Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. V. - The History of British India, vol. 4
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CHAP. V. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 4 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 4.
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War with the French—Pondicherry taken—War with Hyder Ali—Presidency unprepared—Colonel Baillie’s Detachment cut off—Supreme Council suspend the Governor of Fort St. George, and send Sir Eyre Coote to Madras—Hyder takes Arcot, and overruns the greater part of the country—Lord Macartney, Governor of Fort St. George—Negapatnam and Trincomalee taken from the Dutch—Treaty between the Nabob of Arcot and Supreme Council—Assignment of the Nabob’s Revenues—Tellicherry invested—Great Armaments sent from both England and France—Disaster of Colonel Brathwaite’s Detachment in Tanjore—Madras reduced to a State of Famine—Death of Hyder Ali—Tippoo withdraws the Mysorean Army from Carnatic—Operations and Fate of General Matthews on the Coast of Malabar—Siege of Mangalore—The General at Madras, refusing to obey the civil Authority, is arrested and sent to Europe—French and English suspend Hostilities in consequence of Intelligence of the Peace in Europe—Operations of Colonel Fullarton in Coimbetore—Peace with Tippoo—Behaviour of Supreme Council to Presidency of Madras.
War with the French, instead of being, as formerly,BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1778. the most alarming to the English of all sources of danger in India, now held a very inferior station among the great objects which occupied their attention. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1778.In the beginning of July, 1778, intelligence was received in Bengal, which, though somewhat premature, was acted upon as certain, that war had commenced between England and France. Without waiting for a formal notification of this event, which might be only delayed till the French had made themselves strong, it was resolved by a stroke, decisive in their present defenceless situation, to take possession of the whole of the French settlements in India. With regard to minor places the attempt was easy; and Chandernagore, with the factories at Masulipatam and Carical, surrendered without resistance: Pondicherry was the object of importance, and it was resolved to lose no time in taking measures for its reduction. Instructions were sent to Madras, and reached it with unusual expedition. Major-General Sir Hector Munro, who commanded the Madras army, took post on an elevated ground, called the Red Hills, distant about a league from Pondicherry, on the 8th of August, and on the 9th summoned the place to surrender. But his preparations were still so backward, that it was the 21st of August before he took possession of the bound hedge, within cannon shot of the town, and ground was not broken till the 6th of September. It was broken in two places, with a view to carry on attacks upon both sides of the town at once.
The British squadron, consisting of one ship of sixty guns, one of twenty-eight, one of twenty, a sloop of war, and an East Indiaman, sailed from Madras, toward the end of July, under the command of Sir Edward Vernon, with a view to block up Pondicherry by sea. This squadron reached the scene of action about the time when Sir Hector Munro encamped on the Red Hills and summoned the fort. The French squadron, under M. Tronjolly, consisting of one ship of sixty-four guns, one of thirty-six,BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1778. one of thirty-two, and two East Indiamen armed for war, sailed immediately, and prepared for action. The two squadrons met and engaged on the 10th of August. The battle raged with great fury for the space of seventy-four minutes, when the three minor ships of the French squadron quitted the action, and in fifteen minutes after were followed by the rest. The English ships, which, as usually happened in engagements with the French, had suffered chiefly in their rigging, were unable to pursue the French, which had suffered chiefly in their hulls. The French squadron reached Pondicherry the same night. Sailing badly, and opposed by the winds and the current, it was the 20th before the English recovered their station. Early on the morning of the 21st the French squadron was perceived under easy sail standing out of Pondicherry road. During the day the alternate failure and opposition of the winds prevented the squadrons from closing; and towards night the English commander stood in for Pondicherry road, and cast anchor, expecting that the enemy, to whom it was an object of so much importance to keep open the communication of Pondicherry by sea, would proceed in the same direction, and commence the action on the following morning. M. Tronjolly availed himself of the night. His squadron was out of sight before the morning, and was no more heard of upon the coast.
The garrison of Pondicherry was commanded by M. Bellecombe, a man whom this abandonment was not sufficient to dismay. Notwithstanding the total destruction which the works of Pondicherry had sustained in the former war, its fortifications had been restored with great diligence, and it was defended by a garrison who availed themselves of all its advantages. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1778.The English opened their batteries on the 18th of September, with the fire of twenty-eight cannon and twenty-seven mortars, and carried on their approaches with unremitting vigour; but the vigilance, activity, and enterprise of the garrison, compelled them to caution, and, together with the rains, which fell in torrents, retarded their operations. Towards the middle of October, having pushed a gallery on the south side into the ditch of the fort, having made a breach in one of the bastions, destroyed the faces of the two that were adjacent, and prepared a bridge of boats for passing the ditch; having also destroyed the face of the bastion on the opposite side of the town, and constructed a float for passing the ditch, they resolved to make the assault in three places at once, on the south side, on the north side, and towards the sea, where the enemy had run out a stockade into the water. All the marines, and 200 seamen, were landed from the ships. On the day first appointed for the assault, so much rain unexpectedly fell, as to swell the water in the ditch, blow up the gallery on the southern side, and damage the boats belonging to the bridge. The loss was diligently and speedily repaired. But M. Bellecombe, who had accomplished all that an able governor could perform, to retard the fall of the place, resolved not to throw away the lives of the gallant men who had seconded his endeavours, and the day before the intended assault proposed a capitulation. The English, by the generosity of their terms, and the liberality of their whole procedure, showed their high sense of the honour and gallantry of the enemy whom they had subdued. The garrison were allowed to march out with all the honours of war; and, at the request of M. Bellecombe, the regiment of Pondicherry was complimented with its colours. After a delay of some months the fortifications were destroyed.BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1778.
The French now retained in India nothing but Mahé, a small fort and settlement on the coast of Malabar. On the 27th of November, the question of its reduction was agitated in the Council, when the pride of driving the French entirely out of India enhanced the apparent advantage of the conquest. The difficulties were not inconsiderable: the march of the troops over land, from one side of India to the other, was long and hazardous: the disposition of the native chiefs, through the territory of whom it would be necessary to pass, was not in all cases ascertained to be friendly: the constitution of Europeans would be apt to fail, under the difficulties of the march: there was not shipping sufficient to convey the expedition by sea: it was at the same time apprehended that Hyder Ali would view the enterprise with jealousy and dissatisfaction, and not regarded as impossible that he would directly oppose it. The importance, however, of having no such talents as those of Frenchmen to cope with in India, and of not leaving to them a place to which either troops or stores could be sent, though both Hyder and the Mahrattas had very convenient places with which they would have gladly accommodated them, appeared of sufficient magnitude to induce the Presidency to brave all dangers in undertaking an expedition against Mahé. Towards the end of December, it was planned, that the European portion of the expedition should be conveyed by sea; that the Sepoys should march over land; that they should rendezvous at Anjengo, and Colonel Brathwaite receive the command. On the 4th of February intelligence was received at Madras, of the disaster sustained by the army of Bombay, on its march to Poona. The danger BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1779.to which this event might expose the expedition, now on its way to Mahé, underwent deliberation in the Council; but the confession of weakness, which would be implied in the recall of the troops, and the supposed importance of accomplishing the object in view, decided the question in favour of perseverance. Intelligence of the resolution of Hyder to resent the attack produced a hesitation; and the importance was discussed of gaining the friendship of that powerful chief by renouncing the enterprise; but after a short suspension, the design was resumed, and Colonel Brathwaite was instructed to anticipate resistance by velocity of completion. The expedition encountered far less difficulty than there was reason to expect: no opposition was made to the march: the fleet and the troops arrived safely at the place of rendezvous: and Mahé which was strongly situated, but totally destitute of supplies, surrendered on the 19th of March before a cannon was fired. It was occupied by the English till the 29th of November, when, Colonel Brathwaite’s detachment being ordered to Surat to reinforce General Goddard, the fort was blown up.1
Before Colonel Brathwaite was enabled to comply with his orders, and embark for Surat, he received a requisition from the chief and factory at Tellicherry for the assistance of the whole detachment. That settlement had drawn upon itself the resentment of Hyder by protecting a Nair chief who had incurred his displeasure. By the influence of Hyder, a number of the surrounding chiefs were incited to attack the settlement, which was closely pressed, at the time of the evacuation of Mahé. Not conceiving that he could be justified in leaving Tellicherry in its perilous situation, Colonel Brathwaite moved withBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. his detachment to its support. In consequence of the detention of those troops, the Council at Madras resolved to send another detachment to the assistance of Goddard, which were embarked in the months of January and February, 1780.1
In 1774, the divisions among the Mahratta chiefs afforded to Hyder an opportunity, which he dexterously and vigorously improved, of turning the tide in his affairs. He recovered speedily the territory which he had lost. He diligently employed the interval of repose which succeeded, in restoring order to his country, improving his revenues, augmenting the number and improving the discipline of his troops. His power soon appeared to be rapidly on the increase; and afforded alarm to the English, who, by their evasion of the treaty of 1769, were conscious of the hatred they had inspired, and were now jealous of a connexion between him and the French. He continued to extend his dominions, and increase his power, with little interruption, till the latter end of the year 1777, when the Mahrattas and Nizam Ali combined to chastise him. The Mahrattas, under Hurry Pundit and Purseram, penetrated into the Balagât country, with an army of 50,000 men; but upon the approach of Hyder, who hastened to oppose them, they retreated into the district of Adoni, where they came to an engagement on the 5th of January, 1778, and sustained a defeat.
Though Hyder was deeply exasperated against the Presidency of Madras for their continued evasion of treaty, and refusal of assistance, he was induced by the state of affairs to make a fresh proposal in 1778. Harassed, by the hostilities of the Poonah government, BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.he had been well pleased to support a pretender in the person of Ragoba: the English were now involved not only in disputes with the Poonah ministers, but actual operations for the reinstatement of that ejected chief: and in the beginning of July, 1778, Hyder, through his resident at Madras, made a new overture towards an alliance with the English, offering his assistance to establish Ragonaut Row in the office of Peshwa; and requiring only a supply of arms and military stores for which he would pay, and a body of troops whose expenses he would defray. The opinion of the Presidency appears to have been, that such an arrangement might be useful, more particularly to prevent the formation of a connexion between Hyder and the French: they even acknowledged their belief, that had not the treaty of 1769 been evaded, Hyder never would have sought other allies than themselves. The supreme Council, to whom reference was made, approved in general of an alliance with Hyder; but being at that time zealous to form a connexion with the Rajah of Berar, they directed a modification of the terms in regard to Ragoba, whose cause, they said, was supported, not as an end, but a means, and a means now deemed subordinate to the successful issue of the negotiation with Moodajee.
A friendly intercourse subsisted between Hyder and the French. He had been supplied by them with arms and military stores. A number of adventurers of that nation commanded and disciplined his troops; and they were united by a common hatred of the English power. A desire to save appearances, however, constrained Hyder to congratulate the English upon the reduction of Pondicherry; but, anticipating the design of attacking Mahé he gave early intimation of the resentment with which he would regard any such attempt. Mahé wasBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. situated in the territory of a petty prince on the western coast, who, with the other petty princes, his neighbours, were rendered tributary to Hyder, and ranked among his dependants. The merchants of various nations, it was declared by Hyder, had settlements, and performed traffic in his dominions; and all of them, as if they were subjects of his own, he would resolutely defend. To soften his animosity and prevent a rupture, which the dread of his power, and, above all, his apprehended union with the French, clothed in considerable terrors, there was sent to his presence, in January, 1779, a person, who, though empowered to declare the resolution of attacking Mahé, should assure Hyder of the desire which the Presidency felt to study his inclinations, and to cultivate his friendship. The messenger was received with but little respect, and the invasion of Carnatic was threatened as the retaliation for interfering with Mahé. At that particular moment, Hyder was engaged in the conquests of Gooti, of Carnoul, and Cudapah; the former belonging to the Mahratta chieftain Morari Row, the two last to their respective Nabobs, dependants of the Subahdar, and thence was hindered from taking effectual measures to defeat the expedition against Mahé. But the Presidency were now convinced of his decided aversion; and were informed of his intention to make peace with the Mahrattas, for enabling him the more completely to carry into execution his designs against the English. Their thoughts were called to the necessity of preparation; and they saw nothing but dangers and difficulties in their path. The Nabob, as he informed them, and as they knew well without his information, was destitute of money; and as destitute of troops, on whom, either for numbers or quality, any reliance could be BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.placed. Their own treasury was impoverished; and if the cavalry of Hyder should enter the country, neither could the revenues be collected, nor provisions be procured. More alive than they to the sense of danger, the Nabob urged the necessity of making peace with Hyder, by stopping the expedition to Mahé or, on the other hand, of making terms with the Mahrattas and the Subahdar. So far from attempting to conciliate either Hyder or the Subahdar, the Presidency formed with Bazalut Jung the arrangement which has been already described, respecting the Guntoor Circar and military assistance, and which, in the highest degree, alarmed and exasperated both. The detachment which under Colonel Harpur was sent to the assistance of Bazalut Jung, attempted to proceed to Adoni, through a part of Cudapah, which Hyder had lately subdued. His troops barricaded the passes; and the detachment, afraid of being surrounded, was obliged to march back and wait for subsequent orders. Hyder not only assured Bazalut Jung, by writing, that he would not permit the English, whom he described as the most faithless and usurping of all mankind, to establish themselves in a place so contiguous to his country, and so important as Guntoor; but in the month of November he sent a body of troops into the territory of that Prince, took possession of the open country, and joined with Nizam Ali his brother in threatening him with instant ruin, unless he broke off all correspondence with the English. In this emergency Bazalut Jung was constrained to forbid the march of the English detachment; and to request the restoration of Guntoor, as the only means of pacifying his brother and Hyder, and averting his fate. The question respecting the Circar came under deliberation of the Council on the 30th of December, when the decree was passed that it should not be restored.BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. Though its importance was considerable, because situated as it was between the territories of the Nabob, or, more properly speaking, of the English, in Carnatic, and the four Northern Circars, it completed the communication between their northern and southern possessions, and, by placing in their hands the port of Mootapilly, deprived Nizam Ali of all connexion with the sea, reduced him to the condition of a merely inland power, and in particular closed the channel by which French supplies could easily reach him; yet the embarrassment created in the Council, by the bargain they had concluded with the Nabob, for a ten years’ lease of that Circar, contributed not less, it would appear, than all other inducements, to the resolution which they formed.
Under the apprehensions which the resentment and preparations of Hyder inspired, the Presidency, at the end of October, had presented to the Supreme Council the prospect of a rupture with that chieftain, the dangerous magnitude of his power, and their want of resources; had pressed upon them the necessity of forming a peace with the Mahrattas, as in that event Hyder would be restrained by his fears; they had also written in similar terms to General Goddard at Bombay. Soon after, when they were informed of the probability that hostilities would be renewed with the Mahrattas, they reiterated the statement of their apprehensions; and concluded that, destitute as they were of resources for all active operations, they could only collect their troops as much as possible, and wait to see what the resolutions of the Supreme Board would enable them to undertake.
Before the end of November, the Nabob, whose intelligence respecting the proceedings of the Indian BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.powers was in general uncommonly good, informed the Governor, that a treaty had been formed, between Hyder and the Mahrattas, to which Nizam Ali had acceded, for a system of combined hostilities against the English. Though in his answer to the Nabob the Governor appeared to discredit the intelligence, it was not long before he was satisfied of its truth; and, in the letter, which, on the 31st of December, the Select Committee addressed to the Supreme Board, they represent the treaty between Hyder and the Mahrattas, as an undoubted fact. Still they were not so much impressed with a sense of imminent danger, as to be deterred from sending a body of troops to the assistance of Goddard, in lieu of those which were detained at Tellicherry; being in daily expectation of a regiment from Europe; conceiving themselves sufficiently strong to cover the principal garrisons; and deeming it vain, without cavalry, to attempt to protect the open country against the invasion of a vast body of horse. In the month of January, 1780, the President wrote to the Court of Directors, that, notwithstanding the alarms in which they had been held by the hostile appearances of Hyder and the Nizam, and notwithstanding the provocation which the support of Ragoba had given both to the Mahrattas and the Nizam, there was still a prospect of tranquillity; and in the following month, he repeated, in still stronger terms, a similar assurance. Till the month of June, no measures were pursued which had a reference to the war; and even then it was only commanded that Colonel Harpur’s detachment, which had been transferred to the command of Colonel Baillie, should cross the Kistna, to be more in readiness, “in case of any disturbance in the Carnatic.” On the 19th of June intelligence was received from the officer at Velore, that Hyder had begun his march from Seringapatam, and that aBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. great army was already collected at Bangalore. On the 28th of the same month, the Select Committee of Fort St. George declared, by letter to the Supreme Board, that Hyder had received from the French islands a great quantity of military stores; that his army, which he had been rapidly increasing for two years past, was now equipped for immediate service; that a part of it was already advanced to the borders of Carnatic; and that intelligence had been received of his being actually employed in clearing the road to one of the principal passes.
While the affairs of the Presidency were approaching to their present situation, a division had existed not only in the Council, but in the Select Committee itself. The President however and the General had combined; and they retained a majority in both. In contemplation of the resentment of Hyder, and the progress of his power, the party, the views of which were apt to discord with those of the leading members of the government, had strongly urged upon them, at various times, the necessity of making preparations against the invasion with which they were threatened by Hyder, and of which they had received intimation from various quarters. If the resources of the Nabob and the Presidency combined were unequal to the maintenance of an army sufficient for the protection of the open country, it behoved them at least to assemble the troops; which, scattered as they were in petty garrisons over a great extent of country, could not, in case of an emergency, be collected without a lapse of time; and of which the junction would become hazardous, and perhaps impracticable, if the country were pervaded by Hyder’s horse. The majority, indeed, had expressed their opinion of the necessity of having the troops collected in a body, and BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.ready to act, previously to invasion. But they had not yet become persuaded that the danger was sufficiently imminent to render it necessary that preparation should begin.
On the 21st of July information was brought from the commander at Amboor, that Hyder and his two sons, with the principal part of his army, had come through the pass, and that his artillery was drawn up in the road to Changama. This intelligence, though it was confirmed from several quarters, was treated with slight regard by the party in power; and on the 23d, when Lord Macleod represented to the Governor, “That perhaps the report of Hyder’s invasion might be true, and that he thought at all events they ought to take measures to oppose him; the Governor answered, What can we do? We have no money. But added, We mean, however, to assemble an army, and you are to command it.”1 The next day brought undoubted intelligence, that Porto Novo, on the coast, and Conjeveram, not fifty miles from the capital, had been plundered by the enemy.
The army, with which Hyder had arrived, was not less than 100,000 strong: Of his infantry, 20,000 were formed into regular battalions, and mostly commanded by Europeans: His cavalry amounted to 30,000, of which 2,000 were Abyssinian horse, and constantly attended upon his person; 10,000 were Carnatic cavalry, well disciplined, of which one half had belonged to the Nabob, and after having been trained by English officers, had either deserted or been disbanded for want of ability to pay them: He had 100 pieces of cannon managed by Europeans, and natives, who had been trained by the English forBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. the Nabob: And Monsieur Lally, who had left the service of the Subahdar for that of Hyder, was present with his corps of Frenchmen or other Europeans, to the amount of about 400 men; and had a principal share in planning and conducting the operations of the army.
The arrival of Hyder, and the rapidity with which his cavalry over-ran the country, and spread ruin and desolation in a circle of many miles round Madras, filled Carnatic immediately with terror and dismay. The people fled from the open country to the woods, and the mountains; their houses were set on fire; the fields were left uncultivated, or the crops destroyed: Alarm succeeded alarm: Intelligence poured in from all quarters, that one place after another was assailed; till every part of the Carnatic frontier appeared to be entered, and even the northern Circars exposed to a similar fate.
On the 24th of July, the Select Committee assembled in deliberation. The object of greatest urgency was, to call the troops together, and form an army in the field. The European regiment at Poonamallee, that of Velore, the battalion of Europeans, and the four battalions of sepoys cantoned at Pondicherry, the battalion of sepoys, and the grenadiers of the European battalion at Madras, the battalion at Trichinopoly, and the artillery at the mount, received orders to be in readiness to march. Absent officers were summoned to join their corps; and all things necessary for an army in the field were ordered to be immediately prepared: Letters were sent to the other Presidencies and settlements: The Governor-General and Council were importuned for money; and informed, that, if the Presidency were assured of pecuniary means, and not embarrassed by BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.their ignorance of the state of affairs between the Bengal government and the Mahrattas, they would produce an attack on the possessions of Hyder on the western coast, by assistance sent to the detachment at Tellicherry, and the co-operation of his Majesty’s fleet.
Colonel Baillie, who commanded the detachment in Guntoor, consisting of about 150 Europeans, infantry and artillery, and upwards of 2,000 sepoys, was instructed to operate a diversion, by attacking Cudapah, or some of the other possessions of Hyder. This step was vehemently opposed in council by the antagonizing party; as sure, they said, to fail in detaching from his principal object any part of the attention or forces of Hyder; and sure to enfeeble their defence at home, by the absence of so important a part of their forces, which ought to be directed to march without a moment’s delay by the safest route to Madras. As an additional reason for persisting in their original orders, the Governor and his majority alleged their doubts of being able to procure provisions for a greater number of troops than the marching orders already embraced. But on the 31st of July, when a letter was received from Colonel Baillie, representing the difficulties he experienced in finding subsistence for his troops, or in detaining the bullocks absolutely necessary for his march, they altered their instructions, and directed him to proceed towards the Presidency, taking such a route as might offer a chance of intercepting some of the enemy’s convoys.
By the majority, in which both the Governor and the General were comprised, it was resolved, that the troops should assemble, and the army should be formed at a place near Conjeveram; where they would be nearer to the stores of provisions laid up by the Nabob in the forts, and prepared to yield aBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. readier support to the garrisons which the enemy might assault. To constitute the majority of the Governor, it so happened, that the voice of the General was requisite; and if he departed to take the command of the army, that majority would be lost. On the ground that his counsels at the Presidency were of more importance at this moment, than his presence with the army, it was moved and voted that he should not depart; and that the command of the army should be entrusted to Lord Macleod. When the plan of operations, however, and in particular that part of it which consisted in assembling the army at Conjeveram, was communicated to that officer, he represented the danger with which, now that the country was invaded, the separate detachments would march to a place so distant and exposed; preferred the security of forming a junction in the neighbourhood of Madras, and of not taking the field till an army should be assembled sufficient at least to cope with the principal bodies of the enemy’s horse; and declared his aversion to adopt a responsibility in the execution of plans of which his judgment did not approve. These observations appear to have piqued the General, who insisted upon the advantage of assembling close to the scene of action, for the purpose of protecting the forts; and instead of acknowledging the difficulty of uniting the forces near Conjeveram, he ventured to pledge himself to the Committee for carrying that measure into effect. Upon this, it became a matter of necessity, that he should leave his seat in the Select Committee; but to preserve its majority to the party to which he belonged, a new expedient was devised. On the allegation, that his plans had no chance of support, and that his reputation, neither as an officer nor a man, was safe, if the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.managing power were to pass into the hands of the opposite party, it was, previous to his departure, proposed, and what was thus proposed, the majority which he helped to constitute had pre-ordained to decree, that a person, whom he named, should be appointed as an acting member of the Committee till his return. It naturally followed, that such proceedings should be severely criticized by the opposite party; and one member of the Council excited so much resentment by the asperity of his remarks, that the majority, first replied to him with greater intemperance than that which they condemned; then suspended him from his seat at the Board; and lastly the General wrote him a challenge.
On the 2d of August, while preparations were making, and the army was not yet assembled, a project was adopted for sending a strong detachment toward the passes, with a view to intercept the enemy’s convoys. Colonel Cosby was the officer chosen to command the expedition; and a force was provided for him, out of the troops stationed at Trichinopoly and Tanjore, strengthened by two regiments of the Nabob’s cavalry from Tinivelly, which joined the detachment at Trichinopoly on the 27th of August. Several causes of retardation operated on the expedition; but the grand impediment arose from the disaffection of the inhabitants. The sort of partnership sovereignty, which the Nabob and the Company had established in Carnatic, had hitherto been extremely oppressive to the people, and had completely succeeded in alienating their minds. Though Hyder was carrying devastation over the country, he was less detested as a destroyer than hailed as a deliverer. While Colonel Cosby found himself in the greatest distress for intelligence, which by no exertion he was able to procure; every motion of his own was promptly communicated to Hyder byBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. the people of the country:1 He was disappointed and betrayed even by the district officers of the Nabob: As he advanced, his march became so much infested by parties of the enemy’s horse, that all hope of any successful operation against the convoys was wholly cut off; and the danger which surrounded the detachment made it necessary to think of nothing but the means of re-uniting it with the army. A total want of intelligence reduced Colonel Cosby to mere conjecture in choosing his route; and he fell in with the army by accident, as it was retreating before Hyder, on the 12th of September near Chingliput.
Not only every day brought fresh intelligence of the conquest and devastation effected by Hyder; Madras itself on the 10th of August was thrown into alarm. A party of the enemy’s horse committed ravages as near as St. Thomas’s Mount; and the inhabitants of the open town began to take flight.
On the 14th of August, the General was obliged to report, that the place of rendezvous, which he had persisted in recommending, was unfit; the want of bullocks to carry provisions rendering the march impracticable. On his recommendation, it was therefore agreed, that the troops should meet at St. Thomas’s Mount; and there wait till eight days’ provisions, and bullocks to carry it, could be procured.
Colonel Brathwaite, after sending away from BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.Pondicherry all the French officers capable of service, and taking an oath of fidelity from the principal Frenchmen that remained, commenced his march. He arrived at Carangoly on the 12th of August; and found it garrisoned by only a petty officer of the Nabob and twenty sepoys. They would have surrendered it, he was well assured, on the very first summons; and had it not by a singular oversight, as it commanded the only road by which Brathwaite could proceed, been neglected by the enemy, who had a large body of horse in its neighbourhood, the most serious consequences might have ensued. The country through which he passed after leaving Carangoly would have rendered it so difficult for him to escape, if attacked by the enemy, that he formed a very contemptible opinion either of Hyder’s military skill or his means of offence, when he allowed so favourable an opportunity to be lost. On the 18th, after a hazardous and fatiguing march, Colonel Brathwaite arrived at Chinliput, when he received orders to join the army at the Mount.
After various speculations and reports respecting the plan of hostilities which Hyder would pursue, uncertainty was at last removed, by his marching towards Arcot, and taking ground before it on the 21st of August. The danger of that place excited no little interest and alarm. It was not only the capital of the province, but contained the principal portion of the very defective stores which the Nabob had provided; and afforded to Hyder a situation, highly convenient, both for the accommodation of his troops, and for spreading his operations over the province. From every quarter alarming intelligence arrived. The troops of Hyder were expected in the circar of Guntoor, which had neither forts nor soldiers sufficient to oppose them, and where the Zemindars were disaffected to the Company and in correspondenceBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. with the enemy. An army of Mahrattas from Berar had marched into Cuttack, and brought into imminent danger the defenceless state of the northern circars. A body of Hyder’s troops had united with the Nairs, and having driven the Company’s troops from the Island of Durampatnam, threatened Tellicherry, with all the British possessions on the coast of Malabar. The enemy had appeared on the frontier of Madura, and the admiral of the fleet communicated to the President and Select Committee intelligence which he had received from Europe, and on which he relied, that a French naval and military force might soon be expected in India.
While pressed by dangers, thus extraordinary both in number and degree, the Presidency found their treasury empty; they had endeavoured to borrow money upon the Company’s bonds with little effect, the loans of the Nabob bearing a better interest; they made urgent applications to the Nabob for pecuniary and other supplies, and received from him a deplorable picture of his own poverty and necessities, of the wretched and unproductive condition of the whole country, and the oppressive load of his debts, principally, he said, produced, by the money which he had expended and lost in the conquest of Tanjore: To a similar application made to the Rajah of Tanjore, the Rajah replied, with a truth not liable to dispute, that from the total exhaustion of his country by the recent conquest, and by the oppressive administration of the Nabob for several years, he was wholly incapable of furnishing any considerable supplies. By desertion for want of pay, or disbanding for want of ability to pay, the Nabob’s army was greatly reduced. Even that reduced army was mutinous from the length of BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.its arrears, and a source of apprehension rather than of hope.
On the 25th of August, the General left the Presidency, and joined the army which was encamped at St. Thomas’s Mount. Of cavalry, there was one regiment, belonging to the Nabob, but commanded by English officers, and it refused to march unless it received its arrears. The men were deprived of their ammunition and arms; and about fifty-six of them only consented to serve. The rest of the army consisted of the King’s 73d regiment, one battalion of the Company’s European troops, with the grenadiers of another, five battalions of sepoys, a company of marksmen, two troops of cavalry, and a large train of artillery, amounting, officers included, to 5209.1 With the utmost difficulty as much rice had been provided as would serve the troops for eight days; the sepoys were obliged to be loaded with four days’ supply; and the utmost efforts barely sufficed to procure bullocks to carry the remainder. The General, notwithstanding, insisted upon loading his march with a number of heavy cannon; of which, as he had no fortifications to attack, the use did not appear to be very remarkable. On the 26th, the army left the Mount, and, after a march of four days, reached the camp near Conjeveram. During the two last days, the rain had fallen with great violence, had broken the roads, and rendered the march, especially with heavy artillery, slow and fatiguing. The enemy’s cavalry had pressed upon them in great numbers, and wounded and taken some of the men. The agent of the Nabob, who accompanied the army, and on whom the General depended to procure both provisionsBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. and intelligence, informed him, that he had no power for procuring either the one or the other; and his only remaining resource was in the paddy in the fields about Conjeveram.
It had been concerted, that the detachment of Colonel Baillie should reach Conjeveram on the day after the arrival of General Munro and the army. But on the 31st, a letter from Baillie gave information that he had been stopped about five miles north from Trepassore by a small river which the rains had swelled. On the same day, it was reported by some deserters that Hyder had left Arcot, was crossing the river Palâr, and marching with his whole army toward Conjeveram. On the 3d of September, the same day on which Baillie crossed the river by which he had been impeded, the enemy encamped at five miles distance in front of the army near Conjeveram. The continuance of the rains, and the necessity of collecting the rice in the fields, and beating it for themselves out of the husk, greatly incommoded and harrassed the troops. On the 6th, the enemy moved his camp to the north-east; upon which the English advanced to a high ground about two miles upon the road towards Ballee and Trepassore, having the enemy at a distance of about two miles upon their left. While this movement was performing, Hyder had sent forward his son Tippoo Saib with a large body of the flower of his army to cut off the English detachment with Colonel Baillie, who had now advanced to Peerambaucum, distant from the main army about fifteen miles. Baillie made a disposition to resist a prodigious superiority of force; sustained a severe conflict of several hours; and at last repelled the assailants. By a letter on the 8th, he informed Munro, that upon a review after the battle he found BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.the movement, requisite for joining him, beyond the powers of his detachment; and intimated the necessity, that the General should push forward with the main body of the army. The General now found himself pressed by dangers, to whatever quarter he turned. All his provisions consisted in a small quantity of paddy which he had been able to collect in a pagoda. If he moved, the enemy would occupy his ground, and cut him off from the means of subsistence. With the concurrence of his principal officers, he adopted an expedient, of which the danger was scarcely, perhaps, less formidable; that of still further dividing his little army, by sending a strong detachment, which, joining Baillie, might enable him to proceed. About nine o’clock in the evening of the 8th, Colonel Fletcher marched with the flank companies of the 73d regiment, two companies of European granadiers, one company of sepoy marksmen, and ten companies of sepoy grenadiers. The field pieces, which the General proposed to send with the detachment, Colonel Fletcher declined, as calculated to impede his march. The men left even their napsacks, and marched with only two days’ provisions. Being joined by this detachment, Baillie was instructed to move in the evening of the 9th, and march the whole of the night. On that night the tents of the main army were struck, and the men lay on their arms. About twelve o’clock some cannon and musketry were heard; but they presently ceased, and all was still. A little before day break, a heavy firing of cannon and musketry was heard at a distance. It was soon perceived that the enemy’s army had moved: The General gave orders to march by the right in the direction of the firing. After proceeding about four miles, he ordered guns to be fired, as a signal of his approach; and after a mile and a half, repeated the signal. A great smoke was suddenlyBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. perceived, and the firing ceased. Supposing that Baillie had repulsed the enemy, the General led the army back into the road, in hopes to meet him. After marching about two miles, he met a wounded sepoy, who had escaped from the fight, and told him that Colonel Baillie was entirely defeated. The General concluded that the safety of the army depended upon its returning to Conjeveram; where it arrived about six in the evening, and where the arrival of more wounded sepoys confirmed the report of the disaster.
While the English general was placed in so complete an ignorance of the proceedings of the enemy, Hyder had intelligence of every transaction of the English camp: He was correctly informed of the route of Colonel Fletcher, the number and quality of his troops, the time of their march, and even the circumstance of leaving their cannon behind. He sent a strong detachment to intercept them. But, the sagacity of Fletcher suggesting suspicion of his guides, he altered his route, and, by cover of night, evaded the danger. The junction of the two detachments, after the defeat by Baillie of so large a portion of the enemy a few days before, struck alarm into the Mysorean camp. Even the European officers in the service of Hyder regarded the junction as a masterly stroke of generalship, intended for the immediate attack of his army both in front and rear. Lally himself repaired to Hyder, and intreated him to save his army from destruction by a timely retreat. The resolution of Hyder was shaken, till two of his spies arriving, assured him, not only that the English army at Conjeveram was not in motion, but that it was making no preparation to that effect. To his European officers this intelligence appeared so perfectly incredible, that they concluded the spies BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.to be sold, and entreated Hyder not to incur his ruin by confiding in their report. Hyder immediately formed his plan. A difficult part of the road was enfiladed with concealed cannon; and large bodies of the best part of his infantry were placed in ambush on either side; a cloud of irregular cavalry were employed to engage the attention of the English main army in the direction of Conjeveram, while Hyder, with the main body of his army, lay to watch the attack.
Colonel Fletcher joined with his detachment at half an hour after six in the morning of the 9th. They reposed during the day; and after the parade in the evening, Colonel Baillie gave orders to be in readiness to march. Between eight and nine o’clock, the men moved off toward the left by way of Subdeverim. The enemy began immediately to discharge their rockets; but, from the vigilance of the flanking parties, did little execution. A little after ten o’clock several guns opened on the rear. The detachment countermarched, and formed in line with the front toward Perambaucum. The enemy keeping up an incessant, though not very destructive fire, and discovering no inclination to advance, Colonel Baillie ordered his men to face to the right, and march into an avenue, which they had passed a few minutes before. The enemy’s cannon began to do great execution; when Baillie detached a captain, with five companies of Sepoys, to storm their guns. Though a water-course, which happened at that time to be unfordable, prevented this detachment from performing the service on which they were commanded, the intelligence of their march, which was immediately communicated to the enemy, threw their camp into alarm; their guns were heard drawing off towards the English front, and their noise and irregular firing resembled those of an army under a sudden and dangerousBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. attack. A strong conviction of the necessity of preserving every portion of the little army, with which the mighty host of the enemy was to be withstood, suggested, in all probability, both to Colonel Baillie and to the General, a caution which otherwise they would not have observed. For what other reason Colonel Baillie forbore to try the effect of an attack during the apparent confusion of the enemy; or, for what reason, unless a hope of being supported by the General with an attack on the opposite side, he did not, when the firing ceased, endeavour to proceed, but remained in his position till morning, it is not easy to divine. During the night, Tippoo, who had commanded only a detachment of the army in the preceding attack, had an opportunity of drawing his cannon to a strong post on the road, by which the English were obliged to pass; and of sending to his father advice, on which he immediately acted, of the advantage of supporting the attack with the whole of his army. At five o’clock in the morning Colonel Baillie’s detachment began to advance. A few minutes after six two guns opened on their rear; and large bodies of horse appeared on their flanks. Four guns, which began to do considerable execution on their flanks, were successfully stormed; and the Pagoda of Conjeveram, the object of their hopes, and the termination of their perils and labour, began to appear; when they were informed, that the whole host of Hyder was approaching. “Very well,” said Baillie, “we shall be prepared to receive them.” And presently after, upwards of sixty pieces of cannon, with an immense quantity of rockets, began to play upon this little army. Great confusion was produced among the numerous followers of the camp, who were driven in upon the line; and Hyder’s numerous BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.cavalry, supported by his regular infantry, and his European corps, bore upon every point of attack. Nothing ever exceeded the steadiness and determination with which this handful of men sustained the fury of their enemies. No effort could break their order; while Sepoys, as well as Europeans, repeatedly presented and recovered arms, with as much coolness and regularity, as if they had been exhibiting on a parade. Every attack of the enemy was repulsed with vast slaughter. Their courage began to abate; and even Hyder himself was perplexed. A movement executed by Colonel Baillie to the right, apparently with a view to attack the enemy’s guns, increased the terrors of Hyder; and he consulted Lally on the propriety of a retreat: Lally replied, that as the main army of the English was probably advancing upon his rear, no expedient remained but to break through the detachment. When the heroic bravery of this little band presented so fair a prospect of baffling the host of their assailants, two of their tumbrils blew up; which not only made a large opening in both lines, but at once deprived them of ammunition, and overturned and disabled their guns. Their fire was now in a great measure silenced, and their lines were no longer entire; yet so great was the awe which they inspired, that the enemy durst not immediately close. From half after seven, when the tumbrils blew up, they remained exposed to the fire of the cannon and rockets, losing great numbers of officers and men, till nine o’clock, when Hyder, with his whole army, came round the right flank. The cavalry charged in separate columns, while bodies of infantry, interspersed between them, poured in volleys of musketry with dreadful effect. After the sepoys were almost all destroyed, Colonel Baillie, though severely wounded, rallied the Europeans who survived. Forming a square, and gaining a little eminence,BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. without ammunition, and almost all wounded, the officers fighting with their swords, and the men with their bayonets, they resisted and repelled thirteen attacks, many of the men when desperately wounded disdaining to receive quarter, and raising themselves from the ground to receive the enemy on their bayonets. Though not more than four hundred men, they still desired to be led on, and to cut their way through the enemy. But Baillie, despairing now of being relieved by Munro, and wishing, no doubt, to spare the lives of the brave men who surrounded him, deemed it better to hold up a flag of truce. The enemy at first treated this with contempt. After a few minutes, the men were ordered to lay down their arms; with intimation that quarter would be given. Yet they had no sooner surrendered, than the savages rushed upon them with unbridled fury; and had it not been for the great exertions of Lally, Pimoran, and other French officers, who implored for mercy, not a man of them probably would have been spared. The gallant Fletcher was among those who lay on the field of battle. About two hundred Europeans were taken prisoners, reserved to the horrors of a captivity more terrible than death. The inhuman treatment which they received was deplored and mitigated by the French officers in the service of Hyder, with a generosity which did honour to European education. “No pen,” says an eye-witness, and a participator of their kindness,1 “can do justice to the humanity of BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.those gentlemen, without whose assistance, many of our officers must have perished: But their merit will live for ever embalmed in the hearts of all who felt or witnessed their beneficence.”
Hyder withdrew to Damul, a place about six miles from the scene of action, and the next day returned to his camp, where he had left the tents standing, and baggage unmoved, when he marched to the attack of the unfortunate Baillie. He had acted, during the whole of these operations, under the greatest apprehension of the march of Munro, upon his rear. And had not that General been deterred, through his total want of intelligence, and his deficiency in the means of subsistence, from marching to the support of Baillie; had he fallen upon the rear of the enemy while the detachment was maintaining its heroic resistance in front, it is probable that the army of Hyder would have sustained a total defeat. On returning to Conjeveram, after intelligence of the fate of the detachment, the General found that the provisions, which he had been so unwilling to expose, amounted to barely one day’s rice for the troops. Concluding that he should be immediately surrounded by Hyder’s cavalry and cut off from all means of providing any further supply, he began at three o’clock the next morning to retreat to Chingleput, after throwing into a tank the heavy guns and stores which he could not remove. Hyder, informed of all the motions of the English army, sent a body of notBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. less than 6000 horse, who harassed continually their flanks and rear, wounded same of the men, and cut off several vehicles of baggage. Through several difficulties, they reached, about eleven at night, a river, within a mile and a half of Chingleput, so deep, that the rear of the army passed only at nine o’clock on the following morning. At this place the General expected to find a stock of provisions; but, with all his endeavours, could hardly procure paddy for a day. Fortunately for Colonel Cosby, as he was about to make a forced march to Conjeveram, he met with one of the fugitive sepoys from Colonel Baillie’s camp, upon whose intelligence he proceeded to Chingleput, and though considerably harassed by the enemy on his march, joined the army in safety on the morning of the 12th. Leaving the sick, and part of the baggage, at Chingleput, the whole army, at six o’clock on the morning of the 13th, began their march for the Mount, at which they arrived in the afternoon of the following day. Nothing could exceed the consternation and alarm of the Presidency, which now trembled even for Madras; and destitute as it was not only of provisions but supplies of every kind, if Hyder had followed the English with his usual impetuosity, and with his whole army assailed the place, it is hard to tell how nearly, if not completely, he might have involved the Carnatic interests of the nation in ruin.1
On the 4th of September the Supreme Council in Bengal had deliberated upon the situation of the Presidency BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.of Madras, and the propriety of adding to their pecuniary resources; but as the Supreme Council were still uncertain as to the reality of Hyder’s invasion, or the success of the Presidency in raising money, it was agreed, that proceedings should be delayed till further intelligence.
The Supreme Council were highly dissatisfied with the Governor and Council of Fort St. George, who had not only passed the severest strictures on their policy, but, in the business with Nizam Ali, the Subahdar, had acted contrary to their declared inclinations, and even commands. The Madras Presidency, offended with the interference of the Supreme Council in their negotiation with the Subahdar, and with their own envoy, Mr. Holland, as an instrument in that interference, resolved that he should be recalled. The Supreme Council, being made acquainted with that resolution by Mr. Holland, and apprehending a greater estrangement of the mind of the Nizam by so abrupt a conclusion of the correspondence with the Company, came to an opinion, on the 14th February, 1780, that advantage would arise from appointing a person to represent themselves at the Nizam’s court; and to obviate the appearance of disunion between the Presidencies, they made application to the Governor and Council of Madras, whose servant Mr. Holland more immediately was, for their permission to vest that gentleman with the office; and in the mean time directed him to remain with the Nizam till the answer of the Presidency was obtained. The offended minds of the Presidency, not satisfied with the recall of Mr. Holland, which had not produced an immediate effect, suspended him from their service. The Supreme Council, now freed from their delicacy in employing the servant of another Presidency, appointed Mr. Holland immediately to represent them at the court of the Subahdar.BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. They transmitted also their commands to the Governor and Council of Madras, under date the 12th of June, 1780, to make restitution of the Circar of Guntoor. No step however had as yet been taken in the execution of that measure by the government of Madras: and this the Governor-General represented, as a conduct which demanded the most serious consideration, and the decided interposition of the Sovereign Board.1
On the 25th, however, of the same month of September, when intelligence had arrived not only of the actual invasion of Hyder, but of the discomfiture of Baillie, and the retreat of the army to the vicinity of Madras, with the poverty and helplessness of the Presidency, and the general havoc of the province by a barbarous foe, the Governor-General, regarding only the means of recovering the blow, and meeting the exigency with a clear judgment and a resolute mind, proposed, that all the faculties of their government should be exerted, to re-establish the power of the Company on the coast. He moved that the sum of fifteen lacs of rupees, and a large detachment of European infantry and artillery, should immediately be sent to the relief of Madras: he also moved that Sir Eyre Coote should be requested to take upon himself, as alone sufficient, the task of recovering the honour and authority of the British arms: and recommended that an offer of peace should be made without delay to the Mahratta state. Upon the joint consideration, first, of the indigence and dangers of the Bengal government; secondly, of the probability of mismanagement on the part of the government of Madras; and, lastly, of the resources which BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.that government still possessed, Mr. Francis objected to the magnitude of the supply, and would have sent only one half of the money and none of the troops, while peace, he said, should be concluded with the Mahrattas on any terms which they would accept. It was agreed that Sir Eyre Coote, and not the government of Madras, in whom confidence could not be wisely reposed, should have the sole power over the money which was supplied: it was resolved, that the strong measure should be taken of suspending the Governor of Fort St. George, for his neglect of their commands in not restoring the Circar of Guntoor; and on the 13th of October, Sir Eyre Coote sailed from Calcutta, with a battalion of European infantry consisting of 330 men; two companies of artillery consisting of 200 men, with their complement of 630 Lascars, and between forty and fifty gentlemen volunteers. The prejudices of the Sepoys rendered it hazardous to attempt to send them by sea; and till the waters abated, which in the rainy season covered the low lands on the coast, it was not practicable for them to proceed by land. The intention, indeed, was entertained of sending by land four or five battalions in the course of the next or the ensuing month, but to that proceeding another difficulty was opposed. Moodajee Bonslah, the Regent of Berar, after showing a great readiness to meet the proposal of an alliance with the English, had afterwards temporised; and, though he afforded Colonel Goddard a safe passage through his dominions, declined all co-operation by means of his troops, and even evaded a renewal of the negotiation. When the disaffection of Nizam Ali towards the English was increased, that chieftain united his councils with the Poonah rulers, and with Hyder Ali, for the means of gratifying his resentments; and they joined in threatening the Regent of Berar, if he afforded assistanceBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. to the English. The Regent distrusted his means of resistance, and dared not to form the interdicted conjunction: Nizam and the Poonah chiefs even insisted that he should send an army to invade and ravage Bengal, and he was afraid to resist the command: as he had no intention however to bring upon himself the resentment of the English, he communicated to the Governor-General intelligence of the constraint under which he acted; and, though he sent into Cuttack an army of 30,000 horse, under his son Chimnajee Bonsla, he promised to contrive, by means of delay, that it should not reach the borders of Bengal, till the season of action was over, and the rains begun. When it did arrive, which was early in June, 1780, it was in such distress for want of provisions, as to find a necessity of applying to the Bengal government for aid. The policy of preserving, if possible, the relations of amity with the state of Berar, as well as the motive of making a suitable return for the accommodations afforded to Colonel Goddard on his march, disposed the government to comply with its request. The army of Chimnajee Bonslah was in want of money no less than provisions; and on the 21st of September, an urgent request was tendered for a pecuniary accommodation, which the Governor-General privately, and without communication with his Council, in part supplied; at the same time intimating, that it depended upon the recall of that army from Cuttack, or its junction with the troops of the Company, to enable him to propose a public gratuity better proportioned to its wants. It might in these circumstances be presumed, that Chimnajee Bonslah would not hinder an English detachment to pass through Cuttack for Madras; but evil intentions on his part were BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.still very possible; on that of Nizam Ali something more than possible; the hazard of a march by the countries which they occupied was therefore proportionally great.1
Sir Eyre Coote, with a passage fortunately expeditious, landed at Madras on the 5th November, and took his seat in Council on the 7th. He had been appointed bearer of the decree by which the Supreme Council suspended the Governor of Fort St. George, and this document he now produced. The Governor not only denied the competence of the Supreme Board to exercise the authority which they now assumed; but declared their decision precipitate and unjust, no contumacy appearing in his conduct to merit the punishment, which they arrogated to themselves unwarrantably the power to inflict. The majority of the Council however recognised the suspension; and the senior member of the Council succeeded to the chair.
During the interval between the retreat of Sir Hector Munro to the Mount, and the arrival of the Commander-in-Chief with the Bengal supplies, the Presidency at Madras had in vain importuned the Nabob for means which he had not to bestow. They appointed Colonel Brathwaite to the command in Tanjore; and recommending that a body of cavalry should be raised in that country, demanded the assistance of the Rajah for that purpose, as well as for provisions to the troops. They made restitution at last of the Guntoor Circar; and at the same time sent a letter to the Nizam, in which they advertised him of the compliance they had yielded to his desires; made apology for delay in paying the peshcush, and promised regularity, when the removalBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. of the present troubles should place it more in their power. Partly the poverty and weakness of this Prince, partly his jealousy of Hyder, and partly the assurances which he had received from the Superior Government in Bengal, had as yet retained him inactive during the war which he had been eager to excite. The situation however of the Northern Circars was calculated to tempt his ambition. The troops, with the exception of garrisons for the three principal places, were all recalled; but the Sepoys in the Guntoor Circar refused to proceed by sea, and were obliged to be left at Ongole, while a mutiny was the effect of an attempt to embark those at Masulipatam and Vizigapatam. At the first of these places, order was restored by the address of the commanding officer. At Vizigapatam, however, they killed several of their officers, plundered the place, and went off, accompanied by five companies of the first Circar battalion. Apprehensions were entertained, that the Sepoys in the neighbouring Circar would follow their example; and that the Zemindars would deem the opportunity favourable to draw their necks out of the yoke. Sittaram Râz, who had been vested with so great a power by the favour of Governor Rumbold, stood aloof in a manner which had the appearance of design. But Vizeram Râz, his brother, who had just grounds of complaint, zealously exerted himself to suppress and intercept the mutineers, who at last laid down their arms, with part of their plunder, and dispersed.
Immediately after the battle of Conjeveram, Hyder marched to renew the siege of Arcot, defended by about 150 Europeans, and a garrison of the Nabob’s troops. In the service of the Nabob, there was hardly found a man that was faithful to his trust. Discord BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.prevailed between the officers of the Nabob, and those of the Company during the whole of the siege. The approaches of Hyder were carried on with a skill resembling that of the best engineers, and his artillery was so well served as to dismount repeatedly the English guns upon the batteries. After a siege of six weeks, the town which surrounded the fort was taken on the 31st of October, by assault; but the fort was strong and still might have defended itself for a considerable time. The favour with which Hyder found his cause regarded by the people he took care to improve, by the protection which he afforded to the inhabitants of Arcot, and the treatment of his prisoners: the applause of his generosity easily passed from the people without the fort to the people within: with the Nabob’s officers he probably corresponded; the native troops almost all deserted: and the fort capitulated on the 3d of November. The officer who commanded in the fort, on the part of the Nabob, he took immediately into his service and confidence. Many other of the Nabob’s garrisons had surrendered, with little or no resistance, generally upon the summons of Hyder’s horse; and though an excuse was furnished, by the condition in which they found themselves with respect to the means of defence, nothing less than general treachery and disaffection seemed sufficient to account for the facility with which every place was given up. Hyder immediately supplied the forts with garrisons, repaired the works, and laid in provisions and stores. He proceeded with great expedition to put Arcot into the best possible state of defence. Every avenue which led to it from Madras, and from Madras to the forts which the Nabob or English still retained, were occupied by large detachments of his horse, and when need was, even by infantry, and fortified posts. By this means, the channel of communication, notBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. only for supply, but even for intelligence, was almost wholly cut off.
Not deficient, either in the virtues which inspire affection, or in those which command respect, Sir Eyre Coote, as he was somewhat disposed to enlarge in praise of himself, so was somewhat apt to indulge in complaint of others. In the letters, which after his arrival in Carnatic he addressed to the Directors and the ministers of the King, he drew a picture in the darkest colours, not only of the weak and disastrous condition into which the country was brought, but of the negligence and incapacity, if not the corruption and guilt, of those servants of the Company, under whose management such misfortunes had arrived. It was, however, much more easy to point out what it was desirable should have been performed, than, with the defective revenue of the Presidency, to have performed it.1 That Presidency had repeatedly represented both to the Supreme Council, and to the Directors, their utter incapacity, through want of money, to make any military exertion; and by both had been left to struggle with their necessities. It was the poverty of Carnatic, and the unwillingness of all parties to act as if they believed in that poverty, much more, it is probable, than the negligence or corruption of the government, which produced the danger by which all were now alarmed.
According to the statement of the General, the whole army with which he had to take the field against the numerous host of Hyder, did not exceed 7000 men, of whom 1700 alone were Europeans. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780.Having put down in writing the view which he took of the situation of affairs, and the plan of hostilities which it appeared to him most adviseable to pursue, he called a Council of War, consisting of the three general officers at the Presidency, Sir Hector Munro, Lord Macleod, and Brigadier-General Stuart; laid the paper before them, and desired that, after the most mature consideration, they would give their opinions upon it separately in writing. As four of the principal strong holds of Carnatic, Velore, Wandewash, Permacoil, and Chingleput, represented by the Nabob as containing considerable stores, were invested by the enemy, the General proposed to begin with the operations necessary for their relief.1 Not contented with the sanction of the general officers, he deemed it meet, with a condescension to which the pride of military knowledge can seldom submit, to communicate the proceedings of the Council of War to the Select Committee, and to desire their opinion. All agreed in approving the plans of the General, and reposing unbounded confidence in his direction. As Wandewash was the place in most imminent danger, the first effort was directed in its favour. The probability that Hyder would not permit them, unopposed, to pass the river Palâr, it was gallantly and generously observed by Munro, was a motive rather to stimulate than repel, as the troops under their present leader he was confident would prevail, and nothing was, therefore, more desirable than to bring Hyder to a general action. On the 17th of January,BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1780. 1781, the army, under the command of General Coote, marched from the encampment at the Mount. Hyder was struck with awe, by the arrival of the new commander, and the reinforcements from Bengal. So far from opposing the passage of the Palâr, he abandoned Wandewash with precipitation, as soon as the army approached. But this success was counterbalanced by the fall of the important fortress of Amboor, which commanded one of the passes into Carnatic. From Wandewash the army was on its march toward Permacoil, when intelligence was received by express, that a French fleet had arrived. This was an event by which attention was roused. The direction of the march was immediately changed; and the army, after a few days, encamped on the red hills of Pondicherry, with its front toward Arcot.
After the reduction of Pondicherry, the inhabitants had been treated with uncommon forbearance and generosity. The fortifications alone were destroyed. The people were allowed to trade under the protection of the English; and the officers to remain on their parole. Even upon the invasion of Hyder, when it was entirely evacuated by the English troops, the officers alone were sent to Madras. The flattering prospect of being speedily reinforced by their countrymen, of seeing themselves change places with the English, and of contributing something to the recovery in India of the glory and power of their country, tempted the Frenchmen of Pondicherry to forget the favours which they had received. They applied coercion to the English resident; enlisted sepoys; and laid in provisions at Carangoly. Sir Eyre Coote made haste to disarm the inhabitants, to remove the provisions from Carangoly, and to destroy the boats. The French fleet, consisting of seven BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.large ships, and four frigates, lay at anchor off Pondicherry. The English army was closely followed by large bodies of the enemy’s horse; and on the 8th of February Hyder passed at the head of his army, within cannon shot of the English camp: marching, as was supposed, directly to Cuddalore. The English drums beat to arms; and while the enemy proceeded on one of the two roads which lead towards Cuddalore, the English marched parallel with them on the other, and encamped on the 9th with their right towards the ruins of Fort St. David, and their left towards Cuddalore. So feeble were the resources of the English General, that he was already reduced to a few days’ provisions; and eager for a battle, as the most probable means of obtaining relief. He moved the army on the 10th from the cover of the guns of Cuddalore, leaving the tents standing, and placed himself in order of battle. He informed the men, as he rode along the line, that the very day which he wished for was arrived; and that they would be able in a few hours to reap the fruit of their labours. The English remained for three successive days offering battle to the enemy, which he was too cunning to accept; and on the fourth returned to their camp, with a great increase of their sick, their provisions almost exhausted, the cattle on which their movements depended dying for want of forage, Hyder in possession of the surrounding country, and an enemy’s fleet upon the coast. The deepness of the gloom was a little dispelled by the sudden departure of that fleet, which, being greatly in want of water and other necessaries, and afraid of the English squadron which was shortly expected back from the opposite coast, set sail on the 15th of February, and proceeded to the Isle of France.
The inability, in the English army, to move, for want of provisions and equipments, and the policyBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. of Hyder to avoid the hazards of a battle, prevented all operations of importance during several months. In the mean time, Hyder reduced the fortress of Thiagar; his cavalry over-ran and plundered the open country of Tanjore; and Tippoo Saib, with a large division of his army, laid siege to Wandewash.
On the 14th of June the fleet returned with a reinforcement of troops from Bombay. While absent on the western coast, Sir Edward Hughes had attacked the ships of Hyder, in his own ports of Calicut and Mangalore; and destroyed the rudiments of that maritime power which it was one of the favourite objects of his ambition to erect.
The want of bullocks, which were the draught cattle of the army, rendered the movement even of the English artillery heavy and slow. In hopes of being now supplied with provisions by sea while they remained upon the coast, the English proceeded to Porto Novo on the 19th of June, not only to put a stop to the ravages of the enemy in Tanjore and the neighbouring districts, but to yield protection to Trichinopoly, against which, it was evident, that Hyder was preparing to march. On the 18th, General Coote in person conducted a large detachment to the assault of the fortified Pagoda of Chillambram; where he was repulsed with very considerable loss. This event, which the English regarded as a heavy misfortune, produced the most favourable results. At a time when they could by no means venture to carry their operations from the vicinity of the sea; when their imbecility was becoming dangerously visible; and when they might have been soon cooped up within the walls of Madras, this disaster sufficiently elevated Hyder, whose army had increased with the progress of his arms, to hazard a battle for the sake BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.of preventing the advance of the English towards Trichinopoly; which, as holding in check the southern countries, was regarded by him as an object of great importance; and against which he was proportionally desirous that his operations should not be disturbed. He was dissuaded, it is said, but in vain, from this rash design, by the prudence of his eldest son; and advancing on the only road by which the English could proceed to Cuddalore, he took up an advantageous position, which he fortified with redoubts, while the English were obtaining a few days’ provisions landed laboriously through the surf. Early in the morning of the 1st of July, the English army broke up the camp at Porto Novo, and commenced their march with the sea at a little distance on their right. To the other difficulties under which the English General laboured, was added a want of intelligence, partly from deficient arrangements, but chiefly, it is probable, from the disaffection of the people of the country, and the diffusion of Hyder’s horse, who seldom allowed a spy to return. After a march of about an hour, the opening of an extensive prospect discovered a large body of cavalry drawn up on the plain. It was necessary to detach from the English army, small as it was, a considerable body of troops for the protection, from the enemy’s irregular horse, of the baggage and the multitudinous followers of an Indian camp. The General formed the army in two lines, and advanced in order of battle. A heavy cannonade was opened on the cavalry which occupied the road before them. This dispersed the cavalry, and exposed to view a line of redoubts, commanding the road, and the enemy behind that line, extending on the right and left to a greater distance on the plain than the eye could command. The troops were ordered to halt; and the principal officers were summoned to council. TheBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. difficulties were almost insurmountable: The sea enclosed them on the right: Impracticable sand-banks on the left: To advance directly upon the fire of so many batteries exposed the army to a dreadful slaughter, if not extermination: And four days’ provisions, which the men carried upon their backs, constituted the whole of their means of subsistence. While the Council deliberated, an officer, walking to a little distance, discovered a road cut through the sand hills. It was afterwards found to have been made by Hyder the preceding night, with a view to enable him, when the English should be storming the batteries in front, to throw them into confusion by falling on their flank; when his horse would rush from behind the batteries and complete their destruction. The army filed off into the newly discovered road, the sepoys unharnessing the wretched oxen, and drawing the artillery more quickly themselves. Hyder perceived the failure of his stratagem, evacuated his works, and moved exactly parallel with the English army: which, after passing the sand banks, turned and faced the enemy. A pause ensued, during which the General seemed irresolute, and some officers counselled a retreat. Several of the men fell under the fire of the enemy’s guns, which had been removed with great expedition from the batteries, and placed in the line. The second line of the English army was commanded to occupy some heights in the rear. Hyder, soon aware of the importance of this position, sent a division of his army to dislodge them. The first line of the English, led by Sir Hector Munro, now went forward to the attack; and at the same time another division of the enemy endeavoured to penetrate between the two lines, and attack the General in the rear. For six hours, during which BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.the contest lasted, every part of the English army was engaged to the utmost limit of exertion. The second line upon the heights, skilfully and bravely commanded by General Stuart, not only repelled the several attacks which were made to force them from their advantageous ground, but successfully resisted the attempt which was made to penetrate between the lines, and rendered it impossible for the enemy to aim a stroke at the baggage towards the sea. The first line was thus left with undivided attention to maintain their arduous conflict with the main body of Hyder’s army; where their admirable perseverance at last prevailed, and driving before them promiscuously, infantry, cavalry, artillery, they finally precipitated the enemy into a disorderly retreat. Had the English possessed cavalry, and other means of active pursuit, they might have deprived Hyder of his artillery and stores; and possibly reduced him to the necessity of evacuating the province. Their loss did not exceed 400 men; and not one officer of rank was either killed or wounded. The enemy’s principal loss was sustained in the first attack upon the line on the heights, the strength of which they mistook, and advanced with too much confidence of success. In the rest of the battle, they fought chiefly at a distance, and with their artillery, which was skilfully served. The consequences of this victory were highly important. Hyder abandoned his designs upon the southern provinces. Tippoo raised the siege of Wandewash; and both retired with the whole of their army to the neighbourhood of Arcot.
The body of native troops, which it had been resolved by the government of Bengal to send by land to the assistance of Madras, was long detained by the negotiations, carried on, as well with the Berar government, as with Chimnajee, the Commander of the army in Cuttack. The distress of that CommanderBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. for money to pay his troops, and the proposal of a gratuity of thirteen, with a loan of ten, lacs of rupees; though distrust of the English power, now violently shaken, made his father shy; induced Chimnajee to engage for a safe passage to the troops. The detachment was placed under the command of Colonel Pearce; and about the end of March arrived at Ganjam, where it was long detained by the violence of an infectious disease. This, together with a great desertion among the sepoys, materially weakened the battalions; and their junction was not effected with Coote, who had returned to Madras, before the beginning of August.
The object which more immediately engrossed the desires of the English was the recovery of Arcot. As the want of provisions was the grand impediment to that enterprise, and as the enemy were reported to have laid in great stores at Tripassore, the siege of that place was undertaken, in hopes to supply the army for the siege of Arcot. But Tripassore, though it surrendered after a few days’ resistance, was found to contain a small supply of provisions; and the advanced parties of Hyder’s army, who was in full march to its relief, appeared in sight, before the English troops had taken full possession of the works. Hyder fell back a few miles to what he reckoned a lucky spot, a strong position on the very ground where he had defeated Baillie. And the English General, eager for another battle, which might relieve him from his difficulties, came in sight of the enemy about eight o’clock on the morning of the 27th. The position of Hyder gave him great advantages, while his guns bore upon the approaching army, and the advance was rendered peculiarly difficult by a number of water-courses cutting the ground. The second line of the English army, consisting of two BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.brigades, were directed to occupy a situation of some strength on the left, while the first line, consisting of three brigades, formed in face of six or eight cannon, which they were commanded to storm. No sooner had they pushed through some intervening underwood, than they found the guns removed from the front, and beginning to fire upon both their flanks; while at the same instant a tremendous cannonade opened on the second line. Sir Hector Munro, who commanded the first line, was ordered to join the second, which could hardly maintain its ground. The two lines having closed, and presenting the same front, were commanded to advance on the enemy’s artillery. The intervening ground was not only difficult but impracticable; where the army stood, some protection was derived from a long avenue of trees. This was observed by the whole line; and Sir Hector Munro pointed it out to the General. “You talk to me, Sir, when you should be doing your duty.” The army accordingly advanced; the men began to drop very fast; and grew impatient. A tumbril blew up, the second in the course of the day. At an impassable difficulty, the army came to a stand, and impatiently waited for orders. None arrived. Sir Hector Munro, seated sullenly by the only tree that was in the plain, refused to issue a single command. The battalions, opening for the purpose of giving way to the enemy’s shot, had fallen into clusters, and become noisy. The second line broke into great confusion. Two hours did the army remain in this perilous situation, in which, had they been vigorously charged by the enemy’s cavalry, they could scarcely have avoided a total defeat. It is probable that Hyder’s experience had rendered it difficult for him to conceive that the English were in a state of confusion. Night advancing, he ordered his guns to be drawn off; and the English returned to the strong ground which the second line originallyBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. occupied. A conference was held among the principal officers, when the impossibility of remaining, and the danger of advancing, being apparent to all, one gentleman, in expressing his sentiments, made use of the word retreat. The General immediately swore, he had never retreated in his life. He added, that he would permit the army to fall back. Spies came in with intelligence that Hyder was preparing to attack the English army between midnight and break of day. The troops in consequence were ordered to pass the night under arms in front of the camp. The report was false, artfully given out by Hyder, to cover his intention of removing in the night, to a place more secure from surprise. The next day the English buried their dead, and collected the wounded; when, being masters of the field of battle, they fired the guns in token of victory. They now marched back to Tripassore; when Hyder, calling the march a retreat, proclaimed a victory, with all the pomp of war, to the nations of India.
The English suffered considerably more in this than in the previous action; and the enemy less. Of the privates not less than 600 were lost to the service. Several officers of distinction were wounded, and some were killed.
Affairs were now in great extremity. The moment seemed approaching when the army would be constrained to quit the field for want of provisions: Madras itself was threatened with famine: The fort of Velore was so exhausted of provisions, that it could not hold out beyond a short time longer; and the fate of Carnatic in a great measure depended on the fort of Velore. The greatest exertions were made to enable the army to march to its relief: Madras was for that purpose actually exhausted of the means of subsistence. The enemy were encamped at BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.the pass of Sholingur on the road to Velore; to which the English came up on the 27th of September. A strong body was detached, in order to occupy a rising ground to the left of the enemy’s encampment, while the main army advanced in a single line upon their front. Hyder, from his former experience, had concluded that Sir Eyre Coote would keep the whole of his troops together; and had only provided against a direct movement on his line. His good sense made him resolve not to change the disposition of his rude and unwieldy mass in the face of an enemy; and his only effort was to draw it out of the field. He endeavoured to alarm the detached portion of the English army with a feint; while, after a short firing, his guns were hurried off. His horse during these operations stood the fire of the English cannon, and suffered severely. Before he could extricate himself, and before night came to his aid, he had sustained a considerable loss, with the power of inflicting only a trifling injury in return.
The English were in no condition to press upon the foe. In the minor operations which succeeded, as in the whole course of the war, one of the most remarkable circumstances was, the extraordinary promptitude and correctness of Hyder’s intelligence, who had notice of almost every attempt, even to surprise the smallest convoy, and in this important respect, the no less remarkable deficiency of the English. On the 26th of October, the General removed his camp to the neighbourhood of Palipett, where he obtained a quantity of rice. With this he afforded Velore a temporary supply; and was even encouraged to undertake the siege of Chittore. That place, not being provided for defence, capitulated in two days; while Hyder, obliged to humour his army, was unable to obstruct these operations. The month of November was now arrived, and every thing announced the falling of the monsoon floods, when theBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. rising of the rivers, and the softening of the roads, would make the return of the English army extremely difficult; so far, too, from being supplied with subsistence, the army continued in a state of want; yet the General lingered where he was, apparently absorbed in his own chagrin. He was summoned from his reveries about the middle of the month, by intelligence of an attack upon Palipett and Tripasore. The rains fell upon him during his march: In the space of a few days the roads became so deep, that one elephant, three camels, a great number of bullocks, carriages, and horses, were left inextricably entangled in the mud: And the Polar was just fordable when he passed it on the 21st. On his approach, however, the enemy abandoned both Palipett and Tripasore: And after encamping a few days on the Coccalore plain, above Tripasore, he placed the troops in cantonments; having lost one third of the force with which, after his junction with Colonel Pearce, he marched in August from the Mount.1
At the Presidency, changes of more than ordinary importance had taken place during this campaign. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.The state of affairs in Carnatic having greatly alarmed the Company in England, misfortune pointed resentment against the men under whose superintendence it had arrived; and, according to the usual process of shallow thought, a change of rulers, it was concluded, would produce a change of results. So much of misconduct having been imputed to the servants of the Company, a party appeared to be forming itself, even among the Directors and Proprietors, who called for an extension of the field of choice; and represented it as rather an advantage, that the chief governors in India should not be selected from the servants of the Company. It necessarily followed that a party arose who contended with equal zeal that by the Company’s servants the stations of greatest power and trust in India ought exclusively to be filled. At a Court of Proprietors held on the 30th of November 1780, Mr. Lushington moved; “That it be recommended to the Court of Directors to appoint forthwith a Governor of Madras, and that it be earnestly recommended to them to appoint one of their own servants to fill that vacancy.” It was on the other hand contended, that the filtest man, not a man of any particular class or order, ought always to be sought for the places on which the interests of the community principally depended; and that integrity, unshaken by the example of plunder and corruption, a character to lose and consequently one to save, by shunning the offences of former governors; were to be considered as the fittest qualifications in their new Governor of Madras. The Court adjourned without proceeding to a ballot; but on 23d of the same month the question was renewed. Lord Macartney, who had recently gained reputation by negotiating a commercial treaty with Russia, was pointed out to the choice of the Company; the advantages of a liberal education, of political experience, acknowledged talentsBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. and honour, were placed in the strongest point of view by the one party; the benefits of local knowledge, and of the motives to zeal, to industry, fidelity, and the acquisition of knowledge, afforded to the whole line of the Company’s servants by the high prizes of the principal stations in the government of India, were amply displayed by the opposite party: And, on a division, it was decided by a majority of seventy-nine to sixty, that new men should be eligible to the office of Governors in India. The Court of Directors were guided by similar views; and on the 14th of December Lord Macartney was nominated Governor and President of Fort St. George. After a passage of four months, he landed at Madras on the 22d of June, 1781, and then first obtained intelligence that the country was invaded.
He came to his office, when it, undoubtedly, was filled with difficulties of an extraordinary kind. The presence of a new Governor, and of a Governor of a new description, as change itself, under pain, is counted a good, raised in some degree the spirits of the people. By advantage of the hopes which were thus inspired, he was enabled to borrow considerable sums of money. Having carried out intelligence of the war with the Dutch, and particular instructions to make acquisition of such of their settlements as were placed within his reach, he was eager to signalize his arrival by the performance of conquests, which acquired an air of importance, from the use, as seaports, of which they might prove to Hyder, or the French. Within a week of his arrival, Sadras was summoned and yielded without resistance. Pulicat was a place of greater strength, with a corps in its neighbourhood of Hyder’s army. The garrison of Fort St. George was so extremely reduced, as to be BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.ill prepared to afford a detachment. But Lord Macartney placed himself at the head of the militia; and Pulicat, on condition of security to private property, was induced to surrender.
Of the annunciation, which was usually made to the Princes of India, of the arrival of a new Governor, Lord Macartney conceived that advantage might be taken, aided by the recent battle of Porto Novo, and the expectation of troops from Europe, to obtain the attention of Hyder to an offer of peace. With the concurrence of the General and Admiral, an overture was transmitted, to which the following answer was returned, characteristic at once of the country and the man: “The Governors and Sirdars who enter into treaties, after one or two years return to Europe, and their acts and deeds become of no effect; and fresh Governors and Sirdars introduce new conversations. Prior to your coming, when the Governor and Council of Madras had departed from their treaty of alliance and friendship, I sent my vakeel to confer with them, and to ask the reason for such a breach of faith; the answer given was, that they who made these conditions were gone to Europe. You write that you have come with the sanction of the King and Company to settle all matters; which gives me great happiness. You, Sir, are a man of wisdom, and comprehend all things. Whatever you may judge proper and best, that you will do. You mention that troops have arrived and are daily arriving from Europe; of this I have not a doubt: I depend upon the favour of God for my succours.” Nor was it with Hyder alone, that the new Governor interposed his good offices for the attainment of peace. A letter signed by him, by Sir Edward Hughes, and Sir Eyre Coote, the commanders of the sea and land forces, and by Mr. Macpherson, a Member of the Supreme Council, was addressed to the Mahrattas, in whichBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781. they offered themselves as guarantees of any treaty of peace which might be contracted between them and the Governor-General and Council of Bengal; and declared their willingness to accede to the restoration of Guzerat, Salsette, and Bassein.
The principal settlement of the Dutch on the Coromandel coast was Negapatam, near the southern boundary of Tanjore. This, Lord Macartney was desirous of adding to the rest of the conquests from the Dutch immediately after his arrival, but was over-ruled by the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, who represented the importance of recovering Arcot, in the first instance, and of marching afterwards to the attack of Negapatam. The President was eager to avail himself of the assistance of the fleet and marines, in his design against Negapatam; assistance without which the object could hardly be accomplished, and which could only be obtained while the season permitted shipping to remain upon the coast. Though the General had been disappointed in his hopes of being able to attempt the recovery of Arcot, he continued in the north-western part of the province, apparently disposed neither to march to the attack of Negapatam, nor to spare for that enterprise any portion of his troops. To Lord Macartney the attainment of the object did not appear to be hopeless without him. The intimation, however, of a design to make the attempt brought back from the General an eager renunciation of all responsibility in the exploit, a pretty confident prediction of disappointment, and from disappointment, of consequences deplorable and ruinous. The President declared that, convinced as he was of the propriety and hence obligation of the enterprise, he would not shrink from the responsibility. To avoid interference with the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1781.General not a man was taken from his army. Colonel Brathwaite, who commanded in Tanjore, and in whom the President complained that he found not all the alacrity which could have been desired, was directed with his troops to aid in the attack. The choice of a leader, too, was involved in difficulties. After the affront received by Sir Hector Munro, in the battle of the 27th of August, he retired as soon as possible from the army commanded by General Coote, under whom he served not again, and remained at the Presidency recruiting his health. It was to him that, in etiquette, the command of the expedition belonged; but Mr. Sadlier, with whom he had the violent dispute, was now a member of the Select Committee; and he refused to serve under orders or directions in which that gentleman should have any concern. The scruples of the General met a contrast in the liberality of the Committee; who readily consented, that he should receive his instructions from the President alone; and the President, with the Admiral of the Fleet, was empowered to form whatever arrangements the enterprise should require. On the 21st of October the seamen and marines were landed from the ships: on the 30th the lines and redoubts were attacked and carried; on the 3d of November ground was opened against the north face of the fort, and the approaches were pushed on with great rapidity: the Governor was summoned on the 6th, after a battery of ten eighteen-pounders was ready to open within three hundred paces of the walls; he refused to surrender; but on the 12th, after making two desperate sallies, and after one of the bastions had suffered from a formidable breaching battery, he offered to accept, and received, terms of honourable capitulation. The amount of troops who surrendered was 6,551, considerably greater than that of the besieging army.BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. A large quantity of warlike stores, together with a double investment of goods, no ships having arrived from Holland for the investment of that or the preceding year, was found in the place. With Negapatam the whole of the Dutch settlements on that coast fell into the hands of the English; and the troops of Hyder began immediately to evacuate the forts which they had occupied in the kingdom of Tanjore. A body of 500 men were put on board the fleet, which sailed from Negapatam on the 2d of January, and proceeded to the attack of Trincomalee, a celebrated Dutch settlement on the island of Ceylon. It arrived before the place on the 4th, and on the 11th the best of the two forts which defended Trincomalee was taken by storm.1
The deplorable indigence of the Presidency; the feebleness of military operations unsupported by funds; the power of the enemy, and the diminished prospect of supplies from Bengal, presented to the eyes of Lord Macartney a scene of difficulties, from which it was hardly possible to discover any source of relief. Participating in the general aversion to believe that the Nabob was no less exhausted than the Company, and representing to that chief how great the interest which he, no less than the Company, had, in the expulsion of so dangerous a common foe, the President, at an early period of his administration, renewed the importunities of the government on the subject of a pecuniary supply. The Bengal government, by their letters, had already given a sanction to strong measures of coercion; declaring that, while every part of the Nabob’s dominions, except the part retained by the English troops, BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.was in the hands of a foreign power, and could only be wrested from it by their exertions, the Nabob could no longer be looked upon as the proprietor of the country; and that such a combination of circumstances not only justified, but required, the immediate assignment of all his revenues, to defray the expenses of the war.1 The President, expressing his desire to avoid this extremity, offered to accept a few lacs of pagodas as a temporary supply. This pressure upon the inability of the Nabob drew from him language of asperity and recrimination; and when importunately urged, he at last declared, that his future contributions were defined, by a treaty, which he had just concluded with the government of Bengal. The declaration, though it justly surprised the President and Council of Madras, was not at variance with the fact. The Nabob, who had tried the effect of an agency in England, both on the legislative and executive branches of the government, was advised to make trial of the same expedient on the controlling Board in India; and in March, 1781, he sent, on a commission to Calcutta, his duan or treasurer, together with Mr. Joseph Sullivan, a servant of the Company, whom, without the consent of the Presidency, he had appointed his agent. The object of the Nabob was to obtain, a clear recognition of his being the hereditary sovereign of the Carnatic, not subject to any interference on the part of the Company in the affairs of his government; a promise of exemption from all pecuniary demands, beyond the expense of ten battalions of troops, to be employed in his service; an admission of his right to name his successor, in pursuance of his wish to disinherit his eldest, in favour of his second son; a promise to add, by conquest, certain districts possessed by Hyder toBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. his dominions, and to restore to him the kingdom of Tanjore; and, finally, the assistance of the Company, in forming a settlement with his European creditors.
To this embassy the rulers of Bengal afforded a cordial reception. For the independence of the government of the Carnatic Prince, they undertook, in general terms: His requisition, respecting the ten battalions and the limit of his pecuniary contributions, was approved: His right to appoint his successor they recognised as already admitted: The conquest of certain districts possessed by Hyder, they declared to be as desirable on account of the Company’s as the Nabob’s interest: The restoration of Tanjore they informed him was not placed within the limits of their authority: With regard to his European creditors, they proposed, that after the addition to the principal sum of all interest due to the 21st of November, 1781, and after a deduction of one-fourth from all the debts which might have been transferred from the original creditors by purchase or otherwise, Company’s bonds with the usual interest should be granted, and paid, according to a proportion which might be fixed, out of the assigned revenues: And upon these conditions it was proposed, but not without his own consent, that the Nabob should make over all the revenues of his country, during the war, to the Company; that his agents, in conjunction with persons appointed by the Presidency of Fort St. George, should perform the collections; and that as much only should be retained by the Nabob as was necessary for the disbursements of his family and government. Not only was this agreement transmitted to Madras, with instructions to consider it as possessing the validity of a treaty; but BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.Mr. Sullivan returned with credentials, as minister from the Governor-General and Council of Bengal at the Court of the Nabob.
Nothing is more pregnant with mischief than ill-worded and indefinite laws; and the best legislatures have as yet displayed but little of the art of rendering the language of their enactments unambiguous and certain. We have already contemplated the disputes with the Presidency of Bombay, occasioned by the loose and imperfect phraseology of the law which conferred the power of control upon the Presidency of Bengal. In that instance, the Supreme Council were even rebuked by their masters for carrying their pretensions beyond the intent of the Company, and that of the law; but on the present occasion they pushed their interference into the most immediate and important concerns of the Madras government; inveigled from their service and obedience the servants of that Presidency; and set up an agency of their own at Madras, which implied the suppression of the chief powers of the Governor and Council. Though the character of Lord Macartney was tinged with vanity as well as ambition, he possessed great temper and urbanity; and the Governor and Council of Madras, instead of treating this new assumption of power on the part of the Bengal government as an injury, expressed only their apprehensions that they were not free to divest themselves of powers, with which their employers had intrusted them, and for the exercise of which they would hold them responsible. They remarked, that they were therefore at liberty to consider the scheme of arrangements, which had been transmitted to them by the Supreme Board, as only materials to aid, not as commands to supersede their judgment. The words, they observed, in which the Supreme Council had appeared to sanction the independence of the Nabob, an independenceBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. which they had received the express and repeated commands of their employers to prevent, were so adroitly ambiguous, as in fact to evade the question, and were inconvenient only in so far as they tended to inflame the pretensions of that troublesome associate: but as, in the government of the country, there were certain departments in which it was assumed as necessary that the Company’s government should take a share, and yet those departments and that share remained totally undefined, the vagueness and ambiguity of the words of the Supreme Board left the Madras Presidency, if bound to obey, without any rule to guide their proceedings. The article which regarded the ten battalions of troops appeared, they said, to them, to convey a power over their marches and operations, which the Court of Directors had ever been most anxious to withhold. The Nabob had requested the power of employing these troops in settling his country: The answer of the Presidency is worthy of record: “We wish to know what is meant by this article, before we form any judgment of its propriety: We know not how troops can be properly said to contribute to the settlement of a country: If it be meant that he should have the Company’s forces to enable him to punish or extirpate any of his tributaries, and if it be proper to lend our forces for such a purpose, should we not plainly say so, without reserve or ambiguity?” If the Nabob was to have the troops, in all cases, upon his simple requisition, “he might soon,” they add, “require, what he has hitherto in vain solicited from the Court of Directors, the means of attacking, contrary to their express commands, the principal tributary Rajahs who claim and depend upon the protection both of the Crown and the Company.” If he was only to BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.be assisted in those cases which the President and Council should approve, the clause, though void of meaning, was not exempt from mischief, as it tended to raise “a claim, which, being undefined, would be measured only by the wishes of the claimant.” The right of the Nabob to nominate his successor, or to infringe the rule of primogeniture, they declined to discuss; but affirmed their total ignorance of any such admission of that right as the Governor-General and Council appeared to assume. That the mode which was proposed for collecting the revenues, by the agents of the Nabob and of the Company in conjunction, was calculated to produce altercations between the different parties, and to afford the agents of the Nabob a pretence for defalcations, alleging obstructions from the Company’s servants, experience, they said, most fully evinced. Whether the defect proceeded from the want of intention on the part of the Nabob, or from his inability to ensure the obedience of his collectors, it had, through them, been found impossible to obtain the revenues. With regard to the arrangements in behalf of the creditors of the Nabob, they were unwilling to wear the appearance of opposing either the will of the superior Board, or the interest of the creditors; but they professed themselves ignorant, whether the creditors would regard the arrangement as advantageous, or the Directors would be pleased to find the Company pledged for bonds to so great an amount.
On the point, however, of the assignment, the situation of affairs, and the sanction of the Bengal government, appeared to the President and Council sufficient authority for urging the Nabob forcibly to concur with their views. With much negotiation it was at last arranged; that the revenues of all the dominions of the Nabob should be transferred to the Company for a period of five years at least; that ofBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. the proceeds one sixth part should be reserved for the private expenses of himself and his family, the remainder being placed to his account; that the collectors should all be appointed by the President; and that the Nabob should not interfere. By this deed, which bore date the 2d of December, 1781, the inconveniences of a double government, which by its very nature engendered discordance, negligence, rapacity, and profusion, were so far got rid of; though yet the misery and weakness to which they had contributed could not immediately be removed.
It was not one spring alone of dissension which distracted the government of Madras. The species of independent authority which had been conferred upon the General produced many of the evils of a double government in the Presidency itself. The General had a susceptibility of temper, which, heightened by the infirmities of old age, by flattery, by the difficulties of his situation, and his want of success, made him take offence with the levity and hastiness of a child. The civil authority, deprived, in a period of war, of all share in the military arrangements, found the business of government withdrawn from their hands, and themselves degraded into a capacity little superior to that of agents for supplying the wants of the army. The visible loss of authority, by weakening their influence, diminished their resources; and persons were even discouraged from relieving them by loans. A situation like this was ill calculated to please a man of Lord Macartney’s rank and pretensions. Aware of the uneasiness which it was probable he would feel, it was natural for the General to view him with suspicion from the moment when he arrived. The mutual desire to save appearances preserved an uninterrupted intercourse of civilities, BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.till Lord Macartney discovered his design of attempting the conquest of Negapatam against the advice and without the co-operation of the General. From that moment the General gave way to his spirit of dissatisfaction and complaint; refused to attend the consultations of the Select Committee; quarrelled with every measure that was proposed; and even wrote to the Governor-General and Council that he suffered from interference with his authority, and, unless he were vested with power totally independent, that he would resign the command. Beside the loss of their authority, and the diminution of their power over even the sources of supply, the civil authorities lamented, that they possessed no control over the expenditure of the army, and that, from the total disregard of economy, in which, notwithstanding the ruinous poverty of the government, the General indulged, that expenditure was enormously great. It nevertheless appears, that Lord Macartney, aware of the importance not only of united efforts, but of the name and influence of Coote, entertained not an idea of withdrawing from him any portion of that authority with which he had been entrusted; and strove to preserve his good humour by studied forbearance and courtesy.1
The army had not been many days in cantonments, where they expected to repose during the remainder of the monsoon, when the fall of Chitore was announcedBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. at Madras, and intelligence was received, that for want of provisions Velore would not be able to hold out beyond the 11th of January. No exertion was to be spared for the preservation of this important place. The treasury was drained to the last pagoda, to afford some pay to the army, which was deeply in arrear. But the exorbitant demands for equipment and conveyance were the principal source of difficulty and alarm. To carry the necessaries of thirty-five days for twelve or fourteen thousand fighting men, the estimate of the Quarter-Master was 35,000 bullocks. Not to speak of the money wanted for the purchase, so great a number could not be procured; nor was it easy to conceive how protection could be afforded from Hyder’s horse to a line of so many miles as the march of 35,000 bullocks would of necessity form. The number of bullocks now in store was 8,000. With these and 3,000 coolies, or porters, whom he could press, it appeared to the President that the army might convey what was absolutely necessary; and the urgency of the case made the General disposed to wave his usual objections. Though with broken health, he joined the army on the 2d of January; but on the 5th he suffered a violent apoplectic attack, and the army halted at Tripasore. On the following day, he was so far revived as to insist upon accompanying the army, which he ordered to march. They were within sight of Velore on the 10th, and dragging their guns through a morass, which Hyder had suddenly formed by letting out the waters of a tank, when his army was seen advancing on the rear. Before the enemy arrived, the English had crossed the morass; when Hyder contented himself with a distant cannonade, and next day the supply was conducted safely to BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.Velore. As the army was returning, Hyder, on the 13th, again presented himself on the opposite side of the morass, but withdrew after a distant cannonade. On the evening of the 15th, the enemy’s camp was seen at a distance; and a variety of movements took place on both sides on the following day: After mutual challenges however, and a discharge of artillery, the contenders separated, and the English pursued their march to the Mount. The General expressed a desire of making a voyage to Bengal for the benefit of his health, but allowed himself to be persuaded to alter his design.1
After the capture of Mahé, the Madras detachment remained at Tellicherry, besieged by Hyder’s tributary Nairs. Early in May, 1781, being urgently demanded for the defence of Carnatic, the detachment was relieved by Major Abington, who arrived with a force from Bombay. One of Hyder’s principal generals, with a detachment from his army which greatly outnumbered the garrison, now carried on a vigorous attack. The utmost efforts of the besieged were incessantly demanded to counteract the operations of the enemy; and the commander was under the necessity of applying to Bombay both for provisions and troops. The answer declared the inability of the Presidency to make any further provision for the defence of Tellicherry, and the resolution to which they had been reluctantly brought of giving it up. His military notions of disgrace, and the still more important considerations of the cruel sacrifice which would thus be made of the lives and fortunes of the people in the place, as well as the doubtful possibility of withdrawing the troops, induced Major Abington to conceal the contents of the letter, and to remit aBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. strong remonstrance against the orders which he had received. It produced the desired effect, and a packet was immediately dispatched from Bombay to assure him of speedy support. The arrival of his reinforcements determined this enterprising officer no longer to confine himself to operations of defence. Every thing being prepared for a sally, upon the signal of the clock striking twelve, the troops got under arms, on the night of the 7th of January, and at one in profound silence began to march. After passing a deep morass, and escaping the notice of the enemy’s picquets, they stormed an advanced battery at break of day, and forming the line moved rapidly towards the camp, when the enemy fled in the utmost confusion, and their leader was wounded and taken. Master now of the surrounding country, Major Abington turned his thoughts to the re-establishment, in their respective districts, of the various chiefs whom Hyder had either rendered tributary or compelled to fly. Having, after this, demolished the enemy’s works, and improved the defences of the settlement, he marched towards Calicut. On the 12th of February he took post within two hundred yards of the walls and the next day, a shell having fortunately blown up a part of the grand magazine, the garrison, exposed to an assault, immediately surrendered.
The hostilities of the French and English Governments, not contented with Europe and America as a field, at last invaded the two remaining quarters of the globe. A squadron of five ships of the line and some frigates, under the conduct of M. de Suffrein, together with a body of land forces, was prepared at Brest in the beginning of 1781; and sailed in company with the grand fleet bound to the West Indies under Count de Grasse at the latter end of March. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.About the same period a secret expedition, with which for some time rumour had been busy, was prepared in England. The state of the Spanish colonies in South America, and the rich prizes which they appeared to contain, had pointed them out as the destined object to the public eye. But the war with Holland, and the importance of the conflict now raging in India, communicated a different direction to the views of ministers: and the acquisition of the Cape of Good Hope, with the effectual support of the war in India, became the ends, for the accomplishment of which the enterprise was planned. One ship of seventy-four guns, one of sixty-four, three of fifty, several frigates, a bomb vessel, a fire-ship and some sloops of war composed the squadron; of which Commodore Johnstone, with a reputation for decision and boldness, received the command. A land force, consisting of three new regiments of 1,000 men each was placed under the conduct of General Meadows, who had purchased fame in the action at St. Lucia with d’Estaing. On the 13th of March, in company with the grand fleet destined for the relief of Gibraltar, the armament sailed from St. Helen’s, and, including several outward bound East Indiamen, with store vessels and transports, amounted to upwards of forty sail. The secret however of this expedition had not been so vigilantly guarded as to escape the sagacity of the Dutch and the French. The armament under Suffrein was ultimately destined to reinforce the squadron now at the Isle of France; and to oppose the English fleet in the Indian seas. But the particular instructions of that officer were, in the first instance, to follow, and counteract the expedition of Johnstone, and above all his design upon the Cape of Good Hope. For the sake of water and fresh provisions, the English squadron put into Praya Bay in St. Jago, one of the Cape de Verd Islands; and havingBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. no expectation of an enemy, cast their anchors as chance or convenience directed. A considerable proportion both of men and of officers, partly for business, partly for pleasure, were permitted to go on shore; and the decks were speedily crowded with water casks, live stock, and other incumbrances. On the 16th of April, after nine o’clock in the morning, a strange fleet, suspected to be French, was seen coming round the eastern point of the harbour; and Suffrein, separating from the convoy with his five sail of the line, soon penetrated to the centre of the English fleet. The utmost dispatch was employed in getting the men and officers on board, and preparing the ships for action. The French ship, the Hannibal, of seventy-four guns, led the van, and coming as close to the English ships as she was able, dropped her anchors with a resolution which excited a burst of applause from the British tars. She was followed by the ship of Suffrein, of equal force. Another of sixty-four guns anchored at her stern. And the two other ships, of sixty-four guns each, ranged through the fleet, firing on either side, as they proceeded along.1 The ships being extremely near, and the guns being played with unusual fury, much destruction was effected in a little time. After the abatement of the first surprise, several of the Indiamen brought their guns to bear upon the enemy with good effect. Within an hour, the French ships at anchor had suffered so terribly, that the last of the three having lost her captain, cut her cables and began to withdraw. Thus deserted a-stern, and despairing of success, Suffrein followed her example and gave the signal to retreat. BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.the Hannibal alone remained, a mark to every ship the guns of which could be made to bear upon her; and displayed a resolution, which may be compared with the noblest examples of naval heroism. She had lost her fore-mast and bow-sprit; her cable was either cut or shot away; in the effort of hoisting more sail to get out of the fire, her main and mizen masts went overboard, and she remained as it were a hulk upon the water. Sustaining the weight of a dreadful fire, to which, enfeebled as she was, her returns were slow and ineffectual, she yet joined the rest of the ships at the mouth of the bay; and, being towed off, erected jury masts, and proceeded with the fleet. An attempt on the part of the English to pursue was totally ineffectual. They sustained not any considerable loss, notwithstanding the closeness of the action, and the crowded situation of the ships. Their own steady and determined bravery counter-acted the effects of surprise, and baffled the well-concerted scheme of the enemy. They remained to refit and provide till the 2d of May, and on approaching the Cape ascertained that Suffrein had arrived before them. Though previous to the arrival of Suffrein that settlement, then supposed of great importance, was not in a condition to have offered any considerable resistance to the land and naval force under Meadows and Johnstone, it was now accounted vain to make on it any attempt. While the French fleet lay at anchor in False Bay, it appeared not to the Commodore impossible to make prize of a fleet of Dutch East Indiamen, in Saldanha Bay. Success depended on being able, by surprise and celerity, to prevent them from being run ashore and burnt. The end was pretty completely attained; as, out of five ships, four were secured. The Commodore in his own ship, with the prizes and most of the frigates, returned to Europe; the rest, together with theBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. troops, proceeded to India. Suffrein, leaving a sufficient garrison for the protection of the Cape, sailed for the island of Mauritius; where he augmented the French fleet to ten sail of the line, one fifty gun ship, and several frigates. The English on the 2d of September stopped at the island of Joanna, to land and recover the sick, who now amounted to a third part both of the seamen and soldiers. They left the island on the 24th of the same month; were becalmed from the 11th of October to the 5th of November; at 260 leagues distance from Bombay, they were carried, by the shifting of the monsoon, to the coast of Arabia Felix; on the 26th of November anchored in Morabat Bay; on the 6th of December, the principal ships of war, having on board General Meadows and Colonel Fullarton with the chief part of the troops, proceeded in quest of Admiral Hughes; the remaining ships, and transports with part of two regiments, under the command of Colonel Humberston Mackenzie, left Morabat on the 9th; and arrived at Bombay on the 22d of January, 1782.
The Colonel remained only six days at Bombay, when he re-embarked the men, and set sail for Madras. On the 9th of February, at Anjengo, in the dominions of the King of Travancore, alarming intelligence reached him from the Coromandel coast; that Hyder Ali had over-run the whole of Carnatic with an immense army; that he threatened Tanjore, Marawar, Madura, and Tinivelly with destruction; that he had circumvented and cut off two British armies; that dissension, improvidence, and pusillanimity reigned at Madras; and that Fort St. George itself was insulted and endangered. To these statements was added intelligence, that the French fleet were at this time to assemble off Point de Galle; BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.and that magazines for them had for some time been forming at Columbo and other ports in Ceylon. He called a Council of War; when he came to the determination, in consequence chiefly of the intelligence respecting the French fleet, rather to attempt a diversion on the Malabar side of Hyder’s dominions, than to incur the chances of delay and danger attached to the voyage round to Madras. He landed his troops, amounting to scarcely a thousand men, at Calicut, on the 18th of February, where he joined Major Abington, and as senior officer assumed the command. He immediately took the field; proceeded into Hyder’s territories; drove before him the army which was left for the protection of those parts; and took several forts; when, the monsoon approaching, he returned to Calicut, and placed his little army in cantonments in the month of May.
The French fleet, with a body of land forces, forming part of the armament which under Bussy was destined to restore the influence of the French in India, left the islands a considerable time after the English sailed from Joanna; and the Admiral dying on his passage, the command devolved upon M. Suffrein, a man of great resource, of unwearied enterprise, and, in every respect, one of the best naval commanders whom France had ever produced. The English fleet, delayed and dispersed by the weather, incurred considerable danger of a very unseasonable rencounter; and the Hannibal, a fifty gun ship, being separated from the rest in a haze, unexpectedly found herself surrounded by the enemy, where, after a fruitless though gallant resistance, she was taken. The French fleet arrived on the Coromandel coast in the month of January, and intercepted several vessels bound to Madras with grain. Sir Edward Hughes, after taking Trincomalee, was obliged on the last day of January to set sail for Madras, being in great wantBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. of stores and provisions, his ships much decayed, and his crews diminished and sick. On his arrival at Madras, on the 11th of February, he learned that he had fortunately escaped the French fleet already upon the coast; but still found himself exposed to their attack in an open road with only six ships of the line, out of condition from long service, and almost destitute of supplies. By another fortunate chance (for had either squadron fallen in with the French, the most fatal consequences might have ensued), the ships which carried General Meadows and his army, consisting of one seventy-four, one sixty-four, and one fifty gun ship, arrived the next day in the road; and within twenty-four hours, Suffrein, with ten ships of the line, two ships, including the captured Hannibal, of fifty guns, six frigates, eight transports, and six prizes, hove in sight, reconnoitred Madras, and anchored a few miles to windward of the English fleet, which with the utmost diligence was making the necessary preparations for action. Deceived in his probable expectation of finding Sir Edward Hughes with only six sail of the line, not re-inforced, and of signalising his arrival by so decisive a blow as the destruction of the English fleet, he on the 14th passed Madras in line of battle to the southward. The English weighed anchor, and followed. On the 15th in the evening, the fleets passed each other, so near, as to exchange some shots. On the 16th, the English Admiral found an opportunity of making a push at the French convoy separated from the fleet, when he retook five of the vessels which had been captured on the coast, and a large transport laden with provisions, ammunition, and troops. On the 17th, after a variety of movements in which Suffrein still kept the weather gage, the two fleets came to action late in the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.day; and separated after a short conflict, on the approach of night, when the French steered to windward, and the English to Trincomalee.
The French Admiral proceeded to Porto Novo, and landed 2000 men.1 They were soon joined by a large detachment of Hyder’s army, under the command of Tippoo his son, who had just been employed in inflicting upon the English one of the deepest wounds which they had sustained during the war. Colonel Brathwaite, with 100 Europeans, 1500 native troops, and 300 cavalry, stationed for the purpose of protecting Tanjore, lay encamped on the banks of the Coleroon, at a distance of forty miles from the capital of that name, exposed indeed on an open plain, but apparently secured by the intervention of several large and deep rivers, and the distance of the enemy. His position gave encouragement to Hyder. Tippoo, with 10,000 horse, an equal number of infantry, twenty pieces of cannon, and M. Lally, with his European corps 400 strong, surrounded Colonel Brathwaite before he had received even a suspicion of their march. His first endeavour was to reach Tanjore, or some other place of safety; but the superior force of the enemy rendered this impracticable. The next resolution was to make a brave defence; and seldom can the annals of war exhibit a parallel to the firmness and perseverance which he and his little army displayed. From the 16th to the 18th of February, surrounded on all sides by an enemy, who outnumbered them, twenty to one, did they withstand incessant attacks. They formed themselves into a hollow square, with the artillery interspersed in the faces and the cavalry in the centre. Tippoo laboured, by the fire of his cannon, to produce a breach in some of the lines, and as often as he fancied that he hadBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. made an impression, urged on his cavalry, by his presence, by promises, by threats, by stripes, and the slaughter of fugitives with his own hand. Repeatedly they advanced to the charge; as often were they repelled by showers of grape-shot and musketry; when the English cavalry, issuing from the centre, at intervals suddenly made by disciplined troops, pursued their retreat with great execution. After twenty-six hours of incessant conflict, when great numbers of the English army had fallen, and the rest were worn out with wounds and fatigue, Lally, at the head of his 400 Europeans, supported by a large body of infantry, covered on his flanks by cavalry, advanced with fixed bayonets to the attack. At this tremendous appearance, the resolution of the sepoys failed, and they were thrown into confusion. The rage of barbarians was with difficulty restrained by the utmost efforts of a civilized commander. Lally is reported to have dyed his sword in the blood of several of the murderers, before he could draw them off from the carnage. It is remarkable, notwithstanding the dreadful circumstances of this engagement, that out of twenty officers, only one was killed, and eleven wounded. And it is but justice to add, that Tippoo treated his prisoners, especially the officers and wounded men, with real attention and humanity.
The arrival of so important an aid as that of 2000 Frenchmen, augmented to an alarming degree the army of Tippoo. Cuddalore yielded to their united force on the 3d of April, and afforded a convenient station both naval and military for the French. In the mean time Sir Edward Hughes left Trincomalee, having effected the most necessary repairs, and arrived at Madras on the 12th of March. Towards the end of that month, the French Admiral slipped BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.from Porto Novo, hearing that a fleet of English Indiamen had arrived upon the coast. As soon as his departure was known at Madras, Sir Edward Hughes got under weigh; but had not lost sight of the flag-staff of the fort, when he fell in with the fleet, of which the French were in quest, consisting of seven Indiamen and two line of battle ships, having a king’s regiment on board. He ordered the men of war to join him, and proceeded to land a reinforcement and stores for the garrison at Trincomalee. His policy was to avoid an engagement till this service was performed. Suffrein, on the other hand, whose crews were sickly, and his provisions wearing low, was eager to fight. The two fleets came in sight on the 8th of April; but the English Admiral held on his course, and the French followed, during that and the three succeeding days, when, having made the coast of Ceylon, about fifteen leagues to windward of Trincomalee, the English bore away for it during the night. This appears to have been the opportunity for which Suffrein was in wait; for having gained the wind of the English squadron, he was seen on the morning of the 12th crowding all the sail which he could carry in pursuit, while the English were so alarmingly close upon a lee shore that one of the ships actually touched the ground. A severe conflict ensued, in which the intrepid resolution of the English again counterbalanced the disadvantages of their situation; and the fleets, after suffering in nearly an equal degree, were parted by the night. So much were both disabled, that they lay for seven days within random shot, only to prepare themselves to sail; and retired, the English to Trincomalee, the French to the Dutch harbour of Battacolo, without on either side attempting to renew the engagement.
The English army, who had now been some months in cantonments, took the field on the 17th ofBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. April. The object first in contemplation was to relieve Parmacoil; but on arriving at Carangoly, the General found it already surrendered. On the 24th the army encamped near Wandewash, on the very spot on which Sir Eyre Coote defeated the French General Lally in 1760. The general orders boasted of the victory, and a double batta was issued to the troops; but on the next day, on account of water, the position was shifted to the other side of the fort. Hyder and his French auxiliaries lay encamped on a strong post, on the red hills near Parmacoil, from which, on the approach of the English, they removed to another in the neighbourhood of Kellinoor. As the magazines of Hyder were deposited in the strong fort of Arnee, Sir Eyre concluded that a march upon that place would draw the enemy to its assistance, and afford the opportunity of a battle. He encamped on the 1st of June within three miles of the place; and Hyder passing over a space of forty-three miles in two days, took up his head-quarters at Chittapet, on the evening of the same day. Before the dawn of the following morning, the English army were in motion toward Arnee; but with the first of the light, a heavy cannonade was opened on their rear. The troops came twice to the right about, and the baggage was brought twice through the files, before it was possible to discover whence the firing proceeded. A Council, which was called, and deliberated in great uncertainty, agreed in opinion, that an attack was to be expected on the rear, and the army was immediately drawn up to receive it. The enemy’s horse, in the mean time, occupied the circumjacent grounds, more elevated than the low spot which was occupied by the English, and considerably galled them; while Hyder, dexterously detaching a division of his army BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.under Tippoo, carried off the treasure from Arnee, gave instructions to the commandant, and reinforced the garrison. Having accomplished his object, he retired as the English advanced; and one of his guns, and a tumbril which stuck in the bed of the river, were the only trophies of the day. Deeming it vain to attempt the reduction of Arnee, the English on the 7th were considerably advanced on their march back to Madras, when a regiment of European cavalry, which Sir Eyre Coote called his grand guard, were drawn into an ambuscade, and either killed or taken prisoners. After attempting without success to lead the enemy into a similar snare near Wandewash, on the 9th, the General proceeded on his march, and on the 20th arrived at Madras.
On the 29th of that month, by a letter from the Governor-General to Lord Macartney, the conclusion of peace with the Mahrattas was announced at Madras. Sir Eyre Coote, as solely invested with the power of war and peace, of his own authority, and without consulting the Governor and Council of Madras, proposed to Hyder, or rather summoned him, to accede to the treaty concluded between the English and the Mahrattas, to restore all the forts which he had taken, and within six months to evacuate Carnatic; otherwise, the arms of the Mahrattas would be joined to those of the English, in order to chastise him. Lord Macartney, alarmed at so daring an assumption of the whole power of the Presidency, is accused of having diverted the mind of Hyder from peace, by teaching him to doubt the validity of any agreement with the General, in which the Governor and Council had not a part.1 But Hyder too well knew the politics of India to receive great addition to his apprehensions from the threats of theBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. General; and was too well acquainted with the intrigues of Madras to receive new lights from the communication, even if it had been made, which was thus imputed to Lord Macartney. To retain the negotiation more completely independent of the civil authority, the General moved from Madras, on the 1st of July, and lessened his distance from Hyder. Sir Eyre was a most unequal match for the Mysorean, in the arts of diplomacy, and allowed himself to be duped. Hyder amused him in the neighbourhood of Wandewash, till the army had wholly consumed not only their own rice, but also that of the garrison; and till he had completely arranged with the French Admiral a plan of combined operations for the reduction of Negapatam. He then demanded a little time for deliberation, and, suddenly, withdrawing his vakeel, left the General in total darkness with regard to his designs.
Sir Eyre Coote was obliged to return to Madras; and good fortune alone defeated the train which was laid for the reduction of Negapatam. Suffrein, in sailing to Negapatam, was descried by the English fleet, and in spite of every attempt to gain the road without fighting, was by the skilful movements of the Admiral constrained to venture a battle. After refitting at Ceylon, both fleets had returned to the coast about the end of June, the French to the port of Cuddalore, the English to that of Negapatam. Weighing anchor about three in the afternoon on the 3d of July, the English Admiral steered in a southerly direction in order to gain the wind of the enemy, and about 11 o’clock on the following day the action commenced. It was close, warm, and general. After an hour and a half, during which the fire had been equally well maintained on both sides, the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.French line appeared to be getting into disorder; and the English began to cheer themselves with the hopes of a speedy and glorious victory, when a sudden alteration in the wind disturbed their order of battle, afforded an opportunity to Suffrein, of which he dexterously availed himself, to form a line with those ships which had suffered the least, for covering the disabled part of his fleet, and induced the English Admiral to collect his scattered ships. At the approach of evening he cast anchor between Negapatam and Nagore.1 The French, having passed the night about three leagues to leeward, proceeded the next morning to Cuddalore; and the English fleet, though it saw them, was too much disabled to pursue. The English Admiral, after remaining a fortnight at Negapatam, arrived at Madras on the 20th, in order to refit. In the mean time Suffrein had proceeded with characteristic activity, a quality in which he was never surpassed, in preparing his fleet, for sea at Cuddalore. He was a man, that, when the exigency required, would work for days, like a ship’s carpenter, in his shirt. He visited the houses and buildings at Cuddalore, and, for want of other timber, had the beams which suited his purpose taken out. To some of his officers, who represented to him the shattered condition of his ships, the alarming deficiency of his stores, the impossibility of supplying his wants in a desolated part of India, and the necessity of repairing to the islands to refit; the whole value, he replied, of the ships was trivial, in comparison with the object which he was commissioned to attain; and the ocean should be his harbour, till he found a place in India to repair them. On the 5th of August, the Governor of Fort St. GeorgeBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. was informed, that the French fleet was already not only prepared for sea, but had actually sailed to the southward on the 1st of the month; that the first division of the French reinforcements expected from Europe was actually arrived at Point de Galle; and that the second, with Bussy himself, was daily expected. Greatly alarmed for the fate of Trincomalee, and even of Negapatam, the President and Committee deemed it requisite to quicken the preparations of the Admiral, whose activity equalled not his courage and seamanship, by a letter, in which they drew his attention to this intelligence, and to the danger which every day was incurred, while an enemy’s fleet kept the sea, without a British to oppose it. The jealousy of the Admiral was acute; of the time for sailing, he replied, that he was the judge; that he was not responsible for his conduct to the government of Madras; and that he should proceed to sea with his Majesty’s squadron under his command, as soon as it was fit for service.1 He did not proceed to sea before the 20th of August; when he sailed to Trincomalee, and found it already in the hands of the enemy. Suffrein, after proceeding to Point de Galle, where he was joined by the reinforcements from Europe and two ships of the line, anchored in Trincomalee Bay on the 25th; landed the troops before day the next morning; opened the batteries on the 29th; silenced those of the garrison before night; and summoned the place the following morning. Eager to anticipate the arrival of the English fleet, Suffrein offered the most honourable terms. The forts were surrendered on the last of the month, and Hughes arrived on the 2d of September.
BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.Early on the following morning the French fleet proceeded to sea; when the English were eager to redeem by a victory the loss of Trincomalee. The French had twelve, the English eleven sail of the line; the French had four ships of fifty guns, the English only one. The battle began between two and three in the afternoon, and soon became general. After raging for three hours with great fury in every part of the line; the darkness of the night at last terminated one of the best fought actions then recorded in the annals of naval warfare. The exertions of Suffrein himself were remarkable, for he was ill seconded by his captains, of whom he broke no fewer than six, immediately after the engagement. Fortunately for the French fleet, they had the island of Trincomalee at hand, to receive them; but in crowding into it in the dark, one ship struck upon the rocks, and was lost; and two others were so much disabled, that ten days elapsed before they were able to enter the harbour. Suffrein then described them as presents which he had received from the British Admiral; who, regarding the proximity of Trincomalee as a bar to all attempts, and finding his ammunition short, immediately after the battle proceeded to Madras.
Hyder, upon the disappointment of his plan against Negapatam by the rencounter between the French and English fleets, returned upon his steps; and proceeded toward his magazine at Arnee. Upon the return of the English army to Madras, a plan had been concerted for the recovery of Cuddalore. The return, indeed, of Hyder, by alarming the General for the safety of Wandewash, made him wish to lessen rather than increase his distance from that fort; but after a day’s march, having learned that Hyder had passed the river Arnee, he proceeded in the direction of Cuddalore, and on the 6th of SeptemberBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. encamped on the red hills of Pondicherry. Intelligence, here received, of the fall of Trincomalee, of another action between the fleets, and of the intention of the British Admiral to return to Madras, induced the General, who had sustained a second paralytic attack, to return to the same place with the army.
The Presidency were thrown into the utmost agitation and alarm by an unexpected event; the refusal of the Admiral to co-operate in the enterprise against Cuddalore; and the declaration of his intention to proceed to Bombay and leave the coast during the ensuing monsoon. If the coast were left unprotected by a British fleet, while the harbour of Trincomalee enabled the enemy to remain, and while Hyder was nearly undisputed master of Carnatic, nothing less was threatened than the extirpation of the English from that quarter of India. Beside these important considerations, the Council pressed upon the mind of the Admiral, the situation of the Presidency in regard to food; that their entire dependance rested upon the supplies which might arrive by sea; that the stock in the warehouses did not exceed 30,000 bags; that the quantity afloat in the roads amounted but to as much more, which the number of boats demanded for the daily service of his squadron had deprived them of the means of landing: that the monthly consumption was 50,000 bags at the least; and that, if the vessels on which they depended for their supply were intercepted, (such would be the certain consequence of a French fleet without an English upon the coast,) nothing less than famine was placed before their eyes. The Admiral was reminded that he had remained in safety upon the coast during the easterly monsoon of BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.the former year, and might still undoubtedly find some harbour to afford him shelter. A letter too was received express from Bengal, stating that Mr. Ritchie, the marine surveyor, would undertake to conduct his Majesty’s ships to a safe anchorage in the mouth of the Bengal river. And it was known that Sir Richard Bickerton, with a re-inforcement of five sail of the line from England, had already touched at Bombay, and was on his way round for Madras.
The Admiral remained deaf to all expostulations. In the mean time intelligence was received that the enemy were preparing to attack Negapatam. The President had already prevailed upon Sir Eyre Coote to send a detachment of 300 men under Colonel Fullarton into the southern provinces, which, since the defeat of Colonel Brathwaite, had lain exposed to the ravages of Hyder, and were now visited with scarcity, and the prospect of famine. Within two days of the former intelligence, accounts were received that seventeen sail of the enemy’s fleet had arrived at Negapatam, and that the place was already attacked. The most earnest expostulations were still addressed to the Admiral in vain; and the morning of the 15th of October exhibiting the appearance of a storm, the fleet set sail and disappeared. The following morning presented a tremendous spectacle to the wretched inhabitants of Madras; several large vessels driven ashore; others foundered at their anchors; all the small craft, amounting to nearly 100 in number, either sunk or stranded; and the whole of the 30,000 bags of rice irretrievably gone. The ravages of Hyder had driven crowds of the inhabitants from all parts of the country to seek refuge at Madras, where multitudes were daily perishing of want. Famine now raged in all his horrors; and the multitude of the dead and the dying threatened toBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. superadd the evils of pestilence. The bodies of those who expired in the streets or the houses without any one to inter them, were daily collected, and piled in carts, to be buried in large trenches made for the purpose out of the town, to the number, for several weeks, of not less, it is said, than twelve or fifteen hundred a week. What was done to remove the suffering inhabitants to the less exhausted parts of the country, and to prevent unnecessary consumption, the Governor sending away his horses and even his servants, could only mitigate, and that to a small degree, the evils which were endured.1 On the fourth day after the departure of Sir Edward Hughes and his fleet, Sir Richard Bickerton arrived, with three regiments of 1,000 each, Sir John Burgoyne’s regiment of light horse, amounting to 340, and about 1000 recruits raised by the Company, chiefly in Ireland; but as soon as Sir Richard was apprized of the motions of Sir E. Hughes, he immediately put to sea, and proceeded after him to Bombay. Sir Eyre Coote also, no longer equal to the toils of command, set sail for Bengal; and General Stuart remained at the head of the army, now encamped at Madras, with provisions for not many days, and its pay six months in arrear.
The exclusive power over the military operations, which had been entrusted to Coote, and which, though it greatly impeded the exertions of the President, motives of delicacy and prudence forbade him to withdraw, belonged, under no pretext, to General Stuart; and the Governor and Council proceeded to BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.carry their own plans into execution, for checking the profuse expenditure of the army, and making the most advantageous disposition of the troops. A reinforcement of 400 Europeans was dispatched to co-operate with the Bombay army in effecting a diversion on the western side of Hyder’s dominions; 300 of the same troops were sent to the northern Circars against an apprehended invasion of the French; and 500 to strengthen the garrison at Negapatam. Fortunately for the English, the French had no information or conception of the unprotected and starving condition in which Madras had been left. It remained unvisited, even by a few frigates to intercept the corn ships: and from Bengal and the Circars considerable supplies were received. An event also arrived, of such magnitude, as to affect the views of almost every state in India, and suddenly to cheer the gloom which darkened the prospects of the English. Their great enemy Hyder Ali, who began his career in one of the lowest situations of life; who, totally destitute of the benefits of education, raised himself to be the sovereign of a great empire, and displayed a talent for government and for war, of which they had met with no example in India, died at Chittore in the beginning of December, at an age not exactly ascertained, but certainly exceeding eighty; when his destined successor Tippoo was at a great distance; having been detached to the western coast to oppose Colonel Humberstone’s invasion.
That officer, after remaining at Calicut from the end of May till the beginning of September, proceeded to Palacotah, a strong fort, situated about a mile from Palacatcherry, and commanding the great southern pass between the coasts, with an army consisting of more than 900 British troops, and 2000 Bombay sepoys; beside 1,200 sepoys with European officers and serjeants, furnished by the King of Tanjore;BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. and a proportional train of artillery, of which however they were obliged, for want of draught bullocks, to leave the whole of the heavy part, and one half of the remainder by the way. They remained before Ramgurree from the 20th of September to the 6th of October. Being deserted in the night, it was garrisoned with convalescents, and made the centre of a chain of communications. After taking another fort on the 14th, they approached Palacatcherry; and on the 18th, without much difficulty, dispersed the enemy, who met them at about three miles distance from the fort. To take Palacatcherry, without heavy artillery, was, after three days’ inspection, considered impossible; and the army were ordered to march at four o’clock on the morning of the 22d, in order to occupy a camp at several miles distance, till the battering cannon should arrive. Unfortunately, the officer who conducted the retreat, instead of putting the line to the right about, ordered them to countermarch, which threw the baggage and stores to the rear. Apprized of all their motions, the enemy dexterously watched them, in a narrow defile, till all except the rear guard and the baggage had passed, when the enemy suddenly made an attack, and the whole of the provisions, and almost all the ammunition, fell into their hands. It now only remained for the English to make their retreat to the coast with the greatest expedition. They were attacked from every thicket; exceedingly harassed both on flanks and rear; during the two first days they hardly tasted food; and on the 18th of November, when they reached Ramgurree, the fortifications of which, as well as those of Mangaracotah, they blew up, they received BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.intelligence that Tippoo Saheb, with 20,000 men, whom the weakness of the English in Carnatic had enabled Hyder to detach for the protection of his western provinces, was advancing upon them with rapid marches, and already at hand. They had marched but a few miles on the following morning, when Tippoo’s advanced parties opened a cannonade on their rear. Fighting every step of the march, they arrived towards dark at the river Paniané, which appeared impassable. After a painful search of two hours a ford was found, which, though it reached up to the chin of an ordinary man, they resolved to attempt, and happily passed with the loss of but two black women, among the followers of the camp. The enemy, expecting to find them an easy prey in the morning, had totally neglected to watch them during the night. Next day they reached the town of Paniané, against which the operations of Tippoo were immediately commenced. Before dawn on the 28th of November, the enemy, divided into four columns, including a portion of Lally’s corps, with that officer himself at their head, made a strong assault upon the English lines, as yet incomplete. They had dislodged a body of sepoys, and were in possession of the guns, before the English troops got under arms; when the forty-second regiment, advancing with fixed bayonets, threw them into confusion. They made various attempts to rally, but with considerable slaughter were compelled to retreat. Tippoo continued the blockade, and was understood to be meditation another attack, when he received the news of his father’s decease. He departed immediately with a few horse, leaving orders for the army to follow.
No sooner was intelligence received of the death of Hyder, than Lord Macartney, aware of the feebleBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782. cement of an Indian army, and justly estimating the chances of its dispersion, if, at the moment of consternation, it were vigorously attacked, expressed his eagerness for action. General Stuart, instead of seconding this ardour, either by having the troops in readiness, or putting them in motion, was employing his time and his talents in squabbles with the civil authority. Slight symptoms of military impatience, under the command of the Company’s servants, had, at different times, already appeared. But it was under Coote, that it first assumed a formidable aspect. The independant authority which was yielded to that commander corrupted the views of the military officers; and General Stuart was well calculated to uphold a controversy on the subject of his own pretensions. From the moment of his elevation to the command of the troops, and to a voice in the deliberations which regulated their actions, he is accused of having diligently objected to almost every proposal; and of having filled the records of the Company with teasing discussions on his own dignity, privileges, and emoluments. The King’s officers, indeed, from an early period of their services in India, assumed an air, proportionate, as they imagined, to the dignity of the master whom they served; and they now, under General Stuart, distinctly asserted the doctrine of being at liberty to obey, or not to obey the Company, as they themselves held fit. A doctrine which implied the extinction of the civil authority, and went to subvert the government of the Company, appeared to Lord Macartney to demand an explicit and decisive resistance. The Committee agreed with him in recording a declaration; That when the King lent his troops for the service of the Company, and when they passed from the pay of the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1782.King into the pay of the Company, their obedience to the Company, till the period of their recall, was a condition necessary and understood: That the King reserved to himself the regulation of their interior economy; but with regard to their operations, gave them not so much as instructions; which were left exclusively to the Authority, for the service of which they were employed. The General, having thought fit to deliver to the Committee what he called an answer to this declaration, and therein to assert a right of judging when he should obey, and when not, received by the unanimous resolution of the Committee, a positive order to send no commands or instructions, except on business of discipline or detail, to any of the King’s or Company’s officers without the approbation of the Committee. To these decisive measures General Stuart abstained from any direct or declared resistance; and rather chose to thwart the views of the President and Council by placing obstacles in their way. Upon their earnest application, when the news arrived of the death of Hyder, that the army should march, the General affected to disbelieve the intelligence; and, if it was true, replied, that the army would be ready for action in the proper time. When the fact was ascertained, and the remonstrances were redoubled; when letters were daily received, describing the importance of the moment for striking a decisive blow; when the commanding officer at Tripasore sent express intelligence, that the whole of the enemy’s camp was in consternation, that numbers had deserted, and that, in the opinion of the deserters, the whole army, if attacked before the arrival of Tippoo, would immediately disband and fly into their own country, the General declared the army deficient in equipments for marching at that season of the year; though for upwards of a month he had been receivingBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. the strongest representations on the necessity of keeping it in readiness for action, with offers of the utmost exertions of the government to provide for that purpose whatever was required.
Tippoo, in the mean time, had admitted no delay. Having reached Colar, where he performed the accustomed ceremonies at the tomb of his father, he pursued his course to the main army, which he joined between Arnee and Velore, about the end of December. The address and fidelity of the leading officers, who concealed the fatal event, had been able to preserve some order and obedience among the troops till he arrived; when the immediate payment of their arrears, and a few popular regulations, firmly established Tippoo on his father’s throne. Shortly after his arrival he was joined by a French force from Cuddalore, consisting of 900 Europeans, 250 Caffrees and Topasses, 2,000 sepoys, and twenty-two pieces of artillery; while at this time the whole of the British force in Carnatic, capable of taking the field, amounted to no more than 2,945 Europeans, and 11,545 natives.
On the 4th of January the army at last took the field. On the 5th of February they marched. On the 8th they arrived at Wandewash, where the enemy appeared. On the 13th the General advanced and offered battle; when the enemy retired in haste and disorder towards the river. He withdrew the garrison from Wandewash and Carangoly, which it was held impracticable to maintain; and blew up the fortifications of both. He then marched towards Velore, and at that place received intelligence that Tippoo Saib was retreating from Carnatic, that he had ordered Arcot to be evacuated, and two sides of the fort to be destroyed.
BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.Tippoo was recalled, not only by the care of establishing his government, but of meeting a formidable invasion on the western coast, which had already approached the vitals of his kingdom. The English army, which had been left unobstructed on his departure from Paniané, about the beginning of December, proceeded about the end of that month, the sepoys by land to Tellicherry, the European part, by sea, to Merjee, about three hundred miles north of Paniané. In January, General Mathews, with an army under his command, from Bombay, arrived at Merjee, and summoned to his standard the rest of the troops on that part of the coast. He took by storm the fort of Onore, and reduced some other places of smaller consequence; and about the middle of the month, with a force consisting of about 1,200 Europeans, eight battalions of Sepoys, and a proportionate quantity of artillery and Lascars, moved toward the great pass which is known by the appellation of the Hussaingurry Ghaut. The ascent consisted of a winding road of about five miles in length, defended by batteries or redoubts at every turning. The army entered the pass on the morning of the 25th, and chiefly with the bayonet carried every thing before them, till they reached a strong redoubt at the top of the Ghaut; this appeared impregnable; but a party clambering up the rocks, came round upon it behind, and the whole of the pass was placed in their power. The next day they advanced to Hyder-nagur, or Bednore, the rich capital of one of the most important of all the dependencies of Mysore. They were on their march with no more than six rounds of ammunition for each man, when an English prisoner arrived, with terms from the Governor, and a proposal to surrender not only the city of Bednore, but the country and all its dependencies. With the capital, most of the minorBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. forts made a ready submission; but Ananpore, Mangalore, and some others, held out. Ananpore, after violating two flags of truce, stood the storm, and was carried on the 14th of February. In Mangalore, a breach being effected, the commander, unable to prevail upon his people to maintain the defence, was obliged to surrender. In these transactions, particularly in the reduction of Onore and Ananpore, the English army have been accused of a barbarity unusual at the hands of a civilized foe. It appears not, however, that quarter, when asked, was refused; but orders were given to shed the blood of every man who was taken under arms, and some of the officers were reprimanded for not seeing those orders rigidly executed.1 After the acquisition of Mangalore, the General, with a portion of the army, returned to Bednore, where the flames of discord were kindled by pretensions to the spoil. A vast treasure amounting to eighty-one lacs of pagodas, 801,000l. besides a quantity of jewels, was understood to have been found in Bednore. Of this, though the army was in the greatest distress for want of money, having received no pay for twelve months, some of the troops for a longer time, the General positively refused to divide any part. The most vehement complaints and remonstrances ensued. Refractory proceedings were severely, if not arbitrarily punished; and three of the leading officers, Colonel Macleod, Colonel Humberstone, and Major Shaw, left the army, and, proceeding to Bombay, laid their representations before BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.the Governor and Council. So flagrant to the Governor and Council did the conduct of the General appear, that they superseded him; and appointed Colonel Macleod, the next in rank, to take the command in his stead. Suspicions of his rapacity blazed with violence; but it ought to be remembered, that he lived not to vindicate his own reputation; and that in circumstances, such as those in which he was placed, suspicions of rapacity are easily raised.
Colonel Macleod, now Brigadier-General, and Commander-in-Chief, returning to the army with the two other officers, in the Ranger snow, fell in with a Mahratta fleet of five vessels of Geriah, on the 7th of April. This fleet was not, it appears, apprised of the peace; and Macleod, full of impatience, temerity, and presumption, instead of attempting an explanation, or submitting to be detained at Geriah for a few days, gave orders to resist. The Ranger was taken, after almost every man in the ship was either killed or wounded. Major Shaw was killed, and Macleod and Humberstone wounded, the latter mortally. He died in a few days at Geriah, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, and was lamented as an officer of the most exalted promise; a man, who nourished his spirit with the contemplation of ancient heroes, and devoted his hours to the study of the most abstruse sciences connected with his profession.
During this interval, the forty-second regiment was sent from Bednore to seize some forts below the Ghauts; the army was dispersed in detachments, to occupy almost every town and mud fort in the country; nothing, it is said, was dreamt of but riches; intelligence, fortifications, and subsistence, were all equally neglected. In this state of supine insensibility, Tippoo suddenly appeared on the 9th of April, drove in a detachment stationed four miles distant at Fattiput, seized the town of Bednore with a considerableBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. quantity of ammunition neglectfully remaining without the magazine; laid siege to the fort; and sent detachments to occupy the Ghauts, and surrounding country. The English in Bednore were then cut off from retreat; the fortifications ruinous, their ammunition expended, their provisions law, and their numbers diminishing by disease and fatigue as well as the sword. Honourable terms being promised, they surrendered by capitulation on the 30th of April; but instead of being sent according to agreement to the coast, they were put in irons and marched like felons to a dreadful imprisonment in the strong fortresses of Mysore. To apologize for this outrage upon the law of even barbarous nations, Tippoo charged the English with a violation of the articles of capitulation in robbing the public treasure; and the suspicions which were attached to the character of the General have given currency to a story that he ordered the bamboo of his palanquin to be pierced and filled with pagodas.
After this important success, Tippoo proceeded to Mangalore, in which the remains of the English army collected themselves, with such provisions as the suddenness of the emergency allowed them to procure. On the possession of Mangalore, the chief fortress and the best harbour of Canara, Tippoo, as well as his father, set an extraordinary value. On the 16th of May a reconnoitering party of his horse appeared on a height near the town. On the 20th the picquets, on the 23d the outposts of the garrison were driven in, and the investment of the place was rendered complete.
During the march of Tippoo from Carnatic to the western side of his kingdom, and the operations which preceded his arrival at Mangalore, the following BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.occurrences took place at Madras. As soon as the General ascertained the departure of the enemy, he returned with the army, and on the 20th of February encamped near the Mount. The policy of supporting the English army in Bednore against the army of Tippoo, by strong incursions on the southern and eastern parts of his dominions, presented itself, in the strongest point of view, to the Governor and Council. The army stationed in Tanjore and the southern provinces received orders to march towards the west; and to General Stuart it was recommended, to march upon Tippoo’s frontier in the direction of Velore. Any such movement he declared to be impossible; and while the army remained inactive, Suffrein, whom the British fleet had not yet returned to oppose, found no difficulty in landing Bussy, with a reinforcement of French troops at Cuddalore. It was an object of great importance to recover possession of that place, before the works should be strengthened, and the army of Tippoo, with the French troops which were with him, should be able to return. To all the expostulations of the Governor and Council, the General is accused of having replied, only by the statement of wants and difficulties, operating as grounds of delay. About fourteen days after the time fixed upon by himself, that is, on the 21st of April, in consequence of peremptory commands, he marched with the army towards Cuddalore. Contrary to his pledge, that he would not recall to his assistance the southern army, without the strongest necessity, of which he engaged to apprise the Committee, he secretly wrote to the Commanding Officer three days before his departure, to join him with the greatest part of the force under his command. By this abuse of their confidence, the Committee were induced to withdraw the discretionary power over the southern army, which they had granted at his request. TheBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. march from Madras to Cuddalore, about 100 miles, is usually performed in twelve days. General Stuart had no obstruction either to meet or to fear; he was, to a degree unusually perfect, supplied with all the requisites for his march; yet he spent forty days upon the road, that is, marched at the rate of less than three miles a day, though the chance of success mainly depended upon dispatch, and the Admiral, who was to co-operate with the expedition, declared that he could not, for want of water and provisions, remain before Cuddalore till the end of June. The fleet had returned to Madras on the 12th of April, augmented to seventeen sail of the line, four frigates, and some smaller vessels; and soon after, a fleet of ten Indiamen, and three store ships, with 1,000 recruits to the army, arrived under convoy of the Bristol man of war, after a narrow escape from the squadron of Suffrein.
The army arrived at Cuddalore on the 7th of June, where the enemy had already thrown up, and almost completed, considerable works. An attack was to be made on these works on the 13th, in three several places at once; and it was planned to give the signal by firing three guns from a hill. Amid the noise of firing, a signal of this description could not be heard; and the attacks were made at three several times. The English were repulsed; but the enemy quitting, in the pursuit, a part of their works, which were dexterously occupied by a division of the English army, were thrown into consternation, and withdrew. This attack had nearly incurred the ruin of the English army, and left sixty-two officers, and 920 men, almost all Europeans, either dead or mortally wounded on the field. The English lay upon their arms during the night in expectation of an attack, which the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.troops, fatigued and unprotected, would have found it difficult to sustain. But the spirit of Bussy was chilled by age and infirmities; and he restrained the impetuosity of his officers, who confidently predicted the destruction of the British army.
On the following day Sir Edward Hughes, and Suffrein, who had followed him from Trincomalee, arrived with their respective fleets. The English remained at anchor till the 16th; on the 17th, and two succeeding days, the fleets performed a variety of movements for the purpose of gaining or keeping the wind; and about four o’clock on the 20th they engaged. The English consisted of eighteen sail, the French only of sixteen, and so leaky, that most of them it was necessary to pump during the battle: yet Suffrein, by dexterous management, contrived in several instances to place two of his vessels upon one of the English, of which five were but little engaged. The combatants were parted by night, and the next day the French were out of sight, but appeared at anchor in the road of Porto Novo on the morning of the 22d. The British Admiral, deeming it inexpedient to attack them, only offered battle, and then made sail for Madras. It has been both asserted and denied that Suffrein weighed, and stood after him: but it is certain that he arrived at Cuddalore on the following day. He immediately proceeded to land as many men as he could spare from the fleet; and measures were concerted between him and Bussy for the most vigorous operations. They made a sally on the 25th, which was repulsed; but a grand effort was preparing for the 4th of July; and so much were the English reduced by the sword, by sickness, and fatigue, that the most fatal consequences were probable and feared. Sir Edward Hughes at Madras, and the British army exposed to Suffrein and Bussy at Cuddalore, presented a dismal prospectBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. to the imaginations of the Governor and Council; when intelligence was received of the signature in Europe of a treaty of peace between the English and French. It was immediately resolved, though official intelligence had not yet arrived, to send a flag of truce to Bussy, recommending an immediate cessation of arms. To this proposal the French commander acceded, with less difficulty than might have been expected. Bussy even consented to invite Tippoo to a participation in the peace, and to send positive orders to the French troops to retire immediately from his service.
Upon the evacuation of Carnatic by Tippoo, the occasion was not omitted of making to him an overture of peace by means of a Brahmen, in the confidence of the King of Tanjore. A favourable answer was remitted; but a point of etiquette, for which the Governor was a great stickler, leading to another on the part of Tippoo, broke off the negotiation. To the application from Bussy, however, an answer was returned in little more than a month, offering peace upon certain conditions, and expressing a desire to send two ambassadors to Madras. Upon the arrival of the vakeels it appeared that a peace, upon the basis of a mutual restitution of conquests, might easily be made; and for the acceleration of so desirable an event, especially on account of the prisoners, to whose feelings, and even lives, a few weeks were of importance, it was deemed expedient to send three commissioners along with Tippoo’s vakeels, to expedite on the spot the business of negotiation.
Measures, in the mean time, were pursued for creating a diversion in favour of the detachment besieged in Mangalore. The two divisions of the army which were stationed for the protection, the BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.one of the northern, the other of the southern provinces, were reinforced; and instructed to threaten or attack the enemy in that part of his dominions to which they approached. The division in the south was, in the opinion of Colonel Fullarton, by whom it was commanded, augmented sufficiently to penetrate into the very heart of Mysore, and possibly to attack the capital itself.
Amid these proceedings, the contentions which prevailed between the heads of the civil and military departments were hastening to a decision. Along with the flag of truce which was forwarded to the French, it was resolved in the Committee to send orders for the recall of General Stuart to the Presidency, as well because they could not depend upon his obedience, as because they deemed it necessary to hear the account which he might render of his conduct. After a temporary neglect of the commands of the Committee, the General thought proper to leave the army and proceed to Madras; where, superseding mutual explanations, the customary disputes were renewed and inflamed. The Governor at last submitted to the Committee a motion, that General Stuart should be dismissed from the Company’s service. In the minute by which this motion was introduced, the misconduct of the General in the expedition to Cuddalore, and the acts of disobedience, which were sufficient in number and magnitude to imply the transfer of all power into his hands, were stated as the principal grounds of the proposed proceeding; to which the votes of the Committee immediately imparted their unanimous sanction. Stuart, however, announced his determination to retain the command of the King’s troops; and Sir John Burgoyne, on whom, as second in rank, the command would devolve, intimated his intention to obey the orders of General Stuart. Decisive acts were nowBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. inevitable. The Town Adjutant, accompanied by the Governor’s Private Secretary, and a party of sepoys, proceeded to the villa of the General, and brought him quietly a prisoner to the fort; where he remained a few days, and was then embarked for England.
The original plan, to the execution of which the army in the south was destined, was, that it should penetrate on the one side, and the army under Colonel Humberstone at Paniané on the other, into the country of Coimbetore, forming a line of communication from the one coast to the other, through the middle of Tippoo’s dominions. In this scheme, which was framed and suggested by Mr. Sullivan, the gentleman at the head of the civil department in the Trichinopoly district, was included a negotiation for raising disturbance against Tippoo in his own dominions, by setting up the pretensions of the deposed Rajah of Mysore. In the months of April and May, 1783, the forts of Caroor, Aravarcouchy, and Dindigul, were reduced; but the exhausted state of the country, not more from the ravages of the enemy, than the disorganization of the government, cramped the operations of the army by scarcity of supplies. The first object of Colonel Fullarton, who took the command of the southern army, was to augment the field force by battalions from Tanjore, Trichinopoly, and Tinivelly; and, vigorously aided as he was by the chief civil servants of the Company, not only to procure supplies, but soothe the minds, and conciliate the favour, of the different classes of the people. It was not before the 25th of May, 1783, that he began to march from Dindigul towards Daraporam. The reduction of this place, which fell on the 2d of June, afforded one incident, which, being a characteristic BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.circumstance, deserves to be stated. It was impossible to approach so near the fort as to determine with precision the most advantageous point of attack. One spy explained the circumstances of the place to the Commanding Officer, and another to the Adjutant-General. Each of these officers drew a plan from the description which he himself had received; and they coincided so exactly both with one another, and with the facts, that a body of troops marched in a dark night, crossed a river, and occupied a strong position within 400 yards of the fort, where the batteries were constructed which effected the breach. The accuracy with which the Indian spies convey the idea of a fort even by verbal communication, and still more by models made of clay, is represented as not surprising only, but almost incredible. The orders which General Stuart, unknown to the Committee, dispatched to the southern army, stopped them at this point in their career of conquest; and they were within three miles of the enemy’s camp when they received intelligence that hostilities with the French had ceased, and that an armistice was concluded with Tippoo. In the interval Colonel Fullarton had proceeded with great activity in restoring obedience and order in Madura and Tinivelly, in which, during the distress of the Madras government, almost all the Polygars had revolted. According to Fullarton, the management of the province by the Company’s and the Nabob’s servants had been corrupt and oppressive, and hence pregnant with disorder, in the extreme. One single exception he produces, Mahomed Issoof Khan. “While he ruled these provinces, his whole administration denoted vigour and effect: his justice was unquestioned, his word unalterable, his measures were happily combined and firmly executed, the guilty had no refuge from punishment. On Comparing,” says the English commander, “the state of thatBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. country with his conduct and remarks, I found that wisdom, vigour, and integrity, were never more conspicuous in any person of whatever climate or complexion.”1 In the month of August, when the reinforcements had joined him from the army at Cudnalore, and the Polygars were sufficiently reduced and humbled to be disposed to a general submission, this Commander moved towards the frontier of Mysore, under instructions to remain inactive, while the result was uncertain of the negotiation with Tippoo. In the interval thus afforded, among other arrangements, Colonel Fullarton established a system of intelligence, under a defect of which the English had laboured during the whole of the war; and established it in such perfection, even into the heart of the enemy’s country, that, “during many months,” to use his own expressions, “of continued marching, through a country almost unexplored, he never once failed in his supplies, nor did any material incident escape his knowledge.” On the 18th of October, when the supplies of the army were almost exhausted, intelligence arrived, that Tippoo had recommenced hostilities against Mangalore. Colonel Fullarton had long meditated an enterprise against Seringapatam, but none of the forts, directly in the route, were sufficiently strong to be confided in as an intermediate magazine, or, in the event of failure, as a place of retreat. It was therefore determined to march upon Palacatcherry, which was one of the strongest places in India, commanded the pass between the coasts, and secured a communication with a great extent of fertile country. After a march of great difficulty, much impeded by woods and incessant BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.rain, the army reached Palacatcherry on the 4th of November. They immediately commenced and carried on their operations with great vigour; but the strength of the place, and the active resistance of the garrison, threatened them with a tedious siege. On the 13th, two batteries were opened, and before sun-set the defences of the enemy were so much impaired, that their fire was considerably abated. At night Captain Maitland took advantage of a heavy rain to drive the enemy from the covert way, and to pursue them within the first gateway, to the second: Here he was stopped, but gallantly defended himself, till additional troops arrived; when the enemy, alarmed by the idea of a general assault, called for quarter, and put the English in possession of the fort. The army then marched to Coimbetore, which they reached on the 26th of November, and which surrendered before they effected a breach. They had now the conquest of Seringapatam, and the entire subversion of the power of Tippoo, full in their view. The brave garrison of Mangalore had long baffled his whole army, which had suffered severely by a perseverance in the siege during the whole of the rains. A chain of connected operations could now be carried on by the army of Colonel Macleod on the western coast, and that of Fullarton in the south. The army of the north was acting in Cudapah, in which and the neighbouring provinces the power of Tippoo was ill established. All the petty princes on the western coast were supposed ready to shake off their dependance. The co-operation was confidently expected of the Hindu inhabitants of Mysore, of whom the Brahmens were in correspondence with the English. Fullarton had provided his army with ten days’ grain, repaired the carriages, and made every arrangement for pushing forward to Seringapatam, with nothing but victoryBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. sparkling in his eye; when he received, on the 28th of November, commands from the Commissioners, appointed to treat with Tippoo, to restore immediately all posts, forts, and countries, lately reduced, and to retire within the limits occupied on the 26th of July. He had made some progress in the execution of these commands, when he received, on the 26th of January, directions to re-assemble the army, and prepare for a renewal of the war.
The negotiators, whom the President and Council had dispatched to the presence of Tippoo, for the purpose of accelerating the conclusion of peace, had not attained their object without many difficulties and considerable delay. Scarcely had they entered the territory of the enemy, when they were required, and almost commanded, to surrender Mangalore, which they regarded as the chief security for the lives and restoration of the English prisoners in the hands of Tippoo. On their approach to Seringapatam they were made acquainted with the intention to conduct them to Mangalore. No communication was allowed between them and their unfortunate countrymen, when they passed Bangalore, and other places in which they were confined. Their letters, both to and fro, were intercepted. Upon complaining they were informed, that Colonel Fullarton, notwithstanding the commencement of their mission for peace, had taken and plundered the forts of Palacatcherry and Coimbetore. Not aware that the proceedings of Fullarton were justified by the intelligence which he had received of Tippoo’s breach of faith to the garrison at Mangalore, they sent their commands to that officer to restore the places, which, since the date of their commission, had fallen into his hands. After a tedious and harassing journey, through a BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.country almost impassable, in which some of their attendants and cattle actually perished, they joined Tippoo at Mangalore, where he had wasted almost a year, and a considerable portion of his army.
The force with which, in the month of May, in the preceding year, he invested Mangalore, is stated at 60,000 horse, 30,000 disciplined sepoys, 600 French infantry, under the command of Colonel Cossigny, Lally’s corps of Europeans and natives, a French troop of dismounted cavalry, commanded by an officer of the King of France, irregular troops to the amount of many thousands, and nearly one hundred pieces of artillery. The British garrison consisted of 696 Europeans, including officers, and 2850 black troops, besides pioneers, and camp followers. The operations of the enemy proceeded with so much activity, that on the 27th of May they had completed eleven embrasures, which the English made an effort to destroy, but were repulsed. On the 29th, large stones, some of them weighing 150 pounds, began to be thrown by mortars into the town. As often as they lighted upon soft earth, they buried themselves without mischief: When they fell upon houses, they laid them open, where no materials could be had to repair them, to all the inclemency of the monsoon: When they fell upon a substance harder than themselves, they were dashed into a thousand pieces; and even the wounds and lacerations which were produced by the splinters proved peculiarly destructive, hardly any person surviving who received them.
From batteries erected on the north, the east, and the south, a heavy fire was constantly maintained; the feeble fortifications on the northern side were entirely dismantled on the 4th of June; on the 7th a practicable breach was effected in the wall; and the English, especially as a flag of truce had been rejected, looked for an immediate assault. In theBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783. mean time they repulsed with the bayonet repeated attacks on the batteries which they had erected without the fortress; repeatedly silenced the batteries of the enemy, and spiked their guns, which were as often expeditiously repaired. Masked batteries were opened, and the approaches of the enemy brought so near, that they threw fascines on the covered way, and edge of the glacis. On the 4th of July, the assault was undertaken. A body of troops, armed with knives, of the shape of pruning hooks, two feet long, and with spears mounted on light bamboos of a prodigious length, rushed into a tower on the left of the eastern gate, while the line marched forward to support them. The enterprise did not succeed. The assaulting party were so warmly received, that they were soon disposed to retreat. On the 6th a general attack was made on the northern covered way, which, though very fierce and obstinate, was also repulsed. The garrison were now obliged to defend themselves from almost daily attempts to penetrate into the fort, while they severely suffered both from scarcity and disease. At last intelligence arrived of the peace between France and England, with the orders of Bussy to the French to co-operate no longer in the hostilities of Tippoo. The French envoy made some efforts to effect a pacification; but even during the suspensions of hostilities, which were frequently terminated, and frequently renewed, Tippoo continued his operations. A trait of Indian humanity ought not to be forgotten. During the progress of hostilities, and especially after the prospect of peace, the enemy’s centinels in many instances beckoned to the men to get under cover, and avoid their fire; a generosity which the English were well disposed to return. At last, after a long and intricate BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1783.correspondence, a cessation of hostilities, including the garrisons of Onore1 and Carwar, was concluded on the 2d of August. Of this agreement one important condition was, that the English garrison should three times a week be furnished with a plentiful market of provisions, at the rates of Tippoo’s camp. This was evaded, and prices were daily, in such a manner, increased, that a fowl was sold at eight, and even twelve rupees; and other things in a like proportion. At last the market was wholly cut off; and horse flesh, frogs, snakes, ravenous birds, kites, rats, and mice, were greedily consumed. Even jackals, devouring the bodies of the dead, were eagerly shot at for food. The garrison had suffered these evils with uncommon perseverance, when a squadron appeared, on the 22d of November, with a considerable army under General Macleod. Instead of landing, the General, by means of his secretary, carried on a tedious negotiation with Tippoo; and having stipulated that provisions for one month should be admitted into the fortress, set sail with the reinforcement on the 1st of December. Even this supply was drawn from damaged stores bought of a navy agent, and of the beef and pork, not one in twenty pieces could be eaten even by the dogs. Another visit, with a similar result, was made by General Macleod, on the 31st of December. The desertion of the sepoys, and the mutiny of the Europeans, were now daily apprehended; two-thirds of the garrison were sick, and the rest had scarcely strength to sustain their arms; the deaths amounted to twelve or fifteen every day; and at last, having endured these calamities till the 23d of January, the gallant Campbell,BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. by whom the garrison had been so nobly commanded, offered, on honourable terms, to withdraw the troops. The Sultan was too eager to put an end to a siege which by desertion and death had cost him nearly half his army, to brave the constancy of so firm a foe; and they marched to Tellicherry, with arms, accoutrements, and the honours of war.
The negotiating commissioners, whose journey had been purposely retarded, were now allowed to approach. The injuries which the English had sustained, since Tippoo had joined in the business of negotiation, were such, as in a prouder state of the English mind, would have appeared to call for signal retribution: But the debility and dejection to which their countrymen were now reduced, and their despair of resources to continue the war, impressed the negotiators with a very unusual admiration of the advantages of peace; and meeting the crafty and deceitful practices of Tippoo with temper and perseverance, they succeeded, on the 11th of March, 1784, in gaining his signature to a treaty, by which, on the general condition of a mutual restitution of conquests, peace was obtained.1
It is only necessary, further, to relate the manner in which the treaty was ratified by the Governor-General BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784.and Council; and to explain the mode in which, during these momentous transactions, the relations between the Supreme and Subordinate Presidency were maintained. Lord Macartney was not only of superior rank to the highest of the Company’s servants in India, but in him was set one of the first examples of elevating a servant of the King to a high station in that country; and of intercepting the great prizes which animated the ambition of the individuals rising through the several stages of the Company’s service. To these causes of jealousy were added, recommendations and injunctions, which had been pressed upon so many governors, and which had not failed to involve in odium and difficulties as many as had attempted to obey them; recommendations and injunctions, of peculiar urgency, to correct abuses and effect retrenchments. Though the accomplishments and talents of Lord Macartney, which were not of an ordinary kind, and a considerable propensity to vain glory might have added to the flames of discord, the calmness of his temper, his moderation, and urbanity, were well calculated to allay them. He was aware of the sentiments to which, among the members of the superior government, his appearance in India was likely to give origin; and lost no time in endeavouring to avert the jealousy which might naturally arise. He not only assured the Governor-General of the sentiments of esteem, and even of admiration, with which all that he knew of his administration inspired him, but openly disclaimed all designs upon the government of Bengal; and declared that the objects were not Indian to which his ambition was directed. Mr. Hastings met his professions with similar protestations, both of personal regard, and of desire for co-operation. He also expressed his regret that the suddenness of the arrival of Lord Macartney had not allowed him the opportunity to furnish to that nobleman the explanationBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. of certain acts, by which the Supreme Government might appear to him to have passed beyond the limits of its own province, and to have taken upon itself an authority which belonged to the Presidency of which he was now at the head.
Of the acts to which Mr. Hastings made allusion, one was, the treaty, into which, in the beginning of the year 1781, he had entered with the Dutch. The object of that measure was to obtain, through the Governors of Colombo and Cochin, a military force to assist in the expulsion of Hyder from Carnatic; but as these Governors acted under the authority of the government of Batavia, for whose sanction there was no leisure to wait, a tempting advantage was represented as necessary to prevail upon them to incur so unusual a responsibility. The negotiation was carried on through the medium of the Director of the Dutch settlements in Bengal; and it was stipulated that for 1000 European infantry, 200 European artillery, and 1000 Malays, who should be paid and maintained by the Company, during the period of their service, the province of Tinivelly should be ceded to the Dutch, together with the liberty of making conquests in the neighbourhood of Cochin, and the exclusive right to the pearl fishery on the whole of the coast south from Ramiseram. In name and ostent, the sovereignty of the Nabob Mahomed Ali was not to be infringed; and the treaty, framed and concluded for him, was to be ratified by his signature. The small value of the cession, and the extreme danger of Carnatic, were urged as the motives to induce compliance on the part both of the Nabob, and of the Presidency of Madras. The ideas, however, of the Nabob, and of the Presidency of Madras, differed very widely from those of the Governor-General, BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784.respecting the value both of what was to be given and what was to be received. They not only set a high estimate on Tinivelly, but treated the offer of a body of troops, when they were much less in want of troops than of money to pay and maintain those which they had, as a matter of doubtful utility. In consequence, they declined to forward the treaty, transmitting their reasons to the Court of Directors. And the accession of the Dutch to the enemies of England, of which Macartney carried out the intelligence, superseded, on that ground, all further proceedings.1
Of the transactions, which Mr. Hastings might expect to impress unfavourably the mind of the noble President, another was, that of which the history has already occurred; the engagement into which he and his Council had entered, for setting aside the intervention of the Government of Madras, and transacting directly with the Nabob of Arcot. Under the same predicament was placed the negotiation into which the Governor-General and Council of Bengal had entered with Nizam Ali, the Subahdar of Deccan, for obtaining from that Prince the aid of a body of his horse, and for ceding to him in return the Northern Circars. Though a treaty to this effect had been fully arranged, yet as the orders for carrying it into execution had not been dispatched when Lord Macartney arrived, Mr. Hastings paid him the compliment of submitting it for his opinion. On this occasion also, the Governor-General represented, as of vast importance, the aid which the Company was thus to receive; and ascribed but little value to the territory which they were about to surrender, both as it yielded a trifling revenue, and, being a narrowBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. strip along the coast, was, by its extent of frontier, difficult to defend. Here again the opinions of the Governor-General found themselves widely at variance with those of the Governor of Fort St. George. Lord Macartney stated the net revenue for that year of the four Northern Circars, not including Guntoor, at 612,000 pagodas; he affirmed that to the English the defence of territory was easy, not in proportion to its remoteness from the sea, but the contrary, as a communication with their ships enabled the troops to move in every direction; that as manufacturing districts, the Circars were of great importance to the Company’s investment; that they would be important in a still higher point of view, as forming a line of communication between Bengal and Carnatic, and giving to the English the whole of the eastern coast, when they should be augmented by Guntoor and Cuttack; and that the friendship of Nizam Ali was of no value, both as no dependance could be placed on his faith, and as the expense of his undisciplined and ungovernable horse would far outgo the utility of their service. On all these accounts Lord Macartney declared, that, without the special command of his employers, he could not reconcile it to his sense of duty to consent to the treaty which was proposed. Mr. Hastings gave way; but a diffidence so marked of his judgment, or his virtue, did not lessen the alienation towards the government of Madras, with temptations to which the situation of the Governor-General so largely supplied him.
The first occasion on which his measures gave uneasiness to the government of Madras, was furnished by the complaints of Coote, whom that government found it impossible to satisfy with power. Instead of interposing with their authority to allay the unreasonable dissatisfactions of the querulous General, BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784.and to strengthen the hands, at so perilous a moment, of the government of Madras, the supreme Council encouraged his discontent, and laid their exhortations upon the Presidency of Madras, to place themselves in hardly any other capacity than that of Commissaries to supply his army, and while they continued responsible for the acts of the government, to retain with them hardly any other connexion, in no degree to possess over them any substantial control. As the coolness on the part of the Governor-General seemed to Macartney to increase, and to threaten unfavourable consequences, which it was of the utmost importance to avert, he sent to Bengal, in the beginning of the year 1782, his confidential secretary Mr. Staunton, in whose judgment and fidelity he placed the greatest reliance, to effect a complete mutual explanation, and, if possible, to secure harmony and cooperation. With this proceeding Mr. Hastings expressed the highest satisfaction, and declared his “anxious desire to co-operate with Lord Macartney firmly and liberally for the security of the Carnatic, for the support of his authority, and for the honour of his administration.” But, even at the time when he was making these cordial professions, and entertaining Mr. Staunton with the highest civilities in his house, he signed, as President of the Supreme Council, whose voice was his own, a letter to the President and Council of Madras, in which, with an intimation of a right to command, they say they “do most earnestly recommend, that Sir Eyre Coote’s wishes in regard to power may be gratified to their fullest possible extent: and that he may be allowed an unparticipated command over all the forces acting under British authority in the Carnatic.” Though Macartney announced his determination to act under this recommendation, as if it were a legal command, he yet displayed, first in a private letter to the Governor-General, to which no answer wasBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. ever returned, and also in a public communication, in the name of the Select Committee of the Council of Madras, his opinion, that the measure, as it regarded either the antecedent conduct of the governor and Council of Madras, or the nature of the case, was destitute of all reasonable ground; calculated to involve the Madras government in difficulties; and liable to produce the most dangerous consequences. Of the rooted enmity of the Governor-General he regarded this proceeding as a decisive proof. And from this time but little between the Presidencies was preserved even of the appearance of concert.
Of the inconvenience to themselves of the transfer which the Supreme Council had ordered of the powers of the Presidency, one instance speedily occurred. Upon a requisition to send a detachment from Madras to Bombay, the President and Council were obliged to return for answer, that compliance no longer remained in their power, since all authority over the troops resided in the General. It is remarkable enough that this incident, which, with others of the like description, might have been so easily foreseen, determined the Supreme Council to revoke the orders which they had formerly given, and by explaining away the meaning of their former words, to substitute a new regulation for the degree of power with which the General was to be supplied. A great diminution, following close in succession upon a great enlargement of power, was not likely to produce a healing effect upon such a temper as that of Coote. He now insisted upon relinquishing the command of the army; and on the 28th of September, 1782, sailed for Bengal. Measures for giving him satisfaction were there concerted between him and the Supreme Council; and he departed from Bengal in BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784.the following spring to resume the command. It has been historically stated, and without contradiction, That nothing but an accident prevented the two Presidents, even at that trying moment, from plunging their countrymen in India into something of the nature of a civil war: That Coote was dispatched with powers to resume the military command, exempt from dependance upon the Madras government: And that to this illegal subversion of the authority of the subordinate Presidency Lord Macartney was determined not to submit.1 The death of the General happily prevented the chance of a struggle. The ship, in which he was proceeding from the Ganges to the coast, was chased several days by some of the French cruisers, and at times in imminent danger; the extreme anxiety of this situation operating upon the irritable and enfeebled frame of the General, accelerated a third fit of apoplexy, and terminated his life on the 26th of April, only three days after landing at Madras. To such an extreme the distrust of the supreme government was now carried, that a sum of ten lacs of rupees from Bengal, which arrived a few days after, could not be received, because the person who brought it had orders to deliver it not to the civil government, but into the hands of Sir Eyre Coote. From this time the Governor-General and Council withheld from Macartney, not only the powers which were necessary for effecting by negotiation a division among the enemies of the English, but all instruction with respect to their views of peace and war; and, instead of those supplies which they had hitherto afforded in considerable quantity, they forbid the Carnatic Presidency to draw on the government of Bengal for a single rupee. Repeated applications were sent, before any answer was received, for instructions in regard to the treaty whichBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. Tippoo had declared his willingness to form. It was not till after the commissioners had departed that any were received; and when they came, they were so equivocally worded, that whatever course the Carnatic Presidency might pursue, their conduct would equally stand open to blame.1
The treaty of peace with Tippoo was transmitted for ratification to Bengal. In the absence of Mr. Hastings, who was then at Lucknow, it was acknowledged and signed by the Supreme Council, who were vested with all the powers of government. It was returned in due form. It was, then, with the requisite solemnity, transmitted to Tippoo. The receipt of it was acknowledged. And this great transaction was closed.
After a number of months had elapsed, a fresh copy of the treaty was received from Bengal, having the signature as before of the Members of the Council at Calcutta, and the additional signature of the Governor-General at Lucknow. To this instrument was annexed a declaration, that the Nabob Walaw Jaw had a right to be included in the treaty; and a command to the President and Council of Madras, “at their peril,” to transmit the ratification of the treaty in its second form to Tippoo.
For understanding this transaction, it is necessary to recollect, that the Nabob, and along with him, his mischievous agents, expressed their uneasiness at the unhappy state of his affairs, by imputing blame to the Governor, and obstructing the government. The Supreme Council had taken part with the complaints, not only of the General, but also of the Nabob. To BOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784.all practicable arrangements for peace, that dependant, ambitious, and insatiate, chief, had shown aversion, and in particular a poignant abhorrence of Hyder Ali and his son. Important as the blessings of peace had now become to the exhausted resources of him and the Company, he treated with unreserved disapprobation the terms of any treaty which, to the Presidency, it seemed practicable to obtain; and neither gave his consent, nor appeared to desire to become a party, to the arrangement which they endeavoured to effect. The treaty of 1769, in which the Nabob was not included as a party, nor his name mentioned, appeared to furnish a precedent to justify a treaty in which, though his participation was not expressed, his interests were secured. And as it was absolutely necessary, on behalf of the Company, that the Nabob should not have the power of breaking a treaty, essential to their interests, though by him violently condemned, it was held a great advantage to place it on a foundation independent of his will. Besides, previously to the negotiation, the Supreme Council were so far from holding up the Nabob, as a necessary and a principal party, that they did not even direct the communication to him of their instructions, or hint the propriety of taking his advice. The complaint, however, which on this account the Nabob had been instigated to raise, the Supreme Council treated now as a matter of infinite importance; and to Lord Macartney they appeared to be actuated by a wish to multiply the embarrassments of his administration. Considering the jealous temper of Tippoo, his distrust of the English, and his perpetual apprehension of treachery and deceit, Lord Macartney was convinced, that to present to him a second ratification of a treaty, after the first had been received as final and complete, could only serve to persuade him that either on the first or second ofBOOK V. Chap. 5. 1784. these occasions imposition was practised; and that hostility should anticipate the effect of hostile designs. The danger of such a result determined the President to brave the resentment of the superior government, and exonerating his council from responsibility, he declared his readiness to submit to suspension, as the consequence of his refusal to obey the orders of the governing Board. The situation of Mr. Hastings himself became about this time too alarming, however, to leave him inclination for a stretch of his authority; and the disobedience of Lord Macartney was followed by no unpleasant result.1
First and Second Reports of the Committee of Secrecy; also the Annual Register for 1779 and 1782.
First Report, ut supra, p. 36.
Lord Macleod was the commanding officer of the European regiment which had lately arrived. See the extract of his Letter to the Secretary of State, quoted in the First Report of the Secret Committee p. 44 and 51.
Captain Cosby, in his official letter, dated Gingee, 5th September, 1780, says, “There is no doubt but that Hyder has, by some means, greatly attached the inhabitants to him, insomuch that my hircarrahs (spies) tell me, the news of my marching from Thiagar was communicated from village to village all the way to Trinomallee, from whence expresses were sent to Hyder; and in my march yesterday from Tricaloor, the country being extremely woody, the line was several times fired upon by match-lock fellows collected together, I suppose, from different villages, by Hyder’s Amuldars. Some of them, till my approach, were issuing orders six miles from this.” First Report, ut supra, Appendix, No.3.
184 European infantry, 294 artillery, 3,434 sepoys, thirty-two field pieces, four heavy cannon, and five mortars.
See “A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of the Officers, Soldiers, and Sepoys, who fell into the Hands of Hyder Ali, after the Battle of Conjeveram, September 10, 1780; by an officer of Colonel Baillie’s Detachment.” It forms the second volume of the work entitled, “Memoirs of the late War in Asia,” published by Murray, in 1788. N. B. Before reading the proof of this sheet, I have had the advantage of perusing the account of the same action in the second volume (not yet published) of “Historical Sketches, &c. by Colonel Wilks.” The account in the text is taken from the journal of one eye-witness. Colonel Wilks gives an account from that of another, much less favourable to the detachment and its commander. According to the authority of Colonel Wilks a series of military blunders, and not much of mental collectedness, marked the conduct of the leader; and no little confusion and panic appeared among the men. Which account are we to believe? Why this; that when proof is balanced, it is always more probable that men have acted like ordinary men, than that they have acted like heroes.
For the original documents relative to this irruption, see First Report, ut supra, with its Appendix. In “Memoirs of the late War in Asia,” i. 134–168, besides the concomitant transactions, is a narrative of the transactions of Baillie’s detachment, from the information of an officer who belonged to it. The Annual Register for 1782 contains a tolerable account, chiefly drawn from the Parliamentary Reports.
Second Report of the Committee of Secrecy.
First Report, ut supra, and Appendix, No. 17; Sixth Report ditto, p. 99, and Appendix, No. 294 to 305.
See the Fourth Report of the Committee of Secrecy, p. 6, where it appears to have been distinctly announced, by the Governor and Council, on the 19th January, 1779, that their resources were unequal, even to their peace establishment, much more to make any preparations for war.
In his representation, the General stated it as a known fact, that they had not only Hyder, but the whole Carnatic, for enemies; and, therefore, not assistance, but obstruction, to expect in every part of the march: one of the Nabob’s renters having endeavoured to betray Vellore to the enemy, be had ordered him, he said, into irons; hoping, “that he might be instrumental to the discovery of those dark designs, which he had long suspected to exist in the court of a uative power, living under the very walls of our garrison at Fort St. George.”
For the materials of this war with Hyder, up to the present date, the most important sources are the First, Second, Third, and Sixth Reports of the Committee of Secrecy, in 1781. Of the military transactions, narratives of considerable value are to be found in the Annual Register; Robson’s Life of Hyder Ali; and the publication entitled, Memoirs of the late war in Asia. For part of this campaign, see also Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney. To the pages of Colonel Wilks, I can now only refer, not having had the opportunity of availing myself of his lights, till what I had written could not be conveniently altered. Where my facts stand upon the authority of public records, I conceive, in the few instances in which we differ, that I approximate to the truth more nearly than he. To my other authorities I should have preferred him; though it is a grievous defect, that he so rarely tells us the source from which he derives his information; and though I repose no great confidence in the vague censures, and still more vague eulogies, in which he has indulged.
Some Account of the Public Life of the Earl of Macartney, by John Barrow, F. R. S. i. 67–109; Annual Register for 1782.
Letter of Gov.-Gen, and Council, Feb. 26, 1781.
In a letter to a private friend, at the time, his Lordship says; “I never retort any sharp expression which may occur in his letters. In fact, I court him like a mistress, and humour him like a child; but with all this I have a most sincere regard for him, and honour him highly. But I am truly grieved at heart to see a man of his military reputation, at his time of life, made miserable by those who ought to make him happy, and from a great public character worked into the little instrument of private malignity and disappointed avarice. All, however, has been, and shall be, good humour, and good breeding, on my part.” Extract of a letter to Mr. Macpherson, dated Fort St. George.
Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, i. 109–117; Wilks’s Historical Sketches, ch. xxiii; Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i.231–234.
That Port Praya, belonging to the Portuguese, was a neutral harbour, but little affected the delicacy of the French, though the English observed the punctilio of reserving their fire till attacked.
The author of Histoire de la Cerniere Guerre (p. 297) says about 3000; but, that was, including a regiment of Caffres.
Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i. 403, which, being an undistinguishing panegyric upon Hastings, takes part against Macartney.
It is said that two of the French line of battle ships struck during the action, but that Suffrein fired into them, till they hoisted colours again; and in consequence were saved.
Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, i. 122.
The violence of the tendency there was to calumniate Lord Macartney is witnessed by the absurd allegations which even found their way into publications in England; that he kept the grain on board the ships to make his profit out of its engrossment. See Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i. 413.
See Annual Register for 1783; and “A Vindication of the Conduct of the English Forces employed in the late War, under the command of Brigadier-General Matthews, against the Nabob Tippoo Sultaun,” by sundry Officers of the Bombay establishment. Parliamentary Papers, ordered to be printed, 11th March, 1791.
Fullarton’s View of the English Interests in India, p. 139.
For a very interesting detail of the defence of Onore, which was maintained with consummate ability and heroism, by Captain Torriano, till the conclusion of the treaty, see Forbes’s Oriental Memoirs, iv. 111 to 175.
For the narrative of the preceding events, have been explored, and confronted, Papers presented to the House of Commons, pursuant to their orders of the 9th of February, 1803, regarding the affairs of the Carnatic, vol. ii.; Barrow’s Macartney, i. 109–232; Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i. 231–236, 252–286, and 403–512; A View of the English Interests in India, by William Fullarton, M.P.p. 68–195; Annual Register for 1782 and 1783; the Collection of Treaties and Engagements with the native Princes of India; and the Sixth Report of the Committee of Secrecy of 1782. The recent narrative of Colonel Wilks, drawn up under the advantages of peculiar knowledge, affords me the satisfaction of perceiving, that there is no material fact which my former authorities had not enabled me to state and to comprehend.
Supplement to the First Report of the Committee of Secresy, 1782, p. 8, 9; and the Sixth ditto, p. 118.
Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i. 429.
Papers presented to the House of Commons, ut supra; Barrow’s Life of the Earl of Macartney, i. 180 and 233.
Barrow’s Life of Macartney, i. 232–238; Papers presented to the House of Commons, ut supra.