n his father's death (1782), Tipu Sultan assumed power in
Mysore. Feared and respected - a contemporary Scot, Major
Dirom, described him as 'a brave and intrepid general' - Tipu's
avowed aim was to banish the British from his kingdom. Progressive
aspects of his rule included the development of sericulture;
breeding the fine Seringapatam Ox; building dams to control
monsoon flooding; the application of European military technology
and a keen awareness of the politics of secularism.
The Battle of Pollilur: 10th September 1780
During the Second Mysore War, the young Tipu fought
with his father. Tipu was dispatched to intercept British
troops under Col. Baillie as they moved south to join
the Company's main army under Sir Hector Munro at Conjeeveram
(modern Kanchipuram), 40 miles south of Madras.
After Tipu's initial attack, Munro dispatched Col. Fletcher
with reinforcements to Baillie, but made no advance
himself. Tipu, whose forces vastly outnumbered his opponent's,
again attacked Baillie's contingent, which included
the 73rd Regiment and sepoy (Indian) marksmen and grenadiers.
The British line eventually broke, but Baillie rallied
his men, formed square and withstood a further 13 attacks
before demanding quarter.Only the intervention of Lally
and Pimorin, Haidar's French officers, halted the annihilation
of the British. Any survivors, including Col. Baillie,
Capt. David Baird, and Capt John Lindsay, were consigned
to one of Haidar's prisons. At the peace of 1784, Baird
was released and fifteen years later, he led the final
attack on Seringapatam.
The French Allliance
Under Haidar Ali, French allies helped to construct Seringapatam's
formidable defences against the British, although it was also
the French who intervened to save the British from the victors'
excesses after the Battle of Pollilur in 1780.
Tipu dispatched three ambassadors to Paris in 1788, and Mohammed
Dervich Khan and Akbar Ali Khan and Mohammad Osman Khan attracted
much public interest there. Louis XVI, who had commissioned
a substantial diplomatic gift of Sevres porcelain for Tipu,
eventually granted them an audience. He also persuaded one
to sit for his portrait to Mme Vigee Lebrun.
In 1798, a Jacobin Club, extolling Republican principles,
was founded at Seringapatam by Francois Ripaud, from the Īlle
de France. (Mauritius). The 'citizens' saluted a Tree of Liberty
and Cap of Equality, and French soldiers from the Īlle landed
on the mainland. This, with the discovery of Tipu's correspondence
with Napoleon, gave Richard Wellesley, the new Governor General,
justification for declaring the fourth and final Mysore War
The Third Mysore War: 1790-92
Following Haidar's death in 1782, Tipu continued his father's
policy of territorial aggrandisement, and his attack on Tranvancore
precipitated the Third Mysore War . Tipu's 'scorched earth'
strategy, together with the daunting problems of maintaining
long supply lines, forced Lord Cornwallis, the British Commander
in Chief, to abandon the attack on Seringapatam in July 1791
and retreat to Bangalore. A renewed offensive resulted in
Tipu's defeat in February 1792, with harsh retribution - loss
of territory, payment of substantial reparation and the surrender
of two of his sons, aged 5 and 8, as hostages.
The sons enjoyed the social scene at Madras for eighteen
months, before being returned to their father. In 1799,
it was Major General David Baird who received the surrender
of Tipu's sons, following the Storming of Seringapatam.
The Storming of Seringapatam, 4th May 1799
The new Governor - General, Richard Wellesley was determined
to eliminate the Mysorean threat to British ambitions in India.
Within two months of declaring war, General Harris, British
Commander in Chief, the Madras army and the Bombay army under
General Stuart, were closing on Seringapatam. Two critical
factors added urgency: near famine in the camp, and the appoaching
monsoon, which would render the River Cauvery impassable.
Tipu gloomily viewed the breach effected in the north-west
fortifications. Amidst suspicions of treachery and ill
omens for 4th May, his fierce spirit seems to have deserted
him. He was unprepared for the British attack at 1.0pm,
led by Major-General Baird.
The British quickly gained the ramparts, divided into
two columns and streamed north and south towards the
palace. Within two hours, Tipu's family had surrendered,
and eventually, about 5.0pm. Tipu's lifeless body was
found, under a heap of the slain, by General Baird,
Major Allan and Lt Col Close. He was accorded a full