Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Cheapness of Children at Malabar.


The following article taken from a book published in 1858, includes an account of the sale of children in Malabar. In this case desperate parents faced with famine or food shortage are selling their children to European's.

It is not possible to date the account, but other accounts in the book can be dated, and these appear to be up to 50 years older than the book.


"He depicts the melancholy effects of a famine, caused by a real scarcity of rice, or sometimes an artificial one, contrived by the native government. An ordinary consequence is, to see mothers offering to sell their children, and fathers both wife and children. But it should seem that the bonds of relationship among these devotees to Seeva, have a slightness that gives way to a much less violent force than that of the last extremities of famine :—"


" Malabar children are generally a cheap commodity at Anjengo. At the end of the rainy season, when there was no particular scarcity in the interior country, I purchased a boy and girl, of about eight or nine years of age, as a present to a lady at Bombay, for leas money than a couple of pigs in England. I bought the young couple, laid in two months provision of rice and salt-fish for their voyage, and gave each of them four changes of cotton garments, all for the sum of twenty rupees, or fifty shillings. English humanity must not pass a censure on this transaction : it was a happy purchase for the children ; they were relieved from hunger and nakedness, and sent to an amiable mistress, who brought them up tenderly, and, on leaving India, provided for their future comfort ; whereas, had I refused to buy them, they would assuredly have been sold to another, and probably have experienced a miserable bondage with some native Portuguese Christian, whom we do not reckon among the most merciful task-masters."
"A circumstance of this kind happened to myself. Sitting one morning in my verandah, a young fish-woman brought a basket of mullets for sale ; while the servant was disposing of them, she asked me to purchase a fine boy, two years of age, then in her arms. On my upbraiding her for want of maternal affection, she replied with a smile, that she expected another in a few weeks, and as she could not manage two, she made me the first offer of her boy, whom she would part with for a rupee. She came a few days afterwards, with a basket of fish, but had just sold her child to Signor Manoel Rodriguez, the Portuguese linguist; who, though a man of property and a Christian, had thought it necessary to lower the price to half a rupee. Thus did this young woman, without remorse, dispose of an only child for fifteen pence."[1]

It is also not entirely clear where these events took place. However the East India Company had employed a family of Portuguese linguists at Tellicherry called Rodriques, over three generations.  The earliest one was Pedro Rodriques who was working for the EIC by 1753.  This son Domingo was active by the 1780's and had managed to make sufficient money by trade, that he had acquired an estate at Calay.

This estate which lay outside Tellicherry had had to be abandoned during the wars with Hyder and Tipu in the 1780's. When the EIC and their Nair allies drove Tipu's army away, the EIC claimed the land.

Pedro's grandson Marco Antonio Rodriques tried to reclaim the property during the 1792 Malabar Commission. It is possible Signor Manoel described in the quote above was from this family. It is possible he was Marco's son.

In 1830 Thomas Hervey Baber wrote a description of how in 1803 he was offered two children for sale by a man he encountered by the road, whilst out riding one day.
The Commissions Report mentions that many slaves were sourced from the Alleppey and Travancore districts for sale to the French settlement at Mahé and to Dutch settlements.

[1] Fosteriana, consisting of thoughts, reflections, and criticisms, of John ... page 288.
By John Foster published in 1858. Although this book was published in 1858 the texts which are quoted in the book appear to date back between 50 and 75 years earlier than the published date.


Monday, 31 May 2010

Capture of the Woodcote & Raymond in Tellicherry Roads, 1798



Tellicherry Beach, from the graveyard below the fort.
The action described below occurred just beyond the rocks in the middle distance.
Please click on this image for a larger version.


If you stand today in the churchyard at Thalaserry and look out to sea, the view is generally peaceful, and there is little to disturb the ones view besides the passing of the small local fishing vessels, on their way out to sea or back, on their way to the fish market.

This has not always been the case however.

On Friday 19th April 1798, the bay was the scene of a fierce battle fought between a French privateer and two East India Company ships, the Raymond and the Woodcote.

The Raymond (993 tonnes) had been launched in 1781 and was on its sixth voyage to India, whilst the Woodcote (802 tonnes) was slightly younger, having been launched in 1786, and had made 4 voyages.

The Woodcote and the Princess Amelia had been part of a convoy from Bombay that had left that port on or shortly before the 5th of April bound for Tellicherry with supplies and men.

Captain Smedley commanding the Raymond arrived at Tellicherry on the morning of the 19th of April.


Raymond Indiamen.

Accounts from the coast of Malabar, of the 21st April, mention, that on the afternoon of the preceding day, a French frigate had stood into Tellicherry Roads; and, after a short action, captured the Hon. Company's ship Woodcote, then at anchor in the Roads. At the time of the capture, the Company's ship Raymond was standing into Tellicherry Roads: she was immediately attacked by the frigate, and, after a short and ineffectual resistance, was taken possession of by the enemy. About six o'clock, the frigate, accompanied by her prizes, made sail, and stood out to sea, steering S.W. The Raymond had on board a cargo, which, with the ship, is valued at twelve lacks of rupees; she had also a quantity of specie on board, not included in the estimate. Admiral Rainier had sailed from Tellicherry Roads on the 16th ult. The enemy had captured a ship belonging to the Queen of Cannanore, previous to falling in with the Indiamen; from which ship they received the information of their being in the Roads of Tellicherry.

May 1798.[1]


The French Frigate that had done all the damage was La Preneuse. This powerful 46 gun frigate had been operating out of Isle de France attacking British shipping for several years.

"La Preneuse is well known in the Eastern seas, and is now the largest ship of war the French have left on that station, being a similar frigate to La Forte, captured by the much lamented Captain Cooke, late of his Majesty's ship La Sybille. She belongs to the Mauritius squadron, and has done more damage to our trade than any ship the enemy had in that quarter. She captured the Raymond and Woodcote Indiamen in Tellicherry Roads, in April 1798, besides many other vessels of considerable value.

La Prenense had on board when she captured the above ships, forty-six guns, viz. thirty twenty-four pounders, eight nines, and eight thirty-eight pound carronades, with about 400 men."
[2]

The following very interesting French account of the action was written soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1818.

Le 8 mars, les ambassadeurs de Tippoo partirent avec les volontaires pour Mangalore, sur la frégate la Preneuse, et cette mission fournit au capitaine L'hermitte une nouvelle occasion de se signaler et de causer des dommages à l'ennemi. Après une courte relâche à l'île de la Réunion, pour y embarquer les volontaires de cette île et compléter les vivres de la frégate, cet officier se dirigea vers la côte de Malabar. Sa traversée, qui fut près de quarante jours, n'offrit rien de remarquable.

Le 18 avril, étant près de l'île Caroli, l'une des Laquedives, la Preneuse arrêta un bâtiment indien parti depuis trois jours de Cananore. Le patron de ce navire, qui fut relâché parce qu'il coulait bas d'eau, rendit compte que deux vaisseaux de la compagnie des Indes étaient, à Tellichery, occupés a charger du poivre. Le capitaine L'hermitte conçut le projet de s'emparer de ces bâtimens. Il vint, en conséquence, prendre connaissance de la côte de Malabar, le 20 avril, près de Tellichery ; mais il ne vit dans cette rade qu'un, seul bâtiment, au lieu de deux qu'il devait y avoir, suivant le rapport qui lui avait été fait. La frégate passa le reste du jour et une partie du lendemain à croiser le long de la côte, sous pavillon anglais.

Une pirogue que l'on prit le matin du 21, confirma que le bâtiment mouillé sous Tellichery était un vaisseau de la compagnie qui chargeait du poivre, et ajouta qu'il portait vingt-six canons de 12 en batterie, et qu'il avait un fort équipage, dont cent cinquante Européens faisaient partie. A une heure de l'après-midi, on découvrit un grand navire à trois mâts, qui venait toutes voiles dehors chercher le mouillage de Tellichery. Le capitaine L'hermitte, après l'avoir reconnu pour vaisseau de la compagnie, diminua de voiles et manœuvra de manière à ce qu'il mouillât avant la Preneuse.

A deux heures et demie, un orage terrible se déclara, et à trois heures le tonnerre tomba sur la pomme du grand mât de la Preneuse. Il descendit tout le long de ce mât jusque dans la cale, où il mit le feu, remonta ensuite dans la batterie et sortit par un sabord. Un homme fut tué roide dans la batterie , quinze ou seize autres plus ou moins grièvement blessés. Le capitaine L'hermitte lui-même fut renversé, et s'imagina d'autant plus facilement être blessé, que les éclats de bois enlevés du grand mât par la foudre et qui volèrent en ce moment, lui firent croire que c'était le vaisseau qu'il avait près de lui qui lui envoyait sa bordée. Ce qu'on peut regarder comme très-extraordinaire, c'est que , dans cette circonstance où tout était disposé a bord pour le combat, aucun, artifice, aucune gargousse n'ait pris feu, et qu'il ne soit pas parti un seul canon.

L'état du grand mât de la Preneuse obligea de serrer toutes les voiles qu'il portait, et le peu qu'il en resta dehors servit le dessein qu'avait le capitaine L'hermitte de laisser arriver le vaisseau ennemi au mouillage avant lui. Un peu avant quatre heures, ce bâtiment vint jeter l'ancre a cent brasses de celui qui était déja en rade depuis quelques jours. Le capitaine L'hermitte fit alors gouverner droit entre les deux, et il s'avança avec sa batterie armée des deux bords, résolu, aussitôt la première bordée lâchée, d'enlever un des deux vaisseaux à l'abordage.

Arrivée au milieu des deux navires ennemis, la Preneuse arbora les couleurs francaises, et envoya une bordée a celui qui venait de mouiller. Ce vaisseau riposta de toute la sienne, coupa son câble et largua ses voiles, dans l'intention de se jeter a la côte. L'autre, par sa position, ne put envoyer à la frégate francaise que deux ou trois coups de canon et un grand nombre de coups de fusil; mais le capitaine L'hermite ayant manœuvré pour l'aborder, en faisant sur lui un feu terrible de mousqueterie, son équipage évacua les gaillards. La Preneuse, canonnaut toujours l'autre vaisseau, se trouvait présenter le travers a la poupe de celui-ci, lorsque le capitaine anglais, redoutant l'effet d'un bordée envoyée dans cette position, coupa avec son sabre la drisse du pavillon, demandant quartier a grands cris. On lui intima l'ordre de venir i1 bord de la Preneuse avec ses officiers, ce qu'il fit sur-le- champ'.

Le second vaisseau ne se défendait que faiblement, cherchant à se jeter a la côte sous les batteries de Tellichery, qui tiraient des boulets et des bombes sur la frégate française. Il fut, malgré cela, bientôt joint et contraint d'amener son pavillon.

Ces vaisseaux appartenaient tous deux à la compagnie des Indes, et étaient du port de neuf cents tonneaux. Le premier s'appelait le Woodcott, et l'autre le Raymond. Leur capture donna à la république plus de six cents prisonniers, dont la moitié Européens, parce que le Raymond avait, en Océan indien, outre de son équipage, une partie des soldats de deux bataillons des troupes de la compagnie avec leurs drapeaux, qui furent remis au capitaine français. On trouva à bord du Woodcott deux caisses de roupies.

Embarrassé de ses nombreux prisonniers , le capitaine L'hermitte conclut avec le colonel anglais commandant a Tellichery une convention, par laquelle les officiers, soldats et marins pris s'engagèrent à ne point servir contre la république jusqu'à parfait échange contre un pareil nombre de Français. La première chose dont il s'occupa ensuite fut d'équiper ses prises; cela fait, il les expédia pour l'Ile-de- France, où elles arrivèrent heureusement.

Ce coup de main du capitaine L'hermitte sous Tellichery ne retarda pas beaucoup sa mission: il arriva à Mangalore le 24 avril. Il débarqua sur-le-champ les ambassadeurs de Tippoo et les volontaires français, et, après avoir passé deux jours seulement dans cette rade, il eu partit, et fut rejoindre, vers la mi-juin, à Java , l'amiral Sercey, qui venait d'y arriver sur la Br1lle-Gueule, avec l'intention d'établir son quartier-général dans cette île.
[3]


Tellicherry Bay, showing the location of the battle, in about 1778. By Forbes, Published in 1818. Click click on picture for larger image.

Most East India Company ships carried only the minimum of crew, and these crews had often been denuded of experienced sailors in Indian waters because of forced recruiting by press gangs sent aboard by Royal Navy ships operating on the India station, leaving them shorthanded if they had to operate their guns.

La Preneuse was carrying an especially important set of passengers on this voyage, in the shape of two ambassadors from Tipu Sultan returning from an embassy to the French authorities on the Isle de France. These ambassadors had been trying to gain support for Tipu Sultan from the French, in his struggle against the growing power of the East India Company, and to co-ordinate plans for future joint operations between the French and Tipu's forces.

The activities of these two ambassadors was of the greatest concern to the East India Company governors and officials in India, because Tipu Sultan was the only force in being left in India at this time capable of opposing the East India Company. If Tipu could draw in French technical support the situation in India might easily become be critical.

Embarking from Isle de France on the 7th of March 1798, with one hundred French offices and fifty private soldiers to act as instructors and advisors to Tipu Sultan's army, La Preneuse was bound for Mangalore which Tipu controlled at this time.




Monsieur L'hermitte,(1766-1826) Captain of the La Preneuse[4]

Unwittingly, the captain of the La Preneuse Monsieur l'Hermitte [5]was to provide the English with a pretext and reason to resume their attack on Tipu Sultan, which led to the fall of Seringapatam in 1799.

The ambassadors left a particularly good account of the action in Tellicherry Bay.

The ship on which we were, arriving near the Lacadives, took a patamar, in which there were some Malabar men; and we asked from whence they came? they said,from Cannanore : We asked what news there was from Tellicherry, and whether there were any English ships there or not? they replied, that there were two ships there, the Raymond and Woodcote. Immediately on hearing this news, the patamar was released, and the ship was steered towards Tellicherry. Every body, however, objected; observing, that as the vakeels were on board, it would be improper to go to Tellicherry for the purpose of fighting. The captain of the ship replied, that after receiving accounts of the English ship, should he not go in quest of them, he should be highly culpable, and deserve to be put to death : he would, therefore, by no means acquiesce.

Accordingly, on Friday the 19th of April 1798, we arrived at Tellicherry,and found one ship at anchor there. Near the evening another ship had come into the road of Tellicherry, when on a sudden, a violent storm arose, and the lightning striking the ship, she was dashed to pieces on the shore—one man was killed by a stroke of the lightning, and eight were wounded.

At this time another English ship, which had come from Bombay, made her appearance, and entering the roads of the port, came to an anchor. Neither of the ships had yet furled their sails, when the French ship, on board of which we were, went in between the two English ships which were in the roads of Tellicherry, and came to an anchor. She called out to each of these ships to haul down their colours; upon which both ships fire off their guns, and an engagement ensued. The ship which had been previously at anchor,struck her colours, and the one which had come from Bombay, getting up her anchor, was making off; but she was also taken and brought back.

Passing by the fort and battery, the two prizes and our own ship, were anchored in the river (or sea.) The number of the prisoners, chiefs and others, taken in the prizes, amounted to about 500 Europeans. Having put our own men on board their ships, we confined their crews on board our own ship.

In the morning, a Sirdar came on board our ship from Tellicherry, and a French Sirdar set off for Tellicherry. What conferences were held by them, or what arrangement they made, we did not ascertain : some few of the English were detained, and the remainder were set at liberty. Both the prizes were dispatched to the island of Mauritius. We heard that the two ships were worth five lacks of rupees, and that the goods, money, effects, and different articles, were valued at five lacks. The remaining persons having been sent off to Tellicherry, the next day we weighed anchor, and pursued the route to Courial.[6][7]


The loss of these two ships was played down by the British at this time, and although the voyage is covered in great detail in many of the accounts of the renewed outbreak of hostilities with Tipu Sultan, authors like Sir John Malcolm however fail to mention it at all.

Other authors like Christopher Biden writing in 1830, in his book Naval Discipline... says

H. C. S. Raymond and Woodcot and La Preueuse. 1798. The Company's ships Raymond and Woodcot were surprised, in Tellicherry-Roads, and captured by La Preneuse, French frigate, which ran in between the Indiamen, under English colours, then at anchor, engaged on both sides, and, after as much resistance as the one ship, receiving cargo, the other just come to an anchor, and taken by surprise, could make, they struck their colours.[8]

This suggests that the French captain used a ruse de guerre, to get close to the English ships, before opening fire. Indeed this was a method that Captain l'Hermite was to employ at Algoa Bay during the following year, in an unsuccessful attack on shipping at anchor in that bay. So whilst it would have been in keeping with the captain's way of operating, it was not uncommon for the Royal Navy at that time to have used the same tactic in other cutting out operations.

There was an especially large crew on board the Woodcote because she had just rescued the Captain and crew of the HEIC Ship Princess Amelia which had caught fire off Cannanore, on the 5th of April 1798.

"CHRONICLE FOR MAY 1798.

Lost of the Princess Amelia,
to Robert Richards, Esq. Secretary to Government, Bombay.

With extreme sorrow I acquaint you, for the information of the Hon. Governor in Council, that the Hon. Company's ship the Princess Amelia caught fire on the 5th of April, at one o'clock in the morning, off Cannanore, in the after-hold; and, notwithstanding every exertion, was entirely in flames, fore and aft, in a quarter of an hour, and every soul obliged to jump over-board. Nothing of any description was saved from the ftip, except the people of whom I inclose you a list. I have not been able to trace any circumftance that might lead to true origin of this dreadful accident. I shiould have come back to Bombay myself, but am exceedingly ill; and if I did, I might not be in time to save the season to England, which I think I ought to reach with all possible expedition, to give the Hon. Court of Directors an account of this melancholy accident. Mr. Vautier, the purser, who arrives with this, and to endeavour to get copies of the owners' accounts, will use his utmost endeavours to join me again on the coast.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant, John Ramsden.
Ship Woodcote, April 5, 1798.

List of the Crew saved from the Princess Amelia.


Mr. J. Ramsden, commander
Mr W. Fairley, chief officer
Mr. R. H. Brown, 2d do.
Mr. J. March, 3d do.
Mr. J. Locke, 4th do.
Mr. J. J. Vautier, purser
Mr. C. Dakers, surgeon
Mr. W. Schoot, surgeon's-mate
Mr J. Farrington, boatswain
Mr. J. Braham, boatswain's-mate
Mr. T. Potter, do.
Mr. J. Petney, quarter-master
Mr. T. Hoskins, do.
Mr. J. McKinnon, do.
Mr. S. Sayer, carpenter
Mr. T. Howell, carpenter's-mate
Mr. J. Thompson, Ship's-steward
Mr. M. Florence, sailmaker
Mr. T. Dunkin, gunners-mate
Mr. N. Hughes, midshipman
Mr. G. Frith, do.
Mr. Т. Dunkley, butcher
Mr. C. Meffo, ship's cook
Mr. W. Barneld, late surgeon's-mate
Mr. J. Mathews
J. Poole, J. Gabriel, A. Behrons, D. Zhan, F. Gunkell, W. Hornburg, O. Shaumburg, J Krug, J. Burke, S. Shandley, N. Smith, J. Kelley, T, O'Hara, J. Nalemate, G. Nalemate G. Recardo,J. Ember, A. Josea, J. Ferrara, A. de Cruz, J. Pedro, T. Gunn, P.Green,W. Fairbrother, G. Hughes, M. Dickenson, W. Brown, J. Ryan, H.Nail, J. Carrol, J. Harrison, H. Land, S,Hughes, T. Watson, J. Swift, R.Gatty, P. Obury, S. Sayer, E. Worsley, W. Colthurst, J. Campbell, and J. Myers, seamen.

Passengers saved.

Miss Dick, Major Conran. Captains Evans and Torrians. Lieutenants Savage, Burdett, Stanney, Gilbert, Moreland, Martin, Elphinstone, and Brown. Serjeants Hum, Mathews, Darby, Smith, Sloper, Moor, Kelley, Jefferys, Pool, Harding, Frazer, and Nevill. Corporals Garrel, Burns, Wild, Campbell, Wethers, Winwood, Henby, Colins, and Mackenzie. Privates, Fox, Simpson, Jones, Phillips, Hammond, Helegfelt, Rees, Rully, Moloney, Kelly, Wilks, Coburne, Whittane, Bhoomer, Cullen, and Grimming. Conductors, Hasty and Ryan, 2 followers, 2 wometen, 2 bullock-wallahs, 14 lafcars belonging to the ship, and Miss Dick's female servant and a boy.

TOTAL NUMBER SAVED.
Ship's company .......... 80
Passengers ...............59
189

List af the Crew drowned.

Mr. Millet, 5th officer

J. Stamp, captain's steward
J. Barber, gunner
J. Nances, cooper
R. Davis, cooper's-mate
J. Cook, baker
F. Hall, captain's servant
T. Smith, surgeon's ditto
R . Fidgetts, carpenter's boy
B. Wood, gunner's ditto
J. May, C. Legnam, J. Bony, W. Sedgewick, J. Murphy, and A. Josea, seamen.

Passengers drowned.

Master Selby. Serjeants Cannick, Bodycoat, and Tedence. Corporals Nicholls. Brett, Welwood, Ruson, Double, апd Wiggins; 9 women, 1 follower, 1 Dutchman, 3 women, 1 child.

TOTAL NUMBER LOST.

Ship's company ........... 16
Passengers...... . ....... 24
40
(Signed)J. Ramsden
[8]

It is quite probable that many of these passengers and crew from the Princess Amelia would still have been aboard the Woodcote when the French frigate hove into the bay. For many of the survivors of the Princess Amelia, there was to be a second highly traumatic event just two weeks after their escape from the fire.

The fire must have been clearly visible to many of the inhabitants of Tellicherry who would have been able to see to Cannanore, as would have also been the case during the capture of the Woodcote and the Raymond.

Amongst those prisoners taken from the Woodcote and Raymond was Captain Smedley. He appears to have been well looked after aboard La Preneuse, as he was to give evidence that he had seen a copy of the treaty between the French on Isle de France, and Tipu Sultan on the wall of the captain's cabin.

No. IX.

From Governor Duncan. Mr Lord, Bombay, 23rd May, 1/98.

I beg leave, on the occasion of this first communication, to assure your lordship that it's not having been earlier has Certainly proceeded from no other motive than a reluctance to appear forwardly intrusive on your lordship's time, having otherwise little else to impart than what will have much sooner reached you through the correspondence of the Commissioners in Malabar and of the Board here, with the Government of Fort St. George, and with the acting Governor-General; nor have our lastest advices from the coast tended hitherto to throw any satisfactory light on what may he the Sultan's intentions, but should he have been induced to more peaceable councils, so fortunate a change must, no doubt, have been the happy effect of the influence of your lordship's opportune arrival, and of its consequences.

Being still, however, uncertain here as to the event, I think your lordship may consider as meriting some degree of attention, the following memoranda, collected from such information as could be furnished by Captain Smedley and the officers of the Raymond, from the opportunities they had whilst in company with their captors of deriving insight into the views of the French as connected with Tippoo; all which seems but too corroborative of the other indications on the same subject, which were such as to have induced us very earnestly to convey all the knowledge we possessed on the subject to the Admiral, with the hope of thereby frustrating the arrival of succours to Tippoo by the way of Mangalore, as might, no doubt, have been ensured but for the early departure of the Suffolk and Arrogant to the other coast, which was immediately followed by the surprise and capture of our Indiamen, the loss from which to the Company will not, including the Amelia destroyed by fire, exceed four lacks and thirty thousand rupees, instead of the very large amount which by the newspapers it appears to have been understood to amount to on the other side of India, and we have taken measures to provide against the recurrence of such a misfortune by fixing the seat of the commercial residency at Cannanore, under the guns of which fortress several Indiamen may at a time, or separately, find effectual protection from any enemy.

With the best wishes for the success and honour of your lordship's administration, and the sincerest desire to contribute towards it by every exertion that in my station I can make, as well as thence to merit and enjoy the gratification of your lordship's correspondence and advice. I have the honor to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's very obedient humble servant,
John Duncan.

The Rt. Hon. the Earl of Mornington, K. P.
[10]

La Preneuse herself sailed on from Tellicherry to Mangalore arriving and disembarking both the ambassadors and the French officers and advisers.

With the evident defenceless of the shipping in Tellicherry anchorage clearly demonstrated, a decision was taken to move the settlements main function to Cannanore, and with this began the steady decline of Tellicherry, as the garrison moved away to Cannanore.

La Preneuse would meet with her own destruction on the 11th of December 1799, when HMS Tremendous, 74 guns, under Captain John Osborne, and 50 gun ship Adamant under Captain William Hotham, would trap her whilst cruising off Port Louis on the Isle De France. She was run aground on the western shore of the River Tombeau about 3 miles from Port Louis, when she was set on fire and destroyed.


The sinking of La Preneuse by Auguste Mayeur[11]

A possibly more accurate print of the same action is shown below.

Combat et destruction de la Frigate la Preneuse [12]


[1] From the Asiatic Annual Register, or a view of the History of Hindustan, for the year 1799. Published 1801. Translation of the Narrative of Mohammed Ibrahim, one of the Ambassadors despatched by Tippoo Sultaun to the Isle de France in 1797. Page 175 - 196.
[2] The Naval Chronicle, Published 1800, volume III, page 411-412.
[3] Victoires, conquêtes, désastres, revers et guerres civiles des Français: published in 1818,by Charles-Théodore Beauvais, Charles-Nicolas Beauvais, Jacques Philippe Voïart, Ambroise Tardieu, Page 303.
[4] See http://www.etab.ac-caen.fr/lebrun/histoire/affiche.php?choix=49 for an excellent article on the history of this very effective French naval officer.
[5] From Naval Biography; or Memoirs of the Services of all the Flag-Officers, etc. published 1829, page 169.
[6] From the Asiatic Annual Register, or a view of the History of Hindustan, for the year 1799. Published 1801.Page 193.
[7] Courial was the French (and Tipu Sultan's?) name for Mangalore.
[8] Naval Discipline, Subordination Contrasted With Insubordination; or, a view of the Necessity for Passing a Law etc. etc. Christopher Biden, Published 1830, page 212.
[9] From the Asiatic Annual Register, or a view of the History of Hindustan, for the year 1799. Published 1801.Page 3.
[10] The Despatches, Minutes, and Correspondence, of the Marquess Wellesley. by Montgomery Martin, 1836. Page 41.
[11] From http://www.peguesthouses.co.za/portelizabeth_history.htm, with the story of the battle of Algoa Bay and La Preneuse eventual destruction at Port St Louis.
[12] From http://historic-marine-france.com/gravures/garneray.htm

"Ferocity .. characteristic of the cast of Nairs" 1799


Like many insurgencies the war against the Pazhassi Raja was a brutal one, with both sides on occasion taking heavy losses.

Later accounts published in the 19th Century tend to picture the British winning battles over the various Indian forces with comparative ease.

This was often not in fact the case, and as the following news paper account makes clear the insurgents were often able to inflict heavy casualties onto the East India Company forces.

From the Whitehall Evening Post
Saturday, July 20, to Tuesday, July 23, 1799.

Authentic Particulars respecting the primary Rupture with the COTIOTE RAJAH, recently received from India. Captain Bowman and Lieutenant Bond were sent with a detachment to take possession of a stronghold near Cootungarry, and were decoyed by a Hircarrah,[1] employed on the occasion, into a narrow defile, where a strong party of Nairs in ambuscade, availing themselves of the disadvantageous situation of the detachment, and their mode of attack, beset the party with a ferocity peculiarly their own, when Captain Bowman and Lieutenant Bond were almost immediately over powered and killed. Several Sepoys were also killed and wounded on the spot. Captain Lawrence, on hearing the report of the musquetry, proceeded, with all possible expedition, at the head of a body of grenadiers, towards the succour and support of Captain Bowman’s detachment: but having experienced a similar breach of faith in his guide, was also attacked in the same defile: but, after a warm and fortunate resistance, effected his retreat, and took post in a pagoda the whole night and part of the next day, hemmed in by upwards of a thousand of the Rajah’s troops.

Captain Troy, who had been employed in mustering the Native troops, and Captain Shean, on his return from a visit, fell in with a party of these sanguinary savages, who, having surrounded them, coolly and unprovokedly put the first to death, and wounded the latter in a shocking and barbarous manner. It would appear, from the foregoing circumstances that the inhuman wretches chiefly aimed at the destruction of the Officers: but particularly from their subsequent barbarity, the bodies of Capt. Troy and Lieutenant Bond having been since found decapitated; their heads, as it is supposed, having been sent to the Rajah – the copse of Captain Bowman was snatched from a similar fate of so many Officers, in being cut off from their relations and friends in this cruel and insidious manner, cannot be too much lamented, and furnishes a melancholy example of the inherent ferocity which has ever been characteristic of the cast of Nairs.

I cannot locate any other sources for this action, or indeed details of these officers. It is almost as if they have been edited out of the record.

I would be very grateful if you are able to recognise any of the people in the account, or can tell me anything about their lives or units before this defeat cut short their lives.

Where is
"Cootungarry?"

I would like to thank Dr Oliver Noone for bringing this newspaper account to my notice.

[1]
Hircarrah, variant of HURCARRA, HIRCARA , &c., s. Hind. harkārā, 'a messenger, a courier; an emissary, a spy' (Wilson). The etymology, according to the same authority, is har, 'every,' kār, 'business.' The word became very familiar in the Gilchristian spelling Hurkaru, from the existence of a Calcutta newspaper bearing that title (Bengal Hurkaru, generally enunciated by non Indians as Hurkĕroó), for the first 60 years of last century, or thereabouts. Courtesy of Hobson Jobson. See http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/hobsonjobson/


"Indian Atrocities."



Not all of the British Officers approved of the way the East India Company had conducted wars in India.

Many of them must have suffered badly from the constant strain of fighting these wars, and many of them must have returned home to Britain seriously ill and with a very uncertain future.

In 1805, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had not even been considered, and yet it must have existed.

Here is a very different account of what it had been like to fight the Pazhassi Raja, from those generally presented in publications from this period.

The following account written by George Strachan in 1817 paints a grim picture of the reality behind the war with the Raja. —

The details with which I have promised to finish you on the subject of my ten year-servitude in the northern peninsula of India, I hereby commence.

In 1790, at the age of 17, I was appointed a Cadet on the Bombay establishment with about seventy Cadets of the same Season. Of these there are not above twenty of the establishment, who have survived the effects of a noxious climate, and the fatigues of that hateful service of which I was engaged. In 1800, I was appointed senior Ensign of the Bombay European regiment, then engaged in the Cotiote war, where in less than ten years that regiment lost not less than twenty-five Officers out of thirty, and eight hundred men out of the full complement of one thousand. In 1801, I was promoted to be Lieutenant, and transferred to the 4d battalion, 3d native regiment engaged on the same service. The mortality was not less than in the former corps. Here I shall beg leave to describe the nature of the Cotiote war.—A more cruel and vindictive system of proscription was never practised by the most barbarous nation towards its foe, than that which was employed by the Bombay Government towards the Rajah of the Cotiote, hitherto the staunch ally, friend, and tributary, of the Company. Those facts, with which I became acquainted, have never been presented in any shape to the public eye. Indeed the bye-laws of the company would have made it almost treason in any of their servants to have exposed the secrets of the cruel system of extirpation, pursued towards this inoffending people, who from time immemorial had led a life of primitive and pastoral simplicity, attached to their sovereign by every motive of moral and religious obligation, to a degree of enthusiasm surpassing that of any other race of men, under a monarchical government, since the world began.

The Cotiote is that part of the Malabar coast which is between the sea-shore, and the Bella Ghaut mountain inland from Calicut, Tillichery, and Cairaone. It is for the most part covered with jungles or forests, interspersed with fruitful vallies, and in many places with impenetrable thickets, in which the ferocious tiger and other wild beasts entrench themselves in safety from the pursuit of man. It is about forty miles in breadth and sixty in length. Its produce — pepper, rice, and vegetables. Its population, now extinct, did not originally exceed 6000 men of the cast or tribe, called Nairs. This warlike people, determined to perish in the cause of their oppressed sovereign. And such was the dear bought victory obtained over them, that we lost in a contest which lasted ten years nearly as many men as our victims; till hunted down like beasts of prey, this race of brave men (who had been proclaimed rebels) were at length extirpated by fire and sword from the face of the earth. Nothing now remains of this people save the country which they inhabited, and that is become a barren and uncultivated desert The Bullum Rajah is the sovereign of another nation, bordering upon the Cotiote, which was at nearly the same time devoted to proscription and hunted down in like manner under the late General Stevenson, of the Madras cavalry.

The Cotiote war was terminated by the late Colonel Montresore, of the 80th regiment, in 1804, when, as if to throw a veil over these transactions; the Malabar coast was transferred to the Madras Government, who now occupy it.

The Cotiote Rajah had previously assisted the Company in their war with Hyder Ally, and furnished 1000 armed men, who distinguished themselves under our banners, in expelling Hyder from the possession of Саnnanore. ' Ungrateful as the treatment this high-minded prince and people -afterwards experienced from their European neighbours, to whom they supplied the whole produce of their cultivation, the 'task of recording their sufferings- in the heart rending scenes of cold-blooded slaughter, which this picturesque country every were presented to our view, is nevertheless painful to me. It fell to my lot, with a detachment of Sepoys, to command at Pyche, the Rajah's capital, whence he had been expelled; not one of his subjects had remained behind, but they had taken up arms, and followed his desperate fortunes in the field. Thus was I enabled to detail those atrocities, at the relation of which Englishmen here at home must be horror -struck, and to which they can scarcely give credit: but the facts related defy contradiction, and can be attested by respectable persons, lately arrived in England, who were also engaged in that campaign.

This brave but fugitive Indian Prince was alternatively attacking or retreating from the detachments in pursuit of him through the forests. Sometimes in one of these rencontres we have lost 800 men. His force being dispersed, he had taken refuge in one lone house, with not above 10 or 12 armed followers. These chose rather to be cut to pieces than surrender, and thus favoured his escape, fighting sword in hand till they fell to a man in defence of his person. This was at a time when a large reward and pardon were offered to his subjects if they would discover his retreat, in order to lead to his decapitation ; otherwise no quarter was given. Their towns, houses, and fields of standing corn, were burnt down. On every rising ground and road-side, 20 or 30 bodies were seen hanging to a gibbet, and some promiscuously upon trees. The prisoners taken were either immediately so disposed of, or shot and bayoneted upon the spot ; and such was the spirit of desperate resistance and despair manifested on the part of this unhappy people, that, unnatural as it may appear, they actually cut the throats of their own wives and children, ¡n order to prevent their falling into our bands.

The Canute Nambier, and 'others of his nobles, having been taken prisoners, were ordered for execution. Captain J--, a brother officer and valuable friend of mine, now in England, was commanded to see that order enforced. That Gentleman, in a letter I received from him on the occasion, which does honour to the liberal sentiments of his mind, described this reluctant duty with horror and pity, though mixed with admiration at the heroic firmness of those noble Indians. They faithfully adhered to their Sovereign down to the awful moment of yielding up their lives in his cause. The offer held out to them by the British Government was, a free pardon and an ample reward, provided they would discover the Rajah's retreat!

These terms were, even in their last moments, rejected with indignation. They voluntarily stretched out their hands to receive the rope, and putting it round their necks, were launched into another World, which to them afforded a nobler reward, and a brighter hope."[1]

It is not easy to find much about the life and career of George Strachan. In 1817 he was described as "Mr George Strachan - formerly a lieutenant Bombay Establishment in consideration of his extreme poverty and distress."

He was granted a political pension of £50 per year. This amount was very small. Retiring Major's could expect about £400 a year.

It is probable that Strachan had chosen quite deliberately to get his piece published by the Examiner, in order to embarrass the East India Company.

This paper had a Radical viewpoint and had been established in 1808 by John Hunt. Both John and his brother Leigh were to serve time in Surrey County Gaol for an attack on the Prince Regent in 1813. The Hunts were visited by Byron, John Moore, Lord Brougham and Charles Lamb. [2]

Three years later the EIC would prepare a copy minute on the request of George Strachan, late Lt 3rd Bombay NI, to be restored to the service. [3]



[1] Published in the Examiner Volume 9, for the year 1818. Page 594 and 595.
[2] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Hunt
[3] Military Department Special Collections: Collection 14a IOR/L/MIL/5/377, Coll 14a 1820

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Development of the Forts at Tellicherry 1750 to 1780



Figure 1. Tellicherry drawn from the sea by Mr Herbert before about 1780. Published by A Dalrymple in 1790.
Please click on this image for a larger version.


The following is a description of a visit made by Abraham Parsons to Tellicherry, who had left Bombay on 7th December 1775 and sailed south along the coast to Malabar, contains one of the best descriptions of the forts at Tellicherry in the late 18th Century that I have found so far.

This has enabled me to provisionally locate two more of the outlying forts surrounding Tellicherry.

"About three or four leagues to the south of Cananore is Tellicherry, the only settlement belonging to the English East India Company on this coast, where there is an English garrison; the other places being only comptoirs by permission of Hyder Ally, the sovereign.

The English are lords of Tellicherry and the district dependant on it, which reaches but a very little way, either within land, or to the north or south on the sea-coast; yet is quite sufficient for the intended purpose of trade. Here is a good fort, with strong walls, well garrisoned, with convenient houses for the chief, and the gentlemen of the factory, within the walls. That of the chief in particular is not only large, but a superb building ; it is situated on the same mount with the adjoining castle, and overlooks and commands the adjacent country and sea shore.

On a summit, about a mile to the south of the fort, is a small castle, called Mile End, where a sufficient guard is kept, and where the little dominion of Tellicherry terminates. It is so near the northern limit of the French settlement called Mahee, that the centinels hear each other give the parole."

The proximity of Mile End Fort to the French forts in Mahé can easily be seen from the following panorama drawn from the mast of a ship, anchored off the coast of Tellicherry in about 1775.



Figure 2. The coast between Tellicherry Fort and Mahé. Mile End Fort can be seen one mile south of the main fort. The border with the French settlement at Mahé can be seen less than a third of a mile away, with a small French fort on the hill at the extreme right of this image.
Please click on the image for a larger version.

This image and the following one were drawn from ships sailing along the coast and were intended to enable ships arriving on the coast to identify where they had arrived at. The views from the masts of ships, fore shorten the distances, and have the effect of bring the Ghats closer to the shore than they appear from the shore itself. The ships officers who made these drawings used compasses and other instruments to set out their elevations, and as a result the pictures are very accurate.



Figure 3. Mile End Fort.Showing its location on top of a small hill next to the shore.

Abraham Parson's attention then turns to the area to the north of the main fort, that survives in the middle of Thalassery today.

"A little way to the north of Tellicherry is a block-house with cannon mounted, surrounded by a stone wall; between the wall and block-house there is a deep foss. The block-house stands very high; there is but one entrance into it, which is by a very long and narrow wooden ladder, wide enough to permit one man to pass at a time. On the whole, Tellicherry is so well fortified, that Hyder Ally, during the last war with the English, did not think proper to attack this settlement. We staid here four days."




Figure 4. "The Coast Below Mr Brenner's House"[1] This photo was taken between 1855 and 1860 and it probably shows the rear face of the blockhouse to the north of the fort, described by Abraham Parsons in 1775.

I have not been able to locate the exact location of this northern blockhouse, but it was located where Edward Brennan's house came down to the shore. This must be very close to Overbury's Folly.

The following aerial image shows a tree covered rectangular site on the shore above rocks which may be the ones shown in the following picture. If you are in Thalassery and you read this blog, I would be fascinated to learn if my hunch is correct.


Figure 5. Possible location of the northern blockhouse
shown on a Google Earth Image of the coast.


Parson's left the town shortly afterwards on his journey south.

"December the 2d. We departed and proceeded to the southward, and kept at such a distance from the shore as not to distinguish any town, except the French settlement called Mahee, which is so near that it may be almost said to join."[2]



Figure 6. A French map from the 1780's showing the border between the Tellicherry Settlement at Mile End and the French Forts along their northern boundary.

On January 18th in the following year Parsons returned north by ship calling in at Tellicherry once again. He left the following detailed description of the town.

"The town of Tellicherry is well peopled, and they carry on an extensive inland and foreign trade. Most ships from China and Bengal, (which, are bound to Goa, Bombay or Surat) touch here, and dispose of part of their cargoes, which is mostly resold to the inhabitants of the towns within land, who make a return in the produce of the country, such as ginger, pepper, areka nuts, cocoa nuts, and their oil kyah ropes and yarn, and cotton cloth, which is very good and cheap : they have here a particular kind of towels, esteemed the best in India. Here are many Portuguese merchants, who who seem to engross most of the trade, and resell or export on their own account with great advantage, as many of them are rich; some few of the natives are also wealthy. There are here two towns, one bordering on the sea coast, and the other in the wood : the principal inhabitants of the former are Portuguese, those of the latter natives. Between the town and the fort is an extensive and airy open place, which affords an agreeable walk in the cool of the evening. On one side is a pleasant garden belonging to the chief, where the gentlemen of the factory sometimes pass a little time in walking in the evening. The chief has likewise a small garden adjoining his house, well kept, and amply stocked with flowers. There is a charming shady ride through the wood, where the chief and other gentlemen of the factory often take an airing in the evening on horseback, or in an open chaise, riding round the limits of their little territory from the fort to the southern boundary, the fort at Mile End, near which is an agreeable spot, where they usually meet to alight and converse : the whole extent of this agreeable ride does not exceed five miles.

Some few friends having a desire to visit the French settlement called Mahie, I was invited to be of the party. We left Tellicherry fort at four in the afternoon, and arrived at the French governor's (Monsieur Pico's) house, in the fort at Mahie, at seven. He had no intimation of our coming: however, as one of the company was acquainted with him, he introduced the rest, and we were kindly received. We had not day-light sufficient to-examine the place, as we wished for, though we made good use of our time; we were only able to walk about the which is pleasantly and strongly situated on an eminence. I am told that there are near two hundred cannon mounted in the fort and the adjacent works. The town we had not time to go to. This is the only French settlement on this side India, that at Surat, where the French have a consul, being only a comptoir, by permission of the English. We supped with the governor, and several of the principal gentlemen of the settlement, and at eleven set out for Tellichery, where we arrived at two in the morning. We were carried to and from Mahie in what they call here a doodle, which is like a hanging cot, used for sleeping on board of ships; they are stretched at length, and each end fastened to a long and large bamboo cane, which is carried on the shoulders of two men, who travel at the rate of four miles an hour, or more. Provisions of all kinds are good and reasonable at Tellicherry, the sea furnishing them with plenty of fish of many sorts. The oysters here are the largest and best of any on the coast of Malabar. Here our little convoy increased greatly, with whom we departed in the morning of the 24th of January."



Figure 7. Google Earth Image showing the probable location of the Mile End Fort, with the two 1730's French posts nearby.



Figure 8. Close up image of the probable site of the Mile End Fort,which is currently occupied by a water tower.

The outlying fortifications around Tellicherry seem to have been demolished during the 19th Century, but it is quite likely that at the site of the former fort at Mile End at least some of the footings or demolition rubble may still be present on this small hill around the water tower.

Has anybody ever visited the site?

[1]From photos in the Basel Mission Collection, preserved at the University of Southern California. This photo was taken by Christian Richter at some point between 1855 and 1860. See http://bmpix.org/bmpix/controller/view/impa-m34478.html
"An interesting part of the coast near the open space, which fives a good impression of the character of the coast. The overgrown platform belongs to the property of the deceased Mr. Brenner, Master Attendant of Tellicherry [reading of the last part of this sentence uncertain]. If you use your imagination you can see, in the tree hanging over the edge of the platform the sharp profile of an American Indian." (C.G. Richter's 3. Quarterly report 06.10.1860: 5)
[2] Travels in Asia and Africa; A Journey from Scanderoon to Aleppo, and over the Desert to Baghdad and Basra, by Abraham Parsons. Published 1808. Pages 226 & 227
[3] A general collection of voyages and travel, digested by J. Pinkerton.Pages 233 & 234.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sacrifice Rock





Sacrifice Rock or Velliyamkallu, as drawn by officers aboard East India Company
ships during the 18th Century.

These drawings were then used to inform sailors where they were on the coast of India. Many ships arriving at this part of the coast had last sighted land at the Cape of Good Hope, and often they had only had Dead Reckoning to sail by.

It was important as soon as they saw the Indian Coast ahead that they could work out where exactly on that coast they had made landfall.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tellicherry in the 1850.



Figure 1. A photograph taken in about 1900 showing houses to the north of the Tellicherry Fort lived in by senior officials, including possibly the Master Attendant described below. Please click on this and subsequent images for a larger version.

The following fascinating account of life in Tellicherry appears in a magazine published in England in 1854 called "The Home Friend, A Weekly Miscellany of Amusement etc."

Sadly, I cannot identify the author of the article, but it is possible from events described in the article to date his visit to 1850.


"Tellicherry is a pretty little straggling town on the sea-coast of Malabar, between the considerable military cantonment of Cananore and the French settlement Mahe or Mai. It may be said to consist of two, divisions or parts; the flat ground constituting Tellicherry Proper, and the high ground, or cliffs, called Deramapatam. We were on two separate occasions for several months resident at Tellicherry, and are consequently familiar with every nook and corner in it.

Tellicherry Proper, or the town of Tellicherry, is built on a low ground, almost on a level with the sea. The town consists of some two hundred irregularly-built European houses; the bazaars; the marketplace; a few so-called shops; an immense prison, built on a lofty bastion facing the sea, which prison includes the dens for criminals and the debtors' gaol, comprising also a lunatic asylum; the Zillah Court, and a species of chapel. Besides these, there is a Catholic chapel and a Protestant church, and the burial-grounds of both creeds, situated on a high mound nearly overhanging the sea. Outside of the town itself, and between it and Deramapatam, are a few straggling country-houses, and the court-house of the now no longer existing judges of circuit, who were three in number, besides the registrar. Beyond these, again, runs a rapid and deep stream, over which a couple of ferry-boats are continually plying; and on the other side of the stream rise the lofty cliffs and high tableland which constitutes that portion of Tellicherry styled by the natives Durhamupatnum, consisting of a few scattered villages, occupied almost exclusively by native fishermen, and two immense mansions, more like palaces than private houses, and heretofore the residence of two of the judges stationed at Tellicherry.

We will, if the reader pleases, imagine ourselves on board of the large Bombay China-ship, the ' Lowjee Family,' or if you object to that name, the ' Pestonjee Bomanjee[1],' just coming to an anchor in the roadstead to land some passengers and a few mess stores for the troops in the immediate interior, and then proceed on her voyage to China.

The morning is bright and cloudless; the water as smooth as a millpond, and the fine fresh land-wind that has favoured us all night, fast dying away to give place to the approaching sea-breeze, whose advent is clearly perceptible on the distant blue horizon, now richly spangled with the foaming bubbles of the sportive waves. This is one great blessing to the mariner that navigates the coast of Malabar; he is never at a loss far a favourable wind, either going-up or coming down the coast. The land and sea breezes are regular to their time, the space intervening between the departure of the one and the arrival of the other being just all sufficient for the requisite alterations in trimming the sails. Captains acquainted with the coast stand off the land about an hour before daybreak, the dawn appearing throughout the year within not many minutes' difference of the usual time, about a quarter to six, and at about ten A.M. they get beyond the influence of the land-wind and into the approaching sea-breeze. This they carry with them the whole day; and towards evening again the vessel stands in towards the laud to avail itself of the night shore-winds. These are regular, excepting during the two monsoons, at which period vessels rarely approach within sight of the land."



Figure 2. The shoreline below Tellicherry Fort, from a photograph dating to about 1900. One of the large houses referred to in this article, is quite probably the large white building seen in this photo.

The author then goes on to describe the journey through the surf from the ship to the shore.

This was the way that the vast majority of European visitors to Tellicherry arrived. By 1850 Tellicherry had lost most of its importance, so there were far fewer ships arriving than in earlier days, and Tellicherry was now mainly a stop over on a journey into the interior, often to Ootacamund in order to restore ones health in the cooler climate found in the Nilgiris.

"The anchor is gone, the sails are furled, the boat lowered; the jolly, good-natured skipper, with a huge bundle of papers and letters under one arm, an umbrella under the other, and a pocket-book full of bills of lading held firmly between his teeth, slides rapidly over the vessel's side into the boat, takes up his position in the stern-sheets, and away we go, under his skilful steering, safe and sound through the foaming surf, notwithstanding the many "crabs," to use a nautical expression, that the three young apprentices catch while rowing us on shore, sadly to their own discomfort, and not much to our own convenience, as we get splashed from head to toe with salt water: however, the heat of the sun soon dries us again, and no one allows himself to be put out by such a trifling circumstance, except a dirty-looking old Italian friar, who, as he has confidentially informed us himself more than once upon the voyage, looks upon the silly custom of bathing the body as very deleterious to the health in hot climates ; in confirmation of which startling announcement he solemnly affirms that, with the exception of his hands and feet and face, no water has touched any part of him for the last forty years, and that he has enjoyed uninterrupted health during that long period. We are not sorry to get rid of our dirty friend on landing; and so soon as we set foot on shore we are beset with hospitable invitations, and almost hauled by main force into half-a-dozen separate tonjons.[2]

There are no such things as hotels at Tellicherry, nor, indeed, at any of the up-country stations; for the English residents are, with a very few exceptions, princes of hospitality, and everybody knows everybody in the Madras Presidency.

The master-attendant's house commands an extensive view of the surrounding ocean. It is a neatly-built edifice, comprising every imaginable comfort, and an extensive and carefully-laid-out garden—all his own property, and has been his own property ever since he was first appointed, which was somewhere about the year 1790—a long period to remain at one place; and if anything argues in favour of the climate, it is the appearance of the old gentleman, who looks as fresh as any of oar country squires, and is as hearty and jolly as though he were only just in the prime of life, instead of being an octogenarian ; no man better able or more willing to give a stranger every assistance and useful information. From his house we proceed first to the Protestant burial ground, which is situated immediately on the left-hand side after passing the gates of the master-attendant's compound. The churchyard also commands an extensive view of the sea. Here are many tombstones of antiquated date, looking as new as the day they were first completed; whilst others, comparatively modern, were utterly neglected and in ruins, the inscriptions being barely legible. The sun shines brightly over the graves of the slumbering multitude, and the sea-breeze sports merrily with the tall rank grass as we quit this solemn place, and proceed to a still more gloomy memento of the wages of sin, even in life—this is the prison before alluded to. The outside looks dingy and wretched enough, and now we pass under the guarded gateway, and mount the apparently interminable stone steps, narrow and dark and damp, and in many parts much worn and slippery. Gradually your eyes get accustomed to the obscure light, and you then discover that these steps have at least one advantage, that of being kept perfectly clean, for they are washed and swept regularly, morning and evening. The heavy clanking of the chains of the criminals now reaches the attentive ear; a sudden turning brings you into the full glow of glorious daylight; you pass another arch with a massive iron door, also strictly guarded, and find yourself in an extensive arena, enclosed on three sides by very lofty buildings, and on the fourth (the side facing the town) a strongly-built, stupendous wall. Passing in regular order through the place, we come first to the court-house of the Zillah judge; but to get to it we must first mount a broad flight of not less than forty stone steps. Here we find an extensive, airy room, at the head of which, railed off from the plebeian herd of half-caste Portuguese and native writers and clerks, are the desks of the judge, the registrar, the pundit, and other officers of the court. Prisoners in the custody of multifarious peons—their accusers, and the witnesses on both sides—are quietly waiting for the coming of the judge, and beguiling the time by chatting with each other on terms of the greatest familiarity and apparent friendship, the prisoners entering into the gist of the argument with all the nonchalance imaginable, though many amongst them are Thugs, those Burkists of India. Their conversation is confined to that one all-absorbing topic amongst the Indians, money."


Figure 3. The Gateway into the Fort. Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Gething

Our traveller goes on to visit the old gaol situated inside the Fort. The building used to house the gaol also acted as the court house at this time.

"The court itself is in a delightfully-cool position, having several windows facing the sea, all of which, however, -are secured with massive iron bars. Adjoining the court-house is a room, sometimes used as a chapel. We look in en passant, and see a few rough, wooden benches, half-a-dozen chairs, and a large accumulation of dust. The chaplain at Cananore occasionally visits Tellicherry, and sometimes one of the judges performs Divine service: on such occasions this room is in requisition, as the church is all crumbling to ruins. Coming down the steps again we proceed on our visit of inspection; and the first thing that attracts attention, from the noisy hilarity going on inside, is the debtors' prison. We peep through the bars of an iron window, and are gratified with a sight of the occupants, who chiefly consist of natives, with perhaps a few lamentably-poor black Portuguese. Most of them are playing at a species of Indian draughts, using, instead of a board, a cloth patchwork, in the shape of a perfect cross, every square of which is of a different colour ; the draughtsmen are painted green and red, and they substitute cowry shells for dice. On the whole they are very happy and contented, for they can take exercise in the yard, and are allowed to cook their own victuals; and eating, drinking, and sleeping are just what suit their constitutions to a nicety. They are entirely supported by their wives and families; and in one respect all Orientals surpass Europeans—I mean in a feeling of pity for their poor and distressed connections, whom they never suffer to want so long as they have the wherewithal to support them. Next in order, we visit the dens allotted to criminals; and it requires no physiognomist to interpret the crimes and brutalities of which the greater mass of those here confined have been guilty. Such as have already been adjudged to different terms of imprisonment and hard labour, arc working, shackled separately or by couples, on the high roads, or else erecting or repairing public edifices. Those within the walls during the day are such as are awaiting some opportunity to convey them to the penal settlements in the Straits of Malacca, or those that have not yet been tried and sentenced by the Superior Court. In a ward, separated from the men, are the female criminals, also under sentence of transportation, or awaiting their trial. Some amongst these are perhaps guilty of crimes even more atrocious than those committed by the worst of male criminals; for as many women are hung in India for murder as there are men punished in a like manner for a similar offence."



Figure 4. The building inside the fort at Tellicherry that used to hold the gaol described in the article. The court was on the upper floor, and the cells below. The photo was taken during restoration in 2006.

In the following paragraph the author describes a lunatic asylum situated inside the fort. The East India Company correspondence suggests that there was an asylum in Tellicherry as early as 1795 but it doesn't say where or who went into it, but it must have been a deeply depressing place.

"Now let us hurry along from these sad spectacles. Next to the criminals' cell is the lunatic asylum, as you may guess by the bellowing of one unfortunate inmate, who imagines himself a' bull. Then there is the hospital, and then the condemned cells; and then we hurry down the steps again, and are thankful to find ourselves breathing a purer atmosphere—a breeze untainted by crimes and misery.

We enter the street; they are not very famous ones, but still they admit of a carriage or two passing abreast. The houses are mostly one story high, of a great variety of shapes and colours, according with the tastes of the various proprietors; and each house has a small compound attached to it, which is securely walled in all round. In the compound are the outhouses, such as the kitchen, stables, etc., a sprinkling of flowers, a few fruit-trees, a duck-pond, a well, and a pacottah, a species of seesaw machine, on which two men balance each other, or both balance themselves against the water, drawn up in a large leathern bag, which, as soon as it reaches the surface of the well, is capsized into a reservoir by an attendant imp, the son of one of the balancers. As soon as the reservoir is filled the men descend, and, taking out the plug from the reservoir, the water is conducted by aqueducts all over the garden, which is watered twice a-day throughout the year, except during the heavy rains. This practice extends all over the Madras Presidency.

Having watched their proceedings for a few minutes, we walk on. The yellow house with the yellow railings and thickly-set marigolds and sunflowers is the property of Mr. Jose de Silva, whose ancestors were originally white Portuguese, but intermarrying with natives some generations before Mr. Jose's birth, that gentleman, much to his discomfort, is decidedly black. He is head cashier to the Circuit Court, and his favourite colour is yellow—hence the colour of his house, his railing, and the flowers he most patronises: the two young ladies, his daughters, are also of the same tinge, and so is his palanquin, his tonjon, and his bundy, or cab; and if such a thing as a bright yellow horse could be had for his money, he would not mind standing a couple of thousand rupees; for the old fellow is quite a Croesus for Tellicherry, though he does go to office every week-day in a very faded suit of nankeen, and a wretchedly bad hat— things that you could never believe him guilty of, if you chanced to meet him at chapel of a Sunday, or when he is receiving a select circle at home on feast days.

The red house next to his belongs to another Portuguese, who is something in the revenue department, and who has a thorough contempt of his neighbours in the judicial line, considering the collectorate the only respectable service in India, and so on."



Figure 5. Typical house in the part of Tellicherry formerly inhabited mainly by Indo-Portuguese. Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Gething.

The area of Tellicherry immediately south of the fort, and extending about one mile south along the beach, and extending for 200 or 300 yards inland had been the home of the Indo Portuguese community in Tellicherry for over a hundred years before our visitor walked through its shady lanes. This community had been established in the town from the earliest days of the settlements history. The earlier Portuguese had been the translators for the East India Company, and had acted as middlemen in all of their proceedings with the local Indian Rajah's.

With Hyder and Tipu Sultan's invasions, the original community had grown rapidly with many Portuguese and Indo Portuguese refugees from other settlements along the coast moving into the town.

We pass a variety of gaudily-painted houses, all, with very few exceptions, the property of wealthy half-castes and Portuguese, who form a class of society amongst themselves, give dinners and evening parties, balls and social suppers, discuss politics, talk law, hatch scandal, and are painfully addicted to fiddles. You can scarce pass through the streets of a night for the villainous discord that fills the air, resounding from shockingly bad scrapers.

There is a fine esplanade just outside of the town, which juts out like a little promontory into the sea. At the extreme end rises a solitary tree, under the shade of which some benign individual in times past constructed a bench; and this extreme point is designated, in the topography of Tellicherry, Scandal Point. Here, in the cool of the evening, the Tellicherians promenade to and fro, and when fatigued repose.

The English residents at Tellicherry were at all times very few, but of late years their numbers have been grievously diminished by the abolition of the circuit court, and the consequent removal of the three sessions judges, the registrar, and their families. The few residing at Tellicherry when I was last there were on terms of the greatest intimacy. In the town itself resided the sub-collector, the Zillah judge, the lieutenant commanding the detachment, and the master-attendant; along the seashore resided the doctor, and one or two other families; and on the other side of the ferry, in Deramapatam, in the only house then habitable (the other one where I had resided on a former occasion having fallen in), Mr. B., one of the judges of the circuit court, the friend with whom I was staying. We had occasional reunions, which were very agreeable, as the ladies of our society, though few, were very accomplished musicians, and one or two of them sang admirably.

Tellicherry is famous in a commercial view for the vast quantities of pepper that the district yields, most of which is dried for shipment on the spot. Cardamums thrive here also, and the cinnamon-tree exists. Fruits, vegetables, and poultry are abundant and cheap, and the market is perfectly overstocked with fish and shell-fish. Amongst the fruit produced at Tellicherry there is a species, rare even there, and which I never met with in any other part of the world that I have visited—the natives called it the " Jumma Malak." The fruit was as large as a good-sized peach, and very much resembled one in shape; but the great beauty of it consisted in its complexion, if I may use such a term, which was of the most delicate white straw colour, with pale, rose-coloured cheeks. It had, like the peach, a kernel, was almost transparent, and its flavour a something between the mango and the mangostein. A tree which yielded fruit plentifully grew in the garden attached to the sub-collector's house. This tree grows to a considerable height above the ordinary run of mangotrees ; and its leaves resemble those of the mango.

Off Deramapatam, near the sea-beach that runs under the cliffs, there are extensive oyster-beds; and many a day have I—bread, pepper, and vinegar in one hand, and an oyster-knife in the other—waded through the waves to these rocks at low-water, and feasted to my heart's content on oysters, fresh from the bed. On one or two occasions I chanced to come across a pearl oyster, but the pearls were small and of little value.

The climate of Tellicherry,especially Deramapatam, is very healthy, and the houses are built so as to exclude damp during the monsoon seasons. The thunder-storms along the whole coast are terrific, though I never heard of a single accident resulting from them.

The native population of Tellicherry
consists of the Moplays, Nayars, Malgalams, and the Clings, or Pariahs, from Madras. There are also a few Mahometans and Brahmins, some Malabars of high caste, a few Gentoos, and three or four Parsees. Of these, by far the most fanatical and lawless is the Moplays, who are chiefly merchants, and whose unquenchable hatred to the English has on several occasions displayed itself; on one, especially, about the district of Mangalore. where, not further back than last year, a young officer of the 43rd regiment Madras native infantry was, in endeavouring to quell an insurrection, assassinated by these ruthless people, the Sepoys having ignominiously fled, leaving their officer single-handed to contend against an overwhelming force.


The young officer from the 43rd Regiment whose death is described here is almost certainly Ensign Wyse. On the 25th of August 1849 Torangal Unniyan killed another Indian called Paditodi Teyyunni, and then with four other men went off to join a band of Dacoits led by Attan Gurikkal. This man was the son of an earlier Dacoit or insurgent, and he seems to have been leader of a number of determined individuals.

It is not clear if his intentions were entirely criminal, or whether he had other political motives as well. On the 26th of August they killed a servant belonging to Marat Nambutiri, and two other individuals, before entering a Hindu Temple at Majeri. They set the temple on fire after defiling it.

A detachment of the 43rd Native Infantry Regiment under Captain Watt set out from Malapuram to Manjeri, with a plan to attack the insurgents in the temple on the 28th of August.

Ensign Wyse and his company were sent to attack the temple across some paddy fields, where the rebels who numbered about 32 men were holed up.

Mr. Collett, the Assistant Magistrate and a reserve force had remained on a nearby hill which had the Taluk Cutcherry on it to await events.

As Wyse and his men approached the temple the rebels came rushing out of the temple, and although Wyse was able to kill the first man who reached him, he and four others were killed.

As Mr. Collett wrote in his report, written later that day,

"Others now came down upon Ensign Wyse, and I am informed that one of them seized him by the jacket and he received a wound, when he appears to have fallen and was of course quickly put to death: but by this time three of the insurgents had fallen, and now those men in the detachment who alone had emulated their officer, fell, one of them having first gallantly bayonetted the man who gave Mr. Wyse his death wound."

The event was sufficiently serious for a second party of British troops to be sent for. A detachment of Her Majesties 94th Regiment under Major Dennis was brought down from Cannanore reaching Manjeri on the 3rd of September. After another fierce battle the insurgents were killed, but only after two more privates of the 94th Regiment had been killed, and six men including two officers had been wounded.

A detailed report based on Captain Watt's court marshal appeared in Allen's Indian Mail, dated, Saturday, November 1, 1851.

"in the year 1849, a detachment of the 43rd regiment of Madras Native Infantry, consisting of about 120 men, under Capt. R. P. K. Watt, was sent to disperse a party of these fierce zealots (between sixty and seventy in number), who had committed great disorders in the neighbourhood of Calicut.

Capt. Watt pushed forward half his party in advance, under
Ensign Wyse. About fifteen Moplahs rushed out from a mosque, in which they were posted, when nearly all the sepoys, though outnumbering the fanatics four to one, fired at random, and, without waiting for a collision, fled, leaving Ensign Wyse and six gallant fellows who stood by him to be cut to pieces. Capt. Watt was unable to rally the fugitives, whose panic infected the party he was bringing up, who refused to obey his orders, and' he retired to the cutcherry of the collector of the district, which, observing the state of his men, he barricaded, the petty band of fanatics being allowed to approach the cutcherry and abuse the sepoys with impunity.

A detachment of European troops (of the 94th Foot) was sent for, by whom the Moplahs were speedily routed and slain. Capt. Watt was tried by a court-martial, and found guilty of " not having taken sufficient measures to restore confidence in his men," and of allowing them to be insulted by the insurgents " without making any effort to rouse them to resistance."

The Court sentenced him to lose rank, and to be severely reprimanded,— a sentence which the Commander-in-Chief thought too lenient. The last occurrence, so similar in its circumstances, will, perhaps, raise a doubt whether Capt. Watt was not treated with an undue degree of rigour, and whether it was in his power to have "restored confidence" in his men, and animated them to resistance.


These events must still have been fresh in peoples minds when our author visited Tellicherry the following year. The insurgent band wasn't destroyed in the operation, and other Mappilla insurgents were active in October 1850 and 1851.[3]

Our author goes on to describe the other more peaceable main inhabitants of the town..

"The Nayars are tillers of the ground, and masons. Many of them are in the military service of the Rajah of Travancore. The Nair brigade, stationed at Trevandrem, is commanded by an officer in the company's army, and the other officers are mostly English. Both men and women are fair-complexioned for the East, and very handsome in figure and face; the men middle-sized and athletic, the women slim and graceful.

The Malgalams are principally fishermen, and all the other classes are tradesmen—such as shopkeepers, boatmen, coolies, domestic servants, etc. The principal shop at Tellicherry was kept by a Parsee, a leper (and I may here remark in parentheses that this fearful disorder seems to be almost exclusively confined to the Parsees both at Bombay and on the Malabar coast). The shop was scantily furnished, and the articles it contained of a very inferior quality, and exorbitantly dear. Occasionally Madras hawkers and travelling Arab merchants visited the coast; the former brought all kinds of odds and ends picked up at public auctions—such as palmerinos, books, muslins, chintzes, lavender-water, soap, &c.; the latter confined themselves to creature comforts, such as dried figs, Arabian dates, and drugs and gums of various descriptions, with an occasional valuable horse or two. But the greatest treat imaginable to us Tellicherians, quite a prize in rainy weather, was the itinerant book-hawkers, who, picking up books at every auction they attend, and being solely guided in their choice by the cheapness or the binding of the volumes, amass, in space of time, a singular collection of odd volumes— annuals, travels, religious tracts, plays, Bibles, novels, periodicals, and music, the very overhauling of which proves a vast source of amusement, and amongst which one occasionally stumbles across a valuable addition to a library.

Watching the vessels passing to and fro half a mile within the cliffs, on which the house of mine hospitable host was situated, was a pastime to the dilettanti at Tellicherry; and a stroll along the fine, sandy beach, which ran for many miles close under the cliffs, was an untiring source of amusement to the " butchas" of the family, and not less relished by some of the grown-up children. The many gaily-coloured shells which were an inestimable treasure to the baby; the scampering after legions of crabs, which we occasionally captured and more often lost; the not unfrequent wettings we got by unwarily pursuing the prey beyond the limits of prudence; the terror depicted in little missy's face, as she fled precipitately from the quick-approaching wave; the merry, clear little laugh of the youngsters to witness the utter despair of some incautious one, ankle deep in the foaming surge; the horrid dizzy sensation as the wave retreated again, causing you to all appearance to be swept back with it into the bosom of the troubled ocean, all these are scenes and recollections fresh and dear to memory, and they are some of the few scenes of past life that one loves to look back upon, and to pause and meditate during the retrospective glance.

From Tellicherry we coast along southward to Alway, near Cochin."[4]

I would very much like to identify the author, as well as the individuals named. It is quite probable that the Master Attendant referred to was Edward Brennan. However, the author must be mistaken in thinking that Brennan had been at Tellicherry since 1790, as Mr. Oakes had previously been Master Attendant for many years before his death in 1819.

Like Brennan, Oakes was also a philanthropist who devoted much of his private time and fortune to helping the poor and deprived Indian's who had settled around the inland fringes of the town in squatter camps, that had existed ever since the wars in the 1780 to 1799 period.

I would be especially keen to hear from you if yu are connected to any of the Portuguese community described in the account. It would be fascinating to learn more about the lives that community led.



[1]Pestonjee Bomanjee, a large Country built ship named after the famous Pharsee Shipbuilder of that name who was active in the Bombay dockyards until about 1817. This ship went on to transport convicts to Tasmania in 1853.
[2]Hobson Jobson gives the following for Tonjon. Forms in Hind. tāmjhām and thāmjān. The word is perhaps adopted from some trans-gangetic language. A rude contrivance of this kind in Malabar is described by Col. Welsh under the name of a 'Tellicherry chair' (ii. 40). c. 1804.-- "I had a tonjon, or open palanquin, in which I rode."
[3] William Logan, Malabar Manual, Volume 1, page 560 to 562.
[4] From the Home Friend, A Weekly Miscellany of Amusement etc; Instruction. Published in 1854.


Saturday, 20 March 2010

Palakkad [or Palghat] Fort, the Early Sieges. Part 2.


Figure 1. Palakkad or Palghat Fort.

By 1766 Hyder Ali had over reached himself in the wars he was fighting below the ghats in Malabar.

The Travancore Raja had built up the formidable Travancore Lines, a long system of earthen defensive banks, stockades and ditches that ran for many miles until they reached the Dutch forts at Cranganore.

Unable to breach these lines before the weather broke and unable to frighten the Raja into submission Hyder was forced to reconsider his options.

As the South West Monsoon swept in, Hyder had to retire inland with his main forces. This allowed the Malabar Rajah's precious time to regroup, and as the British were later to learn, it is one thing to conqueror Kerala in the dry season, but quite another to hold it through the monsoon.

Meanwhile the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Mahrattas had sensed their opportunity to attack Hyder Ali in the Deccan while his army was bogged down in Malabar.

The East India Company sent forces from the Coromandel Coast to assist in these attacks on Mysore. A bitter war commenced on several fronts that ran on from then until 1769.

During this period Palghat fell to local forces assisted by the East India Company. It is not clear when this occurred or how, but it is likely that the fort at this time was either quite weak or possibly was incomplete at the time.

It is possible that it was little more than a stockade. There is no account that I am aware of currently of its requiring a formal siege to take.

In November 1768 Hyder Ali sent a force under Fazulla Khan down the Palghat Gap in one column while he attacked EIC forces under Colonel Wood who were occupying Coimbatore and Salem.

Colonel Wood survived the campaign, but it is clear from the lack of surviving accounts that the East India Company afterwards found Wood's defeat deeply embarrassing.

Quite possibly this was because in truth the forces commanded by Colonels Wood and Smith were ridiculously small in comparison with the task they were expected to perform.

These tiny forces were spread out in tiny garrisons over a very wide area, which had little real chance of resisting Hyder's much larger forces. Colonel Wood probably had less than 1,000 men under his command in garrisons often fifty or more miles apart. They were incapable of supporting each other, and most posts had less than 100 men in each.

When news of Hyder Ali's renewal of the war and the ineffectiveness of Colonel Smith & Wood's forces reached London in May 1769, East India Company shares fell in value by 60% within a few days. [1]

The best account of these events covering much of southern India I can find comes from Wilks.

Hyder, on his return from the west, had relieved Fuzzul Oolla Khan from the command of Bangalore, and sent him to Seringapatam. The commandants of all the principal garrisons and field corps, had, in conformity to a general instruction, been employed, since the commencement of the war, in procuring new levies, which were now sufficiently instructed to take the garrison and provincial duties; and the old troops, including the respectable detachment from Malabar, had been directed to repair to Seringapatam, where Fuzzul Oolla Khan continued to be actively employed, in giving them the requisite organization and equipments, as a field force. Early in November, this officer took the field with a well-composed corps of 7,000 cavalry and infantry, and ten guns, and a command over the irregular infantry, which was intermixed with the mass of the inhabitants below the ghauts : he knew that he should be aided by the active exertions of this numerous class, and by the best wishes of a population driven to despair, by the horrible exactions of Mohammed Ali's collectors of revenue, whose system of misrule left at an humble distance all the oppression that had ever been experienced from the iron government of Hyder: but proceeding with a skilful caution, he moved towards the passes of Caveripooram and Gujjelhutty, to obtain a perfect knowledge of the number and nature of the English posts before he should attack them. At the former of these, an honest and brave Serjeant, named Hoskan, who commanded the advanced post of two companies and one gun in a ruined mud fort, repelled the attempts of Fuzzul Oolla to take it by a coup de main; and without the most remote suspicion of his perilous situation, after modestly reporting the fact to his officer, adds, with the most interesting confidence and simplicity, " I expect them again to-morrow morning in two parties with guns: I will take the guns from them with the help of God." But his confidence was disappointed, for after the post had been made a heap of ruins, it was carried by a sanguinary assault; but I am unable to satisfy the reader's anxiety for the fate of the brave serjeant. The other posts fell in succession : that at Gujjelhutty, where a Lieutenant Andrews commanded, stood two regular assaults; but he was killed in the second, and the place surrendered on the 19th of November. The troops in the pass, under the command of Captain Orton, who, until the moment of attack, continued to maintain the absurd doctrines of Colonel Wood, successively abandoned their positions and their guns, and retreated with precipitation to Satimungul; and from thence to concentrate the remaining force at Erode. Among the strange military anomalies of Colonel Wood and his coadjutor the fiscal agent of Mohammed Ah' ; the former commandant of Coimbatore, who had betrayed it to the English, was continued in the command of the irregular troops of his former garrison—as killedar of the place, exercising a joint non-descript authority, with the European officer, who commanded the regular troops. While the greater part of these were out at exercise on the 29th of November, with the willing aid of the inhabitants, he seized the occasion to massacre all those within, to shut the gates, and, assisted by a body of cavalry, who had approached for the purpose, made prisoners the men at exercise, who, as usual, had only blunt cartridges. Fuzzul Oolla Khan who had concerted the plan, waited for its accomplishment before he should descend the Gujjelhutty pass, with his main body, and immediately sent a dispatch to Hyder, to report that he should have completed his descent by the 4th of December; the treachery at Coimbatore, and a similar exploit at Denaikancota gave just cause of alarm to all those officers -whose garrisons were not exclusively composed of English sepoys; all of them being aware, that they had no means of defence. In a few days the rumour of Hyder's approach from the north was abundantly confirmed. Captain Johnson who commanded at Darapoor, with 400 faithful sepoys; made good his retreat to Trichinopoly, in the face of Fuzzul Oolla's whole force; a gallant and skilful achievement, which deservedly fixed the reputation of that respectable officer. Lieutenant Bryant who commanded at Palghaut, with a small detachment of his own sepoys, and the remaining part of the garrison, composed of Nabob's troops, and irregulars hired in the country, having certain intelligence of a plan of massacre within, and the evidence of being invested without, concerted with his faithful sepoys the means of escaping from these complicated dangers : they withdrew unperceived in the night, and following a secret path known to one of the sepoys, through the woods and mountains, to the south-west, arrived in safety at Travancore; and thence returned by Cape Comorin to the southeastern dependencies of Madras."[2],

Lieutenant Bryant's escape was probably the only course of action left open to him, as his supply routes to the east had been cut off, and the British had at that time only limited number of bases on the Malabar Coast at that time at Anjengo, and Tellicherry from which they could operate from. The countryside outside those two settlements that only extended a mile or so from the forts at each location was filled with potentially hostile enemy forces, and an armed population who were not necessarily going to be friendly.

Hyder had forces in Calicut and the surrounding districts, astride the only viable route up from the coast so that running supplies into Palghat from the west was probably not possible, even if they had been available to send.

Hyder Ali was now at the peak of his powers, and I believe that it was during the period following the recapture of the fort that it was reconstructed in stone. Perhaps Hyder had decided that he did not want to lose it a second time.

The fort as it was constructed at this time appears to have been designed to be defended by musketry and wall guns or very small cannon, below 6 pounders in size, as later surveys made in 1799 comment on the lack of embrasures for cannon and on the fact that the walls were too weak to bear even small cannons of this size unless they were upgraded and thickened.

The fort was also overlooked by several hills within 300 to 400 metres of the walls, and these hills reached heights level with or just above the tops of the walls that had been built, so it was unlikely that the forts designers expected to face European style siege warfare where 18 pounder guns capable of firing out to 500 or more metres could be expected.

It is easy to criticise the original designers for these failings, but in 1770 the English forces were still very few in number, and incapable of moving larger cannon very far inland, so it was probably a reasonable assumption to make at that time, that the fort would only have to face light infantry, most probably in the form of Nairs, and that it could therefore be defended by muskets and bows.

More puzzling is the fact that they left several deep gullies or wadis unfilled that came very close to the walls, which could have provided ready made approaches along which infantry could have approached the walls unseen.

These gullies have been subsequently filled in by the British in 1799.

We know that the walls were built of stone by 1781, and we know that the stonework was laid with the narrow or header side facing outwards. The longer side of the stones were tied into the core of the wall.

This can help us to identify the fabric of the original fort.

The robustness of the original stonework at Palghat was still remembered in 1820's by Edward Lake as being particular strong.

"If the ramparts of an Indian Fortress are of stone, the curtain should generally be battered in preference to the towers, as the shot are apt to be reflected from the latter, owing to their circular form, and the hardness of the material of which they are built. The propriety of this rule was exemplified in a remarkable way at the siege of Palghaut, in 1781, [3] where the besiegers in vain attempted to breach one of the round towers of the Fort, which was composed of very large blocks of granite, laid in the manner technically called "headers," in architecture, so as to present their ends, not their sides, to the shot. In 1790, when the Fort was again attacked, one of the curtains was breached in a few hours." [4]


Figure 2. Showing the Header Masonry Work most probably undertaken in Hyder's period.

Figure 2 shows two distinct colours of masonry block work. The stone in the retaining walls to the moat appears to be lighter in colour and to be possibly a sandstone, where as the stone work in the tower is much darker in colour. Is this from another quarry?

Or is the darker colour a response to weathering over the past 220 monsoons, where the lower work was protected by being covered in water?

If the upper gun emplacement embrasures are British what did the fort look like in 1782?

It is hard to say with certainty, and although many forts in India survive, I am unable to find many examples of forts built as late as the 1770 to 1780 period. Forts like that at Bidar do however have merlons that date from the musket period, and I believe that these enable us to get an idea of what the upper parts of the walls looked like when Colonel Humberstone arrived in April 1782.



Figure 3. Typical Merlons or Machicolations from Indian 17th Century Forts
fitted for muskets. [5]

[1] The History of England: from the Accession of King George from the Accession etc. by John Adolphus. page 353, volume I.
[2]Historical Sketches of the South of India, in an Attempt to Trace the History Of Mysoor. etc. Colonel Mark Wilks. Vol i. Pages 357 to 359.
[3] 1781 is a mistake because the next attack on the fort was that made by Colonel Humberstone took place in 1782, as will be described later.
[4]Journals of the sieges of the Madras Army, in the years 1817, 1818, and 1819 ...
By Edward Lake, published in 1825, page 321
[5] Taken from Indian Castles 1206-1526, by Konstantin Nossov and illustrated by Brian Delf, published by Osprey Publishing in 2006.