Anglo-Mysore Wars Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Anglo-Mysore Wars destroyed the power of the last state in the south of India, Mysore, to oppose the British East India Company. At the end of the wars Mysore became an ally of the company as part of the subsidiary alliance system, and the city of Bangalore became an important British military base in the south of India.

Summary of Event

The Anglo-Mysore Wars were part of the long-term expansion of the British in South Asia between 1757, when they took control of Bengal Bengal, India and northern India, and 1849, when they captured the Punjab. Because British power in India depended on access to the sea, the British were eager to gain control of the Mysorean coastline. British expansion in southern India was also designed to prevent any French return to India. The French had been defeated in India by 1761, but their potential return was perceived by the British as a threat to be guarded against. [kw]Anglo-Mysore Wars (Aug., 1767-May, 1799) [kw]Wars, Anglo-Mysore (Aug., 1767-May, 1799) [kw]Mysore Wars, Anglo- (Aug., 1767-May, 1799) Anglo-Mysore Wars (1767-1799) British India British East India Company Mysore Wars (1767-1799) [g]India;Aug., 1767-May, 1799: Anglo-Mysore Wars[1850] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Aug., 1767-May, 1799: Anglo-Mysore Wars[1850] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Aug., 1767-May, 1799: Anglo-Mysore Wars[1850] [c]Colonization;Aug., 1767-May, 1799: Anglo-Mysore Wars[1850] Hyder Ali Tipu Sultan Hastings, Warren Cornwallis, first marquess Wellesley, Richard Coote, Sir Eyre

The First Anglo-Mysore War (August, 1767-April, 1769) occurred when Hyder Ali, the de facto ruler of Mysore, recognized that the British represented a threat to his sovereignty since they had captured the Northern Sarkars from the French in 1758. He made a preemptive attack on the British East India Company in August of 1767. Even though Hyderabad withdrew from their alliance with Mysore, Hyder Ali pushed the British back to the city of Madras and forced the British to sign an alliance with Mysore, which they also failed to honor.

By 1780, Hyder Ali was at the height of his power, but the British had a different level of power than they had in 1769, because the Regulating Act of 1773 had unified Bengal, Bombay, Bombay, India and Madras Madras, India under the rule of a British governor general. Three successive governors general—Warren Hastings, the First Marquess Cornwallis, and Richard Wellesley—were determined to expand British power and to destroy Mysore.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this increase in British power, in 1780, Hyder Ali invaded the Carnatic with some ninety thousand troops under his personal command, beginning the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-1784). Hyder Ali’s lieutenants in the invasion were his son, Tipu Sultan, and a French officer named Lally, possibly related to the late comte de Lally. Tipu had been incensed by the British capture in 1779 of the French settlement at Mahe, which lay within Hyder’s territory, as well as by the British betrayal of Mysore in 1771, when the Marāthās had attacked and the British had failed to honor their alliance. More recently, the British had flouted Mysorean sovereignty by marching across Mysore’s territory without seeking permission.

Hyder was besieging Arcot when he learned through his military spies (harkaras) that the British colonel Baillie was camped at Pullalur. On September 10, 1780, Hyder and Tipu with the cavalry, and Lally with the artillery, attacked, annihilating the British. Out of a force of 3,853 men, 50 officers and 200 Europeans were captured; the rest were killed or fled for their lives. Baillie died in captivity. Hector Munro, commanding another British force at Conjeevaram, fled in panic to Madras. Arcot fell on October 31, and Hyder also captured Ambur, Sargur, and Tyagar. He celebrated his great victory with a wall-to-wall mural of the battle in his summer palace at Seringapatam, the “Baillie-Lally Yudh.”

When news of the disaster reached Bengal, Governor General Hastings sent another army under the command of Sir Eyre Coote to Madras by sea, with support dispatched simultaneously by land. Hastings also secured alliances with the Marāthās and Hyderabad against Mysore. At battles in 1781 at Porto Novo—where Hyder lost more than ten thousand men—Wandiwash, Sholinghur, and Arni, Hyder suffered huge losses of men and equipment, but the British were unable to crush him or remove him from the Carnatic. On February 18, 1782, Tipu routed the British on the Coleroon River. Hyder retired to Arcot and died on December 7, 1782. The war continued under Tipu but concluded with the Treaty of Mangalore Mangalore, Treaty of (1784) on March 11, 1784, which resulted in the mutual restoration of British and Mysorean territory.

The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-1792) began after Cornwallis engineered alliances with the nizam of Hyderabad and the Marāthās in 1788 in order to isolate Tipu, provoke him to war, and attack him on three fronts at once. Tipu, taking the bait, invaded Travancore, an ally of the British, in 1789, giving Cornwallis the excuse he sought to launch another war. In the east between May and July, 1790, the British captured frontier posts and the great fortress of Coimbatore. In the west, they occupied Satyamangalam, and in the south they captured the stronghold of Dindigul on August 22. In September, they captured the crossroads town of Palghat and were poised to march into the Mysorean heartland.

Tipu finally returned to Seringapatam and mobilized some forty thousand men. On September 9, he reached the Gajalhatti Pass, descended in a sudden, silent, and skilful attack, and left five hundred dead. The British fell back to Coimbatore, while Tipu recovered a great deal of his territory. The result was that Tipu had control of much of the territory in the east, while the British dominated the west coast. Nonetheless, the situation looked bleak for the British, causing Cornwallis to take personal command of his armies. He arrived in Madras in January, 1791, and mobilized all the British forces together.

Tipu was in Pondicherry when Cornwallis made a surprise attack into Mysore and captured the stronghold of Bangalore on March 2. Tipu was camped only nine miles away but displayed fatal indecisiveness and failed to come to the assistance of his beleaguered fort. Marching north, Cornwallis joined up with the nizam of Hyderabad’s fifteen-thousand-man army. Further north, some seventeen thousand Marāthā troops, with a small contingent of British troops, captured Tipu’s northern capital of Dharwad on April 4, 1791, after a siege of six months. Cornwallis and the nizam marched north on Seringapatam, but Tipu employed a scorched-earth policy, and they began to run out of food. The monsoon rains further impeded their advance.

The two armies finally clashed on May 13 and 14, nine miles from Seringapatam. Tipu inflicted considerable damage on the British forces but then retired to the island fortress of Seringapatam. The British were out of food and draft animals, and on May 26, 1791, Cornwallis withdrew his starving army to Bangalore, reaching it on July 11. In the west, moreover, the Bombay army was routed.

On December 31, 1791, in Bangalore, Cornwallis reviewed the allied forces: His ranks consisted of twenty-two thousand British, eighteen thousand Hyderabadis, and twelve thousand Marāthās, with another twenty thousand Marāthās prepared to join up with them at Seringapatam. By February, they were camped four miles from Seringapatam. Neither the twenty thousand Marāthās nor the Bombay army had yet arrived, when Cornwallis staged a surprise night attack on Seringapatam on February 6, 1792. The attack on Tipu’s 40,500 men was successful, and Tipu fell back on the fort and sued for peace. Tipu had to hand over two of his sons as hostages to guarantee that he would pay the huge reparations demanded by the British. He lost half of his territory, including most of the western coastline and seventy fortresses, to the British and their allies.

The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799) lasted only three months. After 1792, Tipu rebuilt his army. The casus belli for the fourth war was the Malartic Proclamation Malartic Proclamation (1792) of the French governor of Mauritius, who pledged French support to Tipu. Seeing the danger of a potentially powerful French ally in the region, the new British governor general, Wellesley, determined that the power of Mysore should be destroyed once and for all, and he re-created the triple alliance of 1790. On February 11, 1799, the British army marched into Mysore. British forces numbered nearly thirty thousand, and the Marāthās and Hyderabad numbered twenty-five thousand each. On May 4, the British assaulted Seringapatam. Already wounded, Tipu was finally shot in the temple by an unknown British soldier.

Significance

The Mysore Wars eradicated the power of the Muslim rulers of Mysore and established a Hindu kingdom under a raja of Mysore who was subservient to the British. The British army became established in Bangalore, which was to remain the preeminent British military base in the south until 1947. Thus, not only did Mysore cease to be a threat to British power but the British also acquired valuable territory, increasing both their hold on India and their access to resources vital to maintain that hold.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fernandes, Praxy. The Tigers of Mysore: A Biography of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. New Delhi: Viking, 1991. This is a detailed history of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. It is written from a nationalistic perspective and critically analyzes the accounts written by British historians and participants.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gordon, Stewart. The Marāthās, 1600-1818. Part 2, vol. 4 in The New Cambridge History of India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. An understanding of Marāthā power is essential to understand the balance of power in south India. Offers an account of Hyder Ali’s military techniques in the face of superior Marāthā military power, as well as dealing with Marāthā politics at the time of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Habib, Irfan, ed. Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernization Under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan. New Delhi: Tulika, 1999. This volume of twenty-five essays came out of a conference to commemorate the bicentenary of Tipu Sultan’s defeat by the British at Seringapatam in 1799.

Carnatic Wars

Seven Years’ War

Battle of Plassey

First Marāthā War

Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Eighteenth Century</i>

First Marquess Cornwallis; Hyder Ali. Anglo-Mysore Wars (1767-1799) British India British East India Company Mysore Wars (1767-1799)

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