his plan appears as the Frontispiece of 'Memoirs of the
Late War in Asia with a Narrative of the Imprisonment and
Suffering of our Officers and Soldiers.' The unknown author
was an Officer of Col. Baillie's Detachment, which fought
so gallantly and desperately at the Battle of Pollilur
in September 1780. The British soldiers who survived, including
Baillie, Baird, Lindsay, Hope and others, were marched off
to one of Haidar's prisons.
The 18th-century prisoner enjoyed no humanitarian protection. Taken
in battle or at sea, by Haidar, Tipu, or the French, his lot was
harsh, and Tipu's prisons were dreaded as a fate worse than death.
Tipu's cruelty to prisoners was legendary, but we should not forget
- from our greatly cushioned viewpoint in the 21st-century - that
Tipu was a man of his time. Conditions for the Scottish Covenanters
held at Dunnottar, for example, or those imprisoned in the Bastille
during the French Revolution, would have been equally unattractive.
Some of the prison narratives of the Mysore Wars are undoubtedly
exaggerated to appeal to the 18th- century interest in 'gothic'
horror. One author actually acknowledges this in his Preface: 'If
the horrid scene ….shall not offend but rather interest the reader
it may be proper to bring it still closer to view.' Surviving letters,
written from Tipu's prisons, and the very rare drawings which show
prisoners in captivity, are particularly valuable for the authentic
evidence which they provide. The key to this plan identifies the
number of 'Cotts' on the matted verandas, and also (e) 'Capt. Barid's
(sic) Garden' within the Mud Wall (g) 18 feet high. The corner rooms,
each containing 4 Cotts, measured approximately 16 feet long by
10 feet wide.
The Journals of two Scotsmen, the brothers Lieut. John and Capt.
James Lindsay, provide a very detailed
testimony of their experiences during the Second Mysore War. James
was killed in action at Cuddalore in 1783, but his brother, imprisoned
by Tipu after the Battle of Pollilur, survived to be released at
the peace of 1784. Many other prisoners were less
fortunate. Archibald Hope, writing from Seringapatam on 5th
July 1782, to his father, Sir Archibald Hope of Rankeillour, describes
the action at Pollilur, and how delighted he was, on arriving at
Seringapatam jail from Arni, to find there 'my friends Captain
Baird and Lieutenant. Lindsay.' Hope was nineteen when he arrived
at Seringapatam. His last letter to his father, a little over a
year later, bears poignant witness to the young Scotsman's sufferings.
The closing lines are transcribed below:
'………About the middle of December when we had recovered from our
wounds we were sent up here (from Arni) which is the capital of
Haidar's country where I was so fortunate as to meet with my friends
Captain Baird and Lieutenant Lindsay - here we were put upon a scanty
allowance hardly sufficient to support nature dragging on a miserable
existence loaded with irons and every
hardship that a close imprisonment and infamous usage for 22 months
could inflict upon a set of the most unfortunate men that ever existed.
About a month ago I was attacked with flux billuus (sic) fever and
the liver. Youth and a good constitution struggled along with these
three complaints but they are now almost overpowered and I am attacked
with the fatal symptom (a hickup) as I find my end approaching I
request that you will never send a son of yours to this country
unless you wish to make him miserable. I have empowered Captain
Baird to settle all my affairs in this country. I will refer you
to him for an account of them and everything else relating to me
since my arrival in this country. My due love and affection to Lady
Hope, sisters, brothers, the family of Castle Semple, my Uncle,
Captain MacDowall, and all other friends.
||My dear Sir
||Yours most affectionately
To Sir Archibald Hope
I beg leave to recommend to your particular notice
and attention Captain Baird who has behaved to me
more like a father than anything ever since my unfortunate
I am very ill so adieu