HERE BE TRUE HISTORIES OF OUR NAMESAKES
READ…AND WALK WITH THEM THROUGH TIME…
In the autumn of 1787 it became necessary to provide additional troops for service in India. And on October 25th it was directed that it should be known as the 77th Foot.. Each company had 4 officers, 3 sergeants, 4 corporals 2 drummers and 71 rank and file.
The first Lieutenant Colonel was James Balfour, who was appointed on October 12th from the 6th Foot, in which he had been commissioned as ensign on March 28th, 1762. The actual command of the regiment rested with him, and so many of the early officers of the 77th were Scots that it seems probable that Balfour was responsible for their selection. The senior captain was Bulstrode Whitelocke, who had entered the army as a boy of fifteen on May 1st, 1776, and was a captain of five years’ standing in the 17th Foot when he was appointed to the 77th on November 1st, 1787. Other officers of whom we shall hear of again were James Dunlop, who came from the old 76th Foot, John Montresor from the old 99th, and William Frederick Spry of the 64th, who, though only eighteen had already seven years’ service. Dunlop and Montresor were captains; Spry was the first captain-lieutenant of the 77th. Nor must we omit to mention amongst their juniors, Lieutenant Lachlan Macquarie and Ensign Archibald Campbell. Out of these seven officers five rose to the rank of general.
The 77th embarked in the Downs off Deal between March 28th and April 10th, 1788, on board the Indiamen Dublin, Northumberland, Prince William and Winterton. The destination of the regiment was Bombay, where it arrived on August 4th and remained rather over two years. The complement of officers was made up in November 1787 by the appointment on the nomination of the East India Company of Major Marlborough Parsons Sterling from the 36th Foot, of Captain Charles Gray from the 52nd, and of twenty-one officers from various other regiments then serving in India. Both in 1789 and in 1790 strong drafts were received from home, so that at the end of the latter year the total of all ranks was 755.
In 1788 Lord Cornwallis came out to India as Governor-General. At the close of the following year an attack by Tippoo on the Rajah of Travancore, who was an ally of the English, precipitated war.
In April 1797 four companies under Major Spry embarked for Tellicherry to take part in an expedition against the Rajah of Cotiote under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop. In the Detachment Orders on May 13th they were thanked for their steadfastness, zeal and obedience to orders, whilst special commendation was given to "the conspicuous intrepidity, coolness and gallantry" with which a party under Lieutenant Lawrence had dislodged the enemy from a house near the Canote River.
On August 1st, 1797, Whitelocke had leave for Europe and Dunlop took command.
During 1798 Tippoo was actively engaged in intrigue with the French. The Earl of Mornington, who was then lately arrived as Governor-General, determined on vigorous action. As in the previous war, the main army operating from Madras was to be assisted by a force from Bombay. For this purpose 6000 men under Lieutenant-General James Stuart were assembled at Cannamore in February 1799.
The European brigade of three regiments was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop of the 77th, whilst Lieutenant-Colonel Montesor, also of the 77th, had the right brigade of native troops. The 77th itself was commanded by Major Spry. Major Laclan Macquarie of the 77th was major of brigade to the King’s troops. Lieutenants Gray and Archibald Campbell were also serving as brigade majors.
On February 21st the Bombay army set out from Cannanore, and for the third time the 77th crossed the Ghauts by the pass of Poudicherrim to the neighbourhood of Peripatam. On March 1st the 77th, a little under 600 strong, was encamped at Verajunderpett. The nature of the country, which was everywhere covered with thick jungle, compelled Stuart to place his army in several divisions, and Montresor’s Brigade was some miles in advance on the hill of Sedaseer. On the morning of March 5th a reconnoitring party at Sedasser detected a large encampment to be forming under the fort of Peritapam, where a green tent seemed to be betoken the presence of the Sultan. Early on the next morning the enemy advanced through the jungle with such secrecy and expedition that they attacked Montresor’s position in rear and front almost at the same instant. Directly Stuart received the intelligence he started with the two flank companies of the 75th and the whole of the 77th. At about half-past two they came in sight of the enemy on the west of Sedaseer, and after a smart fire of musketry for nearly half-an-hour completely routed them. By twenty minutes past three the attack on the front of Sedaseer was also abandoned, and Tippoo’s troops retreated in all directions. Montresor, though hard pressed, had held his position with great gallantry, and was highly commended by General Stuart, who also praised the spirited conduct of Dunlop and his brigade.
Tippoo had thought to crush Stuart’s force before the arrival of the main British Army under General Harris, which consisted of 26,000 European and native troops, besides the Hyderabad contingent of 16,000 under Colonel Arthur Wellesley, Harris, after many difficulties, but without much fighting, arrived before Seringapatam on April 5th. Without delay he opened communication with Stuart, who, late in the afternoon of the 14th, arrived in the camp.
The provisioning of the army in Mysore was difficult. Harris therefore determined to push the siege with the utmost vigour, and selected the northwest angle of the fort for his assault. On the 16th Stuart’s Division was sent across the Cavery, where it was posted with its right on the river and its left on the ruins of the Eadgah Redoubt. A few days later Stuart seized the village of Agrar over against the fort, whilst on the south of the river the British pushed forward to the Little Cavery. Batteries were erected at both points, and on the south side parallels were carried forward by dint of some hard fighting, till on May 2nd the bombardment of the western face of the northwest angle began. Early in the cannonade a magazine of rockets in the fort was exploded, and by the evening of the second day the breach was declared practicable.
General Baird, who had volunteered to command the assault, formed his troops in two columns, the left under Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop included the flank companies of the 77th, the right was under Colonel Sherbrooke. A sergeant and twelve volunteers, followed by twenty-five men under a subaltern, led each column; Lieutenant Lawrence, senior of his rank in the 77th was chosen for this service on the left. All through the morning of May 4th the bombardment of the breach continued, till at one o’clock Baird drew his sword, with the words, "Men are you ready?", "Yes" was the answer. "Then forward, my lads," and both parties started for the breach.
From the trench to the breach was a quarter of a mile, and the rocky riverbed with water in places waist-deep had to be crossed, whilst under the fort lay a broad ditch. A fierce fire from the enemy met the stormers, and when Lieutenant Lawrence reached the top of the glacis he found that the forlorn hope "had formed and commenced to fire instead of rushing in". Lawrence, though already wounded, "ran from right to left hurrahing them on, and was at last compelled to run through the files to the front calling out, ‘Now is the time for the breach.’ " Then they dashed across the ditch and swarmed up the slope so impetuously that in spite of the delay on the glacis, the British colours were planted on the summit of the breach within six minutes from the commencement of the attack. Lawrence fell with a second wound whilst climbing the breach, and in the fight on the top Dunlop was disabled by a sword-cut.
---As Lieut. Colonel Dunlop was leading in the Bombay European Flank Companies up the Breach, he was met and opposed in the middle of it by one of Tippoo's Sirdars -- who made a desperate cut with his sword at the Colonel -- but which he was fortunately able to parry, -- and instantly making a cut with his sword at the Sirdar across the Breast -- laid it open, and wounded him mortally, the Sirdar, however, had still strength enough left to make a second cut at Colonel Dunlop, across his Right Wrist -- cutting it almost quite through; -- Tippoo's Sirdar immediately on this [?] reeled backward -- and fell on the
Breach -- where he was instantly dispatched by the Soldiers as they passed him.
---Colonel Dunlop after being thus severely wounded, still went on at the Head of his men until he gained possession of the Top of the Breach; but by that time he was so much weakened by the loss of Blood, that issued from his Wound, that he fell to the Ground -- and was obliged to be carried off by some of his men to the Rear. ---It is with great pleasure however, that I have to add, that his wound is not mortal -- but that he is in a fair way of
being well -- and of even recovering, in time, the use of his Right Hand again. ---
Camp before Seringapatam
5th. May 1799. Macquarie University.
When the breach was carried Dunlop’s column turned the left and Sherbrooke’s to the right. The former quickly cleared the northwest bastion, and then made their way eastward along the northern rampart. Here at a distance of some three hundred yards their advance was checked by a traverse, which was defended by a large body of the enemy under Tippoo himself. When, however, fresh troops had come up, the traverse was carried with a gallantry which swept the terrified Mysoreans in headlong panic towards the nearest gate. There in the press of the fight Tippoo was slain unrecognized. Then as the left column pushed on they raised a mighty shout, when they came in sight of Sherbrooke’s troops and knew that Seringapatam was won. Yet for two hours the carnage continued, and it was reckoned the ten thousand of the enemy perished in the assault.
The total losses of the British in the Siege of Seringapatam were 300 killed, 1042 wounded and 122 missing. The 77th had 10 killed 51 wounded and 1 missing. Captain Owen, who commanded one of the companies, was killed in the breach. General Harris specially praised Dunlop’s corps for the spirit that it had shown. His own regiment had well earned its first battle Honours, deservedly!