Back to Tipu Menu

  3.13 Plan of the principal Prison of Seringapatan  

©Anne Buddle
'Memoirs Of The Late War In Asia With A Narrative Of The Imprisonment And Sufferings Of Our Officers And Soldiers By An Officer Of Col. Baillie's Detachment' : London 1788

Frontispiece: Plan Of The Principal Prison Of Seringapatan (Sic)

15 x 18.3 cm

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.

  I remain
  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 imprisonment.

I am very ill so adieu


back to top of page



© Copyright 2000 The National Galleries of Scotland.
All rights reserved. All trademarks recognised.