The 1st Anglo Mysore War [1767-69]


Initially, Haidar Ali was anxious to maintain friendly relations with the English, the most dominant European power in the Carnatic. He was worried about the threat of invasions from his neighbours, the Marathas and the Nizam and could therefore see the benefits of a defensive alliance. Negotiations had even been started with The Madras government who also saw the tactical value of such an alliance.

The background of political self-interest that characterised this period did not favour building any strong or permanent ties with any rival power as each power was wary of the other and the desire to preserve its territorial interests was sometimes in conflict with the desire to seek offensive opportunities.

Haidar Ali (Hyder Aly) erroneously depicted as “commander of the Marathas". From a French painting from 1762, published at the end of the Seven Years War.

In particular, the Nizam proved to be a very vacillating ally, a fact which Tipu Sultan made a sarcastic reference to in the Battle of Pollilur painting. Although lacking in military expertise and less warlike than the other powers, Haidar Ali’s rich neighbour could easily change the direction of war in the Carnatic.

Muhammad Ali Khan Walla Jah (1717 - 13 October 1795) was the Nawab of Arcot in India and an ally of the British East India Company.

At the same time however, both Haidar and the Nizam were angered that the Treaty of Paris that concluded the European peace settlement of 1763 had recognised Muhammad Ali Wallajah of Arcot as the Nawab of the Carnatic. Compromised by his need to pay off bad debts, the Nawab was effectively a puppet ruler who had been usefully exploited by the British. As a result, Haidar kept up his close ties with the court of the Nizam which in turn created suspicion in the East India Company. Haidar also felt let down by the British who against expectations had not helped him defend against the latest Maratha incursion.

On their part, the East India Company was alarmed by Haidar’s conquests in Malabar in 1766 and his growing friendliness with the French, who had a number of settlements on the west coast.

In this context, the Madras government changed its policy. Instead of concluding an alliance with Haidar, the English made an alliance directly with the Nizam on November 12th 1766 against Haidar, making war inevitable. In 1767, the forces of the Company and Nizam of Hyderabad invaded Mysore.

Ironically, it was only after concluding their alliance with the Nizam, the Company government at Madras found out that the Nizam had made another separate pact with the Marathas to attack Mysore.

Progress of the War

Appreciating the strength of the coalition against him, Haidar’s first step was to pacify the Marathas, which he managed to do by negotiating a truce with a tribute paid. His next objective was to appeal to the Nizam whose army had started moving towards Mysore. In August 1767, just 9 months after he had signed the treaty with the English the Nizam was to change allegiances again by concluding a treaty with Haidar which unified them against their common foe, the Nawab of Arcot.

According to the Treaty of Hyderabad, Tipu, the son of Haidar, was to marry the daughter of Mahafuz Khan, the elder brother of the Nawab of Arcot. Haidar was to furnish the Nizam with troops and they were jointly to attack the Nawab, and the Nizam was to receive six lakh rupees every month during the war.

The English took the field against this alliance of Haidar and the Nizam in 1767. Haidar Ali’s horses ravaged the Carnatic. However superior British training and military discipline prevailed during this phase of the war, first in the battle of Chengam (Sep 3, 1767) and again in spite of being vastly outnumbered, at Tiruvannamalai. The combined forces of Haidar and the Nizam were defeated at Ambur. There followed a peace treaty between the English and the Nizam. Haidar was declared a rebel and the war continued against Haidar alone.

Krishnagiri. In 1768 this fort surrendered to the British after a long blockade. It successfully withstood a British attack in the 3rd Anglo Mysore and remained in Tipu Sultan’s possession until the Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792 © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

The East India Company at Bombay captured Haidar’s territory in Malabar following a strong sea expedition and was joined by Muhammed Ali (the Nawab of Arcot) and 5,000 Marathas. Haidar, who had lost his recently built fleet and forts on the western coast, now offered overtures for peace but these were rejected.

Undeterred, Haidar exploited the pause in military operations to prepare for further action. He descended on Mangalore in May 1768, recovered all his coastal posts and captured eleven field guns abandoned by the British garrison in their flight

Haidar recaptured the town of Bednur by using the ruse similar to the one in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where the usurper is defeated when ‘Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane’. Haidar hired 20,000 peasants and got them to march in formation on Bednur in the North West holding up sticks of wood instead of muskets, as described in Macbeth. The British were sufficiently convinced by the decoy to desert the fort, allowing Haidar to recapture this key town.

Bringing all his resources and strategy into play, Haidar then fended off Colonel Smith’s siege on Bangalore. By the end of the year all except three of the British posts had fallen, and the Carnatic was ravaged by Haidar’s fires. Colonel Smith’s skilful manoeuvres of early 1769 were met with a final thrust by Haidar.

Assembling a column of 6,000 picked cavalry and a mere handful of foot, Haidar set off for Madras from a point about 140 miles south. He and his horsemen covered the distance in 3 and half days (with the infantry only one day’s march behind). By March 29th, the outskirts of the city were in Haidar’s hands.

Treaty of Madras

Here on 4 April 1769 the Treaty of Madras concluded the 1st Mysore War, with an offensive defensive alliance that assured mutual aid in a defensive war. This was followed by a commercial treaty in 1770 with the authorities of Bombay. The offensive defensive alliance secured British support for invasion from the Marathas and also provided for mutual restitution of all conquests, both forts and prisoners.

The 2nd Anglo Mysore War [1780-84]


Map illustration showing the territories involved in the First and the Second Anglo-Mysore Wars between the Kingdom of Mysore of southern India and the British East India Company

Haidar Ali, emboldened by the agreement with the British at the end of the 1st Anglo Mysore War, engaged with the Marathas in 1770 and requested British support as per the Madras Treaty when the Marathas penetrated Mysore territory. The British refused to assist him, even though they were also drawn into conflict with the Marathas in the 1770s. Haidar's battles did not fully end until 1779, when the Marathas negotiated an alliance with him and the Nizam for united action against the British.

In 1778 France intervened in the American War of Independence and as part of the subsequent struggle, the British attacked the French possessions in India. The British captured Pondicherry on the Coromandel Coast and Mahe on the Malabar Coast.

The fall of Pondicherry in October 1778 did not greatly concern Haidar but he immediately retaliated when the small settlement and factory site of Mahe on the West coast was seized as this affected his vital interests.

Mahe adjoined Haidar’s Malabar conquests and was a critical gateway for the procurement of French military aid in addition to being a trading route via the Arabian Gulf. He dispatched troops to defend it, his colours flying beside those of the French until Mahe surrendered to the British in March 1779.

At the time of the conflict on the Malabar Coast in 1779, the British annexed Guntur in the Northern Circars on the East coast, where there was a French force under the command of Mons Lally. The Circars formed a virtual land link between the Bengal and Madras presidencies along the Eastern Coast. All of the Circars, apart from Guntur had previously been handed over to the British by the Nizam. The jagir of Guntur belonged to the Nizam’s brother, Basalat Jung. Basalat Jung now agreed to dismiss the French and to cede Guntur to Madras in exchange for military aid. Not only did this put the wind up the Nizam who had not been consulted, but infuriated Haidar as the British marched their forces through his territory without his permission.

The Marathas were also antagonised because the Bombay and Bengal presidencies supported Ragunath Rao against the infant Peshwa, whose cause was being backed by the dominant party at Poona led by Nana Phadnavis.

These factors led to the beginning of the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1780. The general plan of the confederacy was that the Marathas should invade Berar, Central and Northern India while the Nizam undertook the subjugation of the Circars and Haidar Ali that of the Madras territory and Southern India. The formidable coalition – aided by the French – threatened the existence of the British power in India

Progress of the War

Haidar Ali aimed at the conquest of the Carnatic and the Malabar Coast. His scheme was to lay waste all the country from Pulicat Lake down to Pondicherry for a considerable distance inland, thus isolating Fort St George and preventing any aid coming from the north and west while he anticipated co-operation himself from the French on the coast-line.

Haidar Ali set out of Srirangapatna with a determination to defeat the English on 28th May 1780. He captured Trinomali (Tiruvannamalai), Porto Novo (Parangipettai), Chingleput (Chengalpattu) and Arni.

The bottom of the British Square from the Battle of Pollilur mural © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

On 10th September 1780 the British suffered one of the worst defeats ever faced on the Indian subcontinent at the Battle of Pollilur in the vicinity of modern day Kanchipuram. The East India Company, led by Colonel William Baillie fought with the Mysore Army under the command of Haidar Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The loss of over 3,500 men out of Colonel Baillie’s total force of 3,853 caused great humiliation, breaking the illusion of invincibility and the superiority of British military training against the larger forces of the Mysore Army partly trained by the French and with a big cavalry and weapons including rockets. They recognised that Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan posed a real threat to their ambition to control India.

Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote (1726 – 28 April 1783) British soldier.

The advent of the experienced commander Sir Eyre Coote, who had won many famous victories in India as a younger man, did not ultimately get rid of the Mysore threat though Haidar was defeated three times in succession at Parangipettai, Pollilur (a second battle on the same site was fought on 27 August 1781), Sholinghur and then also at Arni. On paper the Company’s army now appeared to be winning. However, inspite of his victories, Coote was not able to get any material benefit as he was unable to pursue the enemy due to a lack of cavalry, supplies and draught cattle.

North View of the Shole Ghurry Fort. By Lieutenant James Hunter (oil painting) © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

Haidar captured Conjeeveram (Kanchipuram) and Arcot on 3rd November 1781 and in December 1781 Tipu seized Chittur from British hands. On the 18th February 1782 he inflicted a serious defeat on Colonel Braithwaite at Annagudi near Tanjore.

In December 1782 while the 2nd Anglo Mysore war was still in progress, Haidar Ali died in Narasingarayapet near Chittoor at the age of sixty.

Charles Joseph Patissier, Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau (1718 – 7 January 1785). Governor General of the French colony of Pondicherry from 1783 to 1785.Served with distinction under Joseph François Dupleix in the East Indies.

After the death of Haidar Ali, Tipu Sultan was enthroned as the ruler of Mysore on 4thMay 1783 in a simple ceremony at Bednur. He continued the war against the English for a further 15 months.

A French expeditionary force under Marquis De Bussy who had won fame in the Carnatic campaigns of 1750 arrived in Cuddalore at the same time as Tipu’s accession. De Bussy was at cross purposes with Tipu on account of the failure of supplies. Tipu had quit the Carnatic for Bednur by the time de Bussy landed and though he left a substantial Mysorean army behind, de Bussy felt that he had been abandoned. He accordingly made himself snug in Cuddalore.

Had things gone differently and the French taken a positive approach or had their motherland dispatched reinforcements to the Coromandel Coast, Fort St George, Madras could have fallen during this war. However, in February 1783, the English offensive on the western coast, leading to the fall of Bednur and Mangalore forced Tipu to raise his siege of Wandiwash and withdraw from the Carnatic in defence of his Malabar possessions, which were under assault by General Matthews.

In April 1783 Tipu reoccupied Bednur, but allowed in the terms of capitulation the right of the garrison to withdraw unmolested to Bombay. However, Matthews violated the surrender terms by raiding the State Treasury. Quantities of money and jewels were found, not only in the prisoners’ clothes but even apparently hidden in loaves of bread and the cheeks of goats. This was a sufficient pretext for Tipu to break the articles of capitulation and to manacle garrison and ship them off to the dungeons of Srirangapatna where Matthews finally died.

Tipu then marched to Mangalore, the principal seaport in South Kanara by which Haidar had maintained communications with outside world, recently seized by a detached force under Campbell. On May 20 1783 Tipu invested the town of Mangalore and on May 27, laid siege to the fort. By the end of July the fort was nearly destroyed; disease and dwindling provisions took their toll on the British soldiers inside the fort. The situation was exacerbated by the monsoon which had caused the mud to deepen.

Surrender was only a matter of time when to everyone’s astonishment, news came of peace between England and France. The preliminaries were signed on Feb 9th1783, in Europe but the details were not known in South India until the end of June.

Article XV1 of the Treaty of Versailles laid down that the English and French should not only stop fighting but should do their best to procure peace between their respective allies in India. Four months were to be allowed for this. This led to the immobilisation of all the French forces in India.

An armistice was signed on Aug 2nd 1783. The blockade continued until Jan 23 1784, when the exhausted garrison marched out, now down to half their original numbers.

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, KB (14 May 1737 – 31 May 1806). Irish-born British statesman, colonial administrator and diplomat.

Lord McCartney, the Governor of Madras struggling along in his almost bankrupt Presidency, was prepared to use any means to get peace talks under way. After initial talks, the Commissioners marched all the way from Madras to Mangalore in the role of supplicants. The mode of conclusion was highly gratifying to Tipu. In spite of this, the eventual treaty was the best the British could hope to get in the circumstances as it forced Tipu to evacuate the Carnatic. The great advantage of the war for Mysore was its psychological impact.

Treaty of Mangalore

The 2nd Anglo Mysore War ended when Tipu Sultan signed the Treaty of Mangalore on 11thMarch 1784. The document they took with them was in nine instead of the original 4 clauses. It opened with a declaration of friendship and an undertaking that neither side would make war on the allies or help the enemies of the other; there was to be a mutual restitution of territories and prisoners; Tipu was to renounce all claims to the Carnatic.

The 3rd Anglo Mysore War [1789-92]


Map illustration showing the territories involved in the Third Anglo-Mysore War between the Kingdom of Mysore of southern India and the British East India Company

In 1789 Tipu was involved in hostilities with the nearby state of Travancore, a British protectorate. This precipitated the 3rdAnglo Mysore War. There had been some controversy surrounding the Raja of Travancore, Rama Varma who had built fortifications, known as the Travancore lines, on the territory of the Cochin Raja, who was a tributary of Mysore. Rama Varma had further provoked Tipu by purchasing the strategic island forts of Ayikotta (Pallippuram) and Cranganur (Kodungallur) from the Dutch.

Tipu was naturally suspicious of Rama Varma’s activities in the light of his alliance with the British. Negotiations broke down when Rama Varma refused to demolish that part of the lines built on the territory of the Cochin Raja or to restore the forts to the Dutch.

In spite of Tipu asking the British to mediate no help was given. There followed a frontier incident on December 29 which led to further hostilities. On April 12, 1790 the Mysoreans invaded Travancore. This furnished Cornwallis, the Governor General, with the pretext he needed to declare war.

The war, which had both the Marathas and the Nizam siding with the British, lasted three years and resulted in a resounding defeat for Mysore. Tipu again placed hopes on an alliance with the French. However, he failed to get the support he needed. The timing of the French Revolution and the British supremacy at sea were important factors in the loss.

First Stage of 3rd War

In the first stage of the war General William Medows and General Kelly planned the course of action. Medows tried to reach Mysore through Coimbatore. Kelly was supposed to reach Bangalore through the Baramahal District. Medows’ efforts were checked by Tipu Sultan at the Gajalhatti pass –the most difficult in the eastern ranges - and then at Sathyamangalam .Tipu subsequently recaptured the territories which were occupied by Medows.

General Medows

In October 1790, Colonel Maxwell, succeeding Kelly who died, entered the Baramahals with a strong army of 9,500 men. Medows, coming from Coimbatore, effected a junction with Maxwell near Kaveripatnam (Kaveripattinam). Tipu responded by giving up operations and marching northward in defence of the Baramahals invaded by the British.

The Baramahal Pass. Strategic mountain pass used by Haidar Ali to invade the Carnatic© Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

Realising that he could not resist the combined British forces, so far the largest gathered in India, Tipu Sultan changed his plan, invading the Carnatic, turning a defensive into an offensive war. He movedto the pass of Thopur and encountered Medows. There was a confrontation but no advantage gained. Tipu Sultan emerged from the pass and moved southward to Trichinopoly (Tiruchirappalli). Medows’ plan to attack Mysore was now diverted because he was summoned to the relief of Trichinopoly. Tipu subsequently marched to Pondicherry expecting assistance from the French. The Nizam and the Marathas were by this time engaged in hostilities against Tipu in the northern territories of Mysore.

In the initial stages, Tipu Sultan gained the upper hand over the English because his cavalry was superior, he had more artillery and ample means of transport- 14,000 oxen and 1,200 mules. Although his infantry was weaker, he avoided pitched battles. By his swift marches and counter marches he had baffled English commanders. He also managed to foil Madras’ plan for a Mysore invasion.

On December 12th Medows was ordered to return to the Presidency by Cornwallis, who had arrived in Madras. On January 27, 1790 Cornwallis personally assumed command of the campaign

Second stage of 3rd war

Cornwallis recommenced operations in February 1791 and entered Mysore by the long and difficult Mughli pass having contrived the appearance of a march towards Ambur. Tipu presumed that the invasion would take place through one of these easier passes.

Delhi Gate, Bangalore fort (Last standing gate) © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

Cornwallis then marched on Bangalore, whose capture would furnish him with supplies for the rest of the campaign. Having taken the fort on March 7th, the British proceeded to take the city on 20th March 1791 with the help of the informant Krishna Rao. The Mysoreans were taken completely by surprise and in spite of stiff resistance, succumbed when their valiant Commander Bahadur Khan fell.

Cornwallis next prepared to march against Srirangapatna. However, although he reached the Ford of Kannambadi and effected a junction with the forces of both the Nizam and the Marathas, his own army was in a pitiful condition on account of sickness which had broken out and a shortage of essential commodities. Therefore on July 11th 1791 he ordered the English army to return to the barracks in Bangalore to refit. His intention was for the allies to establish better communication lines before undertaking the siege.

The Nizam’s army was meanwhile involved in the siege of Gurramkonda which they eventually took with the assistance of the British. The Marathas under Parashuram Bhau had earlier taken the key fort of Dharwar, facilitating the conquest of all the territory north of the Tungabhadra, and were occupied completing the conquests of the districts of Bednur and Chitaldrug and collecting revenues from their new acquisitions.

Operations against Srirangapatna started once again early in 1792 with the arrival of the Nizam’s army under Sikandar Jah in the neighbourhood of Hutridurga. Parashuram Bhau, after taking Shimoga fort and defeating Tipu’s cousin Mohammed Raza, interrupts his campaign in the Bednur area to join the Allied forces.

Ootray droog or Hutridurga fort (Kistnagherry) Artist: Sir Alexander Allan (1764-1820)© Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

On Feb 1st 1792, the Allied armies marched from the neighbourhood of Hutridurga towards Srirangapatna. Tipu did not consider it a good strategy to dispatch forces to oppose the enemy. Instead he chose to rely on the fortifications of Srirangapatna, which had been a successful tactic in previous conflicts.

The English army marched against the fort and arrived in the sight of the fortress on the 16th February 1792. On the same night, the operations started and the English pushed Tipu’s force to the fort and captured the island excluding the fort. Tipu proposed the peace treaty and after protracted negotiations accepted the terms dictated by Lord Cornwallis. The treaty was signed on 23rd Feb 1792.

Treaty of Srirangapatna

Tipu was required to surrender half of his territory to the English and its allies and pay three crores thirty lakhs (33,000,000) rupees as war indemnity to the English. Since he could not pay the indemnity in full, he agreed to send his second and third sons, Abdul Khaliq and Maiz-Uddin, aged ten and eight respectively, as hostages until he could pay it. He received his sons back in 1794 at Devanahalli when he paid the balance 2 years later. By the time the hostage princes left the fort on February 26, 1792, the Treaty was still not finalised. The vakils(emissaries) objected to the inclusion of Coorg, which Tipu referred to as ‘the key to Srirangapatna’. This led to a breakdown in negotiations which precipitated the resumption of the siege. Cornwallis continued to detain the hostage princes during this period.

Tipu's sons with Ghulam Ali Khan by Robert Home © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

There was also a strong note of hypocrisy as the war was supposed to have been fought in defence of the Raja of Travancore but he was disillusioned as he received no indemnity from the Company.

The effects of the Treaty were to sap the economic, financial and military resources of Tipu Sultan, which made it difficult to maintain a large Europeanised army. The districts of Malabar, Salem, Bellary and Anantapur were ceded to the Madras Presidency. The loss of the natural barriers of the Baramahals, Palghat and Coorg which gave protection to his kingdom, facilitated the future invasion of Mysore from both the East and the West. Conversely, Tipu’s future chances for invading the Carnatic became unlikely due to the loss of the Baramahals. Limited resources made it difficult to maintain a large Europeanised army. The ultimate effect of the Treaty was to pave the way for Tipu’s overthrow by Wellesley in 1799.

The 4th Anglo Mysore War [1798-99]


Map illustration showing the territories involved in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the Kingdom of Mysore of southern India and the British East India Company

After the Treaty of Srirangapatna, Tipu Sultan went to work seeking new allies such as Zaman Shah of Afghanistan and rekindling his old ties with the French. Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of the Nile however dashed these hopes. Evidence was made public which revealed Tipu’s intrigue to secure Napoleon’s help in expelling the British from India. This became the justification for of the 4thAnglo Mysore war in 1798 as Britain allied with the Nizam against Tipu Sultan. Attacked on all four sides of his kingdom, Tipu Sultan retreated to his capital and continued fighting until he breathed his last on 4th May 1799.

In 1797 Tipu sent an Embassy to meet the French Governor of Mauritius in the belief that the French were preparing to help him.

Although there was no knowledge of this in Mauritius, Anne Joseph, Comte de Malartic, the Governor agreed to forward a letter from Tipu to Napoleon in Paris as well as issuing a proclamation written in grandiose language which referred to Tipu’s desire for an offensive and defensive alliance, French soldiers ‘as far as 10,000 and Negroes (hubshee) as far as 30,000’. He also referred to the preparations being made in Mysore to receive European reinforcements

Anne Joseph, Comte de Malartic, the Governor of Mauritius

As soon as the new governor-general of India, Richard Wellesley found out about the proclamation, he prepared for war without bringing charges against Tipu or allowing him to make any representations, atleast not for a further five months. Wellesley later admitted that the Malartic proclamation seemed so ‘incredible’ that he was at first inclined to doubt its authenticity. However, he then either convinced himself or feigned belief that Napoleon was to attack Mangalore as his first step in bringing about the destruction of British power in India.

Wellesley put on hold his plans for an outright surprise attack, arguing that he had to wait until his military preparations were more advanced and until he had a better idea of the disposition of England’s allies. It seems likely that Wellesley never intended to make a bona-fide settlement and that his reason for not putting forward his original terms was that Tipu might accept them and therefore escape destruction.

On the political front, Wellesley went to work writing letters to the different British officials at the various Indian Courts; Captain Kirkpatrick at the Nizam’s Court, Palmer at the Peshwa’s and to Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, appointed resident with Scindhia, inciting them to offer the services of the English Governor-General as mediator in their own quarrels against Tipu Sultan. Captain Kirkpatrick ingeniously persuaded the Nizam to disband his French forces in Hyderabad in return for British aid. As a result Tipu had to face a Nizam-British alliance whose forces considerably outnumbered his own.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick (1764 – 15 October 1805). Resident at Hyderabad (1798 to 1805)

A letter from the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, dated 18th June 1798 informed Wellesley of an armada of ships that had sailed from Toulon with the object of taking possession of Egypt via the Red Sea before it was suspected of going to India. This gave Richard Wellesley all the evidence he needed and the sanction of the Home Government. As a result, the letter said, Her Majesty’s ministers were dispatching 4000 troops to India to augment the existing European force.

In October 1798, Wellesley heard of Napoleon’s landing near Alexandria in June. The fact that the news was quickly followed by that of the French fleet’s destruction at the Battle of the Nile on 1stAugust apparently did not ease Wellesley’s anxieties. About whether Napoleon ever did seriously consider making for India, there is some doubt. However, it was possible the favourable winds at that season of the year could carry a fleet from Suez to the Malabar Coast in only three weeks.

The Battle of the Nile (1 August 1798). Painting (1808) by Nicholas Pocock (1741–1821) at the National Maritime Museum

Progress of the War

On 3rd February 1799, a British army of over 37,000 men, under General Harris, with field pieces and heavy guns, moved onwards through the Company’s territories. It was one of the best equipped and largest of all British armies ever assembled in India. Meanwhile General Stuart marched from Bombay with 6,400 men through Coorg towards Mysore. After an unsuccessful attack on the Bombay division in Coorg at Siddheswar pass on 5th March, Tipu made the mistake of retreating to his capital.

Harris advanced by easy marches. At Maddur River on 18th March Tipu missed a clear opportunity to attack Harris who was overloaded with equipment and lacked sufficient bullocks for transportation. Instead, he withdrew to Malvalli preferring to fight in the open instead of in woody country. As a result, Harris was able to cross the river at the ford of Sosile on March 30th. Tipu missed another opportunity to attack here before the British artillery arrived. On this occasion he took the decision to hold back on the basis of bad astrological auspices.

The battalions of Floyd and Stuart were subsequently able to make a junction with Harris a couple of weeks later and commence the siege of Srirangapatna in the month of April. The English army, whose situation was more precarious than may have been supposed as they were running out of food supplies, were helped by the betrayal of one of Tipu’s Ministers, Mir Sadiq, who gave vital information on when to attack. It has also been conjectured that there were other trusted ministers in Tipu’s service who betrayed him at the final curtain. One of the battalions was commanded by Arthur Wellesley, Richard Wellesley’s brother and the future 1st Duke of Wellington.

The successful assault was made on 4th May 1799 which ended in the death of Tipu Sultan. There have been numerous tellings of the Storming of Srirangapatna, see Tipu’s Life with an account of his death.

With the Fall of Srirangapatna the kingdom of Mysore lay at the feet of the British although they had only captured the capital and some minor forts.

Storming of Srirangapatna

Section of Storming of Srirangapatna showing mosque in background Robert Ker Porter © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

The Battle of Srirangapatna consisted of a series of encounters around the city, in the months of April and May 1799, between the combined forces of the British, under Major General David Baird, allied with the forces of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Mysore Army under Tipu Sultan.

On May 3 1799, a breach was made in the battlements of the Srirangapatna fort but was incomplete. It is widely suspected that the British army were in collusion with Tipu’s Minister Mir Sadiq who ordered a pay parade at exactly the time of assault necessitating the withdrawal of troops stationed at the breach.

On May 4 the final assault was made. 5000 men were stationed in the trenches which were a hundred yards from the back of the river Cauvery, which flowed around the city. A handful of men in a storming party dashed across the river and within a few minutes succeeded in planting the British flag on the ramparts above the breach.

After securing the breach the English divided itself into 2 columns. The city had two walls. The plan was to assault the city’s outer wall and, by capturing the entire circuit, force the city’s surrender. The right hand column succeeded in getting possession of the whole of the Southern ramparts unopposed and arrived on the eastern face of the fort.

The left column, led by General Baird himself, attacked the northern ramparts and met with severe resistance, encountering a second surprise ditch between the inner and outer rampart. However within one hour the ramparts and every part of the Lal Bagh palace - Tipu’s main residence - had been occupied by the invading forces.

Tipu Sultan died while fighting in his capital on May 4, 1799. With Tipu’s death, the Kingdom of Mysore lay at the feet of the British although they had only captured the capital and some minor forts.

"Sir David Baird Discovering the Body of Tippoo Sultan," by Sir David Wilkie; a steel engraving by John Burnet, 1843 Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Treaty for the Division of the Mysore Kingdom

With the victory over Tipu Sultan on 4th May 1799, the British had at their disposal the whole kingdom of Mysore, with all its resources. Marquis Wellesley resolved to divide up the kingdom. It was planned to hand over a portion of the conquered territory to a descendent of Mysore’s royal family. The remainder was to be distributed between the Company, the Nizam and the Marathas. With this objective in view he constituted a commission of fiver officers, styled Commissioners, for the State of Mysore.

Wellesley and Historian Colonel Mark Wilks described Haidar’s taking over the reigns of Mysore as ‘usurpation’. The Wodeyar family were apparently restored to the throne as a reward for their ‘steadfast loyalty’. The later English writers followed them faithfully.

Wall scene from the Dariya Daulat (Tipu’s Summer palace) Srirangapatna of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III © Otto Money Photographed by Benoy Behl

The purpose of the spin doctoring was to pave the way for the installation of a puppet regime that would, in the words of Wellesley, allow the British to give the impression they were handing the country back to its rightful owners while in reality maintaining firm control. Ironically, when the British dethroned Wodeyar in 1831 they did not call it ‘usurpation’ they called it ‘reorganisation’.

Wellesley appointed five commissioners for the purpose of legitimising the seizure and division of Mysore Kingdom.

The main tasks that were assigned to the Commissioners of the State of Mysore were

  • Restoring peace and order
  • Identifying the interests of the Company, of the Nizam, of the Marathas and of leading Mysore chieftains;
  • Taking over the military power of Mysore by the company
  • Converting of Srirangapatna into a garrison town under a nominal authority and
  • Retaining by the Company, the whole of Tipu Sultan’s territory in Malabar as well as in Coimbatore and Dharmapuram with the heads of the passes on the table land of Mysore

In accordance with the above formula the share of territory for each of the allies of the Company was determined as follows:

1) East India Company’s share

Kingdom of Mysore, Kanara, Coimbatore and Dharmapuram with all the territories lying below the ghats between the Company’s territories in the Carnatic and those of Malabar, in addition to the whole island of Srirangapatna

2) Nizam’s share

Districts of Gutti and Gurramkonda, with a tract of country bordering the line of Chitradurga, Sira, Nandidurg and Kolar

3) Marathas’ share

Harpanhalli, Soonda, Anegundi with parts of the districts of Chitradurga and Bednur above the ghats, subject to certain conditions, the most important being that before taking possession of the districts the Peshwa should accept a subsidiary force of the Company to be stationed at Poona.

The great Maratha leader Nana Phadnavis, who realised that the condition imposed by the British was a trap to subjugate him, wisely rejected the offer. Hence the territories reserved for the Marathas were divided between the British and the Nizam.

A treaty on the lines described above was signed on 22nd June 1799, in Srirangapatna, a month after Tipu Sultan was killed, by Mir Alam on behalf of the Nizam, and by the commissioners on behalf of Governor-General Lord Mornington. It was ratified on 26th June 1799 at Madras, and by the Nizam on 13th July 1799. This treaty legitimised the seizure and division of the Mysore kingdom.

However, the British were shortly to become complete masters of the former kingdom of Mysore when in 1800 the Nizam ceded to them the territories he had acquired from Mysore, both in 1792 and 1799, in return for a force of British troops to be stationed at Hyderabad.