Page images
PDF
EPUB

prize; and, during a protracted period of famine and diversified misery elsewhere, not only fed his own garrison, but procured important supplies for the use of the main army, for which he was justly deemed to be the centre of all correct intelligence. The model proposed by the experienced, for the imitation of the young and aspiring; the theme of general applause; honourable in private life, as he was distinguished in public conduct; the barren glory has remained to him of preserving the letters on service, written in Sir Eyre Coote's own hand, full of affectionate attachment and admiration. Colonel Flint is living, and in London, Fancy would associate with the retirement of such a man marks of public approbation and dignified competency; but human affairs too often reflect an inverted copy of the pictures of imagination.'-vol. ii. pp. 264, 265.

The lamentable destruction of Colonel Baillie's corps, from the total incapacity, as it would now seem, of that officer, is thus summed up:

s“ Colonel Baillie, after ordering his fire to cease, went forwards to ask for quarter, by waving his handkerchief; and, supposing acquiescence to be signified, he ordered the Europeans, who to the last moment preserved an undaunted aspect and compact order, to lay down their arms. The enemy, although they at first paused, and received him as a prisoner, after being slightly wounded, perceiving the same unauthorized straggling fire io continue, rushed forwards to an unresisted slaughter. Of eighty-six officers, thirty-six were killed, or died of their wounds, thirty-four were wounded and taken, and sixteen were taken not wounded; the carnage among the soldiers being nearly in the same proportion. Hyder's young soldiers in particular amused them. selves with fleshing their swords, and exhibiting their skill on men already most inhumainly mangled; on the sick and wounded in the doolies; and even on women and children ; and the lower order of horsemen plundered their victims of the last remnant of their clothing; none escaped this brutal treatment, excepting the few who were saved by the humane interposition of the French officers, and particularly Monsieur Pimorin; of the regular French line, who had joined with a small detachment from Mâhê, a short time previous to its capture in 1779; and Monsieur Lally, who has already been introduced to the reader's notice.* It is scarcely necessary to add, that the whole corps, with all its equipments of every description, was irretrievably and totally lost.' vol. ii. pp. 277, 278.

The barbarism of Hyder's mind, and his strange ignorance of

Lally, who had first served with Basûlut Jung, then with Nizam Ali, was disposed about 1778 to try his fortunes with Hyder, who stipulated, for a certain amount of force, to pay him 5,000 rupees a month. The Frenchman, not being able to bring the precise number, received only, as the first month's pay, 2,000 rupees. He demanded an audience, talked loud, and gasconaded, “Be quiet,' said Hyder, and be grateful for getting so much; you have not fulblled your stipulation, and I have overpaid you in proportion to your numbers. I do not give an officer 5,000 rupees a month for the beauty of bis single nose,'

the

the practical effects of civilization, are evinced in the following incident:

Among the prisoners was a son of Colonel Lang, who commanded Vellore, a child rather than a youth, born in India, who was serving as a volunteer. He sent for the boy, and ordered him instantly to write a letter to his father, offering him a splendid establishment, on the condition of surrendering the place, and announcing that his own death would be the result of refusal. The boy at first received the proposition with a cool rejection; but, on being pressed with direct threats, he burst into tears, and addressing Hyder in his own language, “ If you consider me,said he, “ base enough to write such a letter, on what ground can you think so meanly of m; father? It is in your power to present me before the ramparts of Vellore, and cut me into a thousand pieces in my father's presence; but it is out of your power 10 make him a traitor.” The threats were, however, renewed by the attendants in a separate tent, but, being found ineffectual, the child was remanded to the quarters of the other prisoners.'-vol. ii. pp. 280, 281.

Colonel Wilks mentions the cases of two individuals, both well known to him, among the wounded of this unhappy day; the one of which he may well say was remarkable from mere fact; the other sufficiently. so fron characteristic imagination. The first was that of an English artilleryman, of the name of Twig; he had received a sabre wound in the back of the neck, which separated the muscles destined to support the head, and it fell accordingly on his chest.- On being roused by threats and other wounds, this extraordinary man raised his head to its proper position with the aid of. his hands, and, supporting it in this manner, actually performed the march of six miles, and was perfectly cured.'—vol.ii. p. 281. : . The other case was that of Mahommed Booden, commandant of Hyder's artillery.--A cannon shot had grazed the back of the occiput, and numerous exfoliations of the skull, which he describes to have afterwards occurred, seem to evince that the contact was severe. . He fell, and was supposed to be killed, but almost instantly arose, put on his turban, and mounted his horse, and was found to have received no other apparent injury than a small contusion surmounted by a

The escape of this man became a subject of general conversation in Hyder's army; there could be no doubt of his possessing a charm to avert cannon-balls, and the secret must be invaluable. Tippoo sent för bim some days afterwards, and questioned him regarding the charm. He replied, as he always continued to believe, that it was the root of a small plant, which he had purchased from a travelling Hindoo mendicant, to be worn at all times wrapped up in his turban, as an infallible protection to the head. Tippoo desired to see this precious treasure, and, after a deliberate scrutiny, very coolly wrapped it up in his own turban, for the future defence of his own head, regardless of the fate of Mahommed Booden's, who was perfectly aware, that serious re

monstrance

tumour.

[ocr errors]

monstrance would put his head in greater danger than the cannon-balls of the next battle.'—vol. ii. pp. 281, 282.

Though the war, as we have already observed, was entered on by Hyder under the most favourable auspices, and many important advantages were obtained by him, yet they led to no decisive results in bis favour; and, in fact, bis situation, from the period of Sir Eyre Coote's appointment to the command of the army, was daily becoming more critical. He was not insensible of the danger; and on one occasion is said to have thus addressed his confidential minister, Poornea :

I have committed a great error; I have purchased a draught of Seandee at the price of a lac of pagodas; I shall pay dearly for my arrogance : between me and the English there were perhaps mutual grounds of dissatisfaction, but no sufficient cause for war; and I might have made them my friends in spite of Mahommed Ali, the most treacherous of men. The defeat of many Baillies and Braithwaites will not destroy them. I can ruin their resources by land, but I cannot dry up the sea ; and I must be first weary of a war in which I can gain nothing by fighting. I ought to have reflected, that no man of common sense will trust a Mahratta ; and that they themselves do not expect to be trusted. I have been amused by idle expectations of a French force from Europe; but, supposing it to arrive, and to be successful here, I must go alone against the Mahrattas, and incur the reproach of the French for distrusting them; for I dare not admit them in force to Mysoor.'- vol.ii. p. 373.

This is no faint portrait of his mind; a more striking one, however, of the perturbed and gloomy nature of his feelings is furnished by Gholaum Ali, one of his most familiar companions :Gholaum had observed him to start much in his sleep; and, on his waking, took the liberty to ask him of what he had been dreaming ?- My friend,' replied Hyder, the state of a yogee (religious mendicant) is more delightful than my envied monarchy; awake, they see no conspirators; asleep, they dream of no assassins !

In the cavalry of Hyder the officers were fond of exhibiting to the English army a chivalrous spirit, which induced them frequently to approach, individually, within speaking distance of the flanking parties, and give a general challenge to single combat, The manner in which they were answered and silenced is not ill described :

* There was in Sir Eyre Coote's body-guard a young cavalry officer, distinguished for superior military address; on ordinary service always foremost, to the very verge of prudence, but never beyond it; of physical strength, seldom equalled ; on foot, a figure for a sculptor; when mounted

" ho

“ he grew unto his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
As he had been incorpsed and demi-natured

With the brave beast." • In common with the rest of the army, this officer had smiled at the recital of these absurd challenges; but, while reconnoitring on the flank of the column of march, one of them was personally addressed to himself by a horseman, who, from dress and appearance, seemed to be of some distinction. He accepted the invitation, and the requisite pre'cautions were mutually acceded to: they fought; and he slew his antagonist. After this incident, the challenges were frequently addressed, not, as formerly, to the whole army, but to Dallas, whose name became speedily known to them: and, whenever his duty admitted, and his favourite horse was sufficiently fresh, the invitations were accepted, until the Mysoreans became weary of repetition. With a single exception, the result was uniform. On that one occasion, the combatants, after several rounds, feeling a respect for each other, made a significant pause, mutually saluted, and retired. As a fashion among the aspiring young officers, these adventures were not calculated for general adoption; it was found, that, in single combat, the address of a native horseman is seldom equalled by an European.'—vol. ii. pp. 391, 392.

In the course of the year 1782, Hyder's health perceptibly declined; and, in the month of November, symptoms of a disease appeared, known to the Hindoos under the name of the raj-pôra, or royal boil, from its being supposed to be peculiar to persons of rank; by the Mahommedans it is called the crab,' from the fancied resemblance to that animal in the swelling behind the neck, or the upper portion of the back, which is the first indication of this disorder. The united efforts of Hindoo, Mahommedan, and French physicians were of no avail, and he died on the 7th of December. His body was secretly deposited in the tomb of his father at Colar, but was subsequently removed by Tippoo's orders to the superb mausoleum at Seringapatam, which is still endowed and kept up by the English.

The character of Hyder has been pretty well developed by the extracts which we have made from these and the former volumes; but, as we have vow perhaps gone over his bistory for the last time, we shall avail ourselves of Colonel Wilks's information to bring it before our readers under one point of view.

In person he was tall and robust; his neck long, his shoulders broad; his complexion was fair and florid, (as an Indian;) and a prominent and rather aquiline nose and small eyes imparted to his countenance a mixture of sternness and gentleness. He had a mellow and musical voice. His turban, whose various involutions were said to contain one hundred cubits of the most brilliant

let,

scar

. Wilks's Sketches of the South of India. 61 let, overshadowed his shoulders. The rest of his dress was equally magnificent. Fond of show and parade, he was attended, on great occasions, by a retinue of a thousand spearmen splendidly clothed and armed, preceded by bards, who sang his exploits in the Canarese language.

He was a bold and skilful horseman; as a swordsman he was held in high esteem, and as a marksman unrivalled: the volunteers engaged in single combat with the royal tiger were confident of being preserved in the last extremity by the fusil of Hyder from the balcony.

He could neither read nor write any language; and, in making the initial of his name, to serve as his signature on public occasions, either from inaptitude to learn, or for the sake of originality, he inverted its form, and, instead of T, wrote J; but, besides the Hindostanee, he spoke with great fluency five other languages of the peninsula ; and he possessed the extraordinary faculty of listening to the song of a bard, dictating to a moonshee, hearing and answering the report of a spy, and following the recital of a long and complex account of his dewan, or treasurer. Mr. Swartz, who was admitted to his presence, admired the rapid dispatch with which his affairs proceeded; letter after letter was received and read to him, the writers ran, wrote the answer, which he dictated, and Hyder apposed his seal. • He orders,' says the worthy missionary, one man to write a letter and read it to him; then he calls another to read it to him agaio; if the writer has in the least deviated from his orders, bis head pays for it.'

His intercourse with his harem was never permitted to divert him from the most rigid attention to public business: from sunrise till noon he was occupied in the durbar; he then took his first meal, and retired to rest for an hour or two; in the evening he rode out, and then returned to business till near midnight when he made his second meal, drank largely, but secretly, and retired to rest.

He possessed the most disciplined command of his temper : his apparent bursts of anger (according to Colonel Wilks) were systematic, and intended to keep for ever present the terror of his name. He is served,' says Mr. Swartz, through fear : two hundred people with whips stand always ready to use; not a day passes on which numbers are not flogged. Hyder applies the same cat to all transgressors aliker-gentlemen and horsekeepers, tax-gatherers and his own sons. It will hardly be believed, adds this excellent man, what punishments are daily inflicted on the collectors.One of them was tied up, and two men came with their whips and cut him dreadfully; with sharp nails was his flesh torn asunder, and then scourged afresh ; his shrieks- rent the air.'

Yet,

« PreviousContinue »