Monday, 4 June 2012

News of Major Cameron's Defeat reaches Britain.

Major Cameron played an unwitting part in the story of Thomas Baber and this may have given an edge to Thomas Baber's later hunt for the Pyche Rajah.  The Major was the husband of Helen, who once widowed went on to become Thomas Baber's wife and who stuck with him throughout all his later troubles.

News of the Major's death which had taken place on the 18th of March 1797 reached Britain shortly  before the 28th of August 1797. It is a measure of just how serious an incident this had been, that the news was thought to warrant overland post.

Usually the dispatches to Britain went by sea, and would have taken many more months to have arrived in London. An overland dispatch had to go via the Red Sea to Egypt and on to London by ship via the Mediterranean, and would have cost approximately £400, a very large sum in those days, the equivalent of  annual salary of a senior official or Colonel, per letter.

The following report was picked up by the Reading Mercury, most probably from a London Paper published a day or so before.

Reading Mercury - Monday 28 August 1797

Friday and Saturday’s Posts.

Yesterday a Court of Directors was held at the East-India house, for the purpose of reading dispatches received over-land from Bombay.

Their purport is understood to be of a disagreeable nature, but by no means so hostile to the peace of India as had been reported.

In consequence of some dispute between Tippoo Saib and the Rajah of Cotiote, respecting elephants, a detachment of our troops, consisting of a thousand men, headed by Colonel Dow, marched towards that province, for the sake of ending the dispute by treaty or arms; when, on passing Wynaad into Cotiote, they were attacked by the refractory Rajah Pyche.  On the early retreat of Colonel Dow, the command devolved on Major Cameron, who after a gallant resistance, fell at the head of his troops.  In this unfortunate action we lost 300 men. And great part of our ammunition.
The following is a list of the killed and wounded.

Killed.  Major Cameron, Lieutenant Nugent, Ensign Mudge, Ensign Ruddiman.
Wounded.  Captain Budden, Ensign Fallow.

In consequence of the above unhappy contest, Governor Duncan, attended by General Stewart, proceeded from Bombay to Tellicherry, in order to confer with the Ministers of Tippoo, leaving Sir Charles Malet and Mr. Page, in charge of Government.

The latest advices from Bombay state the agreeable news of Tippoo’s return to Seringapatam, from what had been termed a hunting party; and of every prospect of tranquillity being about to be restored to the Cotiote Province.[1]

A full report of the action in which these men were killed is given in my Blog of Wenesday 27th December 2006, The Death of Major Cameron. [2]

[1] From the British Library Newspaper Collection.


siddeshwar said...

Good article. Hard to imagine the effort behind getting that news travel from India to Britain.

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