Stock Number 0084 Date 1818 Style Ink and wash on paper Dimensions 13 x 11.5 inches


European private collection

Unknown hand, perhaps a campaigning officer.


“He Went into the field with not more than five or six hundred men, of whom a very small proportion were Europeans . . . nine forts were surrendered to him or taken by assault on his way; and at the end of a silent and scarcely observed progress he emerged leaving everything secure and tranquil behind him”

This detailed depiction of the 1818 siege of Badami (Badamy, Badaumee) shows General Munro’s advance through Bombay Province during the third Mahratta Wars on behalf of the East India Company.  It is a topographically accurate illustration of the siege, highlighting the artillery train of 6 pounders, long guns and howitzers deployed in the campaign.

A  contemporary observer describes the action:

“On the 5th of February Munro once more took the field at the head of twelve companies of infantry, four of them being Mysoreans, three troops of horse, four companies of pioneers, four long guns, as many field pieces and one howitzer.  He directed his march upon Badaumee, a fortress situated on the Malpurba, by a route so intricate, that the pioneers were continually employed in opening a path for the column, whilst bother exposed to repeated annoyance from the enemy’s cavalry, which in great number hovered round them.  On the 9th he reached Belloor, the garrison, consisting of four hundred horse and three hundred foot, escaping over the hills as he approached, and leaving him to take unmolested possession of place not devoid of importance. Here he halted till the 19th, preparing his feeble means, as best he could, for the siege; and then pushed forward in high spirits and in excellent order towards Badaumee.

After carrying by assault a fortified pagoda (illustrated below) which commanded the line of his march, General Munro arrived in presence of the place to be attacked, and immediately took up the best position which his scanty numbers would permit.  This was directly in front of the lower range of works, for Badaumee consists of a number of entrenched heights, having a walled town at the foot of them, and before any attempt could be made upon the former, it was necessary to obtain possession of the latter.  No time was lost in throwing up and arming batteries, which played upon the wall without intermission, till the breach being effected on the 17th, which appeared to be practicable, preparations were made to storm. The place was carried with little loss, notwithstanding a gallant defence offered by the garrison in the streets,and the assailants pressed on with so much vigour to escalade the fort, that its commandant hung out a signal of surrender.  The garrison, marching out with their arm and private baggage, were permitted to depart with a safe conduct; and by ten o’clock at night of the 18th, Badaumee was in full possession of the British force.”

Thomas Munro joined the Madras Army in 1778, served in the 2nd Mysore War (1780-1784), and became one of the circle of brilliant young men associated with Richard, 1st Marquess of Wellesley (1760-1842), Governor-General of India from 1797 to 1805. In the course of a distinguished Indian career, Munro occupied a series of combined military and administrative posts, and saw active service as a brigadier-general in the wars against the Pindaris and Marathas from 1816 to 1818.

In 1819 Munro spent six months on leave in Britain, during which time he was much consulted on Indian affairs. He was promoted major-general, appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and Governor of Madras. The leave also provided an opportunity for Munro and his wife Jane to sit to Shee for half-length portraits, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy (1820 Nos. 341 and 342). Another, posthumous, full-length portrait was commissioned by Munro’s friends in Madras for the city’s College Hall, which was also exhibited at the Royal Academy (1829 No. 167). This small painting is probably a preliminary study for these portraits as it remained in the artist’s studio until his death.

Munro was most famous as an Indian administrator, especially in advocating the ‘ryotwar’ system of land tenure associated with his name. By this system ryots (peasant proprietors) paid land tax direct to the state, as distinguished from the large proprietors or ‘zamindars’. Created a baronet in 1824, Munro died of cholera on 6 July 1827 during the farewell tour of his districts.

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