« ForrigeFortsæt »
boastful exclamation— Who can take Seringapatam ?'—might receive a fatal solution. He wrote to General Harris, suggesting a negotiation. The reply was decisive: half his territory to be ceded, the expenses of the war to be paid in full, and hostages given for the performance of those hard conditions. There could be no parleying or negotiation. The fanatic sovereign of Mysore turned sullenly away from such ruinous terms of peace, and continued the defence. Daily, hourly, the walls of the devoted city crumbled beneath the thunder-strokes of the English batteries, and at noon on the 4th of May the glittering ranks of the troops destined for the assault were seen from Seringapatam, drawn up in two columns, and waiting only for the signal that should loose them on their quarry. It was speedily given; and led by Sir David Baird, who had volunteered for the service, the assaulting columns, preceded by their respective forlorn-hopes, advanced swiftly against the breach. The reserve in the trenches was commanded by Colonel Wellesley. The preparations for the decisive struggle, visible from the walls, had been duly reported to Tippoo, who received the intelligence with a smile of disdainful unbelief in the possibility of an assault upon the impregnable city in broad daylight. He was sitting, on this the last hour of his life, still obstinately incredulous as to the reality of the attack, with some members of his family in the open air, under a kind of penthouse, when messengers, whose tidings were terribly confirmed by the increasing din and uproar of the assault, announced with quivering lips that the storming of the city had not only begun in earnest, but was already partially successful.
Tippoo, at length convinced, calmly arose, finished his religious exercises, and then hastened to the scene of conflict. It was all too true. The city, on his arrival, was substantially won; and after a brief struggle, Tippoo, mounted on horseback, was borne away by a crowd of panic - stricken soldiers, who, hotly pursued, endeavoured to escape by the covered gateway leading to the interior of the city. The sultan strove to force his way through the dense mass of fugitives; but in that terrible hour his once all-potent menaces had lost their influence : the living barrier before him could not be passed, whilst nearer and nearer behind him flashed and thundered the fatal volleys of his pursuers. Presently his horse was shot, and with difficulty his faithful attendants raised and placed him in a palanquin. His foes were soon at hand-grip with him. A soldier made a furious grasp at a glittering jewel in his turban— the hallowed turban, dipped in the sacred waters of the ZemZem-Tippoo struck feebly at the man with his scimitar, inflicting a slight wound, and the infuriated soldier the next instant sent a bullet through his head.' His attendants were next despatched, and in a few minutes sultan, servants, palanquin, were hidden beneath a heap of dead, pitilessly sacrificed by troops whose vengeful passions had been kindled to fury by the too-authentic stories related of Tippoo's cruelties towards the British prisoners that had fallen into his hands. Effective resistance was at an end; but those alone who have witnessed the revolting spectacle of a crowded city in the power of a soldiery, drunk with the triumph of a desperate and sanguinary assault, can realise the confusion, uproar, terror that accompanied the entrance of the victorious troops into Seringapatam, and which continued not only during the afternoon but through the
night, and far into the next day. So universal at first was the disorder, that the officers could not for some time prevent the men from plundering the sultan's treasury ; and before an efficient guard could be marched in from the reserve by Colonel Wellesley, an immense booty was carried off. This important service effected, inquiries were made for Tippoo, and an active search set on foot to discover him. He could not be found, and it began to be feared that he had escaped, when word was brought that he was supposed to have fallen in the covered gateway. This was a fact of too great importance to be left in doubt, and Sir David Baird with Colonel Wellesley immediately proceeded to ascertain the truth of the report with their own eyes.
By the time they arrived at the indicated spot darkness had fallen ; but torches being procured, the bodies of the slain were removed under the immediate inspection of the two officers. As the frightful heap diminished, first Tippoo's palanquin, then his attendants, were disinterred, and immediately beneath them the corpse of the sultan presented itself. The features of Tippoo were serene and composed as if he slept; so completely so indeed, that it was for a moment thought he was merely feigning death. To satisfy himself, Colonel Wellesley stepped close to the body, placed his hand upon the pulse and then upon the heart. • He is dead fast enough,' was the remark; and orders were immediately given to convey the corpse to the habitation of the family of the deceased ruler, over which a strong protective-guard had been placed.
St George's flag waved proudly in the morning sunlight from the towers of the captured city, from which there still went up to Heaven the shouts and din and curses of unbridled violence and outrage. It was full time to quell the disorder, and with this view Colonel Wellesley was appointed commandant and governor of Seringapatam. He set to work at once, and vigorously, as the following brief extracts from letters hurriedly despatched to General Harris during the day amply testify :
•10 A.M., 5th May. MY DEAR SIR—We are in such confusion that I recommend it to you not to come in till to-morrow, or at soonest late this evening.'
• Half-past Twelve.--I wish you would send the provost here, and put him under
orders. Until some of the plunderers are hanged, it is vain to expect to stop the plunder.'
· Two o'clock P.M.--Things are better than they were, but they are still very bad; and until the provost executes three or four people, it is impossible to expect order or indeed safety.'
The provost was granted; four of the plunderers were caught red-handed, briefly doomed, and hanged without loss of time. This is not pleasant reading, for even the justice of war shocks one as a frightful cruelty; but the severity appears to have been imperatively necessary, and it certainly answered its purpose, inasmuch as Colonel Wellesley was enabled on the next day to write as follows:
May 6.—Plunder is stopped. The fires are all extinguished, and the inhabitants are returning to their homes fast. I am now burying the dead, which I hope will be completed to-day, particularly if you send me all the pioneers.'
Some idea of the value of the plunder carried off by the soldiery may be drawn from the well-attested fact, that some diamonds purchased of a
private by Dr Mein for a trifle were afterwards sold for £32,000 sterling. With all such drawbacks, however, upon the amount of valuables officially captured, the victorious general carried off treasure to the enormous amount, as set down in the returns, of 45,580,350 star pagodas!.
The war, as far as the Mysore country was concerned, was now over; and the bulk of the army retraced its steps, after the youthful grandson of the ruler whom Hyder Ali had deposed had been restored to the rajahship of Mysore, in accordance with British-Indian policy. The restored rajah was of course for the future merely the puppet - monarch of a diminished territory, really as much governed by the Company's officers as that portion of the Mysore over which they ostensibly ruled.
Colonel Wellesley was appointed civil and military governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, and in that dual capacity is admitted to have displayed administrative talents of a high order. However deaf and stern to the pleadings for mercy towards proved offenders against the rigours of positive law this great soldier may have shewn himself throughout his remarkable
a peculiarity of character which may perhaps account for the indisputable fact, that whilst he extorted the respect and confidence of the troops under his command, accustoming them as he did to look upon the day of battle as one of assured victory, he was never regarded by his soldiers with personal affection, much less enthusiasm, like that, for instance, which Nelson inspired-still it cannot be denied that he ever held the balance of his iron justice fairly between the highest and the lowest. A more depressed, ill-used body of men than the coolies of India could not perhaps be found upon the face of the earth. Of a servile and degraded caste, they are accustomed from earliest childhood to submit with the resignation of despair to the most flagrant wrong; and British officers were not, it appears from Colonel Wellesley's correspondence, ashamed to cheat and plunder the helpless, miserable people. Coolies are the carriers and porters of India, and it was a common practice to engage them for short journeys at a small sum, and then insist upon their performing a much greater distance without any additional remuneration. This scandalous oppression was peremptorily checked by Colonel Wellesley, as the following extracts will shew:- The history of Captain 's conduct is quite shocking. The system is not bearable; it must be abolished entirely, or so arranged and modified as to render it certain that the unfortunate people employed as coolies are paid, are not carried farther than the usual stage, and are not ill-treated. Besides Captain —, I have another Bombay gentleman in my eye, who has lately come through the country with a convoy of arrack, and I suspect played the same tricks —that is to say, never paid the people pressed and employed by him in the public service. I have directed inquiries to be made upon the subject, and if I find my conjectures to be well founded, I shall try him at the same time with Captain
The oppressed coolies must have been as much bewildered as surprised to find the mighty governor of Mysore insisting that despised outcasts such as they should receive equitable treatment at the hands of the exalted and magnificent persons that British officers in India are held to be.
Colonel Wellesley's command in the Mysore continued with only one temporary interruption till he left India. In 1801 he left Seringapatam
for Trincomalee, where a force of 3000 men were assembled to act against the Mauritius ; but the duplicate copy of an overland dispatch to the governor-general, commanding him to detach the same number of men to Egypt, having been placed in Colonel Wellesley's hands by Mr Dundas, he immediately determined on sailing with the troops to Bombay, in order that they should be ready to start at once for Egypt. This decision was approved of by the governor-general, and Sir David Baird being appointed to command the expedition, Colonel Wellesley was attached to the force as second to that general. An attack of fever, by which he was for a time prostrated, prevented him from accompanying the troops, and on his recovery he was restored to his command in the Mysore territory.
The first considerable interruption to his energetic administration of affairs was caused by the incursions of Dhoondiah Waugh, a Mahratta trooper, who at the fall of Seringapatam had been liberated from one of its dungeons. He was a dashing, daring adventurer, and by his success as a highwayman and freebooter soon gathered round him a great number of desperate vagabonds, eager to join in the same gainful trade. So rapidly did his followers increase, that he was soon at the head of a large, and, so far as numbers went, a powerful army. His selfestimation grew even faster than his apparent power, and he assumed the magnificent title of 'King of the Two Worlds.' This great monarch, after receiving several checks from detachments of the British forces, was, unfortunately for himself, come up with at Conaghale on the 10th September 1800 by Colonel Wellesley, after a forced and rapid march with the 19th, 25th, and 22d Light Dragoons, and the 1st and 2d Regiments of Native Cavalry. The attack was instantaneous, and the rout total, the King of the Two Worlds being himself amongst the slain. An anecdote is related of Colonel Wellesley in connection with the extinction of this freebooter which does him honour. One of the captives was the favourite son of Dhoondiah-a beautiful boy, called Sulaboth Khan-and Colonel Wellesley, commiserating his forlorn state, took him under his especial protection, had him properly educated, and ultimately procured him employment in the service of the Rajah of Mysore, which he retained till his death by cholera in 1822.
The Mahratta chiefs, Scindiah and Holkar, instead of vigorously assisting Tippoo Sultan in his extremity, had got up a war between themselves; and in October 1802 Holkar defeated the combined forces of Scindiah and the Peshwah, and seated a puppet of his own on the musnud. The Peshwah, previous leaving Poonah after his defeat, applied to the Company's resident for help and protection. The application, on reference to the governor-general, was favourably entertained; a treaty of alliance was entered into with the expelled Peshwah; and it was determined to put down not only Holkar, who, in the elation of his triumph over the Peshwah, menaced the Nizam's dominions with invasion, but Scindiah and the Rajah of Berar. A force sufficient for the purpose was assembled at Hurryhur, and placed under the command of Major-General Wellesley. This rank the governor-general had conferred upon his brother on the 20 of April 1802. We have previously given the dates of the unearned military grades conferred upon the Duke of Wellington, and it may be as
well now to set down those for which he was indebted, not to the accident of birth and family connection, but to his great services. His commission of colonel was conferred on the 3d of May 1796; that of major-general, 2d of April 1802; of lieutenant-general, 25th April 1808; of general in Spain and Portugal, 31st July 1811; of field-marshal, 21st June 1813.
We have space only for a glance at General Wellesley's chief exploits during this Mahratta war, as it is called. The army, consisting of about 20,000 troops of all arms, moved from Hurryhur on the 9th of March 1803, and without encountering any serious opposition arrived at Poonah on the 20th of April. On the 13th of May the Peshwah was replaced on the musnud. Supreme civil and military authority in the territories of the Nizam, the Peshwah, and the Mahratta States, was soon afterwards conferred on General Wellesley, and on the 6th of August he took the field against Scindiah and his allies. Pettah, a native town, garrisoned by 3000 Mahratta troops and 1500 Arab mercenaries, was, without stopping to breach the wall, stormed by the help of a few scaling-ladders, and the loss of only 140 men. Gocklah, a Mahratta chief, wrote the following account of this affair to his friends at Poonah :—These English are a strange people, and their general is a wonderful man. They came here in the morning, looked at the Pettah wall, walked over it, killed all the garrison, and returned to breakfast. What can withstand them ?' The strong fortress of Ahmednuggur was next attacked, and compelled to surrender. There was a palace in the interior which contained an immense quantity of valuables, and of so tempting a kind that the general was compelled to hang two native soldiers in the gateway before he could quietly secure the booty for distribution in the proper way. The fort of Baroach shared the fate of Ahmednuggur little more than a fortnight afterwards, and so successful were General Wellesley's operations, that if a good blow could be struck at Scindiah's army-reputed to be extremely formidable, not only from its numbers but the excellent discipline of the infantry, and its powerful, well-organised artillery-the Mahratta difficulty in that part of the peninsula at least might be considered terminated. To effect this desirable object no effort was spared, and on the 22d of September the hurkarus or scouts brought intelligence that the army of Scindiah was posted at Bohendur, no very great distance off. General Wellesley immediately divided his army into two divisions, one of which he placed under the command of Colonel Stevenson, with directions to make a detour to the west, in order to avoid passing through a narrow and dangerous
whilst he himself took the more direct easterly route. Stevenson was to rejoin him late in the evening of the 23d. Early on the morning of that day General Wellesley was informed by the hurkarus that Scindiah's cavalry had gone off, but that the infantry still remained at Bohendur. Wellesley put himself in motion instantly, leaving his baggage behind under a sufficient guard, and after a sultry, hurried march, found himself about noon suddenly in the presence of an army of 50,000 men, of which full 30,000 were cavalry, drawn up between the rivers Juah and Ketnah, the village of Assye on the Juah being nearly in the centre of the line ! The hurkarus had either wilfully or ignorantly deceived him. As this terrible battle elicited the first unmistakable proof that General