Major Allan’s Account of finding the dead body of Tippoo Sultan-1799

Tippoo was of low stature, corpulent, with high shoulders, and a short thick neck, but his feet were remarkably small; his complexion was rather dark

Major Alexander Allan (1764-1820)

Major Allan’s Account of his Interview with the Princes in the Palace of Seringapatam, and of finding the Body of the late Tippoo Sultan.

“A short time after the troops were in possession of the works, Major Beatson and I observed, from the south rampart, several persons assembled in the palace; many of whom, from their dress and appearance, we judged to be of distinction. I particularly remarked, that one person prostrated himself before he sat down; from which circumstance I was led to conclude, that Tippoo, with such of his officers who had escaped from the assault, had taken shelter in the palace.

Before any attempt could be made to secure the palace (where it was thought the enemy, in defence of their sovereign and his family, would make a serious resistance) it became necessary to refresh the troops, who were greatly exhausted by the heat of the day, and the fatigue which they had already undergone. In the mean time Major Beatson and I hastened to apprise General Baird of the circumstances we had seen: on our way, we passed Major Craigie and Captain Whitlie, with the grenadiers, and some battalion companies of the 12th regiment. As soon as we reached General Baird, we proposed to him to bring these troops to him, to which he assented. On my return, General Baird directed me to proceed to the palace with the detachment of the 12th, and part of Major Gibbings’s battalion of sepoys: he directed me to inform the enemy that their lives should be shared, on condition of their immediate surrender, but that the least resistance would prove fatal to every person within the palace walls. Having fastened a white cloth on a serjeant’s pike, I proceeded to the palace, where I found Major Shee, and part of the 33d regiment, drawn up opposite the gate: several of Tippoo’s people were in a balcony, apparently in great consternation. I informed them that I was deputed by the General, who commanded the troops in the fort, to offer them their lives, provided they did not make resistance; of which I desired them to give immediate intimation to their Sultan. In a short time the killedar, another officer of consequence, and a confidential servant, came over the terrace of the front building, and descended by an unfinished part of the wall. They were greatly embarrassed, and appeared inclined to create delays; probably with a view of effecting their escape as soon as the darkness of the night should afford them an opportunity. I pointed out the danger of their situation, and the necessity of coming to an immediate determination, pledging myself for their protection, and proposing that they should allow me to go into the palace, that I might in person give these assurances to Tippoo. They were very averse to this proposal, but I positively insisted on returning with them. I desired Captain Scohey, who speaks the native languages with great fluency, to accompany me and Captain Hastings Fraser. We ascended by the broken wall, and lowered ourselves down on a terrace, where a large body of armed men were assembled. I expalined to them, that the flag which I held in my hand was a pledge of security, provided no resistance was made; and the stronger to impress them with this belief, I took off my sword, which I insisted upon their receiving. The killedar, and many others affirmed, that the princes and the family of Tippoo were in the palace, but not the Sultan. They appeared greatly alarmed, and averse to coming to any decision. I told them, that delay might be attended with fatal consequences; and that I could not answer for the conduct of our troops, by whom they were surrounded, and whose fury was with difficulty restrained. They then left me, and shorlty I observed people moving hastily backwards and forwards in the interior of the palce; and, as there were many hundreds of Tippoo’s troops within the walls, I began to think our situation rather critical. I was advised to take back my sword; but such an act, on my part, might, by exciting their distrust, have kindled a flame, which, in the present temper of the troops, might have been attended with the most dreadful consequences; prbobably the massacre of every soul within the palace walls. The people on the terrace begged me to hold the flag in a conspicuos position, in order to give confidence to those in the palace, and prevent our troops from forcing the gates. Growing impatient at these delays, I sent another message to the princes, warning them of their critical situation, and that my time was limited. They answered, they would receive me as soon as a carpet could be spread for the purpose; and soon after the killedar came to conduct me.

I found two of the princes seated on the carpet, surrounded by a grerat many attendants. They desired me to sit down, which I did in front of them. The recollection of Moiza-deen, who, on a former occasion, I had seen delivered up with his brother, hostages to Marquis Cornwallis, the sad reverse of their fortuines, their fear, which, notwithstanding their struggles to conceal, was but too evident, excited the strongest emotions of compassion in my mind. I took Moiza-deen (to whom the killedar, &c. principally directed their attention) by the hand, and endeavoured, by every mode in my power, to remove his fears, and to persude him that no violence should be offered to him or his brother, nor to any person in the palace. I then intreated him, as the only means to preserve his father’s life, whose escape was impracticable, to inform me of the s[pot where he was concealed. Moiza-deen, after some conversation apart with his attendants, assured me that the Padshaw was not in the palace. I requested him to allow the gates to be opened. All were alarmed at this proposal, and the princes were reluctant to take such a step but by the authority of their father, to whom they desired to send. At length, however, having promised that that I would post a guard of their own sepoys within, and a party of Europeans on the outside, and having given them the strongest assurances that no person should enter the palace but by my authority, and that I would return, and remain with them until General Baird arrived, I convinced them of the necesssity of compliance; and I was happy to observe that the princes, as well as their attendants, appeared to rely with confidence on the assurances I had given them.

On opening the gate, I found General Baird and several officers, with a large body of troops assembled. I returned with Lieutenant-colonel Close into the palace, for the purpose of bringing the princes to the General. We had some difficulty in conquering the alarm and the objections which they raised to quitting the palace; but they at length permitted us to conduct them to the gate. The indignation of General Baird was justly excited by a report, which had reached him soon after he had sent me to the palace, that Tippoo had inhumanely murdered all the Europeans who had fallen into his hands during the siege; this was heightened probably by a momentary recollection of his own sufferings, during more than three years imprisonment in that very place; he was, nevertheless, sensibly affected by the sight of the princes; and his gallantry, on the assault, was not more conspicuous, than the moderation and humanity which he displayed on this occasion. He received the princes with every mark of regard, repeatedly assured them that no violence or insult should be offered to them, and he gave them in charge to Lieutenant-colonel Agnew and Captain Marriott, by whom they were conducted to head-quarters in camp, escorted by the light company of the 33d regiment. As they passed the troops were ordered to pay them the compliment of presented arms.

General Baird now determined to search the most retired parts of the palace, in the hope of finding Tippoo. He ordered the light company of the 74th regiment, followed by others, to enter the palace-yard. Tippoo’s troops were immediately disarmed, and we proceeded to make the search through many of the apartments. Having intreated the killedar, if he had any regard for his own life, or that of his Sultan, to inform us where he was concealed, he put his hands upon the hilt of my sword, and, in the most solemn manner, protested that the Sultan was not in the palace, but that he had been wounded during the storm and lay in a gateway on the north face of the fort, whither he offered to conduct us; and if it was found that he deceived us, said, the General might inflict on him what punishment he pleased. General Baird, on hearing the report of the killedar, proceeded to the gateway, which was covered with many hundreds of slain. The number of dead, and the darkness of the place, made it difficult to distinguish one person from another, and the scene was altogether shocking; but, aware of the great political importance of ascertaining beyond the possibility of doubt, the death of Tippoo, the bodies were ordered to be dragged out, and the killedar, and the other two persons, were desired to examine them one after another. This, however, appeared endless; and, as it now was becoming dark, a light was procured, and I accompanied the killedar into the gateway. During the search we discovered a wounded person laying under the Sultan’s palankeen: this man was afterwards ascertained to be Rajah Cawn, one of Tippoo’s most confidential servants; he had attended his master during the whole of the day, and, on being made acquainted with the object of our search, he pointed out the spot where the Sultan had fallen. By a faint glimmering light it was difficult for the killedar to recognise the features; but the body being brought out, and satisfactorily proved to be that of the Sultan, was conveyed in a palankeen to the palace, where it was again recognized by the eunuchs and other servants of the family.

When Tippoo was brought from under the gateway, his eyes were open, and the body was so warm, that for a few moments Colonel Wellesley and myself were doubtful whether he was not alive: on feeling his pulse and heart, that doubt was removed. He had four wounds, three in the body, and one in the temple; the ball having entered a little above the right ear and lodged in the cheek. His dress consisted of a jacket of fine white linen, loose drawers of flowered chintz, with a crimson cloth of silk and cotton, round his waist: a handsome pouch with a red and green silk belt, hung across his shoulder: his head was uncovered, his turban being lost in the confusion of his fall: he had an amulet on his arm, but no ornament whatever.

Tippoo was of low stature, corpulent, with high shoulders, and a short thick neck, but his feet were remarkably small; his complexion was rather dark; his eyes large and prominent, with small arched eyebrows, and his nose aquiline: he had an appearance of dignity, or perhaps sternness, in his countenance, which distinguished him above the common order people.”


Beatson, A. A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultan; comprising a narrative of the operations of the army under the command of Lieutenant-General George Harris, and of the siege of Seringapatam. [With plates and maps] London: G. & W. Nichol, 1800. Appendix No. XLII pp. cxxvii-cxxxi.

Tipu Sultan


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