The Sack of Seringapatam

On May 4, 1799 the British and their allied armies breached the walls of Seringapatam and the town was subject to plunder. Here is an account of the results of that plunder as narrated by Dennys Forrest in ‘Tiger of Mysore: The Life and Death of Tipu Sultan’

“Alas we must return to the question of loot-this time the more legitimate, if not more praiseworthy kind known as ‘booty and plunder’.

Harris had rather turned over the whole contents of Tipu’s treasuries and store houses to the Prize committee(Chairman, General Floyd). The Governor General, believing that the sum involved was enormous, pointed out that there was all the difference in the world between sharing out any cash and goods found in a captured fortress and the army laying claim to what were the effects of a still opulent state. In point of fact, the total value of the specie, jewels, military and other stores spared by the pillagers of Seringapatam seems to have been about Pounds 2,000,000, and of this just over half was treated as prize.

Harris, as Commander-in-Chief, considered he was entitled to one-eighth, i.e. BP 142,902, and made good his claim, inspite of the argument of the Prize Committee that according to the best precedent, half of this should have been shared with any other general officers in the field-in this case presumably Floyd, Stuart, Bridges, Popham and Baird. They all did very well however,and the ‘rapacity’ of their senior commanders in 1799 was felt to contrast with the behavior of Cornwallis and Medows at the end of an infinitely more exacting campaign.

Major Price gives us a first-hand-account of how he and the six other Prize Agents went about their business. They were staggered by what they found in Tipu’s treasury. The first day of counting alone yielded one million, two hundred thousand Sultany Pagodas, all neatly sealed up in bags of 1000. And this in spite of looting which had left a trail of pagodas from the floor of the depot to the entrance of the court.”

“Jewels too had disappeared wholesale, yet the value of those which the prize agents recorded was reckoned by them of not less than 360,000 Pounds sterling. Dodwell (Nabobs of Madras, Page 67) tells the story of a private of the 74th who is said to have found a pair of Tipu’s armlets, set with great diamonds. He passed them on for 1500 Rupees to a surgeon, who after carrying them around his waist for 2 years, sold them for a sum which brought him an annual income of 2000 Pounds. Out of this he generously allowed the private 200 Pounds. The surgeons name was Mair.

 The results was that even the senior most field officers had to take part of their prize money in jewels. Colonel Wellesley received nearly a third of his entitlement of 10000 Pagodas in this form. General Harris challenged the Prize Agents over a ‘gorgeous’ emerald necklace which had been valued at 50000 sultany Pagodas but which he declared were full of flaws; alternate baubles were supplied to him.

General Baird got a large Ruby ring and Thomas Dallas got a festoon of slightly tarnished pearls. Though Major General Popham complained that his diamonds were mere Glass chippings, they fetched 1000 sultany pagodas more than the Prize Agent’s estimate., but he did not ‘return’ the surplus.”


About Olikara

An engineer, history buff, collector of South Indian antiques.
This entry was posted in Tipu Sultan & his times. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Sack of Seringapatam

  1. anish says:

    you had that ur blog’s purpose was to spark off an inflammable mind to do something.
    Yes you have, !!!

  2. Pingback: A Principal ornament of the Mysore throne: The Tiger head | The Seringapatam Times

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