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


©Otto Money
The Battle of Pollilur 1780, D/ Capt. David Baird and Col. Fletcher

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

Unknown Indian Artist c.1840

n the history of the British people, there is nothing finer or more terrible than Baillie's resistance to the overwhelming army which surrounded him. Cannonaded on his left, his front and his right, scorch'd with the fire of musketry and rockets, and harassed by incessant charges of horsemen, he struggled onů' declared the author (1902) of a history of Fort St. George, Madras. The troops with Baillie's detachment were as follows

- Royal Artillery 4 officers 77 men
- Madras European Infantry (102nd Foot) 9 officers 104 men
- Fletcher's reinforcement, flank companies of 1/71st, and grenadiers of Madras European Infantry 301 of all ranks  
- Native Infantry 46 European officers 3312 men
    Total: 3853 men

Of the 86 European officers, 36 were killed or died of wounds, 34 were taken wounded, and only 16 taken unhurt. The whole of the sepoy forces were either killed, captured or dispersed, and only about 200 Europeans, most of them wounded, were taken alive by the enemy.

Baillie himself is reported to have said to Haidar after the battle, 'Your son will inform you that you owe the victory to our disaster rather than to our defeat.' Baillie and his gallant detachment had certainly fought heroically to the last, and Munro had made some progress towards Baillie in the early morning of the fateful day. However, Munro seems to have been indecisive, changing direction twice before meeting sepoys bearing news of Baillie's defeat. Munro withdrew to Conjeeveram, the city to which he had clung so firmly for the sake of the stores, but of these, there was now only one day's supply remaining. By 3.00am the next morning, therefore, Munro had cast into the temple tank all the heavy guns, and any other supplies which would encumber his withdrawal. He retreated to Chingleput, losing on the way a further 500 men to Haidar's attacks, but meeting Col. Cosby, and the troops from Trichinopoly, who had marched north-east to meet him after failing to recover Chittapet from Haidar. By 15th September, Munro had reached the safety of Marmalong, some 4 miles South of Madras. The disastrous campaign was over.

Although blame has been heaped on Munro, once feted as the victor of Buxar (1767), the Madras Council cannot escape censure. It was they who were ultimately accountable for the lack of transport and supplies which so bedevilled troop movements; for corruption and bickering amongst themselves, and for the lack of preparedness and widely scattered forces at the beginning of the campaign. Not without reason has it been described as 'one of the greatest calamities that has ever befallen British arms.' Nor was it surprising that Tipu chose this theme for a great mural painting on the walls of his Darya Daulat Palace at Seringapatam. The cycle consists of an upper and a lower section, on either side of one of the main doorways into the elaborately decorated interior. The left-hand section shows Tipu's army advancing, with his French mercenaries and Maratha troops. In the right section, Haidar and Tipu lead the advance as a cavalry charge on the British Cavalry. The British square, with Baillie seated centrally in his palanquin, appears above, and to the right of the square, the French, with their commander Lally, and more of Tipu's men, attack the rear of the square. Today, the mural is preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India as part of the national heritage.


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