In this second part of Jacob Haafner’s report on the Battle of Perambani (better known as Pollilur) he describes the use of rockets by the Indian forces. The English eventually captured the technology of the Mysore iron rockets when they defeated Tippoo Sultan. And used the technology to develop the Congreve Rocket. He also describes the square battle formation the English used initially and succesfully to defend themselves. This battle has been illustrated afterwards by artists in a scroll painting.
Tippoo Sultan’s victory at Perambani (Pollilur)
The second day of their march, the troops arrived, about twelve hours in the afternoon, very tired in a great woodland, called Perambani, which they had to cross necessarily, and in which they wanted to rest themselves a bit. – Here Tippoo Saheb had laid an ambush – which went to his desire.
Baily with his people, without the slightest suspicion of that, entered carefree into this wood. Scarcely they found themselves in its center, or they were greeted by three masked batteries, in front and at the flanks, which furiously began to play on them.
The Europeans quickly stormed one of these batteries and took hold of it, but the firing of the other two was so intense – that they found themselves compelled, to leave it again in a hurry, and return to the majority of their people.
More or less they saw themselves surrounded on all sides by the enemy; nothing was left to them other than to fight manfully – and, as much as it would be possible, to cut themselves a way through. They succeeded, not without many difficulties and opposition, to get out of the wood, where, because of the thickly growing trees, they could not deploy their troops; but here they found the camp of Massourers (Mysore), arrayed in battle order, before them, and new batteries, which thundered away on them.
Baily not shocked by this decides instantly. At his command the rumbling drums call to the battalion Quarré! the ranks divide themselves, flow together, and develop artfully again – and from the vast rows quickly forms a menacing square, defended at the corners with heavy artillery, as to where the enemy might attack, to be able to resist it, and to turn them back forcefully.
Now the Massour riders storm from all sides, on the movable fortress, encouraging each other with wild shouting – three times they attack – are three times they are forced to turn back with great loss. From a thousand guns, death persistently rattles to meet them. Like a quick flowing stream, interrupted in the fiercest of its course, by a broad and lofty cliff, which rises from the middle of its bed, – roaring foaming back – thus again and again they recoil.
Meanwhile the artillery of the English thundered away incessantly on the Massours gangs who conceded herein nothing to them, but still moreover, send them countless Fougeitos (*).
(*) The Indians make use in the war of a kind of fire arrows [rockets], which are called Fougeitos. It is an iron rod of eight to ten feet long, and about three inches thick; at one end thereof it has a heavy iron container tube filled with gunpowder, which, through a small hole, which is at the back of the container tube, being lit, the snake flies forth, with a prodigious speed, and steadily rotating, and can sometimes kill five or six people, or seriously hurt them. These rockets are dealt with by special people, and it takes a lot of power and art, to manage them, and to give them a horizontal direction.
Like thunderbolts they whizz murderously into their dense rows, but they, not paying attention to the fallen immediately close the ranks, immovable they stand, man to man, as an impenetrable wall – a formidable stronghold of threatening artillery, with daggers raised.
Victory for Mysore
Thus was battled. Fear and hope, floated in turn, from one host to the other – all the attacks of the cavalry were beaten back – all attempts by Baily, to cut himself through the enemy, are in vain – when suddenly a rocket landing in the center of the square shatters a cart with gunpowder, and has it explode, together with three others. This dreadful accident brings confusion among Baily’s troops; dismay and terror seize the souls of his warriors; most, unaware of the cause of this terrible outburst, believing that the enemy is already raging in their midst; many of them step away from their position, and anxiously look around for escape – and in the undulating ranks wide openings appear.
This saw the son of the Massourian hero; perched high on the back of his mighty elephant he saw the decisive moment of victory – with thundering voice he cried to the general attack.
You can read the third part of this series HERE
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