No single act in the war contributed so much to save southern India as this act of Lieutenant Flint. Had Wandiwash then fallen, it had gone hard, after the events I am about to describe, with Madras. For Flint, on the eve of the investment of the place, not only seized it; he, the only Englishman behind its walls, held it for seventy-eight days – from the 12th August 1780 to the 12th February 1781 – against the flower of Haidar Ali’s army. He found it in a ruinous state, with many guns, indeed, but with no carriages and little gunpowder, and without one artilleryman. His energy supplied every want; he repaired the works, constructed carriages, manufactured gunpowder, trained gunners, raised a corps of cavalry for exterior enterprise, and not only fed his own garrison, but procured supplies and intelligence for the main British army. Flint effected for Wandiwash what Eldred Pottinger effected for Herat in 1839. His work was, practically, even more beneficial to the interests of England, inasmuch as Wandiwash was nearer the heart of her possessions. It was the shield which protected Madras.56
Haidar, baffled by this gallant Englishman, left the flower of
his troops to prosecute the siege of Wandiwash, and proceeded with the remainder to Arkat. This place he invested on the. 21st August. He was still engaged before it when he received intelligence which determined him to strike a blow such as would make the English reel.
Somewhat uncertain as to the route which Baillie would take from Guntur, and never anticipating that so experienced a commander as Sir Hector Munro would leave him without support, Haidar had recalled to the main body the corps under Tipu Sahib, and that corps, composed mainly of the elite of his cavalry, was with him before Arkat. On the 29th, however, information reached him that whilst Munro was marching on Kanchipuram, and would probably reach that place that very day, he had held out no hand to Baillie, but had directed him, when he had arrived six miles south of Gumadipundi, almost under cover of Madras – within twenty-seven miles of it in fact, and two easy marches from his own camping ground – to proceed by a circuitous route, a route covering upwards of fifty miles, and which would sever him entirely from the main army, to Kanchipuram. There were no advantages, speculative or other, to be gained by this deviation. The only explanation that has ever been offered for it is that Sir Hector Munro had declared that a junction at Kanchipuram was feasible; that to demonstrate that proposition he had placed himself, ultra vires, at the head of the army; and that he was resolved that the junction should take place at Kanchipuram, and nowhere else. In the presence of a skilful tactician like Haidar, it was playing with edged tools, and Haidar soon made him feel it.
The very instant he heard it, Haidar, exclaiming, “At last I have them!” broke up his camp, and detaching his son Tipu, at the head of five thousand regular infantry, six thousand horse, twelve light and six heavy guns, to intercept Baillie, moved with his main body to Kanchipuram, and on the 3rd September encamped within six miles of Munro’s army, which he
thus held in check. Munro, in fact, had exhausted his supplies, and the Nuwab’s agent having refused to procure any for him, he was in a manner chained to the vicinity of Kanchipuram.
Haidar maintained his position before the English army for nearly two days. On the afternoon of the second day a despatch from Tipu reached him, to the effect that on the following morning, the 6th, he should attack Baillie. Haidar then broke up his camp, and, with the view of interposing his main army between Munro and the combatants, made as though he intended to turn the English right. Munro, completely deceived, refused his right wing, and thus allowed Haidar, without striking a blow, to interpose his whole army between himself and his lieutenant.
Meanwhile Baillie, obeying the orders he had received from Munro, had quitted his encampment near Gumadipundi on the 25th, and marched nearly eleven miles to the river Kortelaur. The bed of this river being nearly dry and little more than three hundred yards wide, Baillie might easily have crossed it. But deeming that to be always feasible which at the moment was easy, he carelessly pitched his camp on the left or northern bank. Rightly was he punished. During the night a storm arose, the rains of the north-eastern monsoon fell with more than their wonted force, and, when the day broke, the bed which had been nearly dry the previous evening was covered by a roaring torrent. For ten days Baillie was chained by this torrent to the northern bank. On the 4th September he crossed, and on the morning of the 6th reached Parmbakam, fourteen miles from Munro’s position at Kanchipuram.
The reader will understand the position. The left of the English force at Kanchipuram; its right at Parmbakam, with Haidar between the two, ready to fall upon the left the moment it should show the smallest indication to assist the right, round which Tipu Sahib was hovering. Haidar had, in fact, executed one of those manoeuvres which twenty-four years later were to
characterise the first campaign of the greatest general the world has ever seen!
Meanwhile Tipu, covered by a cloud of cavalry, had followed the movements of Baillie from the banks of the Kortelaur, waiting only for a favourable moment to attack him. On the 5th he wrote to his father that the English would encamp the day following at Parmbakam, and that as the ground there offered peculiar facilities for the movements of cavalry he would attack him. At 11 o’clock that day he kept his word.
Had Tipu attacked with the vigour and energy displayed invariably by his father, there had been an end, then and there, of Baillie’s detachment. But, it is strange, just as the bigoted Aurangzib has left a far deeper and more lasting recollection in the minds of the Muhammadans of northern India than his infinitely greater ancestor – the wise and liberal Akbar – so in southern India the memory of the cruel, narrow-minded, and bigoted Tipu Sahib is revered much more than the memory of his able and liberal-minded father. The reason is not far to seek. Akbar and Haidar were very lax in their religious exercises. The descendant of the one and the son of the other were narrow-minded bigots. Bigotry rules the Muhammadan world. And though the bigots lost the empires which their farsighted and liberal ancestors had won, the Muhammadan world has pardoned the temporal loss, and, whilst it pays no heed to the qualities of the founders, still venerates the piety of those who undid the founders’ work!
cruel and vulgarly ambitious, possessed none of the great qualities of his father. He was a poor soldier; never, as had been the wont of Haidar, inspiring his soldiers by personal leading. He did not lead, he sent his soldiers to the attack.
On this occasion, at Parmabakam, he fought as though he dreaded a hand-to-hand encounter. His cavalry charged and charged, but did not charge home. They charged, expecting that the English would give way. But when, after three hours’
fighting, they did not give way; when to every charge they replied with a volley; Tipu renounced the attack, and sent to his father to say he could do nothing without reinforcements, that he had lost from two to three hundred men and had made no impression. The position of Baillie was scarcely improved. He had, it is true, repulsed the attack; but he had lost about a hundred men; he could not move in the face of the overwhelming cavalry force of Tipu. He wrote at once to this effect to Munro, and begged him to march to his assistance.
Now, this was just the one thing which Munro conceived he could not do. Haidar barred the way with an army enormously superior. That army he could not attack with any chance of success. Besides, he could not move without sacrificing his heavy guns and the supplies he had stored in the pagoda of Kanchipuram, and for which he had not sufficient carriage. But he could not leave Baillie to his fate. Whilst, therefore, he opposed a bold front to Haidar, he detached – on the evening of the day on which the letter was received, the 8th September – four companies of Europeans and eleven of sipahis, in all a thousand and seven men, under the command of Colonel Fletcher, to effect a junction with Baillie. He hoped that this movement would escape the vigilance of Haidar.
Haidar, well served by his spies, knew that Fletcher’s detachment was about to set out long before it had left the camp; he knew to a man its strength and its composition; and he had taken care to provide for it guides upon whom he could depend. He allowed it, then, to march, without making any corresponding movement, feeling sure that his own guides would lead it into a position in which he could overwhelm and destroy it. He had calculated every eventuality, save one: he had not taken into account the natural intelligence of the British officer. The critics of modern days have said some very hard things against the officers of the unreformed British army. But history has never recorded actions displaying greater intelligence, greater
devotion, and greater courage, than those which in India and on the continent of Europe secured for those officers an eternal renown.
Colonel Fletcher was a fair type of the officers of the unreformed army. Before setting out, he had reconnoitred the position held by Haidar; had noted in his mind the bearings of the country. Riding in front with the guides he observed that, after a time, they took a road which, he felt sure, must lead him into the heart of the enemy’s camp. Divining at once the treachery intended to be practised, he took upon himself to change the route, then, making a detour, passed unperceived the outlying parties of the enemy, and reached Baillie’s camp early on the morning of the 9th. It was no slight feat thus to have outwitted Haidar!
This reinforcement raised Baillie’s force to three thousand seven hundred and twenty men, and inspired Baillie himself with the fullest confidence. He allowed the new arrivals to rest during that day, whilst he made preparations to march an hour after sunset, so as to accomplish the fourteen miles which separated him from his chief before daybreak. Whilst he is making those preparations, I propose to return to Haidar.
That veteran soldier recognised very soon that Fletcher had outwitted him. Although furious at his disappointment, he did not allow the circumstance to disturb him. Again did he review his position. In front of him was the weakened force of Munro, now less than ever capable of fighting him. Fourteen miles away to his left was the augmented force of Baillie, watched by Tipu’s horsemen. But Tipu had proved unequal to Baillie before the latter had been reinforced, and it seemed to Haidar probable that if he himself should attempt to crush Munro, Baillie, beating aside Tipu, might be upon him before he had succeeded. On the other hand, should he send his infantry to reinforce Tipu, Munro, informed of their departure, might attack him. Under these circumstances he endeavoured,
by various means, to fathom the intentions of Munro. Soon there accumulated in his mind evidence sufficient to convince him that Munro had no intention of separating himself from his heavy guns and supplies in Kanchipuram. This conviction decided him. That night (the 9th) he detached the “bulk of his infantry to reinforce Tipu. At 4 o’clock in the morning, noticing that Munro had not taken the alarm, he followed himself.
The very same hour which saw his infantry set out, witnessed the departure of Baillie from Parmbakam, harassed and cannonaded, but not closely attacked, by Tipu. Baillie had already covered six miles out of the fourteen, when, suddenly, without any reason, and in opposition to the earnest and repeated advice of his second in command, Colonel Fletcher, he gave the order to halt for the night. It has been conjectured that this order was prompted by Baillie’s desire to exhibit his troops fresh, and with all their equipments, at Kanchipuram in the morning; that, judging from the manner in which he had baffled the opposition offered during the first six miles, he felt he need entertain no apprehension regarding the remainder. He reckoned, however, without Haidar. Scarcely had his men-piled their arms, when the trained infantry despatched by the latter, joined Tipu. Tipu spent the remainder of the night in concerting with the commander of these troops, with the senior French officers M. de Lally and M. Pinorin, and, by means of messengers, with Haidar himself, the mode of attack for the morrow.
The plan they adopted was as follows:– To occupy in force a strong position about two miles in front of the English position, and commanding the road which they must traverse. That road lay through an avenue of trees on to a plain, three quarters of a mile beyond which was a village. They proceeded further, then, to place the main body of their infantry in that village, whilst they erected batteries to command the road leading from
the avenue across the plain. Ignorant of these preparations, Baillie marched from his bivouac at daybreak, traversed the avenue, and debouched on to the plain. Scarcely had his columns emerged when, for the first time that morning, an artillery-fire opened upon them. Baillie, instead of pressing on to the village, which might have yielded to a charge, halted his troops, and returned the fire with his guns. Finding, however, very quickly, that the enemy’s fire was superior to his own, he sent to the front ten companies of sipahis to storm the battery which specially annoyed him. This feat the sipahis, led by their English officers, performed with great gallantry and success. They stormed the battery and had spiked three of the guns, when the Maisur cavalry, dashing from the flank and threatening to cut off their retreat, forced them to fall back. The English troops, forming into an oblong square, as it is styled, then made a forward movement. They had proceeded but a short distance, however, when, covered by the cavalry, the Maisur infantry and artillery advanced, and, after a short interval, from three sides – from the front, from the right, and from the rear – poured upon them a deadly fire of all arms. The fierceness of the attack proved that Haidar himself had joined his son.
Still the English square – the sick, the baggage, and the ammunition in the centre – moved slowly on; its human walls repelling every assault. Its behaviour compelled the admiration of the Frenchmen who fought with Tipu.57 So stern was the resistance, that Haidar, dreading every moment
lest Munro should appear on his rear, resolved to retreat, and sent orders to his cavalry to cover the movement.
But just at this moment two events happened which induced him to recall the order. The first of these was the blowing up of two tumbrils in the English square; the second, the almost instantaneous charge, on the face most affected by the explosion, of a thousand Maratha, horse, led by a man to whom Haidar had attributed the blame of Colonel Fletcher’s escape, and who was determined to retrieve his good name or perish. That charge, though fatal to its leader, was decisive. It broke the face of the square.58 The remainder of the enemy’s cavalry followed it up in so decisive a manner as to render all rallying impossible. The Europeans, indeed, closing their ranks, attempted for some time longer to resist. But the attempt was vain. After a time, Colonel Baillie, seeing further resistance fruitless, ordered his men to lay down their arms, and surrendered.
The loss of the English had been very great. Of the entire force of five hundred Europeans, two hundred only remained alive, and many of these were wounded. The sipahis suffered in at least equal proportion. Of eighty-six officers, thirty-six were killed and thirty-four were wounded. But the loss in killed and wounded was insignificant when compared with the loss of prestige.
Whilst this desperate fighting was going on, where was Munro?
We have seen that Munro had remained quiet during the whole day and night of the 9th. Soon after daybreak on the 10th, he perceived that Haidar had given him tip slip. He at once broke up his camp and took the road to Parmbakam. After marching two or three miles he saw in the distance the smoke of the battle; about a mile further, a still greater smoke,
evidently that caused by the explosion of the tumbrils. Munro was then about three miles distant from the battle-field. Obviously, he should have pushed on with all speed. We have seen that that was the very movement which Haidar most of all dreaded. Munro was at first inclined to pursue this course, but almost immediately afterwards he was sensible of a lull in the artillery-fire, succeeded by desultory discharges of musketry. At this conjuncture he would seem to have lost his head. Coming to the somewhat arbitrary conclusion that the sounds which reached him betokened a victory on the part of Baillie, he checked his forward march, and moved in every direction but the right one, until, when it was too late to alter the result, he learned the truth from a wounded sipahi. Then – to use the words of his own despatch – “for the security of the army, he retired to Kanchipuram,” having spent his day very much in the same unsatisfactory manner in which, in the next century, Count d’Erlon was to spend his, on the 16th June 1815, and with the same unsatisfactory result. Munro reached Kanchipuram at 6 o’clock in the evening.
But he did not deem himself safe at Kanchipuram. Having spent the day in fruitless marching and counter-marching, he passed the night in throwing his heavy guns, his military stores, and the supplies he could not carry away, into a deep tank. Early the following morning, the 11th, he set out in the direction of Chengalpatt, where, annoyed and harassed by Haidar’s light troops on the march, and forced, in consequence, to sacrifice the greater part of the stores still remaining to him, he arrived on the morning of the 12th. He was cheered there by the sight of Colonel Cosby’s detachment, which, having been unable to execute the orders given to it to act upon the enemy’s communications, had cut its way to the same place. This happy junction saved Madras. Munro felt strong enough now to march to St. Thomas’s Mount. He arrived there on the 14th, and moved the next day to the securer position of Mamillamma
(Marmalong), where, with a river covering his front, he deemed himself safe from all attack.
Haidar, on the 11th September, had Madras at his mercy. The direct road to it lay open, and there was not a soldier in the place. He was only forty-two miles distant from it. He knew the line of Munro’s retreat, and he could easily so interpose his cavalry as to hinder, if not absolutely to prevent, that officer’s march from Chengalpatt, thirty-six miles southwest of Madras. But one thing prevented him from making this decisive movement, and that was the holding out of Wandiwash. The flower of his army was still detained before that place, and he hesitated to make the decisive movement till it had fallen. His reasoning would not have commended itself to a really great captain. A master of the art of war would have told him that the greater contains the less; that the surest way of compelling the fall of Wandiwash was to make a dash – before it could be covered, before the panic caused by his victory over Baillie had subsided – upon Madras. But age was beginning to tell upon Haidar. Shrinking from a course at which ten years before he would have clutched, he proceeded to invest Arkat.
Arkat, invested on the 19th September, fell – though garrisoned by English troops – on the 3rd November; Ambur surrendered on the 13th January: the sieges of Velar, of Parmakol, of Chengalpatt, and of Wandiwash, were vigorously prosecuted, when on the 18th, Haidar heard that on the previous morning the English army, commanded now by Sir Eyre Coote, had quitted Madras.
The Madras Government, in fact, on learning Baillie’s defeat, had despatched a swift vessel to Bengal, with letters stating their misfortunes and their pressing need of immediate succour. Fortunately for them, Bengal was then ruled by an administrator whose guiding principle was, above all things, the maintenance of the honour and greatness of his country. Though embarrassed by the financial pressure resulting from
Maratha wars, from the necessity of providing for the defence of the British possessions in Bengal and Bombay, Warren Hastings at once raised the money sufficient to meet the emergency; called upon Sir Eyre Coote once again to place himself at the head of an army, and despatched him with every available soldier to Madras. Not content with doing things by halves, Warren Hastings suspended the Governor of Madras, Mr. Whitehill, appointed a more vigorous administrator in his place, and entrusted to Sir Eyre Coote complete and independent charge of the military operations.
Coote reached Madras on the 5th November, only to find the resources of the Presidency so exhausted that ten weeks were required to equip his army for the field. It was not till the 17th January that he was able to set out. His design was, to march southward, relieve the places besieged in that direction by Haidar, and then to advance on Pondichery – which the French had re-occupied – drawing Haidar after him.
Coote’s first efforts were successful. On the early morn of the 21st, a detachment of his army stormed the strong fortress of Karungalli; on the 23rd he raised the siege of Wandiwash, and on the 25th began his march for Parmakol. On that day he heard of the presence of a French fleet off the coast. Being indifferently provided with provisions, Coote’s first idea was to return to Madras; but the desirability of recovering Pondichery and of destroying the boats which might aid in the landing of French troops, decided him to push on towards the French capital.
Haidar, meanwhile, had watched, with eager and searching eyes, every movement of his enemy. As soon as he heard of the direction his army had taken, he raised the siege of Velar, and, acting in concert with the French authorities at Pondichery, massed his army, and followed him. On the 25th January he, too, learned that a French fleet, commanded by the Chevalier d’Orves, had been sighted near Gudalur (Cuddalore).
This event raised his hopes to the highest degree. Whilst he should sever Coote’s communications with Madras, the fleet would blockade the coast; and Coote, shut out from the grain-producing country, would be starved into surrender.
Whilst Haidar and his French allies were carrying out this plan with great skill, Coote was marching further and further into the trap. On the 8th February, Haidar having made as though he would attempt Gudalur, Coote, thoroughly taken in, moved with his whole army to cover that important place. This movement enabled Haidar to seize a strong position which quite severed his enemy from Madras. In Gudalur itself there were but three days’ supply of food. Both the rival leaders could see the French fleet, unthreatened, guarding the coast. In vain did Coote offer battle to the Maisur chief. Haidar was content to occupy an unassailable position which barred Coote from the grain-producing country.
Coote himself recognised all the danger of his position, the fault he had committed in allowing himself to be severed from his base. Unless supplies could reach him, he knew that he was lost. But as long as Haidar and the French should maintain their respective positions, no supplies could reach him.
Haidar maintained his. But from some cause, to this day unexplained, d’Orves was false alike to his reputation and to his country. In another work59 I have dwelt at some length on the crime perpetrated by a Government which commits the command of its fleets to men deficient in decision and nerve. Never had France such an opportunity of revenging herself for the defeats of Dupleix and Lally. There was no doubt about the issue. D’Orves had only to remain off the coast to see the last army possessed by the English starved into surrender. Haidar, in constant communication with him, pressed him to remain, if only for a week longer; or, at all events, to land the one French regiment he had on board. D’Orves would do neither.
On the 15th February, to the intense relief of Sir Eyre Coote, and to the indignation of Haidar, he bore away for the islands. The English at once obtained supplies from Madras.
Five weary months then elapsed; Coote, to a certain extent blockaded at Gudalur, forced to look to the sea for his supplies: Haidar watching him, and whilst watching him, obtaining the surrender of many of the strong places behind him. At last, on the 16th June, Coote, realising that the only possible mode of retrieving his position was to force an action on his wary enemy, quitted Gudalur, crossed the river Vallar on the 18th, and that night attempted to surprise and storm the strongly-fortified pagoda of Chelambram. Haidar’s garrison, however, composed of nearly three thousand good troops, repulsed the English sipahis with serious loss, and even captured one of their guns. Baffled in this quarter, Coote drew off his army in the night, and, after a hesitation which lasted four days, recrossed the Vallar, and encamped near Porto Novo, a village on its northern bank, close to the sea, and only seven miles from Chelambram, which place he at once made preparations, in concert with Admiral Hughes, to besiege.
Perhaps it would have been as well if Haidar had been content to reinforce the garrison of Chelambram, to strengthen its defences, then to count upon the action of the monsoon on the fleet, and of his army on the besiegers. But the repulse of the English before that pagoda, the details of which were conveyed to him in a greatly exaggerated form, had so elated him, that, believing the English army would prove now an easy prey, he resolved to strike a decisive blow. Quickly collecting his forces, then, he crossed the Kolrun; moved rapidly to the north, then making a sweep to the eastward, interposed his whole army between Gudalur and the English, having marched a hundred miles in two days and a half. On the 27th June, when Coote had all but completed his arrangements for an attack on Chelambram, he was suddenly informed that Haidar,
with his whole army, was fortifying a position within three miles of him.
Coote called a council of war. The issues which he put before that council were simply these: – The declining of a battle meant the conducting of military operations at a great disadvantage, the incurring of a liability to be attacked suddenly, when one part of the force should be already occupied; an unsuccessful battle meant destruction, for it would entail the loss of Madras and, with it, of southern India; a successful battle, on the other hand, meant relief from all difficulties; and, not until they had compelled Haidar to move off, would they be in so good a position, with regard to numbers, to fight a successful battle. The council with one voice voted for fighting.
At 7 o’clock, then, on the morning of the 1st July, Coote marched towards the enemy – his army formed in two lines. His whole force consisted of 8,476 men, of whom 2,070 were Europeans. It was difficult to reconnoitre the enemy’s position, as Haidar, with his usual craft, had covered it with swarms of cavalry, whilst Coote was deficient in that arm. We, however, who are behind the scenes, may state that the position selected by Haidar was a very strong one. His army numbered forty thousand men, and these occupied three villages, and were spread over a line which, crossing the road to Gudalur, extended from commanding grounds on the right to a point on the left which rested on a range of sand-hills following the line of the seashore. The ground on his front and on his right flank was intersected in every direction by deep ditches and watercourses. Embrasures for his heavy artillery had been cut in mounds of earth formed from the hollowing of ditches. These batteries protected at once the front and the right flank.
It was not until Coote had marched a mile and a half that he was able to gain a view of this formidable position. He halted, and spent an hour in minutely examining every point of it, exposed throughout that time to an incessant cannonade from
guns advanced from the front of the enemy’s position, and from their left flank. His own guns, to economise their limited supply of ammunition, made no reply.
At 9 o’clock the English general had made his decision. He recognised that the weak point of Haidar’s position was his left, for the sand-hills had not been fortified, and could be turned. He directed, then, General Stuart, who commanded his second line, to move by columns, under cover – first, of the front line, and afterwards of the sand-hills on the coast – to a point beyond those sand-hills, and, turning them, to march on till he should reach an opening which would enable them to take the enemy in flank. Whilst Stuart was engaged in this operation, Coote himself would make a strong demonstration against the enemy’s front, taking care not to commit himself to a serious attack until the success of Stuart’s movement should be assured.
Rarely has a planned military manoeuvre been carried out with greater precision than was this. Haidar, bent on making his right and centre proof against attack, had deferred fortifying the sand-hills, especially as he deemed it to the last degree improbable that an enemy would, as it were, cut his army in two to attempt to turn him on that flank. No longer the active man whom we have known, seizing victory or staving off defeat by personal prowess; he was compelled, in these days, to watch, motionless, the movements of the rival forces. On this occasion he sat, cross-legged, on a stool which had been placed for him on an eminence, immediately behind his centre. From this point he commanded the field. As soon as he caught sight of Stuart’s manoeuvre, recognising its importance, he despatched some of his best troops to strengthen his left, and sent orders to his cavalry to hold themselves in readiness to take advantage of the smallest check given to the enemy. Before these orders could be received Stuart, marching with great rapidity, had turned the position of the enemy, discovered a road made between two sand-hills, and led his men to gain it. But Haidar’s troops, well on the alert,
repulsed a first attack, and a second. Just at this period Haidar’s orders reached the commanders of the two wings of cavalry. He of the right wing, deeming the moment opportune, charged the first line led by Coote, and was repulsed only after a most desperate encounter. But it was upon the action of the commander of the left wing that everything depended. Could he fall successfully upon the twice-repulsed troops of Stuart the battle was over. But in this quarter fortune frowned on Haidar. The commander, Mir Sahib, one of Haidar’s best officers, was about to give the order to charge, when he was cut in two by a round shot. Almost at the same moment a broadside from an English schooner, which had been worked close to the shore, made terrible havoc amongst the drawn-up squadrons. A panic ensued; the charge was never made. Availing himself of the panic, Stuart promptly made his third attempt on the gap, and succeeded.
The simultaneous advance of the first line, whilst the second, though still strongly opposed, was working steadily from the left flank towards the centre, convinced those about Haidar that the day was lost. Haidar himself, however, refused to believe that the fruit of exertions so earnest, so well thought out, had been lost by one mistake and one freak of fortune. He refused to quit the field, constantly uttering regrets that he could no longer by his own exertions retrieve mishap. At last, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the danger had become so imminent that a favourite groom seized his legs, put on his slippers, and with the words, “We will beat them to-morrow, meanwhile mount,” helped him on to his horse. The whole army followed in full retreat, taking with them all their guns. They had lost many men, how many can never be known. The English had lost three hundred and six, and had gained only the ground on which they had fought.
Such was the battle of Porto Novo, called also the battle of Chelambram; assuredly one of the most decisive battles ever
fought in southern India. To the English, defeat would have meant not only expulsion from Madras, but the absorption of the Karnatak by the ruler of Maisur. The English had but that one army. To provide that army, Bengal had been exhausted. Bombay was fighting for her own hand. A few months later the arrival of Suffren deprived the English of supremacy in the Indian seas. To fight under the circumstances was a desperate remedy; but it was the only possible, and, as it proved, a successful remedy.
Haidar, it is true, fought some more desperate battles with the English, and even gained some partial successes; but the spell was broken. The battle of Porto Novo had decided not only the fate of Madras, it had given a death-blow to the exterminating projects of Haidar. It might be said, indeed, that it did more. Mushroom kingdoms, like that of Haidar Ali, depend for their vitality on the constant activity of their ruler. When that ruler ceases to conquer, his power and his influence alike wane. In this sense Porto Novo was a check from which the dynasty of Haidar Ali never recovered.
It is true, as I have said, that Haidar fought again. After Porto Novo, Coote marched northward along the coast to meet reinforcements which had been sent from Bengal. But so demoralised was Haidar, that though many opportunities offered he never attacked his enemy, but allowed a junction – which added one-third to that enemy’s strength – to take place at Palikat without striking a blow to prevent it (2nd August). On the 22nd of the same month, be had the mortification of witnessing the storming of Tripasor, in the presence of his whole army. On the 27th, Coote, at the head of twelve thousand men, attacked his forces, raised now to seventy thousand men, and strongly posted on the acclivities of a range of hills near Parmbakam; after a desperate conflict, stormed the plateau on the left, gained a position which was the key to the right of his defence, and thus compelled Haidar to abandon the field, and
to retreat to Kanchipuram during the night. One result of this action was the re-victualling of Whir, and the recovery of the fort of Chittur, by the English.
A transient gleam of sunshine played over the fortunes of Haidar when, on the 18th February 1783, his son, Tipu Sahib, compelled the surrender, after a three days’ contest, of an English detachment commanded by Colonel Braithwaite; when, also, on the 8th June following, he enticed into an ambuscade and nearly destroyed, in the presence of Sir Eyre Coote, a body of English horse. But none of his smaller triumphs made up for the defeat of Porto Novo. That battle was his Leipsic. Thenceforth he ceased to be an aggressor; he endeavoured only to retain the places he had gained.
It is due to him to add that, in his later operations, Haidar was much hampered by his French allies. These, badly led, displayed a caution and backwardness as foreign to the character of their nation as it was uncongenial to the nature of Haidar.
Six months after his last successful skirmish with the English (the 7th December 1783), Haidar Ali – become prematurely old, for he was but sixty-five – passed away. The war languished after his death; continued with varying fortunes60 for fifteen months, when it was concluded by the Treaty of Mangalur (11th March 1784), which stipulated for the restitution of all places, and the liberation of all prisoners, taken by both parties during its continuance.
It has ever been the misfortune of Eastern dynasties that an Amurath can never secure that he shall be succeeded by an Amurath. Haidar Ali, a man of genius, of energy, a born warrior, was succeeded in the vast territories he had made a kingdom, by a passionate and narrow-minded bigot; a man who, in fact, had inherited all the passions of his father without
one scintilla of his genius. The consequences were such as might have been predicted. Tipu Sahib lost all that Haidar Ali had gained. Notwithstanding the peace of Mangalur, he did not cease to molest his neighbours. At last he had the temerity to attack a protected ally of the English, the Rajah of Travankur. War followed (1790). Bangalor fell into the hands of the English. Shrirangapatam was invested; Tipu in despair sued for peace. He was able to obtain it only by the sacrifice of one half of his dominions, and the payment of upwards of £3,030,000 (19th March 1792).
To recover the lost moiety of his territories, Tipu, six years later, intrigued with the French republic. When, informed of his conduct, the Marquess Wellesley demanded of him securities for his good behaviour, Tipu treated the demand with contempt. The Governor-General then declared war, and, in alliance with the Nizam and the Marathas, sent an army, under General Harris, into Maisur. The strong places, no longer defended by the genius of Haidar, fell in quick succession. On the 3rd April, General Harris invested Shrirangapatam; on the 4th May he stormed it. In defending it, Tipu Sahib was killed, and the remnant of Maisur – for some slices of it were taken to satisfy the English and their allies – was restored to the Hindu dynasty which Haidar Ali had dispossessed.
That this result was possible was a consequence, though a later consequence, of the battle of Porto Novo. Had Haidar Ali won that battle, he would have expelled the English from Madras, and would, for a season, have been master of southern India. That he would have retained it is scarcely probable. But that the danger was great, that the fear which existed was widespread, is shown by all the contemporary records of the period. The terror survived his death, survived the campaign, survived even the first defeat of Tipu Sahib. It was the recollection of the danger which the Muhammadan dynasty of Maisur had brought home to the English which was a main factor in the
policy by which Marquess Wellesley was actuated in dealing with Tipu. To the battle fought near Porto Novo, then, no Englishman can look back without a feeling of pride. That battle crushed the aggressive schemes of Haidar, forced him to act on the defensive, and paved the way, after his death, to the destruction of the mighty power he had created. Under his rule Maisur had become a robber’s stronghold, a stronghold the existence of which was only possible when the paramount power was inert. The British never effected a work more truly beneficial to the people of India than when they destroyed that stronghold, and, expelling the dynasty of the robber, substituted the mild sway of the Hindu ruler for the empire of the sword I
47. The name Maisur is abbreviated from “Mahesh A’sur” – the buffalo-headed monster – said to have been slain by the goddess Kali, who, under the title of Chamundi – the discomforter of enemies – is an object of special worship in the country.
48. The houses on the Adyar and in other localities outside the fort.
49. These who thus embarked consisted of two hundred and forty-one Europeans and twelve hundred sipahis. The sick and wounded amounted to eighty Europeans and one hundred and eighty sipahis.
50. On emerging from the defile Wood, who had just received private intimation of the close vicinity of Smith, halted to fire a feu-de-joie. This gave the alarm to Haidar and enabled him to escape. Smith so severely reprimanded Wood, that the latter resigned his command. He was replaced by Colonel Lang.
51. Now constituting the northern portion of the Shelam (Salem) district.
52. Haidar was in the habit of saying that he would always avoid, if possible, fighting with Smith, but that he would fight Wood wherever he might meet him.
53. Formed of men such as are now in the Maisur palace who can run their ten miles in the hour.
54. The infantry arrived the following morning.
55. It was not, properly speaking, an interview, for Haidar declined to see Gray. A confidant of Haidar’s conveyed to Haidar the envoy’s explanations and to the envoy the replies which Haidar dictated.
56. Colonel Wilks, who is my principal authority for the details on the text states that for the immensely important service rendered by Lieutenant Flint – a service which in these modern days, if one may judge by the rewards showered upon men for doing their simple duty, would obtain crosses and distinctions without number – that officer had the barren glory of receiving letters, written with his own hand, from Sir Eyre Coote, full of affectionate attachment and admiration. The Court of Directors refused even to bestow upon him a brevet!
57. One of the French officers present thus recorded his opinion: – “In the whole of this trying day the English preserved a coolness of manoeuvre which would have done honour to any troops in the world. Raked by the fire of an immense artillery, the greatest part of the action within grape-shot distance; attacked on all sides by not less than twenty-five thousand horse, and thirty battalions of sipahis, besides Haidar’s European troops, the English column stood firm, and repulsed every attack with great slaughter; the horse driven back on the infantry, the right of our line began to give way, though composed of the best troops in the Maisur army.”
58. A large painting of this stage of the fight, done by his own express orders, adorns, to the present day, one of the walls of Tipu’s summer palace, close to Shrirangapatam.
59. Final French Struggles in India.
60. An account of those varying fortunes has been given by the Author in a book entitled Final French Struggles in India (1878). Towards its close, those of the English were at a very low ebb indeed.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage