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1799 Letter
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The ancient fortress city of Seringapatam (now called Srirangapatna or Srirangapatnam) was the capital for the Muslim rulers of the kingdom of Mysore, Haidar Ali (c.1722 - 1782) and his eldest son, Tipu Sultan (1753 -1799). It was located on an island in the Cauvery (Kaveri) River approximately 14.5 km (9 miles) from Mysore and 120 km (75 miles) from Bangalore. The name is derived from the ancient Hindu temple of Sri Ranganatha Swami which is located at the western end of the the island. The city became the site of two of the most famous sieges of the Anglo-Mysore Wars (in 1792 and 1799).

The assault against the island fortress in 1799 was a joint military operation involving two British armies totalling approximately 40,000 troops (including contingents of troops sent by the Nizam of Hyderabad). The campaign strategy was based upon the need to approach the city simultaneously from the east - the Grand Army, under the command of General George Harris [1746-1829] (from Madras), and from the west - the Bombay Army, under the command of Lieutenant-General James Stuart [1741-1815] (from the Malabar coast).

This campaign culminated in the storming and capture of the city on 4 May 1799, and the death of Tipu Sultan. As a direct consequence of this victory the British were able to secure control of all of southern India, and thereby lay the foundations of English rule throughout India and the establishment of the future British Raj.

Major Lachlan Macquarie, of the 77th Regiment, was serving in the Bombay Army - a force of 6,420 men (which included 1617 European soldiers and 4,803 native sepoy troops). He was a member of the Lieutenant-General James Stuart's General Staff, with responsibilities for the Treasury and the various finances and logistical needs of this military force. The Bombay Army was required to make its way up from the coastal plain from Cannanore, through the Western ghats and the mountainous province of the Coorg (Kodagu), and to rendezvous with the Grand Army at Seringapatam.

This would be the third time that Macquarie had made the strenuous march from the Malabar Coast towards Seringapatam. He first marched there in 1791 as part of the ill-fated British expedition that was forced to retreat from Periapatam with the onset of the monsoon rains (in May) before it formed a juncture with Cornwallis' grand army. He returned again in February 1792 when Tipu was forced to sue for peace - and cede half of his dominions and a large proportion of his treasury. Macquarie, however, was close to death with dysentery and fever at this stage, and returned to Bombay in April barely alive. It took until September 1792 for him to recuperate and recover his health - and, thereafter, he carried vivid memories of the challenges facing any military force attacking Seringapatam, and the logistical and leadership needs that would underpin such an enterprise.

At the frontier of Mysore, west of Periapatam (near Sedaseer), on 5 March 1799, a major battle took place between the British and a Mysorean army of 20,000 men (under the command of Tipu Sultan himself). After a series of savage clashes, lasting almost 7 hours, in thick jungle terrain, the forces of Tipu Sultan were finally defeated and the Bombay Army could continue its march towards Seringapatam.

Macquarie recorded a description of this battle in a letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Cliffe, Adjutant-General in Calcutta, on 15 March 1799. He wrote from the encampment of the Bombay Army at Seedapoor (present-day Siddapura), highlighting the stages of the battle and the losses to the enemy. This letter is now held by the Mitchell Library, Sydney (Australia).

Macquarie reached Seringapatam on 14 April 1799 and kept a daily journal of the bombardment and assault of the city until 5 May. He recorded his impressions of the siege and final assault from the fortified camp of the Bombay Army located on the northern side of the Cauvery (Kaveri) River. From here he had a clear view of the bombardment as well as the final preparations for breaching the walls on the western side of the island. Furthermore, as a member of the General Staff, he was privy not only to confidential information relating to the progress of the siege, but also to the plans for the final assault. This makes his eye-witness account all the more interesting - with a strong emphasis upon accuracy in the order of events. Finally, although Macquarie did not take part directly in the fighting or the attack on the city, he was a keen and measured recorder of events.

Macquarie prepared his journal for the information of friends and associates in Bombay, in particular Charles Forbes [1773-1849], his banker and close personal friend. The journal was sent to Forbes from Cannanore (to Bombay) on 24 May, with a cover note explaining the context of its preparation. Macquarie also included the 'Returns' for the numbers of killed and wounded in the Bombay and Grand Armies, as well as copies of the 'General Orders' issued by Lieutenant-Generals Harris and Stuart at Seringapatam on 5 May immediately following the capture of the city.

The manuscripts of the 'Seringapatam' journal and the 'Seedapore' letter are held by the Mitchell Library, Sydney (Australia). The transcripts made available here are based upon these original texts, retaining the spellings, abbreviations, and line breaks appearing in the documents written by Lachlan Macquarie in 1799. For the sake of clarity bold lettering has been introduced for the entry dates in the journal - however this is the only significant modification to the original text.