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Mysore Wars

1767 to 1799

Kingdom of Mysore — versus — British East India Company


Introduction : 


mysore
 Tippoo himself stood firing coolly at his advancing foes

The Mysore Wars, fought between 1767 and 1799 were the first and gravest threats to British dominions, after they had established their supremacy in India during the Carnatic Wars. There were several reasons why they were especially difficult and dangerous for Britain. First, Hyder Ali and his son Tippoo Sultan were exceedingly determined and energetic in their opposition to Britain. Other native armies that Britain faced were often poorly generalled and poorly equipped, but such was not the case in the Mysore Wars. Hyder Ali and his son were long time allies of the French, employed foreign officers in his armies, and were sophisticated in the used of European weapons. They were clever diplomats as well as generals, and turned several of Britain's allies against her.

Second, the East India Company did not have effective leadership for many years from the time Clive left India to the arrival of Warren Hastings in 1773, and the Madras presidency, which was responsible for the wars, was poorly administered. The Company had experience in extracting revenue, and in fighting battles, but did not have an over-arching vision to guide their policies, and was not equipped to deal with the demands of properly governing the territories which they had acquired. In short, the Company was poorly administered during this period, and its activities were highly controversial even at the time. It was in fact, only during the Mysore wars, that British fully realized that maintaining the status quo was not an option, and they would either have to fight for their empire in India, and govern it properly, or lose it altogether.

Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sultan remain controversial figures. They bravely and competently resisted British rule, yet at the same time they were brutal tyrants who held human life in low regard. They burned villages, terrorized the natives, forced many of their subjects to relocate or convert to Islam, and ruled mainly by ruthless coercion. They had courage and resolve, but unlike other Indian rulers, such as Akbar, they had not the magnanimity required of truly great leaders.


First Mysore War : 1766-1769


The first Mysore war broke out very shortly after the close of the Seven Year's War, and only two years after Britain had decisively put down a rebellion in Bengal and secured their dominant position in India. Hyder Ali was a Moslem General, and the de facto leader of the Mysore Kingdom, who Britain had encountered on several occasions during the Carnatic Wars. As a strong French ally, and a leader of the most sophisticated and well equipped armies in the south of India, he was recognized as a dangerous foe even before the outbreak of the Mysore Wars. Britain controlled the area immediately around Madras, but depended on alliances with other principalities in the area. They agreed to provide troops the help their ally, Nizam of Hyderabad fight the Mysores, but instead Hyder Ali used treachery to turn Britain's allies against them. The Troops sent to fight the Mysores were surrounded by foes rather than allies, but fought their way out successfully. After several more battles, a treaty declaring peace and returning the situation to the status quo.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Trincomalee
British defeat Mysoris
Fought September 3, 1767, between the British, under Colonel Smith, and the Mysore army, under Hyder Ali. Hyder attacked the British camp, but was beaten off with a loss of 2,000 men while the British lost 170 only.
Battle of Trincomalee
British defeat Mysoris
On September 26 of the same year, a second engagement took place near Trincomalee, when Colonel Smith, with 12,000 British and native troops, came unexpectedly upon the united armies of Hyderabad and Mysore, 60,000 strong, under Hyder Ali, while rounding a hill which separated them. The superior discipline of the British enabled them to take full advantage of the surprise, and they inflicted an overwhelming defeat upon their opponents' disordered masses. Hyder Ali lost over 4,000 men and 64 guns, the British loss being 150 killed and wounded.
Siege of Ambur
British defeat Mysoris
This strong fortress was held by a garrison of 500 Sepoys, under Captain Calvert, and a detachment of Mysore troops under Mukhlis Khan. This man had assumed the status of an independent chief, but being suspected of intriguing with Hyder Ali, was arrested by Calvert. Hyder laid siege to the place November 10, 1767, but Calvert, now secure from treachery within, held out with his small garrison till December 6, when the approach of a relieving force obliged Hyder to raise the siege.
Battle of Ooscata
British defeat Mysoris
Fought August 23, 1768, when the camp of the Mahratta contingent, under Morari Rao, forming a part of Colonel Donald Campbell's column, was attacked by a detachment of Hyder Ali's army. The Mahrattas repulsed the Mysore cavalry with a loss of about 300, at a cost to themselves of 18 only.
Siege of Tanjore
British defeat Mysoris
The fortress was besieged, August 20, 1773, by a British force, under General Joseph Smith, and defended by a garrison of 20,000 men, under the Rajah, Laljaji, and his Vizier Monacji. On September 16, a breach having been effected, the besiegers delivered an assault at midday, when their garrison were taking their usual noon-day rest, and meeting with little opposition, made themselves masters of the place.



Commander
Short Biography
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.

Story LinksBook Links
Hyder Ali and the Mahrattas  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice  Home
How Hastings Raised Money for the Wars  in  India  by  Victor  Surridge




Second Mysore War : 1780-1783


mysore
 Warren Hastings

The second Mysore war was triggered by the entry of France into the American Revolutionary War, but the underlying hostilities had been brewing for some time. Hyder Ali was an inveterate enemy of the British and an ally of the French. Soon after France declared war on Britain, one of the major ports of the Mysores was taken. His son Tippoo immediately retaliated, first against the Marathas, and soon after he surrounded and annihilated a British army that was en route to meet its reinforcements. This battle in which Britain lost over 3000 killed or taken prisoner, was the worst defeat Britain had yet suffered in India. The war continued badly for Britain until Warren Hastings took charge in Madras and sent Eyre Coote against Tippoo. Finally, Tippoo was defeated in several battles, and the British also managed to blockade the Mysore ports and prevent any support from France from reaching him. Hyder Ali himself died during the course of the war, but not in battle. The war was finally brought to a close in 1784 by a treaty in which both sides agreed to return conquests made during the war. The war was effectively a draw with both sides loosing heavily and neither able to gain a decisive advantage.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Siege of Tellicherry
British defeat Mysoris
This place, held by a small British garrison, and very imperfectly fortified, was besieged June, 1780, by a Mysore force, under Sirdar Ali Khan. Aid was sent to the garrison from Bombay, and a most gallant defense was made till January 18, 1782, when reinforcements arrived, under Major Abington, who, aided by the garrison, stormed the Mysori entrenchments, capturing all their guns, 60 in number, and 1,200 prisoners, among whom was Sirdar Ali.
Battle of Perembacum
Mysoris defeat British
Fought September 10, 1780, when a Mysore force, 11,000 strong, under Tippu Sahib, surrounded and cut to pieces a detachment of Sir Hector Monro's army, 3,700 in number, under Colonel Baillie. Only a few, including Baillie himself, escaped the massacre.
Battle of Ponani
British defeat Mysoris
Fought November 19, 1780, when a force of British and native troops, about 2,500 strong, under Colonel Macleod, entrenched near Penani, were attacked before daybreak by a strong force of Mysoris, under Tippu Sahib. The Mysoris were repulsed at the point of the bayonet, with a loss of 1,100. The British loss was 87 only.
Siege of Wandewash
British defeat Mysoris
This fort, defended by a small native garrison, under Lieutenant Flint, who had only one other European with him, was besieged, December, 1780, by the Mysoris, under Hyder Ali. Flint held out with the utmost gallantry till January 22, 1781, when the approach of Sir Eyre Coote forced Hyder Ali to raise the siege. The garrison had then only one day's ammunition left.
Battle of Porto Novo
British defeat Mysoris
Fought July 1, 1781, between 8,500 British troops, under Sir Eyre Coote, and about 65,000 Mysoris, under Hyder Ali. Hyder occupied a strongly entrenched camp, blocking the British advance upon Cuddalore. Here he was attacked by Coote, and after a day's hard fighting the position was stormed, and Hyder forced to retreat. The British lost 306 only, while the Mysoris are computed to have lost 10,000.
Battle of Pollicore
British defeat Mysoris
Fought August 27, 1781, between 11,000 British, under Sir Eyre Coote and the Mysoris, 80,000 strong, under Haidar Ali. Coote seized the village of Pollicore, turning Haidar's flank and forcing him to retreat, after an action lasting eight hours. The British lost 421 killed and wounded, the Mysoris about 2,000.
Battle of Sholingur
British defeat Mysoris
Fought September 27, 1781, between the British, 10,000 strong, under Sir Eyre Conte, and the Mysoris, numbering about 80,000, under Hyder Ali. Hyder was surprised in the act of striking camp, and though a series of cavalry charges enabled him to withdraw his guns in safety, it was at a cost of 5,000 men that he eventually made good his retreat. The British loss did not exceed 100.
Siege of Negapatam
British defeat Mysoris
Siege was laid to this place October 21, 1781, by a British force, 4,000 strong, under Colonel Braithwaite. The garrison, partly Dutch and partly Mysore troops, though 8,000 in number, did not wait for a bombardment, but surrendered November 3.
Battle of Arnee
Drawn Battle (British vs. Mysoris)
An indecisive action fought June 7, 1782, between the British under Sir Eyre Coote, and the Mysore troops under Hyder Ali.
Siege of Mangalore
Mysoris defeat British
This place was besieged June 20, 1783, by Tippu Sahib with his whole army, and was defended by a small British garrison, under Colonel Campbell. On the conclusion of peace between France and England, the French officer assisting Tippu withdrew, and on August 2 an armistice was arranged, during which the garrison was to receive regular supplies. This article was evaded, and the defenders half starved, and after some delay Tippu renewed the siege. No attempt, however, was made to relieve the place, and after a gallant defense, Campbell surrendered January 26, 1763.



Commander
Short Biography
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.
Tipu Sultan Took over the Mysore Kingdom on the death of his father Hyder Ali. Fought the British in a series of Anglo-Mysore wars.
Warren Hastings Early Governor of India. Was tried for corruption, but acquitted after a lengthy trial.
Sir Eyre Coote After Clive, greatest of British generals during early years of British Rule in India. Fought at Porto Novo.




Third and Fourth Mysore Wars : 1789-1799


mysore
 Tippoo Sultan's body was found buried beneath those of his followers.

The third Mysore war was provoked by Tippoo Sultan, when he made a night attack on British lines. The war began shortly after Cornwallis, who had no association with the East India Company but was a respected military leader, was persuaded to become Governor-General of India. He soon took personal charge of the war and led several successful campaigns against Tippoo. At the same time, he resolve to drive the French entirely out of India, since their continued interference with the Native tribes caused untold headaches for the British. Deprived of any support from the French, and opposed by a competent and level-headed general, Tippoo finally agreed to make terms. He was required to give up much of his property, and hand over both of his sons as hostages in order to treat with the Britains.

The fourth Mysore was in some respects a continuation of the third. Tippoo Sultan was still a resolute enemy of the British, and was thought to be plotting with the French. Shortly before the fourth war broke out, Napoleon was in Egypt actively trying to make his way toward India, and Lord Wellesley, the new governor was determined to rid India of the Mysore menace. The British again besieged his capital of Seringapatam, and offered him a pension to retire, but he refused, preferring to die like a soldier than to live on British dole. He was killed in the siege when the British stormed the city, and his remaining dominions were split up between several Hindu kingdoms and the British Company.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Travancore
British defeat Mysoris
Fought December 28, 1789, when Tippu Sahib, with about 15,000 Mysoris, made a night attack upon the British lines. Having thrown down a portion of the rampart, a small advance party were hastening to open the gate, when. they were assailed by a detachment of the garrison, and hurled back into the trench. This repulse threw the advancing troops into confusion, and they were routed with a loss of over 2,000.
Battle of Calicut
British defeat Mysoris
Fought December 10, 1790, between 9,000 Mysore troops under Hussein Ali, and a British force of one European and two native regiments under Colonel Hartly. Hussein Ali occupied a strong position in front of Calicut, which was attacked and carried by Hartley with a loss of 52 only. The enemy lost 1,000 killed and wounded, and 2,400 prisoners, including their commander.
Battle of Arikera
British defeat Mysoris
Fought May 13, 1791, between the British under Lord Cornwallis, and the forces of Tippu Sahib. The latter was encamped between Arikera and Seringapatam, and was attacked by Cornwallis, who attempted to surprise him by a night march, but was foiled by heavy rain. A frontal attack on Tippu's position was, however, successful, and, aided by a flank movement under Maxwell, resulted in the total defeat of the Mysore troops, with a loss of over 2,000. The British loss amounted to 500. This is also known as the battle of Carigat.
Siege of Bangalore
British defeat Mysoris
This place was besieged by the British under Lord Cornwallis, March 5, 1791, and notwithstanding numerous efforts to relieve it on the part of Tippu Sahib, it was taken by storm on the night of the 21st, Tippu's final attempt being beaten off by the reserve with heavy loss. The British casualties were few.
Siege of Savandroog
British defeat Mysoris
Siege was laid to this place December 10, 1791, by a column of Lord Cornwallis' army, about 4,000 strong,. It was defended by a strong garrison of Mysoris, and was considered impregnable, but a practicable breach having been effected, it was taken by storm eleven days later, the garrison offering little resistance. The assailants did not lose a man.
Siege of Seringapatam
British defeat Mysoris
This city was besieged, February 5, 1792, by 22,000 British and native troops, with 86 guns, under Lord Cornwallis, and defended by a Mysori garrison, under Tippu Sahib. On the 6th an assault upon the outlying works was successful, all the redoubts commanding the city being carried, at a cost to the assailants of 530, while the Mysoris lost 20,000. On the approach of reinforcements, under General Abercromby, on the 16th, Tippu consented to treat, and peace was signed in the following month.
Battle of Sidassir
British defeat Mysoris
Fought March 6, 1799, between the advance guard of General Stuart's force, composed of three regiments, under Colonel Montresor, and 12,000 Mysoris, under Tippu Sahib. Montresor's small force withstood the attack of Tippu's troops for over six hours, and their ammunition was all but exhausted when Stuart came up, and drove back the enemy with a loss of 2,000 men. The British lost 143 killed and wounded.
Battle of Malavilly
British defeat Mysoris
Fought March 20, 1799, when the camp of the British force, under Lord Harris, marching on Seringapatam, was attacked in force by Tippu Sahib. The enemy was thrown into confusion by a charge of cavalry, under General Floyd, and retired with a loss of about 1,000, The British losses were trifling.
Siege of Seringapatam
British defeat Mysoris
The second siege by General Harris, opened April 6, 1799, when the city was defended by a garrison of 20,000, under Tippu. On May 3, the breach was declared practicable, and the place was stormed by 4,000 men, under General Baird. Tippu was slain in the rout which followed the assault. The British losses during the siege amounted to 1,464. About 8,000 Mysoris fell in the assault.



Commander
Short Biography
Lord Cornwallis British leader defeated at Yorktown in Revolutionary War. Later served as governor in India.
Marquess Wellesley Governor-general of India, fought Second Maratha and Mysore wars. Later, promoted Catholic emancipation.
Tipu Sultan Took over the Mysore Kingdom on the death of his father Hyder Ali. Fought the British in a series of Anglo-Mysore wars.

Story LinksBook Links
How We Cleared the Road to Empire  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice  Home
Tippoo Sultan  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
Mutiny of Vellore  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E.  Marshall
Of Mysore, Marathas, and Mutiny  in  India  by  Victor  Surridge



Map Links
India in 1805, after the Mysore and Mahratta wars


Image Links
Tippoo Sahib  in India: Peeps at History Tippoo Sultan's body was found buried beneath those of his followers.  in Our Empire Story Tipu himself stood firing coolly at his advancing foes  in India