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  3.31 The Storming of Seringapatam  

©Collection Robin Wigington
The Storming of Seringapatam in 1799



cannot conclude the Narrative of this Campaign without calling your particular attention to one of the most remarkable features by which it is distinguished. The extent of an equipment which, in addition to numerous Artillery and Stores requisite for a siege of such importance, could convey provisions to support our vast amount of Troops and Followers without any intermediate supply from 9th March to 4th May to a distance of one Hundred and thirty Miles from the Frontier of the Carnatic and three Hundred and fifty from Madras . Must excite astonishment in those who are aware of the difficulties attendant on the Movement of Armies in India,' wrote Lord Harris to Sir Henry Dundas on 6th May 1799.

The General Order, issued by the Commander in Chief,(Harris), from Camp at Seringapatam on 5th May 1799, acknowledged the contribution of the corps of engineers; the 'essential assistance' given by Major Beatson ; the merits of the artillery corps and the corps of pioneers; and the 'humane measures which (Major General Baird) subsequently adopted for preserving order and regularity in the place.'

It was a Scotsman, Major General Sir Archibald Campbell, whom Dundas had installed as Commander in Chief (1782) and later Governor of Madras (March 1785) to begin the process of amalgamating the forces of King and Company. Campbell's proposals, which would eventually lead to the surrender of Company control over the Company's armies, were embodied in a Memorandum 'Ideas respecting the Indian Army by General Campbell (for the use of Mr Dundas)' in 1788. The document includes an inventory , listing the number of draught bullocks required to move some 96 brass and iron guns, plus the carts and tumbrils which carried the vast 'equipment' of battle. Applying these figures to Tipu's ordnance of 920 brass and iron guns, found at Seringapatam eleven years later in 1799, gives some indication of the vast scale of an 18 century army on the move in India. Beatson records that 4-5,000 draught and carriage bullocks, with their attendant choudries, duffadas and drivers were congregated at Seringapatam to support Tipu's military campaigns.

A great number of the iron guns, and nearly all the brass six-pounders, amounting to fifty-one, which were found at Seringapatam were recognised as being of English manufacture. The others were generally from Tipu's own foundries, 'where a degree of perfection has been attained in every stage of the process truly astonishing to those of our officers who visited the different workshops: he had even got the late European invention of boring guns perpendicularly, and also had his machinery kept in motion by water.' Two of these weapons from Seringapatam, a gun and a sword, were displayed in Edinburgh on 18th June 1889, at the Naval and Military Exhibition, held to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and the final defeat of Napoleon. Also included in the 1889 exhibition, which was held in the Royal Scottish Academy Galleries - today the National Gallery of Scotland - was one of the 'original sketches' in oil of Robert Ker Porter's great 'Storming of Seringapatam' panorama. The painting returned to Edinburgh again, over one hundred years later, when it was displayed at the National Gallery in 'The Tiger and the Thistle' bi-centennary exhibition in 1999.

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