Page images
PDF
EPUB

declared himself favourable at home, was most disinclined for war, and left no effort untried to prevent it.

The authorities at Madras by his instructions sent down two commissioners to Travancore, for the purpose of mediating between the contending parties. The pacific attitude of the English, however, only served to encourage Tippoo in his designs, and spurning all remonstrance, he at once directed his army to traverse the Ghauts, and pour down upon the lines of Travancore. His troops were numerous, and tolerably well officered by European deserters, who, to please the sultan and rise in his service, often added to their other misdemeanours the guilt of apostacy. These men conducted the Mysorean levies with great skill through the narrow passes, and along the precipitous summits of the mountains, until they reached the steep rock of Sharapootamally, the top of which commanded the Malabar defences. Driving the vanguard of the Nairs before him, the sultan in person, with a large body of troops, entered the lines towards the right flank, and endeavoured to fight his way towards the centre.

He encountered on this occasion the most strenuous opposition. Burning with a fanaticism in no way inferior to his own, the Nairs disputed every inch of the ground. A considerable number threw themselves into a large building, which had been formerly used as a barrack, and here, for some time, they held Tippoo at bay. Finding his leading files exhausted, the sultan ordered up fresh troops to relieve them, but this manœuvre created some confusion in the ranks, and the enemy at that moment pouring in a furious discharge of grape, the Mysoreans were speedily seized with a panic. The sultan attempted in vain to rally them, he himself was borne along by the torrent. A fall as he was passing over the ditch maimed him for life, while the royal palanquin with his jewels, seal and diamond-hilted sword fell into the hands of the victors.

1790.]

EXPEDITION OF MEADOWS.

129

Maddened by this disappointment, Tippoo vowed that he would take fearful vengeance for the losses he had sustained. He ordered down all his cannon from Seringapatam, with those detachments of his army which formed a corps de reserve. In April 1790, he opened his batteries, and soon effected a breach. The English troops having received no orders to move, stood neutral, while Tippoo carried one position after another. The Nairs discouraged and overpowered, retired before him, and the country was rendered almost desolate by the fierce Mysoreans. But the hour of retribution was close at hand.

Having exhausted every means of preserving peace, Lord Cornwallis found that nothing remained but to prepare for war. He concluded, therefore, an alliance with the Peishwa of the Mahrattas against Tippoo Sahib, and, in May, General Meadows marched with 16,000 men from Tranquebar towards Mysore. Alarmed by the intelligence which reached him respecting this latter movement, the sultan addressed a letter to the English commander, in which he expressed his surprise at this hostile demonstration. Meadows answered briefly that the English were determined to protect to the last their ally, the sovereign of Travancore, by attacking whom Tippoo had virtually broken the truce that formerly existed between them.

The sultan now awoke to the full extent of his danger, and hastily collecting his troops, hurried back to Seringapatam, leaving only slender garrisons in the fortresses of Travancore. These strongholds soon after fell; for Colonel Hartley advancing into the country with a powerful force, and being aided by the Nairs and other Hindoos, speedily expelled the Mysoreans from each one of their defences. The fanaticism of the Heathens, on this occasion, showed itself fully equal to that of the Mohammedans, whom they butchered on every side with the most savage and relentless cruelty.

K

In the mean time General Meadows continued his march, capturing on his way Caroor, Coimbatoor, Sattimungul, and other strong posts. The divisions of his army, however, were too widely separated from each other; and this circumstance gave Tippoo an advantage of which he promptly availed himself. Colonel Floyd occupied the pass of Gujelhutty, which led directly into the Mysore country, but his corps was sixty miles distant from the main body, while thirty miles intervened between the latter, and the division commanded by Colonel Stuart. In September 1790, the Mysore cavalry assailed Floyd's corps, but were repulsed with loss. Subsequently the whole of their army, under the sultan in person, renewed the attack, and although driven back by a bayonet charge, they brought their batteries to bear upon the enemy, and mowed down great numbers of the Sepoys. These brave men, however, refused to desert their post. “ We have eaten the Company's salt; our lives are at their disposal,” was their heroic reply, when condoled with by Colonel Floyd upon the losses they had sustained. A report that General Meadows was at hand alone preserved them from utter defeat, and Tippoo, fearing that he should be obliged to sustain an attack from the two detachments when united together, contrived to elude his foes, and descend upon the Coromandel coast. He now employed himself in ravaging the Carnatic with fire and sword, Trichinopoly barely escaped a siege, but at Thiagur he received a check from Captain Flint, which induced him to approach Pondicherry, and endeavour to secure the assistance of the French.

While he remained in the vicinity of the latter place, Lord Cornwallis had arrived at Madras, and commanding Meadows to join him, resolved to penetrate into the Mysore country, by the direction of Bangalore. This bold movement at once recalled the sultan to the defence of his own dominions, but the Marquis making a

1791.)
TAKING OF BANGALORE.

131 sudden détour to the right, avoided a general action, and commenced the siege of Bangalore on the 5th of March, 1791. The town was defended by a ditch and enclosure of hedges, formed of the plant called the Indian thorn. Its fortifications however were weak though well manned, but, from the dilapidated turrets, the enemy poured down a heavy fire of musketry and small arms upon the advancing soldiers. Many officers had fallen covered with wounds, when Lieutenant Ayre, a man small in stature but of great courage, forced his way through the gate. At this welcome sight, General Meadows called to his men : “Now whiskers, try and support the little gentleman, if you can."

A homely phrase, or pleasantry pithily expressed, has generally more effect upon the English soldier than the most studied oration; and the men, stirred up by the exhortation of their commander, rushed into the town with a headlong fury that no opposition could resist. Their

rage had been inflamed by the known brutalities of Tippoo towards his prisoners, as well as by the narratives of the captives who were formerly imprisoned in the dungeons of Mysore. Driving the Mohammedans from street to street, and from turret to turret, the English compelled them, at the point of the bayonet, to evacuate the pettah.

The citadel still remained, but the spirits of the besiegers were so elevated, in consequence of their recent success, that they insisted upon making the attack that very night. At eleven, while the pure clear light of an Indian moon shone serene and peaceful over a scene of slaughter, the storming party advanced with silence and caution to the foot of the ramparts ; raising their ladders, the vanguard had already mounted upon the wall, when the alarm was given, and the besieged rushed to the battlements. The governor fell defending gallantly his post, and in a short time the standard of England waved triumphantly from the conquered fort. Bangalore was won !

And now Tippoo trembled for his capital, towards which Lord Cornwallis continued his victorious march. The sultan had designed to have removed his harem to the rock fort of Chittledroog; but his mother interfered, and persuaded him to relinquish a measure calculated to dispirit his followers, and encourage the enemy. In the insolence of past prosperity, he had adorned the walls of Seringapatam with caricatures of the English. These were now erased, and a number of prisoners secretly murdered, lest they should disclose to the victors the fearful secrets of their dungeon.

Finding his outposts driven in, one after another, by the charges of the English, the sultan took up his final position on a line of hills, descending to the bank of the Cavery, which fronts the island of Seringapatam. The action that ensued proved obstinate and sanguinary. Eventually, however, the Mysoreans were driven from their post, and Lord Cornwallis, after having lost 500 men, found himself master of the eminences, from which he could look down upon the city of Seringapatam.

The English had been victorious, and indeed almost held within their grasp the last fortress that remained to Tippoo, but their continuance before its walls, even for a few days, was soon found to be impossible. The country, through which they had recently advanced, having been previously laid waste by the Mysorean cavalry, yielded no provisions; the inhabitants had all fled; and the soldiers, wearied and exhausted from past toils, soon became exposed to the attacks of famine and disease. A prolonged stay could not be contemplated, the more especially as the Mahratta allies had not yet arrived, and, to save his men, Lord Cornwallis was compelled, though sorely against his will, to abandon his heavy artillery and order a retreat. In addition to his other misfortunes, the heavy rains of the country were now falling, while the rivers overflowing their banks deluged the plains, and created on every side morasses

« PreviousContinue »