The Afghan Wars 1839-42 and 1878-80
Archibald Forbes

Part 2 out of 5

On the depressed garrison of the Cabul cantonments tidings of disaster
further afield had been pouring in apace. Soon after the outbreak of the
rising, it was known that Lieutenant Maule, commanding the Kohistanee
regiment at Kurdurrah, had been cut to pieces, with his adjutant and
sergeant-major, by the men of his own corps; and on November 6th
intelligence had come in that the Goorkha regiment stationed at Charikar
in the Kohistan, where Major Pottinger was Resident, was in dangerous
case, and that Codrington, its commandant, and some of his officers had
already fallen. And now, on the 15th, there rode wearily into cantonments
two wounded men, who believed themselves the only British survivors of
the Charikar force. Pottinger was wounded in the leg, Haughton, the
adjutant of the Goorkha corps, had lost his right hand, and his head hung
forward on his breast, half severed from his body by a great tulwar
slash. Of the miserable story which it fell to Pottinger to tell only the
briefest summary can be given. His residence was at Lughmanee, a few
miles from the Charikar cantonments, when early in the month a number of
chiefs of the Kohistan and the Nijrao country assembled to discuss with
him the terms on which they would reopen the communications with Cabul.
Those chiefs proved treacherous, slew Rattray, Pottinger's assistant, and
besieged Pottinger in Lughmanee. Finding his position untenable, he
withdrew to Charikar under cover of night. On the morning of the 5th the
Afghans assailed the cantonments. Pottinger was wounded, Codrington was
killed, and the Goorkhas were driven into the barracks. Haughton, who
succeeded to the command of the regiment, made sortie on sortie, but was
finally driven in, and the enemy renewed their assaults in augmented
strength. Thenceforward the position was all but hopeless. On the 10th
the last scant remains of water was distributed. Efforts to procure water
by sorties on the nights of the 11th and 12th were not successful, and
the corps fell into disorganisation because of losses, hardships,
exhaustion, hunger and thirst. Pottinger and Haughton agreed that there
was no prospect of saving even a remnant of the regiment unless by a
retreat to Cabul, which, however, was clearly possible only in the case
of the stronger men, unencumbered with women and children, of whom,
unfortunately, there was a great number in the garrison. On the afternoon
of the 13th Haughton was cut down by a treacherous native officer of the
artillery, who then rushed out of the gate, followed by all the gunners
and most of the Mahommedans of the garrison. In the midst of the chaos of
disorganisation, Dr Grant amputated Haughton's hand, dressed his other
wounds, and then spiked all the guns. When it was dark, the garrison
moved out, Pottinger leading the advance, Dr Grant the main body, and
Ensign Rose the rear-guard. From the beginning of the march, discipline
was all but entirely in abeyance; on reaching the first stream, the last
remains of control were lost, and the force was rapidly disintegrating.
Pottinger and Haughton, the latter only just able to keep the saddle,
pushed on toward Cabul, rested in a ravine during the day, evaded the
partisan detachment sent out from Cabul to intercept them, rode through
sleeping Cabul in the small hours of the morning, and after being pursued
and fired upon in the outskirts of the city, finally attained the
cantonments. It was afterwards learned that a portion of the regiment had
struggled on to within twenty miles from Cabul, gallantly headed by young
Rose and Dr Grant. Then the remnant was destroyed. Rose was killed, after
despatching four Afghans with his own hand. Dr Grant, escaping the
massacre, held on until within three miles of the cantonments, when he
too was killed.

Macnaghten was naturally much depressed by the news communicated by
Pottinger, and realised that the Afghan masses already encompassing the
position on the Cabul plain would certainly be increased by bands from
the Kohistan and Nijrao, flushed already with their Charikar success. He
sided strongly with the large party among the officers who were
advocating the measure of abandoning the cantonments altogether, and
moving the force now quartered there to the safer and more commanding
position in the Balla Hissar. The military chiefs opposed the project,
and propounded a variety of objections to it, none of which were without
weight, yet all of which might have been overcome by energy and proper
dispositions. Shelton, however, was opposed to the scheme, since if
carried out it would avert or postpone the accomplishment of his policy
of retreat on Jellalabad; Elphinstone was against it in the inertia of
debility, and the project gradually came to be regarded as abandoned.
Another project, that of driving the Afghans from Mahmood Khan's fort,
commanding the direct road between the cantonments and the Balla Hissar,
and of occupying it with a British force, was so far advanced that the
time for the attempt was fixed, and the storming party actually warned,
when some petty objection intervened and the enterprise was abandoned,
never to be revived.

The rising was not three days old when already Elphinstone had lost
heart. On the 5th he had written to Macnaghten suggesting that the latter
should 'consider what chance there is of making terms,' and since then he
had been repeatedly pressing on the Envoy the 'hopelessness of further
resistance.' Macnaghten, vacillating as he was, yet had more pith in his
nature than was left in the debilitated old general. He wrote to
Elphinstone on the 18th recommending, not very strenuously, the policy of
holding out where they were as long as possible, and indeed throughout
the winter, if subsistence could be obtained. He pointed out that in the
cantonments, which he believed to be impregnable, there were at least the
essentials of wood and water. Arguing that a retreat on Jellalabad must
be most disastrous, and was to be avoided except in the last extremity,
he nevertheless ended somewhat inconsistently by leaving to the military
authorities, if in eight or ten days there should appear no prospect of
an improvement of the situation, the decision whether it would be wiser
to attempt a retreat or to withdraw from the cantonments into the Balla

Far from improving, the situation was speedily to become all but
hopeless. The village of Behmaroo, built on the north-eastern slope of
the ridge of the same name bounding the plain on the north-west, lay
about half a mile due north of the cantonments, part of which some of the
houses on the upper slope commanded. From this village, after the loss of
the Commissariat fort, our people had been drawing supplies. On the
morning of the 22d the Afghans were seen moving in force from Cabul
toward Behmaroo, obviously with intent to occupy the village, and so
deprive the occupants of the cantonments of the resource it had been
affording them. A detachment under Major Swayne, sent out to forestall
this occupation, found Behmaroo already in the possession of a body of
Kohistanees, who had so blocked the approaches that Swayne did not
consider himself justified in attempting the fulfilment of his orders to
storm the place; and he contented himself with maintaining all day an
ineffectual musketry fire on it. A diversion in his favour by a gun
supported by cavalry had no result save that of casualties to the gunners
and troopers; reinforcements brought out by Shelton effected nothing, and
in the evening the troops were recalled. On this ill-fated day Akbar
Khan, Dost Mahomed's fierce and implacable son, arrived in Cabul, and the
evil influence on the British fortunes which he exerted immediately made
itself felt, for the events of the following day were to bring about a
crisis in the fate of our ill-starred people.

Recognising the mischief wrought by the hostile occupation of our only
source of supplies, the Envoy strongly urged the immediate despatch of a
strong force to occupy the Behmaroo ridge, and dislodge from the village
its Kohistanee garrison. Shelton opposed the measure, urging the
dispirited state of the troops, their fatigue from constant defensive
duty, and their weakened physique because of poor and scanty rations. He
was overruled, and before daybreak of the 23d a force under his command,
consisting of five companies of the 44th, twelve companies of native
infantry, some cavalry, and one horse-artillery gun, was in position on
the north-eastern extremity of the ridge overhanging the village. The gun
opened fire on the village with grape, and after a short resistance the
greater part of its garrison quitted it. The storming party intrusted to
Major Swayne did not, however, act, and was withdrawn. Leaving a
detachment on the knoll above the village, Shelton moved his force along
the upland to a position near the gorge intersecting the ridge, forming
his infantry into two squares, with the cavalry in rear. The further hill
beyond the gorge was crowded with hostile Afghans from Cabul, and the
long-range fire of their jezails across the dividing depression, carried
execution into the squares which Shelton had inexplicably formed as if to
furnish his foes with a target which they could not miss. The muskets of
his men could not retaliate, and the skirmishers he threw forward to the
brow of his hill could not endure the Afghan fire. Shelton's single gun
maintained a hot and telling fire on the Afghan masses on the opposite
hill, and baulked an attempt against his right flank made by the Afghan
cavalry swarming in the outer plain; but when its vent became too hot for
the gunners to serve it, the dullest comprehension became alive to the
folly of sending a single gun into the field.

Shelton's men, falling fast though they were, and faint with fatigue and
thirst, yet had endured for hours a fusillade to which they could not
reply, when a body of Afghan fanatics suddenly sprang up out of the
gorge, swept back with their fire the few skirmishers who had been still
holding the brow of the hill, and planted their flag within thirty yards
of the front of the nearer of the squares. Shelton offered a large reward
to the man who should bring it in, but there was no response. In a
passion of soldierly wrath, the veteran commanded a bayonet charge; not a
man sprang forward at the summons which British soldiers are wont to
welcome with cheers. The cowed infantry remained supine, when their
officers darted forward and threw stones into the faces of the enemy; the
troopers heard but obeyed not that trumpet-call to 'Charge!' which so
rarely fails to thrill the cavalryman with the rapture of the fray. The
gunners only, men of that noble force the Company's Horse-Artillery,
quitted themselves valiantly. They stood to their piece to the bitter
end. Two of them were killed beside it, another was severely wounded, a
fourth, refusing to run, took refuge under the gun, and miraculously
escaped death. But the gallant example of the artillerymen in their front
did not hearten the infantrymen of the leading square. The panic spread
among them, and they broke and fled. Fortunately they were not pursued.
The rear square stood fast, and the officers by great exertion succeeded
in rallying the fugitives under the cover it afforded. The news that a
principal chief, Abdoolah Khan, had been severely wounded in the plain
gave pause to the offensive vigour of the Afghans, and the assailants
fell back, abandoning the gun, but carrying off the limber and gun-team.
Our people reoccupied the position, the gun recommenced its fire, and if
the cavalry and infantry could have been persuaded to take the offensive
the battle might have been retrieved. But they remained passive. The
reinforced Afghans renewed their long-range fire with terrible effect;
most of the gunners had fallen, and the Brigadier, recognising the
growing unsteadiness of his command and the imminent danger of capture to
which the solitary gun was again exposed, ordered a retirement on the
detachment left near Behmaroo and the limbering up of the gun, to which a
second limber had been sent out from the cantonments. The movement was
scarcely begun when a rush of fanatic Afghans completely broke the
square, and all order and discipline then disappeared. A regular rout set
in down the hill toward cantonments, the fugitives disregarding the
efforts of the officers to rally them, and the enemy in full pursuit, the
Afghan cavalry making ghastly slaughter among the panic-stricken
runaways. The detachment near Behmaroo attempted to fall back in orderly
fashion, but the reinforced garrison of the village swept out upon it,
surrounded it, broke it up, and threw it into utter rout with the loss of
a large proportion of its strength, one whole company being all but
annihilated. It seemed as if pursued and pursuers would enter the
cantonments together so closely were they commingled; but the fire from
the ramparts and an opportune charge of horse arrested the pursuit. Yet
Eyre reckons as the chief reason why all the British force that had gone
out to battle was not destroyed, the fact that a leading Afghan chief
forced his men to spare the fugitives, and ultimately halted and withdrew
his people when the opportunity for wholesale slaughter lay open to them.
Most of the wounded were left on the field, where they were miserably cut
to pieces; and the gun, which had been overturned in the attempt of the
drivers to gallop down the face of the hill, finally passed into the
possession of the Afghans. Shelton's dispositions as a commander could
not well have been worse; his bearing as a soldier, although undaunted,
imparted to his hapless troops nothing of inspiration. The obstinacy with
which he held the hill after the impossibility of even partial success
must have been patent to him, was universally condemned. It need scarcely
be added that his loss was very severe.

No more fighting was possible. What, then, was to be done? Elphinstone
and Shelton were at one in opposing removal into the Balla Hissar.
Macnaghten, to whom Shah Soojah had communicated his urgent
recommendation of that measure as the only expedient which could secure
the safety of the British troops, fell in with the views of the military
authorities. There came to him a letter from Osman Khan, the chief who
had called off his adherents on the previous day from pursuing the
fugitives fleeing into cantonments. Osman wrote that, if his troops had
followed up their successes, the loss of the cantonments and the
destruction of the British force were inevitable; but, he continued, that
it was not the wish of the chiefs to proceed to such extremities, their
sole desire being that our people should quietly evacuate the country,
leaving the Afghan sirdars to govern it according to their own customs,
and with a king of their own choosing. In communicating this letter to
General Elphinstone, Sir William asked for the latter's opinion on the
military possibility, or the reverse, of the retention of the British
position in Afghanistan. Elphinstone, in reply, enumerated sundry reasons
which led him to the conclusion which he stated, that 'it is not feasible
any longer to maintain our position in this country, and that you ought
to avail yourself of the offer to negotiate which has been made to you.'


As the result of the military disaster of November 23d, and of the
representations of the General, recorded in the last chapter, Macnaghten,
with whatever reluctance, permitted himself to entertain proposals for an
arrangement made by the Afghan leaders. From the beginning of the
outbreak, while urging on the military authorities to exert themselves in
putting down the revolt, he had been engaged in tortuous and dangerous
intrigues, with the object of sowing discord among the Afghan chiefs, and
thus weakening the league of hostility against Shah Soojah and his
British supporters. In the conduct of these intrigues he used the
services of Mohun Lal, who had been one of Burnes' assistants, and who,
having escaped the fate of his chief, had found refuge in the city
residence of a Kuzzilbash chief. Mohun Lal was a fitting agent for the
sort of work prescribed to him, and he burrowed and suborned with
assiduity, and not altogether without success. But it is unhappily true
that he was commissioned to carry out a darker enterprise, the removal by
assassination of certain of the more virulently hostile among the Afghan
leaders. The incident is the blackest of the many discreditable
transactions which chequer the inner political history of this melancholy
chapter of our annals. It is unfortunately certain that Lieutenant John
Conolly, Macnaghten's kinsman and his confidential representative with
Shah Soojah, authorised Mohun Lal, in writing, to compass the taking off
of prominent Afghan leaders. In a letter to Mohun Lal, of 5th November,
Conolly wrote: 'I promise 10,000 rupees for the head of each rebel
chief.' Again, on the 11th, he wrote: 'There is a man called Hadji Ali,
who might be induced by a bribe to try and bring in the heads of one or
two of the Mufsids. Endeavour to let him know that 10,000 rupees will be
given for each head, or even 15,000 rupees.' Two chiefs certainly did die
under suspicious circumstances, and in each case the blood-money was
claimed. It was refused by Mohun Lal on the plea that the stipulation
that the heads of the dead Afghans should be brought in was not

Whether Macnaghten inspired those nefarious machinations, whether indeed
he was actively aware of them, are questions which, in the absence of
conclusive evidence, may judiciously be left unanswered. There is extant
a letter from him to Mohun Lal, written December 1st, which has the
following passage: 'I am sorry to find from your letter of last night
that you should have supposed it was ever my object to encourage
assassination. The rebels are very wicked men, but we must not take
unlawful means to destroy them.' And later he is reported to have
informed an Afghan deputation that, 'as a British functionary, nothing
would induce him to pay a price for blood.' Durand holds that it was the
belief on the part of the Afghan chiefs that the British Envoy had set a
price on their heads which destroyed all confidence in Macnaghten's good
faith, and which was Akbar Khan's chief incentive to his murder.

The terms proffered on November 25th by an Afghan deputation were so
humiliating that Macnaghten peremptorily rejected them; and the threat of
immediate hostilities unless our people promptly surrendered their arms
and withdrew was not carried out. A period of inaction strangely ensued,
which on the Afghan side was a treacherous lull, but which Macnaghten,
hoping against hope that some turn in our favour might yet occur,
regarded with complacency. The chiefs, aware that winter was approaching
with added hardship to the forlorn garrison, temporarily desisted from
urging negotiations. But the British military authorities, with troops
living from hand to mouth on precarious half rations, and with transport
cattle dying fast of starvation, kept urging the Envoy to activity in
making terms, if absolute starvation was to be averted. Futile projects
were discussed between Envoy and General, only to be put aside. As the
dreary days of inaction and depletion passed, the deterioration of
military spirit among our people manifested itself more and more plainly.
British soldiers stolidly watched the Afghans destroying our bridge
across the Cabul river, within a quarter of a mile from cantonments.
Scared by the threat of an assault, which, in the scornful words of brave
Lady Sale, a child with a stick might have repulsed, the garrison of the
Mahomed Shereef fort abandoned it in a panic, the white soldiers of the
44th showing the example of pusillanimity to the sepoys whom their
cowardice demoralised. Next day the detachment of the 44th which had
guarded an exposed position had to be withdrawn, ceding the post of
honour to the stauncher sepoys. The camp followers were living on
carrion; the commissaries reported but four days' provisions in store,
and their inability to procure any more supplies. At length on December
8th the four senior military officers informed the Envoy that it was
imperatively necessary he should negotiate a retreat, on the best terms
he could obtain.

Macnaghten had to bring himself to recognise that the alternatives were
negotiation or starvation, and on the 11th December, with a draft treaty
in his hand, he met the principal Afghan chiefs on the river side between
the cantonments and the city. After the introductory palavers, Macnaghten
read the proposed treaty, whose purport was as follows: that the British
should evacuate Afghanistan forthwith unmolested, furnished with supplies
and accompanied by hostages, on their march to India; that the Dost, his
family, and other Afghan political exiles, should be allowed to return to
their country; that Shah Soojah should have the option of remaining at
Cabul or going down to India; that amnesty should be accorded to all
adherents of Shah Soojah and his British allies; that all prisoners
should be released; and that perpetual friendship and mutual good offices
should thenceforth endure between the British and the Afghans.

Akbar Khan made demur to some of the provisions, but was overruled, and
the main stipulations of the treaty were agreed to by the chiefs. The
conference broke up with the understanding that the British troops should
evacuate cantonments within three days, and that meanwhile provisions
should be sent in for their use. The treaty was simply a virtual
capitulation all along the line; but the inherent falseness of our
position, the incapacity of the military chiefs, and the debased spirit
of the troops, consequent partly on low rations but mainly because of the
utter absence of competent and vigorous leadership such as a Broadfoot or
a Havelock would have supplied, enforced on the reluctant Envoy
conditions humiliating beyond previous parallel in the history of our

From the outset the Afghan chiefs defaulted from their promise of sending
in supplies, but some grain was brought into cantonments by the troops,
whose evacuation of the Balla Hissar on the 13th was effected under
humiliating circumstances. The Afghans demanded the surrender of the
forts in British occupation in the vicinity of the cantonments. The
requisition was complied with, and the Magazine fort furnished the enemy
with both arms and ammunition.

The three stipulated days passed away, and still the British force
remained motionless in the cantonments. Macnaghten was bent on
procrastination, and circumstances seemed to favour a policy which to all
but himself was inexplicable. By the treaty, Shah Soojah was in effect
committed to withdraw to India, but soon after its acceptance the chiefs
had invited him to remain in Cabul as king, on the stipulation that he
should give his daughters in marriage to leaders of the malcontents.
After considerable deliberation, the Shah had consented to remain on the
condition named, but a few days later he withdrew his acceptance. His
vacillation increased the suspicions of the chiefs, and they demanded the
immediate evacuation of the cantonments, refusing to furnish provisions
until that was done. Meanwhile they sent in no transport animals,
although large sums had been handed over for their purchase. Our people
were still immobile, and already, on the 18th, there had occurred a fall
of snow several inches deep.

The Envoy was engaged in strange and dubious intrigues, and since the
Afghans were not fulfilling their share of the treaty obligations, he
appears to have regarded himself as no longer bound by its conditions,
and free to try to obtain better terms from other sources, in pursuit of
which purpose he was expending money in a variety of directions. The dark
and unscrupulous Mohun Lal was his confidant and instrument. Akbar Khan
and the chiefs of his party had become aware of Macnaghten's
machinations, and they laid a snare for him into which he fell with open
eyes. Emissaries were sent to him with the sinister proposals that the
British should remain in Afghanistan until the spring, when they were to
withdraw as of their own accord; that the head of Ameenoolla Khan, one of
the most powerful and obnoxious of the rebel leaders, should be presented
to the Envoy in return for a stipulated sum of money; and that for all
those services the British Government should requite Akbar Khan with a
present of thirty lakhs of rupees, and an annual pension of four lakhs.
Macnaghten refused peremptorily the proffer of Ameenoolla's head, but did
not reject co-operation in that chiefs capture by a dubious device in
which British troops were to participate; he did not hesitate to accept
the general terms of the proposals; and he consented to hold a conference
with Akbar Khan on the following day to carry into effect the projected

On the morning of the 23d the deceived and doomed man, accompanied by his
staff-officers, Lawrence, Trevor and Mackenzie, rode out from cantonments
to keep the fateful tryst on the bank of the Cabul river. His manner was
'distracted and hurried.' When he told Lawrence of the nature of the
affair on which he was going, that shrewd officer immediately warned him
that it was a plot against him. 'A plot!' he replied hastily, 'let me
alone for that; trust me for that!' and Lawrence desisted from useless
expostulation. Poor old Elphinstone had scented treachery; but the Envoy
had closed his mouth with the impatient words: 'I understand these things
better than you!' As he rode out, he admitted the danger of the
enterprise, but argued that if it succeeded it was worth all risks. 'At
all events,' he ended, 'let the loss be what it may, I would rather die a
hundred deaths than live the last six weeks over again.' The escort
halted, and the four British gentlemen advanced to the place of
rendezvous, whither came presently Akbar Khan and his party. Akbar began
the conference by asking the Envoy if he was ready to carry out the
proposals presented to him overnight. 'Why not?' was Sir William's short
reply. A number of Afghans, armed to the teeth, had gradually formed a
circle around the informal durbar. Lawrence and Mackenzie pointed out
this environment to some of the chiefs, who affected to drive off the
intruders with their whips; but Akbar observed that it did not matter, as
they 'were all in the secret.' 'Suddenly,' wrote Mackenzie, 'I heard
Akbar call out, "Begeer! begeer!" ("Seize! seize!") and turning round I
saw him grasp the Envoy's left hand with an expression on his face of the
most diabolical ferocity. I think it was Sultan Jan who laid hold of the
Envoy's right hand. They dragged him in a stooping posture down the
hillock, the only words I heard poor Sir William utter being, "Az barae
Khooda" ("For God's sake"). I saw his face, however, and it was full of
horror and astonishment.' Neither Mackenzie nor Lawrence, the surviving
companions of the Envoy, witnessed the actual end. 'Whether,' writes
Kaye, 'he died on the spot, or whether he was slain by the infuriated
ghazees, is not very clearly known; but the fanatics threw themselves on
the prostrate body and hacked it with their knives.' There is no doubt
that the head of the unfortunate Macnaghten was paraded in triumph
through the streets of Cabul, and that the mangled trunk, after being
dragged about the city, was hung up in the great bazaar. Of the three
officers who accompanied the Envoy to the conference, Trevor was
massacred, Lawrence and Mackenzie were saved with difficulty by friendly
chiefs, and brought into the city, where they and Captain Skinner joined
the hostages, Captains Connolly and Airey, under the safe roof of the
venerable Mahomed Zemaun Khan.

That Akbar and the confederate chiefs spread a snare for the Envoy is
plain, and that they regarded his acceptance of their deceitful proposals
as a proof of his faithlessness to the treaty obligations to which he had
bound himself. It was no element in their reasoning that since they had
not regarded the treaty the British functionary might without breach of
faith hold that it did not bind him. But it is improbable that the murder
of Macnaghten was actually included in their scheme of action. Their
intention seems to have been to seize him as a hostage, with intent thus
to secure the evacuation of Afghanistan and the restoration of Dost
Mahomed. The ill-fated Envoy's expressions on his way to the rendezvous
indicate his unhinged state of mind. He went forth to sure treachery;
Akbar's gust of sudden fury converted the planned abduction into savage
murder, and his abrupt pistol bullet baulked the more wily and less
ruthless project which had probably been devised in cold blood.

The escort brought back into cantonments tidings that the Envoy had been
seized. The garrison got under arms, and remained passive throughout the
day. The defences were manned at night, in the apprehension that the
noise and disturbance in the city portended an assault; but that clamour
was caused by the mustering of the Afghans in expectation that the
British would attack the city, bent on vengeance on the murderers of the
Envoy. Action of that nature was, however, wholly absent from the
prostrate minds of the military chiefs. On the following afternoon
Captain Lawrence transmitted certain overtures from the chiefs, as the
result of a conference held by them, when, notwithstanding severe
comments on the conduct of the Envoy, professions were made of sincere
regret for his death. With certain alterations and additions, the treaty
drawn up by Macnaghten was taken by the chiefs as the basis for the
negotiations which they desired to renew. Major Pottinger, as now the
senior 'political' with the force, was called on by General Elphinstone
to undertake the task of conducting negotiations with the Afghan leaders.
The high-souled Pottinger rose at the summons from the sickbed to which
he had been confined ever since his wonderful escape from Charikar, and
accepted the thankless and distasteful duty. It is not necessary to
recount the details of negotiations, every article and every stage of
which display the arrogance of the men who knew themselves masters of the
situation, and reveal not less the degrading humiliation to which was
submitting itself a strong brigade of British troops, whose arms were
still in the soldiers' hands, and over whose ranks hung banners blazoned
with victories that shall be memorable down the ages. On the sombre and
cheerless Christmas Day Pottinger rose in the council of men who wore
swords, and remonstrated with soldierly vigour and powerful argument
against the degrading terms which the chiefs had contumeliously thrown to
them. He produced letters from Jellalabad and Peshawur giving information
of reinforcements on the way from India, and urging the maintenance of
resistance. He argued that to conclude a treaty with the Afghans would be
a fatal error, and suggested two alternative courses which offered a
prospect of saving their honour and part of the army--the occupation of
the Balla Hissar, which was the preferable measure, or the abandonment of
camp, baggage, and encumbrances, and forcing a retreat down the passes.
The council--Pottinger must have written sarcastically when he termed it
a 'council of war'--unanimously decided that to remain in Cabul and to
force a retreat were alike impracticable, and that nothing remained but
the endeavour to release the army by agreeing to the conditions offered
by the enemy. 'Under these circumstances,' in the words of Pottinger, 'as
the Major-General coincided with the officers of the council, and refused
to attempt occupying the Balla Hissar, and as his second in command
declared that impracticable, I considered it my duty, notwithstanding my
repugnance to and disapproval of the measure, to yield, and attempt to
carry on a negotiation.'

This Pottinger accordingly did. The first demand with which he had to
comply was to give bills for the great sums promised by the Envoy to the
chiefs for their services in furthering and supporting his treaty. This
imposition had to be submitted to, since the Afghans stopped the supplies
until the extortion was complied with. The next concession required was
the surrender of the artillery of the force, with the exception of six
field and three mule guns; and the military chiefs endured this
humiliation, against which even the demoralised soldiery chafed. Then the
demand for hostages had to be complied with, and four officers were sent
on to join the two hostages already in Afghan hands. The chiefs had
demanded four married hostages, with their wives and children, and a
circular was sent round offering to volunteers the inducement of a large
stipend; but the sentiment of repulsion was too strong to be overcome by
the bribe. The sick and wounded who could not bear the march were sent
into the city in accordance with an article of the treaty, two surgeons
accompanying their patients.

The treaty, ratified by the leading chiefs and sent into cantonments on
New Year's Day 1842, provided that the British troops, within twenty-four
hours after receiving transport, and under the protection of certain
chiefs and an adequate escort, should begin their march of evacuation,
the Jellalabad garrison moving down to Peshawur in advance; that the six
hostages left in Cabul should be well treated, and liberated on the
arrival at Peshawur of Dost Mahomed; the sick and wounded left behind to
be at liberty to return to India on their recovery; all small arms and
ordnance stores in the cantonment magazine to be made over to the Afghans
'as a token of friendship,' on which account also, they were to have all
the British cannon except as above mentioned; the Afghans to escort the
Ghuznee garrison in safety to Peshawur; and a further stipulation was
that the British troops in Candahar and Western Afghanistan were to
resign the territories occupied by them and start quickly for India,
provisioned and protected from molestation by the way.

Severe and humiliating as were those terms, they were not obtained
without difficulty. The terms put forward in the earlier drafts of the
treaty were yet more exacting, and the tone of the demands was abrupt,
contemptuous, and insulting. Pottinger had to plead, to entreat, to be
abject; to beg the masterful Afghans 'not to overpower the weak with
sufferings'; 'to be good enough to excuse the women from the suffering'
of remaining as hostages; and to entreat them 'not to forget kindness'
shown by us in former days. One blushes not for but with the gallant
Pottinger, loyally carrying out the miserable duty put upon him. The
shame was not his; it lay on the council of superior officers, who
overruled his remonstrances, and ground his face into the dust.

Our people were made to pass under the yoke every hour of their wretched
lives during those last winter days in the Cabul cantonments. The
fanatics and the common folk of the city and its environs swarmed around
our petty ramparts, with their foul sneers and their blackguard taunts,
hurled with impunity from where they stood at the muzzles of the loaded
guns which the gunners were forbidden to fire. Officers and rank and file
were in a condition of smouldering fury, but no act of reprisal or
retribution was permitted. If the present was one continuous misery, the
future lowered yet more gloomily. It was of common knowledge as well in
the cantonments as in the city, that the engagements made by the chiefs
were not worth the paper on which they had been written, and that
treachery was being concerted against the force on its impending travail
through the passes. It was told by a chief to one of the officers who was
his friend, that Akbar Khan had sworn to have in his possession the
British ladies as security for the safe restoration of his own family and
relatives, and, strange forecast to be fulfilled almost to the very
letter, had vowed to annihilate every soldier of the British army with
the exception of one man, who should reach Jellalabad to tell the story
of the massacre of all his comrades. Pottinger was well aware how
desperate was the situation of the hapless people on whose behalf he had
bent so low his proud soul. Mohun Lal warned him of the treachery the
chiefs were plotting, and assured him that unless their sons should
accompany the army as hostages, it would be attacked on the march. Day
after day the departure was delayed, on the pretext that the chiefs had
not completed their preparations for the safe conduct of the force and
its encumbrances. Day after day the snow was falling with a quiet,
ruthless persistency. The bitter night frosts were destroying the sepoys
and the camp followers, their vitality weakened by semi-starvation and by
the lack of firewood which had long distressed them. At length on January
5th, Sturt the engineer officer got his instructions to throw down into
the ditch a section of the eastern rampart, and so furnish a freer exit
than the gates could afford. The supply of transport was inadequate,
provisions were scant, and the escort promised by the chiefs was not
forthcoming. Pottinger advised waiting yet a little longer, until
supplies and escort should arrive; but for once the military chiefs were
set against the policy of delay, and firm orders were issued that the
cantonments should be evacuated on the following day.

Shah Soojah remained in Cabul. The resolution became him better than
anything else we know of the unfortunate man. It may be he reasoned that
he had a chance for life by remaining in the Balla Hissar, and that from
what he knew, there was no chance of life for anyone participating in the
fateful march. He behaved fairly by the British authorities, sending more
than one solemn warning pressing on them the occupation of the Balla
Hissar. And there was some dignity in his appeal to Brigadier Anquetil,
who commanded his own contingent, 'if it were well to forsake him in the
hour of need, and to deprive him of the aid of that force which he had
hitherto been taught to regard as his own?'


The ill-omened evacuation by our doomed people of the cantonments wherein
for two months they had undergone every extremity of humiliation and
contumely, was begun on the dreary winter morning of January 6th, 1842.
Snow lay deep on plain and hill-side; the cruel cold, penetrating through
the warmest clothing, bit fiercely into the debilitated and thinly clad
frames of the sepoys and the great horde of camp followers. The military
force which marched out of cantonments consisted of about 4500 armed men,
of whom about 690 were Europeans, 2840 native soldiers on foot, and 970
native cavalrymen. The gallant troop of Company's Horse-Artillery marched
out with its full complement of six guns, to which, with three pieces of
the mountain train, the artillery arm of the departing force was
restricted by the degrading terms imposed by the Afghan chiefs. In good
heart and resolutely commanded, a body of disciplined troops thus
constituted, and of a fighting strength so respectable, might have been
trusted not only to hold its own against Afghan onslaught, but if
necessary to take the offensive with success. But alas, the heart of the
hapless force had gone to water, its discipline was a wreck, its chiefs
were feeble and apathetic; its steps were dogged by the incubus of some
12,000 camp followers, with a great company of women and children. The
awful fate brooded over its forlorn banners of expiating by its utter
annihilation, the wretched folly and sinister prosecution of the
enterprise whose deserved failure was to be branded yet deeper on the
gloomiest page of our national history, by the impending catastrophe of
which the dark shadow already lay upon the blighted column.

The advance began to move out from cantonments at nine A.M. The march was
delayed at the river by the non-completion of the temporary bridge, and
the whole of the advance was not across until after noon. The main body
under Shelton, which was accompanied by the ladies, invalids, and sick,
slowly followed. It as well as the advance was disorganised from the
first by the throngs of camp followers with the baggage, who could not be
prevented from mixing themselves up with the troops. The Afghans occupied
the cantonments as portion after portion was evacuated by our people,
rending the air with their exulting cries, and committing every kind of
atrocity. It was late in the afternoon before the long train of camels
following the main body had cleared the cantonments; and meanwhile the
rear-guard was massed outside, in the space between the rampart and the
canal, among the chaos of already abandoned baggage. It was exposed there
to a vicious jezail fire poured into it by the Afghans, who abandoned the
pleasures of plunder and arson for the yet greater joy of slaughtering
the Feringhees. When the rear-guard moved away in the twilight, an
officer and fifty men were left dead in the snow, the victims of the
Afghan fire from the rampart of the cantonment; and owing to casualties
in the gun teams it had been found necessary to spike and abandon two of
the horse-artillery guns.

The rear-guard, cut into from behind by the pestilent ghazees, found its
route encumbered with heaps of abandoned baggage around which swarmed
Afghan plunderers. Other Afghans, greedier for blood than for booty, were
hacking and slaying among the numberless sepoys and camp followers who
had dropped out of the column, and were lying or sitting on the wayside
in apathetic despair, waiting for death and careless whether it came to
them by knife or by cold. Babes lay on the snow abandoned by their
mothers, themselves prostrate and dying a few hundred yards further on.
It was not until two o'clock of the following morning that the rear-guard
reached the straggling and chaotic bivouac in which its comrades lay in
the snow at the end of the first short march of six miles. Its weary
progress had been illuminated by the conflagration raging in the
cantonments, which had been fired by the Afghan fanatics, rabid to erase
every relic of the detested unbelievers.

It was a night of bitter cold. Out in the open among the snow, soldiers
and camp followers, foodless, fireless, and shelterless, froze to death
in numbers, and numbers more were frost-bitten. The cheery morning noise
of ordinary camp life was unheard in the mournful bivouac. Captain
Lawrence outlines a melancholy picture. 'The silence of the men betrayed
their despair and torpor. In the morning I found lying close to me,
stiff, cold, and quite dead, in full regimentals, with his sword drawn in
his hand, an old grey-haired conductor named Macgregor, who, utterly
exhausted, had lain down there silently to die.' Already defection had
set in. One of the Shah's infantry regiments and his detachment of
sappers and miners had deserted bodily, partly during the march of the
previous day, partly in the course of the night.

No orders were given out, no bugle sounded the march, on the morning of
the 7th. The column heaved itself forward sluggishly, a mere mob of
soldiers, camp followers and cattle, destitute of any semblance of order
or discipline. Quite half the sepoys were already unfit for duty; in
hundreds they drifted in among the non-combatants and increased the
confusion. The advance of the previous day was now the rear-guard. After
plundering the abandoned baggage, the Afghans set to harassing the
rear-guard, whose progress was delayed by the disorderly multitude
blocking the road in front. The three mountain guns, temporarily
separated from the infantry, were captured by a sudden Afghan rush. In
vain Anquetil strove to rouse the 44th to make an effort for their
recapture. Green was more successful with his handful of artillerymen,
who followed him and the Brigadier and spiked the pieces, but being
unsupported were compelled a second time to abandon them. On this march
it became necessary also, from the exhaustion of their teams, to spike
and abandon two more of the horse-artillery guns; so that there now
remained with the force only a couple of six-pounders. While the
rear-guard was in action, a body of Afghan horse charged on the flank,
right into the heart of the baggage column, swept away much plunder, and
spread confusion and dismay far and wide. The rear of the column would
probably have been entirely cut off, but that reinforcements from the
advance under Shelton pushed back the enemy, and by crowning the lateral
heights kept open the thoroughfare. At Bootkhak was found Akbar Khan, who
professed to have been commissioned to escort the force to Jellalabad,
and who blamed our people for having marched out prematurely from the
cantonments. He insisted on the halt of the column at Bootkhak until the
following morning, when he would provide supplies, but he demanded an
immediate subsidy of 15,000 rupees, and that Pottinger, Lawrence and
Mackenzie should be given up to him as hostages that the force would not
march beyond Tezeen until tidings should arrive that Sale had evacuated
Jellalabad. Those officers by the General's instructions joined the
Afghan chief on the following morning, and Akbar's financial requisition
was obsequiously fulfilled. After two days' marching our people, who had
brought out with them provisions for but five and a half days, expecting
within that time to reach Jellalabad, were only ten miles forward on
their march.

Another night passed, with its train of horrors--starvation, cold,
exhaustion, death. Lady Sale relates that scarcely any of the baggage now
remained; that there was no food for man or beast; that snow lay a foot
deep on the ground; that even water from the adjacent stream was
difficult to obtain, as the carriers were fired on in fetching it; and
that she thought herself fortunate in being sheltered in a small tent in
which 'we slept nine, all touching each other.' Daylight brought merely a
more bitter realisation of utter misery. Eyre expresses his wonderment at
the effect of two nights' exposure to the frost in disorganising the
force. 'It had so nipped even the strongest men as to completely
prostrate their powers and incapacitate them for service; even the
cavalry, who suffered less than the rest, were obliged to be lifted on
their horses.' In fact, only a few hundred serviceable men remained. At
the sound of hostile fire the living struggled to their feet from their
lairs in the snow, stiffened with cold, all but unable to move or hold a
weapon, leaving many of their more fortunate comrades stark in death. A
turmoil of confusion reigned. The Afghans were firing into the rear of
the mass, and there was a wild rush of camp followers to the front, who
stripped the baggage cattle of their loads and carried the animals off,
leaving the ground strewn with ammunition, treasure, plate, and other
property. The ladies were no longer carried in litters and palanquins,
for their bearers were mostly dead; they sat in the bullet fire packed
into panniers slung on camels, invalids as some of them were--one poor
lady with her baby only five days old. Mess stores were being recklessly
distributed, and Lady Sale honestly acknowledges that, as she sat on her
horse in the cold, she felt very grateful for a tumbler of sherry, which
at any other time would have made her 'very unladylike,' but which now
merely warmed her. Cups full of sherry were drunk by young children
without in the least affecting their heads, so strong on them was the
hold of the cold.

It was not until noon that the living mass of men and animals was once
more in motion. The troops were in utter disorganisation; the baggage was
mixed up with the advance guard; the camp followers were pushing ahead in
precipitate panic. The task before the wretched congeries of people was
to thread the stupendous gorge of the Khoord Cabul pass--a defile about
five miles long, hemmed in on either hand by steeply scarped hills. Down
the bottom of the ravine dashed a mountain torrent, whose edges were
lined with thick layers of ice, on which had formed glacier-like masses
of snow. The 'Jaws of Death' were barely entered when the slaughter
began. With the advance rode several Afghan chiefs, whose followers, by
their command, shouted to the Ghilzais lining the heights to hold their
fire, but the tribesmen gave no heed to the mandate. Lady Sale rode with
the chiefs. The Ghilzai fire at fifty yards was close and deadly. The men
of the advance fell fast. Lady Sale had a bullet in her arm, and three
more through her dress. But the weight of the hostile fire fell on the
main column, the baggage escort, and the rear-guard. Some of the ladies,
who mostly were on camels which were led with the column, had strange
adventures. On one camel was quite a group. In one of its panniers were
Mrs Boyd and her little son, in the other Mrs Mainwaring, with her own
infant and Mrs Anderson's eldest child. The camel fell, shot. A
Hindustanee trooper took up Mrs Boyd _en croupe_, and carried her through
in safety; another horseman behind whom her son rode, was killed, and the
boy fell into Afghan hands. The Anderson girl shared the same fate. Mrs
Mainwaring, with her baby in her arms, attempted to mount a baggage pony,
but the load upset, and she pursued her way on foot. An Afghan horseman
rode at her, threatened her with his sword, and tried to drag away the
shawl in which she carried her child. She was rescued by a sepoy
grenadier, who shot the Afghan dead, and then conducted the poor lady
along the pass through the dead and dying, through, also, the close fire
which struck down people near to her, almost to the exit of the pass,
when a bullet killed the chivalrous sepoy, and Mrs Mainwaring had to
continue her tramp to the bivouac alone.

A very fierce attack was made on the rear-guard, consisting of the 44th.
In the narrow throat of the pass the regiment was compelled to halt by a
block in front, and in this stationary position suffered severely. A
flanking fire told heavily on the handful of European infantry. The
belated stragglers masked their fire, and at length the soldiers fell
back, firing volleys indiscriminately into the stragglers and the
Afghans. Near the exit of the pass a commanding position was maintained
by some detachments which still held together, strengthened by the only
gun now remaining, the last but one having been abandoned in the gorge.
Under cover of this stand the rear of the mass gradually drifted forward
while the Afghan pursuit was checked, and at length all the surviving
force reached the camping ground. There had been left dead in the pass
about 500 soldiers and over 2500 camp followers.

Akbar and the chiefs, taking the hostages with them, rode forward on the
track of the retreating force. Akbar professed that his object was to
stop the firing, but Mackenzie writes that Pottinger said to him:
'Mackenzie, remember if I am killed that I heard Akbar Khan shout "Slay
them!" in Pushtoo, although in Persian he called out to stop the firing.'
The hostages had to be hidden away from the ferocious ghazees among rocks
in the ravine until near evening, when in passing through the region of
the heaviest slaughter they 'came upon one sight of horror after another.
All the bodies were stripped. There were children cut in two. Hindustanee
women as well as men--some frozen to death, some literally chopped to
pieces, many with their throats cut from ear to ear.'

Snow fell all night on the unfortunates gathered tentless on the Khoord
Cabul camping ground. On the morning of the 9th the confused and
disorderly march was resumed, but after a mile had been traversed a halt
for the day was ordered at the instance of Akbar Khan, who sent into camp
by Captain Skinner a proposal that the ladies and children, with whose
deplorable condition he professed with apparent sincerity to sympathise,
should be made over to his protection, and that the married officers
should accompany their wives; he pledging himself to preserve the party
from further hardships and dangers, and afford its members safe escort
through the passes in rear of the force. The General had little faith in
the Sirdar, but he was fain to give his consent to an arrangement which
promised alleviation to the wretchedness of the ladies, scarce any of
whom had tasted a meal since leaving Cabul. Some, still weak from
childbirth, were nursing infants only a few days old; other poor
creatures were momentarily apprehending the pangs of motherhood. There
were invalids whose only attire, as they rode in the camel panniers or
shivered on the snow, was the nightdresses they wore when leaving the
cantonments in their palanquins, and none possessed anything save the
clothes on their backs. It is not surprising, then, that dark and
doubtful as was the future to which they were consigning themselves, the
ladies preferred its risks and chances to the awful certainties which lay
before the doomed column. The Afghan chief had cunningly made it a
condition of his proffer that the husbands should accompany their wives,
and if there was a struggle in the breasts of the former between public
and private duties, the General humanely decided the issue by ordering
them to share the fortunes of their families.

Akbar Khan sent in no supplies, and the march was resumed on the morning
of the both by a force attenuated by starvation, cold, and despair,
diminished further by extensive desertion. After much exertion the
advance, consisting of all that remained of the 44th, the solitary gun,
and a detachment of cavalry, forced a passage to the front through the
rabble of camp followers, and marched unmolested for about two miles
until the Tunghee Tariki was reached, a deep gorge not more than ten feet
wide. Men fell fast in the horrid defile, struck down by the Afghan fire
from the heights; but the pass, if narrow, was short, and the advance
having struggled through it moved on to the halting-place at
Kubbar-i-Jubbar, and waited there for the arrival of the main body. But
that body was never to emerge from out the shambles in the narrow throat
of the Tunghee Tariki. The advance was to learn from the few stragglers
who reached it the ghastly truth that it now was all that remained of the
strong brigade which four days before had marched out from the Cabul
cantonments. The slaughter from the Afghan fire had blocked the gorge
with dead and dying. The Ghilzai tribesmen, at the turn into the pen at
the other end of which was the blocked gorge, had closed up fiercely.
Then the steep slopes suddenly swarmed with Afghans rushing sword in hand
down to the work of butchery, and the massacre stinted not while living
victims remained. The rear-guard regiment of sepoys was exterminated,
save for two or three desperately wounded officers who contrived to reach
the advance.

The remnant of the army consisted now of about seventy files of the 44th,
about 100 troopers, and a detachment of horse-artillery with a single
gun. The General sent to Akbar Khan to remonstrate with him on the attack
he had allowed to be made after having guaranteed that the force should
meet with no further molestation. Akbar protested his regret, and pleaded
his inability to control the wild Ghilzai hillmen, over whom, in their
lust for blood and plunder, their own chiefs had lost all control; but he
was willing to guarantee the safe conduct to Jellalabad of the European
officers and men if they would lay down their arms and commit themselves
wholly into his hands. This sinister proposal the General refused, and
the march was continued, led in disorder by the remnant of the camp
followers. In the steep descent from the Huft Kotul into the Tezeen
ravine, the soldiers following the rabble at some distance, came suddenly
on a fresh butchery. The Afghans had suddenly fallen on the confused
throng, and the descent was covered with dead and dying.

During the march from Kubbar-i-Jubbar to the Tezeen valley Shelton's
dogged valour had mainly saved the force from destruction. With a few
staunch soldiers of his own regiment, the one-armed veteran, restored now
to his proper _metier_ of stubborn fighting man, had covered the rear and
repelled the Ghilzai assaults with persevering energy and dauntless
fortitude. And he it was who now suggested, since Akbar Khan still held
to his stipulation that the force should lay down its arms, that a
resolute effort should be made to press on to Jugdulluk by a rapid night
march of four-and-twenty miles, in the hope of clearing the passes in
that vicinity before the enemy should have time to occupy them.

That the attempt would prove successful was doubtful, since the force was
already exhausted; but it was the last chance, and Shelton's suggestion
was adopted. In the early moonlight the march silently began, an ill omen
marking the start in the shape of the forced abandonment of the last gun.
Fatal delay occurred between Seh Baba and Kutti Sung because of a panic
among the camp followers, who, scared by a few shots, drifted backwards
and forwards in a mass, retarding the progress of the column and for the
time entirely arresting the advance of Shelton's and his rear-guard. The
force could not close up until the morning, ten miles short of Jugdulluk,
and already the Afghans were swarming on every adjacent height. All the
way down the broken slope to Jugdulluk the little column trudged through
the gauntlet of jezail fire which lined the road with dead and wounded.
Shelton and his rear-guard handful performed wonders, again and again
fending off with close fire and levelled bayonets the fierce rushes of
Ghilzais charging sword in hand. The harassed advance reached Jugdulluk
in the afternoon of the 11th, and took post behind some ruins on a height
by the roadside, the surviving officers forming line in support of the
gallant rear-guard struggling forward through its environment of
assailants. As Shelton and his brave fellows burst through the cordon
they were greeted by cheers from the knoll. But there was no rest for the
exhausted people, for the Afghans promptly occupied commanding positions
whence they maintained a fire from which the ruins afforded but scant
protection. To men parched with thirst the stream at the foot of their
knoll was but a tantalising aggravation, for to attempt to reach it was
certain death. The snow they devoured only increased their sufferings,
and but little stay was afforded by the raw flesh of a few gun bullocks.
Throughout the day volley after volley was poured down upon the weary
band by the inexorable enemy. Frequent sallies were made, and the heights
were cleared, but the positions were soon reoccupied and the ruthless
fire was renewed.

Captain Skinner, summoned by Akbar, brought back a message that General
Elphinstone should visit him to take part in a conference, and that
Brigadier Shelton and Captain Johnson should be given over as hostages
for the evacuation of Jellalabad. Compliance was held to be imperative,
and the temporary command was entrusted to Brigadier Anquetil. Akbar was
extremely hospitable to his compulsory guests; but he insisted on
including the General among his hostages, and was not moved by
Elphinstone's representations that he would prefer death to the disgrace
of being separated from his command in its time of peril. The Ghilzai
chiefs came into conference burning with hatred against the British, and
revelling in the anticipated delights of slaughtering them. Akbar seemed
sincere in his effort to conciliate them, but was long unsuccessful.
Their hatred seemed indeed stronger than their greed; but at length
toward nightfall Akbar announced that pacific arrangements had been
accepted by the tribes, and that what remained of the force should be
allowed to march unmolested to Jellalabad.

How futile was the compact, if indeed there was any compact, was soon
revealed. The day among the ruins on the knoll had passed in dark and
cruel suspense--in hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, in the presence of
frequent death; and as the evening fell, in anguish and all but utter
despair. As darkness set in the conviction enforced itself that to remain
longer in the accursed place was madness; and the little band, leaving
behind perforce the sick and wounded, marched out, resolute to push
through or die fighting. In the valley the only molestation at first was
a desultory fire from the camping Ghilzais, who were rather taken by
surprise, but soon became wide awake to their opportunities. Some hurried
forward to occupy the pass rising from the valley to the Jugdulluk crest;
others, hanging on the rear and flanks of the column encumbered with its
fatal incubus of camp followers, mixed among the unarmed throng with
their deadly knives, and killed and plundered with the dexterity of long
practice. Throughout the tedious march up the steeply rising defile a
spattering fire came from the rocks and ridges flanking the track, all
but blocked by the surging concourse of miserable followers. The advance
had to employ cruel measures to force its way through the chaos toward
the crest. As it is approached from the Jugdulluk direction the flanking
elevations recede and merge in the transverse ridge, which is crowned by
a low-cut abrupt rocky upheaval, worn down somewhat where the road passes
over the crest by the friction of traffic. Just here the tribesmen had
constructed a formidable abattis of prickly brushwood, which stretched
athwart the road, and dammed back the fugitives in the shallow oval basin
between the termination of the ravine and the summit of the ridge. In
this trap were caught our hapless people and the swarm of their native
followers, and now the end was very near. From behind the barrier, and
around the lip of the great trap, the hillmen fired their hardest into
the seething mass of soldiers and followers writhing in the awful Gehenna
on which the calm moon shone down. On the edges of this whirlpool of
death the fell Ghilzais were stabbing and hacking with the ferocious
industry inspired by thirst for blood and lust for plunder. It is among
the characteristics of our diverse-natured race to die game, and even to
thrill with a strange fierce joy when hope of escape from death has all
but passed away and there remains only to sell life at the highest
possible premium of exchange. Among our people, face to face with death
on the rocky Jugdulluk, officers and soldiers alike fought with cool
deadly rancour. The brigadier and the private engaged in the same fierce
_melee_, fought side by side, and fell side by side. Stalwart Captain
Dodgin of the 44th slew five Afghans before he fell. Captain Nicholl of
the horse-artillery, gunless now, rallied to him the few staunch gunners
who were all that remained to him of his noble and historic troop, and
led them on to share with him a heroic death.

All did not perish on the rugged summit of the Jugdulluk. The barrier was
finally broken through, and a scant remnant of the force wrought out its
escape from the slaughter-pit. Small detachments, harassed by sudden
onslaughts, and delayed by reluctance to desert wounded comrades, were
trudging in the darkness down the long slope to the Soorkhab. The morning
of the 13th dawned near Gundamuk on the straggling group of some twenty
officers and forty-five European soldiers. Its march arrested by sharp
attacks, the little band moved aside to occupy a defensive position on an
adjacent hillock. A local sirdar invited the senior officer to consult
with him as to a pacific arrangement, and while Major Griffiths was
absent on this errand there was a temporary suspension of hostilities.
The Afghans meanwhile swarmed around the detachment with a pretence of
friendship, but presently attempts were made to snatch from the soldiers
their arms. This conduct was sternly resented, and the Afghans were
forced back. They ascended an adjacent elevation and set themselves to
the work of deliberately picking off officer after officer, man after
man. The few rounds remaining in the pouches of the soldiers were soon
exhausted, but the detachment stood fast, and calmly awaited the
inevitable end. Rush after rush was driven back from its steadfast front,
but at last, nearly all being killed or wounded, a final onset of the
enemy, sword in hand, terminated the struggle, and completed the dismal
tragedy. Captain Souter of the 44th, with three or four privates all of
whom as well as himself were wounded, was spared and carried into
captivity; he saved the colours of his regiment, which he had tied round
his waist before leaving Jugdulluk. A group of mounted officers had
pushed forward as soon as they had cleared the barrier on the crest. Six
only reached Futtehabad in safety. There they were treacherously offered
food, and while they halted a few moments to eat two were cut down. Of
the four who rode away three were overtaken and killed within four miles
of Jellalabad; one officer alone survived to reach that haven of refuge.

The ladies, the married officers, and the original hostages, followed
Akbar Khan down the passes toward Jugdulluk, pursuing the line of retreat
strewn with its ghastly tokens of slaughter, and recognising almost at
every step the bodies of friends and comrades. At Jugdulluk they found
General Elphinstone, Brigadier Shelton, and Captain Johnson, and learned
the fate which had overtaken the marching force. On the following day
Akbar quitted Jugdulluk with his hostages and the ladies, all of whom
were virtually prisoners, and rode away through the mountains in a
northerly direction. On the fourth day the fort of Budiabad in the
Lughman valley was reached, where Akbar left the prisoners while he went
to attempt the reduction of Jellalabad.


Sale's brigade, retreating from Gundamuk, reached Jellalabad on the 12th
November 1841. An investigation into the state of the fortifications of
that place showed them, in their existing condition, to be incapable of
resisting a vigorous assault. But it was resolved to occupy the place,
and to Captain George Broadfoot, as garrison engineer, was committed the
duty of making it defensible. This assuredly was no light task. The
enciente was far too extensive for the slender garrison, and its tracing
was radically bad. The ramparts were so dilapidated that in places they
were scarcely discernible, and the ruins strewn over what should have
been the glacis afforded near cover to assailants, whose attitude was
already so threatening as to hinder the beginning of repairing
operations. Their fire swept the defences, and their braves capered
derisively to the strains of a bagpipe on the adjacent rocky elevation,
which thenceforth went by the name of 'Piper's Hill.' A sortie on the
15th cleared the environs of the troublesome Afghans, supplies began to
come in, and Broad-foot was free to set his sappers to the task of
repairing the fortifications, in which work the entrenching tools he had
wrenched from the Cabul stores proved invaluable. How greatly Sale had
erred in shutting up his force in Jellalabad was promptly demonstrated.
The connecting posts of Gundamuk and Peshbolak had to be evacuated; and
thus, from Jumrood at the foot of the Khyber up to Cabul, there remained
no intermediate post in British possession with the solitary exception of
Jellalabad, and communications were entirely interrupted except through
the medium of furtive messengers.

The Jellalabad garrison was left unmolested for nearly a fortnight, and
the repairs were well advanced when on the 29th the Afghans came down,
invested the place, and pushed their skirmishers close up to the walls.
On December 1st Colonel Dennie headed a sortie, which worsted the
besiegers with considerable slaughter and drove them from the vicinity.
Bad news came at intervals from Cabul, and at the new year arrived a
melancholy letter from Pottinger, confirming the rumours already rife of
the murder of the Envoy, and of the virtual capitulation to which the
Cabul force had submitted. A week later an official communication was
received from Cabul, signed by General Elphinstone and Major Pottinger,
formally announcing the convention which the Cabul force had entered into
with the chiefs, and ordering the garrison of Jellalabad forthwith to
evacuate that post and retire to Peshawur, leaving behind with 'the new
Governor,' an Afghan chief who was the bearer of the humiliating missive,
the fortress guns and such stores and baggage as there lacked transport
to remove. The council of war summoned by Sale was unanimous in favour of
non-compliance with this mandate. Broadfoot urged with vigour that an
order by a superior who was no longer a free agent and who issued it
under duress, could impose no obligation of obedience. Sale pronounced
himself untrammelled by a convention forced from people 'with knives at
their throats,' and was resolute in the expression of his determination
to hold Jellalabad unless ordered by the Government to withdraw.

More and more ominous tidings poured in from Cabul. A letter received on
January both reported the Cabul force to be still in the cantonments,
living utterly at the mercy of the Afghans; another arriving on the 12th
told of the abandonment of the cantonments and the beginning of the
march, but that the forlorn wayfarers were lingering in detention at
Bootkhak, halted in their misery by the orders of Akbar Khan. Those
communications in a measure prepared the people in Jellalabad for
disaster, but not for the awful catastrophe of which Dr Brydon had to
tell, when in the afternoon of the 13th the lone man, whose approach to
the fortress Lady Butler's painting so pathetically depicts, rode through
the Cabul gate of Jellalabad. Dr Brydon was covered with cuts and
contusions, and was utterly exhausted. His first few hasty sentences
extinguished all hope in the hearts of the listeners regarding their
Cabul comrades and friends.

There was naturally great excitement in Jellalabad, but no panic. The
working parties were called in, the assembly was sounded, the gates were
closed, the walls were lined, and the batteries were manned; for it was
believed for the moment that the enemy were in full pursuit of fugitives
following in Brydon's track. The situation impressed Broadfoot with the
conviction that a crisis had come in the fortunes of the Jellalabad
garrison. He thought it his duty to lay before the General the conditions
of the critical moment which he believed to have arrived, pointing out to
him that the imperative alternatives were that he should either firmly
resolve on the defence of Jellalabad to the last extremity, or that he
should make up his mind to a retreat that very night, while as yet
retreat was practicable. Sale decided on holding on to the place, and
immediately announced to the Commander-in-Chief his resolve to persevere
in a determined defence, relying on the promise of the earliest possible

Because of the defection of his Sikh auxiliaries and the
faint-heartedness of his sepoys, Wild's efforts to cross the threshold of
the Khyber had failed, and with the tidings of his failure there came to
Sale the information that the effort for his relief must be indefinitely
postponed. It may be assumed that this intimation weakened in some degree
the General's expressed resolution to hold Jellalabad with determination,
and it is not to be denied that this resolution was in a measure
conditional on the not unwarranted expectation of early relief. Neither
he nor his adviser Macgregor appears to have realised how incumbent on
the garrison of Jellalabad it was to hold out to the last extremity,
irrespective of consequences to itself, unless it should receive a
peremptory recall from higher authority; or to have recognised the
glorious opportunity presented of inspiriting by its staunch constancy
and high-souled self-abnegation a weak government staggering under a
burden of calamity. Than Sale no braver soldier ever wore sword, but a
man may delight to head a forlorn hope and yet lack nerve to carry with
high heart a load of responsibility; nor was Macgregor so constituted as
to animate his chief to noble emprise. Fast on the heels of the gloomy
tidings from the Khyber mouth there came to them from Shah Soojah, who
was still the nominal sovereign at Cabul, a curt peremptory letter
obviously written under compulsion, of which the following were the
terms: 'Your people have concluded a treaty with us; you are still in
Jellalabad; what are your intentions? Tell us quickly.'

Sale summoned a council of war, which assembled at his quarters on
January 27th. Its proceedings were recorded, and the documents laid
before it were preserved by Captain Henry Havelock in his capacity as
Sale's staff-officer. Record and papers were reclaimed from Havelock's
custody by General Sale before the evacuation of Afghanistan, and had
been long lost to sight. They have recently been deposited among the
records of the India Office, but not before their latest non-official
possessor had published some extracts from them. It is to be hoped that
the more important documents may be given to the public in full, since
passages from documents, whether intentionally or not, may be so
extracted as to be misleading. Broadfoot, who had been a member of the
council of war, and who was apparently aware of the suppression of the
official records, wrote in 1843 a detailed narrative of its proceedings
while his recollection of them was still fresh, and this narrative he
sent to Havelock, desiring him to note 'any points erroneously stated,
distinguishing between what you may merely not remember and what you know
I am mistaken in.' Havelock, who was a loyal and ardent admirer of
General Sale, having sparsely annotated Broadfoot's narrative, returned
it with the statement that he had compared it with memoranda still in his
possession, and that he considered that it 'contributes a fair and
correct statement of that which occurred.' The officers comprising the
council to whom Sale and Macgregor addressed themselves were Colonel
Dennie of the 13th, Colonel Monteath of the 35th N.I., Captains Backhouse
and Abbott of the artillery, Captain Oldfield commanding the cavalry, and
Captain Broadfoot the garrison engineer. The following is a summary of
the proceedings, as recorded by Broadfoot and authenticated by Havelock.

After a few formal words from General Sale, he called on Macgregor to
submit a matter on which that political officer and himself were agreed.
Macgregor then described the situation from the point of view of Sale and
himself, and expressed their united conviction that nothing was to be
hoped for from the Government. Reserving his own liberty of action, he
sought the opinion of the officers on offers received from Akbar Khan to
treat for the evacuation of Afghanistan, and he laid before them a draft
answer to Shah Soojah's curt letter, professing the readiness of the
garrison to evacuate Jellalabad on his requisition, since it was held
only for him, but naming certain conditions: the exchange of hostages,
the restoration of British prisoners and hostages in exchange for the
Afghan hostages on arrival of the force at Peshawur, escort thither 'in
safety and honour,' with arms, colours, and guns, and adequate assistance
of supplies and transport. Both Sale and Macgregor frankly owned that
they were resolved to yield, and negotiate for safe retreat.

Great excitement from the first had pervaded the assemblage, and when
Macgregor had finished his statement Broadfoot arose in his wrath. He
declined to believe that the Government had abandoned the Jellalabad
garrison to its fate, and there was a general outburst of indignation
when Sale produced a letter carrying that significance. Broadfoot waxed
so warm in his remonstrances against the proposed action that an
adjournment was agreed to. Next day Sale and Macgregor urged that it was
impossible to hold out much longer, that later retreat would be
impracticable, and that the scheme they proposed was safe and honourable.
Broadfoot denounced it as disgraceful, contended that they could hold
Jellalabad indefinitely--'could colonise if they liked'--and retreat at
discretion. He denied that the place was held for Shah Soojah, and
challenged their right to surrender the post unless by Government order.
Hostages he proclaimed worthless while the Afghans held heavier pledges
of ours in the shape of prisoners and hostages. He denounced as
disgraceful the giving of hostages on our part. Monteath's remark that
nobody would go as a hostage roused Oldfield to express himself tersely
but pointedly on the subject. 'I for one,' he exclaimed in great
agitation, 'will fight here to the last drop of my blood, but I plainly
declare that I will never be a hostage, and I am surprised that anyone
should propose such a thing, or regard an Afghan's word as worth
anything.' The resolution to treat for the abandonment of Jellalabad was
carried, Oldfield only voting with Broadfoot against it, but the
stipulations: regarding hostages were omitted. Broadfoot continued to
press modifications of the conditions set out in the proposed reply,
pleading, but in vain, that the restoration of the prisoners in Afghan
hands before departure of the garrison should be insisted on; and that
since evacuation was resolved on, it should at least be conducted as a
military operation, and not degradingly under escort. Then, and little
wonder, he objected to expressions in the draft letter as too abject, and
he was successful in procuring the alteration of them. The letter was
written out, signed by Macgregor, and despatched to Cabul. It was agreed
that those members of the council who chose to do should record in
writing the reasons for their votes, and this was done by Dennie,
Monteath, Abbott, and Broadfoot.

Broadfoot, pending an answer from Cabul, set the garrison to work in
digging a ditch round the fortifications. The reply from the Shah, to the
effect 'If you are sincere in offers, let all the chief gentlemen affix
their seals,' was laid before the reassembled council on February 12th.
The implied imputation on the good faith of British officers might well
have stung to indignation the meekest; but the council's opinion was
taken as to the expediency of complying with the derogatory request made
by the Shah, as well as of a stipulation--a modification of what
Broadfoot had originally urged in vain--for the surrender of all
prisoners, hostages, sick, and wounded under detention in Afghanistan, on
the arrival at Peshawur of the Jellalabad brigade. The members of
council, who in the long interval since the previous meeting had been
gradually regaining their self-respect and mental equipoise, unanimously
declined to accept the proposals tendered them by their commanding
officer and his political ally; and a letter written by Monteath was
accepted, which 'was not a continuation of the negotiation.'

Thus ended the deliberations of the memorable council of war, whose
eleventh hour resolve to 'hold the fort' mainly averted the ruin of
British prestige in India and throughout the regions bordering on our
Eastern Empire; and the credit of its final decision to repudiate the
humiliating proposals of Sale and Macgregor belongs to George Broadfoot,
who was firmly though silently backed by Havelock. The day after that
decision was formulated a letter came from Peshawur informing the
garrison that every effort would be made for its relief; and thenceforth
there was no more talk of surrender, nor was the courage of the little
brigade impaired even when the earthquake of February 19th shook the
newly repaired fortifications into wreck. Broadfoot's vehement energy
infected the troops, and by the end of the month the parapets were
entirely restored, the bastions repaired, and every battery

After the council of war had rejected the proposals laid before it, a
decision which in effect involved the maintenance of the defence to the
last extremity, nearly two months passed without the occurrence of any
important event, except the speedily retrieved misfortune of the
earthquake of February 19th. The close investment of the place by Akbar
Khan thwarted the efforts of the foraging parties to obtain much needed
supplies. Those efforts were not vigorous, for Sale, aware of his
garrison's poverty of ammunition, was bent on a passive defence, and
steadily refused his consent to vigorous sorties. The policy may have had
its abstract merits, but it was certainly unsatisfactory in this respect,
that perseverance in it involved the unpleasantness of apparently
inevitable starvation. General Pollock had arrived in Peshawur, and was
making energetic efforts to get his force in order for the accomplishment
of the relief of Jellalabad. But he foresaw serious delays, and so late
as the middle of March was still unable to specify with any definiteness
the probable date of his arrival at that place. The European troops in
Jellalabad would be out of meat rations early in April, and Havelock's
calculation was that the grain, on which mainly subsisted the native
soldiers, who had been on half rations since the new year, would be
exhausted before the middle of that month. Sale modified his policy of
inactivity when he learned that the blockading Afghans were attempting to
drive a mine under a salient of the defences, and Dennie on March 11th
led out a sally, destroyed the works, and thrust back Akbar's
encroachments. The general lack of vigour, however, on the garrison's
part emboldened the Afghans so much that they actually grazed their
flocks of sheep within 600 yards of the walls. This was too impudent, and
the General consented to a raid, which resulted in the acquisition of
some 500 sheep, an invaluable addition to the commissariat resources. It
is worth recording that the native regiment gave up its share of the
sheep to the soldiers of the 13th, on the ground that Europeans needed
animal food more than did natives of India.

On April 6th the Afghan leader fired a salute in triumph for a
supposititious repulse of Pollock in the Khyber. In regard to what then
happened there is a strange conflict of testimony. General Sale, in a
private letter written six weeks later, states: 'I made my arrangements
with Macgregor to sally the next day, provided we did not hear that
Pollock had forced the pass.' Akbar's salutes, and the information of
spies that Pollock had fallen back, 'made us look very grave--our case
desperate, our provisions nearly out, and no relief at hand. I therefore
decided to play a bold stroke to relieve ourselves, and give courage to
Pollock's force in case of success. If we failed in thrashing Akbar, we
would have left our bones on the field.' Abbott's diary of April 5th and
6th records that spies reported that Pollock had been repulsed at Ali
Musjid, and that the heads of three of his officers had been sent in to
Akbar, whereupon 'all the commanding officers waited on the General,
beseeching him to attack Akbar instantly. The 13th and the battery got
all ready for work, but the old General was obstinate, and refused to
act.' Backhouse's diary (April 6th) mentions that Pollock having been
reported repulsed, and Akbar having fired a salute, the officers
commanding corps and detachments went in a body and proposed to the
General to attack Akbar instantly, but without success. 'Immediately the
matter was broached, the General set his face against anything of the
kind, and disagreed about every point--insisted that the enemy had 5000
or 6000 men in camp, and were too strong for us; and then, the next
minute, that it was no use going out as we couldn't punish them, as they
_wouldn't stand_; and concluding with usual excuse for inactivity, "It
isn't our game." Words ran precious high....'

Whether spontaneously or under pressure, General Sale must have ordered a
sortie in force; for at dawn of the 7th three infantry columns marched
out by the Cabul gate, the right commanded by Havelock, the centre by
Dennie, the left by Monteath, General Sale being in command of the whole
force. Akbar, reputed about 5000 strong, was in formation in front of his
camp about three miles west of Jellalabad, his left flank resting on the
river, with an advanced post of 300 men in the 'patched up' fort about
midway between his camp and Jellalabad. The prescribed tactics were to
march straight on the enemy, with which Monteath and Havelock complied;
but Dennie, whether with or without orders is a matter in dispute,
diverged to assail the 'patched up' fort. The outer defences were
carried, gallant old Dennie riding at the head of his men to receive his
death wound. In vain did the guns for which Sale had sent batter at the
inner keep, and the General abandoning the attempt to reduce it, led on
in person the centre column. Meanwhile Havelock and Monteath had been
moving steadily forward, until halted by orders when considerably
advanced. Havelock had to form square once and again against the Afghan
horsemen, who, however, did not dare to charge home. The artillery came
to the front at the gallop, and poured shot and shell into Akbar's mass.
The three columns, now abreast of each other, deployed into line, and
moving forward at the double in the teeth of the Afghan musketry fire,
swept the enemy clean out of his position, capturing his artillery,
firing his camp, and putting him to utter rout. Akbar, by seven o'clock
in the April morning, had been signally beaten in the open field by the
troops he had boasted of blockading in the fortress.

The garrison of Jellalabad had thus wrought out its own relief.
Thenceforth it experienced neither annoyance nor scarcity. Pollock
arrived a fortnight after the dashing sally which had given the garrison
deliverance, and the head of his column was played into its camp on the
Jellalabad plain by the band of the 13th, to the significant tune 'Oh,
but ye've been lang o'coming.' The magniloquent Ellenborough dubbed
Sale's brigade 'the Illustrious Garrison,' and if the expression is
overstrained, its conduct was without question eminently creditable.


It was little wonder that the unexpected tidings of the Cabul outbreak,
and the later shock of the catastrophe in the passes, should have
temporarily unnerved the Governor-General. But Lord Auckland rallied his
energies with creditable promptitude. His successor was on the voyage
out, and in the remnant of his term that remained he could not do more
than make dispositions which his successor might find of service. Every
soldier of the 'Army of Retribution' was despatched to the frontier
during Lord Auckland's rule. Lord Auckland appointed to the command of
the troops which he was sending forward a quiet, steadfast, experienced
officer of the artillery arm, who had fought under Lake at Deig and
Bhurtpore, and during his forty years of honest service had soldiered
steadily from the precipices of Nepaul to the rice-swamps of the
Irrawaddy. Pollock was essentially the fitting man for the service that
lay before him, characterised as he was by strong sense, shrewd sagacity,
calm firmness, and self-command. When his superior devolved on him an
undue onus of responsibility he was to prove himself thoroughly equal to
the occasion, and the sedate, balanced man murmured not, but probably was
rather amused when he saw a maker of phrases essaying to deck himself in
his laurels. There were many things in Lord Auckland's Indian career of
which it behoved him to repent, but it must go to his credit that he gave
Pollock high command, and that he could honestly proclaim, as he made his
preparations to quit the great possession whose future his policy had
endangered, that he had contributed toward the retrieval of the crisis by
promptly furthering 'such operations as might be required for the
maintenance of the honour and interests of the British Government.'

Brigadier Wild reached Peshawur with a brigade of four sepoy regiments
just before the new year. He was destitute of artillery, his sepoys were
in poor heart, and the Sikh contingent was utterly untrustworthy. To
force the Khyber seemed hopeless. Wild, however, made the attempt
energetically enough. But the Sikhs mutinied, expelled their officers,
and marched back to Peshawur; Wild's sepoys, behaving badly, were driven
back with loss from the mouth of the pass, and Wild himself was wounded.
When Pollock reached Peshawur on February 6th, 1842, he found half of
Wild's brigade sick in hospital, and the whole of it in a state of utter
demoralisation. A second brigade commanded by Brigadier-General
McCaskill, had accompanied Pollock, the sepoys of which promptly fell
under the evil influence of Wild's dispirited and disaffected regiments.
Pollock had to resist the pressing appeals for speedy relief made to him
from Jellalabad, and patiently to devote weeks and months to the
restoration of the morale and discipline of the disheartened sepoys of
his command, and to the reinvigoration of their physique. By kindness
combined with firmness he was able gradually to inspire them with perfect
trust and faith in him, and when in the end of March there reached him a
third brigade, comprising British cavalry and horse-artillery, ordered
forward by Lord Auckland on receipt of tidings of the destruction of the
Cabul force, he felt himself at length justified in advancing with

[Illustration: Sir George Pollock]

Before daylight on the morning of April 5th Pollock's army about 8000
strong, consisting of eight infantry regiments, three cavalry corps, a
troop and two batteries of artillery, and a mountain train, marched from
the Jumrood camping ground into the portals of the Khyber. Pollock's
scheme of operations was perfect in conception and complete in detail.
His main column, with strong advance and rear-guards, was to pursue the
usual road through the pass. It was flanked on each side by a chain of
infantry detachments, whose assigned duty was to crown the heights and
sweep them clear of assailants in advance of the head of the central
column. The Afreedi hill men had blocked the throat of the pass by a
formidable barrier, behind which they were gathered in force, waiting for
the opportunity which was never to come to them. For the main body of
Pollock's force serenely halted, while the flanking columns, breaking
into skirmishing order, hurried in the grey dawn along the slopes and
heights, dislodging the Afreedi pickets as they advanced, driving them
before them with resolute impetuosity, and pushing forward so far as to
take in reverse with their concentrated fire the great barrier and its
defenders. The clansmen, recognising the frustration of their devices,
deserted the position in its rear, and rushed tumultuously away to crags
and sungahs where knife and jezail might still be plied. The centre
column then advanced unmolested to the deserted barricade, through which
the sappers soon cleared a thoroughfare. The guns swept with shrapnel the
hill-sides in front, the flanking detachments pushed steadily further and
yet further forward, chasing and slaying the fugitive hillmen; and the
Duke of Wellington's observation was that morning fully made good, that
he had never heard that our troops were not equal, as well in their
personal activity as in their arms, to contend with and overcome any
natives of hills whatever.' The whole British force, in its order of
three columns, the centre in the bed of the hollow, the wings on the
flanking ridges, steadily if slowly moved on in the assured consciousness
of victory. It was sunset before the rear-guard was in camp under the
reoccupied Ali Musjid. The Sikh troops who were to keep open Pollock's
communications with Peshawur moved simultaneously on Ali Musjid by a more
circuitous route.

While Pollock was halted opposite the throat of the Khyber waiting for
the demolition of the Afreedi barricade, the ill-starred Shah Soojah was
being murdered, on his way from the Balla Hissar of Cabul to review on
the Siah Sung slopes the reinforcements which Akbar Khan was clamouring
that he should lead down to aid that Sirdar in reducing Jellalabad before
relief should arrive. Ever since the outbreak of November Shah Soojah had
led a dog's life. He had reigned in Cabul, but he had not ruled. The
Sirdars dunned him for money, and jeered at his protestations of poverty.
It is not so much a matter of surprise that he should have been murdered
as that, feeble, rich, and loathed, he should have been let live so long.
It does not seem worth while to discuss the vexed question whether or not
he was faithful to his British allies. He was certainly entitled to argue
that he owed us nothing, since what we did in regard to him was nakedly
for our own purposes. Shah Soojah's second son Futteh Jung had himself
proclaimed his father's successor. The vicissitudes of his short reign
need not be narrated. While Pollock was gathering his brigades at
Gundamuk in the beginning of the following September, a forlorn Afghan,
in dirty and tattered rags, rode into his camp. This scarecrow was Futteh
Jung, who, unable to endure longer his sham kingship and the ominous
tyranny of Akbar Khan, had fled from Cabul in disguise to beg a refuge in
the British camp.

Pollock's march from Ali Musjid to Jellalabad was slow, but almost
unmolested. He found, in his own words, 'the fortress strong, the
garrison healthy; and except for wine and beer, better off than we are.'
One principal object of his commission had been accomplished; he had
relieved the garrison of Jellalabad, and was in a position to ensure its
safe withdrawal. But his commission gave him a considerable discretion,
and a great company of his countrymen and countrywomen were still in
Afghan durance. The calm pulsed, resolute commander had views of his own
as to his duty, and he determined in his patient, steadfast way to tarry
a while on the Jellalabad plain, in the hope that the course of events
might play into his hands.

Maclaren's brigade, which in the beginning of November 1841 General
Elphinstone had instructed General Nott to despatch with all speed to
Cabul, returned to Candahar early in December. Nott in despatching it had
deferred reluctantly to superior authority, and probably Maclaren not
sorry to have in the snowfall a pretext for retracing his steps. Atta
Mahomed Khan, sent from Cabul to foment mischief in the Candahar regions,
had gathered to his banner a considerable force. General Nott quietly
waited until the Sirdar, at the head of some 10,000 men, came within five
miles of Candahar, and then he crushed him after twenty minutes'
fighting. The fugitives found refuge in the camp of the disaffected
Dooranee chiefs, whose leader Meerza Ahmed was sedulously trying to
tamper with Nott's native troops, severe weather hindering the General
from attacking him. Near the end of February there reached Nott a letter
two months old from Elphinstone and Pottinger, ordering him to evacuate
Candahar and retire to India, in pursuance of the convention into which
they had entered. The Dooranee chiefs astutely urged that Shah Soojah, no
longer supported by British bayonets, was now ruling in Cabul, as an
argument in favour of Nott's withdrawal. Nott's answer was brief: 'I will
not treat with any person whatever for the retirement of the British
troops from Afghanistan, until I have received instructions from the
Supreme Government'--a blunt sentence in curious contrast to the missive
which Sale and Macgregor laid before the Jellalabad council of war. When
presently there came a communication from Government intimating that the
continued occupation of Candahar was regarded as conducive to the
interest of the state, Nott and Rawlinson were in a position to
congratulate themselves on having anticipated the wishes of their
superiors. The situation, however, became so menacing that early in March
its Afghan inhabitants were expelled from the city of Candahar to the
last soul; and then Nott, leaving a garrison in the place, took the field
in force. The old soldier, wary as he was, became the victim of Meerza's
wily strategy. As he advanced, the Afghans retired, skirmishing
assiduously. Leaving Nott in the Turnuk valley, they doubled back on
Candahar, and in the early darkness of the night of the 10th March they
furiously assailed the city gates. They fired one of the gates, and the
swarming ghazees tore down with fury its blazing planks and the red-hot
ironwork. The garrison behaved valiantly. Inside the burning gate they
piled up a rampart of grain bags, on which they trained a couple of guns
loaded with case. For three hours after the gate fell did the fanatics
hurl assault after assault on the interior barricade. They were terribly
critical hours, but the garrison prevailed, and at midnight, with a loss
of many hundreds, the obstinate assailants sullenly drew off. Nott,
although urgently summoned, was unable to reach Candahar until the 12th.

Candahar was fortunately preserved, but at the end of March the
unpleasant tidings came that Ghuznee, which British valour had carried by
storm three years before, had now reverted into Afghan possession. The
siege had lasted for nearly three and a half months. In mid-December the
besiegers occupied the city in force, introduced by the citizens through
a subterranean way; and the garrison, consisting chiefly of a regiment of
sepoys, withdrew into the citadel. The bitter winter and the scant
rations took the heart out of the natives of the warm and fertile Indian
plains; but nevertheless it was not until March 6th that the garrison,
under pledge of being escorted to Peshawur with colours, arms, and
baggage, marched out. The unfortunates would have done better to have
died a soldierly death, with arms in their hands and the glow of fighting
in their hearts. As the event was, faith with them was broken, and save
for a few officers who were made prisoners, most were slaughtered, or
perished in a vain attempt to escape.

During his long isolation Nott's resources had been seriously depleted,
and he had ordered up from Scinde a brigade, escorting much needed
treasure, ammunition, and medicines. Brigadier England was entrusted with
the command of this force, whose assemblage at Quetta was expected about
the end of March. Pending its gathering England had moved out toward the
entrance of the Kojuk Pass, where he met with a sharp and far from
creditable repulse, and fell back on Quetta miserably disheartened,
suggesting in his abjectness that Nott should abandon Candahar and retire
on him. The stout old soldier at Candahar waxed wroth at the limpness of
his subordinate, and addressed to England a biting letter, ordering
peremptorily the latter's prompt advance to Candahar, engaging to
dry-nurse him through the Kojuk by a brigade sent down from Candahar for
the purpose, and remarking sarcastically, 'I am well aware that war
cannot be made without loss; but yet perhaps British troops can oppose
Asiatic armies without defeat.' Thus exhorted England moved, to find his
march through the Kojuk protected by Wymer's sepoys from Candahar, who
had crowned the lateral heights before he ventured into the pass; and he
reached Candahar without maltreatment on the 10th May, bringing to Nott
the much needed supplies which rendered that resolute man equal to any

It remained, however, to be seen whether any enterprise was to be
permitted to him and to his brother commander lying in camp on the
Jellalabad plain. Lord Ellenborough, the successor of Lord Auckland, had
struck a firm if somewhat inexplicit note in his earliest manifesto,
dated March 13th. A single sentence will indicate its tenor: 'Whatever
course we may hereafter take must rest solely on military considerations,
and hence in the first instance regard to the safety of our detached
garrisons in Afghanistan; to the security of our troops now in the field
from unnecessary risks; and finally, to the re-establishment of our
military reputation by the infliction upon the Afghans of some signal and
decisive blow.' Those were brave words, if only they had been adhered to.
But six weeks later his lordship was ordering Nott to evacuate Candahar
and fall back on Quetta, until the season should permit further
retirement to the Indus; and instructing Pollock, through the
Commander-in-Chief, to withdraw without delay every British soldier from
Jellalabad to Peshawur, except under certain specified eventualities,
none of which were in course of occurrence. Pollock temporised, holding
on to his advanced position by the plea of inability to retire for want
of transport, claiming mildly to find discretionary powers in the
Government instructions, and cautiously arguing in favour of an advance
by a few marches to a region where better climate was to be found, and
whence he might bring to bear stronger pressure for the liberation of the
prisoners. Nott was a narrower man than Pollock. When he got his orders
he regarded them as strictly binding, no matter how unpalatable the
injunctions. 'I shall not lose a moment,' he wrote, 'in making
arrangements to carry out my orders, without turning to the right or the
left, and without inquiring into the reasons for the measures enjoined,
whatever our own opinions or wishes may be.' He reluctantly began
preparations for withdrawal. Carriage was ordered up from Quetta, and a
brigade was despatched to withdraw the garrison of Khelat-i-Ghilzai, and
to destroy the fort which Craigie had so long and valiantly defended.

It would be tedious to detail the vacillations, the obscurities, and the
tortuosities of Lord Ellenborough's successive communications to his two
Generals in Afghanistan. Pollock had been permitted to remain about
Jellalabad until the autumn should bring cooler marching weather. Nott
had been detained at Candahar by the necessity for crushing menacing
bodies of tribal levies, but as July waned his preparations for
withdrawal were all but complete. On the 4th of that month Lord
Ellenborough wrote to him, reiterating injunctions for his withdrawal
from Afghanistan, but permitting him the alternatives of retiring by the
direct route along his line of communications over Quetta and Sukkur, or
of boxing the compass by the curiously circuitous 'retirement' _via_
Ghuznee, Cabul, and Jellalabad. Pollock, for his part, was permitted, if
he thought proper, to advance on Cabul in order to facilitate Nott's
withdrawal, if the latter should elect to 'retreat' by the circuitous
route which has just been described.

One does not care to characterise the 'heads I win, tails you lose'
policy of a Governor-General who thus shuffled off his responsibility
upon two soldiers who previously had been sedulously restricted within
narrow if varying limits. Their relief from those trammels set them free,
and it was their joy to accept the devolved responsibility, and to act
with soldierly initiative and vigour. The chief credit of the qualified
yet substantial triumph over official hesitation certainly belongs to
Pollock, who gently yet firmly forced the hand of the Governor-General,
while Nott's merit was limited to a ready acceptance of the
responsibility of a proffered option. A letter from Nott intimating his
determination to retire by way of Cabul and Jellalabad reached Pollock in
the middle of August, who immediately advanced from Jellalabad; and his
troops having concentrated at Gundamuk, he marched from that position on
7th September, his second division, commanded by M'Caskill, following
next day. Pollock was woefully short of transport, and therefore was
compelled to leave some troops behind at Gundamuk, and even then could
carry only half the complement of tentage. But his soldiers, who carried
in their haversacks seven days' provisions, would gladly have marched
without any baggage at all, and the chief himself was eager to hurry
forward, for Nott had written that he expected to reach Cabul on 15th
September, and Pollock was burning to be there first. In the Jugdulluk
Pass, on the 8th, he found the Ghilzais in considerable force on the
heights. Regardless of a heavy artillery fire they stood their ground,
and so galled Pollock's troops with sharp discharges from their jezails
that it became necessary to send infantry against them. They were
dislodged from the mountain they had occupied by a portion of the
Jellalabad brigade, led by gallant old General Sale, who had his usual
luck in the shape of a wound.

This Jugdulluk fighting was, however, little more than a skirmish, and
Pollock's people were to experience more severe opposition before they
should emerge from the passes on to the Cabul plain. On the morning of
the 13th the concentrated force had quitted its camp in the Tezeen
valley, and had committed itself without due precaution to the passage of
the ravine beyond, when the Afghan levies with which Akbar Khan had
manned the flanking heights, opened their fire. The Sirdar had been
dissuaded by Captain Troup, one of his prisoners, from attempting futile
negotiations, and advised not to squander lives in useless opposition.
Akbar had replied that he was too deeply committed to recede, and that
his people were bent on fighting. They were not baulked in the
aspiration, which assuredly their opponents shared with at least equal
zeal. Pollock's advance-guard was about the middle of the defile, when
the enemy were suddenly discovered blocking the pass in front, and
holding the heights which Pollock's light troops should have crowned in
advance of the column. Akbar's force was calculated to be about 15,000
strong, and the Afghans fought resolutely against the British regiments
which forced their way up the heights on the right and left. The ghazees
dashed down to meet the red soldiers halfway, and up among the precipices
there were many hand-to-hand encounters, in which the sword and the
bayonet fought out the issue. The Afghans made their last stand on the
rocky summit of the Huft Kotul; but from this commanding position they
were finally driven by Broadfoot's bloodthirsty little Goorkhas, who,
hillmen themselves from their birth, chased the Afghans from crag to
crag, using their fell kookeries as they pursued. It was Akbar Khan's
last effort, and the quelling of it cost Pollock the trivial loss of
thirty-two killed and 130 wounded. There was no more opposition, and it
was well for the Afghans, for the awful spectacles presented in the
Khoord Cabul Pass traversed on the following day, kindled in Pollock's
soldiers a white heat of fury. 'The bodies,' wrote Backhouse in his
unpublished diary, 'lay in heaps of fifties and hundreds, our gun wheels
crushing the bones of our late comrades at every yard for four or five
miles; indeed, the whole march from Gundamuk to Cabul may be said to have
been over the bodies of the massacred army.' Pollock marched unmolested
to Cabul on the 15th, and camped on the old racecourse to the east of the

Nott, in evacuating Candahar, divided his force into two portions, the
weaker of which General England took back to India by Quetta and Sukkur,
while on August 9th Nott himself, with two European battalions, the
'beautiful sepoy regiments' of which he had a right to be proud, and his
field guns, marched away from Candahar, his face set towards Cabul. His
march was uneventful until about midway between Khelat-i-Ghilzai and
Ghuznee, when on the 28th the cavalry, unsupported and badly handled in a
stupid and unauthorised foray, lost severely in officers and men, took to
flight in panic, and so gave no little encouragement to the enemy hanging
on Nott's flank. Two days later Shumshoodeen, the Afghan leader, drew up
some 10,000 men in order of battle on high ground left of the British
camp. Nott attacked with vigour, advancing to turn the Afghan left. In
reprisal the enemy threw their strength on his left, supporting their
jezail fire with artillery, whereupon Nott changed front to the left,
deployed, and then charged. The Afghans did not wait for close quarters,
and Nott was no more seriously molested. Reaching the vicinity of Ghuznee
on September 5th, he cleared away the hordes hanging on the heights which
encircle the place. During the night the Afghans evacuated Ghuznee. Soon
after daylight the British flag was waving from the citadel. Having
fulfilled Lord Ellenborough's ridiculous order to carry away from the
tomb of Sultan Mahmoud in the environs of Ghuznee, the supposititious
gates of Somnath, a once famous Hindoo shrine in the Bombay province of
Kattiawar, Nott marched onward unmolested till within a couple of marches
of Cabul, when near Maidan he had some stubborn fighting with an Afghan
force which tried ineffectually to block his way. On the 17th he marched
into camp four miles west of Cabul, whence he could discern, not with
entire complacency, the British ensign already flying from the Balla
Hissar, for Pollock had won the race to Cabul by a couple of days.

For months there had been negotiations for the release of the British
prisoners whom Akbar Khan had kept in durance ever since they came into
his hands in the course of the disastrous retreat from Cabul in January,
but they had been unsuccessful, and now it was known that the unfortunate
company of officers, women, and children, had been carried off westward
into the hill country of Bamian. Nott's officers, as the Candahar column
was nearing Cabul, had more than once urged him to detach a brigade in
the direction of Bamian in the hope of effecting a rescue of the
prisoners, but he had steadily refused, leaning obstinately on the
absence from the instructions sent him by Government of any permission to
engage in the enterprise of attempting their release. He was not less
brusque in the intimation of his declinature when Pollock gave him the
opportunity to send a force in support of Sir Richmond Shakespear, whom,
with a detachment of Kuzzilbash horse, Pollock had already despatched on
the mission of attempting the liberation of the prisoners. The narrow old
soldier argued doggedly that Government 'had thrown the prisoners
overboard.' Why, then, should he concern himself with their rescue? If
his superior officer should give him a firm order, of course he would
obey, but he would obey under protest. Pollock disdained to impose so
enviable a duty on a recalcitrant man, and committed to Sale the
honourable and welcome service--all the more welcome to that officer
because his wife and daughter were among the captives. At the head of his
Jellalabad brigade, he was to push forward by forced marches on the track
of Shakespear and his horsemen.

The strange and bitter experiences of the captives, from that miserable
January Sabbath day on which they passed under the 'protection' of Akbar
Khan until the mid-September noon when Shakespear galloped into their
midst, are recorded in full and interesting detail in Lady Sale's
journal, in Vincent Eyre's _Captivity_, and in Colin Mackenzie's
biography published under the title of _Storms and Sunshine of a
Soldier's Life_. Here it is possible only briefly to summarise the chief
incidents of the captivity. The unanimous testimony of the released
prisoners was to the effect that Akbar Khan, violent, bloody, and
passionate man though he was, behaved toward them with kindness and a
certain rude chivalry. They remained for nearly three months at Budiabad,
living in great squalor and discomfort. For the whole party there were
but five rooms, each of which was occupied by from five to ten officers
and ladies, the few soldiers and non-commissioned officers, who were
mostly wounded, being quartered in sheds and cellars. Mackenzie drily
remarks that the hardships of the common lot, and the close intimacy of
prison life, brought into full relief good and evil qualities;
'conventional polish was a good deal rubbed off and replaced by a
plainness of speech quite unheard of in good society.' Ladies and
gentlemen were necessitated to occupy the same room during the night, but
the men 'cleared out' early in the morning, leaving the ladies to
themselves. The dirt and vermin of their habitation were abominably
offensive to people to whom scrupulous cleanliness was a second nature.
But the captives were allowed to take exercise within a limited range;
they had among them a few books, and an old newspaper occasionally came
on to them from Jellalabad, with which place a fitful correspondence in
cypher was surreptitiously maintained. They had a few packs of playing
cards; they made for themselves backgammon and draught-boards, and when
in good spirits they sometimes played hopscotch and blindman's-buff with
the children of the party. The Sundays were always kept scrupulously,
Lawrence and Mackenzie conducting the service in turn.

The earthquake which shook down the fortifications of Jellalabad brought
their rickety fort about the ears of the captives. Several escaped
narrowly with their lives when walls and roofs yawned and crumbled, and
all had to turn out and sleep in the courtyard, where they suffered from
cold and saturating dews. After the defeat of Akbar by the Jellalabad
garrison on April 7th, there was keen expectation that Sale would march
to their rescue, but he came not, and there were rumours among the guards
of their impending massacre in revenge for the crushing reverse Akbar had
experienced. Presently, however, Mahomed Shah Khan, Akbar's lieutenant,
arrived full of courtesy and reassurance, but with the unwelcome
intimation that the prisoners must prepare themselves to leave Budiabad
at once, and move to a greater distance from Jellalabad and their
friends. For some preparation was not a difficult task. 'All my worldly
goods,' wrote Captain Johnson, 'might be stowed away in a towel.' Others
who possessed heavier impedimenta, were lightened of the encumbrance by
the Ghilzai Sirdar, who plundered indiscriminately. The European soldiers
were left behind at Budiabad, and the band of ladies and gentlemen
started on the afternoon of April 10th, in utter ignorance of their
destination, under the escort of a strong band of Afghans. At the ford
across the Cabul river the cavalcade found Akbar Khan wounded, haggard,
and dejected, seated in a palanquin, which, weak as he was, he gave up to
Ladies Macnaghten and Sale, who were ill. A couple of days were spent at
Tezeen among the melancholy relics of the January slaughter, whence most
of the party were carried several miles further into the southern
mountains to the village of Zandeh, while General Elphinstone, whose end
was fast approaching, remained in the Tezeen valley with Pottinger,
Mackenzie, Eyre, and one or two others. On the evening of April 23d the
poor General was finally released from suffering of mind and body. Akbar,
who when too late had offered to free him, sent the body down to
Jellalabad under a guard, and accompanied by Moore the General's soldier
servant; and Elphinstone lies with Colonel Dennie and the dead of the
defence of Jellalabad in their nameless graves in a waste place within
the walls of that place. Toward the end of May the captives were moved up
the passes to the vicinity of Cabul, where Akbar Khan was now gradually
attaining the ascendant. Prince Futteh Jung, however, still held out in
the Balla Hissar, and intermittent firing was heard as the weary
_cortege_ of prisoners reached a fort about three miles short of Cabul,
which the ladies of the proprietor's zenana had evacuated in their
favour. Here they lived if not in contentment at least in considerable
comfort and amenity. They had the privacy of a delightful garden, and
enjoyed the freedom of bathing in the adjacent river. After the strife
between Akbar Khan and Futteh Jung ceased they were even permitted to
exchange visits with their countrymen, the hostages quartered on the
Balla Hissar. They were able to obtain money from the Cabul usurers, and
thus to supply themselves with suitable clothing and additions to their
rations, and their mails from India and Jellalabad were forwarded to them
without hindrance. The summer months were passed in captivity, but it was
no longer for them a captivity of squalor and wretchedness. Life was a
good deal better worth living in the pleasant garden house on the bank of
the Logur than it had been in the noisome squalor of Budiabad and the
vermin-infested huddlement of Zandeh. But they still-lived under the long
strain of anxiety and apprehension, for none of them knew what the morrow
might bring forth. While residing in the pleasant quarters in the Logur
valley the captives of the passes were joined by nine officers, who were
the captives of Ghuznee. After the capitulation the latter had been
treated with cruel harshness, shut up in one small room, and debarred
from fresh air and exercise. Colonel Palmer, indeed, had undergone the
barbarity of torture in the endeavour to force him to disclose the
whereabouts of treasure which he was suspected of having buried.

Akbar had full and timely intimation of the mutual intention of the
British generals at Jellalabad and Candahar to march on Cabul, and did
not fail to recognise of what value to him in extremity might be his
continued possession of the prisoners. They had been warned of their
probable deportation to the remote and rugged Bamian; and the toilsome
journey thither was begun on the evening of August 25th. A couple of
ailing families alone, with a surgeon in charge of them, were allowed to
remain behind; all the others, hale and sick, had to travel, the former
on horseback, the latter carried in camel panniers. The escort consisted
of an irregular regiment of Afghan infantry commanded by one Saleh
Mahomed Khan, who when a subadar serving in one of the Shah's Afghan
regiments had deserted to Dost Mahomed. The wayfarers, female as well as
male, wore the Afghan costume, in order that they might attract as little
notice as possible.

Bamian was reached on September 3d, where the wretchedness of the
quarters contrasted vividly with the amenity of those left behind on the
Cabul plain. But the wretchedness of Bamian was not to be long endured.
An intimacy had been struck up between Captain Johnson and Saleh Mahomed,
and the latter cautiously hinted that a reward and a pension might induce
him to carry his charges into the British camp. On September 11th there
was a private meeting between the Afghan commandant and three British
officers, Pottinger, Johnson, and Lawrence. Saleh Mahomed intimated the
receipt of instructions from the Sirdar to carry the prisoners over the
Hindoo Koosh into Khooloom, and leave them there to seeming hopeless
captivity. But on the other hand a messenger had reached Saleh from Mohun
Lal with the assurance that General Pollock, if he restored the
prisoners, would ensure him a reward of 20,000 rupees, and a life pension
of 12,000 rupees a year. Saleh Mahomed demanded and received a guarantee
from the British officers; and the captives bound themselves to make good
from their own resources their redemption money. The Afghan ex-Subadar
proved himself honest; the captives were captives no longer, and they
proceeded to assert themselves in the masterful British manner. They
hoisted the national flag; Pottinger became once again the high-handed
'political,' and ordered the local chiefs to come to his durbar and
receive dresses of honour. Their fort was put into a state of defence,
and a store of provisions was gathered in case of a siege. But in
mid-September came the tidings that Akbar had been defeated at Tezeen,
and had fled no one knew whither, whereupon the self-emancipated party
set out on the march to Cabul. At noon of the 17th they passed into the
safe guardianship of Shakespear and his horsemen. Three days later,
within a march of Cabul, there was reached the column which Sale had
taken out, and on September 21st Pollock greeted the company of men and
women whose rescue had been wrought out by his cool, strong

Little more remains to be told. There was an Afghan force still in arms
at Istalif, a beautiful village of the inveterately hostile Kohistanees;
a division marched to attack it, carried the place by assault, burnt part
of it, and severely smote the garrison. Utter destruction was the fate of
Charikar, the capital of the Kohistan, where Codrington's Goorkha
regiment had been destroyed. Pollock determined to 'set a mark' on Cabul
to commemorate the retribution which the British had exacted. He spared
the Balla Hissar, and abstained from laying the city in ruins, contenting
himself with the destruction of the principal bazaar, through which the
heads of Macnaghten and Burnes had been paraded, and in which their
mangled bodies had been exposed. Prince Futteh Jung, tired of his
vicissitudes in the character of an Afghan monarch, ceded what of a
throne he possessed to another puppet of his race, and gladly accompanied
the British armies to India. Other waifs of the wreck of a nefarious and
disastrous enterprise, among them old Zemaun Khan, who had been our
friend throughout, and the family of the ill-fated Shah Soojah, were well
content to return to the exile which afforded safety and quietude. There
also accompanied the march of the humane Pollock a great number of the
mutilated and crippled camp followers of Elphinstone's army who had
escaped with their lives from its destruction. On the 12th of October the
forces of Pollock and of Nott turned their backs on Cabul, which no
British army was again to see for nearly forty years, and set out on
their march down the passes. Jellalabad and Ali Musjid were partially
destroyed in passing. Pollock's division reached Peshawur without loss,
thanks to the precautions of its chief; but with M'Caskill and Nott the
indomitable Afghans had the last word, cutting off their stragglers,
capturing their baggage, and in the final skirmish killing and wounding
some sixty men of Nott's command.

Of the bombastic and grotesque paeans of triumph emitted by Lord
Ellenborough, whose head had been turned by a success to which he had but
scantly contributed, nothing need now be said, nor of the garish pageant
with which he received the armies as they re-entered British territory at
Ferozepore. As they passed down through the Punjaub, Dost Mahomed passed
up on his way to reoccupy the position from which he had been driven. And
so ended the first Afghan war, a period of history in which no redeeming
features are perceptible except the defence of Jellalabad, the dogged
firmness of Nott, and Pollock's noble and successful constancy of
purpose. Beyond this effulgence there spreads a sombre welter of
misrepresentation and unscrupulousness, intrigue, moral deterioration,
and dishonour unspeakable.



A brief period of peace intervened between the ratification of the treaty
of Gundamuk on May 30th, 1879, and the renewal of hostilities consequent
on the massacre at Cabul of Sir Louis Cavagnari and the whole _entourage_
of the mission of which he was the head. There was nothing identical or
even similar in the motives of the two campaigns, and regarded purely on
principle they might be regarded as two distinct wars, rather than as
successive campaigns of one and the same war. But the interval between
them was so short that the ink of the signatures to the treaty of
Gundamuk may be said to have been scarcely dry when the murder of the
British Envoy tore that document into bloody shreds; and it seems the
simplest and most convenient method to designate the two years of
hostilities from November 1878 to September 1880, as the 'second Afghan
war,' notwithstanding the three months' interval of peace in the summer
of 1879.

Dost Mahomed died in 1863, and after a long struggle his son Shere Ali
possessed himself of the throne bequeathed to him by his father. The
relations between Shere Ali and the successive Viceroys of India were
friendly, although not close. The consistent aim of the British policy
was to maintain Afghanistan in the position of a strong, friendly, and
independent state, prepared in certain contingencies to co-operate in
keeping at a distance foreign intrigue or aggression; and while this
object was promoted by donations of money and arms, to abstain from
interference in the internal affairs of the country, while according a
friendly recognition to the successive occupants of its throne, without
undertaking indefinite liabilities in their interest. The aim, in a word,
was to utilise Afghanistan as a 'buffer' state between the northwestern
frontier of British India and Russian advances from the direction of
Central Asia. Shere Ali was never a very comfortable ally; he was of a
saturnine and suspicious nature, and he seems also to have had an
overweening sense of the value of the position of Afghanistan, interposed
between two great powers profoundly jealous one of the other. He did not
succeed with Lord Northbrook in an attempt to work on that Viceroy by
playing off the bogey of Russian aggression; and as the consequence of
this failure he allowed himself to display marked evidences of
disaffected feeling. Cognisance was taken of this 'attitude of extreme
reserve,' and early in 1876 Lord Lytton arrived in India charged with
instructions to break away from the policy designated as that of
'masterly inactivity,' and to initiate a new basis of relations with
Afghanistan and its Ameer.

Lord Lytton's instructions directed him to despatch without delay a
mission to Cabul, whose errand would be to require of the Ameer the
acceptance of a permanent Resident and free access to the frontier
positions of Afghanistan on the part of British officers, who should have
opportunity of conferring with the Ameer on matters of common interest
with 'becoming attention to their friendly councils.' Those were demands
notoriously obnoxious to the Afghan monarch and the Afghan people.
Compliance with them involved sacrifice of independence, and the Afghan
loathing of Feringhee officials in their midst had been fiercely evinced
in the long bloody struggle and awful catastrophe recorded in earlier
pages of this volume. Probably the Ameer, had he desired, would not have
dared to concede such demands on any terms, no matter how full of
advantage. But the terms which Lord Lytton was instructed to tender as an
equivalent were strangely meagre. The Ameer was to receive a money gift,
and a precarious stipend regarding which the new Viceroy was to 'deem it
inconvenient to commit his government to any permanent pecuniary
obligation.' The desiderated recognition of Abdoolah Jan as Shere Ali's
successor was promised with the qualifying reservation that the promise
'did not imply or necessitate any intervention in the internal affairs of
the state.' The guarantee against foreign aggression was vague and
indefinite, and the Government of India reserved to itself entire
'freedom of judgment as to the character of circumstances involving the
obligation of material support.'

The Ameer replied to the notice that a mission was about to proceed to
Cabul by a courteous declinature to receive an Envoy, assigning several
specious reasons. He was quite satisfied with the existing friendly
relations, and desired no change in them; he could not guarantee the
safety of the Envoy and his people; if he admitted a British mission, he
would have no excuse for refusing to receive a Russian one. An intimation
was conveyed to the Ameer that if he should persist in his refusal to
receive the mission, the Viceroy would have no other alternative than to
regard Afghanistan as a state which had 'voluntarily isolated itself from
the alliance and support of the British Government.' The Ameer arranged
that the Vakeel of the Indian Government should visit Simla, carrying
with him full explanations, and charged to lay before the Viceroy sundry
grievances which were distressing Shere Ali. That functionary took back
to Cabul certain minor concessions, but conveyed the message also that
those concessions were contingent on the Ameer's acceptance of British
officers about his frontiers, and that it would be of no avail to send an
Envoy to the conference at Peshawur for which sanction was given, unless
he were commissioned to agree to this condition as the fundamental basis
of a treaty. Before the Vakeel quitted Simla he had to listen to a
truculent address from Lord Lytton, in the course of which Shere Ali's
position was genially likened to that of 'an earthen pipkin between two
iron pots.' Before Sir Lewis Pelly and the Ameer's representative met at
Peshawur in January 1877, Shere Ali had not unnaturally been perturbed by
the permanent occupation of Quetta, on the southern verge of his
dominions, as indicating, along with other military dispositions, an
intended invasion. The Peshawur conference, which from the first had
little promise, dragged on unsatisfactorily until terminated by the death
of the Ameer's representative, whereupon Sir Lewis Pelly was recalled by
Lord Lytton, notwithstanding the latter's cognisance that Shere Ali was
despatching to Peshawur a fresh Envoy authorised to assent to all the
British demands. The justification advanced by Lord Lytton for this
procedure was the discovery purported to have been made by Sir Lewis
Pelly that the Ameer was intriguing with General Kaufmann at Tashkend.
Since Shere Ali was an independent monarch, it was no crime on his part
to enter into negotiations with another power than Great Britain,
although if the worried and distracted man did so the charge of folly may
be laid to him, since the Russians were pretty certain to betray him
after having made a cat's-paw of him, and since in applying to them he
involved himself in the risk of hostile action on the part of the
British. The wisdom of Lord Lytton's conduct is not apparent. The
truculent policy of which he was the instrument was admittedly on the
point of triumphing; and events curiously falsified his short-sighted
anticipation of the unlikelihood, because of the Russo-Turkish war then
impending, of any _rapprochement_ between the Ameer and the Russian
authorities in Central Asia. The Viceroy withdrew his Vakeel from Cabul,
and in the recognition of the Ameer's attitude of 'isolation and scarcely
veiled hostility' Lord Salisbury authorised Lord Lytton to protect the
British frontier by such measures as circumstances should render
expedient, 'without regard to the wishes of the Ameer or the interests of
his dynasty.' Lord Lytton took no measures, expedient or otherwise, in
the direction indicated by Lord Salisbury; the Ameer, as if he had been a
petted boy consigned to the corner, was abandoned to his sullen
'isolation,' and the Russians adroitly used him to involve us in a war
which lasted two years, cost us the lives of many valiant men, caused us
to incur an expenditure of many millions, and left our relations with
Afghanistan in all essential respects in the same condition as Lord
Lytton found them when he reached India with the 'new policy' in his

If the Russians could execute as thoroughly as they can plan skilfully,
there would be hardly any limit to their conquests. When England was
mobilising her forces after the treaty of San Stefano, and ordering into


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