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  3.10 The Battle of Pollilur 1780: D/ Col. Baillie  


©Otto Money
The Battle of Pollilur 1780, D/ Col. Baillie

Gouache on five sheets of paper, with canvas backing
224.8 x 976 cm

Unknown Indian Artist c.1840

ne of Col. Baillie's Officers describes, in his Memoirs, the detachment which Sir Hector Munro dispatched on 8th September 1780 to relieve the beleaguered Colonel Baillie: ' under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Fletcher: One grenadier company, commanded by Lieutenant Lindsay ; one company of light infantry, by Captain Baird of the 73d regiment; two European companies of grenadiers, the one commanded by Captain Phillips, the other by Captain Ferrier; the native marksmen, amounting to the number of sixty, under Lieutenant Muat; five companies of Sepoy grenadiers, under Captain Rumley; and five under Captain Gowdie; and nine camels laden with ammunition, together with the doolies of the army. At half past eight in the afternoon, this detachment, leaving the grand army, proceeded on their destination. On the 9th, at one o'clock in the morning, they halted for half an hour in order to refresh the men with a dram a biscuit.' John Lindsay himself records that the detachment was 'with infinite secrecy collected and placed under the command of a gallant and experienced officer, Col. Fletcher. Of this unfortunate body, I commanded the grenadiers of the 71st regiment (the 73rd was renumbered the 71st in 1786), and my friend Captain (now General Sir David) Baird the light infantry.'

Fletcher brilliantly anticipated that Haidar's spies and Fletcher's local guides (who were in Haidar's pay), intended to lead his detachment to destruction. He found, however, on finally arriving close to Baillie's detachment, that the Colonel had cut through the bank of his tank, and flooded much of the countryside behind him. As a result, after lying on their arms for three days and nights waiting for the advance from Madras, and then marching 20 miles, Fletcher's men had to wade the last section of their march to reach Baillie at 07.00 a.m. At 8.00pm that evening, 9th September, by bright moonlight, the combined force moved off towards Conjeeveram, harrassed and fired on by Tipu's forces. After marching 11 miles, Baillie determined to halt, to rest his exhausted men, calm and re-group the camp followers and the baggage train, which carried provisions for the grand army, and wait until day to re-assess the unfamiliar territory ahead . Fletcher protested keenly, although 'being asked by some officers why Colonel Baillie halted, modestly answered , that Colonel Baillie was an officer of established reputation, and that he no doubt had reasons for his conduct.'

The gallant Fletcher was killed at Pollilur. Among the survivors of that battered band, Col Baillie and Capt. Baird were wounded, and Captain John Lindsay was among the 200 men taken prisoner. His Journal, 'an account of myself, and of the various circumstances that befel me, from the time that I was taken prisoner by Haidar Ali on the 10th of September, 1780, until my release from prison, and my arrival at Madras on the 17th April, 1784,' describes Haidar's review of the prisoners on 11th September, and the moving encounter which followed: 'When I came out, a figure, covered all over with blood, came limping up to me and called me by my name, which from the voice I soon discovered was my old friend David Baird; this was a most welcome meeting to both of us.'


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