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Lieutenant-General James Stuart:

Letter to Lord Mornington

Head Quarters
Seedapore, 8th March, 1799

My Lord,
1. I had the Honour to address your Lordship on the 20th Ultimo; and having marched from Cananore on the following Day, agreeably to my Intimation of that Date, I arrived at the Top of Poodicherrum Ghaut on the 25th of the same Month.

2. I informed your Lordship it was my Intention to assume a defensive Position close to the Frontiers; and there await, in conformity to General Harris's Instructions under Date the 24th December, his further Orders. In pursuance of this Plan I moved the Corps successivley forward, and placed them in such Situations as might enable me the most promptly to form the proposed Junction with the principal Army.

3. On the 2d Instant the right Brigade, consisting of Three Native Battalions, under the Command of Lieutenant Colonel Montresor, took their Ground at Seedaseer, the Boundary of the Coorga Country, and about Seven Miles distant from Periapatam. The main Body of the Army, with the Park and Provisions, remained at Seedapore and Ahmootenaar; the first Eight Miles, and the latter Twelve, from the advanced Position.

4. It may be necessary to inform your Lordship, that I was in some measure compelled, from the Nature of the Country, which is every where covered with thick Jungles, to place the Army in several Divisions; but I had a further View in occupying the Post at Seedaseer, in order to preserve a more ready Communication with General Harris, as this was the only Spot from whence the Signals established between the Two Armies could be observed. Although I had no Reason to apprehend any immediate Attack, I thought it advisable to adopt the Precaution of encamping the Corps at such short Distances, as would either enable me to move, without much Loss of Time, into the Enemy's Territory, or to support, if Occasion should require it, any Quarter that might stand in need of Assistance.

5. In the Course of the Morning of the 5th, an extensive Encampment was unexpectedly observed to be forming on this side of the Fort of Periapatam. This circumstance was discovered at Ten o'Clock in the Forenoon, as the Enemy were taking up their Ground, by a Party of Observation, on the Summit of the high Hill of Seedaseer, which commands a View of the Mysore almost to the Environs of Seringpapatam. Before the Evening this Encampment assumed a very formidable Appearance, and covered a great Extent of Ground; we were able to count from 3 to 400 Tents; amongst the Number some of large Dimensions were distinguished, and particularly One of a green Colour, that seemed to denote the Presence of the Sultaun. However much the Probability of this Circumstance might be strengthened by the respectable Appearance of the Encampment, it was contradicted by the Evidence of Two Hircarrahs, who had recently arrived from Seringapatam. These Men generally reported, that Tippoo had marched, with all his Forces, on the 20th Ultimo, to oppose the progress of the Madras Army; and that the Benky Nabob commanded the only Force in the Field that remained in the Neighbourhood of Seringapatam. This Force was represented to be encamped at Canniambaddy, and to consist of 5,000 Piadas, or irregular Infantry, who were said to be intended as a covering Party to 7,000 Benjanies, and directed to bring as much Provisions as they could collect about Periapatam to the Capital.

6. In this State of Uncertainty I thought it prudent to reinforce Lieutenant Colonel Montresor's Brigade with an additional Battalion of Sepoys, and waited for more correct Intelligence, which I expected Hourly, to act with the Whole of my Forces, as Affairs might render it necessary. On the Morning of the 6th, Major General Hartley went forward to reconoitre; and at Break of Day, from the Hill of Observation, the Whole of the Enemy's Army was discovered to be in Motion; but their Movements were so well concealed by the Woodiness of the Country, and the Haziness of the Atmosphere, that it was impossible to ascertain their Object; nor, in fact, was this discovered until they had penetrated a considerable Way into the Jungle, and commenced an Attack upon our Line, which happened between the Hours of Nine and Ten.

7. The Enemy pierced through the Jungles with such Secrecy and Expedition, that they attacked the Rear and the Front of our Line almost at the same Instant. This Dispatch prevented more than Three of our Corps being engaged, as the Fourth, which was posted Two Miles and a Half in the Rear, was unable to form a Junction, from the Enemy having cut in between them and Seedaseer. The Communication was effectually obstructed by a Column, which, according to the Reports of our Prisoners, consisted of upwards of 5,000 Men under the Command of Baber Jung.

8. Fortunately, before the Enemy had accomplished their Purpose, Major General Hartley had Time to apprize me of their Attack, and remained himself to give any Assistance that might be necessary. The best position was assumed for repulsing the Enemy, and in this alarming Situation the Corps defended themselves with so much Resolution, that the Sultaun's Troops were unable to make any Impression. The Brigade was on every Side completely surrounded, and had to contend against a vast Disparity of Numbers, besides other discouraging Circumstances.

9. As soon as I received Intelligence of the perilous Situation of the right Brigade, I marched to their Assistance, with the two Flank Companies of His Majesty's 75th Regiment, and the Whole of the 77th. I arrived about Half past Two in sight of the Division of the Enemy, who had penetrated into the Rear, and possessed themselves of the great Road leading to Seedaseer. The Engagement lasted nearly Half and Hour, when, after a smart Fire of Musquetry on both Sides, the Enemy were completely routed, and fled with Precipitation through the Jungles, to regain their Column, which still continued the Attack in Front. On arriving at Lieutenant Colonel Montresor's Post, I found his Men exhausted with Fatigue, and their Ammunition almost expended. At 20 Minutes past Three the Enemy retreated in all Directions.

10. For this decisive, and, I hope your Lordship will allow, brilliant Success, considering the small Number of Troops who engaged, under very great Disadvantages, probably the Flower of Tippoo Sultaun's Army, I feel myself peculiarly indebted to the judicious Dispositions for Defence made by General Hartley. He embraced the Opportunity of observing the Motions of the Enemy from the Hill I have above mentioned, and was thus enabled to advise Lieutenant Colonel Montresor of the best Method of defeating them. I beg leave also to inform your Lordship, that my best Thanks are due to Lieutenant Colonel Montresor, for his very active Exertions; and to the Officers and Men including the Artillery of his Brigade, for their gallant and steady Behaviour throughout the Whole of this arduous Affair. Lieutenant Colonel Dunlop, and the European Division under his Command, are likewise entitled to my particular Approbation, for their spirited Conduct, which finally routed the Enemy.

11. Our Loss on this Occasion is far less than could reasonably have been expected; and I have the Honour to inclose, for your Lordship's Information, a Return of this Circumstance.

12. It was impossible to ascertain the exact Loss sustained by the Enemy, but it must have been heavy, as in the Course of so long an Action they were often exposed in Crouds [sic] to the Fire of Grape Shot, and Vollies of Musquetry. Several Men of Distinction were killed, and some wounded Officers have been made Prisoners. I have the Honour to inclose the Information of Mozan Khan Bhuskshy, [sic] and Commander of a Kutcherry, the Prisoner of the greatest Rank who has fallen wounded into our Hands; but concurring Reports state, that Meer Ghofar is amongst the slain.

13. As the Arrival of General Harris at Seringapatam will not happen at so early a Period as he first intended, the immediate Possession of the Post of Seedaseer was no longer an Object of such Consequence, and to retain it while Tippoo continued in force at Periapatam became an Affair of serious difficulty. The Secrecy and Expedition with which he had planned his late Enterprize, and the correct Intelligence that the Leaders of his Columns appeared to have obtained of ther private Routes through the Coorga Jungles, led to an Opinion that he would not remain satisfied with this abortive Attempt, but might endeavour to penetrate by another Direction to the Southward, still more open than the Passage of Seedaseer, where he would only be opposed by the Coorgs. This Consideration derived a greater Weight, as if he succeeded in forcing this Entrance it would throw him into our Rear, and put him in all Probability in Possession of the great Depot of Rice collected by the Coorga Rajah. These Motives have induced me to relinquish the Post of Seedaseer, and to collect the Whole of my Force at this Place. I have accordingly made a Disposition, either to defend my Position against the Sultaun, if should again venture to attack it, or to move in Defence of any Part of the Coorga Rajah's Territories that the Enemy might threaten, provided it shall endanger our Magazine of Provisions; otherwise I shall remain on the defensive, until I receive Advice from General Harris.

14. Since the Action of the 6th, the Enemy have continued in their Camp at Periapatam, nor have I any Intelligence either of the Sultaun's Designs, or of the Motives that induced him to undertake his present Enterprize. It is not likely that he will remain longer in this Neighbourhood than after he receives Intelligence of General Harris having entered the Mysore. As my Communication with General Harris is become insecure, I must take the Liberty of requesting your Lordship to inform him of such Part of these Particulars as may appear to you necessary.
I have the Honour to subscribe myself most respectfully,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's

Most obedient humble Servant

(Signed) J. Stuart

Head Quarters
Seedapore, 8th March, 1799

By some Prisoners who have been just brought in by the Coorga Rajah's People, I am informed that the Loss of the enemy was very great, and that many Men of the first Distinction fell. They mention Seyed or Meer Ghofar, and the Benky Nabob, who led the Centre Attack, among the killed. It is added, however, that the Sultaun is colecting more Forces, and is determined to make a second Attack.

(Signed) J. Stuart

'Lieut. General Stuart to Governor-General Mornington [8 March 1799]' in House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century. (ed. Sheila Lambert). George III: East India Company 1799 and 1800 Vol. 126 pp. 146-148 [Enclosure No. 11]; also published in Asiatic Annual Register 1799 pp. 84-87.