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The First Duke of Welesley Started his Military Carrier by Defeating Tippu Sultan

Updated on December 16, 2017


Tippu Sultan was the Muslim ruler of Mysore state in South India. He was born in 1750 and was the son of Hyder Ali, who was a general in the army of the King of Mysore. Hyder Ali seized power and crowned himself Sultan. He led many expeditions in the Deccan, but his main enemy was the East India Company. He did once capture Madras, but was finally defeated and died early. His son Tippu took over as Sultan and continued his feud with the English.

Tippu was a bigoted ruler, who believed in the superiority of Islam. This was the man who was to cross swords with the First Duke of Wellington, who later rose to great heights as a soldier, as he led the coalition against Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Duke won his military spurs in India fighting Tippu Sultan, who he vanquished in 1799.

The Duke was in India from 1796-1803, before he left back for England. His brother was the Governor of Madras Presidency and that was one reason he opted to serve time in India.

Storming the bation of Tippu
Storming the bation of Tippu

Early life of Duke and arrival in India

The First Duke of Wellesley was from an aristocratic background. He was born in 1769 and died in 1852. This was a period of great glory for him, but the start was the 4th Anglo-Mysore war in 1799. Later he vanquished the Marathas at the Battle of Assaye in 1803. These battles in the Deccan known as the Carnatic wars cemented his military reputation and he rose up the ladder to become a Field Marshal and Commander in Chief of the English army.

The Duke joined the army in 1786 as an ensign and by 1796 was a Colonel, when he was sent to India. The English in India at that time faced a great threat from the French who had allied with the Sultan of Mysore Tippu. One of the first aims of the Duke on his arrival was to break the power of Sultan Tippu.

He was greatly helped in social matters by the Hindus and Christians who had been persecuted by the Sultan. He had forcibly carried out conversions and had circumcised thousands on pain of death. The younger women were handed over to his Muslim nobles as concubines. His atrocities reached a peak in Malabar and Coorg where he reportedly destroyed over 8000 temples and churches. In a way, Tippu Sultan, had by his own deeds alienated vast numbers of people in his realm by his sectarian approach. The English thought these acts were a godsend as he signed his own death warrant.

The Duke on arrival refurbished and retrained the local Madras Regiment, which is still a part of the Indian army. With a better trained and armed local army aided by English soldiers, a decision was taken to finish Tippu Sultan once and for all,

3 Pounder Canon used by Tippu
3 Pounder Canon used by Tippu
Painting of the Death of Tippu
Painting of the Death of Tippu

The 4th Anglo-Mysore War

In December 1798, orders were received to march on Seringapatam the capital of Tippu Sultan. The English marshaled 3 armies for this with one army advancing from Bombay aided by the Nizam of Hyderabad and 2 armies advancing from Madras. The Duke of Wellesley was in command of one of the armies from Madras. The British in all had about 26000 troops, mainly from the Madras Regiment and in addition 4000 ethnic English soldiers; they were also aided by 16000 troops from the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Tippu had about 30,000 troops as well as highly fortified defenses which had been planned by his French advisors. The English army in those days on the march was an unwieldy force as it carried goats, sheep, shopkeepers, attendants, comfort women and cooks and laundrymen. This unwieldy force was spread over 18 sq. miles and the army covered about 10 miles in a day. The duke himself had 30 attendants and in modern parlance, they would have been sitting ducks.

Tippu displayed poor military acumen as he allowed the army to march from Madras. His best course was to venture out and attack while the army was marching, but he did nothing and thus showed that he lacked military and strategic sense.

Death of Tippu


Having missed the opportunity of attacking the English on the march, Tippu was boxed inside his fort. The English laid siege to it and it was now a matter of time. On 4 may 1799 orders were given for assaulting the fort and a massive thrust was launched. The Duke himself planned the assault that saw one side of the fort being breached. This was enough as the English force entered the fort. Tippu was advised to run away through the many secret tunnels, but he preferred to stay and fight. He was shot dead on 4 May and the entire fort and palace were then looted by the English.

Lord Wellesley was appointed Governor of Mysore and consolidated English rule. This was the stepping stone of success for him and he followed up by vanquishing the Marathas in the 3rd Anglo Maratha war. He had done enough and in 1803, he was called back home. Greater honors in the military and political field awaited him at home.

Crypt at st paul where Duke is burried
Crypt at st paul where Duke is burried


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    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you DDE

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and informative thank you

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Ali Khan for commenting. It's nice to make a friend from Karachi. My ancestors stayed in Lahore

    • alikhan3 profile image

      StormsHalted 2 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      you seem to have a quite biased viewpoint about Tipu ............