« IndietroContinua »
in the Mediterranean which so soon after expelled the CHAP.
XLIX. French from Egypt; and the fleet was afloat which was to dissolve, by the cannon of Nelson, the northern coalition. The efforts of Lord Cornwallis had been directed against
25. the northern face of the fortress of Seringapatam ; and CommenceTippoo, anticipating an attack in the same quarter, had siege, and
able preligreatly strengthened the defences in that direction. These
minary preparations, however, were rendered altogether unavail-movement ing by the able movement of General Harris, previous to Harris. taking up his ground before the town, in suddenly crossing the Cavery by a neglected ford, and appearing before its southern front — a quarter in which the country was not yet ravaged, the fortifications in a comparatively neglected state, and the communication with the Bombay army direct and easy. The camp was formed opposite to the south-western side of the fortress; the army from Bombay effected its junction on the 14th ; and the ap- April 14. proaches were conducted with great vigour. In the course of these operations, much annoyance was experienced from an advanced post of the Sultaun's, placed on a rocky eminence near the walls, from whence a destructive fire, chiefly with rockets, was kept up on the parties working in the trenches. In order to put a stop to this harassing opposition, an attack on the post during the night was resolved on, and intrusted to Colonel Wellesley and Colonel Shaw. This nocturnal encounter would be of little importance, were it not rendered remarkable by a circumstance as rare,
1 Wel. Desp. as it is memorable, and worthy of being recorded for the i. 534, 540,
Gurw. i. 23, encouragement of young officers exposed to early disaster 25. -a failure by Wellington.* heard during that time, and Colonel Wellesley made the attack, which proved successful. “I was a little annoyed,” said the Duke, in London, in 1823, "at the time, that this circumstance was not noticed by Harris in his official despatches, but I now see he was quite right not to mention it."
* The historical reader will recollect the parallel discomfiture of Frederick the Great at his first essay in arms at the battle of Mollwitz, which was gained by his lieutenants after he had abandoned the field. But there was this difference, that Frederick fairly ran away, whereas Wellington was merely borne back in the rush of his defeated followers, and was one of the last of the party that re-entered the camp. See Ranke, Geschichte der Staat. Prussien, i. 371, 372.
Both divisions marched a little after it was dark. Colonel Shaw succeeded in getting possession of a ruined
village, within forty yards of the aqueduct from whence A nocturnal the firing issued ; but Colonel Wellesley, on reaching the Col. Welles. rocky eminence, near the Sultanpettah Tope, was assailed ley is repulsed.
on all sides with so severe a fire that both the 33d regi-
proceeded at midnight to the general's tent, at first much agitated; but, finding the general not ready to receive him, he retired, threw himself on the table of the tent, and fell asleep-a fact in such a moment singularly characteristic of the imperturbable spirit of the future hero of Torres Vedras. † General Harris next morning drew out the troops for a second attack, and at first offered the command to General Baird, as Colonel Wellesley had not yet come up to the parade, from having been detained at the adjutant-general's office ; but, on second thoughts, he said it was but fair to give Colonel Wellesley another trial -a proposal in which that generous officer, Baird, after
having turned his horse to take the command, at once and Weil Desp
. cordially acquiesced. Accordingly, at ten next morning, 3.799, 1,634, Colonel Wellesley, with the Scottish brigade and two batwood, 1,23, talions of sepoys, again advanced against the Tope, which ton's Life of was soon carried in gallant style ; while Colonel Shaw, at Harris, 297,
the same time, drove the Mysoreans from their post on the side of the ruined village. But for this circumstance,
* The 33d regiment and a native battalion, under Colonel Wellesley, were ordered to be in readiness at sunset on the 5th.–GURWOOD, i. 22. This is erroneously denied in Lushington, 476.
+ “When they arrived back, Colonel Wellesley proceeded to headquarters to report what had happened; but, finding that General Harris was not yet awake, he threw himself on the top of the dinner-table, and, worn out with fatigue and anxiety of mind, fell asleep.”—M'KENZIE's Narrative, who was with Wellington on the occasion.—Hook, i. 193. This fact is erroneously denied in Lushington's Life of Harris.
and the elevation of mind which prompted both General CHAP. Harris and General Baird to overlook this casual failure, and intrust the next attack to the defeated officer, the
1799. fate of the world might have been different, and the star of the future conqueror of Napoleon extinguished in an obscure nocturnal encounter in an Indian watercourse. *
The approaches to the fortress being much facilitated by this success, the operations of the siege were con- Assault of
Seringa ducted with great rapidity. Several formidable sallies of the Mysore infantry and horse were repulsed by the steadiness of the besiegers' infantry, and the great vigilance exhibited everywhere in the trenches, the most exposed parts of which were under Colonel Wellesley's direction. At length, on the 30th April, the breaching April 30. batteries opened on one of the bastions, which was soon shaken by a severe cross-fire from different sides ; the curtain on the right was ere long levelled ; a great magazine of rockets blew up in the town on the morning of the 2d May, and spread terror and devastation far and wide by its tremendous explosion. Early on the morning of the 4th, the troops destined for the assault were placed May 4. in the trenches; and the hour of one o'clock in the afternoon was chosen for the attack, when the sultry heat usually disposed the Asiatics to repose. Two thousand five hundred Europeans, and two thousand natives, formed the storming party, under the command of General Baird. That heroic officer was resolved to conquer or die. “ Either," said he to Colonel Agnew,“ we succeed to-morrow, or you never see me more.” The assailants had a fearful prospect
General, afterwards Sir David Baird, in particular, delicately and cordially agreed to the suggestion that Colonel Wellesley should be intrusted with the second attack; an instance of magnanimity in a superior officer—who might, if actuated by selfish feelings, bave been anxious rather to throw into the shade a rival for the honours of the siege-worthy of the highest admiration. This fact is mentioned in Hook's Memoirs of Sir David Baird, and some doubt is thrown upon it in Gurwood's Despatches of Wellington; though that officer admits that Baird's elevated character was perfectly capable of so honourable a course. But, for the honour of human nature, the author is happy to be
1 Baird's Life, i. 199,
CHAP. before them, for two-and-twenty thousand veteran troops
composed the garrison, and the bastions, of uncommon 1799. strength, were armed with two hundred and forty pieces
of cannon. “ Follow me, my brave fellows, and prove 202. Wel yourselves worthy of the name of British soldiers,” was Desp. i. 697,
the brief address of that noble officer to his gallant followers, as, leaping sword in hand out of the trenches, he descended with the calmness of heroic courage the slope which led to the rocky bed of the Cavery, and which required to be crossed before the foot of the breach was reached. He was rapidly followed by the forlorn hope, which led the host, and was immediately succeeded by the assaulting column in close array. But before they reached the breach, the enemy were at their post, and equally resolute with the assailants. When Tippoo saw the British cross the Cavery, he said, without changing colour, to those around him, “ We have arrived at the
last stage: what is your determination ?” “To die along Of. Desp. with you,” was the unanimous reply. All was ready for toe1927. the defence, every battery was manned, and from every ries Desene bastion and gun which bore on the assailants a close and Ibid., 1: 699. deadly fire was directed, which speedily thinned their
ranks, and would have caused any other troops to recoil.* 206, 207.
On, however, the British rushed, followed by their brave i. 297, 298. allies, through the deadly storm. In five minutes the
river was crossed, in five more the breach was mounted ;
able to give it an entire confirmation, having repeatedly heard the anecdote
*“ At one o'clock the troops moved from the breaches, and crossed the rocky bed of the Cavery under an extremely heavy fire, passed the glacis and ditch, and ascended the breaches in the faussebraye and rampart in the most gallant manner.”_HARRIS to LORD MORNINGTON, 7th May 1799.
a crimson torrent streamed over the ruin ; a sally on the CHAP. flank of the assaulting column by a chosen body of Tippoo's guards was repulsed ; and as Baird was leading his men up the entangled steep, a loud shout and the waving of the British colours on its summits announced that the fortress was won, and the capital of Mysore fallen.
But here an unexpected obstacle occurred—the summit of the breach was separated from the interior of the works Desperate by a wide ditch, filled with water, and at first no means of the Mosque. crossing it appeared. At length, however, Baird discovered some planks which had been used by the workmen in getting over it to repair the rampart, and, himself leading the way, this formidable obstacle was surmounted. Straightway dividing his men into two columns, under Colonels Sherbrooke and Dunlop, this heroic leader soon swept the ramparts both to the right and left. The brave Asiatics were by degrees forced back-Tippoo being the last man who quitted the traverses—though not without desperate resistance, to the Mosque, where a dreadful slaughter took place. The remains of the garrison were there crowded together in a very narrow space, having been driven from the ramparts by Sherbrooke's and Dunlop's columns, and jammed together in the neighbourhood of the Mosque, where they long maintained their ground under a dreadful cross-fire of musketry, till almost the whole had fallen. The remnant at length surrendered, with two of Tippoo's sons, when the firing had ceased at other points. The Sultaun himself, who had endeavoured to escape at one of the gates of the town which was assaulted by the sepoys, was some time afterwards found dead under a Desp. i.
Wel. Desp. heap of several hundred slain, composed in part of the principal officers of his palace, who had been driven into Harris's
Desp. May the confined space round the Mosque. He was shot by 7, 1799. a private soldier when stretched on his palanquin, after Hook's Life having been wounded and having had his horse killed 206, 209. under him ;1 while Baird, who for three years had been 29, 33. detained a captive in chains in his dungeons, had the