Back to home page

1799 Letter
1799 Journal
Other Documents
Place Names


Mark Wilks:

Battle of Sedaseer

"...General Stuart, after assembling his army at Cannanore, finally marched from that station on the 21st of April. He arrived at the top of the Poodicherrum ghaut on the 25th of the same month, and proceeded in obedience to his instructions, to assume a defensive position close to the frontier of Mysore. The nature of the country, every where covered with thick woods, in most places nearly impenetrable, made it impossible to occupy a regular defensive position, and compelled him to place his troops in several divisions, so disposed, as to be capable of affording reciprocal support: the most advanced of these was the height of Sedaseer, indispensable with reference to an early junction, as being the only spot from which the signals, established between the two armies, could be observed.

On the morning of the 5th of March, the very day on which General Harris crossed the frontier, a few tents were descried from the hill of Sedaseer, about nine o'clock, and gradually the pitching of an extensive encampment in advance of Periapatam, and little more than six miles distant, and on further observation, a green tent of large dimensions was perceived, indicating the presence of the Sultaun. the ground at Sedaseer was occupied by a brigade of three native battalions, under Lieutenant-Colonel Montresor, and although the information of trust-worthy spies recently returned from Seringapatam, gave reasonable assurance that the Sultaun, at the time of their departure was still at the Madoor river, and that a detachment under Mahommed Reza, usually called the Binky Nabob constituted the only force west of the river Cavery; General Stuart thought it prudent to send forward another battalion to a convenient position for reinforcing, if it should be necessary, the advanced brigade at Sedaseer.

Early on the morning of the 6th, Major-General Hartley, the second in command, went forward to reconnoitre the enemy's army, which was discovered to be in motion; but their movements were so well concealed by the closeness of the country, that it was impossible to ascertain their precise object, until between the hours of nine and ten, when a simultaneous attack was made on the front and rear of the position; and the battalion destined to reinforce it, was prevented from joining by the intervention of two columns from the right and left, which united in the rear, at the instant of the commencement of the attack in front.

Before the enemy had accomplished this purpose, Major-General Hartley had time to apprise General Stuart of their attack, and remained himself to give any assistance that might be necessary. The best position was immediately assumed, the brigade was completely surrounded on every side, and had to contend with a vast disparity of numbers; the troops were aware that many hours must elapse before they could receive efficient support, but they were also animated by the conviction that aid would ultimately arrive; and maintained their ground with so much cool resolution, that the utmost efforts of the Sultaun's best officers and troops were unable to make any serious impression on these three sepoy battalions.

As soon as General Stuart received intelligence of the perilous situation of his advanced corps, he marched without a moment's hesitation, with the two flank companies of His Majesty's 75th, and the whole of the 77th under Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop. It was half past two before he arrived with his small but most efficient body in sight of the enemy's divisions, which had penetrated to the rear and possessed themselves of the great road leading to Sedaseer. The energy of the attack rendered it of short duration; less than half an hour was sufficient to accomplish the precipitate flight of the Mysoreans through the woods, to join the division which still continued the attack in front. On arriving at Lieuteant-Colonel Montresor's post, General Stuart found his men exhausted with fatigue, and their ammunition almost expended. At twenty minutes past three, the enemy retreated in all directions, and left General Stuart to admire the immoveable steadiness of the native troops in a protracted encounter of nearly six hours, and the energy of the Europeans whom he had led to their aid. The success was materially enhanced in value, by finding on collecting the reports of corps, that his loss was considerably smaller than might have been expected; amounting only to one hundred and forty-three men, while that of the enemy was unusually severe, amounting according to credible reports to upwards of two thousand; a difference, to be ascribed chiefly to a judicious occupation of ground, and a cool reservation of fire in the defensive position; and in the reinforcement, to the effective consequences of a rapid and vigorous encounter.

The raja of Coorg personally accompanied General Stuart, and witnessed for the first time the conduct of European troops in the presence of an enemy. There was a chivalrous air in all that proceeded from this extraordinary man...

... The first impression on the Sultaun's mind, was to renew the attack the following day, with augmented numbers, but in the mean while General Stuart had changed all his dispositions. The chief object for which this advanced post had been occupied, must necessarily cease to exist, during the presence in its front of the Sultaun's main army; and the security of the abundant depot of provisions in the rear, accessible by other routes, rendered necessary a new and more concentrated disposition of the troops: and the evacuation of the post of Sedaseer, afforded to the Sultaun the faint colour of describing as a victory what every officer in his army felt to be an ignominious repulse."

Wilks, Mark Historical Sketches of the South of India in an Attempt to Trace the History of Mysore. Mysore: Government Branch Press, 1930-32 [Reprint 1989] Vol II pp. 702-706 [Originally publ. 1810 in 4 vols.]