The combined forces of the Nizam and of Haider marched into the Carnatic and left the whole land “an ever lasting monument of vengeance”. The English move was slow due to the weak intelligence report about the progress of the war till news about the conquest of Kaveripatnam reached Madras.
The army under Colonel Smith was able to secure some victories in the initial stages at Changama and Tiruvannamalai. Haider was driven off the field of battle with considerable loss but in the later stages these victories gave practically no material advantage for the English.
Lack of sufficient cavalry to keep the enemy’s array at a distance added to the personal jealousies between Colonel Smith, the senior Commander and Colonel Wood, the favourite of the Council, posed formidable difficulties in the way of the onward march of the English army. Nizam now broke away from Haider as he had done earlier from the English.
Hostilities were renewed early in November 1767 when Haider seized Tirupattur, Vanyambadi and Ambur, which were soon recovered by the English. The Nizam who had deserted Haider, having received secret intimations that the English had deployed a considerable force under Colonel Peach to attack his territory, soon joined sides with the English once again confirming his previous treaty engagements he agreed to a limitation of the forces which the English were obliged to send to him and ceded to the Company Diwani of Mysore when that country should have been conquered from the enemy in return for a tribute of seven lakhs of rupees.
Soon after signing the treaty with the Nizam, the British Bombay (now Mumbai) forces entered Hider’s territories on the Malabar Coast. Mangalore soon came under their occupation but Hider’s seventeen-year old son, Tipu recovered it soon and the British forces were compelled to retreat in panic on 11th May, 1768. The Carnatic was left at the mercy of Haider who ravaged it completely. Edmund Burke described the situation thus: “Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or head of were mercy to that new havoc.
A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, and destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered; others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry and amidst the goading spears of drivers, and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities. But escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine”.
The difficulties of the English got augmented due to the scarcity of finance and provisions for the army. The detachment under Colonel Wood sent to the South was able to secure several victories in the battles that followed; the English occupied several places such as Atur, Namakkal, Satyamangalam, Dharmapuri, Tengricota and Coimbatore. Haider who was in Bangalore at that time, finding the situation hard offered to conclude peace in September 1768.
But the English brought forward some severe conditions to which Haider could not agree; but he was the last man to be dismayed by these; when the deputies rejected his offer of concessions and prolonged the conflict, having no other alternative he decided to win his point through force of arms. With courage born out of desperation Haider made a savage sally and fell on Mulbugal and triumphantly came out.
It marked the starting point of Haider’s victorious march. “Rarely have rapacity and extortion met with a prompter punishment” wrote Malleson, “Driven to bay, the wild and untutored genius asserted itself. From the recovery of Mulbugal began the series of successes ending in the tirumph of Haider Ali”.
The English attempted to recover Mulgal but in vain. Had the English been more reasonable in their demands, the war would have terminated; instead, as Wilks observed, “the English made cause to regret”. By January 1769 Haider was able to regain almost every fort that the English had seized, and moreover to occupy Karur.
When the invading army under Haider reached the gates of Madras (now Chennai) and it became clear that it was not easy to expel the enemy form the Carnatic, the Madras (Chennai) Government resolved to make peace, and dispatched Captain Brooke to offer terms of peace. The parties reached an agreement after some delay. Haider, a country power, was able to dictate peace terms to the most powerful European power (perhaps the world power) of the time, at the very centre of its power in South Madras (Chennai).
The war was terminated by the peace treaty concluded on 4th April 1769. It recommended for the mutual transfer of the prisoners of war and conquered territories (excepting Karur and its adjoining areas which were retained by Haider); it also provided for terms of mutual assistance “that in case either of the contracting parties was attacked they shall mutually assist each other to drive the enemy out”. This was a very advantageous clause for Haider, and he included this in the treaty with particular zeal because he was constantly in danger of being attacked by the Marathas; as Haider insisted firmly on this point, the British were forced to agree.
Among the contemporary authorities, Robson speaks of the peace of 1769 as having resounded to Haider’s honour. While Wilks holds that the peace was advantageous to the English, De La Tour observes that “by this peace Haider Ali Khan gloriously finished a war which all India supposed would terminate in his ruin”. In the following year another commercial treaty was concluded between Haider and the Bombay (now Mumbai) Government which granted further commercial privileges.