Back to home page

1799 Letter
1799 Journal
Other Documents
Place Names


Major-General Baird's Letter

To Lieutenant-General Harris, Commander-in-Chief, &c. &c.

SIR,— Having, in obedience to your orders, taken the command of the troops ordered for the assault of the fort of Seringapatam, consisting of a corps of the six companies of European flankers from the Bombay army under Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop, a corps of four companies of European flankers from the Scotch Brigade, and the Regiment de Meuron under Colonel Sherbrooke.

His Majesty's 12th, 33d, and 74th Regiments, ten companies of Bengal Sepoy flankers under Lieutenant-Colonel Gardiner, eight companies of coast Sepoy flankers under Lieutenant-Colonel Mignan, one hundred artillery-men, with a proportion of gun-Lascars, under Major Bell, the European and native pioneers, under Captain Dowce, amounting, as per enclosed return of men actually under arms at the assault, to

European = 2494
Natives = 1882
Total = 4376

I have now the honour to report to you the measures I took to secure the success of the important object intrusted to me, and the result, and enclose a return of the killed and wounded on the assault. Having received your indstructions to make the capture of the ramparts my first object, as the force under my command was not deemed sufficient to assault the ramparts and the town at the same time, when defended by the whole of Tippoo's army, I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop with six companies of Bombay European flankers, supported by his Majesty's 12th and 33d Regiments and ten companies of Bengal Sepoy flankers, with fifty artillery-men, to assault the north ramparts, and to push on with the European flank companies until he met the south attack under Colonel Sherbrooke, consisting of the flank companies of the Scotch Brigade and Regiment de Meuron, reinforced by the grenadier companies of his Majesty's 73d and 74th Regiments, in consequence of the vigorous resistance there was reason to apprehend at the several heavy batteries on the south face of the fort; and supported by his Majesty's 73d and 74th Regiments, eight companies of coast natives and six of Bombay native flankers, with fifty artillery-men, when the whole were directed to form on the east face until arrangements were made for the attack of such of the cavaliers as might not have already been seized, or for proceeding to the attack of the body of the place, if with the force remaining such a measure should be deemed advisable.

The assault commenced, in obedience to your orders, at 1 P.M. Colonels Sherbrooke and Dunlop were directed on no account to quit the inner rampart, previous to their junction, for any other object but that of seizing on the cavaliers in the neighbourhood of their respective attacks, and to lose no time in regaining their situation on the ramparts as soon as that object should be obtained; and every cavalier, or post, on the ramparts, which it might be deemed essential to secure, were immediately to be occupied by a battalion company, or companies, from the supporting European regiments; so that the whole of the ground once captured might be secured, and the flankers, on their junction, be in full force to follow up their success by an attack on any of the cavaliers which had not faIlen in their way, or by an assault on the body of the town and the palace of the Sultaun.

In the success of every part of this plan my warmest wishes were gratified. The whole of the ramparts and every cavalier in the fort were, in a vigorous assault of a few hours, in the possession of our troops, who were too well acquainted with the value of their conquest to render their retaining it against the whole of Tippoo's army at all doubtful.

The place, therefore, being so securely our own, I was not anxious, by an immediate attack on the palace, to bring on a fresh and unnecessary slaughter; and, indeed, the exhausted state of the gallant flankers rendered it expedient for me to halt a short time before I proceeded to the attack of the palace, which, if Tippo was in it, there was every reason to suppose would, if possible, be as gallantly defended as attacked.

During this halt two fresh battalions of Sepoys arrived, and, trusting that by this time the Sultaun would see how fruitless any further resistance must prove, I requested Major Allan, deputy quarter-master-general, who had just arrived from camp, and who, from his knowledge of the language, was well qualified to execute the duty, to proceed with a flag of truce to the palace, and offer quarter to Tippoo Sultaun, and every person in his palace, on his immediate and unconditional surrender of himself and family to me; at the same time informing him, if there was the smallest hesitation in accepting this offer, that an immediate assault on the palace would take place, and every man in it be put to the sword.

The grenadiers and part of the 12th Regiment, under Major Craigie, with the 2d battalion, 9th Regiment of Sepoys, accompanied Major Allan to put this threat into immediate execution, if necessary; and I prepared the flankers, now a little recovered from their fatigues, to follow to the attack of the palace on the first signal of hostilities having recommenced (for the firing had ceased on all sides for upwards of an hour). In the meantime, I received intelligence from one of the prisoners, of whom I caused inquiry to be made, as to the place where the English soldiers, who had been taken in the different assaults on the enemy's outposts during the siege, were confined, that they had all been put to death, about ten days before, in the most barbarous manner, by having nails driven through their skulls. On this, I immediately advanced with the flankers of the 74th Regiment, and the light infantry and remaining part of the 12th Regiment, resolved, if quarter had not already been granted, and the dreadful accounts of the fate of our fellow-soldiers were confirmed, to sacrifice the tyrant to their manes.

On reaching the palace, Major Allan came out to me, and informed me he had been with Tippoo's two youngest sons, who were ignorant where their father was, but were disposed to surrender themselves and the palace on a promise of protection. Anxious, if possible, to discover Tippoo, who, I had been informed, was certainly in the palace, I hesitated to agree to these conditions unless they would inform me where their father was, and threatened to search the most secret recesses of the palace if he was not instantly produced; but not being able to learn from them where the Sultaun was, and wishing to get them out of the fort before it was dark, after giving them every assurance of protection and kind treatment, I sent them off to you under charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Agnew, your public secretary, and Captain Marriott, your aide-de-camp, escorted by the light infantry company of his Majesty's 33d Regiment. The palace was thus taken possession of without opposition.

I now proceeded to search the palace, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Close and Major Allan, taking care, however, to avoid the zenana, round which I had posted a sufficient force to make his escape from it impracticable. In the palace we found a man who, on being severely threatened said that the Sultaun was killed in attempting to escape through the northern sally-port, and offered to conduct us to the body; we accordingly proceeded thither, and, under a slaughtered heap of several hundreds, many of whom were men of consequence in his service, had the pleasure to discover the body of the Sultaun. He had been shot through the head and body, and was quite dead: I caused him to be immediately put into a palanquin and conveyed to the palace, where the body was identified by some of the principal men who had fallen into our hands, and by two of the eunuchs belonging to his harem.

I now proceeded to give such protection to the inhabitants as was in my power; and, although it was by this time dark, as I have heard no complaints of outrage or insult being offered to any after the conflict ceased, I think I may venture to say the natives of India will be satisfied that the British soldiers are not more brave than humane.

Early the next morning Abdul Khalick, the second son of Tippoo, and the elder of the two who were delivered to Lord Cornwallis as hostages, at the conclusion of the last war, was met by Lieutenant- Colonel Dalrymple coming from the island to deliver himself up; he was immediately assured of protection and the most liberal treatment, and I went to meet him, to shew him how much satisfied I was with the confidence he placed in us, by thus delivering himself into our hands when the means of escape were perfectly in his power. Having been led to expect you in the fort yesterday morning, I waited with Abdul Khalick to deliver him into your own hands, but, on being relieved by Colone1 Wellesley, I proceeded with him to camp, and delivered him over to you.

I perceive in the general order of yesterday that no mention is made of Colonel Sherbrooke. This, I presume, is owing to that order being published before I had time to make any report to you of the conduct of the troops under my command in the assault, which was highly exemplary throughout; and if, where all behaved nobly, it is proper to mention individual merit, I know no man so justly entitled to praise as Colonel Sherbrooke, to whose exertions I feel myself much indebted for the success of the attack.

I make no doubt Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop, who commanded a party of equal force with that of Colonel Sherbrooke, would have merited equal praise for his exertions, had he not, most unfortunately, been disabled by a wound very early in the assault, — a circumstance I most sincerely regretted, as, from the well-known character of that officer, and the clear manner in which he understood the instructions I gave him relative to the attack he was to lead, I felt the greatest confidence in its success.

I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient, humble servant,


Camp, Seringapatam, 6th May 1799.

Letter from Major-General David Baird to Lieut. General Harris, 6 May 1799.
Transcript from: Hook, Theodore Edward, The Life of General, the Right Honourable Sir David Baird, Bart. G.C.B. K.C. &c. &c.London: Richard Bentley, 1832 Vol. I pp.228-233.