«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
John Holland, the Governor of Madras, was not at all pleased with the purchase of these forts, which was done without consulting the East India Company. Holland rightly feared that the purchase would provoke Tipu into military action, and since Travancore Tipu's kingdom of Mysore went to war with the Marathas in 1786-87, with Tipu faring quite poorly. The Marathas gained back a number of disputed border forts, and Tipu was forced to pay them an indemnity.
See M. S. Naravane. Battles of the Honourable East India Company: Making of the Raj (New Delhi: A.P.H.
Publishing, 2006): 175 Sir Penderel Moon. The British Conquest and Dominion of India (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989): 248-49 had signed a subsidiary alliance with the Company, would lead to a general engagement in southern India. Under the terms of the subsidiary alliance, the Company was obligated to come to the assistance of Travancore if it were attacked, but the Rajah was also forbidden from entering into alliance with other European powers, or instigating a conflict for his own purposes. As Holland had anticipated, Tipu Sultan was indeed enraged by the transfer of the two forts. Tipu argued that the forts belonged to his own tributary ruler, the Rajah of Cochin, and that the Dutch had only leased the forts from him, and could not sell them to another state. The legality of the sale remains a disputed topic amongst modern scholars.33 Regardless of the debate surrounding the sale's validity, Tipu responded by bringing a large military force to the Travancore Lines. Tipu demanded the evacuation of the forts and the surrender of his rebellious subjects, many of whom had fled Malabar and found asylum in Travancore. When the Rajah of Travancore refused these demands, Tipu ordered the attack in December of 1789. The military assault itself was a surprising failure, with the Mysorean soldiers repulsed and Tipu himself suffering a minor injury in the fighting. As Tipu paused to bring up more of his army and prepare his siege train for a more proper assault, the East India Company began to intervene in the conflict for the first time.34 The Governor General of India at the time of the dispute was Charles Cornwallis, a military man of long experience best remembered today for his surrender at Yorktown Sir Penderel Moon, for example, argues that Tipu's claim was invalid (Ibid, 249). However, Ibrahim Kunju counters that the Rajah of Travancore was actively inciting the rebellions in Malabar, and that the Dutch had no legal claim for the sale of the forts. See Ibrahim Kunju, "Relations Between Travancore and Mysore in the 18th Century" in Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernization under Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan. Irfan Habib (ed.) (London: Anthem, 2002): 84-85 For details of the attack on the Travancore Lines, see Sir Penderel Moon. The British Conquest and Dominion of India (1989): 248-250 and also W. H. Hutton, "Tipu Sultan" in H.H Dodwell. The Cambridge History of India, Vol. 5: British India (1963, 1929): 335 during the American Revolution. Cornwallis had traveled to India to replace the outgoing Governor General Warren Hastings in 1786, with the Company hoping that Cornwallis would restore integrity to its administration and improve its military standing. Cornwallis chose to overrule Governor Holland of Madras in this dispute, charging Tipu with breaking the previous Treaty of Mangalore by his actions in Travancore, and he began to prepare the Company for a new conflict. Tipu had hoped to avoid another war with the Company, but he soon found himself forced to respond to the actions of Cornwallis, leading to the onset of the Third Mysore War (1790-92).
During the first year of the war in 1790, the East India Company enjoyed few military successes. Cornwallis' great triumph was to secure treaties of alliance with the other two great powers in southern India, with the Marathas on 1 June 1790 and the Nizam of Hyderabad on 4 July.35 Both Indian states were concerned by the growing power of Tipu's Mysore, and agreed to enter into the war on the side of the Company and share in an equitable division of territorial conquests. The Whig opposition in London objected to these alliances as antithetical to the dictates of Parliament, which forbade the East India Company from engaging in wars of conquest, since the treaties bound Cornwallis into a war of territorial annexation against Tipu's Mysore. Their objections caused a great deal of political debate in the metropole, but had no effect on the operations taking place in India.36 Militarily, Cornwallis had secured an enormous advantage for the Company's side, adding some 20,000 Indian cavalry to make up for the Company's deficiency in horse, and reversing the situation from the Second Mysore War.
W. H. Hutton, "Tipu Sultan" in H.H Dodwell. The Cambridge History of India, Vol. 5: British India (1963, 1929): 335 See Chapter 4 Instead of a military coalition of native princes formed against the East India Company, the Third Mysore War would instead consist of a general alliance against Tipu Sultan.
The kingdom of Mysore itself presented formidable natural barriers to invasion; a pair of mountain ranges known as the Eastern and Western Ghats defended the entrances to the central Mysore plateau wherein the capital of Seringapatam was located. In order to reach the heart of Tipu's domain, the Company's forces would have to ascend the steep passes through the Ghats, with all of their heavy guns and equipment, and then continue to supply themselves in hostile territory [Figure 1].37 This would prove to be no easy task.
General Medows attempted to pass through the Ghats during the summer and fall of 1790, but proved completely unable to do so, and nearly saw the complete destruction of one of his detachments under the command of Colonel Floyd.38 Tipu's superior mobility and excellent use of his forces had prevented Medows from making any gains at all during the first year of the war. Company soldiers were unable to reach Mysore, and Tipu had been able to descend the mountain passes and invade the Carnatic once again.
Given the lack of success enjoyed by the Company forces under the command of Medows, Cornwallis decided to travel to Madras and assume personal control of the war at the beginning of 1791. In many ways this was intended as a political gesture, designed to shore up the alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam, both of whom had been slow to provide support for the war effort. Instead of pursuing Tipu's mobile army throughout the Carnatic, Cornwallis moved instead to invade Mysore via the most direct route straight up and through the Eastern Ghats. Catching Tipu by surprise, Cornwallis successfully scaled the mountain passes and entered the kingdom of Mysore, placing the James Rennell. The Marches of the British Armies in the Peninsula of India, during the Campaigns of 1790 and 1791 (London: Printed by W. Bulmer, 1792): plate engraving Sir Penderel Moon. The British Conquest and Dominion of India (1989): 251-52 important city of Bangalore under siege and eventually capturing it at the end of March.39 The fall of the city had important political ramifications, reinvigorating the Company's Indian allies and prompting them to launch their own invasions of Mysore. There was a general expectation that Cornwallis would advance on Seringapatam and capture Tipu's capital, putting a speedy end to the war.
After the fall of Bangalore, Cornwallis was forced to pause briefly to restore his food and ammunition supplies. Once reinforcements arrived in May of 1791, Cornwallis pushed on towards Seringapatam with the intention of placing the city under siege.
Unfortunately for the Company forces, the monsoon season began early and played havoc with the advancing army, exhausting and killing the draft cattle that served as the logistical lifeblood of all armies in India. Cornwallis had no choice but to order a retreat to Bangalore, due to lack of supplies, destroying the same siege guns which had been laboriously hauled up the Eastern Ghats. Tipu celebrated the retreat as a major victory, believing that this had proved the futility of an attack against his capital. In the British metropole, doom and gloom once more descended upon the public perception of the war effort.40 Cornwallis used the rest of 1791 to make preparations for another campaign against Seringapatam. His first task was to ensure his supply routes from the Carnatic up through the Ghats to Bangalore, which were defended by a number of mountainous forts.
The Company's military forces succeeded in capturing nearly all of these locations through a series of small engagements, many of which were recorded in sketches or Ibid, 253 Ibid, 254-55 paintings.41 These rocky hill forts had been considered to be impregnable by the Indian armies, and their fall seemed to reinforce the belief in the invincibility of the Company's white soldiers. Although the taking of the hill forts largely passed without undue attention, a great deal of notoriety eventually came to surround the capture of Ossure, which fell in July of 1791. It appeared that Tipu had ordered the execution of several European captives at Ossure shortly before it was evacuated, thereby reinforcing all of the longstanding beliefs about prisoner atrocities from the previous war. Accounts of the prisoner killings at Ossure would appear in virtually all of the later literature about Tipu, as an example of his cruelty and savagery.42 The preparations of Cornwallis were completed shortly after the beginning of the new year, and his forces set out again for Seringapatam in February 1792. The reduction of Tipu's hill forts ensured a steady flow of supplies for the Company's army, eliminating the logistical problems which had crippled the previous campaign. Tipu decided not to challenge Cornwallis in a set piece battle, which was probably the correct decision given the superiority of the Company's infantry, and chose instead to rely on the formidable natural defenses of Seringapatam [Figure 2].43 The city itself was located on an island in the middle of the river Cauvery, and Tipu had constructed a series of strong fortifications on the island itself and the terrain to its north. The Sultan hoped to defend his capital against a siege until the seasons turned, bringing back the monsoon rains and forcing another retreat of the Company forces due to lack of provisions. The strategy itself was See Robert Home. Select Views in Mysore, the Country of Tippoo Sultan (London: Published by Mr.
Bowyer, 1794) and Lieutenant R.H. Colebrooke. Twelve Views of Places in the Kingdom of Mysore (London, 1794) See Chapter 2 for more details.
James Rennell. The Marches of the British Armies in the Peninsula of India (1792): plate engraving sound, and similar tactics had previously defeated many European armies in India, but it would not prove effective on this occasion.44 Cornwallis arrived at Seringapatam on 5 February 1792, and immediately launched a daring midnight assault on Tipu's fortifications on the night of 6 February.
Tipu's soldiers were caught completely by surprise, having expected that the Company army would wait to bring its siege guns into position before challenging the defenses, and soon fled back to the island itself. Cornwallis was now able to move up his siege guns and begin reducing the fortifications of Seringapatam; after two weeks of bombardment the walls were almost completely destroyed, and it was apparent to all that an attack would soon commence and capture the city. Tipu had no choice but to sue for peace terms with the invading armies.45 Tipu had in fact been trying to negotiate a separate peace with Cornwallis for some time. Unfortunately for the Sultan, Cornwallis had stipulated earlier that peace could only arrive as part of a general agreement with the Company's allies, the Marathas and Nizam.46 The Opposition politicians and newspapers in London charged that these alliances were being cynically manipulated to justify the continuation of an expansionistic war of conquest, an accusation which seems rather accurate. Cornwallis himself wrote repeatedly that Tipu's duplicitous character made it impossible to trust him during negotiations, exaggerating Tipu's negative qualities as a means to extract harsher concessions: "But with what confidence can a negotiation be carried on with a man, who not only violates treaties of peace, but also disregards the faith of Capitulation during Sir Penderel Moon. The British Conquest and Dominion of India (1989): 256 Ibid, 256-57 See the correspondences between Cornwallis and Tipu in the India Office Records, such as Cornwallis to Tippoo Sultaun 23 February 1791, p. 17-20 IOR/H/252 for one such example.
war."47 Cornwallis also made frequent mention of the prisoners issue from the previous conflict in his correspondences, using it as a sign of the faithless character of the Sultan.
By playing up the cruelty and violence of Tipu's character, Cornwallis was able to justify a series of very harsh peace terms, as necessary to reign in the "tyrant" that threatened all of southern India. At the same time, Cornwallis himself could appear magnanimous in victory, and claim to be disinterested in the spoils of war - even as the Company received enormous sums of money and vast tracts of land as part of the treaty.
After several weeks of negotiation, the Treaty of Seringapatam was concluded on 17 March 1792. Tipu was forced to surrender half of his dominions, pay an indemnity of 6 crore rupees (60 million rupees, an astronomically high sum at the time), and release all prisoners still held in his territory.48 The lands surrendered by Tipu were to be split between the East India Company, the Marathas, and the Nizam, with each party receiving territory that bordered areas already under their control. After the initial terms of peace had been agreed upon, Cornwallis pulled a diplomatic sleight-of-hand and added into the final treaty that Tipu would have to surrender the lands of the Rajah of Coorg as well, one of his rebellious subjects whose territory did not border any of the attackers. This diplomatic trickery nearly reignited the conflict and infuriated Tipu, but ultimately the Sultan was left with no choice but to sign the treaty.