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Art. II. Historical Sketches of the South of India ; in an At
tempt to trace the History of Mysuor; from the Origin of the Hindoo Government of that State to the Extinction of the Mahomedan Dynasty in 1799. By Colonel Mark Wilks. Vols.
ii. and iii. London. 1817. MORE
CORE than seven years have now elapsed since the appearance
of the first volume of these · Historical Sketches;' from which, in our Eleventh Number, we traced the progress of that extraordinary character Hyder Ali from his twenty-seventh year, when known only as Hyder Saheb, a profligate, disorderly vagabond, to his elevation to the rank of Hyder Naick, or Hyder the Corporal; thence to that of Futté Hyder Behauder;—to the dignity of Nabob of Sera, and finally to his adoption of the title of Hyder Ali Khan Behauder: we followed him in his career to the complete usurpation of the government of Mysore in 1767, when he took possession of the palace of Seringapatam, keeping as a mere pageant, in close confinement and under the eye of his own agents, the legitimate raja, then a boy of eighteen years of age.
We shall now return to the conclusion of our former Article and, with Colonel Wilks, resume the narrative at the period of Hyder's assumption of the real power of the state. The details into which the author enters are somewhat minute and tedious, and, as far as regards the local disputes, the petty intrigues, the disgraceful traffic on all sides in treaties made only to be broken, have now lost most of their interest. We shall, therefore, contine ourselves chiefly to those transactions in which Hyder and his son Tippoa were personally concerned, the one in labouring to establish, the other in overturning, the Mahomedan dynasty of Mysore.
Hyder had no sooner sat down in Seringapatam, than he learned that a confederacy was carrying on between the Nizam Ali, Mahomed Ali, and the English, in concert with the Mahrattas, for the conquest of Mysore. He was well aware that every confederacy of the Mahrattas, with whatever power, had uniformly two distinct objects--plunder during the confederacy, and exclusive possession after its close. His knowledge of the Mahratta force, and his experience of the talents of Madoo Row, by whom it was directed, determined him not to risk his own army beyond the protection of the capital, and to have recourse to a new mode of defence and of impeding the enemy's progress. Accordingly, the most peremptory orders were issued to all his officers, civil and military, to break down the embankments of the reservoirs, on the approach of the Mahratta army; to poison the wells with milk-hedge (euphorbia tiraculli); to burn all the forage, even to the thatch of the houses ;
to bury the grain; to drive off the wulsa* (the whole population) and the cattle to the woods; and to leave to the Mahrattas neither forage, water, nor food. Such a scheme, Colonel Wilks observes, however efficacious it might prove against a regular army, is futile against the overwhelming mass of a genuine Mahratta invasion ; which, instead of moving in regular columns, whose route and intentions
may be foreseen and counteracted, covers the whole face of the country, and almost divests of poetic fiction the Mahomedan illustration which compares it to a cloud of locusts. It may tress, but cannot stop them; for as Colonel Wilks justly observes, forage exists independently of dry straw; the cavalry, even of an English army, subsists on the roots of grass; the sudden and unwilling exertions of a district can neither destroy nor poison all its reservoirs : the discovery of buried grain has become a practical trade; and, finally, the iuhabitants cannot retire where they cannot be pursued and found.' In fact, Hyder was soon convinced of his mistake by the surrender of the fort and district of Sera; and he was wise enough to have immediate recourse to negociation, and to purchase the retreat of the Mahrattas for thirty-five lacs of rupees.
About the same period Hyder discovered a source of domestic danger, which it was necessary for his safety to get rid of. His old benefactor Nunjerai, whom he had placed at Mysore, had entered into secret negociations with Mâdoo Row and Nizam Ali, to subvert the usurpation of Hyder, and restore the Hindoo government, or rather to revive his own previous usurpation. He, tberefore, sent repeated messages to Nunjerai, requiring his presence and counsel at Seringapatam; but the wary old man, before he consented to proceed, exacted the most sacred obligation by which a mussulman can be bound, that his own guards should accompany and remain with him, and that no change should be made, excepting in the place of his abode; and two confidential friends of Hyder were sent to confirm and guarantee his promises by an oath on the Koran : this oath, however, did not secure Nunjerai. On his arrival at Seringapatam his guards were seized ;. his jagheer resumed; and he was supplied, thenceforwards, as a state-prisoner, with the mere necessaries of life. • The splendid cover on which this sacred oath had been confirmed, enveloped no more than a simple book of blank paper; and it was thus by a solemn mockery of the religion which they both professed, that Hyder and his casuists reconciled to themselves the double crime of a false oath
upon a false Koran.'
* The misery occasioned by this word of horror is explained in Vol. VI. p. 106 of our Review.
In the campaign which almost immediately followed the retreat of the Mahrattas, Hyder had a decided advantage over the military dispositions of the English, which were without plan and without concert; and it closed with a transaction as dishonourable to that government which was the cause of it, as it was disastrous to our brave countrynien in arms. Captain Nixon, with his little party, in endeavouring to force his way to a small post, was attacked by the whole of Hyder's army, consisting of two deep columns of infantry, and a body of about 12,000 horse, which moved with the utmost rapidity to envelope and destroy him. The English detachment perceived the overwhelming torrent, but reserved their fire till the enemy's column was within twenty yards, when the little band of heroes, fifty in number, first gave their fire, then rushed in with the bayonet, broke the column opposed to them, and caused it to fly with the utmost precipitation: the cavalry pow came up, and, as might be expected, not an officer or man, European or native, escaped without a wound, with the single exception of Lieutenant Goreham, who was saved by being able to speak the language. Hyder hurried this handful of prisoners before the walls of Eroad, into which he sent a summons, translated by Lieutenant Goreham, demanding the surrender of the place, and inviting Captain Orton, who commanded, to come out, and arrange the conditions, on a promise that, if they could not agree on the terms, he should be sent back to defend the place. Colonel Wilks thinks the report must be true that this officer had dined when he accepted this strange invitation.' Captain Robinson had been appointed the second in command at this place, though he had given his parole the preceding year not to serve during the war. Hyder knew this, and made it an excuse for not observing his promise to Captain Orton, who was prevailed on, probably by torture, to sign an order for the surrender of the place, which Robinson was weak enough to obey. This officer, it'seems, was not immediately hanged on a tree, as was reported, but died in prison. “It is not the justice of the sentence,' says Colonel Wilks, but the truth of the fact that is in question. The fate of Caveriporam was decided by this dereliction of duty and honour. Captain Faisan capitulated on the condition of being sent, with the whole of his garrison, as prisoners on parole, to Trichinopoly; but Hyder's casuistry maintaining the justice of retaliation to the degree which suited his own purpose, sent them, together with the garrison of Eroad, to the dungeons of Seringapatam, in return for an individual violation of a parole of honour.
Hyder, having now recovered all his possessions, had the moderation, perhaps it may be called the sound policy, to make peace with the weak and corrupt government of Madras, which left bim
VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXV.
at liberty to prosecute the war against the Mahrattas. He was not, however, fully prepared for the contest; and was therefore compelled to retrace his steps with the utmost precipitation. One evening, during the retreat, while overcome by a kind of drunken stupor, he sent repeated messages to Tippoo to take his station in front; but Tippoo was no where to be found. On making his appearance at dawn of day, 'Hyder not only accosted him in a strain of the lowest scurrility; but in a paroxysm of brutal rage, seized a large cane from the hand of one of his attendants, and gave him a most unmerciful beating.' On reaching the head of his division, Tippoo indignantly dashed his sword and turban on the ground, exclaiming, ‘My father may fight his own battle ; for I swear by Alla and his prophet that I will draw no sword to-day! and for once he kept his oath.
In his retreat Hyder's army was greatly annoyed by the Mahratta cavalry, which covered the surface of the country in every direction. Approaching the hills of Chercoolee, about eleven miles from Seringapatanı, a shot struck a tumbril which exploded, and, communicating with several camel loads of rockets, occasioned a general panic. • Under its unreflecting impulse,' says our bistorian, every one, as if by common consent, began to press through the crowd to gain the hill; orders were no longer heard ; the confusion was irretrievable ; and the Mahratta horse charged in, on the three remaining faces of the square. The rest was a scene of unresisted slaughter; and, happily for Hyder, of promiscuous plunder; with which every one was too much occupied to think of straggling fugitives.'
When Tippoo, in the early part of the day, had thrown down his sword and turban, he had also disrobed himself of his outer garment of cloth and gold, tied a coloured handkerchief about his head, and appeared in the character of a travelling mendicant, the son of a fakeer, attended by his faithful friend Syed Mahommed; who begged his way, as the servant of the youth, through the mass of the spoilers and the spoiled, and conveyed him in safety to Seringapatam. Hyder, having given him up for lost, had remained at a mosque without the walls, refusing to enter his capital, and exclaiming passionately, ' God gave him, and God hath taken him away!
Though the panic, as we have said, was general, examples were not wanting of individual bravery in resisting the charge of the Mahratta horse. Lalla Meân, whose daughter Tippoo afterwards married, made a most gallant defence at the head of his corps, and refused to receive quarter. Being desperately wounded he was at length taken ; and accelerated his own death by the indignant fury with which he rushed to seize a Mahratta horseman who had ļaunted him with the wounds which he himself had given him.
• An English gentleman commanded one of the corps, and was most severely wounded, after a desperate resistance : others in the same unhappy situation met with friends, or persons of the same sect, to procure for them the rude aid offered by Indian surgery; the Englishinan was destitute of this poor advantage; his wounds were washed with simple warm water, by an attendant boy, three or four times a day; and under this novel system of surgery, they recovered with a rapidity not exceeded under the best hospital treatment.'-vol. ii. p. 147. This · English gentleman' is the person distinguished by the name of Walking Stuart, who, after the lapse of half a century, is still alive, and still, we believe, walking daily, in the neighbourhood of the Haymarket and Charing Cross.
Hyder's old friend and associate Fuzzul Oolla Khan, to whom he owed his aggrandizement, is stated to be the only person who conducted himself with judgment and entire self-possession on this unfortunate day. But Fuzzul Oolla was now in disgrace; he had stipulated, in the hour of his prosperity, for the singular distinction of sitting on the same musnud, and having two honorary attendants standing behind him, with fans composed of the downy feathers of the humma. Hyder's new friends, the Nevayets, prevailed on him to send a message to Fuzzul Oolla intimating that he must now discontinue these privileges as incompatible with bis master's rank and title of Nabob. Indignant at the message, he replied, “The morechal (fan) is no more than a handful of useless feathers, but it has been the constant associate of my head, and they shall not be separated; he who takes one shall have both: in the pride of my youth I stipulated for one of the side pillows of the musnud; and I have not disgraced the distinction. Instead of depriving me of that one, it wouid have been more gracious, as well as more necessary, to prop up my age and infirmities by a second. There is a simple mode of obeying the mandate-I will never again enter a court where benefits are forgotten.'
On his return to Seringapatam, Hyder sent to demand from him eight lacs of pagodas; the requisition was not unexpected, and Fuzzul Oolla ordered his sister, who presided over his family in the fort, to give up, without reservation, every rupee he possessed : during the remainder of his miserable life he subsisted by selling a few articles of camp-equipage, horses and household furniture which were not swept off in the general plunder. He died, says Colonel Wilks, in a wretched pâl, or private tent, a patched remnant of his former splendour! An humble tomb, erected by the pious care of his family, marks the precise spot on which he received the order of degradation; and where, according to his solemn injunctions, they received his last breath, and deposited his earthly remains.'- vol. ii. p. 154. D 2