The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790–1792) was a conflict in South India between the Kingdom of Mysore and the British East India Company, the Kingdom of Travancore, the Maratha Empire, and the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was the third of four Anglo-Mysore Wars.
Tipu Sultan, the monarch of the Kingdom of Mysore, had already fought the British East India Company's armies twice, as had his father Hyder Ali before him. The First Anglo-Mysore War, which took place in the 1760s, ended in a draw on both sides, with treaty terms promising mutual aid in future wars. Hyder disliked the British because of their failure to defend Mysore in fights with the Maratha Empire and other activities that aided Mysore's foes.
The Second Anglo-Mysore War began in 1779, when the British captured the French-controlled port of Mahé. Hyder, who had been receiving military supplies through the port and had placed it under his protection, declared war on the British. The 1784 Treaty of Mangalore, the last British–Indian treaty with an equal Indian ruler, restored the status quo ante bellum on terms that company officials like Warren Hastings found exceedingly unfavorable to the British East India Company. Tipu Sultan, who inherited Mysore after his father died in December 1782, harbored a deep animosity for the British and proclaimed shortly after signing the 1784 Treaty of Amity that if given the chance, he would fight them. One of the treaty's requirements was that British detainees detained during the war be released. Tipu Sultan expanded the Sultanate of Mysore's sphere of influence by strengthening his relationships with Muslim ruler Ali Raja Bibi Junumabe II and the Mappila Muslim population of a region under the Zamorin of the Calicut empire.
In 1786, the East India Company appointed British General Charles, 2nd Earl Cornwallis as Governor-General of India and Commander-in-Chief. While he publicly revoked agreements with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad that breached the conditions of the 1784 treaty, he sought informally to obtain their support, or at the very least their neutrality, in the case of a battle with Mysore.
The corporation took possession of the Circar of Guntur, the southernmost of the Northern Circars, in 1788, after acquiring it under previous deals with the Nizam. The firm offered the Nizam with two battalions of company warriors in exchange. Both of these measures not only brought British forces closer to Mysore, but they also ensured the Nizam's support for the British in the case of a battle.
Since the end of the previous battle, Tipu has been eyeing Travancore for acquisition or conquest. In 1788, indirect attempts to seize control of the kingdom failed, and Archibald Campbell, the president of Madras at the time, warned Tipu that an attack on Travancore would be interpreted as a declaration of war on the company under the Treaty of Mangalore. The rajah of Travancore also enraged Tipu Sultan by building fortifications along the boundary with Cochin into land claimed by Mysore as belonging to its vassal state, and by purchasing two forts in the Kingdom of Cochin, which paid homage to Tipu Sultan, from the Dutch East India Company.
Tipu Sultan dispatched troops to the Malabar Coast in 1789 to quell an uprising. Following Tipu's march, many people fled to Travancore, a kingdom independent of Mysore, and Cochin, a state paying allegiance to Tipu. To keep up with them, Tipu began massing troops in Coimbatore in the fall of 1789 in preparation for an assault on the Nedumkotta, a fortified line of defense built by Travancore's Dharma Raja to safeguard his realm. Observing the build-up, Cornwallis reminded Campbell's successor, John Holland, that an attack on Travancore would be a declaration of war, and would be greeted with a vigorous British response. Tipu, knowing that Holland lacked Campbell's military expertise and that he lacked Campbell and Cornwallis' close relationship (both had served in North America during the American Revolutionary War), thought that this was an excellent time to attack.
Tipu Sultan led a force of 14,000 men from Coimbatore to assault Nedumkotta on December 29, 1789. Tipu was defeated in the first phase, when Travancore soldiers led by Kesava Pillai inflicted heavy losses on Tipu's army and drove them back. While the Mysorean forces and their allies regrouped, Governor Holland chose to negotiate with Tipu rather than mobilize the soldiers, much to Cornwallis' chagrin. Cornwallis was about to go for Madras to assume command when he learned that Holland's replacement, General William Medows, was on his way. Medows ejected Holland violently and began preparing actions against Tipu while bolstering his forces at Trichinopoly.
Medows' Campaign, 1790
Medows was not ready to march until May. Meanwhile, Tipu had renewed his onslaught on Travancore and, despite significant losses sustained by the Tranvancorean army, had successfully broken the Nedumkotta line in late April 1790. The Travancorean army staged a smart retreat to the Periyar River's far bank, reforming and preparing to resist the river's passage. The Mysorean army was unable to cross the river due to monsoon rains, and Tipu retreated from Travancore as news of the British campaign from Madras began to take shape as a serious danger.
Medows devised a two-pronged invasion strategy that included a major thrust against the Coimbatore district and a diversionary thrust into Mysore from the northeast. Due to the lateness of the season (fighting is significantly more difficult during the monsoon season), and the long supply lines from Madras that the plan necessitated, Cornwallis was dissatisfied with the plan. He was, however, willing to give Medows the chance to command on his own.
In late May, Medows relocated out of Trichinopoly. His progress was slowed by bad weather and equipment issues. Tipu had evacuated his major forces to the Mysore highlands, thus he met no resistance. Medows marched uncontested into Coimbatore on July 21, after capturing some of the district's lesser defenses by abandonment or outright surrender of the garrison. Tipu had dispatched 4,000 cavalry under Sayed Sahib to observe and harass his activities; the majority of these were eventually pushed across the Bhavani River by Medows' cavalry. Palghat and Dindigul were two more strongholds in the district that required substantial action to capture.
Despite the fact that the campaign was successful in capturing entire control of the Coimbatore area, Medows had to divide his forces in order to maintain it, with the major detachments stationed at Coimbatore, Palghat, and Sathyamangalam. When Tipu launched his counterattack, Bengal's onslaught and a third from Bombay were both late in getting started.
Tipu Sultan led a 40,000-man army out of Srirangapatnam on September 2nd. Beginning on September 9th, he began descending the mountain passes on his way to Sathyamangalam. Captain John Floyd, the garrison commander, chose to leave after the 2,800-man garrison there resisted an initial attack by Tipu's force on 13 September. They crossed the Bhavani River at night and went for Coimbatore. Heavy rains hindered Tipu's progress, so he dispatched 15,000 cavalry to pursue him. These ultimately caught up with Floyd's baggage train, capturing much of it, and continued to pursue the exhausted garrison. As they camped in Cheyoor that evening, Tipu's army unleashed its whole fury on them. The infantry held a heroic stand against successive assaults, and it was until the arrival of reinforcements supplied by Medows that they were rescued.
Tipu then launched a campaign of harassment against British supply and communications while keeping a close eye on his main force's movements. He successfully fooled Medows in early November, moving a large portion of his army north to assault the Bengal force. Colonel Maxwell's army of roughly 9,000 troops had arrived in Kaveripattinam and had reinforced his position. Tipu withdrew to the south on 14 November after learning that Medows was on his tail again, unable to breakthrough the defenses. On November 17, Medows and Maxwell teamed up to chase Tipu, who had decided to make a move toward Trichinopoly. Tipu proceeded on a rampage through the Carnatic, demolishing villages and stealing supplies as he went, unable to do more than pillage the town before Medows arrived. He wound up at the French enclave of Pondicherry, where he tried to persuade the French to help him fight the British. These efforts were completely futile because France was still in the early phases of its revolution at the time. At this point, Medows led his army to Madras, where he handed over command to Lord Cornwallis.
As indicated by his personal letters, Tipu Sultan had converted the fights against the British, Kerala, and the Marathas into a religious conflict. He slaughtered thousands of Hindus and Christians, including women and children, and destroyed churches, Hindu temples, and even synagogues. Tipu Sultan is a divisive character who has been chastised for repressing Hindus and Christians. Massacres, incarceration, forced conversion, and circumcision of Hindus (Kodavas of Coorg and Nairs of Malabar) and Christians (Catholics of Mangalore) as well as the destruction of churches and temples are described in various sources as proof of his religious intolerance. He also broke his promises to treat and release prisoners of war humanely, as evidenced by the fact that he executed a local monarch who had submitted to him and had his body hauled through the city, according to a chronicler. Many Christian missionaries witnessed him torturing and destroying local Christians' churches and temples.
Purseram Bhow's Maratha army of 30,000 men, backed by a detachment of British troops from Bombay, began moving into Mysore in the summer of 1790. In the face of the massive force, the first few Mysorean outposts surrendered, and the army made steady if slow progress until it reached Darwar in September. For 29 weeks, the fort was besieged poorly and indifferently, with the garrison finally surrendering on 3 April 1791. After that, the troops pressed on, reaching the Tungabhadra River in early May.
In January 1791, a second army led by Hurry Punt and consisting of 25,000 cavalry and 5,000 infantry, aided by a contingent of British soldiers from the Madras army, departed Poona and arrived in Kurnool without encountering significant resistance. Punt hurried to meet with the Nizam, who had refrained from crossing into Mysore for fear of Tipu's massive army overwhelming him before it could be connected to one of the other allies. Hurry Punt withdrew out of Kurnool on 28 May after learning that Cornwallis had conquered Bangalore and was heading toward the Mysorean capital, Srirangapatnam.
The Nizam's army moved on Koppal, which they besieged in October 1790, headed by Mahabat Jung. The siege was hampered by low-quality artillery, and the siege was not successfully finished until April 1791.
British Take the Malabar Coast
British forces succeeded in taking control of the Malabar Coast late in 1790. One force under Colonel Hartley gained a decisive victory at Calicut in December, while a second under Robert Abercromby routed the Sultan at Cannanore a few days later.
Nawab of Savanur
Territory associated with the Nawab of Savanur were lost to the Maratha Confederacy. Such events caused mistrust between the English and the agenda of the Peshwa.
Cornwallis' initial objective was to capture Bangalore, a stronghold that would serve as a basis for future attacks against Seringapatam. He believed that this would prompt the allies to increase their efforts. Tipu prepared considerable provisions for a scorched-earth campaign in the Mysore highlands, anticipating that he would participate in a scorched-earth campaign. He also kept a large number of elephants to help with the transport of supplies and heavy artillery.
On January 29, 1791, Cornwallis seized command of the main Company force at Vellore. He marched west a week later, as if passing through the Eastern Ghats at that time. This drove Tipu to flee Pondicherry and rush to Bangalore, where he believed his harem was in jeopardy. Despite Tipu's defenses on several of the crossings, Cornwallis turned abruptly north after a series of feints and entered the mountains at the Muglee Pass on February 21 against no opposition. He then continued to advance, encountering little resistance, until he was almost at Bangalore's gates on March 5th. As Cornwallis began siege efforts, Tipu strengthened the city and provisioned the garrison, but he stayed with his main army on the outside of the Company fortifications. After a six-week siege during which the Company had to continually repel Tipu's attacks and skirmishes, the citadel was successfully seized.
After conquering Bangalore, Cornwallis directed his force north to meet a supply caravan and the Nizam's army on April 12, around 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Bangalore. Cornwallis returned to Bangalore and found the Nizam's troops to be unusually unhelpful. He had thought that adding native cavalry to the army would help to balance Tipu's superiority in that area, but the Nizam's men, led by Teige Wunt, were more interested in plundering and surviving off the army's supplies than foraging and scouting against Tipu.
Before going on to Seringapatam, the Company launched a series of operations to secure the majority of the territory around Bangalore. Tipu promised Cornwallis a combat at a ford near Arakere as he was looking for a place to cross the Cauvery River. Cornwallis flanked Tipu's position on the 15th of May, forcing him to flee behind Seringapatam's walls. Cornwallis made the tough decision on May 22 to demolish his siege train and flee because the Marathan forces were supposedly not nearby, and it appeared improbable that Abercromby would come with the Malabar soldiers, and his army was on the verge of hunger. The Maratha army arrived three days later, Tipu having successfully stopped most of the Maratha messengers from reaching Cornwallis before then.
Cornwallis' retreat to Bangalore left Tipu's soldiers in control of the Coimbatore district. Coimbatore was besieged by 2,000 Mysorean forces on June 11th. Despite having less than 300 soldiers with inferior gunpowder, Lieutenant Chalmers, the garrison commander, disobeyed Cornwallis' orders to withdraw if attacked in force and decided to fight. In August, he launched a sortie and successfully captured the defenders' supply train, thanks to reinforcements from Palgautcherry. A further 8,000 Mysoreans arrived, but Chalmers held out until November 6th. Chalmers and his troops were taken prisoner in violation of the surrender agreements.
Purseram Bhow and Teige Wunt's forces deserted the great army after the allied withdrawal to Bangalore to seek territorial gains in Mysore's northern kingdoms. Purseram Bhow, who wanted to retake the Bednore district that Tipu's father, Hyder, had won in a previous war, took Hooly Honore and Shimoga, despite the fact that British forces attached to his army did much of the heavy lifting. Only the fear of a detachment from Tipu's army kept him from laying siege to the city of Bednore. Bhow did not rejoin the grand army until after the Seringapatam peace talks had begun.
While Commodore William Cornwallis, the earl's younger brother, was fighting in the naval Battle of Tellicherry, Charles spent the rest of 1791 protecting his supply lines to Madras. In November, he besieged Nundydroog, then in December, he besieged Savendroog, both of which surrendered after surprisingly small efforts. He also authorized a large supply operation to ensure that his and the allies' armies would have enough supplies and pay. Spies were dispatched to Tipu's encampment, and he began to get more trustworthy reports on the latter's troop strength and disposition.
Cornwallis' relationships with the allies were strained. Purseram Bhow and Hurry Punt, the Marathan military leaders, had to be bribed to stay with the army, while Cornwallis described the Hyderabadi men as a "disorderly rabble" and "not very creditable to the condition of military discipline at Hyderabad," according to one British observer.
Sir Cornwallis proceeded from Savendroog toward Seringapatam on January 25, while Abercromby advanced from the Malabar Coast once more. Despite the fact that Tipu's troops harassed the column, they did not obstruct its movement. To safeguard the supply line from Bangalore, Cornwallis erected a chain of outposts. On the 5th of February, when the vast army approached the plains near Seringapatam, Tipu began blasting the force with rockets. To dislodge Tipu from his trenches, Cornwallis launched a nighttime attack. Tipu's forces were flanked, and he fled into the city, prompting Cornwallis to begin siege operations. On the 12th of February, Abercromby and the Bombay army arrived, and Tipu's noose began to tighten. Tipu began making peace efforts on the 23rd of February, and hostilities were paused the next day when he agreed to basic terms.
One of the preliminary terms that Cornwallis insisted on was Tipu's surrendering two of his sons as hostages as a guarantee that he would carry out the agreed-upon terms. His two young kids were solemnly presented to Cornwallis on February 26th, amid considerable ceremony and gun salutes from both sides. Cornwallis, who was neither interested in expanding the company's holdings or handing over most of Mysore to the Mahrattas and Hyderabad, negotiated a partition of one-half of Mysorean territory, to be divided by the allies, in which the company's acquisition would bolster its defenses. "If we had seized Seringapatam and slain Tippoo, we would have had to either relinquish that capital to the Marathas (a terrible boon) or set up some dismal show of our own, supported by the Company's army and treasures, and robbed by its servants," he later wrote. Mysore lost most of its coastline as a result of the captured regions, and it was also compelled to pay some of the allied war costs.
Tipu consented to the demands and signed the Treaty of Seringapatam on March 18, 1792, putting a stop to the fighting.
The conflict resulted in the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Travancore, and the Madras Presidency gaining control of Mysore's boundaries. The Madras Presidency was given the districts of Malabar, Salem, Bellary, and Anantapur.
In 1799, the British and Mysore waged a fourth and last battle in which Seringapatam was captured and Tipu was died defending it. Rather than splitting the land, the victorious forces exiled Tipu's family and returned Mysore to the Wadiyars.
The employment of mass attacks with rocket brigades, known as cushoons, in the army was one major military accomplishment championed by Tipu Sultan. During the Third and Fourth Mysore Wars, the cushoons' weapons impressed the British enough to inspire William Congreve to build Congreve rockets.
For his achievements throughout the war, Cornwallis was given the title of Marquess, and the local Indian soldiers under his leadership were given the Mysore Medal.