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I have discussed the background to this war in a former article, now this entire discussion about the battle is going to be pretty long. I have also narrated that three armies from three sides were marching into Seringapatam to hunt down Tipu. Here we will elaborate the armies and the general plan of attack in little detail. The general plan of the campaign was for the principal army to assemble at Vellore, proceed up the valley of the Palar to Vaniyambadi and then make for the Palacode pass, Rayakottai and Kelamangalam from which place it was to advance on Serinagapatam by the best available route. The Bombay Army under General Stuart was to assemble at Cannore to advance and take post at Sedaseer eight to ten miles west of Periyapatamon the road from Cannore to Seringapatam, and from there advance to the fort to assemble with the Grand Army. [i]
The Bombay Army composed of 6420 men of whom 1617 were Europeans, they marched on 21st February arrived at Sidhapur on 2nd March. The Grand Army moving in from Vellore encamped on Kelamungulum at 28th February and united with the Nizam Cavalry under Colonel Roberts on 18th March. On its arrival the contingent was placed under the command of Governor General’s brother Arthur Wellesley and further strengthened by His Majesty’s 33rd regiment. The Grand Army proceeded by Palicade to Rayakottai and encamped there on 4th March.
The Left wing was commanded by Major General Popham consisted of three brigades commanded by Colonel Sherbrooke Lieutenant Colonels Gardiner and Scott. The Right Wing commanded by Major General Bridges of three brigades under Major General Baird Colonel Roberts and Gowdie. The cavalry under Major General Flyod consisted of two brigades under Colonel Stevenson and Pater. There were the 19th and 23rd Light Dragoons, and four regiments of Native cavalry.
The Nizam’s detachment was commanded by Colonel Arthur Wellesley under whom was Lieutenant Colonel Dalrymple commanding the Company troops consisting of two brigades. Captain Malcolm commanded the Nizam’s infantry and Meer Allum his cavalry.
THE BEGINING OF HOSTILITIES: THE WESTERN THEATRE
On the Eastern theatre the Bombay army under General Stuart were marching up from Cananore, and reached the Poodicherum Pass on 2th February. On reaching the pass General Harris divided the army and placed the corps forward to form a junction with the Grand Army. On 2nd of March Lieut-General Montressor moving with his right brigade consisting of three native battalions took up their ground at Seedaseer about seven miles from Periyapatna. The main body with provisions remained at Siddapur and Anantananur. The entire region was so densely thick with jungle that it was a difficult terrain for the whole army’s encampment. The advanced posts at Seedaseer were to establish a connection with the Grand Army. Quite surprisingly from the hill top the observation party discovered Tipu’s tents numbering about three hundred somewhere near to Periyapatna, and by the 6th March the Mysorean troops were already on the move, but their movement was so concealed by jungle that it was difficult to establish their path. General Hartley had discovered this movement and he intimated General Stuart to come down with his troops and also suggested a correct position of defence for Lieut-Colonel Montressor. “A deep jungle lay between him and the British and at 9.00 he passé through the brushwood undiscovered, and threw himself furiously on the front and the flanks of Montressor’s brigade. Though surprised and assailed under very discouraging circumstance by a force immensely superior in numbers, the Sepoys behaved with veteran steadiness, and fought most gallantly. Every effort made by Tipu to shake the formation failed. For five hours these native regiments sustained furious and repeated attacks unsupported, and not until Stuart after considerable opposition from Mysore troops who gained near the rear of Montressor, came up and relieved this hard pressed brigade, did the fiery Sultan desist from the assault.” On marching ahead General Stuart found Lieut-General Montressor’s post that had put on a remarkable defence against overwhelming odds. Montressor’s men were completely exhausted, they had ran out of their ammunition but to their good fortune the help had come just in time, at 20 mins past three the Mysorean troops retreated completely.[ii] The job was difficult as the Company troops were completely surrounded but by some excellent works of their artillery men under Liet- Colonel Dunlop who had rained volleys of grapes into Mysorean ranks causing massive casualties. Tipu retired with his men, the Company troops were too exhausted for a chase and he arrived safely in his capital Seringapatam only to know that General Harris had crossed the borders of Mysore from the East.
THE BEGINING OF HOSTILITIES: THE EASTERN THEATRE
General Harris opened hostilities by sending Major John Cuppage to take the forts of Nil Durgum and Anchitty, the former could not be taken but the later was won over. On the 8th March Ratnagiri was taken possession after a skirmish and on the 9th the whole army assembled at Kelamangulum 30,959 men with Nizam’s cavalry. The Grand Army choose the 1791 route to Seringapatam taken by Lord Cornwallis, Anekal, Talaghatpurra, Kagalipura, Kanakpura, and Sultanpete to Malavalli, where they arrived on the morning of March 27th.
Engsign Rowley gives the following account of the army, “the appearance of our army on the march from a neighbouring hill is truly surprising. It may be compared with the emigration of the Israelites from Egypt; the surrounding plains and downs appear to be in motion. Herds of cattle and sheep conceal the soil; the route of the troops is marked by the gleaming of their arms and that of the battering train by a long slow moving inky line. ….the drivers abuse their cattle and each other, sometimes an alarm of the looties approach occasions a worse disorder, men women and children scamper in all directions, and leave their unconcerned charge to its fate.”
The army of Tipu Sultan who had reached out to stop the aggression occupied an elevated place from where they launched a brisk cannonade on the Grand Army. Tipu Sultan had his infantry on a commanding ground behind the artillery, in truly Napoleonic style of battle his infantry advanced and cavalry advanced towards the enemy under covering fire. The right wing of the Grand Army was maintained by General Harris while the left wing was under Colonel Wellesley who moved up a considerable distance and attacked Tipu’s right. Major General Floyd with the 19th and two regiments of native corps moved between these troops. The 25th Dragoons and a native regiment kept Tipu’s cavalry who had assembled on the Grand Army’s right, while the native regiments held up the baggage train on the left. A small body of horse seeing the clumsy movement of the Company artillery charged swiftly on the 1st European brigade, the attack however was repulsed. Tipu’s infantry advanced towards the right and left of General Harris’s army, both attacks were routed. In the meantime the cavalary under General Floyd charged briskly towards Tipu’s men and cut them to pieces, Tipu’s army finally routed. The battle began at 10.00 o’clock 27th March and winded up by 2.00 o’clock, Tipu’s loss at the lowest estimate was 1000 killed and wounded. The reason for Tipu’s loss in Wellesley’s perspective was, “at Mallavalli his troops behaved better than we have ever known to behave. His infantry advanced and almost stood the charge of the bayonets of the 33rd and his cavalry rode at General Baird’s European Brigade. He did not support his troops as he ought, having drawn off his guns at the moment we made our attack and even pushed forward his troops he left behind him, without loss to us, and of the panic with which we have reason to believe all his troops are affected. His light cavalry, looties and others are the best of the kind in the World. They have hung upon us night and day from the moment we have entered his country to this. If Tipu had had sense and sufficient to use his cavalry and infantry as he might have done, I have no hesitation in saying that we should not been here.” [iii]Remember this analysis is coming from a man who actually fought the war and went on to become one of the greatest General of all time.
General Harris made a very wise movement here, he understood that crossing River Kaveri right at Seringapatam would be full of danger because of Tipu’s advance hostile arrangements. He therefore choose a point some distance south of the fort of Serinagapatam, Sosale was the place where the English would cross Kaveri. This move thwarted the preparation made by Tipu, since the Sultan apprehended that General Harris would take the same direction of attack, i.e from North of the fort, as Lord Cornwallis had done in 1791 but Harris took the Southern direction. In fact Tipu was so sure about Harris would attack from the Northern side that he crossed at the ford of Arikere and took up position near the village of Chengdal, however after learning that Harris had crossed some distance South he retreated. They arrived at Sosale on 29th March and crossed the river without much difficulty, and halted on the 30th to arrange things up, while Tipu’s horsemen daily watched their movements without any interruption. General Harris after crossing the river engaged in collecting materials for the siege, he was not wary of the supplies since he had plenty of it, by the time he implanted his design the Bombay Army under General Stuart would arrive and unite with the Grand Army. On April fool’s day the Grand Army of General Harries encamped at Rangasamudra about twenty kilometres from the fort of Seringapatam. On the following days the Army moved closer to Serinagapatam avoiding the woods from where the rocket-men could hail heavy salvos, this way they reached the Western side of the Fort.
While General Harris was marching into Seringapatam, Lietenant Colonel Read was launching attack on the North of Rayacottai. Lt-Colonel Read arranged for the provisions and supplies from the numerous Banjaras in the vicinity of Kaveripuram and convey it to the main Army at Seringapatam. Colonel Brown was moving in from Tiruchurapalli opened up operations and reduced the forts at Karur on the 5th of April, on the 8th and 9th April he won over Erode and Aravakurichi. Colonel Brown was expected to join Lt-Colonel Read with the view to form a strong force for providing a clear passage to the supplies moving in from the South to Seringapatam. General Harris also sent General Floyd on the 19th April with a detachment of Nizam’s cavalry, and native infantry to meet Lt- Colonel Read engaged in securing the passing of supplies. The move to reduce the Southern strong holds and station an army at Kaveripuram was intended to keep a check on the rear of the army any swift attack on this side by Tipu would have greatly disadvantaged the Grand Army from getting constant supply as the siege would progress.
THE NIGHT HUNTERS:
The Sultan had lined up his infantry covering the East and South portion of the fort, about six hundred yards from the guns of the fort. The Sultan therefore had a complete view as the Grand Army with its huge train moved up on the high ground on the left. When General Harris’s troops finally reached the Western side after a slow march, the advanced posts had been established by the Nizam’s cavalry under British officers. The right of the camp was on a high ground which descended on the left secured against cavalry charge by twisting canal. In front of the Company troops were ruined villages and woods which offered ample cover for Tipu’s rocked brigade. Tipu’s men hidden in and around the aqueduct were absolute danger to the British troops, and it was necessary to dislodge them from their position. To achieve this night attack was planned under Colonel Shawe and Colonel Wellesley on 5th of April. Colonel Shawe commanded HM’s 12th regiment and two battalions of Sepoys and guns, Colonel Wellesley officered HM’s 33rd and 2nd Bengal Infantry these forces were asked to get ready after sunset.
Colonel Shawe succeeded in clearing the post at aqueduct under heavy fire from Tipu’s troops, but for Wellesley it fared really bad. Colonel Wellesley was to attack the post at Sultanpet, the troop moved on eagerly ultimately getting trapped in the dark and under heavy fire, they routed in all possible directions leaving Wellesley and Captain Mackenzie all by themselves. The troops ran around in darkness unable to find way until several hours. “In fact the attack of Wellesley has failed,” said Ensign Rowley, “the party having lost each other in the obscurity of the night. Wellesley is mad at this ill-success, he has left Lieutenant Fitzgerald with 25 men of his troops either killed or in the hands of the enemy.” Lieutenant Fitzgerald received a wound from a rocket which nearly which nearly carried away his arm and another from a bayonet of which died in the course of the night.[iv] This was the first victory of Tipu although in skirmish.
STRENGTHENING OF POSITION:
Next morning General Harris prepared for the revenge, he formed a detachment of 94th regiment, two battalions of Sepoys and five guns. This detachment was to be led by Colonel Wellesley, however finding him nowhere General Harris asked General Baird to lead the troops. General Baird mounted his horse, and said, “Don’t you think Sir, it would be fair to give Wellesley an opportunity of retrieving the misfortune of last night.” Colonel appeared shortly afterwards and resumed the command, it was later known that Colonel Wellesley had gone to report to the headquarters the expedition of the previous night however finding General Harris not awake he threw himself on the table at the dinner tent and feel asleep of exhaustion and fatigue.
The troops under Wellesley marched forward, under covering fire from the guns, which were going with them. Tipu’s troops opened fire but were repulsed almost immediately due to heavy fire. The cavalry took position on Wellesley’s right thus providing additional support against a flanking charge; Tipu’s troops had no option but to run. At the same time Colonel Shawe also pressed forward and the English were able to gain a continuous line at the West end from the river to Sultanpet, a distance of two miles, the twisting arms of the aqueduct forming the contravallation against the defenders. Reducing Tipu’s men from the advanced posts was the first objective of General Hariis and it came out really well, now the second step would be to get nearer to the fort. A brisk cannonade from the fort poured incessantly all day on the Company force.
On the 7th General Floyd marched to Periapatna to unite with the Bombay Army. Hearing Flyod’s movement Tipu ordered Kamaruddin Khan to intercept his march and prevent the union of the two armies, just like Napoleon had sent Gerrad and Grouchy to stop the Prussian Army meeting Wellington in Waterloo. The Engineers started tracing the source of the nullah and to gather materials for the siege. The posts that were established were-
- Shawe’s Post composed of an European Regiment, and two battalions of Sepoys,to the right of the post were a battery of 12 pounders under Native infantry.
- Sultanpete Post composed of a company of Europeans, 500 native infantry.
- Engineer’s Post composed of a company of Europeans and 500 native infantry were stationed in front.
The island of Seringapatam is three miles and half in length from East to West, and about a mile and half in breadth. It is formed by river Kaveri and rises considerably in the middle, from where there is gradual slope towards the river. The fortress occupies two thousand yards of the West extremity of this island and is a place of great strength. Covered upon the North and West by the Kaveri it was defended until the peace of 1792 by a single rampart, the East and West faces, being considered weaker were strengthened by double walls and ditches, by outworks before the gates, by a strong circular work upon the South East angle, and by several formidable cavaliers within and upon the Southern rampart. The rampart which is thick and strong varies in height from 20-35 feet and upwards, the whole of the revetment except the North West bastion, is composed of granite, cut in large oblong pieces laid in cement transversely in the walls. The ditches are excavated in solid rock a stone glacis extends along the North face, more with a view of making the outer part of the ditch than of covering walls. The Western ditch has not been constructed with much less labour, it is formed by strong mound or wall, of considerable thickness, parallel to the rampart, and entirely built of stone. On the Western face there were two ramparts, inner of mud and the outer, a ditch separated these two ramparts. However the difficulty remained that for long strips the Western face had no flanks, the two walls were parallel this was a very weak point for Tipu, since the enfilading fire would prove dangerous not only for the outer wall but for the inner as well. A breaching battery from the west angle could blow away the outer wall into inner wall filling the ditch, which could create an easy passage for the forlorn hope.
THE BATTLE PLAN:
Colonel Gent the Chief Engineer was directed to prepare a plan of attack, he submitted two drafts to the Commander in Chief, one for the attack on the West angle considering the army to occupy both sides of the Kaveri, the other for the attack on the South West angle. However any attack on the South West part was far from being easy, Tipu actually expected this and had strong defences in case of any attack. In South West part any enfilading attack would not be possible; on the contrary Tipu’s had wide area of attack combined by the strength of the towers from where any fire would be devastating. The North West face odds were stacked against Tipu; the new bastion which was developed after the 1792 war had two guns for launching a flanking charge against any attack on the North or West walls. The Western wall at a stretch of about of 460 metres had only three guns for attack, which was not sufficient. Here the walls were clearly exposed to the guns if placed on the Northern side, and any direct attack from the Western side would render it vulnerable for a breach, this was weak area for the Sultan which General Harris ordered to exploit. One of the reasons why West Angle was so preferred position of attack was that the stone glacis running across the North side of the fort ended in the Western edge, here the retaining wall forming the counterscarp was low exposing the fausse braye and the main rampart to the gun fire. The river running across the Western side was fordable for the troops and in case of a breach the troops could well move in so in all circumstances this part was quite significant.
The West Angle attack essentially consisted batteries of guns placed at Company posts directed at Tipu’s strongholds, they were-
No 1 battery: Consisted of 6 eighteen pounders and 2 eight inch howitzers intended to enfilade the West face.
No 2 battery: The guns from No1 battery could move on to here, with guns numbering 10.
No 3 battery: Initially for 6 eighteen pounders to enfilade the North face and to take off the defences of the NW angle Bastion it was afterwards increased to 8 guns.
No 4 battery: Composed of 4 eighteen pounders for taking off the defences of the towers.
No 5 battery: A breaching battery of 6 guns.
No 6 battery: Another battery of 5 guns and 6 howitzers of the Nizam, this was on the right of No 5.
No 8 battery: A battery of 4 twelve pounders for disturbing the Southern Part.
No 9 battery: A sunk battery of 2 twelve pounders to take on the west cavalier.
If you refer the map you will find that the idea of the Company troops was to bombard the West Angle and create a breach through which the British troops could move in.
On 10th of April Tipu’s men were busy forming encampments across the Western section, there were embrasures opening up in the Southern section for a South attack. Tipu had secured its forces on the Western bank of Kaveri near the powder mill, and two twelve pounders were immediately on the Shawe’s post to bombard it. The Nizam cavalry was employed in fortifying the village of Sultanpete which Wellesley had won. On the 12th there was kind of cease fire, with no guns firing from either the fort or to the fort. However on the afternoon of the 13th heavy firing commenced from the fort a shot fired from a cavalier crossed 3500 yards and reached the tent of the Commander in Chief. On the evening the signal guns of the Bombay army fired three shots at half past seven suggesting that they had encamped at a distance of two marches from Seringapatam. To convey an acknowledgement message General Harris fired equal number of guns, ten minutes after.
The Bombay Army arrived on 14th in the afternoon. On the 17th while the Bombay Army was taking position on the Northern side of Kaveri, Tipu’s men advanced to the ruined village at Agrarum situated on the North of the river in the prolongation of the West face of the Fort. Tipu’s intention was to establish a redoubt on this side as hundreds of workmen were with the Mysore troops who occupied this commanding position. General Stuart immediately launched hostilities. The Company troops were galled by the severe cannonade from the fort, however they fought well and ultimately repelled the attack. The position for opening Baterry No 1 was won, it was very important since this would play a major role in launching enfilade on the enemy entrenchments from just 1000 yards. Enfilade is kind offensive where the guns are positioned in a manner to fire through the longest axis of the enemy.
At the same day while battle raged on the Northern side, Major Mac Donald advanced to occupy the little Kaveri within 1000 metres from the walls of the fort, later this was known as the Mac Donald’s post. Captain Mckenzie on the same night placed his guns at position no.1 from where his artillery men could enfilade the Western wall, but later it was found that the survey had gone wrong!
On the 20th a gun battery had been posted at Sultanpete to open fire on Tipu’s entrenched army positioned on the West bank of Kaveri it could also take on the West Cavaliers as well as the defensive wall before the main wall known as fausee-braye. Cavaliers are towers from where guns fire at the enemies in front of the fort. The two twelve pounders bombarded Tipu’s strongholds in the Northern side. At the evening another important movement was carried out by the Company to occupy the powder mill post. Colonel Sherbrooke commanded this operation; there were three wings which emerged from the Mac Donald’s post. The left column under Lieut-Colonel Moneypenny to advance along the bank of the Kaveri and take on Mysore army’s right. The right under Lieut-Colonel Gardiner moved across the nullah and pressed the powder mill occupier from the left. The middle column under Lieut-Colonel St. John was to support the two flanks. The Company troops killed about 250 men of about 1800 men parked in the entrenchment, and lost only one! As soon as the powder mill was won a straight line of works was ordered to be constructed right from the mill to the hedges on the bank of little Kaveri. The work was completed in one night and a strategic place was won, it was a commanding position with its left supported by the river Kaveri and the right by the little Kaveri. It could cover Company troops from a distance of 713 metres from the fort and 400 metres from the Mysore army entrenchments. From the left of the powder mill the Company troops had a complete view of the West face for the first time. The most important thing which became clear from the expedition was the fact the stream was no obstruction at all. In case of a breach the troops could easily move up the stream and reach the outer rampart.
Captain Mckenzie who was supervising the work at the Northern side was asked to place his gun battery at No 2 position from where he could offer more efficient enfilade across the length of the Western face. Tipu was noticing this with his French officers, and on the night of 21st crossed Kaveri and from the rear of General Stuart’s army launched a volley of rockets. This was followed by rounds of musket fire at all posts of Bombay Army leaving them shaken. The French fought bravely, hand to hand however even after the brave show could not manage to route the Bombay Army. Tipu lost about 600 men in this action; Captain Mckenzie later planted his bombarding battery at the previously marked spot, Battery No 2.
The gun battery established at the powder mill on the West, and Mac Kenzie’s battery on the North began firing on the 23rd April. The new battery at position number 2 was extraordinary it heavily bombarded the curtains of the walls rendering it defenceless, and it soon silenced every gun. During the night of 23rd the principal parts of the Shawe’s post was advanced 600 yards forward. The troops moved in the cover of darkness under the shelter of deep ravines which was so helpful. In fact the terrain of Serinagapatam provided ample shelter for the movement of Company troops. A gun battery was established here to annoy the Mysore army entrenchments since they had not been finally evicted from their places. The Company troops also made show of breach in the North West angle bastion to hide their real intention.
Seeing the English intention to launch a West angle attack, Tipu began a new entrenchment beyond the bank of the a waterway issuing from the Montessor Island, curving its way along the powder mill and going as far as the Periapatam bridge. To ensure that the breaching batteries and the covering batteries performed under security it was essential to drive out the Mysorean army from entrenchment. Major Skelly and Colonel Moneypenny led the attack with two parties and were able to dislodge their enemies. However the Mysorean army continued to occupy the circular work which was a dangerous strategic point for them. Colonel Campbell moved in and dislodged Tipu’s troops from the right and followed them closely across the Periapatam Bridge penetrated their camps in the island, completely routed them, and installed a gun battery near the Bridge. The assault led by Colonel Campbell caused so much panic that an alarm went on in the fort expecting a general assault. Flares were fired from the Seringapatam fort and heavy gun fire commenced from the fort, the losses were considerable for both sides. The Mysore troops however did not give up they managed to get them again into the circular work in the night of 26th April and from the next morning rained heavy fire on Company troops. Colonel Sherbrooke rose to the occasion of defending these posts; he sent Colonel Wallace and Colonel Skelly to reoccupy the lost part. The Colonels performed the tasks outright and secured the place which later became Wallace’s Post and Skelly’s post. This turned out to be a major achievement since the Grand Army had gained a well connected strategic post from Kaveri to Skelly post, a length of 750 yards.
As the Company troops move in the vicinity of the river overlooking the counter-scrap investigation became necessary to know whether the river was fordable and the difficulty of launching an assault through the breach. The first obstacle was to cross the river on foot reach the counter-scrap, land on the ditch and get to the main rampart, this was the general defences that needed to be overcome and it needed an observation before the assault could be made practical. On the 29th Captain John Norris with his party crossed the river and was about to cross the counter-scrap as well when they were discovered by the sentries who opened up a volley of fire and the party had to return with the priceless lesson that the river was fordable without much difficulty. During this time of siege there appeared severe shortage of food, rice became so scarce that even the servants of the commanders remained half-starved.
The Company troops stuck to its plans, by 3rd May there was the enfilading battery on the North of the river bombarding the length of the Western side, the breaching batteries had been moved up close to the North Western angle, to cover these batteries there were the covering batteries which were firing balls at the cavaliers from different angles, the Guns of General Harris were going all blazing. So all the skirmishes that had taken place till now were to gain the grounds for placing these batteries and it was won with heavy price, for Tipu’s men fought valiantly fighting for every inch of land occupied. Once the guns had been placed on the pre-designed spots Tipu as well as General Harris knew it only matter of time when the walls would give away. The breach was noticed in the evening of 3rd March and it caused much enthusiasm in General Harris’s army, the troops started crowding near the passage to the breach on the daybreak of 4th March, the final assault was about to begin.
THE FINAL MARCH:
Right after noon when the Indian summer exhausted the troops for rest General Baird went ahead of the column, and mounting reverse of the trench, drew his sword and asked, “Are you ready men”, a loud affirmative response came, “then forward my lads”, said he. General Baird was to command this assault, he was given this duty because he was a prisoner of Mysore for three and half years now it was time to payback the courtesy which Tipu had offered. The plan was to assault with two parties, one to move to the right under Colonel Sherbrooke and the other by Lieutenant Colonel Dunlop to the left. The first objectives were to take control of the breach; the Right column would advance and take the Northern Rampart and the Left column to take the Southern rampart. The assaulting troops, the first to go in are known as forlorn hope composing of volunteers, subalterns, and commanded by officers waiting for promotions! The two forlorn hopes were to circle the fort and meet at the Eastern rampart. Colonel Wellesley remained at the back on the trenches with his native infantry to support the storming party.
The troops moved in under an extremely heavy fire, passed the glacis and the ditch and ascended the breach in the fausse braye and rampart of the fort surmounting every obstacle that came in their way.[v] In six minutes the forlorn hope closely followed by the rest of the troops planted British standard on the breach which, “was a glorious sight and most animating sight, it relieved all anxiety” days of preparation for the difficult job had been finally over. The left had secured the North rampart, the right had cleared the three important cavalier on the South West from where any fire could have been extremely dangerous. Although I mention this with ease the clearing of these ramparts were not easy, Tipu’s men fought valiantly, Colonel Dunlop had lost his wrist, all the principal officers were killed. The left column although had taken the North West bastion, and proceeded to the Northern side were meet with volleys of fire from Tipu’s troops posted behind the traverses, at every point the leading soldiers were killed, it was on time that a detachment under Captain Godwall was sent to reinforce this party. Captain Godwall’s men flanked the men on the traverses pushing them as far the North East angle. The Right column had made immense success after clearing the three cavaliers they had swept the Western side and arrived within an hour at the Eastern edge where the Tipu’s troops were trapped in, sandwiched between two Company troops on either side the Mysore troops were cut to pieces.
In order to reach the inner ramparts the troops had to advance and climb the retaining wall which was the outer part of the ditch, and then descend into the ditch. The water in the ditch wasn’t very deep up to knee height; the climb to breach wasn’t much difficult the only position where the besiegers would have been in trouble from the flanking guns of the fort was the summit of the breach. But then the enfilading batteries from the North had rained havoc on the guns of the inner ramparts and devoid of any resistance against the climbers. The Company soldiers could well move freely on the outer rampart from where there were many connections to the inner part. While the right column stormed the Southern section the wounded body of Sayed Saheb was found among dead bodies. Sayed Sahed was the finance minister of Tipu and also his father in law, Major Dallas was quick to recognize him and asked from the location of the Sultan. Sayed Saheb couldn’t say much though he provided a very valuable information that the Sultan could well have been in the fort. Later firing broke out between Company troops and French forces who later surrendered among them was General Chapuy, the French Commander in Chief.
The battle was slowly coming to the end, all important places had been won, and intelligence about the Sultan was conveyed to General Baird. A witch hunt was launched all round the place with General Baird leaving no stone unturned to find his once upon a time captor. General Baird by hook or crook tried to get information about Tipu’s whereabouts from two princes, who could not provide anything useful clue. The Killedar was dragged out to tell the truth and after some harsh threatening he confessed that Tipu was wounded and perhaps lay in the North Gate, Water Gate to be precise. The Killedar was taken to the spot, where a heap of bodies lay open, about 500 bodies were pulled out until the Sultan was discovered and identified by the Killedar himself. The Sultan had been shot a little above the right ear by a musket ball which lodged near the mouth in his left cheek; he also received three wounds apparently with the bayonet in his right side. Peace restored inside the fort although amidst much confusion and disarray, the prominent families were given quarter. Tipu had lost along with his life about eight thousand men, while the Company troops had lost 21 officers, 45 wounded, 181 European rank and file killed, 622 wounded, 22 missing, 119 native troops killed, 420 wounded, and 100 missing. Tipu’s strength at the time of Company assault through the breach was 13739 regular infantry inside the fort, and 8100 outside the fort. “Thus ended the siege of Seringapatam an achievement no less important than decisive and which has never been surpassed in splendour by any event recorded in the history of the military transaction of the British nation in India. The fall of this capital placed the whole kingdom of Mysore with all its resources at the disposal of the British Government and extinguished the only power in India which was deemed formidable.”[vi]
During the last fourteen days of the siege Tipu had occupied a small stone room near the Water Gate. Here he ate and slept and offered his instruction to his army. Tipu was very clear on his mind that he would defend the fort till his breadth. The Brahmin and Muslim astrologers had warned him that May the 4th would prove to be an inauspicious day for the Sultan. On the morning of 4th the Sultan presented the Brahmins with enormous gifts, such as cattle, buffaloes, pots of oil, money etc and asked them to pray for his kingdom. After this he retired back to his war-room in the Water gate where he was informed by his spies that the Company troops were waiting to launch an attack in the afternoon. He dismissed his spies saying that it was improvable that they would attack in the day and alerted Sayed Sahib to be careful on the breach. Sayed Goffur who was commanding near the breach informed the Sultan that enemies in unusual numbers had assembled on the trenches overlooking the rampart, the Sultan conveyed the same message that he expected an attack on the night, but asked them to be careful in case of any attack. Immediately after this he asked for his lunch, but he no time to finish since news arrived of the assault. Tipu washed his hands, and called for his sword and musket. He rushed to the Northern rampart and was within two hundred yards from the breach overlooking hundreds of European soldiers storming through; the Sultan fired few rounds which killed three to four assailants. Seeing the company soldiers rushing towards him the Sultan retreated across the Northern rampart, here he came across his favourite horse and mounted it. He rode east wards and came near the Sally port in the inner rampart, where he found a crowd waiting to get out of the gate. Here he received his first wounded by a musket ball, and as he went near the gate another shot hit him in the left breast. Rajah Khan who was accompanying his master all the way asked the Sultan to reveal himself; Tipu rejected and asked him to be silent. With the Sultan and his horse wounded, Rajah Khan tried to dismount him from the horse and in the act they both fell down upon the corpses. Rajah Khan was shot through the legs, they were right below the arch of the gate when an European soldier tried to snatch Tipu’s golden sword buckle. The tiger immediately grasped a sword with his right hand and struck him which the soldier defended with his musket, Tipu offered a second blow and cut down another soldier, right after this he received a shot through his temple and breathed his last.
The next morning after the assault on the fort, arrangements were being to cremate the deceased Sultan. Abdul Khallik the Sultan’s eldest son convinced himself of his father’s death upon seeing the dead body of the former Sultan. Wellesley insisted that four companies of Europeans should participate in the funeral, and minute guns to be fired. To these arrangements Khallik expressed his unwillingness however after being convinced that this was purely to pay respect, the eldest son gave his consent. The funeral proceeded to the tomb of Hyder where Tipu would be placed beside his father, the funeral bier was accompanied by large gathering, and people thronged the streets to bid their Sultan their last goodbye. Right behind the funeral bier rode Abdul Khallik, behind him was the Killedar, joined by hundreds of Muslims on foot. People wailed, cried out loudly as the bier passed before them until it reached the mausoleum of Hyder. By that time Meer Allum the commander of the Nizam’s forces had paid his last respects to the Sultan. When the body reached the mausoleum the Grenadiers formed the street, and presented arms as it passed. Finally the “Tiger of Mysore” was laid to rest, a charitable gift of Rs. 5000 was distributed among the poor, and thus ended the chapter of Tipu Sultan. A terrifying storm rose right after the funeral ceremony accompanied by thunder and lightning, which killed two officers of the Bombay army and many were severely hurt.
[i] Millitary History of the Madra Engineers, page 290
[ii] Lieut-General Stuart to Earl of Mornington, 6th March 1799.
[iii] Arthur Wellesley to Earl of Mornington 5th April 1799.
[iv] Arthur Wellesley to Maurice Fitzgerald April 1799.
[v] General Harris to Earl of Mornington 7th May .
[vi] View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo, Alexander Beatson
Sumit Soren is the founder of Livelystories. Basically an Agricultural Engineer, Sumit has interest in varied topics. He regularly writes on tribal history, internet and science related topics.