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  4.21 Abstract of the Army, 1st June 1790  

©The Henry Steuart Fothringham Archive Trustees
Abstract of the Army, 1st June 1790

Pen and wash on card
8 x 12 cm


irom was born on 21st May 1757 at Muiresk in Banffshire and 'acquired some knowledge of Persian' after his arrival in India. Like his fellow Scot, Alexander Beatson, Dirom used the long sea-voyage home from India - 'the prospect of leisure for several months' as he described it - to write his account of the recent campaign against Tipu. Among his letters and Journal for the period 12 February 1790 to 24 October 1791, we read of inclement weather; extreme fatigue; wounds received; and the hardships of men dragging the battering train and stores from Bangalore back to Seringapatam. Draught cattle in vast numbers would normally perform these tasks, but during the third Mysore War, an epidemic killed and weakened hundreds of the beasts. Dirom records that 'the scarcity of grain was such that the lower class of followers were reduced to the necessity of subsisting chiefly on the putrid flesh of the dead (bullocks); and to add to this scene of distress, the small pox unfortunately raged in the camp.' In the face of such desperate adversity, it is remarkable that the reduction of the hill forts of Nandidrug and Kistnagerry was achieved, and duly noted by Dirom. The contribution of another Scotsman, Thomas Cockburn, is all the more impressive when read in this context. With his enterprise and efficiency, he succeeded in assembling 10,000 draught and carriage bullocks to assist General Abercromby ascending the Ghats in January 1792.

Dirom described Tipu as an 'able and intrepid general'. This card records the key statistics and positions of officers and equipment, ranged against Tipu in one of the actions which followed Tipu's invasion of Travancore. Mortars, brass and iron guns are listed, including light 'galloper' guns and the battering train, also the total number of troops: 17,410 men, both European and native. The extent of the front, including cavalry, was 4,000 yards. The armies of Haidar and Tipu were often vastly greater than those of the British, and sometimes - dramatically at Pollilur in 1780, for example - the power of Mysore was triumphantly proclaimed with an Indian victory.

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