Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Siege of Seringapatam 1799

I have recently taken to reading Bernard Cornwell's Richard Shape novels. In his first novel, Sharpe's Tiger the main character Private Sharpe serving in the Kings Army in India takes part in the Siege of Seringapatam. Following finishing the book - I opted to do some research on the battle that was the main focus of the novel.

The Last Effort and Fall of Tippoo Sultan by Henry Singleton
The Siege of Seringapatam in 1799 was the second siege of the great fortress city by the British Red Coats - the first occurred in 1792. In 1799, after several years of the Tipu Sultan's rule, the British decided that it was time to replace him as the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore - and the siege ended the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, which had been waging for a year, and was the final of the Anglo-Mysore Wars.

The Tipu Sultan believed that with Napoleon's landing in Egypt in 1798 would lead to France challenging British rule in India. The Tipu had several French officers in his service, and believed that if he could defeat the British and their allies, he would be welcomed by Napoleon for making his conquering of India easier. Colonel Arthur Wellseley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) had other ideas, and marched his Army towards Seringapatam to end the Tipu's rule.

When the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out, the British assembled in to large armies under General George Harris, with troops from the British East India Company, and local Indian Sepoys - mainly supplied by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The two forces together numbered some 50,000 Infantry and cavalry. They faced a fortified city with the Tipu's forces numbering 30,000 - largely diminished following the third Anglo-Mysore War.

Although outnumbered the Tipu had planned to massacre the British troops when they breached the walls of Seringapatam. During the siege of 1792, the British breached the North-West Wall and captured the city. Harris and Wellseley planned to breach the same part of the walls, as it had been poorly rebuilt - not knowing the Tipu had planted a large mine beneath the wall, and built a secondary wall behind the first. The Tipu planned to ignite the mine when the British breached the exterior wall, and got themselves trapped between the two walls.

Over night on May 1st, the British established their batteries and began their breach on May 2nd at Sunrise. The batteries of Hyderabad opened a practical breach in the outer wall early in the morning hours, and they were lucky enough that one of their artillery rounds struck the mine beneath the wall, causing it to detonate prematurely.

On May 4th in the mid afternoon- the British 73rd and 74th Highland Regiments climbed the breach and the ramparts attacking the city - and the Tipu's forces quickly surrendered to the fearsome Scottish troops. The British attacked during the hottest hour of the day - as it caught the Tipu's forces re-hydrating. Within 16 minutes of assaulting the great city - the British had complete control of the city - and the Tipu was found dead in the Water Gate - having been shot several times.

Two of the Tipu's cannons which were caputured during the battle are now displayed at the Royal Military College in Sandhurt, and the Tipu's Tiger - an automaton was captured and is now on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Add captionTipu's Tiger in the V&A Museum, London showing the prostrate European being attacked

Remembering History - The Siege of Seringapatam 1799