« ForrigeFortsett »
corps was ordered to embark for India. Their como mander was then labouring under a severe illness ; but immediately upon his recovery, set sail and joined them at the Cape, and after arriving at Bengal, reached Calcutta early in 1797. It was remarked that during his passage, he occupied much of his time in the perusal of the chief works relating to India, thus storing his mind with well-digested information, and preparing it to meet future emergencies.
When Colonel Wellesley reached India, the Company's possessions were apparently in a state of perfect peace. But the deceitful calm was about to be broken. Fortunately, Lord Wellesley, the next Governor General, who entered upon his duties the year after his brother's arrival, possessed both acuteness to discern the hostile plans of the native powers, as well as wisdom and activity to frustrate them. Tippoo, the Sultan of Mysore, always an inveterate and restless enemy of the British, sought alliance with the French, and had likewise intrigued with several of the native courts, with such success, that a storm of war seemed likely to burst upon the Company's possessions. His own power was likewise formidable ; for though he had been compelled to cede half his territories to the Company and their allies, he yet ruled with absolute sway over a country 200,000 square miles in extent, and could bring into the field an army of 150,000 men. He was of a turbulent and vindictive spirit, and his territory was most favourably placed for hostile purposes, since it lay almost in the centre of the British settlements, and by a sudden irruption into the Carnatic, might
easily overpower Madras. The chief ally of the British also might waver in his faith ; (for his character was known to be irresolute ;) he
had suffered greatly in a recent war with the Peshwa ; 14,000 French mercenaries were in his service, and his chief military officers were partizans of the French republic.
Early in June, 1798, a proclamation by the Governor of the Isle of France reached Bengal, which contained a statement that Tippoo only waited for French assistance, to expel the English from India. All French citizens were already invited to join the Sultan's standard ; who had likewise sent emissaries to the sovereign of Cabul, entreating him to attack the British territories from the north. Lord Wellesley immediately prepared for war. Orders were transmitted to General Harris, commander at Madras, to assemble all the disposable forces of the Carnatic, so as to be near the scene of action. The Nizam was prevailed upon to disband the French troops in his service ; a mutiny broke out among them, and a British force being sent into the Deccan, surrounded and disarmed them. The remonstrances sent to Tippoo having been disregarded, preparations were made for carrying on the war on such a scale, as, if possible, entirely to destroy his power.
The invasion was to take place simultaneously from several points ; and on the 3rd of February, the forces were ordered to advance into the Mysore territory. General Harris entered into the Carnatic, with the main body ; General Stuart with the Bombay force from the west ; and Colonels Brown and Read from the southern Carnatic and the Baramahl ; the whole amounting to 55,000 men.
Tippoo, alarmed at this formidable force, endeavoured to cause delay by means of negociations, but these could not now be received ; the season for active service was come, and delay would only have allowed the enemy to gain strength. Genera. Harris was directed to advance upon Seringapatam. Meanwhile the Sultan's forces, concealed by woody ground, stole silently up and attacked the British advance, which consisted of a single brigade of native troops ; but these gallantly maintained their ground for the space of five hours, till General Stuart brought up a reinforcement. At length Tippoo withdrew to his camp at Periapatam, after having sustained a loss of 1500 men. General Harris's march was impeded by the necessity of carrying along with him the materials for a siege, and by great mortality among the carriage bullocks. He did not reach Mallavelly till almost the end of March.' Here the Sultan's array first became visible, drawn up on the high ground, and prepared for attack. Clouds of the enemy's horse scoured the country in all directions, setting the towns and villages on fire. Colonel Wellesley's force, consisting of his own regiment, and the Nizam's troops, supported by General Floyd's cavalry, advanced upon the left, while the right wing was led forward by General Harris. The whole line then speedily engaged, and the Sultan's troops were driven from their ground, after an obstinate engagement, and the fugitives were fiercely pursued by the cavalry. In this affair, Colonel Wellesley's regiment made a brilliant charge with the bayonet.
The British army having forded the Cauvery, compelled the Sultan to retreat upon his capital. On the 15th of April they encamped before Seringapatam, at the distance of 3500 yards. The encampment was happily situated ; the right on high ground, the left secured by an aqueduct, and the river Cauvery ; deep ravines protected the rear from the enemy's flying cavalry. Still, however,
this strong position was commanded by some elevated ground, whence the camp was annoyed by the discharge of rockets. Colonels Wellesley and Shaw moved forward at night, to drive back the advanced posts of the enemy; they were received with a heavy fire, and their efforts were but partially successful, Colonel Shaw having only made himself master of a ruined village. Next day, however, three simultaneous attacks were made to drive back the enemy from the whole line of his outposts ; a strong force was brought to bear upon them under cover of guns previously posted.
Colonel Wellesley again commanded the attack upon the point which had been before attempted ; the enemy was driven back in every quarter ; a series of posts, two miles in length, at the distance of 1800 yards from the fort, were secured ; and Gereral Harris enabled to draw a complete line of contravallation. By this successful enterprize, the fate of Seringapatam was almost already decided.
The operations of the siege were now pushed on with the utmost possible despatch. The strength of the place was formidable. “ Many of the large fortresses of the native powers, are lofty and difficult of access; constructed of solid ;
masonry, with double and winding gateways ; having walls of a terrific height, without any ramparts, and round towers at the angles. Seringapatam is fortified in the old Indian fashion ; obstacles are clumsily multiplied ; and especially at the south-west angle, wall rises above wall, in complicated obstruction. The north-western angle was selected as the point of attack.; the river (on an island of which, Seringa patam is situated) being at that season low, its bed wide, and filled with rocks and fragments of granite."*
General Harris had been already joined by the Bombay army, under Stuart, and the cavalry commanded by Floyd ; on their march' they had been much annoyed by parties of the enemy's horse. Meanwhile the works were rapidly advancing ; a portion of the army took up a position within 1000 yards of the western angle of the fort, and likewise seized upon the bed of a water-course which lay to the south. The sultan now became alarmed, and sent repeated proposals to head-quarters ; but the time of mercy was past, and the only alternative left to him was an unconditional surrender. The Bombay army was assailed by 6000 native troops, and Sally's Frenchmen, but after repeated fierce attempts, they were driven off with great loss. During these occurrences, Colonel Wellesley was most active and vigilant, ever inspecting the progress of the siege, and making frequent visits to the General. On the 26th he directed the attack upon some intrenchments situated behind a water-course, at the distance of about 380 yards from the walls; the enemy made a spirited resistance, but the bravery of our men speedily overcame them.
On the 30th, the breaching battery opened on the bastion, and on the 2nd of May another battery was directed against the right curtain, while guns from various other directions sent their dreadful showers upon the walls. The surrounding hills reverberated the thunders which seemed almost to shake the fort. At night a magazine of rockets suddenly blew up within the fortress, and filled the sky with flashes of flame. Next morning the breach was announced as practicable ; and by night the main rampart was a pile of crumbling ruins. Scaling ladders, fascines, &c., had been previously prepared, and the
* Sherer's Military Memoirs.