Sharpe’s Tiger describes the adventures of the young private soldier Richard Sharpe in India during 1799. Sharpe along with General Staff Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Wellesley embarks on the siege of Seringapatam, island citadel of the Tipoo Sultan of Mysore.
When a senior British officer is captured by the Tippoo’s forces, Sharpe is offered a chance by Wellesley to effect a rescue. Sharpe eagerly accepts the chance mainly to escape the tyrannical Sergeant Hakeswill. Sharpe expects to escape Hakeswill but enters the confusing, exotic and dangerous world of the Tippoo Sultan. Sharpe, a man of action, needs all his faculties to stay alive and save the British army from catastrophe.
The siege and fall of Seringapatam (now Sriringapatna) in May 1799 ended decades of war between the Muslim dynasty ruling the state of Mysore and the invading British. Lord Cornwallis had captured the city in 1792 yet left the Tippoo Sultan on his throne, but mutual antagonism and the Tippoo seeking an alliance with France led to the final Mysore war. Direct British aggression ignored the Tippoo’s attempt to seek a truce, ensured British rule in southern India and removed Napoleon’s forces, stranded in Egypt, a chance to intervene in the sub-continent. The novel’s description of the assault on the citadel is highly accurate, the northern column meeting greater resistance due to the Tippoo’s direct leadership, a brave man, unafraid of close combat. 1,440 attackers and 6,000 defenders died. A British shell ignited one of the Tippoo’s magazines 2 days prior to the assault, this was changed in the novel to Sharpe detonating a mine just as the British attacked. Fictional heroes must have suitable employment!
A soldier of the 12th Grenadier Company most certainly killed the Tippoo, taking his jewels, Sharpe was credited with both feats. Wellesley was appointed Governor of Seringapatam after the siege, Napoleon called him the ‘Sepoy General’. The East India Company’s Prize Agents estimated the Tippoo’s treasures at £2 million (1799 pounds) many treasures were brought to Britain mainly in private hands.
Sources; Wellington, the Years of the Sword, Lady E Longford; Wellington in India, J Weller