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  3.29 The Storming of Seringapatam: D/The Breach  


©Anne Buddle
From the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad. The Storming of Seringapatam in 1799, D/The Breach ; 1800

Oil on canvas
88.9 x 243.8 (approx) cm

After SIR ROBERT KER PORTER (1777-1842)

he attack on Seringapatam, and the opening of a breach in its mighty walls was very carefully planned by the Governor-General, Richard Wellesley. By now the British supplies were seriously low - an ominous reminder of the near-fatal situation before Madras in 1791- and the arrival of Stuart and the Bombay Army with their baggage train was anxiously awaited. On 18th April, Harris wrote that unless Col. Read's bringaries arrived before 6th May, the attack on Seringapatam would have to be made forthwith.

Letters were also exchanged with Tipu. The Sultan seemed to be playing for time, requesting two persons to attend discussions in conference with him and explaining to the British Commander that he was also preoccupied with hunting expeditions. However, the British Governor-General, was firmly intent on pursuing his military objectives, and on 28th April, the batteries opened fire to create a breach in the Southern defences of Seringapatam. Some indication of the fire-power involved is evident from the 'Explanation' inscribed on Col. Gent's 'Plan of the Attack upon the North West Angle of Seringapatam, ' published in Beatson's account of the final Mysore War. The 'dangerous and fatiguing work'; involved is described by an (unidentified) Officer of the 73rd Regiment, who took his turn in the trenches on 25th April. He mentions the 'bustle and noise' of an attack; the welcome arrival of reinforcements from the Scotch Brigade; the blue flares on the garrison walls, and the burial of comrades.

The central section of Ker Porter's painting is dominated by the small figure of Lieut. Graham, holding the British flag aloft on the Breach as his comrades throw up the scaling ladders. Men of the 12th, 74th and Scotch Brigade, under Major-General Baird, supported by the 12th and the 73rd, with the 33rd under Col. Wellesley in the trenches, are engaged in fearsome combat with Tipu's troops, including his 'Tyger Grenadiers.' One of Tipu's tiger-mouthed cannons is shown in the foreground.

Beatson notes that the point to be breached was 'in the west curtain, a little to the right of the flank of the north-west bastion. This being the old rampart appeared weaker than the new.' He also notes that the Mysorean defence was spirited and prevented his fellow Scot, Capt Mackenzie, Engineer and Surveyor with Arthur Wellesley, from establishing a battery on the North side of the river on 22nd April. By the 1st May, after working by night and employing decoy tactics by day, the British batteries had crept towards the walls and were complete. At sunrise on 2nd May, the Nizam's Battery opened fire on a curtain wall and a pracitable breach was made, 'the main rampart so much shattered that it was expected a little more firing would reduce it (the curtain wall) to a similar state.' Soon after this, a shot struck a magazine of rockets within the walls, causing a serious explosion, which Beatson illustrated in his text.

By noon on 3rd May, the breach was pronounced almost ready, and scaling ladders, fascines and other necessary materials were sent to the trenches after sunset, in preparation for the assault. Waiting with them in the trenches were 2,494 European soldiers and 1,882 Native Infantry, under the command of Major-General Baird. The following day, 4th May 1799, he would lead the attack on Seringapatam.


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